Album: Run the Jewels
Artist: Run the Jewels
Label: Fool’s Gold Records
Released: June 26, 2013
Forget Jay Z, Kanye and the throne – Killer Mike and El-P are making a strong case to be crowned as hip-hop’s new dynamic duo.
Having collaborated on Killer Mike’s 2012 El-P-produced effort, R.A.P. Music, the two team up and both take a mic under the moniker Run the Jewels – delivering my favourite album of the year in the process. Full of expert production and hard-hitting bars, it’s all about collaboration – not competition. Adding in an incredible run of tour dates throughout the summer, it’s hard not to enjoy what these two have come up with. The most amazing part is that the album was initially released for free, with label Fool’s Gold trying the same experiment that they did with rapper Danny Brown’s XXX. The two have already told the world to keep their ears open for a second record this coming year.
Album: Hesitation Marks
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Label: Columbia Records
Released: August 30, 2013
In what was a year full of remarkable rock music comebacks, Nine Inch Nails’ return remains my favourite.
Since putting NIN on an indefinite hiatus in 2009, Trent Reznor got married, became a father, formed another band with his wife, and scored two David Fincher films. While there’s no doubt that Reznor was an angry young man in the band’s earlier stages, Hesitation Marks sees him transform into an agitated artist experimenting within both dark and light. It’s an intriguing and masterful start to new a chapter in the band’s musical legacy, giving nods to Reznor’s past creations while being a unique entry in the band’s catalogue all the same.
Artist: Protest the Hero
Released: October 28, 2013
Ceasing work with longtime label Underground Operations, Protest the Hero took a different approach to releasing a record this year.
Volition was entirely crowdfunded, with fans contributing to the process through an IndieGoGo campaign. Within 18 hours of the campaign launching, the band had met and exceeded their goal of US$125,000, eventually finishing with US$341,146. This fan support resulted in the most conscious and thought-provoking effort of the band’s career so far. Lead vocalist Rody Walker was charged with songwriting duties this time around, penning tracks on the record on everything from religion, an alcohol-fuelled trip to Newfoundland, and pitbulls and breed-specific legislation in Ontario. Instrumentally, the album is any technical music fan’s dream, full of brilliant work from the band while Lamb of God’s Chris Adler stepped in behind the kit. Volition is truly a heavy listen both musically and lyrically.
Album: Random Access Memories
Artist: Daft Punk
Label: Columbia Records
Released: May 17, 2013
Changing the landscape of EDM with their first two releases, Daft Punk were quick to criticize the current state of the genre this year in saying it was in dire need of a shake-up. That shake-up is just what the French duo brought to the table with Random Access Memories – a dance record on which everything old is new again.
Enlisting the help of an eclectic cast of characters including Pharrell Williams, Chilly Gonzales, Julian Casablancas, and Nile Rodgers among others, the robots deliver a set of songs blending all sorts of dance music stylings into something that today’s EDM is not.
Label: PMR, Island
Released: May 31, 2013
In only a few short months, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence tore up the dance music charts with their collection of infectious deep house, garage, and two-step hits. Settle is not only great as a debut record, it has kickstarted both the duo’s emergence and somewhat of a revival of the style within the world of dance music.
A number of soulful guest vocalists take these instrumentals to new heights, with the album featuring the likes of AlunaGeorge, Sam Smith, London Grammar, and Jessie Ware. A lot of it is dead catchy, and will have you dancing for ages.