PopMatters lets the artists become the critics, giving them a chance to offer their picks from music and pop culture in 2013. Part 1 features PopMatters favorites Zachary Cale, Dum Dum Girls, and Robbie Fulks.
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.
Musical highlights of 2013
1. Touring Canada with Zion I: I got to play packed shows every night, the people were awesome, the women were beautiful, I learned some shit about hockey, and I soaked up nothing but game from the dudes in the Zion I crew about the tour life, and people bought my CDs like they were going out of style -- what more could you ask for? Those cats are true vets and true MASTERS of ceremony when it comes to this hip hop, so it was a blessing to ride out with them and an experience I'll never forget.
2. Drake, Nothing Was the Same: Lotta folks ain't gonna like this (even I wouldn't admit it at first) but hey...if you're a music fan, you can't deny the sophistication of this album. The production is majestic back to front, Drake's raps are dope, and he's saying a lot of real shit. There's one or two kinda slow songs, but even those work well in the context of the album. This project is good to play in a lot of different settings, though I'm not sure you could say the same for this next one.
3. Kanye West, Yeezus: Sure, he's cocky as hell on it, but that's just the evolution of Kanye – plus, this tape makes you feel like a boss when you listen to it. My only complaint is that I can never find an appropriate time to listen to this album. Not great when you have people over, nor end-of-the-night winding down, nor really to listen to by yourself when you're just chilling. I just liked it for some reason. I don't know.
4. All of Kaytranada's remixes in 2013: Especially the dance-y ones. I'd like to personally thank this dude for my rippling washboard abs and my 42-inch biceps. If it wasn't for headphones blasting Kaytra's dance remixes in my ears at the gym, I would have no motivation to work out ever. Dude just has a great ability to breathe new (usually very funky) life into old songs, but there is one other thing I bump to help me throw those kettle bells through the ceiling, which happens to be...
5. Everything Mr. Carmack put on his Soundcloud page this year: This guy is just plain ridiculous. As soon as you try and box his production into a category, he comes out with some track that's completely the opposite of whatever you were expecting and it's usually incredible. He can do every sub-genre of electronic production as good, if not better than, the premier guys in each of those niches and half the time he's not even trying. His collabs with other producers are always amazing as well, which leads me to...
6. The fact that Mikos Da Gawd is finally getting recognition for his talent and the fact that that's my down-ass homie: This dude been producing beastly tracks for forever and has been under the radar for years. Turns out all he had to do was establish his Soundcloud page, and voila. He's playing for sold-out crowds throughout the Bay Area and getting offers from popular indie labels to release projects. Best part is that that's my dawg foreal. He's my tour DJ and my good friend and has always supported me by DJ'ing my shows. Now I get to support him by emceeing at his shows. Gotta love when the dopeness comes full circle!
7. Having our hometown root for us, and realizing that they're convinced we're going to win: Whether it's the local music scene or just walking down the street, people in the Bay are stopping me and my folks to tell us that they believe in what we stand for and that they have faith in our success. They're supporting our music, but moreso our ideas and our message, and they're counting on us to represent the area in a positive light and make it famous for something other than cable cars and tech companies. They love us and we love them, and with that I'm convinced nothing can stop us from taking our art as far as we decide to take it.
Here's to the blessing of 2013 and to a happy new year! Peace to you and yours! It's THURL, baby!
San Francisco rapper A-1 (Adam Traore) released The Thurl Tape in 2012 and more recently collaborated with Ryan Hemsworth on a remix of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness".
All Tiny Creatures
Tom Wincek (multi-instrumentalist; also a member of Volcano Choir)
Dawn of Midi, Dysnomia: These guys went from being a free improv group to one that explores rhythms and the textures of their instruments in minute and expert detail. They use traditional jazz-combo instrumentation (piano, stand-up bass, drums), and make it sound like anything but. Polyrhythmic, minimalist, it's a great crossover between "serious" new-music and more accessible experimental sounds.
Classixx, Hanging Gardens: Pure, unadulterated fun; it made for the perfect summer soundtrack. However, for music that's as instantly gratifying as it is, it's also very meticulous and nuanced, which is probably why it holds up so well upon repeat listens.
Sylvan Esso, Play it Right / Hey Mami (and their unreleased LP): These guys are friends and they opened up for Volcano Choir when we toured the east coast, but they are also making some of the best electronic pop music right now. Amelia has an amazing voice, and Nick compliments it perfectly with his playful and multifaceted compositions. They only have a two-song record out right now, but we've gotten a sneak preview of their full-length album, and it's going to blow some minds.
TM404, Electronic Explorations 247: Recorded live by Andreas Tilliander at a music festival, each track is made up of a different combination of the classic Roland boxes (TB303, MC202, TR606, TR808) heard thousands of times on acid/techno records. But through both the sheer number of machines he uses (one track uses four 303's and two 606's) and by concentrating on overlapping polyrhythms and textures, he manages to create something entirely new sounding. In that way, I suppose it's a bit like the Dawn of Midi album, even though the end result sounds completely different.
Andrew Fitzpatrick (guitarist)
Autechre, Exai: Two hours of insane music that generously rewards repeat listenings.
Helado Negro, Invisible Life: Roberto makes vibrant and beautiful records that sound really good, and Invisible Life is yet another one of those records. I had the honor and pleasure of seeing him perform some of these songs with Jason Ajemian on bass, while surrounded by a bunch of my friends in Austin, TX earlier this year. I'll treasure that memory for a while.
Rashad Becker, Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol. I: Rashad is perhaps best known as an extremely prolific mastering engineer, but Traditional Music is his first statement as a musician. Endlessly compelling synthesizer music.
Tar Pet, Deaf Drawing Blind Listening: Taralie Peterson is a fellow Madisonian, as well as one half of the amazing Spires That in the Sunset Rise. Her music comes from another time and place.
Wisconsin- based indie electropop quartet All Tiny Creatures released its second full-length Dark Clock via Hometapes in 2013; ATC founder Thomas Wincek is also a member of Volcano Choir.
Alpha & Omega's Luis Hernandez
1. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
2. Twitching Tongues, In Love There Is No Law
3. Down to Nothing, Life on the James
4. Haim, Days Are Gone
5. King Nine, Scared to Death
2. The Conjuring
3. The Iceman
4. West of Memphis
5. The Place Beyond the Pines
Alpha & Omega released No Rest, No Peace on Bridge Nine in 2013.
● Drake, Nothing Was the Same
● Koreless , Yugen
● Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven
● Haim, Days Are Gone
● Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap
● Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty
● Cloakroom, Infinity
● Industrial Park, Cold White
● Modern Life Is War, Fever Hunting
● The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Portland-based electro act Anne releases its debut album Pulling Chain (Run for Cover) on 4 March 2014.
I spent most of 2013 developing an eye twitch while sending tour-booking emails and subsequently driving around in a weird parent-SUV quasi-van thing, mostly listening to Nirvana and Sparks. But somehow, I'm lucky enough to have the most talented friends in the world (IN THE WORLD!!!), so I'm around good new music all the time.
● Tough Age, Tough Age
● The Ketamines, You Can't Serve Two Masters
● Weed, Deserve
● Pender Street Steppers, Life in the Zone
● Monomyth, King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold the Power)
● New Vaders, Dynamic Traxx Vol. 1
● Movieland, Blows Up
● Cult Babies, Cult Babies (I played drums on this but who cares?)
I also liked the songs "Weight" by Mikal Cronin and "Monomania" by Deerhunter, but I'm not friends with those guys.
Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Jay Arner put out a self-titled album on Mint in June 2013.
Audacity's Thomas Alvarez
● White Night, Prophets of Templum CDXX
● Pissed Jeans, Honeys
● Nü Sensae, Sundowning
● Treasure Fleet, Future Ways
● White Fang, High Expectations
● Toys That Kill, Fambly 42
● Mean Jeans, On Mars
● Screaming Females, Ugly
● The Memories, Love Is the Law
Fullerton, CA punk-pop outfit Audacity released Butter Knife via Suicide Squeeze in 2013.
Backtrack's Ricky Singh
Top five hardcore LPs of 2013:
1. Take Offense, United States of Mind
2. Down to Nothing, Life on the James
3. Terror, Live by the Code
4. King Nine, Scared to Death
5. Incendiary, Cost of Living
Honorable Mentions: Power Trip, Manifest Decimation; The Rival Mob, Mob Justice
Top five most anticipated hardcore releases of 2014:
1. Suburban Scum LP
2. The Extermination 2 Compilation
3. Heavy Chains EP
4. No One Rules EP
5. Piece By Piece LP
Hardcore combo Backtrack will be coming out with a new LP, Lost in Life (Bridge Nine), on 14 January 2014.