The Hidden Musical Gems of 2013
Finding the Offbeat
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
Last past year was an interesting one in the realm of music. There were albums that impressed (Laura Stevenson’s “Wheel”), those that fell short (Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor”) and those that simply confused (Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz”). But a certain characteristic seemingly united each one: experimentation. Though 2013 had its highs and lows, many artists chose to take creative risks with the albums they released, which resulted in some of my favorite albums both of the year as well as the decade. Some of this experimentation was innovative, fusing conventional genres to create unequivocally great albums, while other artists failed miserably in this pursuit. However, since my name is Joy and I’m an optimist, I want to explore some of the victories produced in 2013 by reviewing three albums that truly stood out.
“6 Feet Beneath the Moon”
Perhaps my favorite album this year came from 19-year-old British musician Archy Marshall aka King Krule. He originally emerged onto the scene in 2011 with a self-titled EP that took inspiration from hip-hop and electronic music and immediately gained attention. Aside from this unique aspect of his music, Krule’s heartfelt, solemn tracks are reminiscent of those crafted by The Cure’s Robert Smith. In August 2013, his album “6 Feet Beneath the Moon” continued along this trajectory, producing emotional, jazz-infused songs. The most intriguing part of this album is in its transition away from the electronic roots of his EP into his own brand of jazz. Replacing his electronic beats with a full band, he masterfully crafted a soulful work that was quite refreshing. Considering his young age, Archy certainly proved his musical prowess with new release.
Highlights: “Border Line,” “Has This Hit?,” “Baby Blue,” “Ocean Bed”
“Run the Jewels”
Run the Jewels
In 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye West put out “Watch the Throne,” an album that consisted of the two rapping predominately about how awesome they are. It was fun, reckless and well-executed. Approximately two years later, Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike and Brooklyn’s El-P collaborated to form “Run the Jewels.” This duo produced an equally reckless self-titled album that quickly became the soundtrack to my summer. Essentially, these two acted as the antithesis to “Watch the Throne.” Where Jay-Z and West boasted of material wealth and status, Run the Jewels focused on the authenticity and original essence of rap music. Though not lyrically groundbreaking, the ferocity with which they performed each track consistently left me playing it on repeat. I was lucky enough to have attended their Atlanta show in August and can confirm that each rapper performs with just as much energy as is demonstrated on the album.
Highlights: “Banana Clipper,” “Sea Legs,” “Job Well Done”
On my birthday last year (April 14), I received one my favorite gifts ever. An album mysteriously appeared on BandCamp by a producer known as Jai Paul. It consisted of 16 songs that took music critics by surprise and had listeners wanting to know more about this elusive figure. Each song utilized an odd sample or off-beat rhythm to produce Jai Paul’s own strange concoction of music. Jai Paul, like King Krule, blended electronica with hip-hop, tending toward the latter on most songs. Though it was promptly removed from the website, the album spread like wildfire. It was later revealed that the songs had been leaked from a stolen laptop which belonged to Jai Paul. He confirmed this, asserting that whatever was released was not an album, but a series of unfinished songs that weren’t meant for release. Oddly enough, this “album” became one of the most critically acclaimed works of the year. Essentially, Jai Paul unwillingly produced a masterpiece that made numerous lists, including Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of 2013. This feat in and of itself makes Jai Paul’s the best “not-really-an-album” album of the year.
Highlights: “Jasmine,” “Str8 Outta Mumbai,” “Genevieve”
Joy Jackson is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. FINDING THE OFFBEAT appears every other Friday in the guide.