Year in Review | Top Ten LPs of 2013
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Maybe its the DJ background that got us our start or all the time we've logged singling out winning tracks for the radio or even our less complimentary modern-day habit of leaving our iPod set to shuffle. Whichever way, the listening habits around the Dialogue Inc office have always been more song than album driven. Until 2013. This year, being tethered to the desk with a task other than writing about music has opened up our ears to some great releases we may not have otherwise caught—see Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald for example. Many of the albums here won't be surprises. We anticipate they'll be popping up on a lot of lists (if they haven't already). But, these are the records that captivated us these past 12 months, no two ways around it.
10) Delorean Apar — True Panther Sounds
We can still remember the first time we heard "Seasun." It was the track that introduced us to Barcelona's Delorean and, alongside likeminded Balearic leaning artists like perpetual favorite John Talabot, helped fuel our love affair with the music that shares its names with the beloved Spanish isles. This year's Apar didn't initially hit us the way we anticipated it would, and yet we found ourselves going back to it again and again. Unsurprisingly given its inclusion here, we've come around in a big way. Rich, more dynamic than 2010's Infinite Desert, and brimming with dreamy textures, dance beats, and the pop sensibility that comes so naturally to the band, it's the perfect way to start of this list of our LPs of the year.
9) The Field Cupid's Head — Kompakt
We've always been taken with the mesmerizing work that emanates from Axel Willner's project, The Field. Here's what we had to say when we reviewed his latest back in October:
"If 2011's Looping State of Mind signaled a sonic shift toward mellow, if no less trance-like fair, Cupid's Head finds a better middle ground. Here, the Field strikes a more harmonious balance between techno mechanics of old and live band instrumentation favored more recently, all the while maintaining the blissful melodic hypnotism that makes his work so easy to get lost in."
8) Machinedrum Vapor City — Ninja Tune
Classic sounds from the drum 'n' bass salad days surged back in a big way in 2013 and Dialogue Inc. was hardly immune to it. Being inspired to dig back through the tracks of our youth was time well spent this year, but it still didn't get to compare to hearing the retro-minded, forward-thinking work of Brooklyn's Machinedrum's latest, Vapor City. Whether it's the reggae-dub-laced "Gunshotta," the jazzy turn of "Eyesdontlie," or the footwork soul of "Don't 1 2 Lose U," Machinedrum presented an album as great for reminiscing with as it is for discovering on its own.
7) James Blake Overgrown — Columbia
Once you get past the ridiculous verses the RZA delivers on "Take a Fall for Me" and his cliched lyrics about fish 'n' chips and pints of Guinness, James Blake's Overgrown delivered everything we could hope for in a sophomore LP from the post-dubstep crooner. Anchored by a more present low-end, scattered with heavy dub-techno workouts and echoing vocals, and featuring some of the best songwriting we've heard from him yet—particularly on "Retrograde' and "Life Round Here"—this record was the harmonious marriage between the ruff early James Blake sound for labels like R&S and the one we were introduced to on his self-titled debut.
6) Daniel Avery Drone Logic — Phantasy Sound
For someone who's been a longtime resident of one of the premier nightclubs in the world, it's a wonder 2013 was Fabric mainstay Daniel Avery's breakout year. Then again, on today's scene production is king, and it was Drone Logic and the singles leading up to it that really let us hear that side of Avery. And what a thing to hear. Maximal music with minimal moving parts, Avery's music has proven itself a force to grapple with. "Machine Funk" as it's been readily dubbed, its got analog techno, space rock, big beat, and house in its DNA, but it's a sound that Avery has captured and kept all to himself.
5) Sequence Report Secromance — Tevo Howard Recordings
The Internet has rendered geographic locations largely irrelevant to the blogosphere, but it was definitely nice to make this home-brewed discovery this year. Tevo Howard's vocoder and arpeggio-fueled alter ego Sequence Report is an ode to classic electro and that timeless Kraftwerkian concept of man vs machine. With cascading roller "Emotion Number Eight," "Exotic Object" with its thumping pulse, and cheeky drum machine workout "See Quincy Report," Howard crafts finely-tuned machine music imbued with a sense of emotion (and a sense of humor).
4) The Range Nonfiction — Donky Pitch
Another amazing collection from an artist new to our library this year, here's what we wrote about Providence producer The Range's full-length debut in XLR8R this past October:
"Dabbling in jungle, footwork, stoner head-nodders, warped beats, and melodic chillout, [The Range] specializes in wrangling together a celebratory pastiche of styles. His debut full-length, Nonfiction, for Brighton's cheeky leftfield-bass-and-beats label Donky Pitch, is the producer's clearest iteration of this compacted melange yet, a record steeped in nostalgia that still succeeds in solidifying his own particular voice."
Harmony between two artists as substantial as Detroit legend Juan Atkins and Berlin originator Moritz von Oswald, doesn't get more perfect than on Borderland, this pair's first full length of work together. Much of the LP listens like a sequence of variations on theme, built around main track "Electric Garden." A deep meditation on the crossroads of jazz, dub, and deep techno, the album is one long dream of gurgling atmospherics and improvised swells of muted keys, and one we didn't want to wake up from.
2) Jon Hopkins Immunity — Domino
Well known for his film scores—if you haven't seen How I Live Now, we recommend you stop reading and do so—and notably for being a protege of Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins enters this list with a few major accolades under his belt. Certainly, he's not resting on these. From the static drive of lead single "Open Eye Signal" with its Gui Boratto-meets-Nathan Fake feel to the stuttering massage of Purity Ring collaboration "Breathe This Air," Immunity may be Hopkins' most captivating work to date: simultaneously harsh, delicate, abstract, ambient, accessible, and above all, beautiful.
1) Moderat II — Monkeytown
Like many of the releases on this list which fed the Dialogue Inc sweet spot in 2013 by combining the grit and chatter of electronics with deep soul and flourishes of melodic life, Moderat fits right in. And then some. No one better encapsulated this sound than Apparat and Modeselektor's second outing together as Moderat. Here's what our final thoughts on the record were in our August review, particularly stand-out track "Milk":
"More epic in its composition, "Milk" extends for more than 10 minutes, finding this prominent threesome comfortably in the zone, meditating on a buoyant, stuttering chords that ebb and flow over a post-UK garage beat. The track comes to life slowly, fueled by a chorus of celestial cooing and the glacial progression of its melodic themes. "Milk" may be the least ornate cut on the record, and the one that strays furthest from the pop structure that is otherwise favored, and yet it goes the furthest to reveal Moderat's sweet spot at the cross roads of Berlin techno, UK bass, and a pop sound that defies traditional borders."