A Year in Music

TOP FIVE ALBUMS Yeezus, Kanye West Good Kid M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar Doris, Earl Sweatshirt 安和桥北, 宋冬野 Pure Heroine, Lorde


Unravel, björk Collect Calls, Kendrick Lamar A.D.H.D, Kendrick Lamar The Wolves, Bon Iver Constant Conversations, Passion Pit


NYC: 73 - 78 (Beck Remix), Philip Glass Unravel, björk Thinkin' About You, Frank Ocean Lucky Charm, Juicy J


La Familiar, Jay-Z BBC, Jay-Z Congratulations, MGMT


Cold Nites, How to Dress Well Soft Shock, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Doin' It Right (feat. Panda Bear), Daft Punk Skeletons, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Goooo, TNGHT 6 Foot 7 Foot, Lil Wayne Drop the Game, Flume & Chet Faker C.R.E.A.M., Wu-Tang Clan


I Am a God, Kanye West All of Kendrick Wut (5kinAndBone5), Le1f Beez In The Trap, Nicki Minaj Grown Up, Danny Brown


Blood On The Leaves, Kanye West Started From The Bottom, Drake Love Fame, Tyga Retrograde, James Blake Weightless, Washed Out Dope Song, Danny Brown Man of the Year, Schoolboy Q

Overall: Not all albums/songs from 2013. Heavy on Hip-Hop, probably should diversify for next year, but the apparent best showing for the alternative rock sound, Vampire Weekend's "Modern Vampires Of The City," which have topped all the end of year lists, just didn't work for me at all. Even Hannah Hunt (play count 9) replays at a thin emotional range for me. I think part of it is I'm becoming adverse to anything skinny post-ivy white boy in Brooklyn psyche and why I'm glad I'm in Beijing instead of the capital of hipster. Modern Vampires represents for me a shout out to a bygone era. Instead of looking forward to experimentation it's a slide back to traditional tinkering and lovelorn lyrics. It's like Holden Caulfield finally grew up and got it together and you're still not sure you want to hang out with him. The cerebral, neatly packaged aspects of Vampire Weekend is so clean cut that it attacks at the very idea of what alternative rock should be, and I had no idea I had such strong feelings against Vampire Weekend.

I haven't listened to individual tracks on Yeezus that much, but each time listening to the album on a whole has been kind of shockingly life changing, like I haven't had a cohesive experience of really _listening_ to an album for a long time. This album, in terms of its cacophonous, non-sensical narrative (lyrics? sputtering?), the embodiment of a man who's literally falling from the edge and exploding his canvas, has challenged, piqued the listener rather than sedate and agree. It's what art should be. To provoke. To reject. To awaken. I'd rather live and burn out like this than quietly trudging, making intricate patterns, but of course, not everyone can be genius. The rest of us can prattle on and worship. Also, for fuck's sake, it's 2013, I'd much rather have the discourse dictated by a black man than some white boys (wow, who knew I had all this hate).

Kendrick is a personal favorite. The man singlehandedly tops the play counts in my playlist, and if we were spinning records Good Kid M.A.A.D City is probably on its last run. In fact, I'm pretty much sure I've overplayed this album to the point of nausea. It's less sublime than at a more reasonable play count, but Kendrick represents a nimble, smart, honest, self-reflective type of music that is just so taut that you can't help to marvel at every syllable. Plus you can't help but to replay because production is good and Kendrick, who seems so mild-mannered, so unassuming even, is a chameleon and real performer. In one track he's a desperate kid in jail pleading with his mama, pleading with life, in another he conjures MLK and hails new lifestyle. He is at once a towering figure and yet small and nimble. He's general and a soldier. Also I just find him undeniably sexy. Rhymes like witchcraft. Nothing sexier than that.

This is the year of prodigies, and we should be so blessed that the Internet has allowed voices like Earl Sweatshirt, Gevi Tavinson, and Lorde out. I've always found teenage voices one of the most intriguing point of views, partly because my own teenage years were so full of internal raging and passions. Unlike most 14-year-olds though, these three kids, not all musicians, are precocious to a level that puts the rest of us to shame, and yet still are able to retain a timber of honesty in their voices. Earl Sweatshirt, with all his hums, nums, and refs to his father, relationships, has problems like we all do, but is able to narrate them like a ponderous prophet, half poet, half humanity. I dig. Lorde, well, Lorde is actually just Katniss in real life, so she gets a shout out.

The lone Chinese voice on my list, 宋冬野, it's pretty sad. I feel like I'm losing a piece of my identity if I lose indie Chinese music, so next year I'm going to have to pick it up. 宋冬野 represents everything that I find endearing about the folk-rock-indie music scene that recalls all the cool pieces of my childhood. That's right, the only time I've ever felt cool as a kid was not getting into Japanese fashion, but listening to Chinese rock n' roll was a real identity awakening and a very honest way of reconnecting with the motherland. So shout out to 宋冬野 and his 安和桥北. All I need to hear is a "北五环“ for a heartbreaking moment. Nothing touches me quite like talking in Chinese, speaking Chinese, and hence, listening to Chinese.

It's why I'm in China, kids. It's why I wake up everyday with excitement beneath my toes and with the regained conviction that I'm exactly where I need to be. Jin says, I envy your sense of self, of knowing what you need to be. Most people find careers in their life, but I guess I'm lucky that my only sense of direction was China. I almost don't care what I do here. As long as I can witness the mess of changes, work hard, and have these melodic moments where just being here makes me want to jump and shout.

Life is only so simple.