by Benn Ray
So there weren't too many standout/clearly will be viewed as classics in the future/mind-blowing records this year, there were still a good number of good records. Here are my favorites in no particular order. Want a mix? Let me know. Otherwise, I've linked the albums below, where I can, to their Spotify counterpart (or bandcamp where not) for your listening enjoyment.
BEST MATURATION: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight The More I Love You - Neko Case
While the word "maturation" is too often code for an album of mid-tempo songs and less aggressive lyrics, thats not how I'm using it here. Neko weilds her perfect voice like a great surgeon wields a scalpel. There are a lot of really interesting musical choices, and lyrically, we still get trademark Case themes - murder, incest, bad mothers, etc. But this is the album where Case definitively reveals her mastery of songcraft.
BEST 70S SINGER/SONGWRITER SOUND: Personal Record - Eleanor Friedberger
The better-half of Fiery Furnaces continues to prove her chops. Friedberger's songs are like turning on an old AM radio. Great lyrics too.
BEST NEW-COUNTRY: Miracle Temple - Mount Moriah
While the Christian implications of the name creep me out a bit, the band manages to deliver strong, contemporary new country soungs. Vocalist Heather McEntire reminds me of a young Dolly Parton.
BEST GOODBYE: 333 - Double Dagger
This is bittersweet as Double Dagger is one of my all-time favorite bands - but in 2013 the band went out on top - with a documentary and this album containing their finest songs.
BEST MORE-THAN-NIRVANA REVIVALISTS: Ideal Cities by Roomrunner
Yeah, the Nirvana thing is the first thing most people notice about Roomrunner - but there is something very different than simple Cobain tribute sound going on here that keeps people listening.
BEST LOVE & ROCKETS COMICS REFERENCE: Major Arcana - Speedy Ortiz
Speedy Ortiz takes their name from Los Bros Hernandez's Love & Rockets. I had been reading about them on Pitchfork, maybe, and for some reason when to their Facebook page to check them out, and realized their profile picture looked pretty familiar. Then I realized it's because they had taken it inside Atomic Books in front of the Love & Rockets comics section. As a band, Speedy Ortiz are '90s alterna-rock revivalists - but more on the Belly, The Breeders, etc. tip.
BEST '60S SOUND SYNTHESIS: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic - Foxygen
These kids rework the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and come out with a sound that is not exactly unique, but kind of fun in it's throwbackedness.
BEST FUZZ: Fuzz - Fuzz
Ty Segall turns in this fuzzed-out, heavy psyche romp. New Acid Rock maybe?
BEST CONTINUING PSYCHE/GARAGE ROCK: Floating Coffin - Thee Oh Sees
Fuzzy, but Thee Oh Sees have trimmed off much of the fat of their songs - and while that doesn't necesarily bring most of them in in the under 3 minute mark, it makes for more immediate listening enjoyment.
BEST INDIE SOUND: Monomania - Deerhunter
Deerhunter continues to develop their sound, and they continue to move into interesting directions while making each album more accessible than the last. This one might be too accessible - as the songs frequently hook themselves into you and play in your head on repeat until madness sets in.
BEST BEDROOM: Wakin On A Pretty Daze -Kurt Vile
I'd like Vile to releas a whole album that is just one song. He's almost doing that anyway. I think I got it figured out finally, Vile is the new J Mascis.
BEST PAVEMENT COMPARISON MAGNET: Light Up Gold - Parquet Courts
I don't think I read a single review that didn't compare Parquet Courts to Pavement, and really, that's all I need to check out a band. I'm not sure that comparison is as accurate as Eddy Current Suppression Ring, but regardless, quality indie rock.
BEST HOPE FOR THE KIDS: Pure Heroine - Lorde
Lorde delivered easily the song of the year with "Royals," a take down of crass conspicuous consumption in contermporary pop music. Lorde writes songs of "we," she is speaking for more than herself. As just a teenager with a goth streak and a pull-no-punches interview style - I am totally rooting for this kid.
BEST FEMINIST CORE: Run Fast - Julie Ruin
Kathleen Hanna returns with Julie Ruin! And Run Fast is a freaking tour de force of everything that makes Hanna awesome.
BEST SURPRISE RETURN: Purgatory/Paradise - Throwing Muses
If you told me in the late 1980s that 25 years later, I'd still be be giving a shit about Throwing Muses, I'd have called you a goddamn liar. But this new record/book package is over-stuffed with songs - good songs. Hunkpapa!
BEST AMBIENT INSTRUMENTAL: Centralia - Mountains
Words that usally don't attact me - "ambient" and "instrumental," so I'm not sure how I found myself listening to this, but I did and I'm damn happy about it. This record took me places - and took me to times, and I love that kind of experience.
BEST EXPERIMENTAL INSTRUMENTAL: My Garden State - Glenn Jones
GAnother word that makes things a tough sell for me is "experimental" - which I generally translate into indulging dicking around - let me know when your experiments are over and you've deteremined something. But Jones here has a beautiful package of guitar and banjo instrumentals.
BEST SOUNDTRACK: Nothing Can Hurt Me - Big Star
Taken from the doc of the same name, this record is loaded with demos, outtakes, remixes, and a couple of solo gems from Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. It's like revisiting an old friend. Just damn beautiful.
BEST TRUDGING FORWARD: Afraid Of Heights - Wavves
By this point, most folks have made their mind up about Wavves - and this record isn't gonna change anyone's mind. Fuckit - I like the songs. A few records back, Wavves was in danger of being trapped by a a rather defining retro-sound, and while they managed to avoid that trap, that's about all they've done. And turned out some catchy tunes in the process.
BEST CONTINUATION: Fade Away - Best Coast
What goes for Wavves also goes for Best Coast. I like the band's songs, I like Cosentino's crazy, often desperate lyrics and voice.
BETTER THAN I HAD ANY RIGHT TO EXPECT: 13 - Black Sabbath
A new Sabbath record? Uh-huh. Why? It seems unnecessary. But I kept hearing people say it's not bad at all, so I gave it a listen, expecting the worst, and ended up buying my own copy right away. I'm tellin' ya, you want some new Sabbath? Give 13 a listen.
BEST CASSETTE 1: A Friend Is Killer - Monster Museum
Monster Museum once again quietly turned out another cassette of killer indie rock songs. You can hear their influences, Sonic Youth, Guided By Voices, etc. - and they are all the right ones. I look forward to a full length from them. Not sure why they aren't on a national label yet.
THE BOB POLLARD ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Terminal Teen Age - Sick Thoughts
By my count, Sick Thoughts - which is essentially a one-man-band and that one man is a high school student, put out 5 full lengths, 2 split EPS, 2 singles and a side project demo last year. Even Bob Pollard didn't put out that much music in 2013. Crazy psyche-garage punk by a kid who has an aesthetic that is beyond his years. Amazing stuff.
BEST CASSETTE 2: Pure Vanity - South Carey
This tape is South Carey's way of saying goodbye. South Carey grinds their way through the punk songs here with a committment that is contagious. They make me want to start a band. Isn't that kind of the point?
BEST CULTURE MINING: Pop Yeh Yeh - Psychedelic Rock From Singapore and Malaysia: 1964-1970 - v/a
Another great collection of third would psyche rock from a forgotten era.
BEST REDISCOVERED GEM: The Complete LHI Years - Honey Ltd.
This Lee Hazelwood project is a 1960s girl lite-pop group of its time. Utterly fascinating and sometimes weird but also pleasantly milquetoast songs.