Top Discoveries of 2013

As mentioned in a previous post, 2013 was pretty monumental. Not only that, it also turns out to have been a rather strange year in some ways. I have been discovering music in new ways and been pretty busy at the same time (not spending much time at the computer), and as a result, HypeMachine has been a regular source of music on-the-go. Since HypeMachine is focused on single tracks (singles, remixes, etc.), and not full-album streaming, the composition of my music discoveries of this year reflect this clearly. However, I have still been able to gather some great artist and their albums throughout the year. Following is a list of the 6 most notable ones. Arranged in order of discovery.

Danny Brown

I became acquainted with the Detroit rapper’s music back in late december 2012, and therefore I think he still qualifies for a discovery of 2013 – ever more so because of the fact that I have been listening to Danny’s music a lot throughout the year. I started with his conceptual XXX, which struck me with his wide vocal diversity (sometimes I would think he had a feature, even though it was only himself rapping), and the different themes one can find in connection with growing up in a city with economic and social stagnation; drugs, theft, sex, etc. Subsequently to XXX I picked up his first full-length, The Hybrid, and shortly after his 2013 record titled Old was released. On Old Danny Brown divided the album into two parts, the first being more thoughtful and reflecting, while the latter was more party-esque oriented. All in all I think his newest release is decent, and I like both parts – however I would say I prefer the reflecting part above the party-part. Have a listen at one of my favorite Danny Brown songs, off his XXX lp:

Nils Frahm

German pianist and contemporary composer Nils Frahm is not entirely a new discovery for this year, but the story goes pretty much the same as with Danny Brown. I started with the three track EP ‘Wintermusik’ back in 2012, and didn’t grab anything new until the winter of 2013 while at Vallekilde. My roomie and I would listen to Frahms music in the evening before falling asleep, and sometimes the music would play until dawn. I also remember taking a very, very long walk in the snowy fields nearby our school while listening to his music. It has in this way been strongly enchanted with all these great memories, and has somehow become much more than music to me. Because everytime I will hear one of the songs from the records I am about to put my words on, I will be flooded in nostalgia, right up until the day I either go deaf or die. Or get alzheimers. Anyway.

The nostalgia-provoking releases of his that I have been listening to were Screws and the somewhat more experimental The Bells. Screws was an album that Frahm made while his main hand (can’t remember which one) was broken, in spite of the doctors advices and odds being against him. The fact that he played the whole thing with one hand can be heard in the simple nature of the music, which I find beautiful and soothing.
The second LP i heard from him was a bit different, as to say a bit more technical at times – an attribute that opens up for entirely new soundscapes. I really love what he can bring out of a single instrument. My favorite song from The Bells is Said And Done, a song that perfectly showcases the more technical nature of this record:

London Grammar

Much like the aforementioned artist, british trio London Grammar’s music reminds me of the spring of 2013, and the days of undisputed happiness while attending the Folk High School in northwestern Sjælland. Unlike the first two, this group is a true 2013-discovery. I was first introduced to them on Disclosure’s debut release, Settle, on the track Help Me Lose My Mind – which I by the way think is one of the best songs of the year. On it, singer Hannah Reid provided her stunningly beautiful vocals onto a more laid back track, compared to the rest of the songs on the same LP, and I was instantly in love.
Then, in september, their debut LP If You Wait was released, and it featured songs from their EP that was dropped the same year plus some new. Thinking of words to describe their sound, the word pristine comes to mind – and I think that the combination of the subtle, detailed instrumentation and Reid’s gorgeous vocals justifies this just fine. Listen to the song  from If You Wait, Metal & Dust:

Massive Attack

A real classic discovery, I heard Massive Attack’s iconic Mezzanine from 1998 for the first time in april. I was surprised by their sound on that release, and I guess I now finally could pin trip hop onto my genre-map. It was dark, weird at times, varied in sound. I loved the deep / low-voiced vocals that were on some of the tracks, but I also think that the female vocals on songs such as Angel was a great feat. Mezzanine is a really interesting release if you like electronic music of any kind, or maybe even soundtracks, due to the at times cinematic sound Massive Attack deliver.

Toro Y Moi

My first introduction to California based “chill wave” singer/songwriter Chaz Bundick AKA Toro Y Moi was through Hypemachine, when a friend favorited Vindata’s remix of Still Sound. The track ended up becoming a fixture in my daily music-rotation, so I hit up his name and saw that my favorite reviewer on YouTube had done a review for his latest album, Anything in Return. To my disappointment the album only scored a lousy 4 out of 10, Fantano saying things like the instrumentation being off and the lyrics being cheesy and at some points just bad.
However, that didn’t stop me from picking it up, and just like the Vindata remix the whole album was on repeat for quite a few weeks to come. Needless to say, the album would score way above 4 for me – I’d say perhaps a solid 7. What I like about the sound on his recent release compared to the earlier ones (that I subsequently checked out) is the greater incorporation of and experimentation with electronic elements, while still keeping it somewhat simple and plain. For example on the track So Many Details, the sound is kind of ‘cheap’ in the sense that it doesn’t sound advanced and thus ‘expensive’. Or on the song Rose Quartz, which has a slowly progressing intro, that evolves into a nice, laid-back track. The overall feel I get from the album is, well, chill in the sense of relaxation, but also some kind of indifference. A sound that I really needed. So Many Details:

Touché Amoré

The last discovery I could fit into 2013 was none other than post-hardcore outfit Touché Amoré, which I checked out thanks to the countless praise they received from their label Deathwish Inc. and fans on Twitter. While the year once again was devoted to electronic music of different genres, I was able to enjoy their newest album Is Survived By. Being a true post-hardcore/punk-esque record, it was like a breath of fresh air, with the uncompromising vocals and instrumentation. I really liked the rebellious, youth flavored delivery of the vocals, which I think only enhanced the meaning of the lyrics greatly. One of my favourite songs from the album is Harbor, have a listen: