The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, PUP, and more
Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Clint Maedgen
M.I.A. Matangi: I’m drawn to her work because it doesn’t sound like everything else out there. I love listening to it at low volume on my phone as I go to sleep, softly churning like strange machinery.
Bombino, Nomad: I was lucky enough to see them perform at a bowling alley in Nashville. The whole night felt like 1981, but with a new exotic soundtrack.
Jim James, Regions of Light and Sound of God: This is such a beautiful escape, especially on vinyl. Makes me feel like I’m on a spacecraft, weightless and slowly spinning…
Atoms for Peace, Amok: This album weaves quite a spell. I love listening to it on headphones, especially when in motion.
Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait: I got this the day it came out. It’s like being in the room as some of my favorite Dylan tunes are being born.
The venerable New Orleans institution the Preservation Hall Jazz Band released That’s It (Sony Legacy), its first album consisting solely of original compositions in its half-century, in July 2013; Clint Maedgen (saxophone and vocals) is also known as leader of multimedia alt-cabaret group the New Orleans Bingo! Show.
Promised Land Sound
● Steve Gunn, Time Off
● Chris Forsyth, Solar Motel
● Ty Segall, Sleeper
● Daniel Bachman, Jesus I’m a Sinner
● Those Darlins, Blur the Line
● Angel Olsen, “Sleepwalker”
● Spacin’, Deep Thuds
● William Tyler, Impossible Truth
● Mac DeMarco, 2
● Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
● Daniel Romano, Come Cry with Me
Nashville’s Promised Land Sound released a self-titled album on Paradise of Bachelors in September 2013.
In alphabetical order:
● Banque Allemande, Willst du Chinese sein musst du die ekligen Sachen essen
● Danny Brown, Old
● Human Eye, 4: Into Unknown
● Pere Ubu, Lady from Shanghai
● Shells, In a Cloud
● Spray Paint, Spray Paint and Rodeo Songs
● Smelly Tongues, Slack Heep
● Terrible Twos, Horror Vacui
● Zoos of Berlin, Lucifer in the Rain
Protomartyr released No Passion All Technique (Urinal Cake) in March 2013 and contributed the track “French Poet” to Sub Pop 1000.
KEN mode, Entrench: Awesome soundtrack to post-tour angst. Start a moshpit in your kitchen—punch your dad in the face.
Diarrhea Planet, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams: If the Ramones and Journey had a brilliant and alcoholic love child, this would probably be it.
The Darcys, Warring: Frosty soundscapes bleed into falsetto choruses; booming drums, aching synths, punishing bass, angular guitars; nods to hip-hop and electro, but rock at heart.
PKEW PKEW PKEW (gunshots), Glory Days: This record makes me want to get totally wasted with all my friends, puke, drink some more, then pass out half-naked on my parents front lawn.
Hollerado, White Paint: Painfully smart, carefully considered rock ‘n’ roll. Thinky enough for the thinky crowd, party enough for the party crowd.
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City: You know that guy you know who is really smart, and happy to shove it down everyone’s throat, but then he gets a girlfriend who chills him out and makes him a lot easier to hang with? Vampire Weekend finally got a girlfriend.
FIDLAR, FIDLAR: Songs about girls, surfing, and getting fucked up. The most fun record of the year. I’m listening to it now. I’m gonna get high and trash my bedroom.
Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork: Dude dies for a second and then turns around and makes this? Crazy. Moody, badass, and punishing riffage.
Killer Mike & El-P, Run the Jewels: This is the record for everyone who’s sick of the mindless materialism of the rap mainstream. Packed with great rhymes and huge beats from two of the best in the game.
The So So Glos, Blowout: This is what good pop-punk sounds like. Forget everything else.
Toronto noise-rockers PUP released their self-titled debut in Canada in October 2013; PUP’s “Reservoir” was picked as 2013’s top video in PopMatters’ list of best music videos.
Zac Ciancaglini (drums):
Ten favorable moments of the year, in no order:
1. Recording ZILin upstate NY in a cabin and getting snowed in.
2. Having someone at a show buy a 7” vinyl and then ask how to fit that in her CD player.
3. Reaching our Kickstarter goal and funding our first LP independently.
4. Getting a ‘50s Slingerland drum set.
5. Mixing in the legendary Magic Shop Studios with Brian Thorn.
6. Record release show at Cake Shop.
7. Eating the fried chicken at Jimmy’s Diner.
8. Having premieres for our singles with USA Today and Nylon.
9. Getting drunk at Pete’s Candy Store and then stumbling into our rehearsal space.
10. Making a music video out of stuff found on the street/garbage.
Gabe Wilhelm (bass, vocals):
● I taught my girlfriend how to play ukelele. She knows a few songs off of The Basement Tapes and some Buddy Holly and Elvis.
That movie A Band Called Death was pretty good. Like a lot of people, I was surprised at how good and ahead of their time their music was, considering their relative obscurity. Detroit must’ve been a hell of a place to be a band in the early ‘70s.
I liked Marc Maron’s interview with Mel Brooks. Brooks is still as funny as ever. And his memory of small details of things that happened decades ago is impressive. Maron’s interview with John Cale was also good. He had stories of him and Reed busking in the early days. And how Reed would say incredibly rude things to strangers. Nick Cave’s story of writing a sequel to Gladiator is one of the funniest things I’ve heard all year.
I saw my brother get married in Aruba. And a good friend of mine got married too, and now they have a baby on the way.
I “saw” a UFO. That’s all I can say about it right now. But yeah…that happened.
The absolute best part of 2013, though, was recording our album ZIL at Applehead Studios in Woodstock. It’s a converted cabin. Rick Danko’s cabin, actually. The land is beautiful. They have goats, llamas, horses, and a 600-pund pig. We slept there. We got snowed in. We made a record.
Raccoon Fighter put out its debut ZIL in October 2013 on Papercut.
2013 was a wild year. For starters, it was not a palindromic year, which is always weird. Also, that meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk and we got a cool new pope. In addition, there was music, some of which ended up inside our ears. Here are the bands we felt best about in 2013. (Not counting our beloved label buds’ new releases - Sat. Nite Duets’ Electric Manland, Plates of Cake’s Teenage Evil, and Dead Stars, High Gain.)
● Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Landmark: Amazingly kind-friend generousness.
● Krill, Lucky Leaves: We would krill for a new release from them in 2014.
● Porches, Slow Dance in the Cosmos: Emotions. Growing up. Reality.
● Ovlov, AM: Imagine driving a Volvo backwards uphill in a snowstorm. Holy shit, you’re going off the road!!!
● Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana: We always read their Facebook status updates.
● Nowearman, Kumamoto Special Edition: Tightly coiled like a squid about to pounce on your face and make love to you.
● Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze: Great hair, excellent sneakers, superb mural.
● Polvo, Siberia: Imagine driving an Ovlov upside-down into space. Holy shit you’re heading into the sun!!!
● My Bloody Valentine, m b v: Duh.
In 2013, NYC alt-rock revivalists Radical Dads released Rapid Reality (Uninhabitable Mansions), which premiered on PopMatters.
Red Fang’s Aaron Beam
I decided to keep my list short to focus on three bands/albums/tracks that were my greatest sources of inspiration in 2013. I want people to know about and support these bands so they continue to create great music, but I also hope none of them ever become too popular. Partly that’s because I am selfish and want them all to myself, but also because too much success can sometimes taint the truly adventurous spirit. All these bands push boundaries, and do things I can’t quite explain. That is the essence of what is inspiring to me. Each of these contains some element that was totally unexpected, and has made me want to be a better musician. Every one of these bands has given me goose pimples. In 2013, at 40 years old, I feel like I have rediscovered music, and I owe it to these bands, all of whom I consider friends. Thank you, friends.
1. Helms Alee, Not Dot: Remember those Hair Club for Men ads in the ‘80s? Well, I love Helms Alee so much, that I am trying to become a member. I have weaseled my way into three songs on their set, and hope to sneak inside one of their guitar cabinets and pop out periodically to randomly appear with them from now until forever. I got a copy of their upcoming Sleepwalking Sailors and it is already on the 2014 year-end list I am writing right now. Helms Alee have created their own world—from their self-referential song titles to the way they construct songs around each of their inimitable personalities. The balance they have struck between frailty and strength creates a drama that can only be matched by life itself. This is a beautiful record by a beautiful band.
2. Federation X, We Do What We Must; specific track, “Sight on Demand”: Ha, another band I managed to fool into letting me sit in with. Federation X also seems to defy description, but in my weird brain, they are like a super badass rock version of Otis Redding. They build upon granite solid, often completely weird, unthought-of grooves, until they have been squeezed of every ounce of potential. Then they break your heart with a love song. I thought nothing could match their “breakout hit” song “Hatchetman”, but where that song had a compelling groove, it came more from the head. This album comes straight from the heart, and it proves again that heart beats head.
3. Big Business, Battlefields Forever; specific track, “Heavy Shoes”: This is a mammoth album. The last three tracks will destroy you. If you don’t already know Big Business, they are a force to be reckoned with. I don’t know what happened, but when I heard this record, I almost started crying. Partly because of a welling of pride I felt for Jared, Coady, and Scott for creating something of such force, but also because there is a sadness pouring out of this record that I have not heard from many other bands this heavy. Heavy music usually focuses on anger, but this record does not. Nice work, fellas.
Red Fang released Whales and Leeches on Relapse in October 2013.
Ringworm’s Human Furnace
Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork: In my opinion, Queens took their biggest step into the “mainstream” yet with this record, but did it with style and grace. Clockwork is a very well conceived, well executed and highly addictive record. Hats off!!
Motorhead, Aftershock: Yet again, Motorhead put out another blast of high volume, face melting rock ‘n’ roll, as only they can do. This time, they mixed in some “older”-era sounding elements. Motorhead takes ANY band to school. So take some notes young rockers and see if you got the stones to do what Motorhead has done for almost 40 fucking years. It’s highly fucking doubtful. They are MOTORHEAD and they play ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. HAIL LEMMY.
Black Sabbath, 13: So, here we are at the tail end of 2013 AD and who’da thunk that Black Sabbath would on my “best of” list. Forty-three years after they released, what may be, one of the best debut albums of all time, they release 13. Many things can be said about this record. I’ve heard negative things and I’ve heard positive things. But for me, I think this record smokes. If you say that Sabbath ripped off Sabbath, you might be right, but who fucking cares. These tunes are 100% pure SABBATH. Iommi still shreds and Geezer’s bass tone makes you want to shit your pants. Rick Rubin was a way with getting bands to capture some of their ancient sounds, doesn’t he? My only complaint is that Bill Ward isn’t on this record, as you can almost surely bet that this will be Sabbath’s final studio record and it would have been nice to see all four find a way to come together and go out as complete group. But that’s life. The fill-in Brad Wilk does a good job on drums, so I can let it pass, reluctantly. Sure, Ozzy doesn’t have the same pipes as he did over 40 years ago, neither would you. But guess what? He’s OZZY and you’re not. So, not that I wish Ward, Iommi OR Ozzy to call it quits on anything musically (well maybe Ozzy, ha!), but if this IS to be the final record from Black Sabbath, it’s truly a fitting and classy way to end a long and monstrously successful career. Good job, Black Sabbath! You guys did pretty good for a bunch of long-haired weirdos from Birmingham.
Cleveland hardcore act Ringworm put out the EP Bleed (Relapse) in September 2013 and will be releasing a new LP, Hammer of the Witch, in Spring 2014.
Kenny Roby (6 String Drag)
The National, Trouble Will Find Me: I really like the National. They strike that dark nerve in me. They let me know everything might not be alright. Like a good Cormac McCarthy novel.
Charles Bradley, Victim of Love: Like with Ted Hawkins, it’s hard to separate the story from the songs. But both of them are the real deal. Putting their stories out there blood, piss and all.
Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap: I guess he really hasn’t made an official record this year? Just mixtapes. But my son turned me onto him and he is one of the better MCs out their in my opinion. Really dig his style.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Cave, Ron Sexsmith, Paul McCartney—these are all good records but I haven’t truly sunk my teeth into them yet. These guys are so good, though that is like saying, “Which teams will do well this year…besides the Yankees and Red Sox?”
And last I have to mention Snoop Lion. That movie and record are the most strange and in some ways “rock ‘n’ roll” releases in 2013. You almost can’t describe how weird the whole thing is. I love it.
Founder of 6 String Drag, North Carolina-based singer-songwriter Kenny Roby released Memories & Birds in April 2013.