Aoki Takamasa - RV8
The origins of House were an intriguing, if mixed bag, of artist manifestos this year. From the highs of Daniel Avery, to the respectable Disclosure, to the mixed bag from Factory Floor and such, the Western musical World certainly brought some healthy discussion. But what of the Eastern half? What of it, I hear you remark. Well, for a nation whom has brought us the likes of Yellow Magic Orchestra & Ryoji Ikeda stretching the spectrum of electronic ideals, Aoki Takamasa just-as-equally professed a 'return to origin' venture this year on RV8. For an album offering 'rhythm variations' totalling eight in total, Takamasa's audible analyses of synth play, brooding atmospheres and a canny retelling of spoken word sampling stays consistent throughout, yet grows more attracting in its desire and its focus.
Letherette - Letherette
The pickings could have been a lot easier for UK duo Letherette this year. What with all the fresh faces to Ninja Tunes' roster - both veteran and newcomer alike - and with 2013 being the year (to pick but one of its honorary titles) of 'neu' RnB, the simple act of compiling (rather than orchestrating) a selection of tracks could have been an easy route to follow. Albeit one that integrated closer towards the nimble closure of dance-floor rhythms. Instead, on the full-length debut for stylish production/song-writing duo Letherette, the mix of RnB layering, electronic beats and House-influenced melodies paved way for an album brimming with contemporary dance's eagerness and prevalence to impress. Disclosure may have stolen the limelight as far as duos went, but in one tiny corner of the web at least, Letherette's efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Miles - Faint Hearted
Making what many would quickly jump to label as 'dark' is a difficult feat to master. True, frequency and textural changes are a must, but the key ingredient is the implementation - the reasoning and mentality for such decisions. Miles Whittaker has built a name for bringing out the finer, elemental components of House and Techno. But on Faint Hearted, Miles' sound takes on a much more direct character; tribal in one part, exiled in another, but overly absorbing throughout. What leaps out the most though is not Miles' necessity for atmospheric pressure or dominance on his listener, but the suggestion and indeed the attractiveness to the album's presence of rhythm and pacing. On a record that reaches both dynamic peaks and sonic burrows, Faint Hearted remains at its core an album reflective of electronic music's accomplishments.
Mitzi - Truly Alive
It takes a lot of courage to refuse smothering your compositions in reverb or any one of contemporary music's favourite post-production effects as of late. What's left (or rather what's original) may come across as bare in some parts, but for Mitzi this year, their stripped-back 4/4 dance-pop portrayed the same level of euphoria as the likes of Cut Copy & co, but at its heart hummed with a certain affectionate warmth and personality - a la Hot Chip and !!! - many acts unfortunately discard on the cutting room floor. Truly Alive felt just that: a record brought together by human excitement of danceable pop hooks. To describe this as an album choosing not to emphasise depth, would unintentionally degrade it. To put it best...Truly Alive brings a kick to listeners’ liveliness and a smile to many electro-intrigued fans across the board.
This Town Needs Guns - 220.127.116.11.0
Looking forward would be an understatement in regards to the follow-up to Animals for math-rock favourites This Town Needs Guns. To find the band not only two members less, but replacing one of said roles on vocals, it's safe to say a little anxiousness was trickling in my head coming to the equally-puzzling title 18.104.22.168.0. But like the very Mayan calendar TTNG reference, the apocalyptic shake-up of personnel - rather than degrading - sustained the band's irregular signatures in guitar-led melodies. The result was an album, while gambling on its new line-up, shot straight to the hearts of new and old listeners with an album equally strong in its compositions as well as in its instrumentals. Thus, building on Animals' initially simple and refined deliveries, TTNG pushed further for a wider scope in sound, and offered up by the end a host of fascinating ballads.