Thursday, December 5

Albums Of 2013 - No. 10 to No. 1

1. Vampire Weekend 'Modern Vampires of the City'
They haven't just reached the Next Level; they've conquered the art of songwriting, created their own city and filled it with heart and intrigue. Never have they been this serious, this fun, this good.

2. The National 'Trouble Will Find Me'
If you can't feel good because of miserable indie, there's something wrong with you.

3. Jon Hopkins 'Immunity'
Mmmm, pretty.

4. Frightened Rabbit 'Mechanical Bull'
Why aren't these taking over the world?!

5. Arcade Fire 'Reflektor'
We are lucky to be living in the age of Arcade Fire.

6. HAIM 'Days Are Gone'
Debut album of the year.

7. Daft Punk 'Random Access Memories'
Kings of Dance show us how it's done.

8. Arctic Monkeys 'AM'
Most exciting band around.

9. Wave Machines 'Pollen'
Most underrated band around.

10. Franz Ferdinand 'Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action'
Paying us back on all the promise.

Albums Of 2013 - No. 20 to No. 11

11. A$AP Rocky 'Long Live A$AP'
Sorry, 'Em, 'Ye, J and Drizz'. This is it.

12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs 'Mosquito'
Probably their best ever album.

13. London Grammar 'If You Wait'
Something special about these three.

14. Kings of Leon 'Mechanical Bull'
The machine is back on track.

15. Everything Everything 'Arc'
Engrossing angst and special twitching.

16. Local Natives 'Hummingbird'
LA even has great bands now, too.

17. John Newman 'Tribute'
Adele: The Man Version.

18. White Lies 'Big TV'
Their most complete album yet.

19. Daughter 'If You Leave'
It could be one long beautiful song.

20. Swim Deep 'Where The Heaven Are We'
More proof indie isn't dead.

Albums Of 2013 - No. 30 to No. 21

21. Frank Turner 'Tape Deck Heart'
Now he's the songs to match the arenas.

22. Fidlar 'Fidlar'
Why aren't these HUGE?!

23. The Strokes 'Chances'
Certainly their best in a while.

24. Chapel Club 'Good Together'
Too dissimilar to debut. But still solid.

25. Fall Out Boy 'Save Rock and Roll'
Save r'a'r? No. But a decent attempt.

26. Foals 'Holy Fire'
Very, very good. Great still in the works.

27. Sigur Ros 'Kveikur'
Props for trying something new.

28. Rudimental 'Home'
Diamonds in a pile of raving shit.

29. Miles Kane 'Don't Forget Who You Are'
He's getting there.

Not quite the first, but better than the second!

Sunday, December 1

Album Of Last Month

Eminem 'The Marshall Mathers LP 2' (Interscope)

In 2000, Eminem changed hip-hop forever with The Marshall Mathers LP. What's gone on with him since - four albums, divorce/re-marriage/re-divorce, Oscar-winning movie, drug addiction - is all part of the ripping story. But, despite being one of the greatest rappers of all time, The Marshall Mathers LP is still hit-for-hit his best album. So why he even has to attempt a revisitation (his words), 13 years later or not, is irritating in itself.
Maybe Marshall took a look at the healthy condition of today's brotherhood and got a little competitive. Jay Z and Kanye are kings like him; Drake is next in line; Kendrick, A$AP, 2 Chainz, Pro Era are the future - when was the last time rap was this exciting? The Marshall Mathers LP 2 may be Eminem's way of reminding us all what made him and why he's still the master. Whatever the reason, giving this record that name is a brave piece of business.
It takes approximately 4 minutes and 10 seconds to remember exactly who we're dealing with, though, when against 'Bad Guy's squeaking strings the lord of mockery spits: "I'm the bad guy who makes fun of people that die and hey, here's the sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP just to get people to buy." Ouch, we've been told. He also summons back the spirit of Stan from the original record and teases the following 13 tracks as his last... that opening should come with a tissue box.
It ain't all so moody though. 'Rhyme or Reason' milks The Zombies' slinky 'Time of the Season'; 'So Much Better' does death threats with the kind of fun-loving jingle we know Eminem for; his Aftermath label-mate Kendrick Lamar (the only other rapper to feature besides Dr. Dre's exec-producing) drops his own jumped-up machismo on 'Love Game'. 'Asshole', however, overdoes the fooling with Skylar Grey's "Everybody knows you're just an asshole" backing vocal as if she's nicked it from a grainy YouTube parody; it's a shame.
Another counter is how at-odds the flow seems. 'Survival' is obvious in its Guess Who's Back ambition but the trashy rocky production pull it from being anything other than okay. And 'Berzerk's old-school kickabout guitars pay sweet homage to the Beastie Boys but feel out of place here, although its poke at Khloe K ("I fell asleep and woke up in that Monte Carlo with the ugly Kardashian/Lamar, oh sorry yo, we done both set the bar low") is one more oddly comforting throwback to the olden days when Tom Green was accused of humping a dead moose.
On 'Rap God', Eminem is unbelievable. It's not the EDM-pulled beat or scarily turbo verses (6 words a second?!), but the many remarks on his and hip-hop's many ups/downs (Fabolous v Ray J, his 'Columbine' censoring, Run-D.M.C. tribute) and closing "Why be a king when you can be a god?" that turn it into silverware. The gay slurs ever-present are at their heaviest here, however - it's uncomfortable listening and takes away from what should be another game-changing moment. The album might hide behind being a reference point for his past but this feels more calculated than reflective.
In the main, this is his most insightful and self-aware record. After erupting on his abandoning dad on 'Rhyme or Reason', Marshall brings in fun. singer Nate Ruess (sucking the cool out of Lena Dunham clearly wasn't enough for this Mary Poppins tribute act) and writes with regret to his mum. "To this day we remain estranged and I hate it though, 'cause you ain't even get to witness your grandbabies grow," he raps on 'Headlights', also cringing he took things too far on 'Cleanin' Out My Closet'. This is when the LP is at its best; looking back on the original with wisdom.
'The Monster' with Rihanna is even mightier than 'Love the Way You Lie', and the biting 'Evil Twin' - "Borderline genius who's bored of his lines, that defines the way I feel now... I might just strike first and ignore the replies" - defends his position at the head of the table. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is just as offensive, funny, bleak as its forebear, but - aside from the questionable guest stars and those derogatory comments - Eminem is brooding, in form and the rest should start taking notes again.