It’s already 6 months into 2013, and in those months a lot of notable albums released. My Bloody Valentine, Daft Punk and David Bowie, all legends in their respective genres put out quality music in the first half of this year, and less well-known artists such as Kurt Vile, Youth Lagoon, The Men and Iceage all followed up acclaimed albums with more strong work. Of course, many excellent albums have yet to be released, but it’s time to take a look at the best music released this year so far.
1.My Bloody Valentine- “M B V”
It took 12 years for the Dublin quartet to release its third album, but the wait was rewarded with another shoegaze master piece.sound. Layers of reverb, bestial howling of guitars, energetic drumming and the ethereal voices of Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher create a sound that is simultaneously ambient and urgent. “M B V” is an ocean of sound bigger than any wall Phil Specter imagined.It seemed unlikely after waiting for more than a decade, but “Loveless” finally has a proper follow-up, and it is as loud, as strange and as beautiful as you would hope. This album will make your head swirl and toes tap, and it is the best thing released in 2013 so far.
2.Chance the Rapper- “Acid Rap”
The most inventive rap album of the year so far is a mixtape by a 20-year-old Chicago native, Chance the Rapper. Samples are lush, brush and approximate actual instruments. The word play is almost always clever and there is no shortage of ear worm hooks. An excellent guest list including Action Bronson, Childish Gambino, BJ the Chicago Kid, Twista and a show stealing turn by No Name Gypsy add another dimension to Chance the Rapper’s already quixotic and occasionally introspective rhymes.
3. Daft Punk- “Random Access Memories”
The rise of Electronic Dance Music can be easily attributed to the iconic French duo; apparently to Daft Punk’s chagrin. “Random Access Memories” is essentially a pulsating, gyrating lesson on dance music. This purpose is made particularly clear on the track “Georgio by Moroder” as a legend discusses inventing a click track over click tracks. Excellent studio musicians and guests including Niles Rogers and Pharell help create a Disco homage that never resorts to navel-gazing and manages to feel perfectly contemporary. By borrowing from the past with their latest release Daft Punk have put the human element back into a genre which they helped pioneer.
4. The National- “Trouble Will Find Me”
The National have created a trilogy of excellent, brooding, hyper-literate albums starting with 2005’s “Alligator.” Their newest release continues to mine the same vein, and it continues the trend of excellence. “Trouble Will Find Me” consists of about 10 mid tempo songs that rely on heavily on Matt Berninger’s baritone voice and two songs that rock in the way “Blood Buzz Ohio” rocked. All in all it’s just more of the same from one modern music’s most consistent bands.
5. Ex Cops- “True Hallucinations” ;
This is an excellent jangle-pop debut. Loud guitar, gripping melodies and sweet but not saccharine vocals are all over this album. It seems entirely fitting that “True Hallucinations” would come out the same year as a new Pastels album, a group to which Ex Cops are obviously indebted. Although, a touch of aggression keeps and audio fuzz keeps this album from being a Pains of Being Pure at Heart retread. Overall while “True Hallucinations” may not be a groundbreaking album it is a thoroughly enjoyable debut and a great listen.
Honorable Mentions: Savages-“Silence Yourself”; Kylesa-“Ultraviolet”; Youth Lagoon-“Wondrous Bughouse”; Pissed Jeans- “Honeys”; The Knife- “Shaking the Habitual”