Top 10 Albums of 2013
In no particular order, here are ten of my favorite albums from 2013 that made me contemplate the value of and feel the vibrations when folks decide to combine sounds and noises together:
- Disclosure - Settle
I had been following Disclosure for a minute, when they were on the singles tip, a ways before they dropped their massive full-length this year. In a world full of womp womp and 808’s this was a most welcome relief in regards to popular dance/electronic music if you ask me. I’m a big fan of the full-length format and these guys didn’t disappoint here, creating an album that bumps and journeys from start to finish. Even the mish-mash of guest vocalists ended up adding to the flair of this album. Where in any other case, the amount of diversity within the guest list could have backfired, on ‘Settle’ it added quite the perfect seasoning to the already hot instrumentals. It’s funny to me how a lot of people judged these dudes harshly really quick and then came to change their tune after absorbing the album fully. Seemingly too popular for the underground, too pop for the deep house heads, not enough filth for the rage kids. Haters will hate, but I don’t have much time for that nonsense. I’m so glad to see this kind of record breaking the ground it did this year. Those of us who were around for the early 2000’s house/garage movements understand the importance of this record in today’s landscape.
- DJ Rashad - Double Cup
By far to me one of the most inspiring/groundbreaking records of 2013 was Double Cup. Being a Chicago local certainly has helped me to stay in tune with the footwork curve over the years and this feels like the record that’s really gonna bring that sound a lot further audiencewise. The musical and sonic ideas presented here and the execution of them are what really gets me about this album. The drum programming is intricate, the samples and chops are insane and the sheer energy and uniqueness of the way Rashad has melted the footwork sound into other urban style music got me excited to see what kind of possibilities still are out there. This was the record I kept pushing on all of my friends to check out this year.
- RBTS WIN - Palm Sunday
As much time as I spend in my world creating and pushing my own music, I probably spend just as much time or more digging for and listening to new stuff as well. That being said, I kind of randomly discovered Asheville, NC unit RBTS WIN through some MoogFest site I stumbled across in my internet travels. I don’t know much about the group’s history or story, but they appear to be setup like a part band/part production team and the result is one of a kind. In a very saturated music world, originality in execution is key to me, and something I really look for in new music. RBTS WIN definitely have that on lock, and are carving their own lane and style all the way. I’m not exactly sure how to describe their sound on my own, so i’ll let a quote from their Bandcamp page do the talking: “Palm Sunday melds chill-wave, neo-soul and electro-pop with nods to post-modern folk and hip-hop, but the album also transcends its various pedigrees.” Highly recommended for the open-minded music lover.
- inc. - No World
Probably the first record of the 2013 that really struck me and went into heavy rotation early on in the year. A downright sexy, reflective and emotional neo-R&B record with no gimmicks. Vocals and production carry top-notch quality to them. These dudes are carrying on the musical tradition Timbaland shoulda stuck to.
- Dam-Funk & Snoopzilla - 7 Days of Funk
The most recent record to hit this list, this just came out last week but without question has hit my faves list and hasn’t left my whip since. I grew up on The Chronic and Doggystyle and Dam has been one of my personal and musical inspirations since Toeachizown dropped. Fans of the sound have been calling out for this collaboration to occur for years, as it seemed only natural since Dam was truly carrying out a modern version of the classic sound that Snoop had been missing for more than the last decade of his career. The stars have finally aligned and the results are a match made in G-Funk heaven. Its ironic how this album dropped on a day when the weather was 18 degrees here and Chicago was already on its second snowstorm of the season. If I bump this loud enough, I can taste summer.
- Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters LP
I really have no idea how I came across Hundred Waters but I’m certainly glad I did. I don’t even think this record came out this year, I believe it was 2012, but oh well, I discovered it this year and fell in love with this group. The cross breed of electronic and acoustic elements really brings a beautiful feel to this album. The song structures are intriguing, the emotions are heavy, the female vocals are gorgeous and the overall product is just straight up creative. I had the good fortune of seeing them live at this past summer’s Rootwire Music & Arts Festival and it was an amazing performance. I certainly am looking forward to where this group goes next.
- Mac Miller - Watching Movies With the Sound Off
According to my Spotify ‘year in review’ Mac Miller was my most listened to artist of 2013. I can’t say I’m a deep Miller fan per say, I’ve really only heard this record and Blue Slide Park. Blue Slide had some joints that caught my attention and that I really dug a lot, however I felt half of that record was kinda toss-away. This year however, Miller apparently switched gears, moved to LA, started hanging out with Odd Future and made a super creative hip-hop record. Hazed out raps with existential undertones along with a heavy list of dope guest features and production credits from FlyLo, Clams, and a buncha other weirdos really grabbed me and kept this record on repeat this year.
- DJ Day - Land of 1000 Chances
According to my Spotify ‘year in review’ this was my most listened to album of 2013. This is one of those records that seemed to convey through music exactly how I tend to feel on the inside. Kinda hard to explain but sort of on the meditative, introspective, reflective, daydreamer tip. Day created such an amazing vibe on this record from start to finish. I worked to this record, road tripped to it, worked out with it, flew overseas with it. Needless to say it was my most listened to record of the year for a reason, it found a deep resonance within me.
- Zoogma - Anthems 4 Androids
Having been a festival regular over the years I’ve come to discover plenty of great ‘jamtronica’ groups that exert a great amount of talent and remind me of being in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere on a humid summer night. Zoogma did that for me this year with A4A. The band demonstrated that they are a force to be reckoned with not only live but in the studio as well. The production is rock solid, the performances are super tight and the ideas are not limited to the typical ‘jamtronic’ sound as the band branches out into hip-hop and some dancier moments along the way. Drumming is on-point, synth work is top-tier. I love cruising to this joint.
- CID RIM - Mute City / CID RIM (Micro Album)
My homie Dino put me onto CID RIM when we were chillin out on Thanksgiving and I have been hooked since. Apparently this guy comes from a multi-instrumentalist/drummer background and it shines through with his amazing programming and playing over gorgeous/slammin’ synth based instrumental tracks. I love a producer who can keep it moving with both energy and emotion at the same time. Very infectious music to me here. Kind of along the same lines as Joy Orbison or Lone, but with its own twist. DOPE.
Honorable Mention: Matt Black - Oak Street Market, Dawn of MIDI - Dysnomia, Jagwar Ma - Howlin’, Ghostpoet - Some Say I So I Say Light, Axel Boman - Family Vacation, Sango - North, John Wizards - John Wizards, Toro Y Moi - Anything In Return, DJ Sun - One Hundred
P.S. I also should mention on the rock tip, and I was hella late on the draw here, but i fell in love with The Japandroids “Celebration Rock” album this year. The life affirming emotion and energy in their music kept my spirits fueled and my eyes open on a lot of road trips by myself gigging around the Midwest during the later half of this year. Bummed I slept on this band and missed their local live performances, but I have them high on my list to catch in concert in the new year.
Live Shows: As far as live music was concerned some of my favorite non-festival shows I attended in 2013 were the Boiler Room TV Pitchfork after-party. I feel like I got to attend something special that nite and had the privilege to see Todd Edwards(!), Teklife and Ryan Hemsworth in a sick loft space with a vibe that had energy like a college house party. I hadn’t had that kind of fun and overall excitement at a local DJ event in quite awhile. Also, Jagwar Ma at Lincoln Hall was a definite live highlight too, those guys blew me away. On the festival tip, I attended Rootwire Arts & Music Festival for the first time and had my spirits raised and hope restored as this festival was really about cultivating community and change through action, arts and culture. I could write a whole post about the Fest itself but if it piques your interest to engage in music, community, camping, art, speakers, workshops, spirituality, yoga and the like then I’d certainly recommend looking into it here.
2013 has been a sweet year overall. I put out two full length Vapor Eyes albums, the second one through Young Heavy Souls, which was exciting to have such dope people get behind my music. I travelled to England again (always humbling and mind expanding to travel overseas), took a bunch of road trips, played a lot more out of state shows, had memorable experiences in other states with new friends that I feel like I’ve known forever, and am continuing to write new music for a 2014 release. I again feel grateful and humbled to be part of such a positive movement and look forward to continuing to build on the foundation that’s been created over this year. Here’s to 2014!