So Kanye’s ‘minimalist’ album is his nastiest and most provocative. It sounds last minute too, rushed and furious. There’s good and bad, but highlights “Black Skinhead,” “New Slaves,” and “Bound 2” make poorer results forgivable.
Throwaways tracks like “Guilt Trip” and “Send It Up” aside, the big problem is the constant violence against women. What to do with it? It’s obviously meant to offend. The grotesque lyrics and violence are probably Kanye’s self-portrait from the eyes of mainstream (white) America. Still though, what does the “Strange Fruit” sample on “Blood On The Leaves,” RE: child support, accomplish? Don’t forget everyone’s favorite soul sampling “Bound 2,” which opens with “All them other niggas lame and you know it now/When a real nigga hold you down, you supposed to drown.”
The production is often incredible, like the buzzsaw distorted electronics of “On Sight” (as grungy as another first track, “Serve The Servants”). But the production is also often sloppy. And for each song that rings true, like the damning discrimination anthems “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves,” there are goofy ones, “I Am God” and “I’m In It.” But hell if it isn’t compelling. Hell if it isn’t dangerous sounding. Hell if Kanye just followed up his most critically acclaimed album with his ugliest, hell if it sold (relatively) poorly, and hell if it doesn’t have hits.
While Kanye West confesses to being an asshole, he also knows how to make us uncomfortable for enjoying it. Yeezus is a charismatic album we love to hate, as well as truly admire. And it is equally important as it is full of shit.
Justin Vernon has flirted outside of his Bon Iver moniker for years now, pollenating his falsetto across many collaborations. This year Volcano Choir, once just his most promising side project, blossomed into its own satisfying entity. The team’s second effort plays like a Bon Iver sequel but without expectations. With little stakes to fulfill, they have assembled indie anthems of broken melodies, excellent asides, and new tricks.
Immediately Repave presents itself as a different concept from Unmap, which was an experimental, pho-world. Instead Repave channels alien R&B and prog-rock transmissions.
Opening “Tiderays” most resembles a Bon Iver’s cut, “Perth.” Both rise from a quiet stir to huge choruses, but unlike Bon Iver, the lights don’t dim until well into the album. “Acetate” is bonafide stadium rock, and “Byegone” is this year’s most indie-film-soundtrack-epic sounding… epic. Where Unmap spun off form exercises, Repave’s challenging sections are dispersed into fully realized songs like Purple Rain-folk “Comrade” and “Alaskans’” oddly compelling Bukowski outro.
Seeing Volcano Choir perform was the clincher for me. Intially these songs felt like four minute songs, caught between standard and progg-ish lengths. But in a heightened, live setting, their touches and moments revealed themselves. Like craters on the moon, Repave’s stunning depth takes some studying to appreciate. Plug in and off you go.
Before Justin Timberlake’s year took a bit of a left turn with the release of Pt. 2 and subsequent “shit on my face" line, coming from the best selling artist of the year, well, it looked like JT could do no wrong.
The 20/20 Experience Pt. 1 was the carefully planned, triumphant return to music. Its mutant R&B was novel, the track lengths, charming. Its songs, irresistible. “Pusher Love Girl” and “Mirrors” are undeniable pop gems. “Don’t Hold The Wall,” “Strawberry Bubblegum,” and “Tunnel Vision” twist the boy band jams through a claustrophobic kaleidoscope. It’s a sweet and sour lollipop, I can’t stop licking this thing.
Ultimately, the collection is better for its production than its lyrics. I’m not sure if this is actually romantic or a corrupt idolization of love. Love is literally a drug on “Pusher Love Girl” and vein narcissism on “Mirrors.” But yes, that production. With help from Timbaland, J-Roc and Rob Knox, Justin Timberlake turned in pop’s most addicting album of the year.
— Nick Cave & TBS (@ncandtbs)
Miley Cyrus twerked out and Twitter went public. It’s strange, but Push The Sky Away seems relevant for 2013, scooping up big ideas under one experiment.
So apparently Nick Cave conceived the album while surfing the web, with a dubious eye, no doubt. Like a parent just now learning to text, songs like “We Know Who U R,” is an already dated futuristic set piece.
The band went through great pains to reimagine what a Bad Seeds song sounds like, and Push The Sky Away is their writhing half-dream. Clawing bass, lilting strings and loops that circle like auto-destructive machines: a hum under Nick Cave’s possessed ramblings and hushed threats. It all culminates on year-end highlight, “Higgs Boson Blues,” whose author is driving his car down to Geneva presumably to get some answers about this God particle shit.
Push The Sky Away is the skeletal accompaniment to the year we could simultaneously joke about Twerk-gate and shrug at Snowden-gate. It’s hardly predictive, but surprisingly pertinent. Nick Cave looked at the Internet and saw vague dread. He’s aped our grotesque search for fulfillment in BuzzFeed lists the way only an old curmudgeon can.