One thing we've learned from living in the post-Wu-Tang hip-hop world is that it's possible for everyone to be one with the Wu, an extended-family vibe (according to its de facto leader, RZA) meant to carry on the group's legacy after its original large membership has fallen away. A$AP Rocky's swaggering, Southern-inspired A$AP Mob has taken the charge, run with it, and found itself with nearly countless people with A$AP in their monikers. Rocky may lead this bunch, but in this year's Trap Lord, one of rap's best of 2013, A$AP Ferg broke out a somber, smooth, diabolically debonair delivery. Throughout Trap Lord, the deep-voiced Ferg personifies thug and lover - sometimes at once - throughout, touching on drugs ("Cocaine Castle"), romance, and religion ("Lord") with deep grooves and subtly inventive samples behind him. And now Ferg's released a remix of "Shabba," with the tune's rough-voiced namesake Shabba Ranks, and their pal Busta Rhymes, doing their righteous reggae best for 2013's finest single. Beat that, non-A$APs of the world!
- A.D. Amorosi
The Brooklyn quintet Lucius knows its pop history and uses it to maximize hook-happy pleasures. Built around the close harmonies of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, the Berklee College of Music voice majors who also sang on the recent debut from San Fermin, Lucius at times recalls contemporary girl-group obsessives such as Tennis and Cults. Tracks like the dense "Turn It Around," the jaunty "Wildewoman," and the dramatic "How Loud Your Heart Gets" are among the strongest on their debut album. But while using enough electronic beats, looped orchestrations, and outsized choruses to keep its nostalgia in check, Lucius also ventures into understated folk ("Two of Us on the Run"), power-pop balladry ("Don't Just Sit There"), and old-time pop waltzes ("Monsters"). Although consistently fun, the album has a bit of an identity crisis, so it will be revealing to hear how it comes together when the group plays World Cafe Live on Friday.
- Steve Klinge
London songwriter Archy Marshall is only 19, but as King Krule he already sings as if he's just washed down a mouthful of gravel with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Tom Waits comes to mind, as does Joe Strummer, and though Marshall by no means has earned his place in those illustrious gentlemen's exalted company, he shows plenty of promise on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his 2013 full-length debut album. It's a moody, gnarled affair that displays a precocious knowledge of dub and a candlelit affection for Chet Baker-style doomed romance on "Baby Blue." It portends good things for the gangly redhead, who claims to have written 1,000 songs already.
- Dan DeLuca