To round out PopMatters’ coverage of the best music of 2013, we hand things over to the artists and give them a turn at playing critic. The lists and thoughts that follow reveal some of the artists that other artists revere the most, as well as some unsung pros’ pros and heretofore unknown up-and-comers worth your time and attention, now and in the future.
The Pastels’ Stephen McRobbie
● The Focus Group, The Elektrik Karousel
● Ela Orleans, Tumult in Clouds
● My Bloody Valentine m b v
● Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day
● Bill Ryder Jones, A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart
● Mogwai, Les Revenants
● Yo La Tengo, Fade
● Plinth, Music for Smalls Lighthouse
● Jon Brooks, Shapwick
● Camera Obscura, Desire Lines
One of the most interesting and best things about music in 2013 was final confirmation that nothing was really official anymore. Important artists could release records in the middle of the night or suddenly reappear in everyone’s lives via spooky video. Most of my favourite music didn’t even feel all that finished, it had an openness and sense of future possibility about it. Maybe the idea of the intended masterpiece now belongs to another century. I think there was a lot of really great music out there and I was happy that we’d joined back in at such an interesting time.
Legendary indie-pop pioneers the Pastels made a triumphant return after a 16-year hiatus with Slow Summits (Domino), which was the #1 album on PopMatters 2013 indie-pop list.
Pattern Is Movement’s Chris Ward
James Blake, Overgrown: I completely fell in love with James the first time I saw him live. One of my favorite concerts of the year was when he played the TLA in Philly in support of Overgrown. He has a way of controlling dynamics, which creates a mood that I’ve never felt in a live context. I feel like rarely is something melancholy and loud—they seem like disparate ingredients, but when in the right hands, they create a moment of catharsis. I walked away from that show feeling physically and emotionally worn out, like a good work out. I remember thinking to myself as I drove him in the cab that seeing a show like this helps to remind me why I’ve dedicated my life to music.
Thundercat, Apocalypse: The first time I heard Thundercat on Pitchfork I was blown away. First, I haven’t heard a band/artist on Pitchfork in a long time that played that many notes! Secondly, it’s some of the dopest music to hit the internets in a long time. Honestly, it was a major influence on the Pattern is Movement record and I thank Stephen Bruner and his killer bass playing for that.
Son Lux, Lanterns: I distinctly remember being at work and streaming “Easy” for the first time. Once I heard the horn section, I placed my head down on my desk. My co-worker asked what was up—and I told him
—“I might as well fold up my drum and stop playing.” It’s like J Dilla, Sufjan Stevens and Steve Reich made a band and it’s brilliant!
Luke Temple, Good Mood Fool: I’ve always been a huge fan of Luke’s and when I heard that a member of one of my favorite bands, Glass Ghost, would be in the band, I knew I’d love the record. This record is solid from start to finish and the grooves are funky as hell.
Earl Sweatshirt, Doris: I think this record is phenomenal, however, the standout track for me is “Sunday”, featuring Frank Ocean. I must have listened to that song like 1000 times while I was on tour in Europe. It was my go to song to play right after the set and I would spin it five or six times in a row. The drums are unreal—that snare roll is one of my favorite things I’ve heard in years.
Celestial Shore, 10x: I feel in love with these guys the first time I heard “Valerie”. It’s like Don Cab, early Death Cab and Weezer had a baby and the new born is named “Valerie”. I challenge you—listen to this song and tell me if the melody doesn’t get lodged into your brain. I would find myself waking up in the morning humming this tune and I could only get it out of my head if I played the tune loudly. Watch out for these guys cause they are going to dominate the world!
Light Heat, Light Heat: Quentin Stoltzfus (ex-Mazarin) has a new project/band and it rules. The vibes run deep on this new record and it’s definitely one of my faves from this year. On top of the deep vibes and great songwriting, Quentin happens to be one of the best human beings of all time. I’d recommend buying a bottle of wine, cooking up some delicious food, and sitting by a fire and listening to this record on repeat.
William Tyler, Impossible Truth: I had the pleasure of touring with William this year and the first night he played his set, my jaw had to be picked up from the floor. He is by far one of the best guitarists I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Honestly, I love instrumental music, but I find it difficult to watch for long stretches of time due to my shitty attention span. That was NOT the case with William because he is not just a guitar virtuoso. He is an amazing songwriter as well. The themes in his songs are powerful and he weaves them together in such a strong patchwork that you can’t walk away.
Philadelphia’s Pattern Is Movement is readying a new full-length for release in early 2014.
● Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
● Radiator Hospital, Something Wild
● Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
● Ovlov, AM
● Swearin’, Surfing Strange
● Daylight, Jar
● Courtney Barnett, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
● Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
● Joanna Gruesome, Weird Sister
● Down to Nothing, Life on the James
Ann Arbor noise-pop group Pity Sex released its debut Feast of Love via Run for Cover in June 2013.
Plates of Cake
1. Endless Boogie, Long Island
2. White Fence, Cyclops Reap
3. Zachary Cale, The Blue Rider
4. Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch, Classic Glass
5. Human Eye, 4: Into Unknown
NYC indie group Plates of Cake released Teenage Evil, which premiered here on PopMatters, in March 2013, via Uninhabitable Mansions.
● Portal, Vexovoid
● Pharmakon, Abandon
● Vaz, Visiting Hours
● Roky Erickson, The Evil One (reissue)
● Cass McCombs, Big Wheel and Others
● William Tyler, Impossible Truth
Sludge-rock mainstays Pontiak are releasing their eighth album INNOCENCE via Thrill Jockey on 28 January 2014.
● Eagulls, “Nerve Ending”
● Parquet Courts, “Stoned and Starving”
● Shocking Pinks, “Not Gambling”
● Paquin, “Gunn”
● Deerhunter, “Leather Jacket II”
● Death Grips, Government Plates
● Earl Sweatshirt, “Whoa”
● Kurt Vile, “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
● Connan Mockasin, “I’m a Man to Find You”
One of the breakout bands of 2013, New Zealand’s Popstrangers released their debut Antipodes on the venerable Flying Nun label. Antipodes, which #56 on our best albums of 2013 list.