Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Albums of the Year, 2013.

The Others

took a little bit, but…
night verses – lift your existence grew on me in a really incredible, massive way. when I first started listening to it, I’m probably like every other low interest, high artist count listener [especially from long island] that heard a few tracks from the record and thought, “oh cool, sounds like the sleeping, I’m down”, coasted through a few more songs then put it down without really giving the record the respect it deserved. I came back to this a few times and each time found something new and unique in it, and found that each song almost sounds like its own experiment and doug has his signature style throughout, but is almost trying something new at every chance he got. really incredible album, especially after knowing that these dudes are doing it for REAL when you see them live. each one of them are supreme instrumentalists. hate to point the one dude out, but hey, aric improta… killer. damn, son.

supremely weird, got something new every time…
shone – heat thing came out some time in February, I think. it was an album that had a lot of weird, mysterious hype about it involving brand new and robbers and a collective of musicians from other projects I’m not familiar with. either way, I knew Andrew had KILLED it with robbers and I was ready for more of the type of theatric, mod, twin peaks-style music and storytelling he had often offered up, so whoever surrounded him, I trusted would only add to the stew. it did. the tracks are all rad, all very terrifying in their own way. but the songs are orchestrated. they’re wide and vast. they’re the kinds of songs I can’t see performed in a bar but rather in a theater. great record.

wait, this is dope who what is this…
ether – human error apparently released an album this year. and when I was going back through all the records that I purchased or downloaded in 2013, it came on and blew me away. instantly caught my attention. it’s nothing new or revolutionary. in fact, telling you that it’s from at least one of the guys from remembering never will probably instantly give you a better idea of what this sounds like. the tracks are long and sludgy and it’s not as straight forward as the remembering never stuff, but it’s still heavy as shit. not much to say about it, but when it popped up as I was going through this year’s list, I was impressed. very happy I found them.

it’s good, but…
letlive. – the blackest beautiful came out and the hype and excitement I had for it was probably a little bit too high and unfair for what they were going to meet. at all, really. seeing them live gives me a very different image of their sound than what actually makes it onto their records and I often forget that. there’s still that weird ‘screamo’ vibe to them. they have the heavy and hard and smart stuff, but they do that pop punk hook thing, too. and this record does focus on a lot of that pop side while still remaining true to the dudes with tattoos who float around the hardcore scene aesthetic. each song is good, it’s fine, but didn’t blow me away. and something that stood directly out to me is the production quality and value of the songs. not exactly the same, but it almost felt like they did what metallica did with the album they recorded in a garage or something where they tried to strip everything down and make it sound shittier on purpose. I don’t know. cool album, and it grew on me, but I felt I had to be a little forgiving to it.


polica – shulamith was almost nothing like what their first album offered and that’s absolutely fine. for real. I’m not saying they needed to have a repeat performance. BUT. where the first record had a very cool, almost dub-inspired reggae tone to it. very chill, very two step, head nod friendly. this one came out and did a little of that, but not enough, and did new songs that left what seemed to be their apparent mission statement. their foray into upbeat stuff was great with ‘chain my name’ opening the record in a hyper, bumpy type of way. but they never came back in and found that unique center that made them stand all the way out for me.

too long…
into it. over it. – intersections I MEAN, c’mon. i don’t even know how long it actually was. it just started to all run together for me. a lot of it was great, and there were moments that would jump out at me and give me all of the feels, you know. but I found that every time I sat down to it or carried this album with me, I either forgot it was on or wanted to put something else on to break it all up. and it’s not even that the whole thing was too sad or anything or too much to deal with. it just sort of all mushed together. kind of how I feel when I’m walking through a museum or something and you’re staring at all of this art, this stuff that people come from HOWEVER far away for… and you’ve spent so much time around so much stuff that starts to look similar to It that it’s just getting lost so it looks like “Man”, “Woman”, “Woman with Fruit in Park at Dusk” and then just “Fruit” and then eventually just “Paint.”

started incredible but then lost me…
justin timberlake – the 20/20 experience (Part 1­) on this one, the same thing happened every time. turned it on and was blown away. this was the best thing this guy has ever done. did the direct JT pop thing with a cool song, but each track was interwoven with Timberland’s genius production to also make something completely bizarre and off the beaten path as well. to the point where through the first four tracks, I started wondering why he wasn’t credited as one of the headlining artists on this record. and then after a while, it, yeah, it just lost me. I forgot I was listening to an album and I just wanted to go back to the first few songs that got me really involved and inspired and excited about what I was getting down to.

this song just will not leave me and I don’t think I ever want it to…
paramore – still into you it’s supremely bubble gum and really fun and easy and has everything about a single that can captivate the anonymous. I’m very into it. that chorus though? son. genius. simple. dassit.

The Top Ten (the playlist)

i kept a .txt file of all of the albums that I bought this year. whether it was physical or digital, whatever the case was, anything that I bought or anything that I listened to enough to get a listing got dropped in there and in a vague moment of trying to put together my list, I’d move it higher or lower based on just my gut instinct. and then in the last month or so of the year, I’ve been listening to everything on that list in alphabetical order just to get the last sweep through all of it and made an independent list based on how it was directly in the face of listening to all of it at once. and to be honest, the list is very close to what I expected it to be, but some stuff got completely rotated out in lieu of some stuff that really felt like it had more of a longer lasting feel to it. there was even one album that I realized sounded almost completely samey the entire time through and there were other ones that just fit what a great album needed to be.
but honestly, there’s no correct way to make a list like this. it’s whatever sounds good and it will change constantly from week to week and month to month and cup of coffee to cup of coffee. there’s no definition. all of these were great records and there are plenty more that could have made it throughout the year. but here it is. DAT LIST.

10. Local Natives – Hummingbird
this band is almost the epitome of modern American ‘indie’ music right now. it’s all that echo and all that fuzz. it sounds like they are the soundtrack for all of those modern car commercials with the quirky dads and their funny girlfriends and all-too-intelligent kids. but really, these songs are truly, truly beautiful. I think there’s something about the hooks here that are unforgettable. I remember pulling this album out and being shocked that song after song was holding my attention and it wasn’t just floating out into the nothing of run-together bands that have this very same sound and the very same tone of instagram photos faded but cool and new and autumny.  very pretty album.

Important Tracks: You & I, Heavy Feet, Ceilings.

9. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
just the way this album opens up totally gave me such a great, full smiling vibe. it’s almost like Purity Ring’s little sister is getting out of school on the last day before summer vacation begins. where PR was completely devastating and gave me an introspective into a feminine side that I found hidden behind a layer of day-to-day existence as a Male, this record is girlie and fun but still synthy and almost steely enough to give that “aww, you’re angry and angsty, huh??” I love the synth palette they use here. they remind me of some of the great moments Metric and Paramore and even some of the stuff that’s going on in the background I can throw Crystal Castles into the mix. there’s a lot of sparkle to be found. it all just feels good. I like that so much of this is very easy and simple, too.

Important Tracks: The Mother We Share, Lies, Recover.

8. Portugal. the Man – Evil Friends
i never thought that this album would make it here. my relationship with this band has been nothing short of tumultuous. in 06, 07? this band was all I could talk about in terms of what they were capable of as a unit. they were doing things that I couldn’t be told about, things that I thought bands had never tried before. they were new to me, fresh to me, and had absolutely no qualms being weird and using sounds and echoes and pulling ideas from a whole new sphere of thought that I hadn’t yet ventured into. they came around at a perfect time, as I was slowly losing interest in bands that screamed at me and played breakdowns and played tiny venues. but everything after they dropped Church Mouth seemed less intricately put together, seemed less like an endeavor and more like a… regular album? I don’t know how to really explain what they were doing. the thoughts on these records felt incomplete. just written and recorded and packaged and sent. and I felt that even after watching them perform multiple times, it seemed that they were constantly performing their songs in the key and size and scale and LANGUAGE of Church Mouth, but when they hit the studio, they felt myopic and limited. and when I picked this record up, I sort of had my teeth clenched expecting another similar experience. HOWEVER. this record has a whole new feel to it. finally sounds like they have put together the neo-Portugal sound that they’ve been crafting over the course of the years. and the way I described it when I picked it up was that this was an emphatic apology and thank you for sticking with them while they were figuring it all out. great songs, recurring themes, and one that finally matches their new voice of their new live show. it feels like they’re finally comfortable in the skin they’re wearing. front to back, great.

Important Tracks: Creep In a T-Shirt, Modern Jesus, Purple Yellow Red and Blue.

7. Volcano Choir – Repave
I got duped by this record, kind of. first song I heard from it, I instantly perked up and was saying “yo. this is the new Bon Iver.” ACTUALLY DAWG, it is Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon along with some other homies. stoopit. but this is just a collection of sad sounding songs. whispy and light and at times even cosmic. organic. the lyrics sound incredibly personal and specific at times and have hit chords within me that song lyrics rarely will. some of the words call to mind very detailed rooms or interactions that went muted and wrong. the production is smart and layers some very hidden moments within the song structures that only work to highlight the mentality of the tracks. I feel like this album can feel like being lost in the mind and heart of a slighted lover. this album found me at the right place at the right angle. it also has some terribly sad moments without ever getting blatantly dark. things left unsaid. the shape of her face. I love some of the moments this record shares with you. makes me want to call my friends and make sure they’re okay or something. there’s a moment where they sample Bukowski himself that cripples me.

Important Tracks: Comrade, Alaskans, Keel.

6. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
there’s a weird line here. I don’t want to talk about the sense of being ‘forlorn ‘ in this record, because it’s almost the perfect word to describe it, though I don’t it ever gets to the point where you feel bad for it or understand that it’s having a hard time. does that make sense? it almost sounds like someone who’s moved away from someone or something or somewhere they really loved but talk about it in hindsight as someone who’s just as delighted to be bringing them up as they are a bit shook up about having to leave it behind. this personification is about the best I can explain how this record gets to me. the songs have a strange, haunted feeling to them, almost like stories around a campfire with a close group of friends who are learning about just what happened over the past forever. sounds tend to bounce around in here. the acoustics on all of it is perfectly designed. I love the country elements to the instruments and the little yips and yelps that seem like they had to be ad libbed. if they’re planned, there’s something almost corny and absurd about it, but if not, I mean, I guess there’s something genuine about it that I completely love. this is a back porch record, something to either avoid listening to or embrace while you’re tapping into your spirits. it’ll get you. the whole thing swells until you appreciate the cage that love has crafted.

Important Tracks: A Charm / A Blade, Muchacho’s Tune, Down to Go.

5. Atoms for Peace – Amok
I mean. it’s thom yorke. this is layered and smart and tight and all kinds of warm and digital. the production is pitch perfect, down to the last sound and the last fade out. you don’t miss a note of a fade. there’s a cyclic pattern to the drum and the bass and the background elements that keep me entranced. but there’s still parts of this record that would lend itself to a stripped down or acoustic rerecording. no element of this record can’t stand on its own. it’s almost an understated power house that is wall to wall. its appearance on this list feels like an ‘of course’. this record is a meditation.

Important Tracks: Default, Ingenue, Judge Jury and Executioner.

4. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
seeing this band on any list of mine kind of blows my mind. but the first thing I can tell you is the same thing that I can say to the few people I started to pass it around to once it dropped. “I KNOW. trust me. it’s really good.” it’s kind of exactly that basic and just that simple. the guitars float around in the background and they have that Cool Guy vibe to them. the vocals stay falsetto and in that higher register that finds its way directly into my zone. every single moment of this record just feels incredibly catchy to me in a way that I would hate to admit. like. really?? the fucking strokes? I’m almost as mad about this as you think I am. i almost feel like I’ve been had, listening to this direct NYC Rock and Roll record with five good looking dudes in it and enjoying every single minute of it. I mean. really. they nailed it. even in a song that starts off like some kind of weird, cheapy video game introduction, they pull it all back together and tie it in a perfect little bow into a believable, backable chorus. why. how. I do not know. but I ended up loving this album until I questioned it and it responded in a very deliberate fashion, keeping it on this list.  I swear, though. enjoying this album kind of feels the way you feel when you actually genuinely understand your ex’s new partner. but it’s so good!

Important Tracks: Tap Out, One Way Trigger, Call It Fate Call It Karma.

3. Palms – Palms
chino, man. I could leave it at that. but my man is in a good amount of projects that he starts or becomes attached to. and his repertoire is so vast that whatever he becomes a part of, I kind of look off into the middle distance and say, “I can totally see it. I get it.” anything. he can do anything. and I think his level of quality control and creative input ends up taking most of his projects into what many call “that next level shit.” put him on board with guys from the dark-ish post rock band Isis, and you have what makes Palms so moody. there’s something really spaced out and droney and zen about what they’re putting together. even chino’s vocal input to it has kind of a loop to it that doesn’t take too much of the spotlight from the music and lends itself to the background, post vibe to it. there’s a lot of good energy on this record, a lot of stuff that can help you get grounded and centered. listening to this in the background is kind of where it finds its most approachable intake, but if you throw this on your headphones or your earbuds and allow its detail oriented nature to seep into your brain and behind your eyes, it’ll definitely play some brand new tricks for you. this one’s a journey into the ether. this is music to disappear into. I think I’ve listened to the last track on this record and woken up on different levels of the species. it hums a life into an inner god.

Important Tracks: Mission Sunset, Antarctic Handshake.

2. Citizen – Youth
I had a hard time finding music from directly within my wheel house that really entertained me to this capacity this year. and when this album sort of rotated its way into my lap, I thought that it’d be a cool band to mention in the conversation of what I discovered this year. but the less attention I paid to new music, the more I found myself unable to leave this band behind. even when I’d listen to the releases from last year like Title Fight and even when I was excited for this year’s Balance and Composure, this seemed to be the record that I’d throw on each and every time. I believe this record. even though my girlfriend decided to compare this to bands like A Perfect Circle and Daughtry and Nickelback, I still think that this band is doing something that sounds legitimate and not formulaic and they have their hooks in all of the right places. even though she said that this being in the #2 position declares that this “really MUST have been a shitty year in music”, I still am entirely engulfed in this. I think what this album does is take all of that missing stuff from all of the records I’ve been looking for during the year, all of those dudes in vans, all of those Thank Yous in the liner notes, all the hangs with the close friends, all of those moments and puts it perfectly into one record that is usually spread out across multiple albums in different elements and different ways and puts it all into one accessible format. this sounds to me like cheapish guitars and ugly drums and tiny venues. even if my girlfriend can’t decipher between these guys and Three Days Grace. I ‘ono. this gets me hype.

Important Tracks: Roam the Room, The Summer, The Night I Drove Alone, Drawn Out.

1. HRVRD – From the Bird’s Cage
I’m a little scared to write about this album, because I know I’m going to mess it up. this record is a work of art. it’s perfect. um. in years from now, I’ll describe it to you the way I can still talk about Hopesfall’s ‘Satellite Years’ for over an hour. the way that it’s not a recording of a group of men playing instruments and taking notes on a white board, but instead the construction and manifestation of a collective dream where space is infinite and you build your wildest creations by dragging your ideas directly out of your brain and meld them together in an interface much like the minority report. um. when I listen to this record, I feel a hot and numb burning in the center of my chest that I can only compare to tony stark’s iron man heart. um. I can’t listen to this album without enacting some new and genuine twitches which you can be seen in closest similarity in the Radiohead video for Lotus Flower. yeah, it’s like that. I can’t really describe this album in anything other than metaphor that either has you get it or hate it. “BRO, I DIDN’T GET NO NUCLEUH REACTUH IN MAH HAHHHHT.” yeah, you’re right. this record elevates me to a different place, to a level of understanding the message that the band was assembling in little pieces without having to listen to it individually, but rather comprehending as one massive character and one singular notion. and if not with this record, I hope that any of your favorite records make you feel this. because that’s what this has offered me and what I’ve accepted. this is this. and this is now in me. thank you, HRVRD.

Important Tracks: Timid Scripts, Futurist, Flaming Creatures, Kids With Fake Guns.