This week I’ll be going over my top ten most-played artists of the past month, according to last.fm., and ranting briefly about why they are where they are on my rank and including samples.
10 – Crystal Castles
Shutting the doors on their brief lifespan, Crystal Castles decided to call it a day when frontwoman Alice Glass took the walk. Though they’ve never been a group I’d consider to be truly all that great, their music still means a lot to me in ways that was worth revisiting over the past month. In particular their first 2 self-titled albums, seeing as I never even fully heard Crystal Castles III until this very past month. CC1 was never the most compelling album for me, charming though its first half may be, and it hasn’t gotten better with time. CC2 however is pretty much the same as I remember, with its delicious dreary new-rave violence and hazy goth undertones staying as wickedly alluring as ever. I wish I could say more about their final album besides the first 2 tracks being excellent and the rest very forgettable, but that is simply not the case.
“Not in Love ft Robert Smith”
9 – Shiina Ringo
Karuki Zamen, her glorious symmetrical masterpiece, remains a thrill from start to finish. Her other albums are excellent as well, though they haven’t gotten the same amount of my attention. J-rock is rarely in my diet, but Ringo never fails to make it worthwhile. Her charisma is simply too great for me to let petty genre distaste put a wedge between. With songs like this, you can’t really blame me:
8 – Laserdisc Visions
Despite Laserdisc Visions not /really/ being an artist I’ve had in heavy rotation this month – the only reason it’s here is due to New Dreams Ltd.’s 27 track length, which, you guessed it, makes for 27 plays – it’s still a somewhat accurate proxy for all the minute mallsoft albums that failed to make the list. Though, I wouldn’t quite call this album “mallsoft” itself – it evokes a feeling like mallsoft, but it dabbles more in the realm of virtual reality and isn’t quite as passive as the subgenre proper.
As far as actual mallsoft albums are concerned, one I can’t help but include here is Hantasi’s fantastic Vacant Places (which came at no. 11 on the list anyway). This comes recommended if you’re looking for a more western elegy sans the traditional vaporwave aesthetic (i.e. ragtime, jazz, turn-of-the-century festivities, as opposed to the synthetic late-20th century norm).
Laserdisc Visons – “Tingri”
Hantasi – “Welcome”
(stream both albums in full on their bandcamp pages, with Vacant Places being a name-your-price download)
7 – architecture in tokyo
Though Summer Paradise is a short album, it’s a potentially heavyweight one, in the realm of all things shortchanged and desolate. When these songs get stuck in your head, they can have a truly strange effect on your mood – one with a twisted form of unintentional melancholy that arises from the album’s production – like your favorite childhood tape melted in the sun, with your favorite characters trying to do their normal thing but horribly disfigured or botched in some way. I know this is what a lot of vaporwave albums are going for, but this is truly something special.
6 – Oneohtrix Point Never
Possibly another victim of a massive tracklist (Rifts), Oneohtrix still makes a lot of sense on the list. I like to think Lopatin’s music is ideal for flea markets – collages of seemingly haphazard bits and pieces of things old, new, and kitschy alike, but unified with a careful consideration for personality (i.e. the seller). And yes I went to quite a few flea markets this fall, which might explain the love here. Though flea market season may now be shriveling up, OPN is luckily a great companion piece for winter isolation as well.
5 – Smoke Room
Now known as Uio Loi, Smoke Room was love at first listen – 2 falls ago to be exact – and I try to annually survive his often underrated excellence this time of year and, of course, here he is on my top plays list. His fantastic Volume 1 and Volume 2 albums remain hidden gems, though the Zoom Lens scene he is associated with has since blossomed into a genuinely great label with a tasteful, mutual affection for dreamy k-pop acid trips and summer days in harmless love, which Smoke Room chooses to adorn with deep hip-hop beats and syrupy psychedelic samples galore.
4 – Grouper
More ideal music for the season, but Grouper’s music very well might be ideal in several different ways. Gorgeous otherworldly vocals tread nonchalantly within walls of fog and foliage, composed out of a yearning, mournful acoustic guitar and a menagerie of ethereal dreamscapes. Fragile, heavy, swirling, and vaguely traced with the scent of death.
“Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping”
3 – Teebs
The LA beat scene has been low on my priorities lately, even in spite of Flying Lotus releasing You’re Dead! In early October, but somehow we find Teebs holding the bronze medal this month. I had pretty much neglected everything besides Ardour up until this point, and here I am making up for that via his brief 2011 album Collection 01 and this year’s E S T A R A, which I’m finally warming up to. Similar to Flying Lotus but taking more cues from downtempo than from abstract hip-hop, Teebs nonetheless makes excellent music to paint leaves to.
“Holday ft Jonti”
2 – Andy Stott
His new album Faith In Strangers is just around the corner, but it’s announcement wasn’t actually what got me to finally pick up 2012’s Luxury Problems for the jewel that it is. A sudden craving for silver, shadowy club beats for an alien masquerade was in fact the culprit, and of course Luxury Problems delivers this in spades. Also some of the best use of broken vocal samples I’ve had a taste of in a while.
“Lost and Found”
Surreal shoegazers lovesliescrushing return as the dominant force on my chart, and it doesn’t even come close. This is in no small part due to, after getting caught in the strain-of-overthought-made-beautiful-daze that is bloweyelashwish, finally stepping up to their subsequent releases Xuvetyn and Glissceule. Though the former reminded me of a more polished version of their debut, eschewing much of the noise in the process, Glissceule was a different critter altogether – like all the music’s coarseness was filtered out leaving just the angelic ambient residue. The result was mixed – it almost felt too floaty for its own good, failing to immerse and resonate like their debut, but this also produced a sound that is undeniably soothing, even during its frequent episodes of amelody. Like all their albums thus far, however, it’s been a rewarding challenge, one that comes recommended to fans of the darker side of shoegaze.