Friday, 20 December 2013

2013: Joe Gilbey's Favourite Albums

I like keeping my forenotices short and sweet, and so all I really have to say is that 2013 has been an absolutely fucking insane year in the world of music. Thank you to everyone that has made the year such a good one for //APEX, we promise to supply you with many more great features in 2014. But yeah, here's my long-awaited AOTY list. Enjoy.

75. Everything Everything Arc (Sony RCA)
74. Koreless Yugen (Young Turks)
73. Akala The Thieves Banquet (Illa State)
72. Hodgy Beats Untitled EP 2 (Odd Future)
71. Mosh Empire (Self-released)
70. STRFKR Miracle Mile (Polyvinyl)
69. CHVRCHES The Bones of What You Believe (Glassnote)
68. AlunaGeorge Body Music (Island)
67. Goldfrapp Tales of Us (Mute)
66. Fat White Family Champagne Holocaust (Trashmouth)
65. David Bowie The Next Day (RCA/ISO)
64. Mr Muthafuckin' eXquire Kismet (Universal Republic)
63. The Child of Lov The Child of Lov (Domino)
62. Starship Amazing Ruby Dagger (Self-released)
61. Joey Bada$$ Summer Knights (Self-released)
60. Disclosure Settle (Island)
59. Czarface Czarface (Brick)
58. Jagwar Ma Howlin' (Marathon)
57. Vic Mensa INNANETAPE (Self-released)
56. James Blake Overgrown (Polydor/A&M/ATLAS)
55. Nipsey Hu$$le Crenshaw (All Money In)
54. The Flaming Lips The Terror (Bella Union)
53. Thundercat Apocalypse (Brainfeeder)
52. Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience (RCA)
51. A$AP Rocky Long.Live.A$AP (A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA)
50. Ghostpoet Some Say I So I Say Light (Play It Again Sam)
49. Tyler, The Creator WOLF (Odd Future/RED/Sony)
48. Drake Nothing Was The Same (OVO/Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
47. Queens of the Stone Age ...Like Clockwork (Matador)
46. Factory Floor Factory Floor (DFA)
45. Quasimoto Yessir Whatever (Stones Throw)
44. The Range Nonfiction (Donky Pitch)
42. Earl Sweatshirt Doris (Columbia)
41. Momoiro Clover Z 5th Dimension (Starchild)
40. Deafheaven Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.)
39. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Interscope)
38. Daft Punk Random Access Memories (Columbia)
37. 18+ MIXTAP3 (Self-released)
36. Machinedrum Vapor City (Ninja Tune)
35. MC Tree Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out (Closed Sessions)
34. King Krule 6 Feet Beneath The Moon (True Panther Sounds)
33. Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of The City (XL)
32. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)
31. Zomby With Love (4AD)

30. M.I.A. Matangi (Interscope/N.E.E.T.)

"My new album will sound like Paul Simon on acid" was the audacious claim that was made by the famously activist female rapper, M.I.A., on Twitter in early August 2012. 14 months on, the album was finally released after multiple set-backs. Now I don't know about you, but for one of the world's most controversial musicians to make such a bold statement and then leave a fan base exceeding half a million people hanging for well over a year is certainly dangerous territory to say the least. However, the wait was more than worthwhile, and although the album isn't quite as impressively unique as the groundbreaking debut release, Arular,, some tracks truly stand out as being some of her greatest as of yet. The track 'Bring The Noize' was described by NME as being 'a digital rat gnawing your face off as you lie slumped in a k-hole at a warehouse rave', and strangely enough, I can see exactly where they're coming from; the abrasive and clangorous street tough beats grate against each other and give off a subversive vibe concerning the way in which hip-hop has moved over the past few years. Is Matangi a revolutionary LP? Probably not. However, I damn sure wouldn't mind hearing more music of this caliber, and with production from Hit-Boy, the maker of the likes of Kendrick Lamar's 'Backseat Freestyle' and 'Niggas In Paris' by Jay-Z and Kanye West, I think its fair to say that this could be symbolic of an brand new younger age for hip-hop.

29. Friendzone DX (Self-released)

As the Californian production duo's name suggests, Friendzone have always kept the theme of intimacy central to their music, although they'd really like to stress that the name doesn't stem from the "sexist bullshit regarding girls putting 'nice guys' in the friendzone", it has always been about your "inner circle".

After years of being seen as a weaker alternative to cloud rap leaders Clams Casino and 
fiddling around producing tracks for the likes of Main Attraktionz before landing a production spot on A$AP Rocky's fourth single release from Long.Live.A$AP, 'Fashion Killa', Friendzone have finally recognised their ability to turn everything that they touch into gold and have put out their very own long player. In a nutshell, the album is a tranquil, cohesive listen, and Friendzone is certainly a name to watch out for in the world of instrumental hip-hop.

28. Pusha T My Name Is My Name (Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music)

This album definitely isn't one to be messed with; Pusha's venomous enunciation of various hoodlum colloquialisms and hoarse ad-libs on tracks such as 'Numbers On The Boards' gives My Name Is My Name a typically hard-edged New York hip-hop sound, but the melodious inputs from featuring artists such as the ever eminent The-Dream and Kelly Rowland provide a kind contrast to this which gives the album a gangsta rap meets R&B feel. Other features on the album include Rick Ross, Pharrell, and the undoubted rap prodigy Kendrick Lamar who has had another absolutely sterling year despite not releasing any of his own work, with features on 'Control (HOF)' by Big Sean, 'Love Game' by Eminem, and the GTA V Los Santos Radio classic 'Hood Gone Love It' by none other than his fellow Black Hippy counterpart, Jay Rock. All in all, with Wrath of Caine and My Name Is My Name under his belt, Terrence Thornton can certainly take a look back at 2013 in a positive manner, and hopefully we'll see more of the minimalistic Kanye West influenced production on future releases.

27. Blouse Imperium (Captured Tracks)

On their latest album, Blouse have thrown away their 808s and synthesisers, ditched the 'indietronica' that defined their eponymous debut album, and have unsurprisingly taken the 'indie pop' route like we have seen so many times before with big name independent bands such as MGMT... the only difference being that I greatly enjoyed Imperium, which is more than I can say for MGMT's disappointing release, MGMT, earlier on in the year.

Imperium is a bottom-heavy album, with more seductive and alluring tracks such as 'A Feeling Like This' coming through more prominently in the second half. Another impressive track on the latter half is 'Arrested' which emits a similar stripped back jamming-in-the-garage vibe to Wasting Light by Foo Fighters, which was actually recorded on analogue equipment in Dave Grohl's garage in California; although this may sound like it would give
 the album an unprofessional finish, the vulnerable starkness actually makes Imperium a far more exciting listen.

26. milo cavalcade (Hellfyre Club)

Cavalcade is a mixtape that showcases the self-reflective and mindful lyrics that truly epitomise Milo, and although I have thoroughly enjoyed every piece of work since his debut album I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here, I feel like his lyrical adeptness and general artistic awareness have evolved dramatically over the past two years and have harmoniously mingled together to create one of the most conceptual mixtapes of 2013. This 'awareness' comes through well in the first track, 'Geometry and Theology', which contains a thought-provoking concept from the late Ludwig Wittgenstein in the opening minute about the origins of language, and then transitions to a dreamy spoken-word verse that flits between themes of the generic fangirl on Twitter and the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. It sounds like it should be an awkward mish-mash of trivial nonsense, but in reality, it works so perfectly well. Full review

25. Kurt Vile Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Matador)

Kurt Vile never fails to charm his audience with his personable songwriting and effortless vocal delivery, but most of all he is a master of instrumentation - a true musician. Hazy percussions and hallucinatory vibraharps dominate the record, making it a typical spaced out neo-psychedelic listen, whilst his prevailing use of acoustic guitar brings back warm summer memories. Jayson Greene of Pitchfork described one of Kurt Vile's earlier EPs as 'like a glass of water' because although it isn't going to blow you away with anything unexpectedly sweet, it is more than satisfying and 'nurses a profound headache', and to be quite honest, I couldn't put it any better myself.

24. Le1f Fly Zone (Greedhead)

Homosexuality has always been a relatively taboo subject in the world of rap, and for decades there has been an ingrained conservative view, primarily in the black hip-hop community, towards the gay culture. Now although this has become a highly discussed topic as of recent times due to the coming out of the Odd Future associate Frank Ocean and the increasing prominence of openly gay rappers such as Le1f, Mykki Blanco and Zebra Katz, there is still a strong feeling that their acceptance was somewhat begrudged until the release of the single 'Same Love' by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The track didn't only reach number 1 in the US charts, but also won the 'Best Video with a Social Message' award at the MTV VMAs, which, considering that it is the first song that openly endorses homosexuality to ever reach the US charts, is a great step forward for hip-hop. Rapper Talib Kweli, of the duo Black Star which consists of both himself and Mos Def, was questioned in an interview by Mother Jones earlier this year as to what he thinks about homosexuality in rap music, to which he replied with "there just needs to be a gay rapper - he doesn't have to be flamboyant, just a rapper who identifies as gay - who's better than everybody." Is Le1f "better than everybody"? I'm not sure, but I'm damn sure that he's right up there with some of the best of this new generation of rappers. His focused production and lyrical progression from his debut tape, Dark York, really epitomise the evolution of cloud rap, and alongside the likes of Haleek Maul, it is clear to see that Le1f has the contacts and the potential to go far with his movement.

23. Ahnnu World Music (Leaving)

//APEX's very own Joe Sherwood did a little review on World Music for WhatCulture which has reached number 1 on the Google Search engine, check out the full review by clicking the link above.

"With this release, Ahnnu manages the elusive feat of balancing pleasurable listening with some rather experimental sampling techniques. It is to his credit that World Music always strikes me as a matter of concision, even when some of the most abstract snippets at his disposal are utilised. Sure, it’s not a perfect album, but it doesn’t try to be either, and that makes it all the more likeable. Of the release, its creator said, “Each track was arranged as separate entities and are holistic in the sense that they are intended to inspire an experience of indifference within a space of perpetual sonic motion.” Although I am slightly inclined to agree with his sentiments, I would still advocate that World Music is musically Ahnnu’s tightest body of work to date, be it through indifference or not."

22. Tim Hecker Virgins (Kranky)

Virgins is one of the most striking ambient releases of 2013 as Tim Hecker really reaches outside of his own impressively expansive ballpark with a pleasantly chaotic, maximal drone project; the album ebbs and flows between frightening waves of artistically constructed piano pieces and swelling percussion which build up to create a smothering medium of droning bass. Its not all heavy listening though, as the dense layers of sound are broken up by brief, dreamier tracks such as 'Radiance', which would've fitted perfectly onto some of Hecker's previous releases such as Harmony In Ultraviolet as an intermediary transition between the mind-numbingly vast ambient soundscapes which bury themselves deep into your mind.

21. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge Twelve Reasons To Die (Soul Temple/RED Distribution)

In an era where rap music is becoming an increasingly extensive genre after the inflating prevalence of mixtapes and extended plays, it is difficult to find narrative albums that tell a story track-by track (the most recognised one of recent being Good Kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar). Twelve Reasons To Die, however, is a testament to how powerful conscious hip-hop can still be, as Ghostface Killah has an astounding knowledge of playing with various concepts and characters, which after 20 years of contributions to music, appears to have become an integral notion to him. It is a limited album in that it has a run-time of just over 39 minutes - short for a Wu-Tang long player - but the craftsmanship and executive production from both RZA and Adrian Younge make the 39 minutes more than worth their while, and in my opinion, more impressive than every other Ghostface release since Fishscale in 2006.

20. The Underachievers Indigoism (Brainfeeder)

The Underachievers are the most recent artists to emerge from the ever eminent New York hip-hop scene, and through their vast array of musical contacts, have been positively influenced by the young generation of 'Beast Coast' rappers such as Joey Bada$$ with his wittily observant tongue and Flatbush Zombies and their comically animated flows. As well as this they are excitingly reminiscent of LA producer and Brainfeeder label owner Flying Lotus' work as his emcee alias, Captain Murphy, with abstract pitch-shifting sounds and mellow enunciation and delivery of lyrically adept lyrics. This strong amalgamation of various qualities has given The Underachievers their own ultimately unique hip-hop sound, and tracks such as 'The Proclamation' epitomise this and have pushed the duo towards new-found fame which will undoubtedly continue to grow over the coming few years - they still have a lot more to offer.

19. Lil Ugly Mane Three Sided Tape Volume 2 (Self-released)

Ever since discovering Lil Ugly Mane through Anthony Fantano's The Needle Drop earlier last year after he dropped a 10 minute long rap track named ')))____◎◎◎◎█████', I think that its fair to say that I have been thoroughly engrossed in his music, whether it be chopped and screwed gangsta-esque hip-hop to 'instrumentals and unreleased shit'. The mystery surrounding his influences and presence in the music world is enough to interest any man, and with his second installment in the Three Sided Tape series containing samples from Michael Jackson to DJ Sound, it is certainly difficult to put a finger on the origins on any of his pieces. All in all, Volume Two is a truly enthralling listen, and like many of the other albums on my End of Year list, it's free!

18. Dean Blunt The Redeemer (Hippos In Tanks/World Music)

Dean Blunt's quest for redemption began this year with The Redeemer, a weirdly intimate album which remains seductive while holding the listener at arm's length. Despite his obvious reference points, cherry-picking samples from the likes of Kate Bush and Pink Floyd, there was nothing else this year that sounded quite like it. Blunt's world-weary croon is practically inimitable in a sea of pitch-perfect songstresses and autotuned performers, and there's something so eerily hollow about the crystal clarity of the music: lest we forget that Blunt was once a part of the now-defunct Hype Williams, famed for their crusty rave reverberations. A strange album indeed, but for that it's one of the most hard-hitting, personal releases of the past year.

17. Arcade Fire Reflektor (Merge)

Reflektor strikes me as being Arcade Fire's very own version of Shaking The Habitual by The Knife or Kid A by Radiohead; it is a daring act of renewal by a band that, despite having a respectable widespread fan base, is scared of being perceived by the public as being average. In order to do this, Arcade Fire have drifted further from their commercially viable indie-folk sound on albums such as The Suburbs, and have delved into a far darker and artistic "multi-dimensional shanty town" whilst retaining their rock roots. The two discs have very different feels to them, with the first containing more hardcore punk numbers such as 'Joan of Arc' which begins with a blitzing bass guitar that slowly becomes replaced by warping electronics as the theme of female strength comes through in the lyrics. The second disc, however, is far more placid and plaintive which naturally brings opportunity for innovation as it is so far from the sound that Arcade Fire have previously associated with themselves. The multi-genre mish-mash of components make Reflektor an exciting album by all means, but after a full run through you'll certainly need a lie down.

16. Action Bronson / Party Supplies Blue Chips 2 (Self-released)

Action Bronson is the central rap deity to ginger haired gourmet chefs everywhere, and every album, EP, and mixtape that he's released over the past 3 years have been absolutely heaven-sent. Blue Chips 2 is one of the many gems in his collection, and is the perfect sequel to the critically acclaimed original produced by the Brooklynite duo Party Supplies; just like in Blue Chips the production background comes from a multitude of genres, but the increase in puns, African jazz and Big Body Bes means that the newcomer trumps its predecessor, despite the fact that it too is a very impressive mixtape. Bronson tweeted earlier this week saying that he's 'Glad Blue Chips 2 is on all the year end lists. It's important to finish strong.', and considering that his latest assemblage may just be his most powerful arsenal as of yet, his high expectations were more than reasonable.

15. William Basinski Nocturnes (2062)

Nocturnes is certainly 55 year old William Basinski's darkest effort to date, as it travels deeper and deeper into the world of thought-provokingly isolated dissonance. Despite being just under 70 minutes long, the album only contains two tracks, which may seem like an abnormally short track list for many, but it does in fact work so well on this quintessentially continual album which is typical of Basinski's avant-garde background. Nocturnes is a brilliantly composed piece of music with dense-yet-familiar loops underlying the whole album, and although it is unnerving and verging on the darker side of surrealism, Basinski's unquestionable knowledge of tape manipulation gives it a beautiful wholesome finish; a truly inspiring ambient piece.

14. Kanye West Yeezus (Roc-A-Fella Records/Def Jam)

"Yeezy season approachin', fuck whatever y'all been hearing". Now as far as Kanye West openers go, from the ghetto influenced spoken-word piece on The College Dropout to the demonstrative narrative from Nicki Minaj before the exalted choir beam through on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the opener to Yeezus is by far the most memorable to date. This memorability is actually quite telling of the rest of the album, because although Yeezus is still only a baby and is therefore seen as being less influential as some of West's previous albums at this current moment in time, it is the album that has caused the largest feud between critics, musicians, and the general public worldwide; whether it has been concerning West's supposed industrial hip-hop influence from bands such as Death Grips or the outrageously placid 'Bound 2' video, debate has always been there. Ultimately, however, Yeezus is critic-proof. If you like it, you're simply pandering to Kanye's massive ego and buying into the hype. If you dislike it, you're not in on the joke, because let's face it, Yeezus abounds with humour. It's a polarising album from perhaps the most polarising artist in recent memory, but that's just the mad genius of one Mr K. West.

13. Fuck Buttons Slow Focus (ATP Recordings)

Slow Focus is just as comfortable a listen than the band's name would suggest as it is unmistakably representative of classic Fuck Buttons music; instead of being an album that is merely listened to, it is an album that is experienced. From atmospheric synths to heavy drum segments, the long player drags you into a dark experimental void right from the off and holds you there until the dense oceans of sound slowly ebb away and leave you stranded on the beach waiting for more. Overall, Slow Focus is a progressive album that can sometimes take a while to reach its climax, but when it does, it is almost certainly worth the wait.

12. Chance The Rapper Acid Rap (Self-released)

If this list was called '2013: Joe Gilbey's Most Played Albums', then Acid Rap would most certainly be the untouchable champion. It therefore may seem a little strange that I've listened to the tape a hell of a lot more than anything else that came out this year yet its still only ranked 12th on my list, and its also a pretty strange concept for me to get my head around, but it can be explained. Yes, the mixtape is by far his best release as of yet, but considering that its only his second, after 10 Day in 2011, its fair to say that it is still very early days for the 20 year old. With Chance's astronomical potential in mind as well as the mixtape, he still has the capability to embark on the journey to, hopefully, transforming the Chi-Town rap scene and put Chicago onto the map just like Kanye West did with The College Dropout in 2004. Is this a bold statement? Yes, but with the pure quality of Chancelor Bennett's quirky and inspirational first two tapes, one can only wonder as to what more he can offer in the future, and with up-and-coming acts such as BJ the Chicago Kid and Vic Mensa beside the likes of Action Bronson and hip-hop legend Twista in his phone book, he has certainly got the balance between the known and the yet-to-come spot on.

My favourite track on the mixtape is, (at the minute), 'Cocoa Butter Kisses', as it really epitomises the convivial and bouncy approach that Chance the Rapper approaches his songs with, whilst showing that he still recognises his own ability to write stellar lyrical content full of wordplay and witty innuendos, as shown in his opening line; "Okie dokie alky, keep it low key like Thor lil bro". 'Juice' and 'Everybody's Something' are also amongst my most enjoyed tracks, as well as the underestimated 'Paranoia' that comes in at the end of 'Pusha Man'. To put it simply, he is going to be the best.

11. The Knife Shaking The Habitual (Mute)

Ambitious. Primal. Disruptive. Welcoming. Overbearing. Invigorating. Ubiquitous. Transcendent. Dark. Clear. Experimental. Dissonant. Organic. Uncomfortable. Warm. Atmospheric. Suffocating. Death. Life.

10. Boards of Canada Tomorrow's Harvest (Warp)

2013 may just end up being characterised by the sheer volume of comeback releases, from Justin Timberlake's sultry suites to David Bowie's masterful reemergence. Tomorrow's Harvest, however, stands above the rest of the pile, mainly because it sounds as if Boards of Canada never really went away in the first place. Vintage BoC tropes permeate the album, with some deft synth work and some of the group's most interesting drum patterns yet, giving it the classic feel of timeless retro-futurism that Geogaddi and Music Has the Right to Children evoked all those years ago. If you listen to just one of the many artistic returns from the past year, make it Tomorrow's Harvest.

9. Lorde Pure Heroine (Universal)

It is difficult to write about Pure Heroine as I feel that it is important to not dwell on the fact that Lorde was 16 years old when it was released, and so phrases like '...for a teenager' or 'considering her age...' have been boycotted from my review. I say this for the simple reason that I myself am in fact 16 years of age, and so although I am dumbfounded by her abilities as a young musician, I would certainly be overly biased towards her if her age was taken into account because let's be honest, it would be fucking cool to be a rich and famous teenager. 

The first two singles off the album, 'Tennis Courts' and 'Royals', were both highly critically and publicly acclaimed because of Lorde's technical abilities and all round musicianship, and when it comes to songwriting, her capabilities are second to none. She hypnotises the listener with her controversial iconoclastic beliefs that are brought through in the fierce yet relatable imagery in many of her songs, a fine example being in the chorus of 'Buzzcut Season' - "Explosions on TV/and all the girls with heads inside a dream/so now we live beside the pool where everything is good".

A review from Pitchfork noted that "Twenty seconds into her debut album, Pure Heroine, she's already announced that she's bored. Twice.", and this is one of the main things that I appreciate about Lorde; she simply does not give a fuck.

8. Oneohtrix Point Never R Plus Seven (Warp)

Just like so many other of Brooklyn-based experimental musician Daniel Lopatin's albums as Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven is a masterpiece of plunderphonics and synthesised ambience. Louis Pattison of The Quietus described Lopatin's music as "like a cracked mirror refracting the sounds of the past" which is achieved through the imaginative collaboration of sliced samples that integrate to form a dreamy maze of ambient choruses and jovial electronica. All in all, it is a restlessly ambitious album, and is a brain maze that is most certainly well worth trying to complete.

7. DJ Rashad Double Cup (Hyperdub)

Although my knowledge of footwork music isn't particularly extensive, it is adequate enough to claim that DJ Rashad is the most impressive producer in the genre right now, and that Double Cup is a perfect representation of what this pioneering disc jockey from Chicago has to behold. It is made up of a fusion of a multitude of genres, containing anything from smooth-edged R&B numbers which is reminiscent of previous EPs (particularly Rollin), soul pieces that are influenced by TEKLIFE partner DJ Spinn, and acid house tracks such as 'Acid Bit' ft. Addison Groove. The production is bolder than ever before, and with the perfect balance between voluptuous slow jams and face-melting bangers, it looks like DJ Rashad's popularity shall continue to exponentially rise in the coming years.

6. Danny Brown Old (Fool's Gold)

When I first listened to Old, Danny Brown's much overlooked 2008 debut release, Hot Soup, immediately sprung to mind. Of course it also contains elements of some of his more recent releases such as The Hybrid and my personal favourite XXX, but the 1990s boom bap 'old Danny Brown' sound that came through in Hot Soup really shows in retrospect just how important that particular sound was, and still is, for his career. This die-hard image comes through in the opening track, 'Side A', where Brown talks about the harsh realities of a life through the eyes of a drug dealer in a more conscious and relatable manner than in previous releases where it is seen as being a relatively jovial subject; "needles in they arms just to keep the lights on". However, a Danny Brown album just wouldn't be a Danny Brown album without a little harmless mischief, and so the fruitful prevalence of lyrics concerning MDMA trips and 'Smokin' and Drinkin' is always refreshing.

If there was one thing to be disappointed about upon the album's release it was the lack of the wonderfully psychedelic promotional track 'ODB', although the absence was more than outweighed with new and unheard tracks such as '25 Bucks' featuring synth pop goddess Purity Ring and 'Dubstep' with an overlooked 30 second stint from up-and-coming UK grime artist Scrufizzer.

Although I still feel that Brown is underrated, he has certainly grabbed the attention of the public with his most commercially viable and arguably best album, and with high praise from publishers such as FACT and Pitchfork, it seems as though he can only continue to spiral up the ranks.

5. Laurel Halo Chance of Rain (Hyperdub)

Laurel Halo’s idea of techno is perhaps a little warped from the norm laid out by her forebears. Instead, the template becomes an expressive canvas of rhythmic ambience, dislocated melodies and drum tics that entirely deviate from the stodgy 4/4 of most producers. Following the queasy, nightmarish soundworld of Quarantine, Chance of Rain is decidedly more pleasant, but no less experimental than its predecessor, stripping back her uneasy vocals and leaving the beautiful instrumentals to themselves – of course, she ended Quarantine with the lyric “words are just words, that you soon forget”. Simply put, Laurel Halo is in her own league with Chance of Rain, as she tiptoes into an ethereal plane above and beyond any other artists in the game right now.

4. Sigur Rós Kveikur (XL Recordings)

Although Kveikur is far more congested and out-going than all six of the Icelandic post-rock band's previous releases, it still holds onto the heavenly qualities that make them such admirable and inspirational listens; it is the compelling reinvention that marks the start of a new era for the band. Sigur Ros' ambient influences have become increasingly aggressive over the years, and although Kveikur builds on foundations that were laid in albums such as their fourth installment, Takk..., the rock sound prevails in their latest release; their trademark euphoric and emotional themes still exist right the way throughout the album but are just made more intense by louder, more disruptive instrumentation. It is a story told through musical implements (unless you can speak Icelandic), and despite not being able to appreciate the true lyrical content, the post-metal vibes speak for themselves and make Kveikur a truly exciting listen.

3. Run The Jewels Run The Jewels (Fool's Gold)

Run The Jewels is an American duo consisting of hip-hop veterans Killer Mike and El-P, that was formed in early 2013. After it was confirmed that Killer Mike's critically acclaimed R.A.P. Music last year was entirely produced by El-P, and Killer Mike made an impressive guest appearance on Cancer4Cure's 'Tougher Colder Killer', there was much speculation as to whether a super group would amalgamate. Fortunately, the public's interest was quelled for the right reasons, and the violently sociopolitical Run The Jewels were born. The chemistry between the duo is almost unmatchable, as they both play to their strengths and seemingly take part in friendly competition against each other in order to create the most raw, energetic sound they can possibly conjure up. Like always, it is a harsh listen, but their ecstatic delivery and ingenious catalogue of quick witted puns make it an unconfined listen that is reminiscent of old-skool 1990s hip-hop - it is certainly one to take a look at if you're a fan of the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Souls of Mischief.

2. Forest Swords Engravings (Tri Angle)

Following the release of the critically acclaimed Dagger Paths EP in 2010, Matthew Barnes, A.K.A Forest Swords, seemingly ceased to continue producing new material; the reason for the hiatus being that he had been trying to overcome some serious hearing difficulties. However, 3 years later, he has returned with an absolute gem. Overdue admittedly, but after hearing the official album leak, it is simple to conclude that the wait was an undoubtedly worthwhile one (and I've even put the album my Christmas list).

It's difficult to explain the path that Forest Swords has gone down with his latest LP, but to put it simply, it's an electronic album of pastoral persuasion that gives off a veritable naturalistic vibe. It takes you through a musical spectrum of everything from the neo-psychedelic achy groans of the lead guitar, right through to the chillwave-influenced field recordings on tracks such as "Thor's Stone". Now that wasn't too hard was it... Full review.

1. Death Grips Government Plates (Third Worlds)

'You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat' is the name of the opening track on Government Plates, and probably the set of lyrics that Bob Dylan least expected to become the title of a post-modern industrial hip-hop track. Unlike the original, however, the track title has absolutely nothing to do with the song content as it is based around the death of MC Ride after a hallucinogenic drug overdose - "opening of the mouth, unlawful possession/jellyfish in cold sweat deep end, hollow shell twitch disconnection" - a bold way to begin an album by any means. Fortunately though, Ride manages to resuscitate himself and continue with the other 10 tracks.

I think that its fair to say that Government Plates is possibly Death Grips' most lyrically hot-tempered album to date, because although Zach Hill's production has softened since No Love Deep Web, Burnett's angry lyrics have more than outweighed the change. The third track, 'Two Heavens', which is coincidentally my favourite track on the album, is the perfect example of this; the lyrics "pressin' down the pillow till i can't hear you breathin', for no reason" are repeatedly shrieked over an abrasive, droning drumbeat, giving the reader an insight into the distorted-yet-intriguing mind of Stefan Burnett.

Despite current discussions of relatively mainstream albums such as the ever-disputed Yeezus, Death Grips are the true representatives of experimental hip-hop, and Government Plates is the perfect illustrative album to prove this. Oh yeah, and it's free. Thanks for reading.

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