Counting | AUTRE NE VEUT | Anxiety
Make sure you’re not alone tonight.
Danny Brown has come to be a hip-hop artist that I find myself listening to on the regular and is somebody that I highly respect and that I think has genuine talent; his last release, XXX, is probably one of my all time favorite hip-hop albums. Danny always manages to have fresh instrumentals and he certainly has the charisma and entertainment aspect down pat - ‘bored’ is not something I would describe myself while listening to Danny Brown. When it comes to his albums he tends to abandon the traditional method of track placement and length and always comes in with these colossal albums with his last two full-length albums ending at 19 tracks (XXX is generally described as his mixtape but I’m going to go ahead and let the lesser ‘The Hybird’ fill that void considering that XXX is his best effort to date). I will admit that 19 is definitely pushing it for attention span’s sake but the length of his tracks rarely go above 3 minutes; he has found a method that works and he’s stuck with it.
I was on the fence about whether I was going to include Old into my Top 10 or not but after multiple relistens I decided it was certainly deserving of the #10 spot: it’s a well thought out and put together album with some of the best instrumentals of 2013. It does start on a bit of a mediocre note coming in with two somewhat forgettable tracks back-to-back, that of course being Side A and The Return (Feat. Freddie Gibbs [One of the weaker features on the album]). The beat for Side A is a little on the weak side, especially because it comes from one of the best producer’s from XXX, Paul White (who produced my favorite beat from XXX, Party All The Time) and although it doesn’t go toe-to-toe with the XXX opener, I think the subject matter is one of the reasons that makes Side A a decent listen; Danny goes back and reflects on being a thug and growing up in Detroit selling crack and it really, to me, seems like he’s showing a little bit of yearning for that life (“Might have to go and get my braids back”) - For the experiences? Doubtful. Street credit? Possibly, but what do I know, I’m as white as a ghost. I will say, however, although these two tracks aren’t the most interesting tracks on Old, they definitely bring a more serious tone to the album right off the bat as opposed to XXX’s opening with the title-track XXX and Die Like A Rockstar.
Firstly, I’ll touch on the reason why I wasn’t sure about inducting Old into my Top 10 and I think that’s because there is quite a large grouping of songs that are very forgettable and just seem like they would make the album stronger as a whole if they were cut. Most notably, I’m referring to an entire section on the tail end of the album where it’s just reached the point where Danny has already surpassed the average album length and things are dragging on a bit too much, especially because there isn’t really anything that grabs your attention more than any other song on the album; Break It, Handstand, Way Up Here, and Kush Koma are all guilty of this. You’ve just finished being pummeled by having to listen to Dope Song, Dubstep, Dip, Smokin’ And Drinkin’ and, as this is by far the most hectic section of the album, songs like Break It and Handstand just seem run of the mill and like no effort was applied to them at all. Also, the instrumentals for Handstand and Way Up Here (especially back-to-back) make for some extremely irritating listens. Now look, I’m all for the party tunes - I think Old has some of the best party tunes to come out in 2013 (Dip being one of the funnest and polished), but this last section here feels very half-assed to me and Danny has already proven that he knows how to do party tunes RIGHT. Besides the fact that I feel like some of the beats are out of place here, Danny has acquired a pretty crack team of producers; Rustie, SKYWLKR and Paul White (who are behind some of the more genius instrumentals on XXX), Oh No, A-Trak, and more so off the beaten track, Badbadnotgood and Purity Ring (who released my favorite album of 2012), so although I’m not a fan of a handful of beats, I have to give my respects to the producers.
Now, the tracks that stand out on the album REALLY stand out. They are well crafted and well thought out pieces of electronic fused with hip-hop and their product is some of the best pieces of music this year had to offer. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the calm and collected Danny Brown than the party persona that really stood out and was exaggerated on XXX, but I really like the fact that on Old he did the opposite of XXX and started out with the serious stuff just to let us know that he wants to be taken seriously (“This is my last dope song”). 25 Bucks was obviously one of the highlights for me because, as I mentioned, Purity Ring’s Shrines was my #1 for 2012 but as far as Corrin Roddick’s producing goes…I don’t think he quite cuts it. It’s fairly obvious that the beat is out of place on the album and although he is a master of producing Dream Pop, I don’t think hip-hop is his strong point. That being said, I think Megan James’ vocals on the hook on 25 Bucks is the stand out of the track; she doesn’t go above and beyond her normal range but it’s a very smooth and sultry hook.
The high point of the album by far is right smack in the middle, starting with the track Lonely and pushing through to Clean Up, followed by Red 2 Go. I think that these 3 tracks are the most finely tuned tracks on the album, backed up by some absolutely stellar beats by Paul White and Oh No. They are laden with interesting samples and organic instruments not to mention that Danny is in full form here when he spits; incredible. Just to touch on some of the other highlights of this album, I have to mention that although The Return really didn’t do anything for me lyrically, the beat is definitely a standout on the album (Another Paul White). There’s some great use of instruments in there, especially the flute and the sitar (kind of made me think of Gaslamp Killer if we’re going in for comparisons). As much as I really don’t enjoy the tail end of the this album, I think the last song, Float On (Feat. Charli XCX) is a really great closing song. It brings back the very minimalistic vibe (supplied by Badbadnotgood) and is interesting to listen to - I especially like Charli’s hook on top of those pitched down vocals; it’s a great relief from the heavy and vicious tracks that precede it.
Overall, I think Old is a really great piece of music that clearly has effort and prestige backing it. The hype was there and I think Danny delivered in more ways than one. I recently read a little excerpt about his opinions on the album and the instrumentals chosen and I think you should read it for yourself, I think it says some really important things about his character:
"I made XXX with the aim of getting great reviews. And when I started making Old, I was trying to think of artists that came back from getting great reviews and made an album that was just as good– or better! The only group I could really come up with was Radiohead. So if XXX was my OK Computer, then I’d have to make my Kid A next. So I studied Kid A, and I took away that it’s not so much about the lyrics as it is about the way the beats feel, so what drives this album is the production. I wanted to have the most amazing beats, but I still want them to sound minimal– it’s still gotta sound like a Danny Brown beat. It can’t sound like no fucking Kanye orchestra shit. That ain’t me. That’s why I took so long with making this album. I was waiting for the perfect beats. And I got ‘em."
Questions? Comments? Opinions?
I’ve built this up way too much and I realize that, but I have literally been cataloging by Top 10 contenders since January so I’ve put a years worth of thought into this stupid list
I will be posting my number TEN tonight - tune in!
So, I was going to wait until late December to start posting Top 10 related things but if you’ve been following my blog semi-closely then you’ll know I’ve been pretty antsy about posting my Top 10; I’m very excited this year. There were some great albums - some I have for sure listened to over 50 times. I’ve heard probably about 50-80 albums this year and only a select few were worth it (to me) to take note of. Yes there are some fantastic albums that will not appear on my Top 10 list nor on this Honorable Mention list (to name one right now, Godspeed did not make any of my lists. I only bring that up because I’m listening to it this very second and yes, it’s an incredible album, but for me, it’s not Top 10 material) but don’t forget that this is just my opinion. Questions? Comments? (At the end of December I will most likely post a “Last Minute Entry” post of all the albums that came out after I had written both my Top 10 and my Honourable Mention lists).
1 - Everything Everything by Shotgun Jimmie:
Canadian indie hero Shotgun Jimmie is back with another full length album that’s sure to tug on your heart strings; this time the production is even more low fi than ever but his lyrics are more charming than ever; “I’m a lightweight waitin’ for a Skype date, accept your call, receive the transmission, kill some time doin’ the dishes” etc. etc. The lyrics are the standout point on this album considering his voice and instrumentation are nothing special - somewhat of a feel good album it does have a certain quality that’ll force you to reminisce.
Fav track: I Will Climb Mountains
2 - One Track Mind by Psychic Ills:
Hailing for NYC and released through Sacred Bones, this new Psychic Ills record is perfect for skulking ‘round the city with your hood up, cigarette hanging out of the corner of your mouth. Fuzzy guitar tones formed into these lazy laid back riffs make this a perfect album to chill to (see the track: See You There) - Tres Warren’s vocals are as monotonous as ever and they’ll put you right to sleep…in a good way? There’s also a definite surf rock vibe present although it’s like surfing in slow motion (see the opening track: One More Time).
Fav track: FBI
3 – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth by Mount Kimbie
This new album from the Mount Kimbie duo still has some of the great ambient qualities from Crooks & Lovers but it feels like they have expanded and have adapted more of a textured palette. This album is chock full of great vocal performances (most notably, for me, on the opener track Home Recording and the 2nd track fronted by King Krule). There’s some really great transitions as well where the ambient flows to more of a dance beat with a consistent pounding rhythm.
Fav track: Break Well
4 - Tomorrow’s Harvest by Boards Of Canada
Scotland natives Boards Of Canada have released quite the lengthy and ominous album that nearly made the cut. I have been a big Boards fan ever since I heard Music Has The Right To Children and although they have abandoned some of the great sampling techniques that have been used on previous albums I really love the fact that they made the theme of this album more on the darker said. I do think, however, they have stuck with the same formula used on other albums but I did notice a lack of samples, which I really enjoyed previously. Still a fantastic example of an ambient album.
Fav track: Come To Dust
5 - Run The Jewels by Run The Jewels
In all honesty, I am extremely surprised this didn’t make my list and I wrote the damn thing. This is a KILLER hip hop album and it has, without a doubt, some of the best flows I have heard all year. The collab project between El-P and Killer Mike, Run The Jewels has set the bar extremely high for 2013 hip hop. The beats are astounding (prod. by El-P) and both El-P and Killer Mike have unstoppable and untouchable flows - most notably on the opening self-titled track, Run The Jewels.
Fav track: Run The Jewels
6 - Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
All female fronted shoegaze masters No Joy have proved to be masters of their domain with this years release Wait To Pleasure. This was another Top 10 contender for me this year but the deciding factor was that many of their tracks (particularly the middle “filler” tracks) left me feeling unimpressed and weren’t really all that memorable. That being said, there are a handful of really great and rocking songs on this album; the opener has this great feedback/fuzz laden guitar over top of these heavy pounding floor toms - extremely effective.
Fav track: Ignored Pets
7 - X’ed Out by Tera Melos
Tera Melos have seriously toned it down on their latest release, and by toned down I mean it isn’t math rock so abrasive and incomprehensible that it’s totally inaccessible for the general population (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). No, X’ed Out is a great example of an album from a band that has a strong suit in the instrumental side of things - the singing is by far the weakness point of the album. It’s not bad, its very low key but it’s clear that they are all very talented musicians and only mediocre at vocals/lyrics (although singing the lyrics to a Simpsons classic song [On the shores of Big Snake Lake…etc. etc. Kamp Krusty] is pretty badass).
Fav track: Surf Nazis
8 - SV by Sweet Valley
Sweet Valley is the side project of those two dudes from Wavves, you know. Their debut full length, Eternal Champ, was an eclectic collection of sample based (vocal and video game) electronic tracks and it really had a lasting effect on me. Their follow up, Jenova, kind of fell short of matching up to Eternal Champ but I think with their latest album, SV, they’ve made progress as well as a coherent electronic album; it flows nicely and demonstrates that they are aware of which electronic fads have made an impression this year. I say that because on SV there is a very strong and obvious trap influence, with the hi-hat triplets and the bass drops it’s also proved to me that I enjoy trap produced by Wavves over mostly every other trap album/producer I’ve heard this year.
Fav track: Turbo GT
9 - Fuzz by Fuzz
Fuzz is the ever prolific Ty Segall’s new project in which he sings and plays drums alongside (his name escapes me) the guitarist featured on the Ty Segall Band’s most recent album, Slaughterhouse. More of a Sabbath tribute than anything, Fuzz is psychedelic rock in it’s strongest form which blistering guitar licks and Bill Ward/Jon Bonham influenced drum solos lasting over a minute long (the quads are a dead Bonham tribute giveaway). Not Ty’s most memorable album, but it’s a lot of fun for sure.
Fav track: What’s In My Head
10 - My Name Is My Name by Pusha T
I have had some serious discussions about this album and I think this is the strongest straight up rap album of 2013, absolutely blowing J Cole out of the water. This album is seamless top to bottom with the exception of a couple weakest links on the back end (S.N.I.T.C.H. and Pain, specifically). Pusha T has me convinced that he is the biggest hustler in the game right now and some of these tracks are frightening to say the least - his subject matter is dark and truthful and his flows are tight and emotional; this album is sound. He soars above and beyond some of the newcomers on this album (2 Chainz & Big Sean) leaving them behind in the dust and he matches and even comes out on top when matched up against Kendrick (who is one of my favorites to come out of the rap game in the last few years). By far the goofiest track has to be Hold On featuring Rick Ross and Kanye West doing some really pointless melodies with auto-tune…
Fav track: toss up between 40 Acres (Feat. The-Dream) and Nosetalgia (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)
11 - Cupid’s Head by The Field
This is another example of an electronic album that has come out this year that has some really dark undertones but I am not one to complain about dark undertones, I’ll tell you that much. The Field has released some of my favorite ambient records of all time and I don’t think he has come up short with the 2013 release of Cupid’s Head. There’s some great uses of vocal samples here but they are not overused, that is to say they are not on a mind numbing loop like some on his previous album, Looping State Of Mind, which is still a fantastic album, by the way. Lo-fi production washed in reverb soaked synth chords and smooth basslines.
Fav track: No. No…
12 - Flourish // Perish by Braids
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Braids and in the past I must admit I have been quite bored and unimpressed with the majority of their catalog, but Flourish // Perish delivers where those albums have failed. Raphaelle Standell-Preston has some of the most gorgeous vocals I have heard all year and it’s obvious that she is classically trained - in some instances I could certainly compare her style, mainly falsetto, to that of what I have recently been hearing from Grimes (most notably on the Braids track In Kind, which is one hell of an album closer). This new Braids album could be likened to any from Polica in the sense that their acoustic drums are more apparent than ever on this album, which is definitely a step in the right direction. I will say that I found that most of the tracks on this album were pretty unmemorable and I wished that there was a bit more of a darker edge.
Fav track: Ebben
13 - …Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age
Let me start off by saying that I am quite a huge QOTSA fan and I was a little bit let down by Like Clockwork but I think that’s only because I was hoping for the second coming of Songs For The Deaf or the self-titled instead of a Them Crooked Vultures album sans JPJ. That being said, I think QOTSA and Josh Homme’s songwriting in particular has definitely grown and is showing more maturity (not in the lame ‘Oh we’re Dads now’ maturity but in that they are not afraid to show more of a sensitive side, which I don’t think is a bad thing coming from a band that has rocked me senseless for years on end without disappointment). That patented QOTSA guitar tone is still as present as ever with great riffs like the ones on I Sat By The Ocean and My God Is The Sun and the ballads are anything but boring, which I think is pretty hard to achieve on an album where people are expecting blistering heat.
Fav track: Keep Your Eyes Peeled or Smooth Sailing
14 - Yeezus by Kanye West
You probably just lost some respect for me, but you know what? You can shove it, because this is a great album. I’ve been pretty back and forth with Yeezy’s latest effort; first listen I was blown away, few months after it’s release I felt like it was just a big garbage can with bits and pieces tossed inside and shook up, and it still might be that, but it’s grown on me. Kanye’s lyrics are BY FAR the weakest part of this album and matter of fact, in recent years I think his lyrics have gone downhill - College Dropout is by far the album where he showcases the most lyrical skill. Most of all, this is an ambitious album. The world is his oyster and he could have done what Jay-Z did and released an absolutely mind numbingly boring run-of-the-mill hip-hop album but instead, his listened to some industrial hip-hop *COUGH* Death Grips (probably), and thought hey, I’m gonna do this. It may have shaken some of the more pop friendly of his listeners (especially because this album has no radio single) but I think it gained the vote of the music enthusiasts. If this mini-review doesn’t satisfy you you can always scroll down and find the full review I did.
Fav track: I’m In It
8.5/10 (I retract my former rating of a 10)
there’s those nights where a bit of depressing music does you good and then there’s those nights where you’ll do anything not to hear anything by Jeff Buckley
it’s funny how fast your mood can change
I just watched Cannibal Holocaust for the first time… jesus christ that was a waste of an hour an a half. I literally think that was the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Besides the fact that the plot, the dialogue, and the acting was absolutely horrendous but the brutal violence was TOO much. I’ve seen worse gore in movies like the Saw series and Hostel and what not, all that gore porn crap, but there are legitimate on screen killing of animals. I don’t want to describe to you what they were but I know for a fact that they are real and also that the director was jailed because the public actually thought the murders of the characters were real. The senseless slayings of the animals made me absolutely disgusted, that was by far the worst part. The whole movie just made no god damn sense, like, why would you go to the Amazon to film the tribes and then trap them in their huts and burn them to the ground just for fun? It made no fucking sense. Biggest pile of shit I’ve ever seen *spits* 1 A.M. RANT COMPLETED.
The Haxan Cloak talks about his 2013 release ‘Excavation’ (one of my favorites of this year) - listen to how he came up with the name ‘The Haxan Cloak’ and his inspiration for creating such dark an ominous but incredible and fascinating music.