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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Albums of the Year - #8: Nine Inch Nails - "Hesitation Marks"

Rating: 8.3/10



Editor's Note: Check out my earlier, more in-depth review of the album here:

Arriving half a decade after The Slip and just under four years past Nine Inch Nails' last live show, Hesitation Marks is technically a comeback record. Though the period between records wasn't nearly as lengthy as, say, the gap between My Bloody Valentine albums, Trent Reznor did declare his decade-spanning project to be over back in 2009, at least for a little while. When he eventually did decide to return as Nine Inch Nails, Reznor came back with Hesitation Marks, a lengthy, fourteen-track album full of some of the group's heaviest and most jarring tracks since the turn of the century.

When I first reviewed Hesitation Marks upon release, I gave it a rating of 7.8. As you can see above, my opinion of the album has only improved since. The standout tracks I wrote about back in September remain among the best. "The Eater of Dreams" is still relentlessly creepy, "Came Back Haunted"'s bleeps and bloops sound more cohesive and thought-out, and "Copy of A" is one of the few tracks in FIFA 14 that I haven't grown tired of yet. (For the record, "Worship You" and "We Sink" are still amazing). "Everything" made my top 20 songs of the year, thanks to its harsh production and torrential mood swings. That said, some tracks which I liked back in September, I now love in December.

"Find My Way" and its barren, industrial landscapes sounds better and better with each listen. By the time Reznor is reduced to a whisper of "I have gone through everything," you're feeling the full effect of his anguish. "Various Methods of Escape" has been a particularly excellent late-bloomer of a song. The machine-like instrumental drives the verse as the chorus is powered by bleak guitars and Reznor's resonant vocal. "Satellite" has what can nearly be described as a club beat to it, though Reznor's singing doesn't exactly incite dancing on this track.

Still, I stand by my previous statements that Hesitation Marks could've been shorter. If was forced into choosing what to cut, "Running" would probably be first to go, but after that it'd be a tough task. Pretty much every other song feels vital to the feel of the album, even if they aren't the most interesting songs on their own. This is true of many Nine Inch Nails albums, as Reznor puts a lot of effort into transitions and album flow.

2013 was a year full of plenty of big names returning with new music. My Bloody Valentine, The Strokes, and Daft Punk, all released new albums along with plenty of other high-ranking groups who may or may not be showing up later on in this countdown. Despite stiff competition, Hesitation Marks stands above many other great releases from 2013 as one of the darkest, most developed Nine Inch Nails albums yet.

Key Tracks: "Copy of A," "Came Back Haunted," "Find My Way," "Everything"



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