Editorials / Music

The Best Albums of 2013

#1 A Great Big Pile of Leaves:
80’s stylization with the irreverent idealism that defines our age. A Great Big Pile of Leaves gives true definition to the decade. Within the short three years we have seen out of the ’10’s, many artists have been able to encapsulate the desperation of the generation but none quite like A Great Big Pile of Leaves. Right out of the gate with this album the hooks are infectious. You immediately hear the catchy cooing that will run through “Snack Attack”‘s chorus and also the motif for the entire song. “You’re Always On My Mind” offers up some incredibly interesting drumming patterns with everything in terms of guitar work from jazz chords to trilling ambient arpeggios that ramp up to strange stop start motifs throughout their incredibly original choruses and break downs. Riff construction seems to be very important to the band, either that or they are just naturally incredibly gifted at doing so, both instrumentally and vocally. Choruses such as “Hey won’t you join me?/ Let’s have a slumber partyyyy/ and go midnight swimin in” or “It’s a big big big big sea/ and I’m just a little fish/ Gone swimming” may seem childish or ridiculous on paper but the lyrics are sung with such irreverent disdain and catchy overtones, that one can’t help but be in love with this very silly band.

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#2 Deafheaven- Sunbather:
If ever Black Metal deserved respect it would be with this album. The diversity of aesthetics felt throughout the tracks that average about ten minutes a piece, are so ever changing that a musician could easily see the whole piece as life affirming in certain situations. There are aspects of shoegaze, post hardcore, and post metal interlaced here over blast beats. The raw physical talent of the band cannot be understated as most purveyors of the black metal genre are able to lay claim to, however what makes Deafheaven truly special is what they do to advance the art of aggressive music and make no mistake, this is the most important aggressive album of the year. Not just for metal fans but also for anyone who likes their music to express anger in just about any way, “Sunbather” will be a monument with which we can point to as a watermark for aggressive music in the future. The vocals are gut wrenching while having some deep meaning when  you actually read the unintelligible lyrics. The guitar work is like nothing seen in the genre and the combination of aesthetics that Deafheaven brings to the table on this album makes it truly original and an amazing accomplishment for the advancement of music as an art form.
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#3

Chance The Rapper- Acid Rap:
It seems rap has entered a stage in which it has become self aware. Many artists are able to show off the common threads that run through rap and have fun with tweaking it’s themes but Chance is able to do so with some amazing style, grace, and poise that will be hard for any other rapper to emulate. Chance raps with a certain abandon that allows him to be goofy and deeply introspective within the same beat, which allows his somber moments to hit that much harder and the overwrought humor that runs throughout Acid Rap, to be that much funnier. Midwest rappers have a great deal to lament about this year with Chicago seeing one of it’s most violent years in it’s history. Chance does not shy away from the topic at all, perhaps most poignant is his hidden track Paranoia where Chance laments, “They merking kids, they murder kids here/ Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here /
Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here”. There are also some excellent guest appearances to be had, one of the most memorable being Twista’s verse on “Cocoa Butter Kisses” in which he refers to himself as the Higgs Boson of rap, or Noname Gypsy’s incredibly personal verse on “Lost”. Acid Rap is free to download via Datpiff so go grab it now.
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#4 Donovan Wolfington- Stop Breathing:
Absolute apathy might define our generation and “Die Alone”, (almost just in title alone) might duplicate that feeling better than anything else this year but it also holds gems within that are somehow reminiscent of doo-wop whilst remaining incredibly relevant. Donovan Wolfington absolutely explodes with artistry on this album that is one of the most diverse offerings of the year.Tracks like “Love is Natural” show how the band can create a space within their songs that feels familiar and safe at once and even though you are ready for the build that the song creates it still explodes fairly unexpectedly with some Explosion in the Sky like stylings then doubles back to the doo-wop chords and then back again to the spastic ambient style yet again. Then there are tracks like “American Spirits” which ring out beautifully at first and then break into the true Wolfington style with “My mother’s worried about my lungs/ But she should be worried about all the distances I’ve gone”, it’s a beautiful track that goes at a great pace into it’s breakdown queued by “My mothers worried about my thoughts/ cause she can’t control them/ and neither can I”. Then there are tracks like “Ryan Rowley” and “Die Alone” which, once the momentum is built on, never truly cease with their unique energy. If you can, grab this album on vinyl because I haven’t heard a digital version of it yet that is anywhere near sufficient.
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#5
Earl Sweatshirt- Doris:
A genius of rap on caliber with Nas and Method Man, while still remaining a teenager, Earl’s return to rap might not be as important as Good kid M.A.A.D City or Acid Rap, however his album is an unstoppable force that sets a precedent for all of the rap that should come after it.
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#6 Crash of Rhinos- Knots:
Crash of Rhinos comes through with some truly inspiring work that feels fresh, original and epic. Introspection is nothing new with this style of music but Crash of Rhinos almost gives new meaning to extremely personal music. You can’t help but feel empathetic for these musicians as the visceral British screams pour from their mouths. The band has a great amount of versatility with many of the band members taking on vocals throughout the album, each one bringing a distinct style to the table that allows the album to have some real sense of depth throughout. It’s quite the fun jaunt into the depths of these artists minds and will leave you with a lasting impression for weeks to come, even after the first listen.
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#7 Waxahatchee- Cerulean Salt:
A brilliant piece of songwriting that seems mostly to be a display of how much Katie Crutchfield can do with an actual studio recording. Her first album, American Weekend felt flat in terms of originality but definitely showed that she had some real songwriting potential. Cerulean Salt is a true realization of her song crafting abilities. Many of the tracks feature some intoxicatingly catchy melody and bass lines that will leave you humming for weeks. I was able to immediately recognize when “Coast to Coast” was being played at a house party I was passing outside of town this year and I knew that was probably a group of people I could get along with. (Just by chance I ended up at the house where this was being played one night a few months later and was sorely disappointed by those in attendance.) The album shows how versatile Ms. Crutchfield can be with tracks that are reminiscent of her twin sister’s band Swearin’ (“Waiting” and “Dixie Cups and Jars”), some that capture the heartbroken feelings from her first album  (“You’re Damaged”), and others that give real definition to what Waxahatchee is and will continue to be, (“Swan Dive” and “Lips and Limbs”). Katie Crutchfield picks her guitar with grace and croons beautifully over her tracks with even more.
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#8 Pity Sex- Feast of Love:
Pity Sex gives their finest and most interesting offering up this year with “Feast of Love”. The album feels as if it would have been quite the success in the 90’s and each song feels far more crafted than their 2012 EP. Both the male and female vocalists accompany each other on every track and depending on who takes the lead the songs can bring quite the differing aesthetic from track to track which makes the album feel fresh from start to finish. “Feast of Love” is one of the more interesting releases of the year as it shows a new direction for Pity Sex and holds by far their most catchy songs released so far. A softer early Silverchair should come to mind almost immediately along with a tough fuzzy guitar tone that reminds one of Lovedrug and Queens of the Stone-age.
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#9 I Kill Giants- I Kill Giants:
An album that is the closest thing we can get to the now defunct Midwest Pen Pals, “I Kill Giants” has some real brevity to it and some interestingly catchy riffs throughout that stay on par with the breakneck speed and drum work that twinkle is known for. This album has basically everything that you would want out of a Twinkle album including beats that you can clap to, trumpet riffs, vocals that sound like they were sung in the bathroom across the hall, slow breakdowns with just guitars playing full and meaty clean chords, and the occasional psychotic breakdown of a seemingly manic depressive singer in which he goes on a spoken word rant. If Twinkle is your cup of tea at all go grab this immediately.
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#10 Baths- Obsidian: Electronic indie has been around for decades, the Postal Service taught us how it could be done with actual artistry and grace, but Baths has been able to use the assets of the genre to create a truly wonderful aesthetic. By taking ideas of silence and loud and pushing them farther than Nirvana ever could, they are able to give their niche a form of wonderful ideas that can rarely be found in music in the modern age.
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#11 Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels
#12 Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires of the City
#13 The World Is a Beautiful Place And I am No Longer Afraid to Die- Whenever, If Ever
#14 Marnie Stern- The Chronicles of Marnia
#15 J Cole- Born Sinner
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