By: Jack Stein
(1.) M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
More cathartic, heart-wrenching, uplifting, and bombastically beautiful than arguably anything released since Funeral, this album won Anthony Gonzalez sold-out shows in clubs across America and hordes of new fans while rewarding those who had stuck it out for his most thematically consistent and cohesive record yet. Avoiding the “double-album” curses of bloat and listening fatigue, fleeting yet gorgeous interludes brush shoulders with epic, blown-out and world-sick anthems. It’s like Gonzalez put Smashing Pumpkins (Siamese Dream-era) in a time machine, combined their heart-on-sleeve melodrama with the machinated media of 2011 and the adolescent angst of a John Hughes film, and turned the dial way the fuck up. A stone-cold classic even within months of its release, this record should be blasting from every car, every sports arena, and earning the diminutive French mastermind a main stage slot at every festival in the world. In a year during which so much in the word seemed to go wrong, from the unrest that the Occupy movement demonstrated, the Arab Spring, economic stagnation and everything in between, this music provided an uplifting salve of beauty and hope that we all sorely need; nothing can be that bad with this indefatigable testament to unrelenting positivity as the score to your life.
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(2.) Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
While everyone else was fixated on the Fleet Foxes’ plaintive & woodsy hymnals, most outside the Pacific Northwest missed out on some of the most groundbreaking, genre-defying and poetically innovative hip-hop since Aquemini, courtesy of Seattle rap veteran Ishmael Butler’s Shabazz Palaces. Melding the abrasive, ambient dissonance of the best Warp Records material with his own eclectic brand of Afrocentric mysticism, Butler seamlessly weaves tales of girls “smellin’ like April showers” in with darker, more introspective moments of deeply rooted racial undertones (“Youlogy”) like it’s no big deal. However, this crew is; with an aging Radiohead staying their current course, no one else within the confines of pop music is pushing the boundaries quite like Shabazz Palaces.
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