Locrian, Willy Mason, and more
Locrian’s Terence Hannum
Ulcerate, Vermis: This is probably the most intense metal album of 2013 for me. It never gets boring, and just always captures my interest with the tempo changes, melodicism, and sheer brutality. I almost forget it’s a metal album, it is a great complex record. Period.
Elaine Radigue, Adnos I-III: OK, so it’s a reissue from decades ago but it is so extreme and intense of a synthesizer album, three CDs, each an hour-long synthetic drone. Just put it on and zone, you’ll start hearing things as it gradually shifts. That was her intent when she made these, to focus you and make you listen between notes. And it does get accomplished.
Hair Police, Mercurial Rites: Noise should feel threatening, and there’s just something so uncompromising about this album. Harsh and haunted. Just necessary.
Thomas Dinger, Für Mich: In my endless search for German rock I obviously hold up La Dusseldorf as an excellent group. Well, one of the brother’s had to bail and he made this “For Me”, for himself. And it shows, spacey and ambient—rhythmic and strange, in other words, what it should be. A gem.
Pharmakon, Abandon: I knew the first time I saw Margaret play that what she was doing was special—bleak, in your face, and relentless, and it’s been exciting to see people respond to what she has crafted over the years. I honestly think this is the noise album of 2013 and Abandon comes across as a force of nature.
Senking, Capsize Recovery: I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for design, and [the label] Raster-Noton has some of my favorite record packaging and visual design out there. Minimal and austere, like it came from some sans-serif planet. Thankfully, the music lives up to the design. Senking’s recent is bleak, spectral, almost dubstep—when that meant more Burial atmospheres then brodowns – heaviness.
Okkyung Lee, Ghil: It’s just a cello, no effects. It scrapes your ears, it harmonizes with itself; this record is so surprising and dynamic as tracks slip into overtones and face shredding abrasion. Lovely.
Hive Mind, Beneath Triangle and Crescent: I’ve been following Hive Mind for a long time and to hear this outright melodicism right off of the bat is brilliant and beautiful, dusty and gnarled notes through veils of synthesizer noise. Elegies to some old world where the machines died.
Autre Ne Veux, Anxiety: I know this one is my weird addition, but it’s such an unexpected record, every turn, every sound and sample is just surprising and engaging. I think it is a weird and bold album that has had a ton of listens from me. I think of this video where Arthur plays two of the tracks on a piano by himself and you hear the core of it all stripped of the seemingly endless, piled-on, ADHD collage to assure you this is solid from the get-go. Though all the extras only enforce how creative and inventive the album is.
Vaura, The Missing: I did the artwork for this, but before I did the artwork, I had to listen to the album. This is seriously a great rock record with these interesting metal flourishes. Brooding and hook-laden, it is a solid record. Vaura were criminally ignored from many year-end lists last go around, so I want to remedy it now.
Black metal experimentalists Locrian returned in June 2013 with their album Return to Annihilation (Relapse).
Gavin Rhodes (guitar, songwriter):
Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze: The best guitar album of the year for me. I love that it starts with a nine-minute song—no one does that anymore. Major nods to Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young make this the perfect soundtrack for a long road trip.
Johnny Marr, The Messenger: Who knew that Johnny Marr is a great singer too? That’s just not fair now, Johnny—you’re already a guitar god. Another great guitar album that is full of immense tone and gigantic hooks. Surprisingly slept on too, considering he’s an absolute Britpop ICON.
Sad Baby Wolf, Electric Sounds: SBW are our friends from back in the day growing up in Albuquerque. Two of them used to be in the Shins, which should be reason enough to give this a listen. Put it on and get transfixed by glorious, shimmery, reverb-drenched shoegaze.
Dean Perry (bass):
Kendrick Lamar, good kid, M.A.A.D. city: From 2012, but really got into it this year. This record completely revitalized my love for hip-hop. That fateful day when a pal told me, smiling knowingly, that it was “like, real, REAL good”, my several-years-long boredom with popular rap vanished. There is clearly something potent in the combination of the young-yet-experimental stylings of Lamar, vintage Dr. Dre (and similar) production, and tried-and-true gang youth lyrics that just works. Lamar went from someone I didn’t care about because he was a rapper, to my FAVORITE rapper, in about three rotations.
Greg Nelson (vox/guitar):
Jim James, Regions of Light and Sound of God
Local Natives, Hummingbird
Shows of the year were seeing Mavis Staples twice. Of course, I knew the Staple Singers classics, but seeing a 74-year-old woman with two bad knees perform as she did was amazing. Recently discovered her collaborations with Bob Dylan and Prince—the full catalog is incredible.
Brooklyn’s Lightouts released their debut full-length Want in 2013.
Lord Dying’s Erik Olson
Portal, Vexovoid: This album is so dark and fucked, and still sounds like a nightmare through a wind tunnel like their other albums, but there is actually so much more under the surface of this one. Upon repeated listens, you hear the technical wizardy and true musicianship that truly is Portal.
SubRosa, More Constant Than the Gods: They have moved forward. You already loved them if you had any taste.
Inter Arma, Sky Burial: This album is a genre bender, it is perfect and challenging in so many ways. They are even better live. If you haven’t seen them, you are fucking up.
Ramming Speed, Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die: This album fucking kills. It is unrelenting. I love these boys and you should too.
Red Fang, Whales and Leeches: Duh.
Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unlseashed: These guys have been punishing people from NOLA to Australia! They fucking rule and won’t stop.
Windhand, Soma: Haunting, beautiful, so good. You will see them soon.
Toxic Holocaust, Chemistry of Consciousness: A little more punk than the last one, but fucking flawless. Just like you’d expect from a Toxic album.
Portland’s Lord Dying came up with its debut album Summon the Faithless (Relapse) in July 2013.
2013 in music was about picking up the pieces and carrying on. The rule book is gone, careers don’t have the same predictable arc, and genres are so fragmented they are becoming one again. So writers and musicians are doing the only thing that makes sense—to keep working and do the best work they can. And they are.
Great albums from MGMT and Arcade Fire despite the hype and backlash and noise. J. Cole knows he let Nas down, but he’s still training even in disgrace of the master.
Kanye West’s public persona has gotten so overblown that his records have broken off and become planets of their own with separate gravity fields, like his new album, which is dark and cohesive and moving.
New and exciting sounds from James Blake, Laura Marling, Haim, Jake Bugg, Tyler, the Creator, and Frightened Rabbit.
Apocalypse is big in the movies and also in music this year. Deltron 3030 have returned to save us from extinction at our own hands. Killah Priest is one step ahead preparing for the following metaphysical rebirth.
Rhythm is good in 2013—computers and synthesizers are being coaxed into ever newer and more exciting positions of stimulation, while Dr. Dog and their old school apparati are swinging like a bobble head on the dash of a Cadillac.
Miley Cyrus is trying some new things…in her “Wrecking Ball” video, she is America crying over it’s foreign policy failures. Very clever.
The Clash are treating us to an audio tour of their history and times in their own words, lest we forget what has become before this time in which we are now becoming.
Some of the best popular songwriters of all time put albums out this year: Willie Nelson, Elton John, and Paul McCartney.
Boards of Canada are back. Snoop Lion is born.
What else is there to do? “You do what you love—or you get arrested.”—Lou Reed, 1942-2013
Lo-fi singer-songwriter Willy Mason released Carry On on Communion in August 2013.