An album is best described through its cover art. Just like a music video for a track, an album cover for an LP is the core message that the artist is delivering. It has to match with the LP’s emotions. And any good album art will do that job pretty damn well.
We’ve seen many album covers…
No year’s end list of mine would be complete without at least one showing from one of Sam Ray's various projects. The dude and his music are inextricably linked with my writing/blogging/whatever and probably will be for a long time to come. Anyways, it's been a big year Sam and the rest of the good folks of Julia Brown especially when considering it was their first. A tape release, a vinyl release, some major hype; and all of it deserved. The band worked hard to free themselves of the baggage that came with the defunct Teen Suicide, most specifically the emo tag. Not that they have anything against emo, but Julia Brown wanted their music to be something entirely different. Lo-fi, heartfelt, humble, and mature; To Be Close To You is easily the best thing that Sam has attached his name to yet, and I’m looking forward to the band’s slowly progressing sophomore album.
If there is a theme to my favorite album choices this year it is this: growers. There were the albums that I wasn’t thrilled on upon first listen and then there were the albums like Slow Dance In the Cosmos that I liked ok enough at first but grew to love as time went on. Like the crusty paint on the cover artwork each time I listened to the album I scraped a little bit more surface off, revealing the color underneath. Aaron Maine’s oddball melodies and frank lyrics often remind me of Pedro the Lion, but where David Bazan had a tendency to dwell on darkness, Porches. finds the humor in the doom and gloom. When I talked to Aaron for The Miscreant he spoke about how he explores sad themes with his music, but at the end of the day he is doing it in an attempt to find happiness. In that way Slow Dance In the Cosmos becomes a bittersweet journey from darkness to light that relishes the travel time getting there.
I, like everyone else, cringed when I first saw the name Joanna Gruesome. How seriously was I supposed to take this band? Turns out, very seriously. I’m still finding myself prefacing my recommendation of Weird Sister to friends with “Disregard the name…”but it’s so completely worth it. I want the world to know about this band and I’m not going to let anything hold me back. Least of all a name. All it took to draw me to Joanna Gruesome was one listen of Weird Sister's first single “Sugarcrush.” The song took what would have been a sugary sweet melody and toughened it up with some punk and hardcore influence. From there I was sold. With their vicious lyrics and irresistible hooks, Joanna Gruesome with their not-to-miss live show became one of the absolute best thing about 2013. And best new is they show no immediate signs of slowing down.
There were a dizzying number of great metal albums released this year and Texas madman Chris Ulsh was only involved in like half of them. Seriously though, in addition to being in Power Trip he also slings for Mammoth Grinder, Hatred Surge, and the Impalers ; all of whom put out some excellent material this year. The shining jewel in his undisputed crown though is Manifest Decimation with its loving ode to the good old fashioned thrash metal of the 1980’s. The band wanted to keep things feeling particularly vintage and aside from some heavily-reverbed percussion and the occasional touch of electronics they accomplished just that. Pushing themselves past the point of nostalgia, Power Trip made an album that took thrash metal, the partiest of metal sub-genres, and made it feel both fun and dangerous. Ps- good gracious, that Paolo Girardi artwork is amazing.
Merchandise are a strange sort of anomaly that flies in the face of the modern age. In the days where everything is connected via the world wide web the guys manage to stay pretty much off the grid other than their rarely updated eyesore of a Wordpress site. On top of that these young hardcore kids from Florida make a seasoned sort of music with a maturity level that is seemingly way beyond their years. Following Carson Cox’s booming baritone, Merchandise have always reminded me of some sort of crustier modern day version of The Smiths and their songs pack quite a punch that hits me right in the gut. Carson’s vocals do draw a lot of the attention, but if you ask me it’s Dave Vassalotti’s guitar work that’s the unsung hero here. He has a way of spinning riffs together that, as corny as it sounds, make me want to tear up sometimes. On Totale Nite, the guys take their tempered darkness and push it even further into their cold world of alternative post-punk. Though bit weirder and not as accessible as Children of Desire, Totale Nite shows that the band is making their own way in the world and I’m just thrilled to be able to listen to them do it.
Simply put, Run the Jewels was the most instantly-appealing hip-hop album of the year for me. I loved Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music and El-P is cool enough with me, but man, Run the Jewels easily comes out on top when you stack them all up. I’ll admit that the reason I hastily downloaded it in the first place was the gorgeous zombie hands on the cover, but that’s just the horror freak in me talking. What I found inside though was some of the catchiest, smartest hip-hop I’d heard all year. What I like best about the album, aside from El-P’s crazy, neo-sci-fi production, is how the two MC’s tag team each and every track. Killer Mike is more bombastic with in-your-face lines that gratify instantly while El-P is more content to take the more unassuming road with lines that require several listens before their snappy genius really start to sink in. Simple put: in a year where so many bigger hip-hop albums seemed to steal the spotlight, Run the Jewels gave me everything I wanted from the genre and nothing else seemed to touch it this year.
This year Irish post-black metal band Altar of Plagues decided to call it quits, but not before they released one of the finest, most forward-thinking metal albums of the year. When I talked about Teethed Glory and Injury earlier this year I think that I called it “the most vital metal album of the year.” I stand by that because no other metal album this year continually left me mystified and grasping for speech as much as it did. Turning out to be the band’s swan song, Teethed Glory and Injury is an album that incessantly pushes the envelope and questions what it means to truly craft a metal album. The way that they incorporated droning, ambient noise and touches of futuristic electronics showed a band that refused to let their ambitions be boxed in. Like the contorted figured on the cover artwork, Altar of Plagues was a band that continually exerted themselves, pushing their craft to some mind-numbing extremes. These guys will be missed.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t first in line to check out Majical Cloudz. All I really knew about the project was that apparently they worked closely with Grimes up in Montreal. And seeing as I’m not exactly a Grimes fan, I felt no rush to check out the music. Plus their name was Majical Cloudz and to me that just seemed silly. But damn my cynicism and all that it keeps me from, because Impersonator turned out to be the album that resonated most with me on an emotional level this year. And yet for as good as the album was, what truly pushed me over the edge into the abyss though was Devon Welsh’s live show. There he stood in his signature white tee tucked into his black pants with a single white light beaming down on him. Stripped down, raw, and utterly powerful his set compelled me headlong into a dark world where there is a flickering light at the end of the murky tunnel, a single light to guide you home. When you listen to Impersonator you feel the intense gaze of Devon’s soul peering into yours. There’s no escaping it, but the best part is that you wouldn’t want to even if you could.
When describing bands in 2013, it’s became an option to say that “they’ve got that Copenhagen sound” and people will know exactly what you are talking about. This is thanks largely in part to the young rabble-rousers known as Iceage. Sure, they are not the only band to thank here, but they are one of the first and are they are certainly the most well-known. This is for good reason because Iceage are truly one of the more exciting and exhilarating punk bands working today. They are a pure, nihilistic force of nature with churning distortion, a loose grasp on what it means to keep time, and vocals that waver between sounding apathetically flat and flat out aggressive. The band’s sophomore album You’re Nothing is one that wallows in youthful rage and it’s also one that you probably shouldn’t look directly in the eye. What makes Iceage so exciting though is that for all the hype and critical acclaim, the band seems to be moved by none of it and what’s even scarier is that they manage to come off as wildly unpredictable in just about every way.
I struggled with putting Deafheaven in my #1 spot. On one hand I’m really glad that Deafheaven sort of broke the doors down as far as crossover success goes and that they got people who typically avoid metal to listen to (and like) an arguably black metal album. But on the other hand there were so many amazing metal albums released this year, it’s such a shame that a lot of those new listeners stopped at Sunbather and ventured no further into the genre. At the end of the day though, it’s not Deafheaven’s fault that they became an unwitting buzz band this year, and I’d be lying if I said that there was another album that hit me harder (both in the gut and the heart). So here it is: Sunbather is my favorite album of the year. It took what seemed like a novel concept and skyrocketed it to the realm of sublime musical genius. Whether you’re looking to blast the speakers off with its unrelenting noise or simply lay back and watch the clouds go by to the album’s lush and intermittent calms, Sunbather is an album that accommodates both extremes. Finding beauty in the least likely of all places, Deafheaven turned black metal on its head and made it exuberantly and deafeningly life affirming.
today has not been a good day but lash game strong
someone talk to me
or love me
either or both
Touche Amore- Honest Sleep
No matter where I am, this will always be home.
Touche Amore- Tilde
Touché Amoré - ~
JEREMEY BOLM JUST SHEDS HIS WALLS AND PUTS IT ALL OUT THERE AND ONE DAY I HOPE I COULD DO THE SAME
Touché Amoré - Harbor ♥
Every moment can’t remain and every life won’t stay the same.
With time comes a layer of rust and our bones will turn to dust.
Everyone will fall away and every season is built on change.
With time the paint will peel and all sense will lose it’s feel.
Every cloth will start to fray and every night will become day.
With time a mold will form and what’s cold can become warm.
Every love can’t always stay and the dead will soon decay.
With time we’ll all be gone but how you lived can live on.
Touché Amoré - Nonfiction
Touché Amoré//Just Exist