#agir Favorite Albums 2013
This list comes with the same caveat as my favorite songs: I’m not claiming they’re the “best,” just the ones that I enjoyed the most, that stuck with me, and that I listened to many times.
Julia Kent: Character
A former (?) member of Rasputina, Kent writes cello pieces that could usually be described as “minimalist,” with only the occasional trace of the rock crunch that the band become known for (and, ultimately, pigeonholed by).
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare v. III: To See More Light
Not really a dramatic departure from the last volume in the New History Warfare sequence, Stetson continues to make the saxophone do things it was not meant to do, and to sound like nobody and nothing else.
These New Puritans: Field of Reeds
These New Puritans, on the other hand, made an album that sounds absolutely nothing like the one that came before. It is always risky to mess with a successful formula, but really they didn’t do that so much as build themselves a whole new lab. Almost no vocals, a focus on wind instruments, and a sampled hawk; this is one that requires, but rewards, repeated listening.
Julianna Barwick: Nepenthe
Julianna Barwick’s last album was a critical favorite, but didn’t quite stick with me; whether it’s a case of needing more patience than I gave her the first time around, or the (very, very) slightly more “pop” sensibility on this record, her layered, mostly wordless vocals became the thing I wanted to listen to first thing every morning.
The National: Trouble Will Find Me
This is not, to be honest, my favorite album from The National; I don’t think it has quite the focus of High Violet. But, still: it sounds like The National, without sounding like they’ve run out of ideas, and I will take that any day.
Tim Hecker: Virgins
This might be the record I was most looking forward to this year; I came around to his work late, but since I got a clue he’s become one of my favorite artists. This album has a family resemblance to prior work without really sounding all that much like it, due in part to some live instrumentation and in part to what sounds, to me anyway, like more structured compositions.
Zomby: With Love
I was a little resistance to this one at first, in art because it seemed so fragmentary. Many of the tracks are more like sketches, around a minute long; only a handful go over the three minute mark. It seemed to me like he comes up with an idea, plays around with it a little bit, and then gets bored and moves on to something else— but records everything. And yet, so many of those little ideas are so good that it kept me listening, and eventually the overall coherence of the record made it clear that something else altogether was going on.
Forest Swords: Engravings
Another critical favorite that didn’t really do it for me on previous releases, but the first couple of tracks on this record really pull you in. It’s hard to describe: electronic, not really experimental but certainly not meant for the club either, and not quite in any particular genre, but thoroughly melodic and encompassing.
Burial: Rival Dealer
Burial, like The National, is an artist in whose work I have enough faith to buy first and ask questions later. This is quite different from much of his previous work, though if one looks at the trajectory of his recent releases it’s not altogether surprising either. It’s a cliché to call music, especially certain kinds of electronic music, “cinematic,” but that word applies to Burial, for me, in an unusual way. I don’t mean by it that his his music would make a good soundtrack to a movie (though it would); I mean that his works now seem to me as though they are movies, in some way— movies without visuals. I realize that doesn’t make sense, and I suppose that all I mean is that his control of mood and pacing and timbre is so strong that he can create the sense of a narrative arc without actually telling a story in any straightforward sense.