by Jake Breidenbach
This list is in no particular order. It is simply one writer’s collection of this year’s lessor talked about albums that I believed stood out amongst the others. Enjoy.
1. FKA Twigs – LP1 (Young Turks)
It’s hard to pin down exactly what kind of music FKA Twigs is making. A little trip-hop, a little ethereal, a little different from everything else. Some similarities could be drawn between her and Grimes, another art pop songstress who mixes dreamy vocals with abstract musical composition. LP1, her first full-length, is refreshingly unique. It definitely takes some time to grow on you, but Twigs has proved she’s anything but a boring new pop star wannabe.
2. Tobacco – Ultimata II Massage (Ghostly International)
Tobacco has been a growing mainstay in the alternative electronic music genre for six years now, following the 2008 release of the mysterious solo artist’s debut, Fucked Up Friends. Since then, Tobacco (real name Thomas Fec), has collaborated with a variety of artists including Beck and Aesop Rock, and done remixes for HEALTH, Genghis Tron, and The Go! Team to name a few. With his latest release, Ultima II Massage, he has perfected his signature combination of poppy electronic hooks and jagged, frenetic beats.
3. Aphex Twin – Syro (Warp Records)
It’s been 13 years since the nightmarishly mesmerizing electronic artist’s last album, and Syro doesn’t disappoint. While Richard D. James may have traded in some of his gritty edge for a smoother sound and sleeker production values, his new work is no less compelling as it ever was. Erroneously dubbed as IDM, James has made a career proving that electronic music can sound as just as good in the comfort of one’s living room as it can on a dancefloor, if not moreso. If Aphex Twin of the 90s aimed to haunt the listener’s psyche with images of industrial wastelands gone sour, then Syro succeeds in bringing that sensibility to the digital age.
4. Run the Jewels – RTJ2 (Mass Apeal Records)
Rappers El-P and Killer Mike began recording as Run the Jewels early last year, and soon after released their full-length self-titled debut. Their second eponymous album was released in October. RJT2 works as an improvement on the first album, tighter and more focused and packing a bigger punch. It owes much of its praise to it’s layered beats, and comes off not as much original as much as a perfected blend of hip-hop and EDM. In short, RTJ2 tries to do a lot with its 11 tracks and it succeeds – a lot.
5. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Xtra Mile Recordings)
It’s been an interesting couple of years for Against Me! fans. First, the band split from Sire Records. Then, lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgendered, the first rock star to ever do so. In short, the band had a lot of material to work with, and Transgender is probably the best work they’ve put out in years. Teeming with years of pent-up frustration and justified rage, the album is Grace’s brutal tour de force, and she’s earned it.
6. Ty Segall – Manipulator (Equal Vision Records)
Ty Segall has set himself apart from his contemporaries with his prolific output and his ability to escape the trappings of garage-rock chic. Manipulator, his seventh full-length as a solo artist since 2008, keeps up nicely with the rest. While not quite as catchy as 2010’s Horn the Unicorn, it is still a solid album, wavering gracefully between lo-fi, garage, surf, and indie rock. A must-have for collectors.
7. Interpol – El Pintor (Matador Records)
Interpol have garnered a solid reputation as gloriously gloomy indie rock gods since their 2002 debut, Turn On the Lights. Now, four albums later, they’ve reached their apex with El Pintor, recalling their dreary roots while coming off more optimistic than on their less outing, the quietly impressive but deeply melancholic self-titled Interpol. It doesn’t quite reach the status of instantly catchy accessibility as 2004’s Antics, but then again, no one should be asking it to. Interpol have never been a pop band; instead they are a band adept at making sad, pretty songs that are easy to sing along to, and that’s never been made more evident than on their latest effort.
8. The Orwells – Disgraceland (Atlantic Records)
The Orwells first blew up onto the scene with the release of their 2012 debut, and a now infamous live performance on David Letterman cemented their status as up-and-coming neo-garage punk icons. Luckily, their second full-length, Disgraceland, recaptures much of the magic of the first album. Youthful, infectious, and surprisingly sincere, Disgraceland overcomes the curse of the sophomore slump and delivers 11 new tracks of quality listening.
9. Caribou – Our Love (Merge Records)
Caribou, the recording name of surrealist electronic DJ Dan Snaith, has had a steady output of dreamy, hypnotic beats and loops that border on psychedelic. Our Love continues this trend, and although Snaith’s approach to electronic music making may not sound as innovative as it at one time did, he has maintained his signature sound and presented it in one cohesive package.
10. Temples – Sun Structures (Heavenly Records)
This British band’s debut has already received widespread critical praise and the band has spent much of the past two years on tour, supporting established UK acts such as Suede and The Vaccines and even earning a vocal fan in the form of Oasis’ Noel Gallagher. A little psychedelic, a little shoegaze, and more than a little of homage to psych rocks bands of the past, it will be interesting to see where Temples go from here.