[1 January 2014]
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
● 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.
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.
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.
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.
Music, in no particular order:
● Leonard Cohen, Death of a Ladies’ Man: The drum sound they got on the title track is unmatched, the kick drum sounds like the dying heart beat of the ladies’ man himself.
● The Band, The Band
● Sun City Girls, Torch of the Mystics: We may not be a band if it wasn’t for this band and particularly this album. It turns long desert drives into not so long and beautiful desert drives.
● Fela Kuti & Egypt 80, Live in Detroit 1986: Greatest live album, without a doubt.
● Thelonious Monk, It’s Monk’s Time: “Stuffy Turkey” drum solo is bananas.
● Neil Young, After the Gold Rush: On the Beach is really weird and cool too.
● Steely Dan, Aja: It’s like drummer ear porn, and I’m not even sure I know what that means.
● Bill Callahan, Dream River: This entire album is fantastic, but even if you purchased it just for the guitar line/tone in the song “Ride My Arrow”, it’d be well worth it.
● Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings: Like…duh.
● Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Bluejeans and Moonbeams: The song “Observatory Crest” sounds like it was written by David Lynch for Tom Waits to sing, if that makes sense…it does if you listen to it.
Movies, in no particular order:
● The Shining
● There Will Be Blood
● The Exorcist
● Pumpkin Head (yes, it’s good)
● Godfather Trilogy (even Part 3)
● Baraka (on weed)
● Raising Arizona
● Dial M for Murder
● What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Seattle psychedelic group Rose Windows released its debut full-length The Sun Dogs on Sub Pop in June 2013.
1. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
2. Arcade Fire, Reflektor
3. Haim, Days Are Gone
4. Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time
5. The 1975, The 1975
6. The Neighborhood, I Love You
7. Paul McCartney, New
8. Bastille, Bad Blood
9. Grouplove, Spreading Rumours
10. Kanye West, Yeezus
11. Local Natives, Hummingbird
12. Lorde, Pure Heroine
13. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
14. Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull
15. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
1. The Colourist, Lido
2. American Authors, American Authors
3. X Ambassadors, Love Songs, Drugs Songs
Louisiana electro-pop outfit Royal Teeth put out Glow via Dangerbird in 2013.
Aside from my fingers, then toes, my top ten favorite things of 2013 undoubtedly are ten of the 38 songs I was fortunate enough to see Paul McCartney perform on June 8th, 2013. Due to some extraordinarily fortuitous and ultimately uninteresting relationships, I was able to get backstage and the front row of the stands for this concert. My knees were already in shake-at-will mode from actively avoiding staring backstage at king of the elves Paul Simon, accompanier of the only non-white audience members—his security—Michael Bloomberg, Lorne Michaels, and Steve Buscemi. It’s surprising enough to be in the same room with people you’ve seen shrunken down inside your television, but once a Beatle shows up it all crumbles to dust. This was honest to goodness one of the most incredible live performances I’ve ever seen. There was no RAM and no McCartney II because he doesn’t care what you, me, or the 200 other weirdos think who pretend that sometimes the Beatles weren’t the best ever.
My top ten and the inside of my brain at the time:
1. “Eight Days A Week”: The opening song. Holy moly, this is real. And he’s still got it. The band is harmonizing damn well (aka, not the Beatles, but good enough, an acceptance one must make to truly feel the magic as this all goes down). This is the real deal. He’s alive and I could hit him with a rock if I wanted. If my aim was good enough. Neither are true, luckily. Holy moly, he’s playing the Hofner, he’s the rock ‘n’ roll delivery man in the flesh in the room.
2. “Maybe I’m Amazed”: He’s on the grand piano. Towards the back of the stage, next to Abe Laboriel Jr., his trusty drummer and obvious best friend. He’s pounding those keys, breaking a sweat that any of us would break except he’s exponentially older and 100% more a Beatle. Paul McCartney’s voice is there, it never left, and I’ve never heard it. That last verse hits and the guitarist is nailing that chicken scratch from the recording. Harmony update: this band can sing so well together. McCartney is flipping out on the piano and it feels too good to be true.
3. “Blackbird”: When I learned guitar, this was one of the first songs my dad taught me. And now Paul McCarntey is 50 feet above me on some some sort of British Stage Elevator that brings him almost to the ceiling of the Barclays Center to perform this alone on acoustic guitar. The first (and maybe only) moment of the set where Paul ditched the four other dweebs to drop some chills on us from up on high.
4. “Your Mother Should Know”: This is one of a few songs never performed live before this tour. The video from the movie is projected behind the band in huge, syncing up the performance. It’s all sweetness watching the mop tops be goofy and young. This song sounds so British. And it hits you and me right in the cockles of our heart.
5. “Lady Madonna”: A smaller honky tonk console piano painted psychedelic is rolled to the front of the stage. The song bounces the way it has to and, as if there were any doubts before, it has become completely apparent that no song is off limits. I’m dancing and so are thousands of people older than my parents throughout the arena.
6. “Lovely Rita Meter Maid”: Another song that was never before performed live until this tour. These songs are special more than most because every instrument is its own chorus. You can sing along with the bass guitar, and you would on this song, and we did, because the dude is nailing it. AHHHHHHHHHHHH
7. “Let It Be”: DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
8. “Live and Let Die”: I have a soft spot for this song and it falls 29th in the setlist. By this point the absurd has happened: my friend and I have become so accustomed to being at a Paul McCartney concert that we’re talking to each other, over the intro to “Live and Let Die”. At least we weren’t staring at our phones. But still. We were making some dumb joke about some dumb thing, and then the chorus hits…“Live and let die”...BLAM!!!!! That downbeat, that hits so hard on the recording and on my radio in my parents’ car when I’m 15, is enforced by many fire cannons shooting upwards in the front and the back of the stage. I was faced away from the stage at this moment, and was close enough to believe that we were under attack by the British for stealing their prized export and presumably planning to dump him into Boston Harbor after the show. I’m certain I’ve lost some hearing and had the next five years of hiccups frighted out of me by these fire canons.
9. “Helter Skelter”: After some time off of the bass (there was a whole lotta acoustic guitar in the middle, come ON guys), the man is back on it center stage and pulling so hard as he barks this jam out. I wish everyone in the world could be steamrolled by what is happening now.
10. “Golden Slumbers” / “Carry That Weight” / “The End”: Closing his second encore and the show. The man doesn’t pause to drink water, or drain his knee, or whatever healthy things a man his age should be doing. Paul McCartney isn’t dead. Paul McCartney is an alien. His spaceship dropped him off at Stonehenge, to give earthlings something to cry about. Punishing us with beautiful melodies and rock ‘n’ roll. I couldn’t sing along louder if I tried. That drum break in “The End”...my favorite…here it comes…Abe….ABBBBBBEEE!!!!!!! Fuck fuck fuck, it’s incredibly it happened this song, all these songs, this man, thank you circumstance, thank you Brooklyn citizens who’s houses were snatched from them to build the Barclays Center, thank you global banking system for allowing the Barclays company to exist, thank you luck for Paul McCartney being alive on Earth, thank you thank you thank you. IS EQUAL TO THE LOOOOOVE YOU MAAAAAAAKE.
Adam Schatz kept himself busy in 2013, with Man Man releasing a new full-length On Oni Pond (Anti-) in September and Father Figures coming out with the “Pirahna Plant” single in August.
Most played albums:
● Kanye West, Yeezus
● Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
● Roomrunner, Ideal Cities
● Squarehead, Respect
● Drake, Nothing Was the Same
● The Men, New Moon
● Pusha T, My Name Is My Name
● Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Day
● White Fence, Cyclops Reap
● Diarrhea Planet, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
Also really liked the Carnivores, Thee Oh Sees, the Julie Ruin and all 500 Ty Segall records.
● Sleepies, More Humans
● Sleeping Bag and Rozwell Kid Dreamboats
● Palehound, Bent Nail
● Double Dagger, 333
● Young Adults, Born in ‘91
Cool Song: Porches, “Headsgiving”
Best Show: Ava Luna as Tom Tom Club on Halloween at Shea Stadium.
Garage rockers Shark? released the album Savior on Old Flame in October 2013.
● The Act of Killing documentary film
● Kevin Kline, off-book, reprising the Pirate King at a staged reading of The Pirates of Penzance
● Laurie Anderson’s farewell to Lou Reed
● Bells from the Deep, Herzog documentary about “faith and superstition in Russia”
● Unreleased and in-progress recordings by Sharon Van Etten, David Thomas Broughton, and Jesca Hoop
● Collaborating with Clinic, Baptist Generals, Jamie Stewart, Kahn and Selesnick, and Branan Edgens
● All those free gifts embossed with “LOSER” at the Sub Pop Jubilee (pencils? gumballs? chocolate?)
● Brian Reitzell’s secret audio laboratory and Old Style Guitars in Los Angeles
● The Forest Unseen by David Haskell
● The Emperor, Shah of Shahs, and The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinki
● Tsegue Maryam Guebrou’s beautiful, rolling, somnolent piano as recorded on Ethiopiques 21
● Middle Santiam Wilderness in Oregon
Shearwater recently came out with a full-length album of covers titled Fellow Travelers (Sub Pop) in November.
● My Bloody Valentine, m b v
● Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
● Gross Ghost, Public Housing
● Bill Callahan, Dream River
● Future Bible Heroes, Partygoing
● Denison Witmer, Denison Witmer
● Foreign Fields, Anywhere But Where I Am
● Junip, Junip
● Andrew Colberg, Minds Hits
● MRENC, All Around Surround
Described as the “female Mark Kozelek”, Tracy Shedd released Arizona (New Granada) in November 2013.
Royal Forest, Spillway: Friends and fellow Austinites hitting their stride with a great record full of odd discoveries under an art-pop umbrella.
Bill Callahan, Dream River: Beautifully delivered, well-paced, superbly articulate piece of work that makes you understand how music is a wondrous thing.
Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze: My first listen to this record was while driving out west Texas to the lake. Sun was bright, day was hot and lazy, and Vile just seem to put everything in perspective for me. What a great feeling!
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, ii: So simple yet so dense and full of surprise. The production is outstanding in that it creates a sonic world you can travel at length. Warm and wild.
Nat Baldwin, Dome Branches: Labelmate Nat Baldwin is a really adventurous songwriter. Amazing voice, great grooves abound on Dome Branches. Originally released in ‘07, this version labeled “demos” has a great playful urgency. Dig in and dig it!
Abram Shook (Shearwater) is preparing to release his solo debut Sun Marquee (Western Vinyl) on 21 January 2014.
● Rhye, Woman
● Majical Clouds, Impersonator
● Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
● Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
● Haim, Days Are Gone
● Caveman, Caveman
● St. Lucia, When the Night
● Pure Bathing Culture, Moon Tides
● Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
● Ducktails, The Flower Lane
New York indie act Ski Lodge put out its first full-length, Big Heart, in August 2013 on Dovecote.
1. Joey Bada$$, “Unorthodox”
2. Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
3. Sky Ferreira, “Lost in My Bedroom”
4. Nirvana, In Utero reissue
5. Wu Block
6. Krill, Lucky Leaves
7. Heeney demos
8. Carmen demos
9. New Desaparecidos tracks
10. Diarrhea Planet, “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” (Kiss cover)
NYC power-punk quartet the So So Glos released their latest album Blowout (Shea Stadium) in April 2013.
1. Roman Candle, Debris
2. Jonathan Wilson, Fanfare
3. Cass McCombs, Big Wheel and Others
4. Jim Ford, Demolition Expert
5. Andy Shauf, The Bearer of Bad News
L.A. indie act Soft Swells released the Lifeboats EP in July 2013.
Spotlight Kid has had an emotionally mixed year putting together the next album recording and mixing with Todd Howe from the Boxer Rebellion. Members have come and gone but the band is settled and ready to smash 2014. 2013 musically for us was best represented with albums by:
● Hookworms, Pearl Mystics
● The Haxan Cloak, Excavation
● David lynch, The Big Dream
● London Grammar, If You Wait
● Night Marchers, Allez Allez
● Haim, Days Are Gone
● The Bronx, The Bronx
● Joanna Gruesome, Weird Sister
● Labels such as: Tri-angle & Saint Marie
● Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD
● Alan McGee’s autobiography.
Spotlight Kid is readying a new album Ten Thousand Hours (Saint Marie) to come out in March 2014.
Of course we like showering our favorite bands with public props, but we wanted to share some of our top tour discoveries of the year, too. If you’re on tour in a band or road-tripping with your fam, you might want to work these finds into your route. They’re not all secret spots, but they’re all worth a stop.
Top tour food discoveries of 2013:
● Bida Saigon (Knoxville, TN): pork liver bánh mì sandwiches
● Bergeron’s (Shreveport, LA): fried boudin balls, cracklins, smoked boudin
● Louie Mueller BBQ (Taylor, TX): beef rib
● Honorable mention: Ken-Tex BBQ (Shelbyville, KY): ribs; Efrain’s II (Boulder, CO): chili verde
Top tour off-day destinations of 2013:
● Monument Valley (Monument Valley, Utah)
● Valley of the Gods (Mexican Hat, Utah)
● Fast Times Indoor Go-Karting (Indianapolis, IN)
● Honorable mention: Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Golden, CO); Mammoth Cave National Park (Mammoth Cave, KY)
Top ten most played albums in the tour van of 2013 (alphabetical):
● The 1975, Sex EP
● Arctic Monkeys, AM
● Biffy Clyro, Opposites
● Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
● Darkside, Psychic
● Daughter, If You Leave
● Flume, Flume
● Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
● The Killers, Battle Born
● Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork
NYC’s Spirit Animal released a new EP Kingdom Phylum in October 2013.
● Black Hearted Brother, “Take Heart”
● Boards Of Canada, “Jacquard Causeway”
● The Casket Girls, “Suddenly”
● Dead Leaf Echo, “Kingmaker”
● Demon Queen, “Love Hour Zero”
● Happy Families, “New Forgetting”
● Little Tornados, “Manifest”
● Mazzy Star, “California”
● Medicine, “It’s Not Enough”
● My Bloody Valentine, “Only Tomorrow”
● Nightmare Air, “Escape”
● Ulrich Schnauss, “I Take Comfort In Your Ignorance” (Tycho Remix)
● Whirr, “Swoon”
Neo shoegazers the Stargazer Lilies released their well-received full-length We Are the Dreamers on Graveface in October 2013.
Top five albums and re-issues:
● Dirty Beaches, Drifters / Love Is the Devil
● Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
● Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
● Miles Davis, Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
● Rebecca Martin, Twain
Top five, general life:
● Discovering El Bravo’s Green chilli burro, Phoenix, AZ
● Star Trek Into Darkness
● Chvrches tour 2013
● Reading Just Kids
● “Fireflies” video shoot in the Painted Hills, Portland OR
London dream-pop duo Still Corners came out with their sophomore full-length Strange Creatures on Sub Pop in May 2013.
● The Thermals, Desperate Ground
● Roomrunner, Ideal Cities
● Savages, Silence Yourself
● Quasi, Mole City
● FUZZ, FUZZ
● Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin
● Sun Angle, Diamond Junk
● Wimps, Repeat
● Bloodbirds, Psychic Surgery
● Mikal Cronin, MCII
● Best Song: Katy Perry, “Roar”
Portland rockers Summer Cannibals put out the full-length No Makeup (New Moss) in August 2013.
Disclaimer: I’m not a journalist, and much of the music I come across is the music of my friends and colleagues, often stuff I’ve been involved with. So with that grain of salt, here is a short list of records I’ve been enjoying:
● Atoms for Peace, Amok: This record has all the rhythmic interplay to carry your sense of bio-math with Thom Yorke’s lyrical melodies.
● James Blake, Overgrown: This album is great. It reminds me of Beyondo with less humor. There weren’t any new Beyondo records this year so this will be hook me up while I wait.
● Chico Man, Magical Thinking: Marcos Garcia has been making some of the most bouncy tracks around for years now. This record features some of our favorite vocalists, including Kalmia from Rubblebucket. This music is a gorgeous blend of Afrobeat concept with an ‘80s sound palate. Touches my Howard Jones spots at times, with deeper roots, including African and modern dance influences.
● Iron and Wine, Ghost on Ghost: Sam Beam does not repeat himself, and with this record, he enlisted Rob Berger to arrange the entire record—going for something not dissimilar to Astral Weeks. Sam’s songs are drop dead beautiful, and full of word play in its finest form.
● Yellowbirds, Songs from the Vanished Frontier: Sam Cohen is a poetic and imaginative artist, and I love everything he does. His songs share music with you by showing rather explaining.
● Dr. Dog, B Room: “The Truth” gets played almost everyday. So good! Dr. Dog are so creative and relaxed in a rare and wonderful way.
● Arcade Fire, Reflektor: This band doesn’t need any extra promo, but damn they sure can make a great record. James Murphy worked on it, and he is the shit. I can dance to it, and my body doesn’t like to feel left out when all that brilliant sound is flying around.
● Fimber Bravo, Con-Fusion: An amazing steel drum player whose music just goes and goes with grace and beauty. I saw him performing outside the train station in Shepard’s Bush, London, only to realize a few months later we shared the same record label in England! The tonality of the steel drum works in strange ways against the rest of the track. It’s haunting—you really gotta hear it to get it.
Party-music supergroup Superhuman Happiness released the LP Hands in March 2013 via the Royal Potato Family.
Keith Spencer and Jeff Bolt from Swearin’:
● R. Stevie Moore - Personal Appeal
● Acid Fast - Rabid Moon
● Yo La Tengo - Fade
● Vacation - Candy Waves
● Serafina Steer - the Moths Are Real
● Dead Dog - Precious Child
● Savages - Silence Yourself
● Tony Molina - Dissed and Dismissed
● Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky
● Radiator Hospital - Something Wild
● David Bowie - The Next Day
● Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day
Underground faves Swearin’ released the full-length Surfing Strange (Salinas/Wichita) in November 2013; the video for the single “Dust in the Gold Sack” was selected among the best music videos of the year by PopMatters.
1. Jacco Gardner, Cabinet of Curiosities
2. La Luz, It’s Alive
3. Octopus Project, Fever Forms
4. Mirror Travel, Mexico
5. Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty
Made up of members of Voxtrot and Agent Ribbons, Austin psych-pop act Tele Novella put out the “Don’t Be a Stranger” single in 2013 and is gearing up for a debut LP in 2014.
1. AFI, Burials
2. War Generation, Start Somewhere Never Surrender
3. Bad Religion, True North
4. Destructive New Age, Destructive New Age
5. Mindset, Leave No Doubt
Boston straight-edge heavies Test of Time released The Price EP (Bridge Nine) in September 2013.
● Banksy taking over NYC for a month
● The Dodgers getting fairly far in the playoffs
● The band I was in—the Three O’Clock—reforming and playing Coachella and Conan Phil Smee doing our Paisley Underground December reunion artwork!
● New music by Temples, A New International, and Trans
● Reggie King reissue
● Headhunters, the film
● Vin Scully returning next season
● Short Term 12
● Breaking Bad
● Boardwalk Empire
● House of Cards
● Frances Ha
● Record Store Day release ripping off TMOQ ‘70s Deep Purple bootleg!
Revered L.A. ‘80s act the Three O’Clock released a reissue compilation, The Hidden World Revealed, and re-formed to play Coachella, on Conan, and for Paisley Underground reunion shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Favourite songs of ‘13:
● Autre Ne Veut, “Play by Play”
● James Blake, “Retrograde”
● These New Puritans, “Fragment Two”
● Kwes, “36”
● Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”
● FKA Twigs, “Water Me”
● Chris Malinchak, “So Good to Me” (extended mix)
● Washed Out, “Don’t Give Up”
● Kanye West, “Black Skinhead”
● Natasha Khan & Jon Hopkins, “Garden’s Heart”
London alt-rockers Thumpers are readying their debut album Galore on Sub Pop, scheduled for release on 11 February 2014.
Favorite albums of 2013:
1. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
2. Diarrhea Planet, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
3. Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
4. Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia
5. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Ripely Pine
Favorite song of 2013: Rhye, “Open”
TORRES, aka Mackenzie Scott, released its striking striking self-titled debut in January 2014.
Ten great reissues this year because I love reissues:
● Toy Love, Live at the Gluepot
● Victor Dimisich Band, Victor Dimisich Band
● Otis G. Johnson, Everything- God Is Love 78
● Urinals, Negative Capability
● The Clean, Vehicle and In-a-Live
● Human Expression, Love at Psychedelic Velocity
● Heron, Heron
● Scorched Earth Policy, Going Thru’ a Hole in the Back of Your Head ● Lee Hazlewood, Trouble Is a Lonesome Town
● Tronics, What’s the Hubbub, Bub?
Now, ten songs people in Vancouver made in 2013 I think are great
● Gal Gracen, “Love Fantasy My Beautiful Girl”
● Jay Arner, “Surf Don’t Sink”
● The Courtneys, “90210”
● Weed, “Your Right”
● Underpass, “Anything”
● Movieland, “Get Fucked”
● N.213, “Crossed Out”
● Koban, “L’ombre”
● The Ballantynes, “No Love”
● The Passenger, “A Stream Past the Meadow”
Vancouver’s Tough Age recently released a self-titled full-length on Mint in November 2013.
1. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience: The Complete Experience
2. Akron/Family, Sub Verses
3. Wolf People, Fain
4. Hookworms, Pearl Mystic
5. Patty Griffin, American Kid
6. Mount Kimbie, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
7. These New Puritans, Field of Reeds
8. Disconscious, Hologram Plaza
9. Vision Fortune, Mas Fiestas Con El Grupo Vision Fortune
10. Follakzoid, II
11. Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
12. Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
13. Cass McCombs, Big Wheel and Others
14. Hooded Fang, Gravez
15. Factory Floor, Factory Floor
16. Pop.1280, Imps of Perversion
17. Kanye West, Yeezus
18. White Manna, Dune Worship
19. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
20. Billy Woods, Dour Candy
London indies TRAAMS put out their full-length Grin on FatCat in September 2013.
Top 11 or so:
● Bl’ast, Blood
● Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork
● Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
● Rodan, Fifteen Quiet Years
● Iasos, Celestial Soul Portrait
● Burzum, Sol austan, Mani vestan
● Adrian Sherwood, Survival and Resistance
● David Byrne, How Music Works paperback
● Morrissey, Autobiography paperback
● Alesmith Speedway Imperial Stout
● Holy Motors (Leos Carax) DVD
RIP Jeff Hanneman, Lou Reed
Justin Trosper’s new project Survival Knife released two 7” singles on Sub Pop in 2013, “Divine Mob” and “Traces of Me”. Underground legends Unwound kicked off a reissues series with the Numero Group in 2013 with Kid Is Gone; the second installment Rat Conspiracy—which includes seminal albums Fake Train and New Plastic Ideas—is due out in March 2014.
Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors: This dude changed my life. Being a part of such a fun and eclectic project by one half of the mighty OutKast is definitely the coolest feeling so far. We played “Apple Of My Eye” on Leno, Letterman, and Kimmel. Bucket list checked.
Between the Buried and Me, The Parallax II: Future Sequence: These are my big brothers from North Carolina. They’re pushing aggressive rock music to new places with the same fearlessness I’m trying to push pop and rap. Incredible technical proficiency and their creativity is very inspiring.
Kanye West, Yeezus: Not because I love all the music on it. But everything else with this project was amazing. The packaging, the promotion, the time spent on it, and now the tour and merchandise supporting it. Sham, my executive producer, worked on a few songs while we were wrapping up Double Black Diamond, so I was getting updates every day before anyone else heard it.
Earl Sweatshirt, Doris: My friends and I had been pretty anxious to hear what Earl was going to share with everyone for his debut. The track “Sunday” is my favorite, with Earl and Frank Ocean rapping over a track that reminds me a lot of the group Tortoise.
Tame Impala, Lonerism: Amazing driving music. All we do in LA is drive.
James Blake, Overgrown: No words. Just listen. Dude’s on another planet.
David Bowie, The Next Day: At his wise age, he’s still turning out amazing music. The music video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)“was wonderful with him and Tilda Swinton.
Jake Troth will be releasing his debut album Double Black Diamond in 2014.
● Anna Calvi, One Breath
● Broadcast, Berberian Sound Studio
● Dawn Of Midi, Dysomnia
● Wax Idols, Discipline & Desire
● Camera Obscura, Desire Lines
● The National, Trouble Will Find Me
● SUUNS, Images du Futur
● Caveman, Caveman
● Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
● Helado Negro, Invisible Life
Indiana post-punk act TV Ghost released its third album Disconnect via In the Red in September 2013.
Letherette, Letherette: Let me begin with that I don’t consider my taste to be in one genre—it’s just gotta slap. These are the tapes this year that really filled my one requirement. Slappp. And as for my first choice, that is exactly what this project did. To me, this sounds like a dance soundtrack that utilizes the wide world of synths as well as insane samples. Made for a great album. To all those looking to send me some instrumentals in the future, remember I love the crazy synths and the even crazier samples. Back to the subject, though, Letherette’s self-titled album in all feels like feel good music.
Cam’ron, Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1: No year is complete with out Killa Cam droppin some Bird Gang vibes. The album artwork alone made this tape classic, but what really made this one of my frequent slapps was that Killa Cam came through with that classic Cam’ron/Dipset clappage, just new tracks.
Kanye West, Yeezus: In short I understand what Kanye did. That alone makes it a great album for the year.
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories: I love it because, for some reason, it was exactly what I wasn’t expecting. This scares some fans off, but for me a nice twist in a group’s album (when done tastefully) really makes all the difference and guaranteed this one a spot in my faves of the 2013.
Steven Price, Gravity soundtrack: I really fuck with the combination of sounds and visuals; personally, after hip-hop or even during my hip-hop career, I would love to make scores for everything from movies to video games to cartoons. And what Steven Price did here was nothing short of amazing: I can see the movie when I listen this. Hopefully, at some point someone can say the same for me. Much love to Steven—his work made this movie for me both with or without the pictures.
Xuice, AV8: Illie spits that soul rap and completes every beat. BARs…really nuff said, treat yo self to this one.
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience: I love the beats and the vocals, the whole thing just slapps. This dude really brings the whole package.
Earl Sweatshirt, Doris: Earl had the dumbest flow throughout the whole album and the beats were clean. This is exactly the vibe I would come to expect from someone from the Odd Future crew. Then on some tracks, it was the opposite, made for a slapp of an album. The visuals for the album were really nice as well.
In October 2013, Sacramento MC/producer Tynethys put out a mixtape with Oakland’s Main Attrakionz.
● Bottomless Pit, Shade Perennial
● Deafheaven, Sunbather
● Touche Amore, Is Survived By
● Jake Bellows, New Ocean
● Jason Isbell, Southeastern
● Laura Stevenson, Wheel
● Overseas, Overseas
● Russian Circles, Memorial
● The Night Marchers, Allez Allez
● The Head and the Heart, Let’s Be Still
United Nations are a NYC-based screamo act.
1. Crystal Fairy
2. The Punk Singer
3. The Source Family
4. This Is the End
5. Only the Young
1. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
2. Swearin’, Surfing Strange
3. Radiator Hospital, Something Wild
4. Kanye West, Yeezus
5. Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
6. Potty Mouth, Hell Bent
7. Dead Dog, Most Precious Child
8. Tony Molina, Dissed and Dismissed
9. Ovlov, AM
10. Mikal Cronin, MCII
Upset, the new project of ex-Vivian Girl Ali Koehler and Hole’s Patty Schemel, released its debut She’s Gone (Don Giovanni) in October 2013.
1. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold
2. Yo La Tengo, Fade
3. My Bloody Valentine, m b v
4. FUZZ, FUZZ
5. Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
6. Savages, Silence Yourself
A shoegaze band from Tel Aviv, Vaadat Charigim put out its debut The World Is Well Lost on Burger/ANOVA in November 2013.
Graphic novel top ten!
1. Jodorowski and Moebius, The Incal
2. Charles Burns, Black Hole
3. Chris Ware, Building Stories
4. Robert Crumb, The Book of Genesis
5. David B, Epileptic
6. Craig Thompson, Habibi
7. Dash Shaw, Bottomless Belly Button
8. Joe Daly, Dungeon Quest Books 1-3
9. Jim Woodring, Weathercraft
10. Daniel Clowes, Wilson
Veteran Calgary musician Chad VanGaalen, whose last full-length was 2011’s Diaper Island (Sub Pop), is also a graphic designer.
Dust, Dust and Hard Attack reissues: We all know that Mark “Marky Ramone” Bell played drums and that Richie Wise and Keny Anderson went on to produce KISS and other madness, but until this reissue, only a few knew how hot and heavy this band was. It was nice to hear a proper master of these records. The earlier copies I had were Akarma bootlegs. Out of all the bottom-of-the-barrel, obscure ‘70s rock reissues, the two Dust records are actually worth the price and the listens. Plus, fantasy art master, Frank Frazetta, did Hard Attack’s cover art.
The Electric Prunes, Live Prunes Stockholm ‘67 reissue: If the Prunes had been allowed to bring the power and attitude of this live set into the studio, none of us would give a shit about the Stooges and certainly not the MC5. This recording is a big middle finger to everyone, even the crowd. Surly and intense.
Acid Mothers Temple & Space Paranoid, Black Magic Satori: Truth in advertising. It sounds like Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori and Black Sabbath! It is very heavy and spacey and very restrained for an AMT release. Their jam on “Paranoid” stretches to a point that you forget that it’s a cover. Great production, too.
John Bellows, Fast Hits: I won’t call him a mad man and I won’t call him crazy, but that’s not to say that this album isn’t. Fast Hits is a collection of anthemia jams, dirt glam, saccharine (albeit ragged) pop, a little “What the fuck is this?”, and a whole lotta party. Ever been to a diner party where the guy in the dirty vest is saying all kinds of shit and you think he’s nuts, but then that next afternoon you finally pick up on what he was laying down? That’s John Bellows.
Verma, “Rangarok” 7”: I’ve only heard these songs on the radio, but that doesn’t stop me from liking this single. Verma is grinding psychedelic rock, like Chrome, with a tight motorik beat with a lot of interesting stuff goin’ on. Great sounds, tasteful vocal effects (which I am a total dick about), and weird guitar rhythms make Verma one of the best contemporary Chicago psych bands.
GZA, Liquid Swords reissue: There hasn’t been a rap record this good since it came out in ‘95. I consider it the hip-hop equivalent to Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death: a perfect record start to finish. The reissue is ridiculous as it comes with four LPs and a chess set! If only it had a pop-up book…
Eraserhead soundtrack reissue: I may not be able to see the screen to enjoy the movie’s images, but I can still get creeped out by the soundtrack. Flutters, noises, dialog, noises, and the “In Heaven” song. You can mix this over any prog record and make it better. Try “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, it’s way better.
Self-proclaimed “funk rock occultists”, the Velcro Lewis Group came out with Open the Sky (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) in October 2013.
1. Al Pacino does his best “Al Pacino as Phil Spector” impression.
2. Arcade Fire lights up Saturday Night Live.
3. Robin Thicke makes pop cooler and sexier than ever with “Blurred Lines”.
4. Dent May makes glasses cooler and sexier than ever with “Born Too Late”.
5. Paul McCartney unknowingly reunites surviving members of Nirvana on live television.
6. Steve Buscemi gets awkward and intimate with Vampire Weekend.
7. Eastbound and Down ended one of the greatest music-on-TV franchises in history with its series finale.
8. Stumptown Coffee opens in downtown Los Angeles.
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra breaks into the mainstream-of-consciousness with ii.
10. Victory MANIA begins with the music of Victory selling Cadillacs on TV, “Play It” and “System Strange” rocking baseball fans at Dodger Stadium all season long, and the release of the debut full-length LP Victory Is Music (note: the word “mania” is loosely defined in the aforementioned context).
Victory, as aforementioned, released its first album Victory Is Music in April 2013.
2013 was an interesting transitional period for music. The charts are no longer filled to the brim with generic dance records. With indie becoming the new pop, there is much more diversity among the songs that are catching people’s attention. Listeners are craving substance and creativity over hype. My favorite release this year was Lorde’s “Royals” song and video. Amazingly fresh.
1. Lorde, “Royals”
2. Wallpaper, “Good 4 It”
3. The Neighbourhood, “Sweater Weather”
4. YG, “My N****”
5. New Politics, “Harlem”
6. Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines”
7. Paris, “Magic Man”
8. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
9. Frank Turner, “Recovery”
10. A$AP Rocky, feat. 2 Chainz, “F*ckin’ Problems”
Bryce Vine will be releasing his new EP Lazy Fair in early 2014.
● Blue Hawaii, Untogether: 2 cool.
● Migos, “Hannah Montana”: Obviously love the “Versace” video, BUT “Hannah Montana” is the most hype.
● Actress, Silver Cloud: Favorite musician to listen to when driving.
● Burial, Truant / Rough Sleeper: Favorite musician.
● Tricky, “Valentine” (Andy Stott remix): Andy Stott is future.
● Cliff Martinez, Spring Breakers soundtrack: Spring Breakers was my favorite movie of 2013. Cliff Martinez, killing it since ‘89, and obviously Nicholas Winding Refn’s films would be about 65% as cool without his soundbed.
● Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time: A potential victim of “2 much pre-hype” doesn’t mean she isn’t hyper cool/stylish, and her music puts a smile on face every time.
● Riff Raff, Neon Icon: Calling it early, Riff Raff is it.
● Chief Keef , “Don’t Like”: Katy Perry likes it.
● Earl Sweatshirt, Doris: Obviously the rising king of actual rapping.
● Pusha T, “Numbers on the Board:” MNIMN so hot. Representing my hometown Virginia Beach.
● Iggy Azalea, “Work”: Love Iggy. She’ll be bigger next year.
Electronic artist Voyeur came out with the Little Death EP in November 2013.
1. Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
2. Pharmakon, Abandon
3. Savages, Silence Yourself
4. David Bowie, The Next Day
5. Matmos, The Marriage of True Minds
6. Townes Van Zandt, High, Low and In Between (reissue)
7. Tim Hecker, Virgins
8. Scout Niblett, It’s Up to Emma
9. Grouper, The Man Who Died in His Boat
10. Barn Owl, V
In November, Emily Jane White released Blood/Lines (Important), which made it onto PopMatters’ best overlooked albums of 2013 list.
1. Bill Callahan, Dream River
2. Kanye West, Yeezus
3. Johnny Fritz, Dad Country
4. Mirror Travel, Mexico
Austin singer-songwriter Jess Williamson is preparing to release her full-length Native State (Brutal Honest) on 28 January 2014.
● Inter Arma, Sky Burial
● Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control
● Paysage D’ Hiver, Das Tor
● Rotten Sound, Species at War
● Lil’ Ugly Mane, Prelude to Panopticon: On Doing an Evil Deed Blues
● Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork
● Moss, Horrible Night
● Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
● Bong, Idle Days on the Yann
● Abysmal Grief, Feretri
Doom metal band Windhand released its widely praised album Sona in September 2013 via Relapse.
Ten most listened to albums of 2013:
● Duane Pitre, Bridges
● MV & EE, Fuzzweed
● Date Palms, The Dusted Sessions
● Milk Music, Cruise Your Illusion
● Eleanor Friedberger, Personal Record
● Califone, Stitches
● The Necks, Open
● Howe Gelb, Dust Bowl
● The Howling Hex, The Best of the Howling Hex
● William Tyler, Impossible Truth
Also, so many great 2013 reissues, compilations and the like: Robbie Basho’s Visions of the Country, Alvarius B’s Fuck You and the Horse You Rode in On, Agencement’s Viosphere + Selected Works 1984-1991, Laurie Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe, the Red Rippers’ Over There…and Over Here, Moss Icon’s Complete Discography, the Howling Hex’s The Hildreth Tapes, Dylan’s Another Self Portrait, and I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990.
Biggest bummer: You have to ask? So long, Lou. :(
Wooden Wand released Blood Oaths of New Blues (Fire) in January 2013.
Events that temporarily occluded the void:
● Dean Blunt’s two dissociative monuments and spectral appearance at Complex
● Moin’s shatteringly good and far-too-short EP
● Raime’s harrowing and ending-just-before-I-had-an-actual-nervous-breakdown live performance
● Carey Mercer’s good news
● Locrian’s “Eternal Return”
● Discovering Limmy’s Show
● Circle and Mammifer’s luxurious haunting
● Deafheaven performing “Dream House” to a clamoring, enraptured swarm
● Planning for Burial performing his heartbreaking new album
● Our supportive friends/bands/audiences/tour saviors
● Majical Cloudz
● The Act of Killing
● Nick Cave giving hope to aging.
Wreck & Reference released the “No Content” 7” single in May 2013 via the Flenser.
Best shows of 2013:
Greenbelt Harvest Picnic (Hamilton, Ontario): I got to play the festival hosted by Daniel Lanois as Trixie Whitley’s guitarist. Neil Young and Crazy Horse were scheduled to headline, but had to cancel due to Pancho Sampedro’s broken hand. Despite my crushing disappointment at not getting to watch Crazy Horse up close, it still proved to be one the most inspiring musical moments of my life when Emmylou Harris took the stage backed by Lanois and his band. She played at dusk, glowing in a golden halo of yellow light. Her voice seemed to travel out in beams, which were able to insert themselves somewhere deep in my torso and push emotion out from within. I’ve never been so affected by a singer. Getting to watch from sidestage had me on the verge of tears for most of her set. I don’t think I could have handled Crazy Horse after that. I’d have died.
Pickathon Music Festival (Portland, OR): Yellowbirds got to be part of this festival gone horribly right. The atmosphere is so relaxed, the setting beautiful, and such a stellar lineup of bands. Among the highlights were Jessica Pratt on the woods stage. She and a great accompanist were perfect in a forest setting, making music that is psychedelic and pastoral with an intimidating shyness, like a brooding Vashti Bunyan. Old Light, Portland natives, made euphoric riff rock that is simultaneously ecstatic and cool as a cucumber. Ty Segall, Andrew Bird, Kurt Vile, and Marco Benevento kept me in a constant state of inspiration. Not a bad weekend.
Flaming Lips and Tame Impala (Terminal 5, NYC): For me, Tame Impala are the most exciting band to come out in years. The show did not disappoint. They added improvised passages that stayed focused and took the songs to new places. They diced their material up, keeping it constantly exciting, with frequent “boom!” moments. I might have said “Whoa” a few times. The Lips have evolved into something entirely unique on this planet. The visuals and sound have to be taken as one, and it is a monolith. There are moments where they create the illusion that the physical world is in slow motion. It’s dizzying and incredible and totally, singularly brilliant.
Yellowbirds released Songs from the Vanished Frontier (Royal Potato Family) in May 2013, as well as the original soundtrack to Across the Whipplewash in July.
Daniel Curry (viola):
● Musical recording: Esmerine, Dalmak
● Film: Pacific Rim
● Book: Ray Wilson, Make Analog Synthesizers
Jonathan Ulman (drums):
● Musical recording: Yo La Tengo, Fade
● Film: 20 Feet from Stardom
Mel Lederman (piano):
● Musical recording: Bill Callahan, Dream River
● Live performance: Tim Kasher at Brighton Music Hall (Boston)
● Television show: Boardwalk Empire
Thalia Zedek (guitar/vocals):
● Musical recording: Low, The Invisible Way
● Live performance: Besoin Dead at Instants Chavires (Paris),
● Film: Lucky (a documentary about Lucky Torres by Laura Checkoway)
Winston Braman (bass):
● Musical recording: Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait
● Multimedia: Awesome samurai exhibit at the MFA (Boston) paired with Throne of Blood by Akira Kurosawa
● Foodie moment: Foot long hot dogs with toasted rolls from Simco’s on the bridge
● Sports moment: Red Sox winning the World Series!
Thalia Zedek Band made a triumphant return in March 2013 with the album Via (Thrill Jockey), which premiered on PopMatters. Thalia Zedek’s former band Come also came out with a reissue of its 1993 debut 11:11 on Matador.