The album is not dead. In the post-Napster/IPod Era of immediacy where nobody needs to sit through 30 seconds of a bad song, a weak patch of songs on the b-side of a 12 song LP doesn't stand a chance. And while backwards-looking Bowie leg-humpers Arcade Fire might like to think that a 90 minute double album is something other than a bloated and used up illusion of artistry, almost everybody else seems to know that people just aint got time for that s**t.
Here are 4 albums from 2013 that are both aware of the current listening landscape and are some of the best music released in the last 12 months.
#4- Bill Callahan, Dream River
The former Smog frontman (onlyman) returns with his best album to date--a slowly winding stream of repetition breaking over pulses of reverb and sounds that bubble up from below. A fully realized album in concept and content that is the product of a master craftsman who has spent 20 years honing his craft. Indie noir, heading southward towards the gulf.
Highlights: The Sing, Ride My Arrow, Summer Painter, Winter Road
The blinding lights of the kingdom can make you weep
Oh I have learned
When things are beautiful to just keep on
Just keep on
- Winter Road
#3- Dawn of Midi, Dysnomia
Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, bass, piano, drum. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, bass, bass. Bass, drum, piano. PIANO. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum ( ) drum. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Drum, bass, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Piano, drum, drum. Bass, drum, piano. Bass, drum, piano. Drum, drum, drum. Bass, drum, piano.
Highlights: It's not the songs that stand out; it's the moments. This is something you put on the headphones at work or late at night with a glass of vodka and a book. Keyboard hooks drone on and on and on and -- wait -- it changed. When did it change? Is this the next song? The descending bass is now climbing back up at you. You can get lost in this music.
#2- Deafheaven, Sunbather
Close your eyes. Think of the most cinematic and emotional movie moment you have ever witnessed in real life. Now think of your first kiss. Think of the time when your first pet died. Think of sitting next to your grandfather's hospital bed moments before he passed away while begging for morphine and crying to Jesus. The first time you realized you loved someone. The time when your favorite team won it...oh, wait.
Think of big cliched human moments that we all can relate to that are personalized through intense detail at precise moments in your life. Now imagine that they have been converted into a dense wall of screams, drums, and guitars.
If you are jaded by what you believe to be cheap and disposable pop garbage, take comfort in knowing that the biggest and most beautiful music of the year comes from a San Francisco black metal band. There is still hope. This is one for the ages. A top to bottom masterpiece by a group expanding its genre to places beyond where other artists are currently taking theirs. In 2013, nearly everything else is paste. This is one that will be remembered.
Highlights: Dream House, Pecan Tree
#1- Darkside, Psychic
Nicolas Jaar is on quite a run. From last year's BBC Essential Mix to Darkside's remix of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, to Psychic, a reimagined new-century Dark Side of the Moon he and guitarist partner Dave Harrington dropped in the fall, it's hard to think of another musician currently riding this much of a hot hand.
What is it? Aside from proof that headphones + pot will likely always be a thing, Psychic is an experience that pairs perfectly with people who are fond of ecstatic truth and immersive documentary filmmaking. It avoids cheap retro sentimentality by being in tune with what is happening right now. It is new and exciting--from beginning to end, a true testimony to the (still) young yet timeless melding of man and machine. We are partners against nature. Digital and human handclaps. We like to dance against the darkness.
Highlights: Paper Trails, The Only Shrine I've Seen