Though August is typically a slow news month, a big beach month, and an even better time to freak the fuck out that your life is crashing into the fall, then winter, of your discontent without having really YOLO-ed hard enough all summer, it stood out to us as the best month this year for music. There was more than one occasion in August where we couldn't believe our ears—from the release of the highly-anticipated Doris to the haunting hurt of Destruction Unit—so many albums that resonated at Impose HQ clustered together at the cooled-down end of 2013's summer.
The biggest hero of the month, despite the shining, forceful heat of the East Coast, turned out to be a gritty, grey contribution from across the pond, not something poppier or lighter. Perhaps it was our inner selves reckoning with the coming cold front, but King Krule (oka Archy Marshall) was the ultimate champion of our August hearts, who we're starting to realize might be darker than we let on. The record, Marshall's first, is complicated and stuffy, like looking through the window of an abandoned pre-war British orphanage. Themes of disaparagement, self-hurt, longing, and mania all come through in King Krule's phenomenal debut, but even looking at the larger picture feels like too much—the highlight of King Krule's first output is that it is multitudinously varied, making each element demand individual attention and focus. The jazzy heartbeat of Marshall's expertly clean guitar, the maniacal undulating of his vocals, or the dub backbeat that filters through it all—these are all additions that need singular homage, and though its fabric occasionally pulls itself apart, that's to be expected from someone of such a young age. August may be over, and the colder months may start to roll forward, but with 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, we've been given an ample headstart into the icy, sorrowful winter.
The Best Album of August 2013:
“This record is undoubtedly complicated and a mixed bag—“Will I Come” and “Foreign 2” feel better suited for a bland art opening than a wizened debut—but it's through varying amalgamous sources that it’s possible to garner context, or at your own risk, attempt recontextualization. There are notes in Marshall’s singing that embody Springsteen’s girth and growl, and in his ability to bleed without restraint, he is more American than British. No one who has heard the crashing “A Foreign State” could categorize King Krule by archetypal British politeness. His delivery is so loud and abrasive that with every syllable he sounds as if he is spitting out raw rice. Claiming Fela Kuti, 30s American jazz standards, and The Damned as influences, King Krule’s debut was bound to be complex.”
Read the full review here.
The Best Music of August 2013 (in no particular order):
Deep Trip impressively couples clarity with density. It’s mixed to showcase the technique of Destruction Unit’s individual members. Percussive subtleties and collaborative nuance are often lost in recordings so saturated with guitar tracks and feedback, but all of the right details cut through the muck at the right times. There’s a riff above the noisy, nearly clipping crash cymbals during grandiose closer “Night Loner.” Only, in another section the riff is buried beneath noise, because the switch emphasizes the vocals. Deep Trip treads similar territory as last year’s Void, but superior production chisels the details. In this case, it’s an audible upgrade akin to switching from paper rubbing to xerox, but that’s about all it needs. Void’s guitars sounded amorphous and dark, but Deep Trip illuminates the textures’ scars and boils without sacrificing spatial presence.
There's no denying "Burgundy", "Chum", and "Sunday" exceed what we expected of Earl in terms of songwriting and addressing his personal narrative, but much of Doris is guilty of pandering to our deepest needs – maladjusted witticism to unravel in headphone sessions on transit. Earl Sweatshirt owed us nothing for what we did to a kid who's now only 19. Doris, with a title dedicated to his deceased grandmother, could have contained "Chum" as the opener, suggested he's on the verge of quiting this shit, and launched into a complicated record denying us at every turn of the artist we embraced at age 15. Earl submits in cooperation through out the album with heady metaphors tucked in swollen slant rhymes in chorus-less tracks or, at his most submissive to pop-structure, a RZA appearance to declare "I'll fuck the freckles off your face, bitch".
Here on her third album, Julia Holter takes her CalArts learning from Tragedy, and Ekstasis for the condensed economy of Loud City Song. The achievement here is the new economy of sound Julia works within, where sometimes the plot feels lost in the song cycle elaborations of “Maxims I & II”, but ultimately as a complete work tightens a musical grip between the modernist schools that explore the eclectic span of societal norms with the adaptive comparative lens of smart, choral, post-modern jazz tales.
I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams is the record that you wished the Warped Tour lineup of 2004 had the gall to make—it is bratty, monstrously fun, and yet surprisingly thoughtful. Diarrhea Planet has made a response record to the post-teenage years. I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams is an album for mid-20s uncertainty, and in that way, it is the Warped Tour of quarter-life. It asks through layers of devastatingly bombastic punk, “Are we having fun yet?”
When Goodbye Bread dropped two years ago, it was received as Segall’s first “songwriter” album – probably just because the number of unrepeated words increased and you could actually hear him calling above the fuzz. It still lived in Ty’s usual fuzzbanging world, even if it hit its elbows against the side of his style and expressed some growing-pain frustration. But Sleeper is the true realization of Ty’s singer- songwriter skills. “The older you get, the less afraid you are to speak your mind,” he’s said of Sleeper “And the more in touch you are with what you’re feeling.” Sleeper is Segall as a songwriter not just for the surface-level reasons like the all-acoustic output or the more hard-hitting lyrics, but because this record is completely seamless and sincere. It’s vulnerable.
We love to note that YC The Cynic is raised in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, as though it is a birthright to realness in a blood line deeper than Rakim's life source. The undeniable factor to YC's music and resume, and what entices those lineage impulses, is that in addition to being an integral member of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (bringing community and the five elements of hip hop to his neighborhood) YC invokes his predecessors in a manner that proves he's not only celebrating their efforts, but adding to the conversation.
Many have claimed to think very deeply since the days of Boogie Down Productions, but on "Murphy's Law" YC the Cynic bends the words of Drake, the moniker of Posdnous, and the "get money" chants of Junior Mafia to his will, just to have us understand how the system is designed to keep us kneedeep in bullshit.
Michael Beach’s sophomore album defies this convention. It certainly bears influences, but not only is Beach well-travelled in reality (the Northern California native recently returned from Australia, where he led damaged Melbourne trio Electric Jellyfish,) he crafts songs peculiarly suspended between regions and between eras. Beach is not the sum of his reference points. He looks inward rather than to the past and wrenches out songs divorced from the tropes of any particular era. Each song will age well. Each song hails from its own world. Golden Theft is unlike the eclectic, learned diversity of a wayward folkie, though. It boasts explorations of the psyche where each crevice of a feeling is combed for evidence, which is then sacked and drug up some steep grade to be cast in song.
Beautifully and artistically crafted to make listeners feel long-dormant feelings, Julianna Barwick's Nepenthe is a record for lonesome tmes and walks in solitude. Amazingly, the release of Nepenthe came in a month where parties and friend visits abounded, and it still managed to hold a spot in our hearts. It's a perfect record for decompression and thoughtfulness, only enhanced by its foundation in icier places. Building off of a path that Amiina and Sigur Ros had laid down before, Julianna Barwick is making her best work yet, and it's not just for the high-minded. It's for the feelings-aware.
Their hallmark has always been a certain tightness, an essentizing of discourse, punk rock on acoustic guitars. On Carrier, the band finds themselves in sharp, consistent form, warm acoustic arrangements giving way to raucous and explosive ones. Song titles barely longer than a single word, Meric Long chases down something durable and lasting on Carrier, artistic pith, even while he and his listeners both know these memories mean more to the artist than it does to his audience.
Greece's Larry Gus released his phenomenal Years Not Living to DFA this August, and if it taught us anything, it's that producers need to be stepping their game up. Not only did Gus provide us with a playlist inspired by philosophers and essayists, but he did so while also putting out one of the most exciting and eclectic electronic/instrumental/experimental records we've heard all year. Using staples of dance from every corner of the world, Gus didn't make a record that could fit into one, neatly-wrapped box. He made a record for anyone who has traveled outside of their own comfort zones to find somethign larger—and miraculously did so while keeping it all cohesive. Years Not Living shines for its all-the-way-through listen.