In 2013 I listened to but neglected to blog that much about:
Disclosure’s breathless but mature debut, Settle. An homage to the deep-house they were too young to know first-hand, this is loving rather than slavish. There are euphoric headrushes that best Friendly Fires (which doesn’t stop Ed Macfarlane stopping by to caress and ooze his aching tenor over “Defeated No More”); there are charming matchbox bedroom diversions (“Grab Her!”, “Stimulation”) which linger in the memory for their natty production tricks. For a dance album to be so well sequenced, and boasting rich beds of blurry, technicolor synths that service equally rich vocal melodies, is always a surprise. That it should come with so little warning is the most generous of gifts.
The Flaming Lips’ The Terror, which is every bit as bleak and bereft of humanity or redemption as its title suggests. After a decade-or-so spent being the one-band party-capital of the utopian cosmos, the Oklahoma troupe are now knuckling down as arch miserabilists staring intently into a black hole of desolation.
James Blake’s clinically excellent Overgrown, with its studiously button-pushing forays into bleary post-rave gospel (“Digital Lion”), fizzy THX-enhanced clubland (“Voyeur”), and bottomless granular melancholia (“Retrograde”). There are nadirs, to be sure, chiefly the halting contemplation of “DLM”, but this is otherwise a work of crepuscular, terrifying beauty. The elements of nature frequently sound like they’re overcoming Blake, as do the murmurings of nineties RnB, UKG, and decaying dubstep.
Kanye West’s love-me-loathe-me magnum opus of minimalism, Yeezus. Seriously, is there more prose worth expending on this brutal explosion of derezzed synths, jarring samples, and sneering yarns of a good kid with a too-tight backpack gone BAAAAD? Hudson Mohawke should be getting phone-calls from NASA, so stratospheric does he send the anthem for Obama’s America, “Blood On The Leaves”. And Kim Kardashian must surely be suspecting this is all a highbrow joke she’s just not programmed to understand.
The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, an assured victory-lap from the band that has soundtracked Middle America’s infatuation with Obama and subsequent pragmatic acceptance of capitalism’s flaws. This one’s got its fair share of effortless, sophisticated balladry (“Fireproof”, “I Need My Girl”)—the froth on top of the heavy-hitting jet-black shots of caffeine (“Don’t Swallow The Cap”, “Humiliation”) which pound harder than a migraine induced by secular stagnation.
So it looks like 2013’s got plenty of unopened presents for me to enjoy in 2014. Good night.