Each week, we use this space to highlight notable recordings from the world of pop music. Today, we look at six albums from 2013 that didn’t seem to generate the attention they deserved.
Pretty and Nice, “Golden Rules for Golden People”
Who are these guys? The freak descendants of the Kinks? The twitchy spawn of XTC? The weirdo cousins of Vampire Weekend? And the bigger mystery: Why didn’t everyone spend 2013 talking about their brilliant pinball machine of a power-pop album? “Golden Rules for Golden People” is fast, frantic, inventive and melodic enough to demand our attention through every zig, zag and loop-de-loop.
Alejandro Ghersi – a Venezuela native who produces mutated hip-hop tracks as Arca – made his name in 2013 as a producer on Kanye West’s “Yeezus.” But Ghersi’s most pupil-dilating music emerged in a maniac 25-minute burst on SoundCloud, inscrutably titled “&&&&&.” Bass melodies contort at the center of this music, but the guy pulls off some surreal tricks with tempo, utilizing brittle clicks that surge and decelerate like a melting Swatch.
Obnox, “Corrupt Free Enterprise”
If you like rock tunes about sex, Ciara, Cleveland, sex and/or sex, you’ll want to dig up the recent double-album from Lamont “Bim” Thomas, a hyper-prolific one-man band from Ohio who records as Obnox. It’s chaotic and ambitious – the sound of garage rock violently refusing to rot in the garage.
Dawn of Midi, “Dysnomia”
This trio’s latest album doesn’t immediately register as jazz. It’s more like a polyrhythmic fever dream. Or an aural illusion. Or maybe artisanal techno. Using bass, piano and drums, they tap out Morse code patterns of melody with machine-like tenacity. But the micro-silences throughout signal the work of human hands.
The Courtneys, “The Courtneys”
They call themselves slackers, but this Vancouver trio is putting in serious work, flattening tricky emotions into sing-songy, deadpan rock-and-roll. Indie connoisseurs will hear the influence of various New Zealand guitar bands, but anyone in the 99 percent should be able to relate to “Insufficient Funds,” a song about reading your fate off an ATM screen. “I need a job,”
drummer Jen Twynn Payne sings. “I need a life.”
Sturgill Simpson, “High Top Mountain”
You have to strain to hear his influence on contemporary country radio, but the late Waylon Jennings still has plenty of followers touring America’s lonesome highways. Simpson, a singer raised in Kentucky, is one of the best. Like Jennings, he understands that good hooks hang on great rhythms and every sob story requires an uppercut punch line. Check out “You Can Have the Crown,” where Simpson groans about popping pills, wandering the Internet and resolves with a hilarious refrain that can’t be printed here.