On how popularity doesn't equal quality
2013 was an awesome year for music, but also for hype machines. From massive, multimonth long media-engulfing campaigns like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories to the surprise release of Beyoncé’s self-titled album, it seemed as if every major release last year could be remembered as much for the media campaign as the actual music. In the middle of the constant competition between artists’ media campaigns, it was easy for fantastic albums to fall through the cracks. Here are three great albums from 2013 that came out with little-to-no fanfare.
Big Deal – June Gloom
On its second album, Big Deal maintains the core values of the emotionally destructive dream pop of its debut Lights Out without turning into a parody of itself. The group has added a drummer and some tempo variety, for June Gloom. While songs like “In Your Car” and “Teradactol” strongly evoke the aggressiveness of ‘90s alt rock, it’s never hard to remember the tenderness that Big Deal is so adept at evoking. At their best, Big Deal strikes the same emotional chord as Broken Social Scene’s most intimate material.
Recondite – Hinterland
Hinterland is the Berlin-based Recondite’s second full-length release and is perfect winter techno. Recondite incorporates field recordings from lower Bavaria with conventional-but-compelling song structures to create techno that is emotionally evocative and mechanistic. Album highlights “Clouded” and “Abscondence” are perfect tracks for driving through a barren icy landscape.
Nils Frahm – Spaces
Spaces is a collection of live recordings by pianist Nils Frahm, spanning from 2011–13. This album is worth checking out whether you’re a longtime fan or completely new to Frahm’s material. Tracks span from the intimate piano solos “Want Missing” and “Over There, It’s Raining” to the mesmerizing ambient looping of “Says.” The album’s centerpiece, “For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More,” expands one of the pianist’s most well-known tracks into a suite that embodies Frahm’s musicianship: frenzied piano playing, ambient dabbling, and a piercing emotional directness. Space is the type of live album all musicians should aspire to create.