Music

The 2013 Splice Today Music Poll

A few of the usual suspects, plus some curveballs.

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What was 2013, in music-world terms? It was the year of the omnivorous producer. It was the year of the stunt release. It was the year of thinkpieces begetting thinkpieces begetting thinkpieces, of artists threatening leaks and sometimes following through on those threats, of Twitter beefs that accomplished nothing most of the time, of noise being "over," of announced hiatuses that immediately became news, of slashed budgets for musicians and writers alike, of a proliferation of year-end lists so obscene that nothing is authoritative or meaningful in any real way (yeah, this article is part of the problem), of succumbing to Buzzfeed snark lists and click-through bait because it's easier than listening to or engaging with albums in a meaningful way. In other words, 2013 was too much, exhausting, a deluge, excess: if you could sneak a peek at the number of promos I've downloaded but never listened to, you would cry, seriously. Choices abounded, and it'll be several weeks into the new year before I can dig out. But as in every year, there were serious, amazing highlights, and we've elaborated on them here: artistic statements that wormed their way into our daily routines and experiences, that became important swatches in the fabric of the previous 12 months of our collective life. Check it out. Raymond Cummings

We had a clear winner in this poll, and a clear second-place contender.

1. Grouper, The Man Who Died In His Boat (4AD). The record that stuck with me the most in 2013 wasn’t topical, a "mature step forward," or an aggressive volley against society and corporate Earth. No one else makes you feel like a ghost more than Grouper’s Liz Harris. Harris shelved the songs that make up The Man Who Died in His Boat during the same sessions that produced 2008’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, her most acclaimed, "proper," and polished release. As a result, the songs on The Man Who Died in His Boat all sound distinctly like b-sides, which isn’t a dig. Compared to Dragging a Dead Deer, the melodies and chord structures are much more immediate, minimal, and yes, less—not under—developed. They’re skeletal and ashen—if Dead Deer is the soul leaving the still warm corpse, Boat is all bones and lost ghosts, losing life as Harris’ vocals become more and more impressionistic, and as side two winds down, we enter into a long instrumental passage, inside black gusts of wind, until one last bone-chilling death rattle: “Living Room,” the most striking, straightforward, and achingly sad song Harris has ever put out. Over a funereal, three-chord arpeggiation, she intones: “I’m looking for the place the spirit meets the skin/Can’t figure out why that place feels so hard to be in/We’re all of us at this ill-fitting party/Busy pretending to relate/And it’s getting harder and harder to fake/Acting like everything’s in its place.” This is the sound of death, wandering in the void. Nicky Smith

2. Kanye West, Yeezus (Rock-A-Fella/Def Jam). Kanye West has almost everything and everyone in his corner for his latest album. First, narrative: one of the premier hit-makers of the last ten years turned his back on the markets and released a stark, defiant album. Second, all-star personnel: West worked with a group that included old-school hip-hopper Rick Rubin, famous Frenchmen (Guy-Manuel and Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk), less famous Frenchmen (Gesaffelstein), and hot newcomers like TNGHT’s Hudson Mohawke. Then there’s the music: Yeezus was one of the most demanding mainstream albums of the year, incorporating the auto-tune ballads of West’s 808s & Heartbreak album, the soul-sampling rap that made the producer his fortune, and a new interest in all things visceral, pounding, and aggressive. Elias Leight

The following albums were tied for third place.

TAHNZZ, Xila (Sick Sick Sick Distro). Xila sounds like the sky being ripped wide open, and unspeakable flooding free through the gap to indict and infect the world and everybody unlucky enough to live in it. When this cassette is playing, everything else is rendered irrelevant. The drawn-and-quartered anti-beats on offer here are nothing short of monstrous, teeming with blurred, serrated pulses that might be rhythms, but they're so smothered in black noise that it can be difficult to recognize them as such. At moments, New Mexico's Tahnee Udero relents, pulling the reins on her death drones - only to loose them again, or envelop the listener in the digital equivalent of eternally crunching down on a mountain of fall leaves with a giant's foot. All in all, it's really quite something. Raymond Cummings

Valerie June, Pushin' Against a Stone (Sunday Best). Roots music is usually, by design, traditional and backwards looking. Valerie June's Pushin' Against the Stone, though, has the ambition and sweep of the next big thing, rolling folk, country, R&Bm and blues up into a insouciant, heartfelt swagger calculated to take over the world. It'll never happen, of course; this album is going nowhere near the charts. Still, you listen to "Working Women Blue" and you can almost believe this is the dance music of the future: a hard-driving blues as slippery funk, backwoods wail as the new Autotune. "Lord, you know that I am ready for my sugar, my sugar daddy." That sugar daddy isn't going to come, but June's made the best album of the year, just in case. Noah Berlatsky

Drake, Nothing Was The Same (October's Very Own). Drake takes a subtler approach than Kanye, who tells everyone he’s going to blow through a wall and still manages to astound when he does. Nothing Was The Same, Drake’s third full-length, is stealthy and efficient. His versatility has never been as natural, and his aesthetic is airtight—with the help of his producer Noah “40” Shebib, the lines between invigorating hip-hop, ‘80s soul, and ‘90s R&B seem to blend and merge and disappear. Drake also made a series of powerful guest appearances on songs by Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky, and his style is rubbing off on the latest crop of would-be stars, who can now try to get a contract with their idol’s record label. “Rap must be changing, ‘cause I’m at the top and no one on top of me,” Drake rapped in the remix of Migos’s “Versace.” He’s right, and he’s played an important part in bringing many of those changes about. EL

L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie, L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie (Sahel Sounds). L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie formed in 1967 as part of the newly independent Mauritania's effort to ditch the influence of its former colonial occupier, France. Mauritanian political stability lasted only about a decade after '67, so the recordings on L'Orchestre's self-titled debut come from a lo-fi reel salvaged from the Mauritanian national archives by an anonymous sound engineer during the country's 1978 military coup. To say that L'Orchestre immortalized their homeland's unique cultural heritage is an understatement: no European pop act could ever muster up vocal gymnastics like those of lead singer Hamadri Ould Meidah, who belts out L'Orchestre's mutated funk tunes with a soulful moan that could charm a snake and just as easily wake the dead. Robin Malloy

The following albums were tied for fourth place.

Pusha T, My Name Is My Name (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam). One could be forgiven for believing that Pusha T's solo career was unlikely to amount to much. The guest spots were meh to good to great. The mixtapes had bright spots, but never stuck. The album release date was pushed back, repeatedly. Then My Name Is My Name dropped—finally—curated by Kanye West and capitalizing on the art-rap vibe Yeezus embraced. The difference is key: focus. Here, Pusha T doubles-down on coke-rap fundamentals, over-calculating airtight couplets atop artic, minimalist beats with guests who never get in his way. A Clipse album in this vein wouldn't make much sense, and given what Pusha managed to accomplish in 2013, I'm not sure whether the world even really needs another Clipse album. RC

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City (XL). I love watching a band at the peak of their powers. Their first two records are still ace, but they’re very much of a piece and of the same basically carefree, affluent, collegiate milieu, and they were made in essentially one long campaign; young bands usually burn out after an effort like that. It wouldn’t have bothered me if they kept writing about Burberry, as long as the music went somewhere new. With their third record, Vampire Weekend pass the hurdle and prove they’re here to stay. It’s close to a masterpiece: cinematic, full of finely-etched detail, hilarious and poignant lyrics, and mostly enjoyable, absolutely wildly primal and childlike vocal lines, as on “Finger Back,” “Worship You,” and “Everlasting Arms.” It’s music that almost everyone can relate to that sounds entirely new and strange. You want to listen to the warm, gentle, but crisp production and the nuances of songs like “Unbelievers” or “Ya Hey” that are simple on the surface but reward repeated listenings for their hidden harmonic subtleties. Like I said, these are songs you want to listen to over and over and over again, and the sum total is religious in its effect. NS

Cassie, RockaByeBaby (Bad Boy). Cassie's self-titled debut was all sugary pop and Ryan Leslie cuteness, electropop for horny Care Bears. Her mixtape, RockaByeBaby, is also awesomely over-produced, but otherwise couldn't be much more different. The release is built on deep, ominous grooves and a full slate of guest raps; Cassie's affectless singing comes across as stoned rather than flirtatious. "I'll make music to numb your brain" as she declares on "Numb". Even when she pants desperately on "Addiction," it sounds blank and processed; even the snarling guitar and snarling rap of Esther Dean on "Bad Bitches" get put on repetitive loop till the toughness comes across as alienated—sex work as animatronic aggression. Cold, tough, and weirdly disassociated, this is pop confection gone sour—joy, sex, love and hip hop as frozen machine. NB

The Great Valley, Continental Lunch (Feeding Tube). The duo Great Valley are based in the rural town of Brattleboro, Vermont, a well-known hub for wild eccentricity and spooky early Americana, two things which also come magically to life in the band's recordings. Continental Lunch finds GV's bubbly tape manipulation, cosmic synths, and classic pop aspirations mingling with ambient music, chaotic noise, and vintage sci-fi soundtracks in an adventurous sonic testament that's guarunteed to please everyone from lo-fi loving record snobs to casual indie rock fans. RM

The following albums were tied for fifth place.

No Age, An Object (Sub Pop). Everybody wrote off this record as boring and jejune—"they’re nuts." An Object sounds fat, jagged, and warm, and it’s by far the most consistent and well-honed collection of songs they’ve put out. Entirely of a piece, the lyrics here involve authenticity, sincerity, effort, and the not exactly lamentable position of being in a moderately successful guitar rock band in 2013. Dean Spunt’s vocals grow lower and more droning—for the worse, if you ask—but from “Lockbox,” “C’mon Stimmung,” “I Won’t Be Your Generator,” and “An Impression,” the songwriting is just leagues and leagues ahead of their most celebrated records, Weirdo Rippers and Nouns, the ones they’ll probably be remembered for. But seven years into their existence, No Age are crafting melodic and detailed rock songs, scrapping the high-frequency sand that they might’ve copped from heroes Hüsker Dü. I’m confident in saying this is their high watermark to date, and a fucking killer rock record. When I saw them play to a near-empty Floristree in September, I regrettably left to smoke in the stairwell because I just couldn’t take the volume; the bones in my ears were rattling around and the sound felt like an attack on my body. If only I had ear plugs. NS

Edge of Attack, Edge of Attack (Spread the Metal). Edge of Attack is absurd self-parodic Dungeons & Dragons metal, with soaring vocals, anthemic choruses, Renaissance Faire riffs and lyrics where they actually shout "Yooooo-hoooooo!" before seriously declaiming, "We are riding on the breeze/demon of the northern seas/we must fight to survive/we must fight to stay alive." They're a throwback to the days when metal was heavy metal, and metalheads wore leather pants and built towering castles of fantasy prog in the sky upon flapping, lumbering airborn pachyderms with winged Viking helmets. Fuck High on Fire; this is what stoopid, sold-out metal should be; geekish, earnest, and tough in the sense of a fearless willingness to look ridiculous. If it's wrong, I don't want to be right. NB

Prodigy & Alchemist, Albert Einstein (Infamous). On "Dope Song," Danny Brown pointedly castigated MCs prone to eternally re-relate and re-recast bygone drug-slinging exploits and dirt done, but for Mobb Deep's Prodigy, his past is both bread & butter and raison d'etre. Rap heads rep his new spits about studd he probably wouldn't dare do now (if he ever even did it then): cold-blooded murders, gun deals, trains run, you fill-in-the-blank. There was a time when the audience for NYC storytelling of this caliber turned their bloodshot eyes to Ghostface Killah, but right now, P is our prime, grime mover of the old school, all steely menace and level-headed horrorcore. On Albert Einstein, producer Alchemist laces his homie with last-psychedelic-beat elan so sopping drunk that P is pushed to new heights of grimy, and the joke is that dude's at his best when breaking down the many ways that he stole your girl and rapped weaving semi-circles around your coterie. 2007's Return of the Mac, the last time this dynamic duo teamed for a full release, was nice; Einstein is straight lethal. RC

Kelela, Cut 4 Me (Fade to Mine). Kelela’s debut album is startling, all the more so because it was labelled a “mixtape” and given away for free. If Drake seamlessly weaved together R&B and rap, Cut 4 Me moved in a different direction, melding R&B with electronics—the skitter, the hollow thud, the thin lines, and the danger communicated by empty space. In a FACT magazine interview, Kelela asserted that “I would like to do Brandy but weirder, something that would resonate with most people, but make them feel a little uncomfortable.” Check, and check. EL

Miley Cyrus, Bangez (RCA). Bangerz is one of the first non-rap/non-R&B albums of the past 40 odd years to attain the classic status of singles records like Elvis' Sun Sessions, or the debut LPs of Bo Diddley and Little Richard. With this album, Cyrus has put together a fine collection of tracks which could all be chart-topping hits or lead-off cuts. From the emotional complexity of mega smash "We Can't Stop" to the fist pumping power-ballad "Wrecking Ball" to the American Gothic narrative of her Nelly collaboration "4X4" to the wacky quasi-mash up "#GETITRIGHT," every song on Bangerz is blessed with the crowd-pleasing, fiery bravado that's made Cyrus' twisted performance art a huge success. RM

Musical Ephemera

Nicky Smith

1. The video for “Problem Areas” by Oneohtrix Point Never is so disturbing that I have a hard time watching it now; it gives me nightmares. 

2. The Omega sample in the coda of “New Slaves” and Kanye’s achingly beautiful, electronically manipulated plea to himself: “I can’t lose! No, I can’t lose! /Cause I can’t leave it to you-ou-ou-ou-ou...”

3. The death rattle pitch-bent hook in the chorus of No Age’s “C’mon Stimmung” that sounds like someone being vivisected.

4. How the structure of The Man Who Died In His Boat narcotizes you and leaves you half-here and half-there, then snaps you coldly out of it with the devastatingly simple and straightforward “Living Room,” the most morbid song on an album apart from this life.

5. Seeing Sky Ferreira play to 200 people in an empty arena in September before Night Time, My Time was announced, and seeing her again in November to an adoring crowd at the 9:30 who knew every word to the new record. An amazingly cool turnaround to see.

6. The debut of Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks the the Metro Gallery in Baltimore.

7. Favorite music and lyrics: “Finger Back” by Vampire Weekend, especially the second verse: “Bless me with a heart attack/a real crise cardiaque/and tell show me where to find the surgeon’s knife/Eviscerate me now HACK!/Take me to the punishment/the punishment I needed all my life.”

8. Swaying and waving my arms and singing along to “Bound 2” over a packed Christmas party at our house, everyone for once in sync, completely sinking into this beautiful and hypnotic song at a head-rattling volume.

9. Two rare appearances from The Art Department in Baltimore, where they played the classic “Get On,” among other chart-topping hits.

10. We had two songs of the summer and they were both great. Lucky.

Sam Riedel

1. Best Pre-Suicide Warm-Up: Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet. I’ve been a Childish Gambino fan since before I knew he was anyone besides Donald Glover. Though I haven’t appreciated his recent move into more commercial hip-hop (doing tracks with Chance the Rapper and Nipsey Hussle), he’s still the brutally honest, intelligent rapper I grew to love back in college while listening to Culdesac over and over again. That album bears more than a passing resemblance to Because the Internet, and not just because it’s got a dark, sometimes arthouse-inspired aesthetic; it’s because both albums make obvious references to Glover’s sometimes-suicidal tendencies, his mental state made all the more fragile by runaway fame and success. Glover’s more than aware of how fucked up his head can be, and uses it to chilling effect, especially in the short film/screenplay that accompanies the new album, “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons”—the protagonist makes constant references to dying, contemplates suicide, and asks for an eerily specific death when he believes he’s about to be shot. Because the Internet is frightening, disturbed, and one of the best albums I’ve ever come across.

2. Best Interview: Joe DeGeorge, Harry and the Potters. SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION DEPT.: At my day job, I decided I was going to hunt down the guys from Harry and the Potters (the world’s first wizard rock band) and ask them some questions before they came to Brooklyn for the Yule Ball (an annual wrock concert to benefit the activist group Harry Potter Alliance). The result was as nerdy as you’d expect, but keyboardist and co-founder Joe DeGeorge busted out some totally unexpected musings on the nature of recorded music and how it’s actually a danger to making unique music. Whether or not you agree, it’s an interesting perspective, and the opposite of anything I was expecting.

3. Worst Business Decision: Target’s Beyonce Boycott. You know how we denizens of the internet chuckle every time some brick-and-mortar store decides to act like a caveman who’s scared of fire when confronted by some part of our online world they don’t understand? Well, that was Target this month, standing their ground and boldly refusing to carry Beyonce’s new self-titled album, which she released as a surprise on iTunes (as you have no doubt heard from every web site in existence). Target’s rationale—that digital sales have a negative impact on in-store sales—only makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard, and has the added impact of making the entire company look like a bunch of sulky ten-year-olds who hate video games because their parents won’t buy them any.

4. Best Way to Be Introduced to the “Blurred Lines” Idiocy: The Colbert Report’s “Song of the Summer” Show. I was blissfully out of the loop regarding Robin Thicke’s infinitely mediocre “Blurred Lines” and its rage-inducing music video until the singer appeared on The Colbert Report to save Our Hero from the legendary Daft Punk cancellation. After Colbert spent the first two acts riffing hilariously on the VMAs and dancing in and out of other programs, Thicke brought his band on to perform the infamous tune, and all I could think was “...okay.” Not a single word other than that could have floated into my head even if I’d been on drugs. Without the video to give it titillating context, there was absolutely nothing remarkable to say about the song, which is the most important takeaway about this summer’s most talked-about single: The only way that Robin Thicke can keep our attention is through judicious use of hashtags, assertions about his penile girth, and big bouncy boobies.

5. Best Teenage Clone of Bob Dylan from Nottingham: Jake Bugg. I had just bought a bundle of magazines for research at Barnes & Noble, mostly because I knew I would be comped, and there was this boy on the cover of Q—which is not a LGBTQ publication, but a Brit music zine—that caught my eye. His name was Jake Bugg, and as his YouTube channel—and Russ Smith’s excellent essay—proceeded to convince me, he is without a doubt the new Bob Dylan. His lyrics are poignant and personal, his guitar is acoustic (for now), his style is folksy and yet worthy of a dancehall at the same time. Hell, he even has a funny voice. Just watch his video for “Slumville Sunrise,” then remember that this year’s Shangri-La (his second album in as many years) was produced by Rick Rubin, and then tell me this kid isn’t gonna stick around for a few decades.

6. Best Creeptastic Cover: Lorde, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Covers are my one big weakness, as careful readers may (somehow) remember. But it’s a rare cover artist that can both catch my ear and convince me that their version needed to be recorded, that it wasn’t just some idle track recorded to entice me into buying an album I don’t actually like that much. Lorde, the 17-year-old New Zealander whose “Royals” made everyone in the world sit down and shut up for a second, is one of those artists. I pretty much fell in love with her voice the first time I heard it, but her version of the Tears For Fears classic is creepy in a way that I was totally unprepared for, and its inclusion on the Catching Fire soundtrack is absolute genius. The lyrics are thematically perfect for the movie, and its foreboding tone is a total departure from the 80s-tastic original, turning it into a song that legitimately belongs in a movie about teenagers killing each other for food. It’s 2.5 minutes of skin-crawling magic, and I can’t stop listening to it.

7. Most Pointless Hate Crime Lawsuit: Croats v. Bob Dylan. Full disclosure: I am bound by blood to love Bob Dylan, because my dad did, and that is the way father-son obligations work if you refuse to have children. But he’s made it pretty tough by saying some stupid shit over the years, most recently that people who complain about plagiarism are either “wussies or pussies.” (I kinda thought that was the same thing, but who am I to question the preeminent wordsmith of the 20th century?) Even so, I think France’s Council of Croats is overreacting a bit with their lawsuit against the dude for an interview he gave a while back, in which he compared black Americans’ racial memories of slavery to Jews who can “smell” Nazi heritage and Serbians with similar abilities towards Croatians. The Council wants Dylan to stand trial for a “hate crime,” which is baffling. Which is worse: Dylan’s simile, or the systematic killing of around 45,000 Serbs? Yeah, that’s what I fucking thought.

8. Best Nerdcore Track: Adam WarRock, “Yip Yip.” Sometimes I love Adam WarRock; sometimes he makes me cringe. But as a gigantic fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I tip my hat to him for his pretty badass mixtape about the cartoon, particularly the last track, “Yip Yip.” WarRock’s said it might be his favorite song out of his entire catalog, and I can’t say I blame him—it’s got a sick beat, a pretty hardcore breakdown, and more references to bits and pieces of a children’s cartoon than you can shake an airbending staff at. Oh, and it makes me want to jump up and down on the subway. Not every rapper can make a fictional twelve-year-old’s catchphrase actually catchy, so WarRock deserves mad respect. 

9. Best Xmas Song/Shameless Plug: “Let It Snow/Make It So.” I don’t even care that the guy who made this video included a plug for his upcoming project that’s as long as the song itself. The sheer fact that someone spliced together enough clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation to make a de facto cover of “Let It Snow” is goddamn awesome and if I only got to listen to this weird-ass “song” for the rest of my life, I’d be pretty content with that. ‘Nuff said.

10. Worst Parody of an Artist Who Is Already a Parody of Himself: The Return of South Park’s Kanye West. South Park’s season finale was simultaneously super great and wicked lame (that line is funny if you read it in Cartman’s voice, I swear). On one hand, the main story—Wendy’s crusade against Photoshopped standards of beauty and (spoilers) eventual resignation to becoming a sex object—was both hysterical and incredibly sad. On the other, why in God’s name did Trey Parker and Matt Stone think bringing back their version of Kanye West for an encore would be funny? “Gay Fish” was more than enough; having West appear as Kim Kardashian’s only defence against accusations of being a hobbit was just a needless distraction from an inspired A-plot. Besides, do we really need to parody the guy who appeared as Jesus on a Rolling Stone cover? Every album West releases is a little bit of unintentional self-parody. South Park should just have left the job of making fun of Kanye to the master.

Elias Leight

1. This GIF.

2. Jay-Z’s album release supports surveillance state. His presence may be charity, his music has become a chore.

3. Jack White’s 800-track Paramount Records reissue simultaneously raises the bar for every subsequent reissue and makes reissues feel more and more like absurdly long homework assignments.

4. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”—blood-curdling screams courtesy of Kanye West.

5. Rolling Stone: “Have you thought about signing with a label?” Chance the Rapper: “There's no reason to. It's a dead industry.”

6. The revenge of disco and adult contemporary: they’ve taken a lot of flack since their heydays in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but this year nearly everyone loved smooth, propulsive guitar licks and Michael Mcdonald-inspired crooning.

7. The FADER: “I heard a new song of yours with Future, called ‘Land of Fire.’ That’s a massive pop record.” Producer Mike Will Made It: “That’s the biggest record ever.” [Emphasis added.]

8. Artists continue to make great strides in making music, but still, in 2013, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to make a decent music documentary.

9. Pusha T: "My biggest thing is... I want to see hip-hop become one of the genres that tour like the Eagles."

10. “I walked a mile in your shoes/and now I’m a mile away/and I’ve got your shoes."—Kings Of Leon.

Raymond Cummings

1. The Knife's electro-noise, art-wank freakiness—all of it, both discs, every last blessed ounce, bent squelch, and demonic gender-questioning utterance. Better than Swans' The Seer from 2012 by a country mile.

2. Prince proving that he has a healthy sense of humor.

3. Daft Punk yanking everybody's chain with gold-plated muso's gloves, at a deliriously hilarious expense and remove.

4. The stark, felicitous cover art on all of Beck's 2013 digital one-off singles. Every one of these things is fantastic, sonically and visually.

5. I think what I love most about the "Drunk In Love" video is the shared look of revulsion on Beyonce and Jay-Z's faces while they're on the beach and he's rapping (right around the "on sight" part), where she's like "Honey, are you sure you wanna go there?" And Jay's all "Oh hell's yeah, I'm going there." Also, you know: "Surfboard/surfboard/SURFBOARD."

6. Wolf Eyes' John Olson facetiously (and probably parodic) declaration that noise is "over."

7. The outpouring of grief and impassioned tributes to Lou Reed upon his death, which led me and many others to explore and discuss the varied richness of the man's back catalogue.

8. Canny gestures of self-cannibalization-qua-mythology recontextualizing by Danny Brown and M.I.A., on albums that failed to move the needle yet yielded a handful of affecting choice cuts ("Lonely," "Gremlins," "Only 1 U," "Come WalkWith Me"). 

9. My Bloody Valentine essentially owning the Internet for at least 24 hours in February, inspiring purple-prose freakouts and crashing servers and racking up towering YouTube page views, which felt novel and thrilling and vaguely unprecedented—at least, until a much-beloved R&B countess pulled the same stunt in December via iTunes.

10. 2Chainz and Drake in the ultimate homebody b-boy slouch-off. 2Chainz: "We the kind of crew/Get fresh, and chill in the living room." Drake: "I wear every single chain, even when I'm in the house." This shit totally needs to become a rap trend.

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