No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically unconventional and probably features quite...

An imposing wall of rotary dials, turreted by oscilloscopes, draped in spaghettied cables, emitting a series of creaks, groans, and unearthly bubbles, is one of the most iconic images of electronic music. These monolithic machines -- known as modular synthesizers -- have had an enormous impact on how we visualize...

Though it may be poor form, I'm going to start this review with my one unrelenting frustration with Martin Gore's new solo album MG: every song is just too damn short. Seriously, these tracks are incredible, and they just beg you to get lost in them, but every time I...

José González's music has always maintained a timeless quality. In the realm of contemporary folk, there is no competition for his soothing yet soulful tones and melodic, plucking guitar. On Vestiges & Claws, the first solo album he's released in 7 years, a new kind of electrifying energy is at play. Melding the intimately personal with the overwhelming impersonal, González takes us on a journey with him, creating the kind of depth that elevates a folk album from pleasant background music to a collection that will stay and grow with you -- as it has evidently stayed and grown with him -- for a long time.
Jose Gonzalez - Vestiges And Claws Album Review  
Album Covers of the Year 2014
In contrast to modern patterns in music consumption comes our annual Album Covers of the Year feature, where, instead of forgetting album artwork even exists, we hyperextend ourselves to assert that it is an artform that is vitally connected to the spirit of the music. This feature, which is divided at times into thematic elements and at times into artistic medium, incorporates interviews with not only musicians, but also artists involved throughout the artistic process. We pride this list in being diverse and multi-faceted, as well as philosophically exploratory. See all of our entries from previous years or get started by choosing a category below. Happy travels through the artistic universe we've crafted for you.
With wide-reaching arms and hungry ears, each of our writers has compiled his or her top albums of the year, for you to peruse our eclectic, atypical, and only occasionally overlapping tastes. You'd be well-served to check out every single record here.
Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, electronic Troy Micheau - metal, electronic, experimental, ambient Jason Simpson - pop, soul, electronic, ambient Ian King - electronic, ambient, instrumental, pop Peter Woodburn - ambient, metal, garage, indie Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, hip-hop Albums of the Year 2014
Liars' 2012 full-length, WIXIW, dwelled in doubt and anxiety, pressed against a curtain of murky fragility. Even if one only looks at the cover art for the band's latest follow-up, Mess -- a robust mass of multihued string that looks like the Love Forever Changes hydra head grew dreadlocks -- it's evident that in 2014, the band is in a more positive, confident, and even silly headspace. Mess's stock in trade is industrial dance music -- and although Liars' beats are as primal as they've always been, their music is now a little too emotionally in-check to properly identify as synth-punk.
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
Junip Junip (2013) Mute Records On their self-titled full length sophomore release, Junip stake a definitive claim into the world of indie folk. As a band, Junip have been in existence for over a decade, but the fact that this is only their second album (the first, Fields, came out in 2010), is quite unusual. Junip made a few EPs early on, and took a break for lead singer Jose Gonzalez to launch a solo career. His hauntingly beautiful cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats" made music audiences take pause, and Gonzalez quickly reached levels of stardom that solo musicians only hope to achieve. Fast-forward a few years, and Junip's following has increased exponentially. This is notably quite a role-reversal. It is much more often the case that a lead singer of a popular band splits off on his own; but rarely does a band's status rise after their lead singer's does, and it was refreshing to see Gonzalez happily return to Junip. It takes merit to not get carried away in a moment of fame, although this never seemed to be his game. The musician always gave off a shy, humbled air -- one that was appreciative, introspective, and even a tad mysterious. He is not outspoken, and every move is deliberate. What Gonzalez brings to the table is his unique ability to sound quiet and forcefully loud at the same time. It's what makes him one of the more gifted vocalists of the past 10 years, and also highlights how he adds to this sense of balance throughout Junip, which contains a similar earnest, deliberate quy throughout, but without deference to the fame of Gonzalez.

 

"We do not want to please, we want to question the Knife." - Olof Dreijer, in the manuscript for the group's latest album, Shaking The Habitual.
From the heavy-handed manuscript and bio written to accompany their first album in seven years to the album's eye piercing artwork, The Knife pull no punches in making sure the ideology behind Shaking The Habitual is made clear. And while it's not always executed gracefully, the two Swedish siblings certainly remain a relevant force on this indoctrinating album. What's most difficult to ignore upon first glance is Shaking the Habitual's expansive track listing. Clocking in near 100 minutes, with a 19-minute track positioned squarely at the center, Shaking the Habitual is an album bent on perturbing even the most dedicated of listeners. And herein lies the major crux of the album, the very essence of The Knife which allows them to differentiate from their peers: Shaking the Habitual is not music written for escapism; it's a social enigma masquerading as music. Instead of something to enjoy, "to please" as Dreijer put it, Shaking the Habitual rails against every conceptual conceit in modern music. Or at least that's what The Knife want you to think.

 

Cyclopean Cyclopean Mute Records / Spoon Records (2013) Named after an ancient construction style involving stacks of irregularly-shaped rocks, Cyclopean is an instrumental quartet comprised of Burnt Friedman, Jono Podmore, and two founding members of Can, Jaki Liebezeit and Irmin Schmidt. In line with their namesake, Cyclopean piece together disjointed building blocks to form sonic megaliths, as if to stress not just the importance of an impressive final form, but of minute attention to detail as well. Repetition and minimalism go hand-in-hand on Cyclopean; finely-tuned percussive components and well-placed electronic drones, noises, and theremin textures comprise the foundation of the record. Though the EP initially weighs heavy, it grows increasingly airy as it progresses. By its end, it has been loosened from its restrictive ground tethers, ready to float off like a castle in the sky.

 

Well, it's now past the supposedly prophesized Mayan apocalypse, and of course no obvious signs of eschatological judgment have been wrought down upon us, which was much to be expected. There is something else we need to address though, before we can just write this shit off for good. If you were paying any attention to what those of the neo-spiritualist ilk were saying for the last decade or so, the conversation always involved a shift in consciousness rather than a rogue asteroid raining fiery death from above. Nobody said it'd be instantaneous.
 
Prophecies regarding a sudden massive shift in the perceptual limitations of our species always struck me as being beyond improbable. Whereas I'd be the first to admit that more of us these days are getting turned on to the higher cosmic functionalities of our brains, I'd also point out that it's probably little more than a numbers game. There are more people, period. I'd wager that for every turned on occult-dabbling tripster, there are two new closed-minded evangelical sex repression nutsos. Occultist super freaks just don't proselytize, and they probably blew their money on drugs and albums rather than bribing politicians, so there's that. Our society still revolves around boring after all and will for some time to come. What the fuck are you going to do? But it's not like all hope for a revolution is lost, the times -- they are a-changin', after all. Terence McKenna foretold a spike in novelty leading up to 2012, and it's not like novelty hasn't been spiking. The great singularity might have to wait, but technology has opened up consciousness to a new array of bizarre potentialities, the implications of which we can only barely conceive of at this point. At the heart of all shamanistic extra-dimensional informational summoning rituals lies the evolution of language from spoken word to projected internal telepathic metaphor, the language of our dreams. Meaningful scenarios projected from mind-to-mind, manifesting as direct experience. It's where we're headed with all these interconnected smart phones, tablets, and such. A picture is worth thousand words and now we can send each other videos instantaneously with our shiny new synthetic telepathy. Videogames continue to increase in complexity replicating alternate reality scenarios in our heads ad infinitum. Think of how rapidly our lives have changed in comparison to our parents' and even our grandparents' generations. Your everyday world can now be filled with an increasing array of deliciously magickal shenanigans. Marijuana has now been legalized in two states, one of which just so happens to be my home state for the last 11 years: Washington. This is the biggest victory in the war of consciousness I've seen in my lifetime, and something I never saw coming as a cynical 18-year-old stoner. What no one's saying about this matter is that one of the fundamental tenets of Western occultism involves a focused practice of weed-based sex magick, which is now totally legal. People are going to figure it out eventually. Combine that with a wide array of art-summoning gadgets, and you're well on your way to re-programming yourself into the next age psychic stratosphere. In the next fifty years or so I'm sure we'll debate whether or not 2012 was the beginning of a widespread shift toward a higher order of knowing. Again, these things take time. People have been fighting for pot and gay rights forever, and the defenses have finally started to crack. LSD in next. More importantly, the fact that we're finally starting to recognize the environmental nightmare brought forth by our materialistic insanity is more than a good omen. I know what's been shown to me. We've dug ourselves a hole that we can only fly out of through a psychedelic mindgasm portal. It's where we're headed. The environment's going to force our hand on this one. The UFOs aren't going to just stop lighting up the skies, the storms aren't going to stop hitting and then where the fuck are you going to turn? Sorcery, that's where.
Say what you will about 2012, but since consciousness is comprised of linguistic information, the idea of a coming apocalypse in itself propagated some rather delicious undercurrents of sound rippling through the Akashic record this year. I've never written more than a top five list in my life, but when I was thinking back on the insane amount of mind-bending albums that dropped in the last 12 months, I was kind of in shock. Most of this stuff's fairly obvious, at least in my world. Was it people like Terence McKenna and his mechanized Timewave Zero prophesies, inspiring people like Grant Morrison to write the great Invisibles hypersigil, that summoned this record deluge of psychoactive soundscapes into motion? I have no idea. Did the Mayans get in every band's head and subconsciously encourage them to bring their A game in 2012 as it might be their final chance? Whatever happened, it appears a software update embedded itself into our collective psyche and we went berzerk. An aspiring mystic could use any one of these mind-warping albums to put a hex on their internal mind tunnel and help elevate our collective superstructure heavenward. One might now use these recorded sound patterns in conjunction with the aforementioned pot based sex tantra quite legally in a hip music town like Seattle if one were so inclined. I've been told by the gods that it's a very "time safe activity". Reach for the stars true believers, or to quote Seattle's THEESatisfaction: "Let the musicians, be your physicians."