End of year music lists – you gotta love ’em. A chance to poo poo the choices in the music magazines and blogs you read all year. Oh the joy! Here’s your chance…
I will wait until the clock strikes midnight on 31 December each year before I declare my favourite album of the year so as to give everyone who released an album in December a fair chance. Yes, even Beyonce could technically win the race… I’m sure she’s not holding her breath for this award.
I use end of year lists to find music that might have escaped me throughout the year, and to compare which music fans I should follow next year to source good music. How many of my top 10 albums feature in music magazines top 10, and if so, which magazines are most in sync with my musical chi?
I try to remain oblivious to marketing hype, you can’t fool me Daft Punk, even with help from legendary Nile Rodgers (Chic) – you still suck in my books! I rate Around The World* as one of the worst songs ever written and if I hear it again I don’t know of what unspeakableness I’ll be capable of. Kanye? Please! When you started out I thought you were sending up egotistical rappers…
Queens of The Stone Age, I have enjoyed a few trippy tracks here and there off …Like Clockwork, but it ain’t no Songs For The Deaf or Rated R so I have to pass on your efforts this year despite the respect I have for you all.
Okay, enough of the bitching let’s just talk about the good stuff from 2013:
Note: To hear audio from each artist featured just head to the “Previous Posts” link.
#10 Intronaut – Habitual Levitations
There is something about 4-piece LA band Intronaut that I really like. I think it might be their song structures. They ebb and flow, and they get mellow and they get heavy. I can daydream and wake to another interesting instrumental piece within seconds.
I’m not alone on this, the Intronaut guys rub shoulders with all the greats – Mastodon, Helmet, Meshuggah, and Tool. This year the band will reach their 10th anniversary and that means to me that they need further acclaim because how come they are not already everywhere?
Habitual Levitations has some great tracks on it that I find hard to forget about. I consider them some of the best tracks I’ve heard all year. The Welding and Eventual both have elements of King Crimson, while Milk Leg is my favourite and is an Intronaut classic.
Highlights: Killing Birds With Stones, The Welding, Sore Sight for Eyes, Milk Leg, Eventual, Blood From A Stone, The Way Down
Previous Posts: Intronaut
#9 Secret Chiefs 3 – Book of Souls: Folio A
Former Mr Bungle members created the Middle Eastern influenced instrumental phenomena that is Secret Chiefs 3 many moons ago. It has taken many moons for Secret Chiefs 3 to create Book of Souls, their follow-up album to Book of Horizons. Nine years of moons. Maybe a blue moon, if I even knew what that was.
I did miss the Secret Chiefs 3, nobody else can create an album that would be suitable as strange party music, a film soundtrack, or Christmas caroling (La Chanson de Jacky being my carol of choice). Mike Patton channels his inner Tom Jones on the cover of La Chanson de Jacky to provide his tale of a womaniser named “Antonio” in both English and in French renditions (well, I don’t know much French but it sounds, you know, Frenchy!).
Their cover of the Halloween theme is very interesting (Personae: Halloween), and it could be high time to de-spook a lot of chilling horror movie tunes. However, I do not think it appropriate to play the beep used at the end of a cassette to signify the tape had finished within the middle of an album (Full Spectrum Anamnesis). When I hear that sound, I forever am looking up like a meerkat for the cassette that needs switching off.
I thank the moons as Book of Souls: Folio A is sweetly enjoyable. It puts a big smile on my face, especially when I think there might be a Folio B released one day.
Highlights: Balance of The 19, Potestas Clavium, Personae: Halloween, La Chanson de Jacky, Tistrya
Previous Posts: Secret Chiefs 3: Book of Souls
#8 Vista Chino – Peace
Peace is a nice surprise from Vista Chino, aka three-quarters of the former members of Kyuss. Having seen the Kyuss Lives! reformation twice in the last few years I didn’t expect I would be so interested in new music from a band that disbanded almost 16 years ago and whose members ended up in seas of side projects, Queens of The Stone Age being the most notable.
However, John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork have brought the goods on Peace. I find I throw the album on a lot when I need a dose of rock and it takes me back to 1996. Of course Josh Homme’s guitar work is absent but Bruno Fevery has stepped in to fill in on riff duties. As You Wish is a track I could envisage could have slotted into any Kyuss album had it been written back in the day.
Peace is a creeper, it slowly wormed its way into my favourite albums of the year through sheer persistence (and some nostalgia for Kyuss!).
Highlights: Dargona Dragona, As You Wish, Planets 1 & 2, Dark and Lovely, Acidize… The Gambling Moose
Previous Posts: Vista Chino (Kyuss): Peace
#7 Mutoid Man – Helium Head
Helium Head is a 16 minute blistering album of metal, rock, and prog that was quickly released at the end of November by Mutoid Man. Don’t let the goodness escape you. You must buy this album if you are into rock or metal! Mutoid Man features the skills of drummer Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die), guitarist and vocalist Stephen Brodsky (Cave In), and bassist Nick Cageao (Brohammer) a part-time supergroup if you have to give it a name.
“I ain’t ever gonna fall in love with myself” is a lyric from the raw and frenetic opening track Gnarcissist, and once I heard this track I knew I needed to hear the full album. I pressed play and I thought I time travelled back to 1991 when Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger.
Holy Smoke, this is the real deal a modern-day chunky album! The riffs are so heavy, the vocals are pure fuzz, the drums are mad metal – this shit will induce heart attacks!
Mutoid Man need to get serious and ditch their other bands and play this stuff live all over the world. A new
religion riff is born.
Highlights: Gnarcissist, Scavengers, Friday the 13/8, Sacriledge
Previous Posts: Mutoid Man: Helium Head
#6 The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer
The Dillinger Escape Plan released an album in May 2013 called One Of Us Is The Killer. I could not have it escape off my radar, one of the best minds in mathcore should not be ignored. Sometimes One Of Us Is The Killer hurts my ears, albeit in a good way. It is a lot to take in sonically. An intermission can sometimes be necessary, BYO jaffas.
Greg Puciato prances around on the album like a man possessed by the best vocalists on the planet. I always hear a ton of influences in Puciato’s vocal styles (Mike Patton most obviously on this album), he has the ability to shift from a howl to a croon without batting an eyelid. Dillinger are as frenetic as ever, and this album no doubt will make them seriously sweat performing these songs live.
The songs are jarring and in your face… just what you want from a DEP record. One Of Us Is The Killer is a great bunch of killer tunes (the title track for instance), but it doesn’t quite hit the heights of their last album Option Paralysis which I judge as one of the best releases of the last decade. This is not an excuse not to buy One Of Us Is The Killer. The guys might hunt you down and bite your head off otherwise.
Highlights: Prancer, When I Lost My Bet, One Of Us Is The Killer, Nothing’s Funny, Understanding Decay, Paranoia Shields
Previous Posts: The Dillinger Escape Plan: A Mellow Introduction
#5 Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Oh yes, the Run The Jewels album is a lot of fun. Killer Mike and El-P joined forces and delivered an enjoyable hip-hop album that easily slips into my Top 5. I still can’t quite fathom that they released Run The Jewels as a free album earlier in the year – they deserve your cash (and mine). Listening to Run The Jewels just makes you want to move, and works as a useful backing track to your regular exercise regime, just try to keep those arms down while your rapping – you’re not Killer Mike or El-P!
I hope Killer Mike and El-P have inspired other rappers to let loose and get back to basics. Their rapping is smooth, provocative and funny, and the beats and bass used on the album top the whole sound off. Sign me up for more Run The Jewels, oh wait – I did already sign up to their mailing list already! I am also quietly excited that I get to see the boys in action at Laneway Festival next year, and there is serious talk that Run The Jewels are putting together another album which will be due out in 2014!
Put down that Kanye album (does he really need any more attention or money?), and get yourself a Run The Jewels album right now, or they’ll slap you.
Highlights: Run The Jewels, 36″ Chain, Sea Legs, Job Well Done, No Come Down, Get It
Previous Posts: Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) Official Free Download
#4 Deltron 3030 – Event II
It was a long 13 years to wait for ‘The Return’ of Deltron 3030. Luckily all those years spent brewing other musical madness has paid off for the fantastic trio of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan The Automator and Kid Koala. Event II is the futuristic hip-hop album you were waiting for (since the original!).
It was a deft touch to employ the talents of some of the finest musicians in the land: Mike Patton, Zack De La Rocha, Damon Albarn, Emily Wells and yes, even Jamie Cullum. But then you sourced narrations from none other than clever actors, David Cross (Arrested Development) and Joseph Gordon Levitt (Inception).
The opening narration from Levitt of Stardate always gets me excited and in a few short moments Del’s smooth raps on The Return will be followed closely on the album. Followed by a bunch of cool and amazing tracks that are so well crafted they are hard not to set on repeat: Pay The Price, The Agony, Melding of the Minds, City Rising From The Ashes. This album is an event and a musical accomplishment!
I must play Event II in order of preparation and listen to every note, and use the knowledge about the future to prepare for the dystopia this world is obviously heading for.
Highlights: Stardate, The Return, Pay The Price, The Agony, Talent Supersedes, Melding of The Minds, What Is The Loneliness, My Only Love, City Rising From The Ashes
Previous Posts: Deltron 3030: Event II
#3 Savages – Silence Yourself
English 4-piece Savages rocked my socks off in May when I first previewed their debut album Silence Yourself. The music on the album is captivating and the production is fantastic. Post-punk has been given a squirt in the arm, and the saviours are vocalist Jehnny Beth, bassist Ayse Hassan, guitarist Gemma Thompson and drummer Fay Milton.
Beth’s vocals stand out among the sea of other punk bands and grab you by the throat. The Savages drums and bass create an energy not seen since Joy Division (who we obviously like to compare them to!). This is an album that will sound amazing when played through your headphones and when cranked up on your stereo. If I go deaf soon it won’t be because of any loud concerts I went to this year, but from all the noise inflicted upon myself listening to Savages!
Silence Yourself is an album every pissed off girl should listen to at least once. I’m going to hazard a guess and say Pussy Riot were singing along to this in the depths of their stint in Siberia! Madonna probably snuck them a copy.
Highlights: Shut Up, I Am Here, City’s Full, Waiting for a Sign, She Will, Husbands, Marshal Dear
#2 The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National almost took out the top position this year with the excellent Trouble Will Find Me. I did admit to you earlier in the year that the album was pervading my consciousness. I’m still not sure what subliminal messages are to be found on the album but I am “possibly” drinking more than I was before.
I didn’t expect I would enjoy the album as much as 2011’s High Violet and now both albums are almost on a par for me. Matt Berninger’s lyrics are just as obtuse and humourous (namechecking Nirvana’s Nevermind!), and the driving pace of The National’s music is just as hypnotising.
Trouble Will Find Me was enjoyable to listen to from day one, and does not leave my stereo very often. The National are living up to the standards of their alt-rock idols R.E.M. Their next album will contain their Losing My Religion moment and the whole world will realise their utter awesomeness! Mark my words, bets will be opening tomorrow.
Highlights: I Should Live in Salt, Don’t Swallow The Cap, Fireproof, Graceless, Sea of Love, This is The Last Time, I Need My Girl, Pink Rabbits
#1 Daughter – If You Leave
If You Leave is such a stunning debut album from English 3-piece Daughter, Daughter have excelled their former touring buddies, The National, in 2013 to compose this release. Elena Tonra rivals The National’s Matt Berninger as a stunning lyricist and she is all of 23-years-old!
She touched a raw nerve with her vocal delivery and honest lyrics that surpassed anyone else I listened to over the last 365 days. Tonra is a gem, and her bandmates Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella perfectly accompany her striking vocals to create an atmosphere of despair on If You Leave.
If you thought the single Youth was a masterpiece, allow your ears to enjoy the delicacies of Smother. Hear the emptiness in her words “In the darkness I will meet my creators, and they will agree that I’m a suffocator”. Each song on the album has such majestic despondent lyrics that speak to your insecurities and remind you of past devastations. The album is strangely comforting despite the trauma you can hear in Tonra’s beautiful voice.
If You Leave is a fitting bookend to the The Wild Youth EP, and never have two recordings pieced together so perfectly yet were recorded two years apart. If You Leave is so raw and honest I get chills thinking about what Daughter might release next.
Highlights: Winter, Smother, Youth, Still, Lifeforms, Tomorrow, Human
That’s it until the end of 2014 – when I await to hear new music from James Vincent McMorrow, Mastodon, Run The Jewels, Noah Gundersen, and The Dillinger Escape Plan (maybe).
Thanks to all who released great music in 2013, we salute you!
* If anyone types “Around The World lyrics” into a search on Google their device should be rigged to explode for the sake of humanity.