[See also: VICE's Worst 50 Albums of 2013]
Frank Zappa once said that "music criticism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." We're onboard with that statement, which is why this time of year always gets our goat, and then rams a splintery chopstick up our poor goat's dickhole. It's year-end top-50 review season.
Allow us to explain a few things about year-end top-50 review season. It's a moment when neck-beard music critics get to throw their weight around, kick their Converse up on their desks, and wax critical about something that's fully accepted as impossible to quantify—the best albums of the year. According to Billboard, something like 75,000 albums are released each year, and that's not counting stuff your dirtbag cousin throws on Bandcamp. With an average running time of 45 minutes per record, the average human could listen to music 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and not make a dent.
All this mathy stuff illustrates that year-end lists are based 100% on taste. There is no canon of pop music, and anyone who says there is most likely just wants to keep his job as a music journalist. So allow us to present our taste, in order, as collected in 12 issues of VICE Magazine over the past year. Before you get all pissy in the comments and accuse us of neglecting HAIM, Chance the Rapper, Jon Hopkins, or whatever garbage you think deserves critical respect, keep in mind that A) 99% of all music is terrible, B) some of these reviews are on the top 50 because we liked the review, not the band, and C) we really, really, really don't care.
Christian Workout Power Pack
Capital Christian Distribution
You were probably proud when you found the Desperate Bicycles’s Remorse Code LP in the dollar bin, but when I came across this gem I felt like fucking Friedrich Miescher. Get this: it’s specifically and explicitly a triple-disc collection made for Christian women aged 30 to 45 to help them break a sweat at the local YWCA. Plus, there are no digital downloads, it’s only available in Christian bookstores, and Christianity is a vicious celestial dictatorship that encourages ignorance, cruelty, and genocide.
UV RACE/EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING
Australian punks are the best punks. This is because they drink the blood of kangaroos, which makes them all “hopping mad” and really good at pogoing. Does this mean that kangaroos are the punkest of all animals? I dunno, but I am sure those fuckers will kick you in the face something fierce, with or without steel-toed Docs. They definitely get some kind of props for that.
When he’s not busy making proggy black metal with his other band, Liturgy, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix (son of Helen and Jimi, for all you flower children out there) is making blackish prog rock with his new project, Survival, and—hey, Joe—let me just tell you, I’m mad about this album. Hunt-Hendrix, along with bandmates Greg Smith and Jeff Bobula, expertly revives first-wave math rock with the added punch of hardcore gravitas, and it’s got me floating, got it? I would almost even go so far as to say it’s as good as it gets! I know what women (and men, sometimes) want, and it’s more spasmodic rhythms and unpredictable melodic narratives from this Brooklyn trio. Are you experienced, yet? I’m just trying to pay it forward and bask in the rays of the new rising sun.
In The Red
Sometimes when I’m listening to Drake’s lyrics, I’m all like, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, this is totally something my mom would say.” Not so with these dudes. Sure, they could be talking about white-wine spritzers and alimony, but who the fuck can tell? They’re loud, they have unintelligible lyrics, and they named their band after a diaper. Drake can go shit his pants standing and then suck a good man’s dick.
TYLER, THE CREATOR
Kids are so fucking scary now. I’ve always thought that the most terrifying horror and thriller movies are the ones with really stoic, black-eyed kids in formal wear who have no emotions and wait around to slash your ankles or face with found objects. I would literally be afraid to be in the same room as Tyler, the Creator. He looks like he’d peel off a person’s top layer of skin with the very tips of his front teeth and fingernails so that he could later don the victim’s epidermis as a cape onstage while calling your mother a series of very bad names. Which, I think, is exactly what he’s going for, so we can do nothing but encourage it (or die). RYAN GOSLING
THE SPACE LADY
The Space Lady's Greatest Hits
Susan Dietrich, a.k.a. the Space Lady, a.k.a. my galactic wet dream, was this weirdo homeless dropout busker chick who drifted between Boston and the Bay Area back in the 70s, supporting her draft-dodging husband and three kids by playing zonked-out space-themed psych covers in a winged Viking helmet. Most street musicians have a story like that, but most of them also make music that belongs in the environment where it was conceived: a quaint little town I like to call “Covered in Human Turds and Boxed Wine in the Dumpster Behind Carl’s Jr.”
DINAH SHORE’S TOOTHED OVARIAN CYST
THE HOLYDRUG COUPLE
I want to give this a puke face out of sheer annoyance but can’t because it was made by two people from Chile who put out a perfect hazy summer psychedelia album with that nice, warm buzz tone that tingles the tip of your dick when you’re stoned. And they’re doing it in the dead of winter as a fuck-you to the entire Northern Hemisphere. I live up here, assholes. It’s nine degrees. Right now they’re probably all growing their hair long and watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoons and shouting “Cowabunga, dude” and surfing and hand-feeding grapes to naked women with green eyes or whatever the fuck they do down there. Just invite me, dudes. Please.
This record came at a really good time for me, which is to say I was cooking Rice-A-Roni while bumping the Mallrats soundtrack. As I ran a food train on my fanus (face anus) with the San Francisco Treat, I perused the press release, which dropped some smarty-pants nuggets like “light-dappled,” “lingering magic,” and even “alien landscapes.” I thought to myself, Sure, I can definitely hear that. Sophisticated people with good taste, I envy your dedication to grown-ass-woman music like this. I too am a grown-ass woman, and I actually like this a lot. That being said, it did trigger my extreme guilt for having zero interest in ever doing yoga. Especially Bikram.
These days, the proverbial South Side of Chicago is often cited as a “vibrant music scene,” not a spawning pool for dead-eyed child soldiers who can occasionally be coaxed into creating the bleak-as-death drill music that straight white male music critics are currently pounding off to ad speculum. But there’s another side to the city that has nothing to do with tubesteaks of any sort, one that’s centered around a different bass-heavy breed of club music called “footwork.” It’s a lot less murder-y, and DJ Rashad is its reigning (if oft-overlooked) king. This record is crack, but its only problem is a release through some limey professor dude’s vanity label. So I guess straight white male music critics are gonna be the only ones listening to this outside of the Big Onion after all.
ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER
R Plus Never
You know when it’s 4 AM on a Tuesday and you realize you’ve just watched the entirety of a two-hour infomercial for some carpet cleaner you’re never gonna buy, but you just can’t turn off the TV because it’s bright and shiny, and you’re a depressed insomniac? That’s how it feels to listen to this record. It’s like getting a late-capitalist massage in a postindustrial spa on the internet in 1080p. Yes, the vibes are totally vapor-wavy, but not in your typical made-by-a-15-year-old-kid-in-Norway way. Whatever.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS
I just finished listening to this for two straight days, and I love it, which brings to mind that age-old saying, “If you don’t have anything shitty to shit on, don’t shitty shit on any shit at all.”
I sit next to VICE’s reviews editor. She’s got a pyromaniac streak and a lot of weird habits, like refusing to eat fruit. One time she sighed, slowly removed her headphones, turned to me, and said, “The only place to find serious art these days is in extreme, progressive metal.” Of course, I told her that a job where one listens to popular music and writes about it will, at best, lower one’s standards for art, and, at worst, retard the cognitive faculties to an eight-year-old’s comprehension level. But then, out loud, I told her she was probably right. Point is, I’m sort of surprised she recommended this record. It doesn’t sound particularly “serious” to me. It sounds like Bay Area 80s thrash and weed.
Smart Ass Black Boy
Fat Tony is the kind of guy who wears nail polish, which is a trend I'm noticing and liking in "weird" modern rappers. Fat Tony is the rap game's guy you want to hug the most. This is a really fun record—not like a "party record," where you have fun while it's playing, but listening to the record feels like reading MAD or Wizard Magazine when you were little and entering a clubhouse of people who got you. What I think I'm saying is that Fat Tony is the black Alfred E. Neuman.
SMARTER ASS BLACK BLOB
All My Relations
Black Pus’s new jam All My Relations channels the ghosts of robotic demons past, escaping their industrial hell. They’re clawing outward and upward, into your backyard with ruthless moves and chops. Swirling oscillator growls gnarl around Brian Chippendale’s patented drum abuse. This is not for casual listening; this is to spur men on the verge of losing everything to take that final plunge. No letting up. Full-on fucking chaos. WILLIAM CODY WATSON
NYC, Hell 3:00 AM
Hippos In Tanks
Sure, Eskimos have identified a thousand types of snow or whatever, but lately I’ve been seeking high-level collaborative-research grants to discover and map the innumerable types of boners on God’s green earth. I’ve learned a lot, and one surprising result of my research proves that not all lap rockets originate from normal feelings of intimacy and love. (Note: see the “MDMA street-pee stiffy” or good-old morning wood for contemporary and classical examples of what I’m talking about here.) All I had to do to fully experience the Fear Flute was listen to James Ferraro’s new album, which is so pants-shittingly terrifying that it sucked all the blood vessels from my face and brain and transported them southward faster than a van’s worth of AR-15s breezing past Mexican customs.
Give Up (Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition)
Somewhere in the hyperdistant future, after civilization as we know it has long been erased from the pages of time, after an eons-long ice age has thawed, a new, vibrant society, governed by cognizant, trans-aquatic creatures, will be delighted with a gift for their senses. One day, on a journey into the rocky hills, one of these fish people, a common villager, will discover a shimmering disc tucked in the rib bones of a fossilized megalizard. Fueled by an obsessive thirst for knowledge, the he-fish will attempt to retrieve the information from the disc. Much time will pass. The he-fish will die, but his work will be continued by his offspring and, eventually, his offspring’s offspring. Finally, before a massive congregation of trans-aquatic land creatures from all sects and classes, the information on the disc will be retrieved and revealed much to the delight of almost everyone, even a lot of trans-aquatic land creatures who you wouldn’t normally expect to be into that sort of thing.
Radio Killa/Def Jam
This album is incredible. Illustrious. Illuminati level. Four-on-the-Floor, meet DJ Screw. Beyoncé, we’d like to introduce you to Lee “Scratch” Perry. The-Dream, here’s our good friend, reverse-drumbeat sound. The-Dream is Terius Youngdell Nash, and the point of Terius Youngdell Nash is he’s a try-hard, but a try-hard in the best possible way. The bass on this is so intense that it will give you a headache. Synth lines cascade like your ex-girlfriend’s tears when you dumped her. There are so many songs about fucking. One of them is just called “Pussy.” If you conceive a baby to this album, your offspring is guaranteed to come out 10 percent more charismatic, intelligent, and straight-up attractive than it would have otherwise. Seriously, there’s a sticker that says so on the cover.
Afraid of Heights
Mom + Pop
Man, this record is so good. I did the cover art for the last one, which was fine but just not as exciting as the other Wavves records. This feels like a true successor to King of the Beach. It’s a big exciting beast with tunes you can boogie to, oddly looped samples with tons of echo, and that thing with Nathan Williams’s voice where you can’t quite tell if he’s a man or a boy. The first song of the album, which is also its lead single, starts with piano tinkles before kicking in to “Sail to the Sun.” The tracks range from fun, poppy tunes full of paranoia and self-loathing to slower, psychish songs about being anxious and angry. Great record from beginning to end and it makes me want everyone to be my best friend.
Savages is the band equivalent to that pair of emergency Urban Outfitters jeans you bought after an unfortunate tahini incident that left you with a conspicuous stain on the ol’ crotchola. When anyone asks you about them, you’re like, “Oh, these? Yeah, I only bought them ’cause I had to. Did you know Urban Outfitters supports Monsanto, though?” Then you still wear them because, fuck it, they’re super comfortable and make your butt look fly.
SASHA “NAOMI KLEIN” HECHT
BASS DRUM OF DEATH
American youth! Jean jackets! Leather jackets! Ripped up pants and T-shirts and beer and backseat sex and rollercoasters! Drugs, shows, and parties and driving fast! This is a good record.
There is a photo, which one may find through the most basic of internet searches, that depicts a young Henry Rollins shaking hands with a young Nick Cave. They are both looking at the camera with expressions that seem to say, “See? We’re cool. Happy now?” Taken sometime in or around 1984, this photo is like a punk version of the Reykjavik Summit: Rollins plays the role of Ronald Reagan while Cave nicely balances things out as Mikhail Gorbachev. In my mind, this Pissed Jeans record reimagines this photo through music. And even without all of this historical reinterpretation nonsense, it still rocks like a fucking hammer to the head.
When women aren’t thinking about DIY nail art and how to get our various body holes back to that fresh-off-the-playground tightness, we’re carefully considering what kind of trouble we’d get into if we magically sprouted a dick for the day. What would I do with a glistening man-lance? I’d rent the Royal Suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Central Park, punch a hole through one of its massive park-view windows, and with blood dripping down my arm and the city stretched out below me, I would thrust my temporary twat torpedo through this makeshift glory hole and fuck the world in its fucking face. AndKnown Flood would be blaring through the speakers all the while like that scene inAmerican Psycho.
BARNETT & COLOCCIA
Blackest Ever Black
I’ve been weirdly dizzy for the past week, and this morning I finally got it together to see a doctor, who immediately diagnosed me with “an extreme form of pseudovertigo.” Aside from obsessively cataloguing every single drug I’ve taken in the past three months, and wondering if I’m personally responsible for the tunnel vision and heinous I’m-on-a-boat feeling I’ve been dealing with, I’ve also been basking in the cognitive dissonance that comes with diagnosing a condition with the prefix pseudo- as “extreme.” Is that even possible? Listening to this record, which sounds like an “extreme” version of a pseudo-Are You Afraid of the Dark? theme, I’m pretty sure it is. This music feels tailor-made for the moment when an ailment becomes so intolerable that the only prescription is to take your anger out on society at large. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to google how to get this damn Bacillus anthracis onto a postage stamp.
DUKUS P. TEKUM
Visions of the Country
I can’t feel too bad for artists who pop their clogs before their time. Everybody dies sometime, and this way you get that cool “fly in amber” effect and are considered perfect forever, even if you abused your pets or children—look at John Lennon! Robbie Basho didn’t abuse anyone, but there’s something about the way he died (fatal stroke caused by torn artery due to an experimental “intentional whiplash” treatment encouraged by his chiropractor) that makes my eyes get all sweaty and makes the medical profession look just how Tom Cruise imagines it. The next time you get a crick in your neck, it might be smarter to throw on a shawl-collar cardigan, hike to the top of a verdant hillock, and throw this reissue of perfect Hindu-inspired, guitar-focused, late-70s new age on your portable record player before you die of a stroke. Dude can also whistle, which is a talent frequently abused but rarely perfected.
GENEVIEVE MAY DOBBINS
Surrender to the Fantasy
I used to use this band as my alarm clock throughout my mid-20s. That was a dark time for me. I remember one summer morning when I woke up and slammed my alarm clock on the nightstand while coughing cigarette butts out of my mouth. I stumbled into the living room to see the remnants of the jar of peanut butter I’d scarfed the night before—not by smearing it on bread, or even using one of the knives lingering in the petri dish that doubled as my sink, but by sticking the TV remote into the jar and licking the peanut butter off the buttons like a hobo. I remember feeling like Magik Markers were my only friends, and looking back I’m pretty sure they were.
Images Du Futur
This album made me nod off into a blissful, meditative state that felt dreamy and drug-induced, like when the dentist puts the “space mask” on you. It made me want to steal a car and do more drugs, further proving that euphoria is often intertwined with mischief. It’s full of pulsing instrumentation that’s genuinely strange without purposefully catering to the avant-garde and exemplifies the same type of raw but confident swagger that underlies the best post-punk. Can, and dare, I say it also recalls the Beach Boys at their weirdest? Interested parties will dial into it immediately, as if you just dropped acid with Timothy Leary as he tells you to quit school and kill your parents.
ORANGE JULIUS SIMPSON
TIM HECKER/DANIEL LOPATIN
Mystical drone/ambient/experimental-electronic sages Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) team up to coax assorted digital magic out of synthesizers and other digital apparatuses, only to slice, sort, restructure, and reassemble it with computers, probably while conducting some sort of pagan ritual. The outcome? Only the best deep and hard nighttime-car-ride soundtrack since, oh I dunno… probably Slowdive’s Pygmalion.
WILLIAM CODY WATSON
The Lost Tapes
These tapes weren’t really lost; Can just never shared them with us before because these guys understand the virtue of patience. This is coupled with the fact that Holger Czukay could just randomly select one tape from the piles of live recordings strewn about his house, slap some cover artwork on it, and it’d still be better than 90 percent of the diarrhea people are making now. Ergo, this three-disc set could have easily been two discs, and I’d still probably feel like I was getting more Can than I could handle on one album.
I once saw a show where a guy in the band was making fun of Deerhunter. He mockingly said, “Hey, we’re Deerhunter! Check out our cool pedals!” But you know what? Deerhunter has some cool fucking pedals, so shut up and go to the jazz club already. Since when is having cool pedals a reason to hate a band? The implication is that anyone with cool pedals could sound like Deerhunter, but Blue Man Group has cool pedals, and Monomania only sometimes sounds like Blue Man Group. Other times it sounds like Lou Reed blowing his transvestite ultimate lover of all time through a Playskool bullhorn, while Mick Rock takes photos of the entire thing, and I am A-OH-FUCKING-KAY with that.
Greedhead/Camp & Street
Is it me, or is the rap/hip-hop game now one where the most talented artists give their shit away for free? It’s like they record the most mind-bendingly amazing tracks, with beats as thick as maple syrup on a hot blacktop driveway, and don’t want anything in return for them. As a poor-as-shit person, maybe it’s easy for me to say this, as like a fantasy, but could it be that to make it now, the easiest thing thing a person could do is to NOT give one flat, watery shit about money? I’ve been listening to LE1F’s latest mixtape endlessly, for hours, since it came out, and it has brought me more joy than most things I can recall.
Waiting For Something to Happen
Have you ever listened to indie pop through a stained-glass cathedral window? Of course you haven’t, but I’m trying to create a metaphor here so just bear with me, OK? Shit. Let’s start over. Like maybe the court jester or minstrel or whatever has mistakenly discovered a record dropped by a time-traveling twee fan? And then recorded it surprisingly well with future technologies? Nope. Never mind.
If 2011 was the year of the Joy Division tee, then 2012 was the year of the Joy Division tat, and 2013 is the year of the Joy Division frontman, which I’m fine with when it comes to Majical Cloudz because they make the inside of my head feel like a Sofia Coppola movie (and not the shitty one with Dakota Fanning’s sister). These guys have been plugging away, playing shows in basements, warehouses, and bodega backrooms up in the Great Northern Ice Box for a few years now, and they deserve all the recognition they’re getting, if only for finally realizing that †¥¶¡πg l¡k∑ †h¡§ ¡§ ∆ ¶∆¡π ¡π †h∑ ƒu¢k¡πg ∆§§.
No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers
At times, this record’s innovative, slow-moving morass of thick industrial atmosphere just makes me want to listen to more innovative, slow-moving morasses. Other times, these Danish tots and all their spooky-boogie brothers are totally good enough on their own.
I once read an article about an emerging sexual fetish known asedgeplay, which is essentially equivalent to your standard BDSM tomfoolery after butt-chugging a beer bong of Everclear—no safe words, no limits, no mercy. I’m no prude, I remember thinking, but this seems wildly irresponsible. Why would someone put themselves in such an obviously dangerous situation without a safeguard in sight? Are you really going to risk your life for an orgasm? All that being said, I think I get it now. Margaret, call me.
Drifters/Love Is the Devil
Fuck singles: 2013 is the year of the double album. If you liked Alex Zhang Hungtai’s recent record Badlands, then pick this one up too. If Badlands was a gaggle of greasers trapped in the echoing carburetor of a ’57 Chevy, then Drifters is that Chevy logging its 248,000th mile on the freeway in 1983, and Love Is the Devil is it being compacted at a scrapyard in 2007. If Badlands took your aunt to Lovers Lane to park in the dark, then Drifters brought her to a divey disco instead, and Love Is the Devil wouldn’t have had the guts to take her out at all. If Badlands were a fluorescent tube light, then Drifters is an early-model, off-color LED, and Love Is the Devil is a dimmed bulb humming on its lowest wattage. Whatever. This double album is really good, and Alex Zhang Hungtai rules.
Tally All the Things That You Broke
What's Your Rupture?
They say life on the road does odd things to the human mind, but the last time I texted Parquet Courts’ bassist Sean to ask if he’s been happy on tour, this was—I shit you not—his response: “It’s definitely not the most stable lifestyle. Horses smoking cigarettes, magic mushrooms, the fear. It’s all there, wrapped up in a poorly tied bow, mouth filled with old newspapers, the ashes of burning money peppered over the dimly lit metropolis of my past and future self’s imagination. 9/11, or worse, 9/12… fuck it may even be 9/13 at this point. Red-toothed prostitutes lumbering by a pit of bluegrass musicians plucking Dixie. Gamblers, racists, pregnant woman stomachache. A delicious quiche made from miserable ingredients. And that’s just in the last 24 hours. Alligator-skin running shoes, shellacked tortoises, tiger benzos. Chartreuse with Kunta Kinte while Reading Rainbow plays in the background. Humongous birds. It’s fucked. What the fuck is happening in your life?” This is why we love Sean and this record.
A$AP Ferg used to be a fashion student. Then he dropped out of shirt-and-pants school to become a rap man who sounds like a gigantic, adorable bear. It’s usually a bad idea to sound like you’d rather be rummaging around garbage or eating seals or getting your hairy fist stuck in a honey pot, but A$AP Ferg is hilarious and these beats rock harder than a grizzly slashing through your camper top to tear your throat out.
Because I have an innie instead of an outtie, I've never known the crushing embarrassment of suffering an ill-timed and unexplainable boner. I've never had the experience of being called up to the board to solve an algebra problem with my little preteen peener suddenly standing unimpressively at attention. I've never had to wrestle any part of my body into my waistband. But what this also means is that I'll never be able to describe one of my appendages as "raging" or tap a very short person on the shoulder when my hands are full. Listening to this album is the closest I'll ever come to the feeling of standing on the bow of a yacht, bowlegged in basketball shorts, with my majestic erection penetrating the ocean breeze.
HIS ELECTRO BLUE VOICE
By the time you hit 19, you are painfully aware that pimps in Borneo are shaving orangutans and forcing them into prostitution with humans. (All because of VICE. You're welcome.) Today's world is such a distended, bloody scrotum that bleak heroin punk doesn't have the effect it once did, and instead confirms our collective understanding that humans aren't worth our weight in itch mites. But imagine the sort of impact Ruthless Sperm would have on your co-worker's four-year-old if you forced it on him after his mommy-mandated dance lesson? It would be like that part in Shadow of a Doubt where Joseph Cotten corners teenage Teresa Wright and menacingly whispers, "Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rup off the fronts of houses, you'd find swine?"
To The Happy Few
Chuck a tremolo bar into the 21st century and it’s bound to ricochet off more than one pack of pasty, underfed My Bloody Valentine nerds. Most of those kids are aloofly strumming Jazzmasters through so much delay that nothing comes out until the drummer’s limped off to grad school. You’ll find fewer bands replicating Medicine’s signature buzz: the drugged-up, androgynous tones of a murder of stoned miniature hunchbacks playing in a broken kitchen appliance. Thankfully, you don’t need anyone else; this here band hasn’t aged a day in 20 years.
Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound
Ah, hell yeah. Hell. Fuckin’. Yeah. I bet this four-disc survey of Minneapolis pre-Prince boner jams will set you back like $80 or something, but I got it for free and my girlfriend’s been thanking me for it ever since by reenacting scenes from Body of Evidence. Last night we threw this fucker on, and I rocked her until four in the morning sans protection, pausing only briefly to switch positions from the “Jiminy Stick-It” to the “Ferdydurke.” And to think, all this time I thought the only way to fix a broken relationship was to pork someone else every now and then.
You know those people who sometimes point a roman candle into a crowd, or turn to you and murmur things like “I’ve seen how it all ends” with freaky assertiveness and bug eyes? Destruction Unit is fronted by one of those guys, and it makes me want to eat the pills he just handed me and drag myself through the Arizona desert to see whatever holy shit he found out there. This trip could have a few possible outcomes: we’d either have a threesome with Jodorowsky’s armless midget, end up in that acid sequence from Beavis and Butthead Do America, or lay down the theoretical groundwork for a record like this. Whatever happens, you should slam this thing into your mouth immediately. It tastes soooo good.
My Name Is My Name
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
I really miss hiding earbuds up my sleeves in ninth grade, bumping Hell Hath No Fury like I wasn’t wearing zip-off pants and a visor in Latin class. Clipse filled my boring life with unpronounceable brands, technical crack terminology, and doughnuts of ruthless violence, lightly glazed with a hint of moral ambiguity. When Malice and Pusha T split for God and G.O.O.D. respectively, I was a little bummed, and perhaps overly critical of Pusha’s solo mixtapes. This record is a welcome relief. It finds him undeniably in the zone. Six years ago, the Neptunes and Clipse taught me the meaning of stunting. Now, spurred by the kind of production only Kanye can afford, Pusha’s offering a higher education on the subject of being an attention-grabbing motherfucker. EZRA “URBAN/TOP 40” MARCUS
Danny Brown’s been our favorite rapper for a couple minutes now, even though we know he’d blast a love load on our girlfriend’s stomach if given even a pube’s worth of opportunity. Actually, we like Danny Brown so much that if VICE as an editorial collective could have a girlfriend, we’d probably let him slip it in as long as we could lay claim to any child support that may or may not result. It’s not like we’re being greedy; most of it would go to bail bondsmen and psychiatric evaluations. And that’s why we love the dude, and the reason he is able to receive fellatio onstage. And yet everyone is more offended by that (and Miley Cyrus’s dumbness) than children being gassed to death in Syria.
My boyfriend never does drugs, but last year, we went to a UK dance festival in Bognor Regis—which is as grim as the town’s name suggests—and he decided that this was the perfect opportunity to double-drop for the first time. He came up just as Kevin Saunderson and Inner City performed “Good Life.” In the throws of his first chemical climax, he turned to me he said, "This is the most fantastical moment of my life forever.” At that exact moment, Papa John’s poisonous pizza decided to reverse its way out of my gut and explode in my mouth, but that's a story for another album review.
The Body is one of my favorite bands because they’re basically the Christopher Hitchens of nihilist sludge as shrieked by Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They recently relocated from Providence to Portland, and judging from this album it sounds like life up in the big Northwest blanket fort (no wonder all the racists want to move there) has pushed these dudes deeper into whatever K-hole of sightless aggression they’re currently drifting down. This one gets five upside-down crosses shoved up Regan MacNeil’s Satanic birth canal.
Complete list of Kanye West's collaborators on Yeezus: Daft Punk, Rick Rubin, Chief Keef, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi, Arca, Young Chop, King Louie, Travis Scott, Hudson Mohawke, Mike Dean, Papa John, Johnny DiGiornio, Speedy Domino, Francois Pizza Hut, Lexus Sbarro, Little Caesar. The joke here is pizza. Also, this album rules.
Hippos In Tanks/World Music
People like Dean Blunt make music the way other people clean sinks: tossing cultural scraps into a garbage disposal and emerging with a mess of ambient noise, film samples, gunshots, and smeary electro-dub. He typically keeps the presence of the artist at a distance, but Blunt’s solo work has been teasing an approach toward greater clarity for a while now. The Redeemer is like listening to the unsolicited life story of a stranger on the subway—raw, vulnerable, potentially unhinged, yet by the end of the ride, you’ve somehow given him your number and a hickey.
The I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America, 1950-1990
Light In The Attic
Wait, what? A small Seattle reissue label drops a sprawling three-LP collection of private press new age and it didn't make your top 50? At VICE, we're all about healing, and this record healed the fuck out of me. Most new age music is cheesy trash, but Yoga Records's Douglas McGowan came correct on this one. The music is glacial, ambient drones, made from analog synths, harps, and pure sine waves. Plus there's no annoying vocals to get in the way. Ever since I got it my chakras have locked into place, my nerves are 100% soothed, any hint of aggression has been cleansed from my mind, and I'm ready to lie down and accept whatever ungoldy shit the world might throw at me like a good little slave, because I deserve it.
THE YELLOW RIVER BOYS
Urinal St. Station
You guessed it: Tim Heidecker made ten songs about drinking piss, written "for those who believe the human mouth smiles the most when it's being used as a makeshift urinal." You're welcome.
[See Also: VICE's Worst 50 Albums of 2013]