So here it is, another year down and tons of great music came out of it. I bought so many records this year that sitting down and listening to all of them again would have been quite the task. I looked through the pile of this years releases and tried to find the ones that I constantly went back to. The ones that never left the turntable or were getting constant play on my walks around town, these are the records that comprise my 2013 Top 10 list. So without further delay here it is, my Top 10 of the year (for what its worth).
10. True Widow – “Circumambulation” Relapse Records: On True Widow’s third full length, and first for metal powerhouse Relapse Records, we find the band doing more of the same Shoegaze Psychedilia by way of Doom Metal style they have come to be known for. Where doing the same thing through out each record is the kiss of death for most bands, it is what makes True Widow thrive and continue to capture attention. What other band do you know of that can successfully combine the chillingly slow speed of Codeine, the psychedelic backdrop of Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the anvil heaviness of Sleep and make it not seem that its trying to hard? Austin, Texas’ True Widow do all of these things with ease and do them well. They have made one of the years great records and yet no one is talking about it on their year end lists. The 8 songs on “Circumambulation” trudge through thick swampy regions where humidity hangs heavy and the spanish moss floats in the trees. High on LSD and full of so many emotions that they can’t convey them to you as vividly as they see them in their mind. The songs are simple in structure, but rich in beauty and atmosphere. The record feels as if it is aging as it spins on the turntable and the band is taking you on a dark journey through their version of what Texas is. Standout tracks: “S:H:S” and “I:M:O”
9. Washed Out – “Paracosm” Sub Pop Records: Ernest Greene, the man behind Washed Out’s signature sound, tried something different on his second full length for Sub Pop. While hints of bedroom day dreams and hazy summer sounds are still present on the record, he introduces more live instrumentation than before. The result is a lush sound scape that’s fits the albums floristic nature, It feels organic and full of life. It has a warm quality that is not so much reminesient of summers care free nature as it is more of springs hope and beginning of new life. The album isn’t something that blows your mind or catches you off guard like a wave in the water, but it does keep you afloat with beauty and wonder as to where Greene will take Washed Out next. Standout tracks: “It All Feels Right” and “Paracosm”
8. Pharmakon – “Abandon” Sacred Bones Records: Much like a horror movie, the debut from Margaret Chardiet’s Pharmakon, is frightening and exciting all at the same time. The album starts off with a blood curdling scream from Chardiet and from there we plunge further into a David Lynch meets Leatherface style musical hell. The album moves us along through Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell all while maintaing a musical quality that most Noise records tend to disregard. While just only 4 tracks, you can hear Margaret Chardiet pour her heart and soul out on to each of them. The record is abrasive and confrontational but also welcoming. It captures you just like that horror movie you saw when you were a kid, or that horrible car wreck you can’t turn away from. You want it to stop, you want to not look at the screen or the cars twisted mangled bodies, but you can’t pull yourself away. Fear is an emotion we have a love/hate relationship with, and this record brings it out of us and makes us deal with it. “Abandon” takes the word darkness and coats it in a thick veil of black paint, and makes the horrifying experiences in your life seem like a simple trip to the mailbox. This is the soundtrack to your darkest fears and your most terrifying nightmares. Standout tracks: “Milkweed/It Hangs Heavy” and “Crawling On Bruised Kness”
7. Chvrches – “The Bones of What You Believe” Goodbye Records/Glassnote: Listening to this record felt like a trip back to the ’80’s all while maintaing your footing in 2013. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Chvrches made one hell of a convincing and captivating time capsule of ’80’s electronic dance pop. Synth lines intertwine and drum loops pulse through the background, carving up ground for people to dance in their wake. Lauren Mayberry’s voice is strong and sweet creating melodies that are all at once seemingly familiar and fresh. This record is the soundtrack to late night basement parties filled with empty cans of cheap schwag beer and strobe lights pulsing. It is a record that gets catchier and catchier with each listen. Stand out tracks: “We Sink” and “The Mother We Share”
6. Rhye – “Woman” Republic Records: From the start the band was shrouded in mystery. Who is this? Is this new or old? Is that a man or woman singing? What everyone should have been saying was how fantastic of a debut LP Rhye had made. Comprised of producer Robin Braun and vocalist Mike Milosh, Rhye’s “Woman” is not just one of the best R&B records of the year, but one of the best all around. The opening track on the LP, “Open”, begins with a gorgeous string arrangement and Mike Miloshs’ Sade by way of Justin Vernon vocal approach, and thus the mood is set. The record creates a setting that most records of the ’70’s and early ’80’s R&B records tried to create but where they fell short, Rhye succeeds exceptionally. On “Woman” Rhye creates a mood that feels almost weightless and free of time and space. You can get lost in the songs, and the songs can get lost in you. The album is the soundtrack to a Hollywood party at dusk where everyone drinks only the finest wines and does the most expensive cocaine. However at this party no one is rich, and no one is elitist, they are they to just live life to the fullest even if only for one night. It is hard not to notice the obvious Sade influence over the group but it’s not something that makes it feel like a carbon copy or rip off. This influence makes it seems that they could have been her opening act in the early ’80’s. The two would have been perfect counter parts for one another. The response to her call all while making their own path along the boulevards of a sun bleached California backdrop. Stand out tracks: “Open” and “Shed Some Blood”
5. Their / They’re / There – “Self-Titled” Polyvinyl Records: The 6 tracks on the debut EP for Chicago’s Their / They’re / There, are not only a perfect introduction to a great group of musician’s, but are also some of the most infectious and well crafted songs their genera has seen in years. The members are all well known for their other musical endeavors but that is not what makes them special. What makes them special is what they are able to achieve as a band. Bright songs with pop hooks galore and a mathematical swing that you can move to. The songs will get stuck in your head and can remind you of summer trips to the beach, or late night skate sessions at empty parking structures. Stand out tracks: “Fit Your Life Into A Grid” and “Apocalypse (Not Right Now)”
4. Pissed Jeans – “Honeys” Sub Pop Records: On Pissed Jeans fourth full length, and third for Sub Pop, the band continues its sonic asult on the world via the Noise Rock way. Pissed Jeans do a style of music that had it’s heyday more than twenty years ago, but still sounds every bit as fresh and exciting as it did then. The songs on the album range from pummeling blasts of fury and aggression, to drawn out sluggish drones. Each track keeping you glued to the speakers to see where the band will go next, if they will all make it there together, or fall apart along the way. They have the ability to capture the energy they create in their live shows and put it on tape. This is something that most bands try to achieve but fail miserably. This record finds Pissed Jeans at their creative best and their most exciting musically. The energy of the record makes you want to start your own one-man-slam-dance pit on your bed and stage dive into your dirty laundry. Stand out tracks: “Bathroom Laughter” and “Male Gaze”
3. Disclosure – “Settle” Island Records: This record came out in June of 2013 and I totally slept on it. This is mostly due to the fact that I never really gave electronic music a chance, or even bothered to do so. I have some friends that are really into electronic music and they would point out tracks that they liked or figured I would like. One of them was a track off the debut full-length by English brothers, Guy and Howard Lawrence under the name, Disclosure. My uninformed beliefs on electronic music were way wrong, and the proof of that laid in the 14 tracks of “Settle”. Every single track on this LP is fantastic. The songs twist and turn around sharp rhythmic corners and create soft beds of R&B hooks that would make ’90’s dance artists embarrassed for even attempting. These young brothers from the U.K. created a dance record for all time. This will be the record that when ever you hear a song drop at a dance party, a night club, a rave, or where ever your at, you will yell “OOOOHHH!!” and watch the dance floor come to life like waves in an ocean. Stand out tracks: “Latch” and “Defeated No More”
2. Swearin’ – “Surfing Strange” Salinas Records: Before I had even heard a single note on this record drummer Jeff Bolt, told me it was going to be way different than their debut and that the kids might hate it. First off, fuck the kids! What do they know? And secondly, the record is different from the debut, but in an extremely good way. Their debut, while a fantastic record in it’s own right, sounded like a group of people trying to find their voice after their previous projects came to a close. You could hear where everyone was coming from on the debut, but you couldn’t hear the bands voice. “Surfing Strange” finds Swearin’ finding that voice as a band and writing a batch of songs that show just who they are as a group, and not just individuals apart of something. It’s melodic, slow building, with tension around every note, a perfect sample of what well executed Pop-Punk should sound like. These songs are more than the cliff notes in the book of Pop-Punk. They are the paragraphs themselves, they are the chapters. The more and more I listen to this record, the more it has the quality that classic records like, “24 Hour Revenge Therapy”, “Nevermind”, and “Departures and Landfalls” have. This will be a record I will continue to pull off the shelf and listen to through out my lifetime. It’s a classic. Stand out tracks: “Parts of Speech” and “Dust In The Gold Sack”
1. Queens of the Stone Age – “…Like Clockwork” Matador Records: This was the album I was most excited about in 2013. It had been 6 years since Josh Homme and companies last effort, “Era Vulgaris”, and the news surrounding this record kept the curiosity and excitement high. The result of the 6 year wait made for the best collection of songs Queens of the Stone Age have delivered since 2002’s, “Songs For the Deaf”. The record is the most vulnerable we have heard Homme and the band, and it takes us on the journey we were left out of for the last 6 years. Josh Homme’s lyrics are the most personal and intimate he has ever penned. The days of desert soaked beer busts are not over and not long forgotten. They have just taken a backseat to late night life contemplating drives on Death Valley’s Highway 190. My pick for record of the year. Stand out tracks: “If I Had A Tail” and “I Appear Missing”
I hope you enjoyed the list. See you in 2014.