so far. Yesterday, we had Matthew Stieb's thoughts, now we present J.D. Swerzenski’s picks. Let us know in the comments what your favorite new music of 2013 is and check in tomorrow for the next installment.
1. Hip-Hop: (tie) Killer Mike & El-P -- Run the Jewels | Kanye West -- Yeezus
Killer Mike and El-P had a shit-hot year in 2012, and they seem keen to keep the momentum going. Run the Jewels is a kind of like a Stir Crazy-style buddy cop movie, only if instead of saving people, they just came up with increasingly elaborate ways to threaten your poodle (see title track). It’s as fierce a record as they come, and proof-positive that amazing things will happen anytime these two step into a studio together. Of course on the other hand, Kanye did introduce the phrase “Hurry Up With My Damn Croissants” into my life. So, yeah, gotta call it a toss up.
2. Local: Cryin’ DT Buffkin & the Bad Breath -- Tattooed Rose
After over a year cutting their teeth around town, Cryin’ DT Buffkin and the Bad Breath have finally cut a record, the vinyl-only release Tattooed Rose. Like a wonderfully mixed cocktail of Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, and Fats Waller, it’s a record that ably showcases the band’s impressive handle on classic American sounds including boogie-woogie, Dixieland and plenty of whisky soaked blues. Buffkin’s also showing himself to be a helluva songwriter, as clearly shown by the rollicking “Watch the Sky” and the heartbreaking “Wasted Pennies.”
3. Indie Rock: Vampire Weekend -- Modern Vampires of the City
Lacoste Polos, trust funds, Sperry Top Sliders: just a few of the Vampire Weekend boys set out to disassociate themselves from during the making of Modern Vampires. The self-styled kings of prep-rock chose the darker, more mature route for this time around, and totally pulled it off. Not only are tracks like “Step” and “Unbelievers” some of the best they’ve laid to tape, singer Ezra Koening has taken his lyrics to a new level of wittiness and depth (check the achingly poignant “Hannah Hunt.”)
4. Dance: Daft Punk -- Random Access Memories
With all the crazy shit Daft Punk related happenings before RAM even dropped—the ‘secret’ SXSW show, the collaborator videos featuring the guy who wrote “Rainbow Connection, the teaser SNL trailer, a record launch party in the made-up-sounding rural town of Wee Waa, Australia—It was tough to remember there was a record at the end of the whole hype circus. But when it did drop, it proved to be nearly as big as its promotional campaign. Taking three years, five studios, over a dozen high-prolife collaborations, God knows how much cash to complete, RAM is easily the biggest-budget release since Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Now that the hype has cooled a bit, it’s amazing to now realize just how infectious the hook from “Instant Crush” is, or how it’s nearly impossible not to heed the advice of “Lose Yourself to Dance” no matter how many times you play it. Plus it’s got “Get Lucky,” which is pretty much a shoe-in for Summer Jam of 2013.
5. Best in Show: Mikal Cronin -- MCII
I know I run the serious risk of going with a decidedly obscurist pick here, but fuck it, this is the record of 2013 so far. After quietly serving as bassist and frequent collaborator to the absurdly proflific Ty Segall, Cronin finally has cut a record that exposes him as the pop mastermind many long suspected him of being. MCII is hard charging, gorgeous, insightful and effortlessly enjoyable, often all at the same time. Literally all ten tracks here are killers, but start with either “The Weight” or “Change.”