Out with the old, no matter how good it is! Here's our comprehensive list of Top Albums of the Year 2013, schizophrenic as always to reflect the diverse tastes of our staff, though there is some overlap. It's highly recommended you check out every release here, as each has its own creative strengths.
Matthew Carter - electronic, experimental, metal, pop, rock Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Troy Micheau - classical, electronic, experimental, instrumental Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Elizabeth Perry - indie, mainstream, pop, rock Peter Woodburn - classical, instrumental, metal XUA - electronic hip-hop, mainstream, pop Albums of the Year 2013
There has been much lamentation and gnashing of teeth about the decaying music industry, with many opinions and conversations about what to do about it. If you were to believe the soothsayers, we'll be reduced to a generation of SoundCloud demoes and buskers in 10 years' time. We may not know what will come, but it's not worth bemoaning the point. True musicians and record labels, the ones who are in it for the love and the art of the thing, are rolling up their shirtsleeves and getting down to work. Crossing Lines: An NX Records CompilationEnter NX Records, a collaboration between Goldsmith's, University of London's music department and Matthew Herbert's Accidental Records. Students and alumni are actively involved in the release of music, not just as musicians, but also in all aspects, including marketing, legal and administrative. Some recent graduates of the program include Mercury Prize winner James Blake, as well as members of Nigel Godrich's Ultraista, so this is no fly-by-night operation. Crossing Lines is the inaugural transmission. ranging from airy, experimental pop to widescreen anthemic rock, with all points in between, wrapped in a rather spiff map of the New Cross area that NX Records calls home. Crossing Lines manages to sound both classic and hypermodern; super-polished to raw, immediate and lo-fi.
When a concert at Portland venue Wonder Ballroom manages to sell out weeks in advance of the show, it can only mean one thing: the most zeitgeisty of artists must be coming to town. And sure enough, when it was announced that James Blake would be making his second appearance in as many years at the magnificent east side venue, tickets went quicker than expected. If nothing else, it proves that James Blake's new album was a success. April 24th, 2013 @ Wonder Ballroom - Portland, OR
LIVE SHOW REVIEW CONTINUES BELOW

 

James Blake Overgrown (2013) Universal Republic Few artists are as conscious of their position in the music industry as James Blake. Seemingly spawned from the hype of music blogs and the irresistible "Limit To Your Love" cover which made him famous, Blake knows how volatile and fickle the wicked cycle of fame can be. But such awareness is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is what has driven him to be successful even when the situation was unfair. At the time of his debut album -- a record which he was pressured to piece together by his record label -- Blake felt cheated out of the ability to craft an album he could truly call his own. On Overgrown, however, Blake has crafted a world all his own. And it's as beautiful as anything he has ever created before. In setting the scene, it's important to note the kind of relationship(s) Blake has been in since his bedroom producer days. Much has already been made of his long term relationship with Warpaint guitarist Theresa Wayman, but it's an important development that even Blake has admitted to be an influence on Overgrown. In a recent Guardian interview, when asked about being in love and if it affected his process, Blake responded, "Yeah, it did. And the uncertainty also did. The uncertainty of the nature of the relationship. The uncertainty of touring. The uncertainty of the music industry, and the uncertainty of my position in it." It's an important shift in lifestyle that bears its weight on the whole of Overgrown, a record more grounded in soulful, downtempo electronica than the booming stretch of dubstep EPs he began his career making. Be it the sound itself or the record's lyrical content, Overgrown is the natural evolution of a brilliant artist in his early twenties.

 

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles, updated throughout every month to bring you the best of the funk.
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James Blake - "Retrograde" James Blake is back with Overgrown on April 8th. Embedding this is a tricky feat -- as the last time I embedded a James Blake track with the following review, UMG scolded us and demanded the video's removal -- but nonetheless, here it is, for all of your soulful listening desires. Slight electronic texturing still exists here -- he hasn't given himself up completely, certainly -- but this is as soulful as we've ever heard Blake, and this track is most definitely a slow-burner and a grower, grower, grower.

 

Psychic Twin - "Strangers" (Polyvinyl Records) Psychic Twin seem to constantly deliver on impressive one-off tracks, and "Strangers" from their upcoming Polyvinyl-released 7" is no different. Upbeat synth frolicks and fancy fleeting vocals delight while entering the noggin hypnotically. Polyvinyl is really chasing the dance pop tip lately, and I'd personally say that Psychic Twin are one of their most exciting prospects. Unfortunately, these tracks can't be embedded right now, but you can enjoy "Strangers" via Soundcloud or hear additional Psychic Twin tracks we have posted here. They will be playing at our SXSW 2013 show; announcement coming Monday.

 

A staff-compiled list of some of our favorite songs from the year 2011, in no particular order or with allegiance to any particular style....

A spectrum of musical madness that represents our tastes from large to small, mainstream to obscure, spaced out to reasonable. There's no way in bloody hell you'll love every release on this list unless you have a million personalities living in your puny body, but chances are great that you'll...

bass drum of death Garage rock junkies apply within. Bass Drum Of Death's pure and unabated psych rock is sure to catch some people by surprise at SXSW 2011. Their new material is far more tuneful and engaging than their original demos, making Bass Drum Of...

A lot of barbs were thrown at James Blake on the run-up to his debut LP. Music critic Simon Reynolds playfully referred to Blake and his fellow soulboy bass-heads (i.e. Mount Kimbie, Jamie Woon) as 'blubstep.' A poster on a music forum quipped, "There's a limit to your vocal...