Bjork – Vulnicura

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Bjork – Vulnicura

The Icelandic singer’s ninth album was originally slated to arrive in March, along with a feature on her at the Museum of Modern Art.  Then it leaked, and Bjork and her label decided to just release it immediately instead.  /mu/, I’m not saying this is your fault, but if the feels fit, feel ’em.

After the atmospheric experimentation of 2011’s Biophilia, the so-called “first app album”, Vulnicura represents a curious return to old sounds, particularly 1997’s Homogenic.  The bulk of the album is subtle electronic-influenced beats and string arrangements.  The strings were Bjork’s central motif for the album; it’s a breakout album, and she dealt with the breakup by developing a massive crush on the violin.  Venezuelan producer Arca handles the overall production on most of the album and creepy soundscape auteur The Haxan Cloak does the mixing; the effect brings out the idea of a hard-bitten journey, one that leaves you exhausted at the end and questioning what came before.  Most of the nine songs here are well over six minutes, with “Black Lake” being over ten; they all describe the arc of the singer’s breakup, and as such it is a very heavy set of music that cannot be described as an easy or everyday set of listening.  It also tends to repeat itself an uncomfortable amount; given that the instrumentation is very simple, this is probably unavoidable, but it makes for a bit of a slog nonetheless. Regardless it’s highly recommended, as a sweeping and emotional work. Just don’t expect to have it on repeat over the next week.

[Vulnicura has not been released on Spotify as of the writing of this review]

 

Halfway Point: The Best 50 Albums of 2013 (So Far), Part One

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So here we are, at or near the halfway point of 2013, and there’s been a deluge of music so far (this is true of every year of course, but I digress…); I humbly present to you my favourite 50 of the year, in chunks.  I haven’t been this into a year, musically speaking, since 2010, and in many ways it’s felt like a do-over of that storied year:  big releases from Yeezy, Deerhunter, Bonobo, Thee Oh Sees, The National,  Baths, a full-album cover from the Flaming Lips, and a new Arcade Fire album lined up for September 9th.  Let’s get this started.  Do me a favour, though, and check out m’book, Disappearance, on Amazon – it’s good stuff, I promise, especially if you’re into post-apocalyptic fiction or you live in Toronto.  Leave a review, if you do.

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#50:  Still Corners – “Strange Pleasures”

As solid as dream pop gets, Strange Pleasures floats above the haze on a bed of synths, reverb, and sleepy melodies.  Each listen brings new pleasures to the forefront.  Cinematic driving music for muggy summer nights.

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#49:  Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Mind Control”

Occult hard rock with more than a whiff of the Seventies about them, Uncle Acid stand head and shoulders above their hard rock contemporaries, utilizing groove and tone with heady results.  Perfect listening for the precious kids who think they were born in the wrong generation.

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#48:  John Grant – “Pale Green Ghosts”

The former singer for the Czars delivers a smart, sassy synth-pop album with a great sense of humour and a writer’s eye for lovingly detailed lines.  Like a bouncier version of 69 Love Songs, it’ll appeal to the drunk English major inside of you.

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#47:  Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires Of The City”

How was it?  It was okay.  There’s a great big gaping mushy middle on this record that makes me wonder, but there’s also a some stellar tracks at the beginning and end that almost make up for it.  “Steps” and “Ya Hey” are both great summer tracks, and “Diane Young” grows on you after a while.  “Everlasting Arms” is still absolute crap, though.

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#46:  Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “II”

A funky little album that is perfect for those moments where you need some background sounds to motivate you.  The sound is lo-fi, but the psychedelic adventures stride well beyond that.


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#45:  Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – “Elements of Light”

I swear, the whole album reminds me of the song that plays throughout the first two Fallout games, the creepy bell-driven tracks that I first noticed when wandering through the ruins of Los Angeles.  Proof that bells can make exciting art, thousands of years after their creation.

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#44:  California X – “California X”

Hard-edged, 90’s indie-influenced rock n’ roll that hits like a punch to the gut.  They’re from the same town as Dinosaur, Jr, and they sound a hell of a lot like Dinosaur, Jr (although less than, say, Yuck), and it could be a hell of a lot worse, let me tell you.  California X tends to go in a more Miles Davis direction than the blizzard-of-Coltrane that J. Mascis works in, leading to a much more Neil Young-esque style of furious, dirty guitar work.


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#43:  Akron/Family – “Sub Verses”

Noisy, difficult experimental rock with pop sensibilities:  it’s a strange brew, and with seven albums under their belt, one the band is intimately familiar with.  Exciting and restless, like a druggy night in a big city you don’t really know that well.

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#42:  Low – “The Invisible Way”

The pioneering slowcore band keeps on their path of lush, luscious rock hymns, providing another set of bedtime melodies for the ages.  The tempos actually pick up a little here, too, although this is, of course, relative.

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#41:  The Haxan Cloak – “Excavation”

Creepy, noisy drone, like crawling dread brought to aural form.  I made the mistake of listening to this while playing Minecraft, deep in the bowels of the earth, and I have not been back to the game since.