Best albums of 2013: No. 11-20 (with playlist!)

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we start with our individual picks for #11-20, with playlists sampling each group of 10. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20.

Todd’s #11-20

20. Ejecta, Dominae

19. Lily and Madeleine, The Weight of the Globe

18. Savages, Silence Yourself

17. Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin

16. Free Time, Free Time

15. Ducktails, The Flower Lane

14. Swearin’, Surfin’ Strange

13. Deap Vally, Sistronix

12. Small Black, Limits of Desire

11. Bleached, Ride Your Heart

Chris’ #11-20

20. Best Coast, Fade Away

19. Ashley Monroe, Like a Rose

18. The Field, Cupid’s Head

17. Four Tet, Beautiful Rewind

16. Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin

15. Cut Copy, Free Your Mind

14. Haim, Days Are Gone

13. Veronica Falls, Waiting for Something to Happen

12. Mikal Cronin, MCII

11. Weekend, Jinx

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MoSS? Presents: The Best 13 Albums of 2013…So Far

2013

At the beginning of June, many music sites started posting their “Best Albums of the Year So Far” lists. They considered June 1st the perfect time do so. It being the halfway point of the year and all. Well, we here at Music or Space Shuttle? actually own and know how to operate a calendar. Bear with me here, I’m going to do some math. You see, there are actually twelve months in a year. The halfway point would be after six months. That would make the the end of June or early July the perfect time for a “Best Albums of the Year So Far” list. Enough snark. Let’s get to the list!

deap-vally-get-deap-epDeap Vally, Get Deap! EPGet Deap! is probably my biggest guilty pleasure record this year. The rock duo’s EP is four songs of dirtyDeap+Vally+DeapVally guitars,  screaming vocals and questionable feminine hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing hard on the both of them. They’re like a cross between PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. Hoping they come to the area for a live show soon. I may just run away with them. –T

Key Track(s) – “Lies”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”


dtDucktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last prior to the release and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They were in Iowa City in April and put on a great show. Chris wrote about it here. -T

Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”


m b v album cover

My Bloody Valentine, m b v – What was almost as unbelievable as the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album is the fact that somehow it was not an absolute letdown. In fact, it was brilliant. The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of LovelessThe middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February. –C

Key track(s) – “in another way,” “wonder 2”


2012PalmaViolets180Press171212

Palma Violets, 180 – When I hear hype surrounding bands like Arctic Monkeys or the Vaccines or the like, I give their records a spin and often come away disappointed. This isn’t at all what I thought I would hear! Yet when I listened to a band that lacked the “next big thing” tag, one called Palma Violets, lo and behold, there it was! 180 is the album I’d always thought I’d hear from the buzz bands. “No-frills” rock, but punctuated with a charismatic singer and nice use of keyboard among the garage rock sounds. I’m starting to rethink my declaration of seeing Wild Belle instead of these guys at Lolla. –C

Key track: “Best of Friends”


rhye

Rhye, Woman – Reminiscent of The Weeknd in a couple of ways: one, is the singer a guy or a girl (answer: guy); two, regardless, this is really freakin’ great. Slinky, sexy, smooth as silk. “The Fall” is a vocal treasure, while “Last Dance” parts the smoky haze of the record for a few minutes to allow for moments of upbeat groove. While the vocals are natural to pair with slow and low tempo, it’s the juxtaposition of the emotion against the more up-tempo instrumentation that keep this collection from coming off as one-note. The comparisons to Sade and the xx are fair both in terms of similar sound and similar quality. –C

Key track: “The Fall”


Savages-Silence-Yourself

Savages, Silence Yourself – The savage (ahem) rumble of the drums and bass is what does it for me when it comes to Savages’ music. Of course, that alone isn’t going to get the job done, and thankfully the vocals and guitar work provide sharp contrast. That’s not to say the drumming is some sort of sloppy, tribal, Meg White-kind of stuff (which I like as well, in that context); Fay Milton snaps off precise snare hits and provides a tight, fast backbone. Anyway, this is what you get when you get four people dedicated to art but aren’t afraid to also make tight, listenable songs in the process. –C

Key track(s): “Shut Up”


srSigur Ros, Kveikur – I love that one of the coolest, heaviest records of the year was created by three dudes from Iceland, including the pixie-like Jonsi. It’s not like the band had to reinvent itself to sound this way; songs from the early albums have been intense, bordering on metallic at times. Even on the relatively chill album ( ), they showed they could deconstruct into harsh madness (“Untitled 8,” anyone?). As one reviewer put it, perhaps Georg (bass) and Orri (drums) were sick of never getting any credit, and just went buck wild on all our asses. It worked. –C

Key track: “Brennisteinn”


umojacketv1Small Black, Limits of Desire – I had big hopes for this album after loving their first full length album New Chain and subsequent Moon Killer MixTape. After the first listen, I was less than impressed. Maybe it was their bizarre album cover. Maybe it was because the chillwave vibes of the first album were mostly gone and what was left was mainly a synth pop record. It took a few additional listens for me to remember, “I f’ing love synth pop records!” -T

Key Track(s) – “No Stranger”


tsTegan and Sara, Heartthrob – This one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my overall Best of 2013 list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it. -T

Key Track(s) – “How Come You Don’t Want Me”, “Closer”


Thee-Oh-Sees-Floating-Coffin

Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin – Let’s say Tame Impala had a love-child band with one of those garage rock groups you might find on an old Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. Sounds as dreamy as chocolate and peanut butter coming together, no? Thee Oh Sees pretty much sounds like the spawn of the aforementioned scenario, doing its thing at an incredibly prolific rate, to boot. Floating Coffin seems like their fourth album in three years–probably because it is!–and each output continues to satisfy. Not only is there energy galore in the tunes, you won’t find a much better use of the vocal weapons “Whoooo!” and “Owwwwww!” anywhere. –C

Key track: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”


torres

Torres, Torres – I know I’m supposed to use these single paragraphs to sing the praises of our favorite albums thus far in 2013, but with Torres, I’m having trouble pinpointing. Perhaps it’s the way her voice melts throughout the opening song, “Mother Earth, Father God.” Or the lyric “Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me” on “Honey.” Or how there is a sinister element to her songs. Or how the chorus just falls out of her mouth so wonderfully on “Jealousy and I.” Or that someone named Mackenzie Scott decided, “You know what? I’m going to go by the moniker ‘Torres’!” (shrug) Oh, look what I just did. I guess it’s all pretty great. –C

Key track: “Jealousy and I”


vw

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – This might be the year that Vampire Weekend finally drops its bridesmaid status on my end-of-year lists and moves up one slot to the top. (Finished second to Portishead in 2008; Crystal Castles in 2010.) The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. The esoteric lyrics are still here, but the most moving words come on “Step,” where Ezra declares “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone.” –C

Key track(s): Pretty much all of them


waxahatchee-cerulean-saltWaxahatchee, Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them. I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post   m b v,  I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v. It was tough picking a “key track” for this one because this is one of those rare records that I find all the songs to be equally as good. Take a listen to “Peace and Quiet” below and judge for yourself. -T

Key Track(s) – “Peace and Quiet”

From the MoSS? Pit: Sigur Ros (with a Ducktails postscript)

silhouette of jonsi

Jonsi’s silhouette towers above the audience during the opening song of the set.

It’s funny, in a way: one of my favorite albums of all time, ( ) by Sigur Ros, is quite serene and ethereal at times…so much so that people often forget the climax moments that punctuate the latter parts of several songs.

Those in attendance Tuesday night at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion couldn’t help but be reminded of the explosive elements of Sigur Ros.

IMG_1653Jonsi, Georg, and Orri, along with a full complement of vocal, string, and percussion performers, dropped two hours’ worth of gorgeous power on our ears, striking a good balance of the back catalog along with a taste of what’s ahead (or recently released) in 2013. The band understands its suitability for visual representation, as evidenced by the stunning, fantastical, and sometimes bizarre content displayed on the widescreen backdrop behind the band (and during the first couple of songs, a sheer curtain that surrounded the stage).

I’m not sure what to praise first, as there is no shortage of positives that came from this show, one of the greatest live music experiences of my life. Jonsi’s strong vocal work? The dude held a note for damn near an hour (wish I would have actually timed it) during “Festival” toward the end of the main set. His voice is as vital an instrument as his bowed guitar, and it was strong all night long, piercing through the bluster with its falsetto majesty while also dialing it back to match the tender moments of “Fljotavik” and “Vaka.”

How about that the new songs (three from the upcoming summer album, Kveikur; one from the recently released Brennisteinn EP) are absolutely stunning? I spent many of the 24 hours after the show making a deep bass-thump sound (something like “DUHHNNNNNN!”) over and over again, as “Brennisteinn” got lodged in my head, in much the same way that Gotye song ear-wormed its way into Travis while eating at Busy Burger. (“Wow that was one juicy burger!”)

In fact, the main takeaway I had after this night: Sigur Ros rocks so much harder than so-called “hard rock.” As each song reached its conclusion, Orri was killing the drums, Georg was pounding or plucking away at his bass, and Jonsi was attacking his guitar with his bow with the mania of a deranged lunatic (yet with amazing precision).

The aforementioned hopping across the back catalog was great. Four songs from Takk…, three songs from ( ), two from Agaetis Byrjun, two from Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, and one from Valtari…a great mix. I didn’t hear everything I love, but that would have required at least another hour. For a two-hour show, they hit a great deal of the highlights.

After a two-song encore consisting of “Glosoli” and the best song from the catalog, “Popplagio” (or “Untitled 8”), the band graciously came out and took a bow for the adoring crowd. It was cool to see the big smiles on their faces; undoubtedly there were thousands of smiles (and cheers and whatever else) sent in their direction.

The show wasn’t perfect, but through no fault of Sigur Ros:

  • Oneohtrix Point Never was boring as shit.
  • Beer was $8 per Solo cup; $9 if you wanted an “import” (read: good) beer. I had zero.
  • I swear the same douchebag couple that stood near us at the Portishead show at the Aragon back in 2011 was standing next to us at this show. Making a show of getting high and making out and what not. Why not buy/rent one of the Sigur Ros concert DVDs and fuck on your living room floor in front of the TV?
  • Signs outside the venue made it quite clear that you could not bring in, among other things, “sticks/spikes.” Styx, that I can understand. But sticks? PUSSYFICATION OF ‘MURICA

Also, word on the street is that The Playpen on Mannheim is not the place to go for after-show entertainment. We heeded that advice.

And to end this part on a positive note, we saw Blue Pants, who has to be related to the infamous Red Pants, after the show. Wowzers.

Oh, and the night before…

Todd and I took in the kickoff concert for this year’s Mission Creek Festival. Ducktails, featuring Real Estate Guy (I’m too lazy to see which Real Estate member it is), topped a three-band bill before a sold-out* crowd at the Mill.

* Well, it was a free show, so “sold out” might seem a little loose with the language. But you did have to RSVP to get on a guest list, and that filled up, so I guess you could say standing-room-only. Also, there was free pizza.

Ducktails provided a solid, professional set. Groovy tunes, and Real Estate Guy (I know, I should open a new browser window and Google his name) seemed to be enjoying the show too. Aside from me spilling half a glass of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, it was a good time. Here’s “Ivy Covered House”:

One opening act fell into the same category as Oneohtrix Point Never, in that it was one dude just sort of doing his own thing up there with button pushing. It was a little more elaborate than OPN, but that doesn’t mean it was any good. The other opener reminded me of James Chance and the Contortions minus the brass…and that actually is sort of an okay thing. If you are not familiar with James Chance, um, here:

The MoSS? Pit is growing for the April 27 Best Coast show…maybe we’ll see you in there.

Music You Should Be Listening To: January 2013

Here at MoSS? we care about our readers. We know finding good new music can be a challenge. Lord knows you don’t hear it on the radio these days. Against my better judgment, I turned on the local rock station the other day and what do you think they were playing? Buckcherry. That’s right, Buck-fucking-cherry. It’s like regular “over the airwaves” radio is stuck in some early 2000s black hole that it can’t escape. So anyway, as a service to you loyal readers we’ll be sharing some music that “You Should Be Listening To.” Yes, we will still be doing the monthly mixes but we only get 5 songs each and sometimes that’s just not enough. Also, these posts will be mainly aimed at LPs/EPs and not singles.  So pay attention. We don’t want you wandering around aimlessly listening to shitty music now do we?

January 2013 has been a pretty good month for music. Normally, January is a very slow time for new music. Also, early in the year releases can be a tough for an artist with designs on landing on my uber-prestigious best of year list. In the last few years, there have been some early releases that I loved. Examples: Frankie Rose, Interstellar in 2012 , and Cut Copy, Zonoscope in 2011. Both are great records and were my favorite of there respective years for quite awhile do to the lack of competition. Unfortunately, I burned them out and was so sick of them by year’s end that they both struggled to crack the top 10 on my list. Maybe some of this January’s releases will fair better with so much more competition for air play.

Earlier in the month, we had a few interesting releases by:

feFree Energy, Love Sign – Just plain old good time rock. I heard them described once as “Trans-Am Rock”…seems fitting. Wish I could have made it to their show last weekend at RIBCO. Heard it was good. Maybe next time around.

Key Track(s) – “Electric Fever” ,“Girls Want Rock”

lmLily and Madeleine, The Weight of the Globe EP – These girls are like 19 and 16 and can write and sing like this? I was just trying to figure out how to play an F-Chord at that age (I still fake it a bit on that one and use my thumb on the low E). Vocals sound a lot like the group First Aid Kit. Their songs kind of remind me of The Swell Season with their use of guitars and piano. Check out Lily and Madeleine’s  Bandcamp page and think about supporting them with a purchase.

Key Track(s) – All five songs are good.

While those releases were good, today’s the day I’ve had circled on my calendar. Four albums came out today that have me excited:

dtDucktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last week and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They are coming to Iowa City in April, may have to check out the show.

Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”

tsTegan and Sara, Heartthrob – Much like Vampire Weekend’s upcoming album is likely to be Chris’ 2nd favorite album of the year, this one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it.

Key Track(s) – “Closer”, “Now I’m All Messed Up”

lnLocal Natives, Hummingbird – iTunes streamed this record last week and I liked it right away. It’s not like much else out there today. Chris is way better at expressing in writing why a record is good. Usually, I just go by the feel of it. This one feels good to me. Some of the songs sound like long lost Jeff Buckley tunes so maybe that’s why.

Key Track(s) – “Breakers”, “Colombia”

brBleeding Rainbow, Yeah RightSolid release that I haven’t had the chance to really dissect yet. They streamed it at Pitchfork last week but the Ducktails album made me forget about it. I was really looking forward to this one too. It was supposed to be out last October but they delayed the release. Usually, that’s not a good sign but I’ve listened to Yeah Right and liked what I heard. It’s definitely worth checking out if you like distortion filled shoegazey type stuff.

Key Track(s) – “Pink Ruff”

Can’t wait to see what next month brings us. It’s going to be hard to beat last year as Chris dubbed it the “Best February Ever”.