The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we unveil our individual picks for #8-10. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20. Don’t miss our picks for #11-20.
#10: Palma Violets, 180
It probably took me 10 listens to the first song on Palma Violets 180 , “Best of Friends” , before I realized I was singing along to the songs raucous chorus incorrectly. I was singing…
“I don’t wanna be your best friend…I want you to be my girl.”
Assuming this song was like nearly every other rock song about a guy/girl relationships were the guy really wants to be with a girl. Well, at least spend some quality time with the girl’s lady bits. Of course I was wrong. It was actually the opposite…
“I wanna be your best friend…I don’t want you to be my girl.”
A switch-up that I found to be a much more interesting a thought. Unless the girl looks like and has the personality of Nancy Grace, what guy wants that situation? Just friends with an attractive cool chick? Not even friends with benefits? Mind blown.
It was that song that got me to check out the whole 180 album and I wasn’t disappointed. Track after track of post-punk gems. Many of the songs remind me of The Clash during the London Calling era. Although, Palma Violets frontman Chilli Jesson’s lead vocals are a bit more varied than on some of the old Clash songs. Throughout, 180 he will seamlessly switch from crooning verses to screaming choruses. I also think they end the album perfectly with the anthemic song “14.” Seems like the ideal song to hold up a lighter and sway back and forth with a concert crowd. I hope they come around here soon to see.
#9: Golden Youth, Quiet Frame: Wild Light
This is an album that may not have been on too many people’s radar. I ran across a free download of one of their songs, “Brother in the Morning Light”, and really liked it. Enough in fact to throw it on one of our 2013 monthly mix tapes. Musically it reminded me quite a bit of some of Sigur Ros’ more uplifting “movie moment” type songs. The only difference being the vocals of female lead singer Stephanie Lauren.
I eventually downloaded the whole album during a 3 hour car trip to the Chicago area. I must have played it 15 times during that trip and countless others after. It’s a quick listen. Unfortunately, of the 10 songs on the album, only 7 are unique. They tacked on alternate/live versions of 3 songs at the end of the album. If they had 3 new songs on there instead, the record probably would have scored a much higher ranking.
#8: My Bloody Valentine, m b v
Yes, the unthinkable happened and MBV announced via their Facespace page that they had a new record and website. The website immediately crashed and I wore out my computer’s refresh button until I was able to download the album. You can’t imagine the joy I felt as I listened to the lead track “she found now” and realized A, that it wasn’t a fake and B, it was really good.
The night of the release as I was constantly refreshing and battling the dreaded “403 Server Error”, I read a lot of comments on the MBV Facebook page. The best comments were by younger fans. They didn’t really get the excitement of us older dudes. One kid posted something like, “the only people that care about this album are middle-aged white dudes in the suburbs.” He nailed my demographic for sure. I don’t think he was 100% correct but m b v was certainly the biggest thing to happen in my world of music in a long time.
#10: Bleached, Ride Your Heart
What do I like so much about the Bleached record, a collection of songs that earned my consideration for top-5 positioning at various points of the year? I love the way the vocals have that sun-drenched quality without sounding cheesy-cheery. I love the rapid-fire drum fills on songs like “Next Stop,” which also has fun lyrics that will force even the grumpiest guy to sing along a bit. I love the high-hat/bass line vibe in the verses of “Dead in Your Head” that relent to a bursting chorus.
Songs like “Searching Through the Past” and “Dead Boy” are nothing complicated, but they’re really great tunes that don’t get old on subsequent listens. I’m attracted to the lo-fi sound throughout. If you like Best Coast (and if you’ve seen my lists from previous years, you know I am in that camp), you can’t go wrong with Bleached. It’s the sort of album that will never sound dated, and it’s a statement brief enough that you don’t tire of it halfway through.
#9: Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe
The first wave of Mission Creek 2014 bands was announced the other day, and my reaction mirrored how I felt when the 2013 lineup was announced: meh. But this year, I’m learning it might be worth looking into the artists I’m not familiar with. Because I missed a chance to see one of my favorite artists of 2013 do her thing for an intimate audience in Iowa City.
Yep, Julianna Barwick was one of the 2013 Mission Creek performers, and I can only imagine how glorious the songs from Nepenthe would have sounded live. The vocals more often than not serve as yet another instrument, creating a dreamy end result that can calm the feistiest of souls. There is intensity within this music, taking it beyond simple background music to something special.
I think the best way to describe this album is to consider it a younger sibling of sorts to Sigur Ros’ ( ). And if you know what high regard I have for that album, you’ll realize what a compliment I’m paying Nepenthe. (If you’re wondering what Nepenthe means, it is a medicine for sorrow mentioned in ancient Greek literature. The definition applies here, too.)
#8: Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty
There are some differences between Chelsea Wolfe and Ian Curtis. Wolfe isn’t a dude, doesn’t appear to suffer from epilepsy, and, well, she’s alive.
But there are certainly some similarities in their musical stylings. The title of her latest album, Pain Is Beauty, is very Joy Division sounding. Her voice conveys the same sort of emotionalism that Curtis used to deliver on a regular basis (in a much lower register, of course).
I love the minimalist beat of “Feral Love” and “The Warden.” I love the combination of Wolfe’s aching vocals and the plodding drums and the low, ringing guitar blasts found on “We Hit a Wall.” The album’s intensity is felt throughout its 12 tracks, and the album’s tone is far from monotonous. Fans of the post-punk era should enjoy this disc quite a bit.
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