Shadowjack’s Top Ten 2013

My top 10 albums of 2013, in no particular order.

Black Sun Empire – Variations on Black
I’m a sucker for a good remix album. Not only is it great to hear new takes on already solid material, some times the results are better. I don’t think I can say these remixes are necessarily better but they are excellent. If you love DnB with a bit of Dubstep thrown in and Black Sun Empire, you can’t go wrong with this album. On a side note, looking at the remixers, many are artists I listen to but few of which actually released anything in 2013. Guys, get off your asses!

Iamamiwhoami – Bounty
The music is airy yet dense. I can’t make out the lyrics and I honestly don’t care enough to look them up. The vocals are just another instrument as far as I’m concerned. I find it impossible to seperate the music from the videos. Both the music and the images elevate the mundane and commonplace to an epic. Cheap cardboard sets and tube socks become castles and kings telling tales of death and rebirth. I’ve revisited the video album on YouTube more than a few times, and unusually for me, done nothing else but experience it and the previous album Kin, back to back. I’m sure I’ll be visiting it again in the near future.

V V Brown – Samson & Delilah
I don’t think V V Brown is well known in the US but in the UK, she’s a pop star. And an odd one at that. Her previous album is rather bland pop mush with an odd tinge of Rockabilly and 60s retro. How she got from there to this, I can’t imagine. I always had a desire to see a pop artist wig out and do something totally unexpected and “out there”, imagine Justin Timberlake doing a Death Metal album. Samson & Delilah Is such a rapid 180 from her older output, I’m surprised her fans didn’t get whiplash. This is smart, dark and dense, surprisingly meaty listening experience.

Disasterpeace – FEZ Original Soundtrack
I bought this soundtrack long before I played the game. Despite Disasterpeace’s incredible talent, it’s often betrayed by the tropes inherent to the retro indie game aesthetic. FEZ should be just another indie game and the soundtrack should be yet another competent but predictable, ironically retro chiptune background filler. But it so much more. Disasterpeace takes dirty, lowfi beeps a bloops and creates gorgeous, atmospheric soundscapes that build an entire world in the listener’s mind. This is the best thing he’s ever done. It’s a perfect soundtrack to an outstanding game.

Solar Fields – Origin # 02
Yet another dependably excellent release. I always know I can play any Solar Fields album and it will be highly polished, electronic chill. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it’s predictably good.

DJ Hidden – Enclosed
I was introduced to Drum and Bass back in the mid 90s through Roni Size’s Brown Paper Bag music video. I had never heard anything quite like it then or since. And no, not this either. Anyway, at the time I listened to a lot of Industrial. Where Industrial was a clanking, rusty beast of layered sounds, Roni Size’s DnB was streamline, minimalist and polished to a sheen. So it’s interesting to see what happens when someone with an Industrial background does DnB. While his older albums were squarely in the DnB genre, Enclosed incorporates more Breakcore elements and ambient interludes. This tends to add a bit more clutter than I like. Even so, this album has wicked editing and production.

Celldweller – Celldweller 10 Year Anniversary Deluxe Edition

UPDATE: It was pointed out to me by Klayton on the official @celldweller Twitter account that the 10th Anniversary audio is exactly the same as the 2003 release. I listened to it on Spotify Unlimited which does NOT have a high quality stream option (that is for Premium only). If you care about sound quality, Spotify may not be a the best choice.

The first Celldweller album was so strong and Clayton was so busy, it took him 8 year to finally get around to releasing a follow up. This album ruined Industrial for me. The sound was such a fresh take on the Industrial genre only now are others catching up. The anniversary edition doesn’t really offer anything new, some tweaks here and there, mainly some of the synth lines are turned up in the mix. I don’t think the tweaks add anything new or necessary. The second discs has a bunch of b-sides and singles and unreleased material, all good stuff. This release is a reminder of just how great this album was and still is.

Koan – When The Silence Is…
How is it there are seemingly so many high quality, meticulously produced chill/downtempo artists? Is there a factory in China making this stuff? Is it one insanely busy guy recording all of it (maybe he’s in the studio next to Clayton of Celldweller). I don’t know but as long as someone keeps making it, I’ll keep listening.

Amon26 – Gravity Mako
Amon26 has two contrasting strains to his output. One is dark ambient, Industrial-esque horror soundtrack stuff, the other is highly melodic, bouncy and energetic chiptunes. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to mistakenly think they are from two completely different artists. Gravity Mako falls into the melodic, bouncy half. The common thread is that they both are gritty, distorted and lowfi. Amon squeezes a lot of atmosphere from very little. The efficiency of his work never ceases to amaze me. Bonus: check out his recently released The Nimesta EPAvailable here: http://amon26.bandcamp.com/album/gravity-mako 

Noisia – DmC Devil May Cry (Original Game Soundtrack)
Cool, Noisia did a game soundtrack and it’s awesome! It’s also not surprising considering the cinematic nature of their work. It might as well be a regular Noisia release. And you don’t need to play the game to appreciate, which is great, especially if you’re not a Devil May Cry fan.