Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Baker's Dozen 2013

Well that year sucked.

And by "sucked" I mean from a perfectly personal perspective, not musically. 2013 qualified as the year in which shit broke down and there was too little in the coffers to pay for it.

So, like most American families are want to do, you scramble. You do without. You provide subtle hints for assistance from family. You put it on your credit card. You yell at each other for not having enough.

But what a better opportunity to escape with music! And what an even better opportunity for record companies to charge $25 for an album when you're broke, typically one that you can usually find used on Dynagroove vinyl at a cheaper price. And even those bargains are is getting harder to come by, as evidenced by the $20 copies of Beggar's Banquet that I've been scouting on Ebay, because I have to have an original London copy of the thing just like I did when I was a wee lad.

If you stop succumbing to the oldies bag and the infinite reissue money grab, you can find some pretty good deals on cd (ha!) and some even better deals on the free-for-the-taking internets. Some of them are even worthy of shelling out for (ha! ha!), which I suppose is what the Baker's Dozen list below is supposed to suggest.

These are my favorites. They're broken down subjectively, with the most challenging, engaging and important pieces of work from the past year at the top of the list. A great deal of the title's influence are derived from how much pleasure I got from the record, but with that being said, if I simply made the list with that criteria then Ghost's second album would probably be towards the top. And that's a record that I wasn't nice with and, quite frankly, isn't really worthy of being one of the year's best.

So I put it at number 26.

Disagree? Feel free to dick around with the the impossible "prove you're not spam" filters of the site's comment section and post your own titles or argue with the list that I've made. At the end of the day, you're wrong and I'm right. Start you're own blog, if you're so inclined, because this one is getting old and in the way. And the irony that the stats keep going up while my interest continues to decline isn't lost on me as we 1.) approach the 10th year of this stupid thing named after a Fall song after the first one named after and 2). Negativland song was scrapped because a certain ex-wife didn't like some personal things I posted.

It's true! Look it up if you've got a week to kill and are into a pointless explanation of the origins of a project that essentially started from an idea that my therapist at the time suggested. That is, if I didn't already delete the "offending" posts that made up the bulk of this blog's early posts. Now I just post emails that Sub Pop sends me and they end up becoming the most popular titles that month.

Actually, that's not entirely true. For some reason, any time I post something about the Scorpions, the traffic counts light up. And Elton John. And Pretty much anything metal related. And some dumbass post about that shitty kid punk band Old School I did several years ago that, evidently, rubbed more people the wrong way than did a retelling of the death of Brett Mydland, the Dead's shitty keyboardist that overdosed some twenty years ago. This is coming from a guy that views the Dead's Spring of '90's gigs to be some of the best, an era that found Mydland endlessly twinkling his dated synth (even by 1990 standards, it was shit).

But I digress.

Yes, these Baker's Dozen posts bring in traffic too; they rank as some of the most popular items found on Glam Racket, even though I hate doing them (they take up a bunch of time to create, particularly if you factor in the long-winded introductions like you're slogging through right now) and even though the most viewed one is the bullshit "Baker's Dozen Artists With Jacked Up Teeth," a list that I literally pulled out of my ass one night.

Go figure.

And go enjoy, I guess.

1.)  VAMPIRE WEEKEND - Modern Vampires Of The City
A modern classic. A record that plays like it was designed to compete with titles like Sgt. Pepper's while remaining firmly entrenched in music's modern realm. Like any great record, the themes within Modern Vampires are big, while the band's arrangements are stunningly pronounced and well thought out. This is a pop record that plays with big, major chord idealism and lyrics that transcend age, time and genres. I had to walk away from Modern Vampires after hearing side one for the first time because 1.) it is such a great piece of work that I needed to catch my breath and 2.) it was created by a group of young men that I previously despised. Not any more.

2.)  NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - Push The Sky Away
Be careful. because the first time you hear Cave's latest effort (number 15 with the Bad Seeds) you'll take its minimalist approach for granted and miss nearly everything that makes it so remarkable. A second listen and all of those performances suddenly begin to stop you dead in your tracks when you realize how perfect they are. And Cave is perfect as well in this setting, with his lyrical chops in rare form, citing pop culture luminaries like Miley Cyrus (pre-twerk, it's as if Cave had a premonition) our love of Wikipedia (can't live without it) while still being able to conjure up lasting memories with characters and prose that is as beautiful as anything you'll hear (or read) all year.

3.)  DAVID BOWIE - The Next Day
After celebrating his 66th birthday and being a recluse for practically the past 10 years, the last thing that anything expected from Bowie in 2013 was an album that rubbed shoulders with records he's made decades ago and with artists over half his age that have the attention of the younger population. There are so many discoveries to be found on this late-career high point, like how the chord progressions of the chorus to "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die" are D-E-A-D and how the song sounds like a bitter "fuck you" to ex-wife Angie. And that's just one track in a record filled with songs worthy of continue examination, just like the old days-and hopefully, the next ones.

4.)  KURT VILE - Wakin On A Pretty Daze
"I think I'm ready to claim what's mine" Vile declares on "KV Crimes," one of the tracks from Philadelphia's favorite stoner-and it sounds like it. It's taken Vile four albums before this one to hint at challenging J. Mascis' title of slacker guitar god and, while he certainly hasn't overtaken J., Wakin On A Pretty Daze is at least on the same playing field and may be 2013's most honest-to-goodness rock record. It's filled with the kind of long-winded guitar jams that Vile is known for, while the noodling itself just happens to be around some of Vile's most enjoyable slacker exploration to date.

5.)  TY SEGALL - Sleeper
If there is a silver lining to tragedy it's when someone is able to turn the emotional weight into a weighty piece of art, while is exactly what Ty Segall has done with his (guessing here) 8th record. Sleeper sounds like it's a record that's mainly intended as Segall's own therapeutic release, while becoming a universally ratable effort. Nothing is really cloaked in too much personal drama, even when the subject matter is clearly stemming from personal events. Sleeper is mainly an acoustic affair with hints of early Tyrannosaurus Rex if Bolan was fixated on Americana and the impact that cancer has on nearly every family you know. While most of us unfortunately are forced to deal with the disease's impact in much more sad and mundane ways, Segall has transformed it into one of the year's most notable entries.

6.)  TEGAN & SARA - Heartthrob
There's a reason why T+S's 7th release kept getting played around my house in 2013: it's because my 6-year old daughter kept requesting it. And while she's a fan of female pop stars (she's also the reason why Taylor Swift and Katy Perry have found a home in my Ipod), her persistence with the Quin sister's most blatantly commercial offering has also made it clear to me that is a damn-near perfect pop record filled with heavy topics that are heads, tails and hearts above anything that Swift or Perry can muster up, with or without outside help. The "outside help" with Heartthrob is the sugar coating that this album is packaged in, but inside is an album of substance that is very much the same Tegan & Sara of old. In other words, it's just as awesome and kid friendly.

7.) ROGUE WAVE - Nightingale Floors
Admittedly, it's been years since I've thought about Rogue Wave, and some of the blame is on the band themselves. But in an unlikely turn of events, I was actually actually listening to the old public radio station I used to work at and they were actually playing music, I was transfixed by a song with a depressive melody to the point where I actually waited for the announcer to identify the artist. Back in my day, this constituted the "Say It When You Play It" campaign where record companies would plaster the sticker on promotional titles for radio. Thankfully, KUNI-FM's Mark Simmet "said it" and the next day I picked up this reminder of how good Rogue Wave was again. Like Sleeper found earlier in this Baker's Dozen list, Nightingale Floors has roots in tragedy (death of a father) and, like Sleeper, it is the heavy emotional content that gives Rogue Wave's latest such resonance. It's somewhat of a return of the Rogue Wave of old (gradual builds to majestic choruses) while showing the band is clearly capable of forging new sonic moments in the process of moving forward.

8.)  KVELERTAK - Meir
Breaking no new ground, Norway's Kvelertak don't need to. They've got the AC/DC mojo down pat and it's mixed appropriate helpings of punk and black metal. It is a testosterone declaration, but in a way that even my hair-metal lovin' wife admitted its rump-shaking prowess. All of this is packaged in a language that you don't understand-and don't care, either. Because it's packaged in the universal language of rock and fucking roll, a land where such titles like "Bruane Brenn" and "Evig Vandrar" are closely examined to see if they're clues to other, real words like the Jumble games in your local newspaper. And because this is the universal language of rock and fucking roll, they have a song title that's also their band name, just like Black Sabbath taught 'em.

9.)  KELLEY STOLTZ - Double Exposure
Earlier this year, I sought out and obtained Television's guitarist Richard Lloyd's solo album Alchemy and was underwhelmed, aside from a few tracks. Later, I stumbled upon Kelly Stoltz's latest, Double Exposure, which almost served as a much better doppelganger with better vocals and memorable hooks. This is Stoltz's 7th record (from what I've been told) but a first for me, and a significant record to start with (from personal experience). He peppers the hooks with record collector lines that will make any music geek smile, while reminding them of familiar tones that they'll obsess over until they end up putting Stoltz's "Are You My Love" right after Lloyd's "Alchemy" before declaring "Eureka!" - even when it was entirely by accident.

10.)  SAVAGES - Silence Yourself
Probably the biggest "No Brainer" of the list since Savages clearly find inspiration in a handful of England's post punk offerings like Siouxie and the Banshees and Gang of Four, so, "recommended if you like," for sure. But there's clearly more going on than nostalgic remembrance here, as Savages seem extremely confident with this, their debut. Vocalist Jehnny Beth doesn't seem to give a shit that her own wail mirrors Siouxie Sue's because she has bassist Ayse Hassan to fall back on, who seems to have studied at the Dave Allen school of bass balls. Never mind how Beth's prose is confrontational enough that all of this old-home week fixation can't hide how the band sounds positively novel in their craft. It's an ass-kicker, for sure, and if Savages aren't able to recreate Silence Yourself's out-of-the-gate power ever again, it's good enough to be referred to again in the years to come.

11.)  SUB ROSA - More Constant Than The Gods
Imagine how hard it's got to be, being a doom metal band from Salt Lake City, Utah. Now imagine how hard it must be, being a doom metal band from Salt Lake City, Utah that's fronted by a woman. Sub Rosa destroy any preconceived notion you may have concerning any of those facts, and they do it with speaker destroying low ends that eat up huge portions of their 10-minute-plus epics. There's only 6 tracks to be found on More Constant Than The Gods, but it sounds more necessary than long-winded. And while pointing out the obvious-that Sub Rosa hails from Salt Lake City and is fronted by a woman-may seem like an easy way to get you to notice this thick, gelatinous widowmaker, it is also what makes it such a winning release, a record that goes beyond just the obvious "Best Metal Album of the Year" accolades. Her lyrical vision along with the proximity to the LDS temple and Sub Rosa's own notoriety for introducing violins to the world of metal, all add to Gods being one of the best albums of 2013, period.

12.)  POLVO - Siberia
I never expected Polvo's reunion to go beyond one record, and besides, how many of you even bothered with In Prism-beyond the ones hoping that Shapes wasn't really the final word. And while In Prism stands on its own, Siberia sounds more like the Polvo of pre-initial breakup, while throwing a few surprises into the mix. For one, Siberia is the first Polvo album that seems to feature an honest-to-goodness hit single, that is, if you lived in a bizarro world where things like Sonic Youth's Washing Machine were number one albums and tracks like Polvo's "Light, Raking" - with its cutesy l'il synthesizer part in the chorus - are released to stations found above the 92 kHz. And in typical Polvo tradition, it ends with a weave of snake charming guitars that sound like they were tuned by dudes named "Ash Bowie." In other words, the magic continues!

So it seems like Artic Monkeys have released their second "must have" release, which is weird because it's completely different than their first "must have." In short, the new one is much more rhythmic-centric than the barrage of lyrical spit that head Monkey Alex Turner is known for. That's not to suggest that Turner has dialed back his chops with the prose, but instead, it suggests that it's kind of awkward hearing the beats of "Do I Wanna Know" on commercials after developing an uncomfortable connection with it emotionally. It was one example of frightening synchronicity that I seldom get with songs, and it only reaffirmed the overall connection that I felt with AM, a record that attempts to shed the past while forging a very promising second decade

A list of 13 other albums that found repeated listens and probably shouldn't be overlooked.

14.)  QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE - ...Like Clockwork
15.)  WINDHAND - Soma
16.)  GRATEFUL DEAD - Sunshine Daydream
17.)  LOW - The Invisible Way
18.)  MAZZY STAR - Seasons Of Your Day
19.)  LEE RENALDO AND THE DUST - Last Night On Earth
20.)  BOB DYLAN - Another Self Portrait
20.)  SHEARWATER - Fellow Travelers
21.)  WHORES - Clean (e.p.)
22.)  KADAVAR - Abra Kadavar
23.)  ORCHID - Mouths Of Madness
24.)  LORDE - Pure Heroine
25.)  RED FANG - Whales and Leeches
26.)  GHOST - Infestissumam


Kiko Jones said...

Vampire fucking Weekend?!

Cousin J said...

MOAT - Moat. Marty Willson-Piper's latest side project sounds just like you'd expect it to but by now he's nearly perfected what he does and this might be one of my favorite things he's ever done outside the church.

Monster Magnet - The Last Patrol. Overlooked American band comes back with a classic.

Cathedral - The Last Spire. Outside of St. Vitus, they are they only band who can claim to be the true heir apparent to Black Sabbath. Their swan song lp is a return to their doom metal roots (or grave).

Roy Harper - Man & Myth. I like this as this years "old man's comeback album" better than the Bowie album. Too bad.

Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark. Sabbath & Tull had an illegitimate baby girl & named her Blood Ceremony

Tusmorke - Underjordisk Tucmorke - Norwegian Prog, some Jethro Tull influence here too. Vocals in Engish & Norwegian which is cool.

Bardo Pond - Peace on Venus. Real trippy. The cd cover has some naked witches on it. And a pentagram.

Causa Sui - Euphorie Tide. Instramental jams. Bad ass.

Wooden Shjips - Back to Land. I really dig the sounds they've captured on this disc. I wouldn't be surprised if this is one I return to a lot in years to come.

Kadavar - Abra Kadavar. No Sophomore slump here! I love these tunes.

Kylessa - Ultraviolet. My favorite release by them. To me, they seem to just keep getting better & better with each release. I like the new cleaner vocals & guitar sounds.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away. Awesome. A real grower. Mermaids continues to be a favorite (especially the live version that came out on Live fron KCRW)

Earthless - From the Ages. Wailing guitar solos, monster riffing and tight as hell bass & drums. Two 15 minute songs, One 5 & one 30 minute jam - it's instrumental space rock but I never found myself spacing out. I listen to this in the morning on my way to work & get there in record time.


Bob Dylan - Another Self Portrait
Jethro Tull - Benefit (Deluxe Edition)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher!

actuallythatsnotchocolate said...

Ahhh....so here are your 'heavy album awards' (sic)...Nice

"Vampire Weekend"- never heard of'em. Looked'em up. After a handful of YouTube videos, I'd call'em percussion pop alt-garage cutey-pies.

I can see how that would grow on you. With a little bit of production polish & some good luck, I could imagine them on 80's MTV heavy rotation. Nice turn on, like it.

Sounds like your fiscal 2013 is like our fiscal.....every year since 2008.....meh