Favorite New Music: December 2017

  1. Chris Thile Thanks For Listening


What’s a master mandolin player to do after collaborating with your childhood friends, musical mentors and heros, and building the dopest bluegrass band ever? The answer for Chris Thile is host the program formerly know as “Prairie Home Companion.” During his first year as host, Thile penned and performed orginal songs that have been compiled onto this album. The variety of guest musicians and vocalists helps this album stand out from Thile’s previous work, and the songwriting is just as strong as one would expect from the life-long composer.

Standout Track: “Thank You New York (feat. Gaby Moreno)

2. Jeremih & Chance the Rapper Merry Christmas Lil Mama Re-wrapped


The duo’s holiday mixtape from 2016 gets a re-release with ten new tracks, so one download gets you two mixtapes in one! It’s a bargain (if we pretend it wasn’t free both now and last year) and Chance makes the songs snappy and fun.

Standout Track: “Down Wit That


3. The Macks Camp Poppa

the macks camp poppa

Oregon-based psych/blues rock band The Macks have released their debut album, and it’s got all of the trimming of a DIY-ish take on the genre. The lead vocals have the sass of Jagger, the guitar licks have a classic rock vibe, and the drums blast through the mix with power and attitude. An honor to have played with these musicians last year.

Standout Track: “Problems for Me



The rap-clique fad of the 2010s once had all kinds of camps to which to vow allegiance: GOOD Music, Maybach Music Group, Odd Future, A$AP Mob, Cash Money, Bruiser Brigade, Doomtree, and the list goes on. BROCKHAPTON is more akin to Odd Future; they are a California-based posse of young rappers, singers, and producers who air on the side of communicating levity and high energy in their music rather than a tough-as-nails facade. The abundance of vocal performances keeps the album flying by, and this is, amazingly, the third full-length project released this calendar year, which maybe justifies the groups lengthy roster of members. The project is bouncy, and here and there are gems of couplets surely to find longer life online.

Standout Track: “ZIPPER


2016: Favorite Tracks and Albums

Favorite Tracks (Outside of my Favorite Albums)

15. Joyce Manor “Fake I.D.” – Most awkward exchange at a party.

14. Danny Brown “Really Doe” ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Sou, Earl Sweatshirt – Danny Brown’s experimental album had this more traditional, bangin’ posse cut right in the middle.

13. Brvndon P “Coolin” ft. Beleaf – 2o16’s best pitch corrected hype man lines.

12. ANOHNI “4 Degrees” – Coolest vocal tones

11. Ariana Grande “Let Me Love You” ft. Lil Wayne – Sexiest song of the year

10. Mutual Benefit “Not For Nothing” – From the saddest album of the year.

9. Gallant “Bone + Tissue” – best use of falsetto.

8. Joey Purp “Girls @” ft. Chance the Rapper – best instrumental

7. Kanye West “Ultralight Beam” ft. Chance the Rapper – best Chance verse.

6. Run the Jewels “Legend Has It” – the most RTJiest song to date.

5. Baauer “Day Ones” ft. Novelist, Leikeli47 – best song to crank to 11.

4. Lizzo “Good As Hell” – best feel good song

3. Into It. Over It. “Adult Contempt” – best percussion part

2. Jack Garrett “Worry” – best PBR&B tune

  1. Dawes “When The Tequila Runs Out” – best lyricist of 2016.

Favorite Albums of 2016

10. Jeff Rosenstock WORRY.


While this album is nowhere as nuanced as Rosenstock’s previous record We Coo?, WORRY. has all the trappings of a great pop punk record – 1/8 note bar chords blasted through tube amps, a substantial helping of crowd “woahs”, and the blistering shouts from the front man himself.

Standout Tracks: “Festival Song” “Wave Goodnight to Me” “Blast Damage Days”

9. Swet Shop Boys Cashmere


Heems’ project always capture my attention; whether its the Das Racist mixtapes or his solo projects, his use of humor and ad-lib skills make for an enjoyable listen. Here, the content becomes more politically-themed as he tag teams with Riz Ahmed, a Londoner of middle eastern heritage. The instrumentals sample sounds and artists of southern Asia (similar to Heem’s debut album Eat Pray Thug) thanks to the brilliant work of Redhino. Unlike the mixtapes, this project has no slack or throwaway moments; it’s all solid and important rhetoric communicated through club rap tracks.

Standout Tracks: “T5” “Aaja” “Zayn Malik

8. Modern Baseball Holy Ghost


The emo rock world has been catching a new wave of energy: 2016 saw great music from Into It. Over It., Joyce Manor, Useless ID, Real Friends, and TTNG. The project that floats to the top of that powerful list is Modern Baseball’s newest LP Holy Ghost. It’s simplicity works in its favor as the heart-on-sleeve lyrics take a front seat.

Standout Tracks: “Note to Self” “Wedding Singer” “What If..”

7. Regina Spektor Remember Us To Life


Regina Specktor’s newest album is a very theatrical project: each song is an independent vignette telling specific stories, some with fleshed out characters. Many musical moments are musical theater tropes, or that of a film score, and inform the lyrics and mood much more than the poppier piano projects Specktor has released previously in her career.

Standout Tracks: “Grand Hotel“”Small Bill$” “The Light

6. Weezer Weezer [The White Album]


It’s hard not to adapt the opinions of others in our formative years. I did not know, for example, that Weezer had bad albums. I bought what turned out to be, critically speaking, Weezer’s least popular records: The Red Album and Raditude. It wasn’t long after diving into diverse musical realms through college that these albums began to wain in quality, and some if it upon re-listening sounded horrendous.

2014’s comback-ish Trouble Will Find Us In The End turned out to be an album-long drum roll to the real surprise: 2016’s The White Album. The melodies are fun and within Weezer’s wheelhouse. The guitars rule, as they did in 2o14, and the subjects while not as eclectic are explored in odd ways…ways familiar to early Rivers Cuomo lyric sheets.

California Kids” “Jacked Up” “King of the World

5. Anderson.Paak Malibu


Raspy-throated crooner Anderson.Paak went from behind-the-scenes producer for Dr. Dre’s Compton to front man extrordonare. Now grammy nominated, Paak unleased his varied talents as rapper, James Brown impersonator, band leader, drummer, and all around classy chap in this funky record. It’s meaty and yet airy, with thick product that somehow keeps the songs light. It’s a musical magic trick to behold.

Come Down” “The Dreamer” “Parking Lot

4. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive


2013’s We Are Common also made it onto my AOTY list, and Thao has only upped her game since then. With production help from the brain behind tUnE-yArDs, this LP unleashes a torrent of quirky rock tunes circling the singer’s personal search of her birth father. It’s deep, thought-provoking, and catchy.

Standout Tracks: “Departure” “Astonished Man” “Nobody Dies

3. PUP The Dream is Over


My favorite album of 2015 was FIDLAR’s Too, and this album takes the same musical influences and creates an equally raucous track list. The earnestness of the lyrics and the group shouts create an effective woe-is-me pathos, but the song structures are exceptional: multiple bridges, key changes, an incredible drummer, and time signature experimentation make this album an excellent record for all kinds of music lovers.

DVP” “Sleep in the Heat” “My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier” “Familiar Patterns”

2.clipping –  Splendor & Misery / Wriggle

The experimental Rap trio released two excellent, yet very different, projects in 2016. The first was an EP called Wriggle that delivered more of what we knew made clipping great: creative instrumental beats (one made entirely of gun noises), motor-mouth bars from Daveed Diggs, and memorable guest verses. It’s catchy, raunchy, and a powerful punch for an EP.

Fast forward a few months, and the group releases Splendor & Misery. A 40-minute rap-opera of a runaway space slave trapped on a cargo ship. Yup. Diggs runs wild with the imagery and the narrative while the instrumental production serves more like the sound effects of a radio play than that of a rap album. Both projects are excellent, and both deserve to be recognized.

Standout Tracks: “Shooter” “All Black” “Air ‘Em Out“”Back Up

1.Car Seat Headrest –  Teens of Denial

car seat headrest

Will Toledo has a runaway hit of an album: a debut album in the sense that it is the first with a nation-wide market release, but is technically his 12th album, most of which were dropped on bandcamp. The garage rock band is pure pathos, with Toledo yelping his emotions, ripping them off his sleeve and throwing them directly into your face. The guitars are rough and agitated, but hold together for melodic hooks, building most of the wall of sound. i had the privilege of seeing them live, and you know a band resonates with a generation when the crowd, during “Drunk Driver/Killer Whales” sung so loud that it through off the band, missing a cue to move into the final chorus. The record makes me equally jealous and understood; Toledo makes a fine mouthpiece for a lot of sullen youth.

Standout Tracks: “Drunk Driver/Killer Whales” “1937 State Park” “Fill in the Blank” “Destroyed by Hippie Powers”

Favorite New Music: May 2016

Car Seat Headrest Teens of Denial

car seat headrest

From the opening guitar licks in “Fill in the Blank” to the Dido reference in the middle of “The Ballad of Costa Concordia” Car Seat Headrest shows their songwriting prowess on this Matador Records debut. Will Toledo pens some killer drepressing lyrics and pairs the sentiments with indie guitar tunes that sit somewhere between surf rock, lo-fi, and punk. The songs are all very catchy, too, and melodies will stick around in your head, especially the refrain from “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”.

Standout Track: “Fill in the Blank

Mutual Benefit Skip a Sinking Stone


Sometimes you need an album to just sit on the floor and soak in. For a long time, that album for me has been Burst Apart by The Antlers, but now it might have some company. These folk tunes from Jordan Lee deliver the mellow vibes through the lightly harmonized vocals and the thick, legato string arrangements.

Standout Track: “Not For Nothing

Nothing Tired of Tomorrow


17 year old me would have been disappointed in his older self’s musical tastes. This album would have been written off as “too soft” in a world where nu-metal ruled and bpms under 140 were discarded. Nothing’s washed out opening tracks cresendo two minutes into “Vertigo Flowers” where the half time count builds into an incredible wall of sound. The album shows its 90’s sensibilities and holds a lot of similarities to the drugged out, dreamy songs of my early childhood. The nu-metal turns on at “A.C.D.” with harmonies one could find on a track by The Urge.

Standout Track: “A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)

Death Grips Bottomless Pit


And then there’s Death Grips.

Standout Track: “Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood

ANOHNI Hopelessness


Have you ever been engaged with entertainment and cannot come to the conclusion whether you are either captivated or baffled? So continues my relationship with ANOHNI’s vocals on Hopelessness. The sexual ambiguity makes the music more difficult to categorize, which makes the album more interesting to explore. Plus, “4 Degrees” is a great pop song with one catchy hook.

Standout Track: “4 Degrees

Other Solid Releases: James Blake The Colour in Anything; Fruit Bats Absolute Loser; Homebody Sandman Kindness for Weakness; Yoni & Geti Testarossa; Chance the Rapper Coloring Book; Astronautalis Cut The Body Loose



2015: Favorite Tracks and Albums

Favorite Tracks (outside of my favorite albums)

12. “Genghis Khan” Miike Snow

This funky disco track has been stuck in my head since it was released just one month ago. Simple and catchy: the winning combination for pop.

11. “Four Five Seconds” Rihanna feat. Kanye West, Paul McCartney

While none of the artists involved with this minimal rock tune released their own albums in 2015, they all come together on this simple, cathartic anthem to nearly losing your cool. Here’s hoping Kanye and Rihanna’s 2016 releases use this track as a reference point.

1o. “I Believe” KB feat. Mattie for Today

Take a popular cheer from a football stadium and remix it into a loud banger. Is it low hanging fruit in terms of sampling? Maybe. Is it heart-pumping and wonderful? Yes.

9. “Powerful” Major Lazar feat. Ellie Goulding, Tarrus Riley

Putting a pop song in 6/8 might not seem like a bold move, but this swinging duet made this track stand out from the rest of the songs on the radio this year. Props to Diplo and everyone in Major Lazar. What a year!

8. “You Got Spirit, Kid” Coheed and Cambria

Sometimes, we all can use a heavy dose of humble pie. Few songs provide such strong helpings, but this pop-punk song from the metal band leaves us with the succinct “Nobody gives a fuck who you are.”

7. “Ill Mind of Hopsin 7” Hopsin

Hopsin’s brief dip into Christianity nearly paralleled my own, so hearing this song on his 2015 album Pound Syndrome was such a powerful and meaningful connection. His anger comes through loud and clear to my ears.

6. “Good for You” Selena Gomez feat. A$AP Rocky

Here it is: The sexiest song of 2015. Good God.

5. “All My Friends” Snakehips feat. Chance the Rapper, Tinashe

I’m a sucker for Chance the Rapper. Anything he does I love. Here, however, he doesn’t shine quite as bright as the hook. This is modern R&B gold for a generation of delinquents.

4. “Honey I’m Good” Andy Grammar

Who says ‘good guys finish last?’ Andy Grammar’s foot-stomping ode to a far-off lover serves as a palate cleaner to some of the seedier messages of many of 2015’s pop and rap hits.

3. “The Hills” The Weeknd

The Weeknd’s two biggest hits, “The Hills” and “I Can’t Feel My Face,” sound like polar opposites one first listen. One is dark and moody and the latter is poppy and groovy. As it turns out, the first is about sex and the second is about cocaine. “The Hills” wins it out for me by a hair because the scary instrumental and booming 808 bass hits are too awesome to ignore.

2.“Where are U Now” Jack U feat Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber’s resurgence into pop music has nothing to do with his abilities as a singer. It has everything to do with his public self-deprecation and his choice of producers. Songs like “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean” are held up solely, but strongly, by the instrumentals. The same goes for the group Jack U (Diplo and Skrillex) who cut and paste the daylights out of Bieber to create a song well out of the singer’s natural abilities.

1. “Downtown” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Taking the number 1 spot for both favorite track and favorite music video is the Pacific Northwest’s own Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. This song serves as a sonic response to Bruno Mars’ and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” (technically a 2014 release) and does more with the funk themes and vocal hooks. The chorus is nothing sort of epic, the humor is fun, the best-producer award should be ripped from Pharell’s hands and placed as Ryan Lewis’ feet. BONUS: The music video is filmed in Ryan Lewis and I’s hometown, Spokane!

Favorite Albums

10. Dawes All Your Favorite Bands


Part dream pop, part folk rock, and all good for the soul, Dawes’ latest album is such a great project that is focused on supporting the lyrics. There are some great Americana lines in this LP: “Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to”; “I hope all your favorite bands stay together” and the like. Simple, beautiful writing.

Favorite Tracks: “Things Happen”, “All Your Favorite Bands”

9. Melanie Martinez Crybaby

Melanie Martinez

Dark yet poppy. Eerie yet fun. Melanie Martinez’s full-length album carries this juxtaposition throughout and unleashes some of 2015’s best pop songs.

Favorite Tracks: “Alphabet Boy” “Sippy Cup” “Cry baby” “Carousel

8. A$AP Rocky At.Long.Last.A$AP


Following up Long.Live. A$AP should have been much harder than this. The dark and moody sophomore LP from one of the more popular rappers today soars above the other early releases from his cohort (Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, Vince Staples, Joey, Action Bronson, et al).

Holy Ghost” feat. Joe Fox “L$D

7. The Wombats The Wombats


2015 was a year that made it clear Passion Pit’s steam is fading. Who will be ready to carry the torch of electro-pop synth euphoria? Well, there’s quite a few. The Wombats are my favorite contender in that race and this album delivers on happy anthems and thudding downbeats to dance to. We’re going to be okay.

Favorite Tracks: “Give Me A Try” “Your Body Is A Weapon

6. Miguel WILDHEART 

miguel wildheart

I never got into Kaleidoscope Dream. R&B and I had not yet been properly introduced. After the R&B gateway drugs of James Blake and Frank Ocean, Miguel’s second album was welcomed into my earholes and brainwaves. And there he stayed.

Favorite Tracks: “Coffee” “what’s normal anyway” “NWA

5. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly  


There is no denying the obvious truth: This is the best rap album of 2015. It might be the best rap album of this decade. Too important to be relegated into obscure music circles, too banging to be boring, too dense to be short-changed as pop-rap. Kendrick outdoes and outgrows his former self from Good Kid M.a.a.D City and has given us a project to reflect on and use as a rap touchstone.

Favorite Tracks: “Alright” “i” “Momma” “Hood Politics

4. Jeff Rosenstock We Cool?

jeff rosenstock we col

This is a pop-punk hail-marry. Simple and brash and unapologetic with its heavy dose of feels, We Cool? somehow epitomizes what I lived through as a young adult thus far. Not to mention, the video for “Nausea” is fantastic.

Favorite Tracks: “Nausea” “Get Old Forever” “You, In Weird Cities

3. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment Surf


We didn’t get an official Change the Rapper follow-up to his magnificent mixtape Acid Rap. What we did get in 2015 was an unexpected left turn: Chance used his fame to promote his group of friends called “The Social Experiment.” Their first project was fronted (although oddly not prominently featuring) Donnie Trumpet. The group still packs a punch with its soulful arrangements and there are a half-dozen uncredited cameos from today’s best rappers.

Slip Slide” “Wanna Be Cool” “Familiar” “Sunday Candy

2. Marian Hill Sway

marian hill sway

I don’t know who Marian Hill is. I don’t know because, somehow, no one on the internet is talking about this album. WHY THE HELL NOT?! Hill’s style falls into the minimalist electronic field a la Sylvan Esso or even Lorde. The tracks are light but groovy and each track just adds to the mood.

Favorite Tracks: “Got It” “One Time” “Lips


And #1… FIDLAR  Too 


2015 was the year by band became a top priority. We’ve been recording our first album, we won a battle of the bands competition this summer, we’ve played a handful of fun shows. This album (not my band) has captured what I hope to accomplish when our record is all said and done. These guys are having tons of fun and its evident from track #1. It’s loud and obnoxious at times and punky as hell. I guess this was the year for sophomore albums…so…”sophomore slump” my ass.

Favorite Tracks: “40 oz on Repeat” “West Coast” “Why Generation” “Sober

May Highlights

1. Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment Surf


Chance the Rapper’s mixtape career has propelled him to the top of the summer musical festival line-ups, but instead of signing to a major record label and released a proper solo album, Chance takes a supporting position with The Social Experiment–a band of buddies featuring horns, a sea of vocals, and non-traditional/non-rap song structures. The best parts, however, are Chance’s appearances along with the other rap features likes Kendrick Lamar, Migos, and Busta Rhymes.

Standout Track: “Sunday Candy”



The A$AP Mob is home to Trap Lord’s A$AP Ferg and it’s multi-talented front man A$AP Rocky. The rest of the roster is forgettable thus far. Rocky’s debut album was a poppy record with some great club singles, and now we get the rapper’s other side: a moody, melancholy man racked with the loss of his friend and label-head A$AP Yams. The sophomore LP is beautiful and ranks near the top of great hip-hop albums already released in 2015.

Standout Track: “L$D”

3. Django Django Born Under Saturn


Featuring 1960s style vocal arrangements and effects, Born Under Saturn serves as the season’s first great summer road trip sound track. Another great addition to the list if Best Coasts’ California Nights.

Standout Track: “Pause Repeat”

4. Brandon Flowers The Desired Effect


The Killer’s last album, Battle Born, seemed a little too dependent on Bruce Springsteen’s existence and discography to stand on its own merit. Moreover, it didn’t really sound like a Killer’s album save for Flower’s vocals. This is the singer’s second solo album, and this time the sounds pull together to create a cohesive bundle of tracks.

Standout Track: “Never Get You Right”

Music Video of the Month:

February Highlights

Music in February’s got me head-bobbin’ like ol’ Gandalf.

Full Albums/Mixtapes:

1. Acid Arab Collections LP 


What is it?

Parisian DJs/producers Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho who, when together, call themselves Acid Arab have collected an LP’s worth of bumping house music infused with Middle Eastern music, both traditional and modern. It’s loud and in your face and the dichotomy has been catching steam in pop music from Syrian Wedding singer Omar Souleyman’s “Wenu Wenu” to Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty”

Standout Track:

2. Leikeli47 lk47ptii Mixtape


What is it?

Masked performers catch a lot of attention for their “anonymity” first and their music second. And with the piles of new music being released daily online no one would blame the publicity stunt for the extra buzz. It worked for Flying Lotus’ Captain Murphy persona and it’ll work for Leikeli47: a NY female rapper who spits venom all over her mixtape titled lk47ptii. To highlight the hype-value, she opens the mixtape with a quote straight out of The Dark Knight Rises. Cheesy or Epic? Your choice.

Standout Track: “Miss America”

3. Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You Tomorrow


What is it?

The new LP from England’s contest-winning indie rock group brings lots of up-tempo tunes that are easy on the ears.

4. Solids  Blame Confusion
What is it?
I’m not normally a fan of noisy guitar fuzz rock, but Solids come in with a loud, brash bang and don’t give up. The mix seems a little more bearable on this LP and strikes a clearer chord with me. 
Standout Track: “Haze Away”


1. James Blake and Chance the Rapper “Life Round Here”

What is it?

James Blake, grammy nominated dub-crooner, and Chance the Rapper, Chicago’s next big thing, might now be roommates. But more importantly, they now collaborate on musical ventures. With talks of a longer project (mixtape maybe, please?) the two released this bit of hip-hop.

2. The Bleachers “I Wanna Get Better”

What is it?

Fun. is a band who finds its strength in being the world’s most successful Queen cover band. And while leader singer Nate Ruess spends his time singing duets with P!nk, guitarist Jack Antonoff has started his solo project The Bleachers. Check out the similarities and differences.

Favorite Music Video:

Metronomy “Love Letters”

Directed by Michel Gondry, known for his Bjork music videos, memorable commercials, and trippy movies like Be Kind Rewind and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Back to directing music videos, Gondry uses his crafty staples to represent Metronomy’s throw back style.

Favorite Cover:

Miley does OutKast, Diplo does Beyonce, and Lorde does James Blake, but good ol’ Jimmy Fallon takes the cake on this superb reimagining of “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly

2013: Favorite Music, Part 2

Boy, there’s always too much music to digest and never enough time. Let me know if your favorite slipped by me. I am always excited to hear more great music. These are my favorite albums, not the BEST albums of 2013. I don’t know enough about music to make that kind of a statement. Pitchfork does, I guess.

Presented in alphabetical order, here are my favorite albums from this past calendar year.

The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake


As most others have noted, part 1 of the two-parted 20/20 Experience holds together better as a stand-alone work. Are these songs twice as long as they should be? Most of them, yes. Is Jay Z’s verse on Suit and Tie sub-par? At least. But the classy(ish) charm JT brings to his post-FutureSex/LoveSounds sound is more delightful than monotonous. And as far as best pre-album hype marketing techniques go, JT’s week-long stint on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon trumps Kanye West’s and Arcade Fire’s strange building projections and Jay Z’s  pseudo-platinum deal with Samsung. Notable Tracks: Mirrors, Pusher Love Girl, Spaceship Coupe

Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper


I don’t have to do drugs because Chance the Rapper has done all of them. He’ll tell you about it on Acid Rap, a mixtape dropped in the first half of 2013. The rapper has the kookiest personality in the Chicago scene and his vocal fills (nya nya nya nya nya nya) somehow feel carefully constructed rather than time-fillers and could perhaps replace Kanye’s HEH! or  or 2 Chainz’s TWO CHAAAAAAINZ. Chance (don’t forget the rapper) the Rapper has lots of fun and let’s us into his world. Notable Tracks: Pusha Man ; Cocoa Butter Kisses ; Everybody’s Something

All That I Hold Dear – Homeboy Sandman


The world of underground hip-hip is fun and exciting because the genre hosts MCs who lean more toward the poetic rather than the profane. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but often the former is dropped for the latter in major label hip hop. Homeboy Sandman (I know, right?) dropped two EPs this year and All That I Hold Dear is the stronger of the two. Sandman hits the classic topics without falling into the pitfalls other artists find so easily now: He defends his own talents without performing the Kendrick Lamar “Control” list-off-my-peers-and-diss-all-at-once blanket verse, and he delves into his personal emotional battles without getting overly self-indulgent in melancholy like Childish Gambino or even Hopsin. This stuff is short, fun, and catchy. Notable Tracks: King Kong Got Nothing On Me, Musician, Relapse

Beta Love – Ra Ra Riot


Ra Ra Riot has been slipping by me for a long time. I probably would have been a fan back when The Rhumb Line was released in 2008 back when bands like Spoon and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were filling up iPod Nanos across the western world. But alas, the world has too much music and it was only until 2013 that I finally got to hear Ra Ra Riot (and only because they released Beta Love so early in the year). Here, the band keeps the tempo up, the mood poppy, and the singing high. I just wish the mixing was a little better, it still seems kind of off. Whatever. Notable Tracks: Dance With Me; Beta Love; Angel, Please ; When I Dream

Excavation – The Haxan Cloak

haxan cloak

This is what the nightmares of Autobots sound like. Notable Tracks: Excavation (Part 1) ; Mara ; Miste


Heroes For Sale wins for most time spent in my CD player in my car. It also wins for being the only album I have ever pre-ordered. Ever. Mineo’s debut album hits highs early and often and only give up in the last couple tracks. Christian Hip Hop only seems to maintain life through Reach Records, which is terribly sad, but also convenient if you struggle to find and CHH worthwhile (we all do). This record beats the other big Reach release this year, Derek Minor’s Minorville, in both lyrical content and production. Mineo’s lyrics trump the production save for Gavvi’s You Will, which left my mouth hanging open the first time I heard it. Thanks Reach Records! Notable Tracks: Ayo! ; You Will ; Cocky

Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

vampire weekend

Vampire Weekend keep doing what they do well: being pretentious and relatable simultaneously. I’m not going to pretend I understand whatever Ezra is singing about and if I do find out all of his references in this new LP, he’ll have another lengthy set of obscure references in the next release. The guitar loses its tremolo strumming and moves into a more groovy style (I mean, as groovy as you can get with a harpsichord). Also, Steve Bushemi is related to the bassist, Chris Baio? Notable Tracks: Diane Young, Step, Ya Hey

Pure Heroine – Lorde


New Zealand teenager Ella Yelich O-Connor has a bed time still. She gets grounded from using her smart phone. As Lorde, she is a worldwide sensation. An Avril Levine on Ritalin stuck inside the chilliest computer game ever, a robo-Lana Del Rey, Ingrid Michaelson getting cozy with a drum machine….All of Pure Heroine must be listened to laying down on soft carpet staring at the popcorn ceiling while cooler kids go out at night dancing to electric music with way more wubs. Notable Tracks: Royals, 400 lux, The Love Club

We The Common – Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

we the common

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down win for coolest name in 2013. This debut (wow, there’s a lot of debuts on this list. Huh) delivers the sunshine with sing-along melodies, fun drum patterns, and the most indy-sounding female indy voice you’ve heard since tUnE-yArDs. Notable Tracks: We The Common (for Valerie Boldon) ; City ; Holy Roller