Monday, December 23, 2013

the ten best albums of 2013 that were not made by vampire weekend, daft punk, or arcade fire

Just because everyone else is going to have those three somewhere on their lists.

Okay. Here's the thing: 2013 was largely a failed attempt at #ThrowbackThirteen.

What was all this 80s nonsense being churned out? I mean, some acts did it good (Daft Punk), some did it... um... interestingly (I have to say I like the sound James Murphy added to Arcade Fire's Reflektor), but most simply should not have done it at all.

And speaking of not doing it, I don't really do the Pop thing, but if I did I would give props to CHVRCHES, who did it well and handled themselves most nobly in the face of stupid and vile misogynistic internet attacks. Also to the local Los Angeles women Haim, your producer had hands of concrete and ears of pig iron. I heard Haim live and they were very good, but the album is entirely over-produced. Too bad.

But I don't do Pop, anyway.

So, here you go. And, as always, this list is not in any particular order outside of the first two listings, which are my picks for Best Albums of 2013. All the others tied for second.

1. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (King Krule) Okay. So this guy sings like Ian Dury, has a strong jazz/blues feel to his music, and lyrics that are structurally influenced by hip hop but with a deep poetic feel. The album is incredible. I once heard him lament the lack of anger and passion in modern music, and this offering doesn't fall short on either account. Take this, from Cementality:

See, the cement has never meant so much

My hot head cools to the stone cold touch

I look to settle my seat with dust

Brain, leave me be, can't you see that these eyes are shut?

2. Blowout (So So Glos) Purely American, uplifting, chaotic, and fun. The So So Glos are reminiscent of the Clash, both in terms of music and content. The album was a long time coming with a first early glimpse of what was to come when the So So Glos offered Son of An American in support of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Just such a very good album.

3. Light Up Gold + Tally All The Things That You Broke (Parquet Courts) I have a sneaking suspicion that Parquet Courts smoke the marijuana. Maybe it's their song, Stoned and Starving:

I was reading ingredients / asking myself “should I eat this?” / I was so stoned and starving.

And I love that song as much as Parquet Courts apparently love feedback and noise, which I also love. Originally released as the LP Light Up Gold, PC released an EP late in 2013 (Tally All The Things That You Broke), and then put them both together on this big, grand, fun, rocking noisefest of an album. Get it. Which also reminds me... Parquet Courts are from Brooklyn, which has produced some of the leading-edge music in the past few years but has (in #ThrowbackThirteen) taken a turn toward the mediocre.

C'mon, Brooklyn. Your originals have done nothing but copy themselves over and over and now it's time for something fresh and alive, like Parquet Courts.

4. Floating Coffin (Thee Oh Sees) Cosmic, feel-good, trippy fuzzmusic. This is what makes Thee Oh Sees original and tasty. Great, ripping album here.

5. Wondrous Bughouse (Youth Lagoon) I was afraid Youth Lagoon's second LP would be a continuation rip-off of his amazing freshman offering The Year of Hibernation, but not so. Bravo. This is big, chunky, noisy, and grown-up some. Nice job.

6. Fade (Yo La Tengo) I will never get tired of Yo La Tengo, no matter how much they evolve. And Fade is a very evolved, slicker-than-usual, and toned down iteration of the Hoboken indie kids.

7. Monomania (Deerhunter) Deerhunter is one of the most original, innovative bands in America. This album is angry and powerful, much less-produced than the earlier, brilliant, Halcyon Digest, and much more in line with the way the band sounds live, which is something I always appreciate in recording artists.

And poor, troubled Bradford Cox with his haunting apocalyptic visions of the ending of all things, here, in Leather Jacket II laments his position in the music industry:

i was a goldmine
i was cult
i was too kind
i was too kind
i was a goldmine

8. WeAre the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Foxygen) These guys probably take something much stronger than Parquet Courts. But they are boundlessly fun, quirky, and cool--and you gotta love that, especially because they came from Westlake Village, California, where I spent an awful lot of my high school years.

9. Hummingbird (Local Natives) Musically, this may be one of the most brilliant and original offerings on this list. Haunting and deep, sad and uplifting... and so very listenable. I love this album.

10. Muchacho (Phosphorescent) Another Brooklyn offering with a simple sound and some of the best, most personal songwriting Matthew Houck has produced in his significant career. The album has a sad, wandering, sometimes lost feel to it, but it--along with Hummingbird--are perfect backgrounds to quiet evenings at home.