best of 2015: albums

casio vsco 2our year-end best-of week comes to a close with our favorite albums of 2015.  we’ll spare you from reading any more; click on each album cover to navigate away to a review – more often than not from this site – that adequately portrays our opinions.  as always, our picks will run in alphabetical order, and you can listen to each album by clicking on the link in its title.  dive in.

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mind out wandering coverastronauts, etc. – mind out wandering

depression cherry coverbeach house – depression cherry

new bermudadeafheaven – new bermuda

eskimeaux o.k.eskimeaux – o.k.

foxing dealerfoxing – dealer

ibeyi s:tibeyi – ibeyi

sprained anklejulien baker – sprained ankle

port st. willow syncopeport st. willow – syncope

carrie & lowellsufjan stevens – carrie & lowell

vince-staples-summertime-06vince staples – summertime ’06

best of 2015: music videos

super 8 vscothe year’s end is upon us yet again, and today begins the rapid succession of accolades doled out to various media.  things will be a little different here at the dimestore this year; in accordance to our removal of ratings at the end of individual album reviews, nothing will be ranked on any our year-end lists.  instead, each candidate will appear in alphabetical order.  if you are truly curious about this site’s absolute favorite album, ep, song, or music video from this year, inquire within.

up first in the schedule are our five favorite music videos of 2015, unintentionally – but perhaps tellingly – skewed towards hip-hop and pop.  read on.

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disclosure – “magnets (ft. lorde)”

though caracal as a whole sailed by as a mere blip on our radar, it was impossible to ignore a strong byproduct of that record: the duo’s collaboration with lorde on “magnets.”  the lawrence brothers may have ceded some of their production grandeur to accommodate lorde’s more minimalist aesthetic, but the track stuck, perhaps the only one that will endure from a shoulder-shrug of a sophomore effort.

the video for “magnets” delves deeper.  on the surface, it’s an eerie, (yet again) lynch-indebted exploration of debauchery and infidelity, though these basic lusts soon prove to be an underlying condition of a much more serious problem.  lorde the artistic persona is also largely absent from the plot, only usurping ella o’connor in the video’s final seconds to play the role of vigilante.

heems – “sometimes”

more on eat pray thug as a cohesive unit in a few days.  the video for the album’s lead single, “sometimes,” plays out like a late-night sketch comedy segment, and appropriately so: two of its main characters are eric andre and hannibal buress.  at the center of it all is himanshu suri himself, holding down the role of a sleazy infomercial salesman peddling a skin-whitening paste.  the narrative is funny enough (heems’ sidekick and test subject wins for best dance moves) and attains peak irony by its end, but “sometimes” more soberly hints at the pressures of assimilation and code-switching discussed at length throughout eat pray thug.

run the jewels & zack de la rocha – “close your eyes (and count to fuck)”

perhaps the year’s most visceral music video was the one accompanying “close your eyes (and count to fuck).”  plucked from the lauded rtj2, the clip for “close your eyes” follows the physical struggle between a young, unarmed black man (keith stanfield) and a white male police officer (shea whigham), one that’s a clear analog to the on-going racial profiling and police brutality that has plagued african-american communities for decades.  both parties are exhausted before the video even begins, and the unresolved tension at its end extends the notion that these encounters are tragic cogs in an irreparable machine.

taylor swift – “bad blood (ft. kendrick lamar)”

the album version of “bad blood” was defined by an anthemic pre-chorus and chorus yet hindered by subpar verses, so why not let kendrick lamar hop on the beat for its radio edit?  very few music videos are ever blockbuster events, but “bad blood” sure felt like one, with a big enough budget for both kill bill theatrics and a high-profile cast featuring nearly every single one of swift’s female contemporaries.  bonus points to director joseph kahn for utilizing the track’s fantastically emo bridge to set up the clip’s explosive climax.

vince staples – “señorita”

a tattooed messiah leads his congregation through the streets of a walled-off neighborhood in the video for “señorita.” one by one, followers are picked off by automated turrets while their leader is spared a similar end, ostensibly due to his faithful repetition of the song’s dystopian hook.  vince staples, meanwhile, circumnavigates this fate through his musical talents, though his dependence on armed security to perform robs him of an autonomy so often dependent on skin color.

staples is a realist, providing blunt commentary on the day-to-day life in his hometown of long beach, california.  whether or not the neighborhood depicted in “señorita” is meant to represent his own, it’s still incredibly unnerving to see the plight of an entire community ultimately distilled into the viewing pleasure of white america.

vince staples – summertime ’06

vince-staples-summertime-06
out june 30th via def jam

vince staples does not mince words.  even back in 2010, when the long beach, california native still treated rapping as more of a hobby, his guest verse on earl sweatshirt’s “epar” was frightening in both its lyrical contents and in its effortless, visceral dexterity.  staples is a closer and a chameleon when he guests; on “epar” and on earl’s 2013 cut “hive,” staples conforms to the host’s present lyrical state of mind with ease while often beating earl out for the song’s most memorable line (“ruger with the pork face / jewish for the court case” is one of the more fully-loaded couplets encountered in recent memory).

staples has meticulously crafted his solo career over the past four years in the most logical way possible: picking a bare-bones aesthetic and molding it around his uncanny propensity for unabashed, autobiographical storytelling.  this journey took him through a series of yearly mixtapes, a stellar ep from last fall entitled hell can wait, and has culminated in summertime ’06, an ambitious double-album for def jam that also serves as staples’ debut full-length effort.

2014 was staples’ definitive breakout period, and summertime ’06 streamlines the best features of that year.  most of the g-funk synth lines that popped up across hell can wait have disappeared, but executive producer no i.d. has front-loaded the album with sub-bass tones to such a degree that any tone in a higher register is relegated far into the background.  that’s perfectly fine, though; staples’ nasally vocal register is the perfect timbral foil to the constant subterranean agitation.  thematic elements carry over as well, from staples’ fondness of the birds and the bees to tales recounting his youth in long beach.  the latter finally feels sufficiently cohesive, as staples is able to dedicate an hour – over the span of twenty rapid-fire tracks – to the subject matter.

a degree of nihilism exists in staples’ lyrics, and its variance has always been his calling card.  there is no redemption for his characters, nor for staples himself, but he does allow brief moments of tenderness.  on “summertime,” the closing number on the first disc, staples half-sings to a romantic subject, juxtaposing any hopefulness with hopeless lines like “they never taught me how to be a man / only how to be a shooter.”  by and large, though, he hones in on the rampant negative stereotypes that pervade black culture and exposes them with the searing, sarcastic opening line on “lift me up,” the disorienting implications of the imagery in the music video for “señorita,” and frequent mentions of police brutality in his neighborhood.

summertime ’06 retains a different level of uniqueness in its place within the landscape of rap music in 2015.  this is one of the few albums that, for all intents and purposes, followed a fairly traditional promotional cycle: the project was never shrouded in mystery, it wasn’t dropped unexpectedly nor released weeks before its official arrival date, and it spawned three major-label caliber singles that displayed the diverse capabilities of staples’ minimalist preferences.

staples also seems unfazed by his contemporaries and their genre-bending tendencies; summertime ’06 is devoid of kendrick lamar’s optimistic jazz odysseys, of the atlanta scene’s investment in psychedelia, of the social experiment’s jubilant funk-pop.  though he relies on guest artists to deliver hooks on about half of the album, staples is by and large in sole control of its dystopian lyrical direction.  in an era where many socially active artists are preaching perseverance in the face of tremendous adversity, staples exists as a stark reminder that any semblance of progress is still in its early infancy.

there is a large percentage of staples’ audience who won’t be able to fully comprehend every facet of summetime ’06, including myself.  thoroughly digest, perhaps, but true empathy will be rare.  the lifestyle staples details is a reality that comparatively few of us are routinely faced with.  instead, summertime ’06 serves as an miniature analog to a larger, overarching discussion of race relations in the united states; vince staples is a representative voice of an oppressed group of citizens, and it’s best to check any form of privilege at the door, shut up and listen to what he has to say.

best of 2014: eps

the ep is the multi-purpose tool of musical formats; established acts can release them as placeholders before new albums arrive (see tennis, panda bear) or as containers to hold supplemental material from a recording session.  they’re the perfect companion for touring bands wishing to give their audiences extra incentive to purchase merchandise, but above all, the ep is a logical stepping stone for many young artists seeking to release something more cohesive than a single or free mixtape.  all five of 2014’s best eps fall into this final category.  this year saw a bevy of new artists vying for attention, but those on this list seem like they’ll be sticking around for awhile, regardless of whether or not they have major label support.  read our thoughts below.

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 bad habitat cover5. sayth – bad habitat

 it’s not a stretch to assert that eric wells is one of the hardest-working musicians in wisconsin’s diy scene.  while this blog has a soft spot for and a deep connection to the midwest, the fact that sayth’s second ep shows up on this list is not a concession to that relationship; it’s an acknowledgement of the artistic identity wells has crafted.  using alternative hip-hop as his delivery method, wells covers a lot of lyrical ground on bad habitat: being a gay rapper in a heteronormative climate, metaphysical musings attached to a video game, and the untimely death of a close friend.  bad habitat is billed as a solo effort but wells benefits from the help of his frequent collaborators, as north house provides some beats and wealthy relative drops by for “chirp,” a song that recalls the duo’s dream feast joint effort.  sayth may be stylistically indebted to other art rappers like open mike eagle and milo, but his content is always wrapped up in personal narrative.  on “esc,” by and far the ep’s most poignant cut, wells laments not only about the loss of a friend but the insensitivities that surrounded his death, leading him to conclude that “it feels so evil / this is why we name hurricanes after people.”

vsc winter cover4. vancouver sleep clinic – winter

last year’s recipient of our inaugural “best new artist” award followed through with an atmospheric ep that reflects its seasonal namesake while retaining a strong degree of warmth.  tim bettinson is the young architect of vancouver sleep clinic, and the maturity of winter is strikingly uncommon for a seventeen year-old high school student.  the ep is clearly anchored by bettinson’s pair of 2013 singles, “collapse” and “vapour,” but its other four songs are crucial in understanding his artistic vision and ambitions.  lush orchestrations and a fragile falsetto seem to be at the core of vancouver sleep clinic’s aesthetic, yet the surging sigur ros-indebted outro of “rebirth” suggests a very strong secondary interest, one that might be explored further on subsequent efforts.  bettinson should also be commended for his striking lyricism; after peeling away the layers of ethereal falsetto and effortless melodies, one can find a wealth of personal narrative blended with metaphor on cuts like “flaws” and “stakes.”  if vancouver sleep clinic keeps delivering music of this caliber, we’ll probably be talking about them again this time next year.

hell can wait cover3. vince staples – hell can wait

the fact that shyne coldchain vol. 2 is the better of vince staples’ two 2014 releases and that hell can wait ends up so high on this list should paint a clear picture of the sheer amount of talent and work ethic staples possesses.  he trades the short song durations and soulful loops found throughout vol. 2 for fully-formed, intense offerings throughout hell can wait.  staples’ sneering monotone has always been his calling card, and that abrasion is compounded by a punishing low end that prevails on the ep and is especially prevalent on “fire” and “blue suede.”  that sneer is also responsible for delivering some of the most brutally honest lyrics in rap music right now; staples is incredibly intelligent but does not mince words when discussing the polarities of his life, especially his relationship with gang culture and its impact.  the synth tone that dictates “blue suede” is as piercing as the song’s content, which not only details a materialism enticed by drugs and violence but staples’ own admission that a focused music career has kept him out of prison and the grave.  perhaps the most important track on hell can wait is “hands up,” a no-bullshit critique of the rampant police brutality against people of color which carries extra weight in light of the non-indictments in ferguson and new york.  “paying taxes for fucking clowns to ride around” indeed.

yumi zouma cover

2. yumi zouma – yumi zouma

we’ve already heaped praise on yumi zouma here, but some of that praise bears repeating.  the new zealand trio breathed originality and stability into a genre that seems to be in a perpetual state of reinvention with a sharp self-titled ep that many have likened to the golden years of kate bush.  particular comparisons aside, yumi zouma was undoubtedly on point throughout their debut effort.  “a long walk home for parted lovers” is indicative of the trio’s aesthetic: muted, bass-heavy minimal synth-pop delivered with a shrug of apathy.  yumi zouma’s music is a counter to the over-the-top ambitions of so many of their peers, a counter that’s been especially welcome this year.

field division reverie state cover1. field division – reverie state

field division bills themselves as “folkwave,” a portmanteau that accurately describes their sound to those that seek new music exclusively via genre tags.  in actuality, the five songs on reverie state are so much more.  they’re the byproduct of an incredible musical relationship between evelyn taylor and nicholas frampton, two iowa natives who linked up once they moved to nashville.  despite the duo’s relocation, reverie state still embodies the bucolic sounds characteristically associated with the midwest.  the rustic nature of “faultlines” and “modest mountains” is indebted to folk influences both new and old, but the marriage of that influence with more ambitious textures is what makes field division really stand out.  “of lives we’ve never known” is dictated by an absolutely huge bass line while the ep’s finest cut, “to innisfree land,” mixes in flutes and multiple guitar countermelodies to support taylor’s and frampton’s vocal duet.  after such a strong first outing with reverie state, a full-length effort from field division feels all but inevitable, yet the richness of these songs is so potent that there’s no rush for that album to come to immediate fruition.

mixtape sunday – best of 2014

 

on friday we published a list of our ten favorite songs of 2014.  naturally, we’ve compiled those tracks into a concise mixtape for your listening pleasure, which can be experienced above.  our picks run in reverse order and feature offerings from alvvays, caribou, ricky eat acid, fka twigs, and more.  check back tomorrow for continued coverage of our year-end best-of lists.

best of 2014: songs

welcome to day three of our year-end best-of week, an especially interesting day in which we attempt to choose, dissect, and justify our favorite songs of 2014.  obvious pop heavyweights like sia’s “chandelier” and taylor swift’s “shake it off” were removed from consideration in order to recognize some lesser-known artists, the ultimate ethos of dimestore saints.  we’re pretty satisfied with the following ten tracks, but we’d love to hear arguments for any we may have neglected in the comments section below.

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pillar point album cover10. pillar point – “cherry”

scott reitherman’s first solo venture as pillar point touched on nostalgia in all the right ways, with sleepy pop music powered by vintage roland synths and drum machines that still retained an acute sense of originality and inventiveness.  all nine songs on pillar point are earworms in their own right, but the album’s third track, “cherry,” particularly stuck with us throughout the year.  a punchy, fluid bass line pulsates underneath a stuttering vocal sample before finally giving way to the song’s verse, which finds reitherman’s understated approach to lyricism thrust into the spotlight.  an influx of rich, gorgeous textures often distracts from pillar point’s lyrical content, but the hesitant, poignant examination of a blossoming relationship found in “cherry” just can’t be ignored.

jamie xx sleep sound9. jamie xx – “sleep sound”

the xx have been taking their sweet time writing and recording the follow-up to 2012’s coexist, but apparently jamie xx is very skilled at multi-tasking.  the brooding sound architect has yet to release a solo full-length of his own, but the three tracks he did offer up this year were nothing short of monumental.  while “all under one roof raving” drew the most attention, jamie xx’s absolute best work came in the form of “sleep sound,” an aptly-titled nocturnal journey with a punishing subterranean bass line countered by very patient drum programming, which waits nearly four minutes before guiding in the song’s crucial segue to its b-theme material.  if “sleep sound” is any indication, both the xx and its most prolific member are slated to have a very rewarding and important 2015.

8. alvvays – “adult diversion”

molly rankin’s apathetic drawl is one of the most endearing traits of fast-rising toronto upstarts alvvays, but it’s not the band’s most important.  the quintet’s wonderful self-titled debut largely hinges on the stellar guitar interplay between rankin and alec o’hanley, and “adult diversion” sets the tone.  it takes multiple close listens to discern where the song’s main riff splits off into separate countermelodies, and rankin & co. move on to new ideas and arpeggiations before true appreciation can set in.  and then the final component of the alvvays trifecta settles in: rankin’s blunt, polarizing lyrics.  “adult diversion” clearly outlines unrequited love – at best a crush, at worst a full-blown case of stalking – but its delivery is tongue-in-cheek, its trajectory unpredictable, its content slightly morose.  after all, not many college-radio bands can get away with singing about dead girls in closets, even if it’s only a passing reference.

cloud nothings album cover7. cloud nothings – “just see fear”

dylan baldi is dangerously close to becoming an infallible voice in the modern alternative rock climate.  whether or not that voice is discernible is another question entirely.  baldi’s fourth round at the helm of cloud nothings yields an intense but concise result, and “just see fear” is a perfect snapshot of the visceral nature of here and nowhere else.  seemingly over before it even starts, the song finds baldi singing confidently, almost gently at times, though the accompanying onslaught of buzz-saw guitar and drums immediately offsets any potential vulnerability.  the fact that cloud nothings has slimmed down to a power trio doesn’t seem to phase baldi, either; he points to the absence of a second guitarist with the unabashedly thin melody in the first half of the chorus before reminding listeners that a wall of distortion is truly the only indispensable member of cloud nothings.  oh, and his screams never fail to send shivers down spines.

shyne coldchain ii cover

6. vince staples – “nate”

vince staples has come a long way from his earliest role as earl sweatshirt’s especially vulgar side-kick, far enough to coax def jam into releasing his excellent debut ep hell can wait earlier this fall.  despite its warm reception, staples’ pivotal fourth mixtape, shyne coldchain ii, was arguably his most critical effort of 2014.  staples paints blunt, vivid images of less-than-ideal experiences throughout the mixtape’s ten tracks, and it peaks with “nate.”  visceral accounts of an abusive, drug-dealing father resound in his lyrics, but an inner conflict arises inside staples; though he concedes that “all i wanted was a hundred grand,” staples aptly recognizes the consequences of his father’s lifestyle.  the bridge on “nate” is crucial, as james fauntleroy essentially functions as an objective third party, summing up the cyclical hopelessness staples witnesses and examines in his music.

caribou our love cover5. caribou – “our love”

dan snaith spoke of the profound impact stevie wonder had on the creation of our love, his latest effort as caribou.  though their work couldn’t be more different from an aesthetic standpoint, snaith did manage to capture the sheer grandeur that wonder routinely brought to pop music.  our love is an unabashed pop record, and its title track is the surging centerpiece.  hell, the back half of the song is better than 95% of music released this year, but the importance of the front half’s static build elevates “our love” into the ninety-ninth percentile.  the bass line that snaith twists and warps into the song’s prevailing theme is just a measly four notes, but it’s his treatment and intense delivery that make it stick to whatever crosses its path.  ever the master of tension, snaith refuses to resolve the theme at the song’s close and leaves the fourth and final note hanging in the balance, forever tonicizing the figure in everyone’s heads.

lana del rey west coast cover4. lana del rey – “west coast”

lana del rey played us all.  an artist once dismissed as vapid and of middling talent was, conversely, lauded this year, thanks in part to her excellent sophomore effort ultraviolence.  but focus also shifted towards the understanding that lana del rey is a character, interested in exposing gender-based double-standards by fully indulging in them, forever daring us to critique her, to tear her to shreds.  most took the bait.  ultraviolence largely found del rey moving away from the technicolor hip-hop that dotted born to die, instead favoring a more nostalgic monochrome aided by dan auerbach’s production.  amidst ballads and grandiose ambitions lies “west coast,” an understated yet compelling song that is by and far del rey’s best piece of work to date.  she pushes ahead in earnest during the verses, but a little palilalia and a descending guitar lick is all it takes for her to lay back into a gorgeous half-time chorus, laden with reverb that figuratively recalls the hazy, beach-centric imagery conveyed on the single’s cover.

three love songs cover3. ricky eat acid – “god puts us all in the swimming pool”

the entirety of ricky eat acid’s arresting three love songs is emotive, but “god puts us all in the swimming pool” is especially heart-wrenching.  the song is a polarizing contrast to its predecessor, the drake-sampling, house-indebted “in my dreams we’re almost touching,” with its static motion pumping the brakes on any semblance of momentum the album had managed generate up to that point.  this poignancy is crucial, as it allows ricky eat acid’s mastermind sam ray to a moment to breathe before ushering in the erratic final quarter of three love songs.  all functions aside, the manipulation of the vocal loop on “god puts us all in the swimming pool” is one of the most beautiful musical moments of the year.

fka twigs lp1 cover2. fka twigs – “pendulum”

in theory, about half of the ten tracks on fka twigs’ stunning debut lp1 could occupy this slot; only one song really stood in the way of her total conquest of this segment.  tahliah barnett’s artistic persona transcends both her initial career as a backup dancer and the current temptation to lump her in with other singer-songwriters.  her output is largely autonomous, sure, but what sets her apart from those who might be considered her peers is her unabashed dedication to center her music around female sexuality.  and as a wonderful article on no fear of pop pointed out earlier this year, that focus on sex and sexuality is so large that it can’t be confined to twigs’ lyrics; it has to consume the rhythm and tonality of her music and the visual aesthetic and tone of her videos.  “pendulum” winds up in this slot because it directly embodies so much of that mentality.  the even-keeled, predictable beat that pans from one speaker to the other is as repetitive and reliable as a pendulum, while the song’s opening lyric clearly establishes sex as the lyrical catalyst.  but there’s a searing presence of cynicism as twigs ultimately is using “pendulum” as a platform to call a vapid, unresponsive lover on his shit.

a toothpaste suburb cover1. milo – “objectifying rabbits” (ft. open mike eagle)

milo’s career over the past two years has been fairly well-documented here at dimestore saints.  from his pair of eps to his cavalcade mixtape to his side-project scallops hotel, we haven’t missed much.  while milo’s first proper album, a toothpaste suburb, delivered some incredibly satisfying moments, it ultimately felt drawn-out and a bit uneven, perhaps because we’re used to consuming his thoughts in more concise doses.  that being said, the highlights of a toothpaste suburb are some of the finest works found in milo’s catalogue.  “objectifying rabbits” arrives just past the half-way mark of the record, and is the second part of a sequential triptych milo previewed before the album’s release date.  following the positively tender “you are go(o)d to me,” “objectifying rabbits” immediately reintroduces momentum into a toothpaste suburb with swelling synth progressions, setting up milo to deliver the finest opening line of 2014: “echolalia / lisztomania / i played my ukulele on the way to la grange, bruh.”  the non-sequiturs are there, but the lyrics are best-examined as an introduction to the song’s subject matter, which seems to find milo advocating for an appreciation of art and a positive outlook on life above all else.  milo dissents against hedonists and plato in his never-ending quest to convey his philosophical views, and open mike eagle’s closing verse compounds these thoughts in falsetto.  milo is a young artist with very complex thoughts, thoughts undoubtedly watered down to fit within the lyrical confines of a song.  although intensely personal songs radiate across a toothpaste suburb, “objectifying rabbits” is milo’s best effort in proclaiming his philosophical ethos.

 

best of 2014: music videos

as the years tick by, the music video seems to become an increasingly insignificant form of consumption.  though youtube is a powerful streaming source, lyric videos and static images accompanied by audio have largely become the norm.  amidst the changing landscape lies a handful of artists (check the output of honorable mentions fka twigs and perfume genius for further examples of consistently stunning work) and videographers still dedicated to enhanced storytelling through visual representation; we’ve compiled our five favorite offerings of 2014 below.

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5. lorde – “yellow flicker beat”


single-handedly curating the soundtrack to an assured universal blockbuster is no easy task for anyone, let alone a seventeen year-old.  lorde went two steps further, shouldering responsibility for the soundtrack’s monstrous lead single, “yellow flicker beat,” and its accompanying music video.  numerous comparisons were made to the aesthetic of david lynch, but the video particularly excels at showcasing lorde’s ownership of her artistic identity; her singular form of dancing becomes synonymous with the song’s anthemic chorus, further cramming a very natural artistic expression down the throats of detractors who expect something different from female pop stars.

4. pillar point – “dreamin'”


the surreal implications of the song’s title are aptly accentuated in the music video for “dreamin’.”  an early staple of pillar point’s career and the centerpiece of his self-titled debut album, “dreamin'” is forcibly reworked – in its introduction, anyways – to accommodate the contorted dancing style of the video’s protagonist, who seems to be a projection from the mind of the older man who appears at the beginning and end of the sequence.  yet despite the jubilance and dedication conveyed in the dance, “dreamin'” retains an incredible amount of poignancy, as the dancer’s feats go largely unnoticed.

3. caroline smith – “half about being a woman”


caroline smith tried her hand at r&b last year and wound up with half about being a woman, one of our favorite albums of 2013. nearly a year later she delivered a music video for the album’s title track that is at once heart-wrenching and uplifting, as smith’s monochromatic character traverses from utter despair to hardened confidence with a bit of help from her döppelganger.  raw emotions are rarely captured so effectively.

2. st. vincent – “digital witness”


a wes anderson color palate meets annie clark’s frazzled grey mane in st. vincent’s music video for “digital witness.”  clark has to be shortlisted as one of the best artists to emerge in the past decade, and the depth offered by her latest album only strengthens her claim to that exclusive club.  social commentary has often been a covert operation throughout st. vincent’s discography, but her views on the strong grip of modern technology are readily apparent on “digital witness.”  the martial rigidity of the song’s synthetic horn staccatos is mirrored by the nonsensical militaristic marching in the video, and the uniformity and repetitive acts performed by the cast is a metaphor for the enslaving power wielded by digital technology.  even clark, portrayed as a wary outsider, doesn’t seem to be fully free of its grasp.  just like the bulk of st. vincent’s output, both “digital witness” and its music video are beautiful at surface level and absolutely compelling once the outer layers are peeled away.

1. vince staples – “nate”


vince staples will be a key player in the immediate future of hip-hop, largely in part due to his visceral storytelling contained in songs like “nate.”  the video that accompanies the focal point of staples’ fourth mixtape, shyne coldchain vol. 2, is just as jarring: a domestic dispute played out in slow motion seen through the eyes of an unfazed child.  through association, one might assume that the autobiographical material from staples’ childhood directly correlates to the video’s protagonist, but said protagonist encounters staples while en route to a convenience store.  the fact that the video’s plot line may exist outside of staples’ personal narrative is critical, as it showcases a cyclical epidemic of violence and drug abuse in urban southern california.  it’s not a long stretch; staples has already proven he’s one of the most hyper-aware young minds in the rap game.