Monday, 23 December 2013
HMM Presents: The Best Of 2013 - Album Of The Year (15-11)
As we approach the top ten albums of the year, here are the artists that just missed inclusion among the top spots:
15. True Romance- Charli XCX
The intimately whispered vocals of 21 year old Charlotte Aitchison are perfectly complimented throughout True Romance, her official debut (aged 14, off the back of a loan from her parents, she released 14, an album which she has since expressed disgust with, labelling it ‘’terrible fucking MySpace music’’), by a lush electronic backing that in turn symbolize its sensuality and repeated themes of love and sex that burn through the speakers at the listener.
This is electronica pop perfection, effortlessly easy to access and irresistibly relistenable yet, crucially, True Romance retains a pulsing brain and beating heart throughout its breezy 47 minutes.
Best Tracks: Grins/You’re The One/Lock You Up
14. My Name Is My Name- Pusha T
The hiatus of Clipse meant that Pusha T had to begin a solo career back in 2010, which resulted in him finding Kanye West and releasing a series of mixtapes and EP’s to general acclaim. Now we have the final product, and paired with the production wizardry of West, My Name Is My Name undoubtedly marks one of the best rap releases of the year. A starkly minimal experiment right from the near blank cover to Kanye’s menacing deadpan production, Pusha attempts to see how far the boundaries will move for him as he postulates his sound to the most inward, dark corners possible.
My Name Is My Name is an exercise in simplicity; Kanye connects with the RZA like never before here, providing Push with fuzzy bassed, sparse drum machine backgrounds that leave the work up to Push, who is more than willing to oblige with a series of laid back declarations of status that are brought home with assured, experienced delivery. The album develops slowly with auto tuned turns and excellent guest features from The-Dream, Kelly Rowland and Kendrick Lamar, but in the case of My Name Is My Name, less is most definitely more, and just like its Wire referencing title suggests, Push doesn’t need unnecessary style to attract you; he’s got substance, and that speaks for itself.
Best Tracks: Numbers On The Board/Hold On (Feat. Rick Ross)/Nosetalgia (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)
13. Days Are Gone- Haim
Haim have had a lot of practice- three girls who grew up in San Fernando Valley raised on classic rock by their hippie parents, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim first played together in their family band Rockinhaim with Dad on drums and and Mum on guitar, before they joined The Valli Girls and signed to Colombia records in 2005 (you might have heard them on The Sisterhood Of Travelling Pants soundtrack, or Nickolodeon’s Kids Choice Awards).
But as they grew up, the girls wanted something different than the music they were being bred to play; they wanted pop, they wanted R’n’B. So in 2006 the three sisters formed Haim and began a journey (long delayed by high school and college) that has eventually manifested itself in Days Are Gone, a charming indie rock debut that combines Haim’s Americana influence and their desire for pop success in a triumphant payoff. There are any number of acts you could liken them to (all the way from Emmylou Harris to Madonna) but Haim have combined their influencing styles into one unique product of modern rhythm and blues styled indie-folk that’s near impossible to dislike, and if it doesn’t take another decade to put a sequel, these three extremely talented sisters are set for global success and universal acclaim.
Best Tracks: Falling/The Wire/My Song 5
12. Acid Rap- Chance The Rapper
From Kendrick’s tales of growing up in Compton, Kanye’s explosive ego and Drake’s troubled love life, we’ve all forgotten something in rap music that the 20 year old Chance helped to rediscover this year; fun. Chance wasn’t down for dealing with topics like broken families, fame or fallouts- he just wanted to bullshit about getting high, having sex and being a young, sometimes stupid kid. Acid Rap is an irresistibly catchy album too which helps- bouncing, joyous production from a host of artists helps carry Acid Rap to effortlessly towards the finish, but from the last beat of ‘’Good Ass Outro’’ you’ll find yourself sorely tempted to rewind back and start all over again, because there’s just no denying that Chance is creating good moods with every listen.
Coming from a kid who’s last mixtape dealt with what he did with 10 days after getting suspended from school (10 Day), it’s safe to say there’s been little development as Chance stepped to the album platform, and that’s a magnificent thing, because without artists like Chance The Rapper hip-hop would lose its soul. Here’s hoping he never grows up.
Best Tracks: Cocoa Butter Kisses/Everybody’s Something (Feat. Saba & BJ The Chicago Kid)/Favourite Song (Feat. Childish Gambino)
11. Overgrown- James Blake
James Blake has never been a straightforward producer like his electronic contemporaries. Unlike say, SBTRKT, Blake falls heavily into the singer songwriter category, closer in many respects to acts such as Grizzly Bear or Bon Iver due to his minimal emotive style. The young Briton first gained attention back in 2010 with a series of EP releases, among them The Bells Sketch, CMYK and Klavierwerke, and while these were exciting, mostly instrumental efforts that marked the arrival of a young talent amongst a sea of similarly minded electro musicians, it was James Blake (2011) that set the Londoner far beyond the rest. The key difference here was Blake's distinctive, heartfelt vocal that dominated each track and breathed new life into his promising dub beats.
Two years later, Overgrown has arrived amidst much expectation following one of the most highly acclaimed debuts in recent years. It was difficult to tell which direction Blake would head in this time around- a more accessible, commercially viable record, or one that fell deeper into the quiet contemplation of his first. Thankfully, Blake has retained his signature reserved approach and Overgrown is an album that follows much the same path as its predecessor to great success.
While there may have been a great deal of talk from critics and fans alike regarding the sound and direction of Overgrown, you get the feeling that the artist himself didn't have to think about it too much. This album feels like a natural growth at an extremely steady pace and Blake deserves major credit for quietly expanding his sound without taking any giant leaps.
A low key triumph that assures there is certainly more, and perhaps even greater, to come from an incredibly talented and original musician.
Best Tracks: Overgrown/Take A Fall For Me (Feat. RZA)/Our Love Comes Back