Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Perhaps the strangest year-end list from a notable publication I have ever seen

Popmatters Best Electronic Music of 2013:

20.  Akkord, Akkord
19.  Congo Natty, Jungle Revolution
18.  Mum, Smilewound
17.  The Black Dog, Tranklements
16.  House of Black Lanterns, Kill the Lights
15.  Front Line Assembly, Echogenetic
14.  Matmos, The Marriage of True Minds
13.  Morris Cowan, Six Degrees
12.  Skinny Puppy, Weapon
11.  mu-ziq, Chewed Corners
10.  Manix, Living in the Past
9.  Letherette, Letherette
8.  Autechre, Exai
7.  Ben Lukas Boysen, Gravity
6.  Comaduster, Hollow Worlds
5.  Machinedrum, Vapour City
4.  The Field, Cupid's Head
3.  Boards of Canada, Tomorrow's Harvest
2.  Jon Hopkins, Immunity
1.  Tim Hecker, Virgins

In decreasing order of strangeness:

-- Seemingly every 80's and 90's electronic music legend that released an album this year got a spot on this list.  Many of these acts hadn't been heard from in ages (e.g. raise your hand if you knew Front Line Assembly were still making new music) and hadn't seen many "best of the year" lists even in their primes.

-- Following up on the first point, was the BoC album really all that good?  All the reviews I saw can be summarized as "yep, this sounds like Boards of Canada".  Ditto for Autechre, which I have heard and sometimes enjoyed, but have we really reached the point where these acts get a free pass into the Best of the Year lists based on name value alone?  They make an album that sounds exactly like themselves and this is enough to clear some sort of critical bar.  I don't see how this is any different from Robert Plant and Eric Clapton getting Grammy nominations (and getting ridiculed) every time they release a new album.

-- Mum are still around?  Is Ninja Tune really still a thing?  Their roster is all over this list.

-- What's with Machinedrum getting mentioned in every blurb?  And then a Machinedrum album showing up at #5?

-- Albums that I was encouraged to check out based on their reviews (and the sample tracks included): Ben Lukas Boysen, Morris Cowan.

-- Jon Hopkins is showing up on every list imaginable. I still can't believe that "Immunity" was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.  I don't quite understand how Hopkins and Tim Hecker became the go-to icons for leftfield electronica, but it's a definite improvement over the days when Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers would reflexively fill those spots.

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