The Everything Else lists don’t get nearly as much web traffic as our jazz lists do. Of course, this makes sense– this is a jazz and fringe jazz website. People visit this site to learn about what’s going on in this specific genre. Talking about music that doesn’t fit in this genre is a move outside of the format and purview of Nextbop, and eventually of The Art of Cool Project as well. However, we continue with this look at all the other kinds of music we love because we as a staff have tastes broader than jazz and many of the musicians and folks we love and follow have tastes broader than this one genre as well. We are large, we contain multitudes, and occasionally we take those multitudes and put them together in list format.
Tie 18. Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return (Carpark)
At the start of the year when South Carolinian Chaz Bundick said he was going to make a pop album his Justin Bieber-loving girlfriend could enjoy, the eyebrows of music journalists the world over were raised. Yet twelve whole months later, Anything in Return hasn’t left my rotation, consistently providing straight jams that build on the earworms Bundick has been making since the end of the last decade. There’s a 90s vibe all over this thing, like Carpark Records stumbled upon a long lost Bell Biv Devoe album; and who could disapprove of a long lost Bel Biv Devoe album?
Tie 15. The Flaming Lips – The Terror (Warner Bros.)
Something pretty damn odd happened to the most pure feel-good band in the world. After their last release, they decided to basically tomb-raid popular rock music. And everyone who has watched the Indiana Jones Trilogy (yes, three, and only three) knows that when you raid tombs, you encounter freaky crap like hauntings, curses, and lots and lots of skulls. As a final document of their journey to date the band released the soundtrack to your effort to decipher the Necronomicon. Or maybe it’s all a weird love letter to Stanley Kubrick. Either way this album is not suitable to meditate to unless you really want to spend your winter in a padded cell.
Tie 18. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Daft Life/Columbia)
Call it hype-fatigue, but after the insane roll-out campaign, the even more insanely anticipated pre-release, and the heated debates surrounding Random Access Memories, I was ready to be done with it for a good while. That mostly held for the remainder of this year, until just last week when I decided to finally revisit the 80+ minute monster. And whatdya know, it’s a damn good record. Sure, it’s also messy as hell in more than a few places, but also diverse, tuneful, danceable, ambitious, smart, and lush. Singles “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance” pretty much go without saying, but I’ll even go to bat for deep cuts like “Instant Crush” and the 9-minute popera “Touch,” which should be the ruler by which the term ‘epic’ is measured.
Tie 15. Fidlar – Fidlar (Mom + Pop Music)
As we close out 2013 and the economy stays as stagnant as ever (and my quest for full-time job security trudges on, like that of the rest of my generation), it’s a wonder why we’ve yet to get a true funemployment (hold back your cringes, please) album until now. There are few things more damn fun that chanting “I / drink / cheap / beer / so / what / fuck / you!” except maybe every bloody second of “Wake Bake Skate”. In these turbulent times, Fidlar is the eye of this dreary, economic hurricane, and in that the center of that eye is a mosh pit with a thick cloud of weed smoke overhead (it’s shwag weed, though, we are all kinda broke, y’know?).
Tie 15. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Tan Cressida/Columbia)
Until late last year, Earl Sweatshirt was known mostly for not being known. This was mostly via the “Where’s Earl” campaign, which turned the Odd Future famous missing member into the stuff of legend. So after returning at last from exile at a Samoan boarding school to a celebrity of none-of-his-own making, the 19-year-old set upon the tough task of formally introducing himself to the world. Earl isn’t exactly sure of himself in this effort, but then that’s mostly what makes Doris such an accomplishment and deeply fascinating record. Sweatshirt is a deeply conflicted character, probing beyond the mo’ money mo’ problems pouting of Kanye or Drake into fascinating questions of personal and racial identity. Is he a profane nihilist punk like his mentor Tyler, the Creator, or a philosophical poet like the father he never knew? Earl leaves all his thoughts out there on Doris, executing with some of the wittiest wordplay, complex rhyme patterns and probing lyrical content of any rapper this year.
Tie 15. Chance the Rapper- Acid Rap (Self Released/Free at DatPiff)
A funny thing happened on the way to 2013– indie rap got popular again and indie rappers stopped trying to fight pop rappers. The latest group of young cats to spit basically spit whatever the hell they care about, be it women, money, vice, life, addictions, mental illness, spirituality, or all of the above in one song. Chance adds to the tumult by adding his idiosyncratic spin to his latest mixtape offering. Some of it is purposefully confusing. Some of it is oddly lacking hip-hop’s usual aggressiveness that scares old people, but all of it is listenable.
Tie 12. Disclosure- Settle (PMR/Island)
For all the taste justification we all engage in during the ‘best-of’ list season, it seems like a worthy exercise to occasionally ignore issues of influence and hipness and get to the bottom line: what did you listen to most this year? For me, That record is Settle, which stayed in my heavy rotation for the better half of the year. This is partially because Disclosure have created a perfect “do-stuff” record. Yes, the duo probably meant that “stuff” to be ecstasy and London warehouse parties, but Settle works in all sorts of contexts: work-outs, running, house-cleaning, it always works as an instant enhancer. With tempos barely dipping below 120bpm, it will literally force you to move, and odds are you’ll enjoy yourself in the process.
Tie 12. My Bloody Valentine – m b v (m b v)
There are so many bands that have tried to sound like My Bloody Valentine but don’t even come close: They divvy up the parts that make the sound, that 90’s college rock basis, heavy guitar distortion, loops, and feedback,and hypnotizing vocals, but never quite get the right mix. And lo, after over two decades since their last album, and over a decade since this album was conceived, My Bloody Valentine hath released another masterwork. I imagine that when fighter pilots dream, m b v is the soundtrack that plays in their jumbled heads.
Tie 12. The Stepkids – Troubadour (Stones Throw)
Every year, there’s an album that makes my favorite non-jazz album list that seems to walk a tightrope between jazz and a whole wide world of every other genre, maybe even a couple. The album that takes the most precarious walk is The Stepkids’ sophomore release, Troubadour. The remarkably talented trio of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Gitelman, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Dan Edinberg, and drummer/vocalist Tim Walsh have been session musicians with jazz inclinations who struck out to do their own thing with musical complexity, artistic purity, and a hunger that cannot be quenched. In their latest release, the group have adeptly melded their propensity to jam with an ear for wider audiences, ensuring they get as much enjoyment playing the music they love as the listener will, totally enraptured with catchy songs that sound like the second coming of Steely Dan. Or Chick Corea & Return to Forever. Or the Mary Jane Girls. Or any other throwback that’ll get you moving. These guys are jazz musicians at heart and you can tell, even if they’re (pun intended) a stone’s throw from just about everything else.
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.