Mark Oliver’s (Cmn ineed yr hlp) Top Pick’s of 2013

Naturally, when James reached out to me to write a guest “Top 10” post, I was flattered and excited. Then alarmed: I had no idea what I would put on such a list. In a year of many tremendous releases, I had trouble picking out one, let alone ten, that were standout favorites. (As this runs, my friend and I will be posting our year end list on our music Tumblr, I’ll bet I have changed my mind somewhat by then.) Further, despite having listened to hundreds of new albums, they’re a mere drop in the enormous bucket of 2013 releases; it’s inevitable I’ll be omitting at least one record I’ll later discover to be a timeless classic.

This is the drawback to the blessing of being a music fan in the digital age. With Bandcamp, Spotify, Rdio, Mog, etc. there is so much (legal!) access to so many great albums coming out all over the world, it’s impossible to get to them all, or even a healthy fraction of them. This is why I find it so infuriating when I see such homogeneity in year-end top lists. With something as subjective as music, and such a vast ocean of choices, there is no excuse other than laziness and cowardice that we should see nearly the exact same group of albums appearing on list after list.

PostRockStar is doing it right, offering a bunch varying perspectives from inside and outside their staff. To my earlier point, I’ve had my eyes opened to a LOT of stuff I missed the boat on this year. And isn’t that supposed to be THE POINT to all of this?! I hope I can pay it forward. I’ve chosen ten albums that I find myself relistening to the most as the year has drawn to a close. Then I’m going to try to mention as many other worthwhile albums I can within the context of those choices. I’m also (mostly) going to stay away from the normal domain of PostRockStar, as clearly all of the writers and I suspect most of the readers are far better versed in that world than I am, I’m not going to insult you all by pretending otherwise.

TL;DR? Let’s get on with this then:

10. Popstrangers – Antipodes

Like I said, I had a very difficult time picking out ten records for this list. The clock is about to strike midnight before the “deadline” for this submission, and I’m only now settling on this kiwi trio for the final slot. Apologies to Charles Bradley, Obits, Pinkish Black, Soviet Soviet, The Leap Year, and a host of others mentioned in the other entries) that narrowly missed out.

But it is this debut from New Zealand that kicks off the list and I have no regrets. This is an extremely well-named band, they are poppy and comfortable with some cute hooks, but they have a fairly obtuse angle towards that end. Over a rumbling rhythm section, guitarist/frontman Joel Flyger toys with a variety of effects and minor key vocal melodies to create tightly crafted tunes. Popstrangers owe a wide variety of debt to some of the “alternative” rock of the late eighties and nineties, an exciting trend for us old fogeys that saw some great releases this year: Roomrunner, Furguson, Crash of Rhinos, Ovlov, Carpark labelmates Speedy Ortiz, and Mudhoney (who nobody can emulate, so they just have to do it themselves). But the New Zealanders are able to distill it down to a sound that’s somehow completely fresh and distinctly that of this decade, somewhere many of their peers fall short.

9. Lorde – Pure Heroine

Yeah yeah yeah, I know a large portion of my preamble was admonishing doing a list that just seems to draw from a predetermined pool of certified “best of 2013” records. Perhaps it’s a bit hypocritical for me to promptly drop the record that likely appears on more lists than any other. I don’t care; there may not have been more culturally important record to come out this year.

Let me put it this way; you may listen to the most obscure, challenging music you can get your hands on. But at the end of the day, you have to live in the world with everybody else. And I believe a world where Ella Yelich-O’Connor (aka Lorde) is elevated to pop superstardom is simply a better one. (Ditto goes for Janelle Monáe) Pure Heroine is simple and sophisticated, intelligent and introspective, heartfelt and some other h-word. The extended version closes with a freaking Replacements cover! (Admittedly a song I wish people would leave alone, but she does alright with it.) All created by a 17 year-old who is both an old soul and distinctly aware of what it means to be a teenager. Further, it would appear that she is capable of handling the attention being lavished upon her without losing sight of the humanity that made her capable of creating such a work in the first place. I could be wrong, and have been about these things in the past, but I think Lorde’s with us for the long haul, and our mass culture is going to be *that* much more intelligent and civil because of it.

8. Outfit – Performance

Another symptom I’ve discovered of this era of musical saturation is my ability to enjoy a record a couple of times, then move on, without really giving it time to set in just how good it was. Such was the case with this summer’s debut from Liverpool quintet Outfit. It wasn’t until I was reviewing my listening habits of the past year that I encountered the record again and the dopamine of pop familiarity was released into my brain.

Outfit comes off how I always wished Hot Chip would have sounded. The same kind of hooks and blend of electronic and organic sounds, but where the well-known Londoners opt for the saccharine, the rookie band has a tendency for soulful. Try listening to “No Fit State” and “I Want What’s Best” back to back for an example of what I mean. Outfit was borne out living out of an artist’s collective in the mansion of an eccentric millionaire, and Performance was recorded in an empty apartment complex. The result is an album that has the echoes of confined spaciousness and a canvas for a surprising amount of reflective listening. A record that’s just sneaky good.

7. Destruction Unit – Deep Trip

Over the last few years, there’s been something of a linear merge created in the world of garage rock, psychedelic and shoegaze. An army of excellent bands have emerged, falling in various spots along that spectrum, delivering some of the best records of the last two years (my two favorites from 2012, Goat’s World Music and Metz’s self-titled, fell under that banner). 2013 saw no shortage of great releases from that world as well, with great offerings from Hookworms, Sulk, Elephant Stone, The Black Angels, Weekend, Pink Frost, Psychic Teens, Suuns, Wolf People, Holograms, and a host of others I’m sure I’m forgetting. But none stuck with me quite like the hellacious full length from Destruction Unit.

Falling in the garage psych section of that realm, Destruction Unit lives up to their name with a furious barrage of punk fueled noise. Deploying a trio of guitars, the band is able to explore sonic possibilities without deviating from the push and fury of the song itself. The result is akin to being hit with a rock and roll tractor trailer and completely delightful. Front man Ryan Rosseau is a veteran of the Jay Reatard’s clan, and the take-no-prisoners approach to garage rock deployed by gone-too-soon Reatard is reflected in Rosseau’s performance on the record: reverb laden, menacing and ferocious. The band is comfortably the king of the hill of a very strong showing from the genre this year.

6. Foals – Holy Fire

I was introduced to Foals from two separate sources a little over five years ago when their debut Antidotes was released. One was my Brit-pop lovin’ friend Aubrey who I now blog with at Opinears, the other my post and math rock lovin’ friend Jeff. Both extremely reliable sources, but not an enormous overlap in the Venn diagram of their tastes. Yet, listening to Foals, I could see exactly why would appeal to both of them. Frontman Yannis Philippakis and drummer Jack Bevan brought significant math rock cred as veterans of The Edmund Fitzgerald, but the new band blended math rock noodles and rhythms with sing-a-long hooks, a dance-punk backbeat and atmospheric layering straight out of the post rock playbook.

With their third record, Foals has distilled that sound to something that can only be defined as “Foals”. Holy Fire stands as their biggest and most dynamic record yet, and I would argue their most solid front to back. Purists may increasingly dismiss Foals’ connection to the world of post and math rock and they wouldn’t be wrong for doing so. But you have to be a tremendous cynic to not be excited by the way Foals have been able to utilize their background in those worlds and infuse them into a sound that borders on arena rock (by the by, might not be a better big stage live rock act going right now.) This year saw nice comeback albums by Bowie and QOTSA also, but right now, for my money, there’s no better big rock band going right now than Foals.

5. Spectral Park – s/t

A lot of albums on this list confound me with their inability to grab wider traction, but perhaps none so more than the debut from Luke Donovan, aka Spectral Park. A release from very early in 2013 (some list as 2012, but are wrong), legend has it that the album started when Donovan encountered a crate of old records on a walk near his home in Southampton. He brought them home, fed them into his sampler, and then created a full length record tracking instruments along with them. The result is a particularly twisted piece of classic pop psychedelica.

So maybe there’s very little surprise that a member of Cmn ineed yr hlp would be charmed by creative use of found audio. But what Donovan has come up with is quite impressive. The distinct analog and rotating feel you get from utilizing worn out records ties the LP together and serve as a terrific foil for Donovan to write against. And the album sticks with you, Spectral Park features no shortage of dramatic hook and impassioned vocal (apparently the record was written on the heels of a difficult break-up). Maybe this one didn’t catch on at large as much as I thought, but I suspect we have not even begun to hear the last of this unique composer.

4. The Child of Lov – s/t

It is incredibly rare that I anticipate a debut release from anybody I don’t know personally. But the breadcrumbs The Child of Lov left leading up to his eponymous debut left me salivating. Hip hop production of a classic soul sound so deep that in its best moments it recalled spirituals and the early days of blues. Adding to that was the fascination with its anonymous creator and the multitude of rumors surrounding him: an alias for a famous artist? (His association with Blur’s Damon Albarn and rapper DOOM seemed to suggest as much.) Problems with his mental health? His physical health?

The album delivered on the promise of its early singles and then some, the sound found itself as least gently touched by every genre imaginable. Heartbreakingly, we also found out that rumors of Child’s physical ailments were true, when Martijn Teerlinck (his real name) passed away of complications from surgery at the criminally young age of 26.

As a fellow musician, I find great solace in the fact that Teerlinck was able to get his masterpiece out to the public before his untimely passing. I have little doubt that he found a great amount of peace in that. As (an admittedly selfish) music fan, his already potent album is made that much more powerful with the knowledge that it was created by a man in his mid 20’s coming to terms with his own mortality. Just try listening to Fly without getting a little shaken up. I know this gem will find more ears with time.

3. Bottomless Pit – Shade Perennial

I’m as guilty as any 120 Minutes lovin’ child of the 80’s and 90’s. One of our favorite alternative/college rock/indie/whatever –you-call-it artists will resurface and play a handful of shows and we’ll completely lose our minds. Yet, two members of one of the best, most underrated bands of that era, Silkworm, continue to churn out amazing records with their band Bottomless Pit and the indie rock world at large still doesn’t freak out to the degree that it should. Backed by Chris Manfrin (ex-Seam) on drums and Brian Orchard (.22) on bass, guitarist Andy Cohen and baritone guitarist Tim Midyett continue with the extremely personal and introspective songs that they have been writing for decades. More mature, surely, but composed and performed with every bit of sincerity, craftsmanship and passion that they ever have.

Shade Perennial might be my favorite from this band to date, which is really saying something as they don’t have a dud to their name. The interplay between the musicians on this record is so effortless you barely notice it behind Midyett and Cohen’s vulnerable vocal melodies.

And the extra wonderful thing about fellow Chicagoans Bottomless Pit releasing such a world class record is that since I don’t really know them personally, I can use them as a vehicle to not have to play favorites amongst the wide host of great releases my friends came out with this year (alphabetical, told you I hate to play favorites): The Book-Burners, The Columbines, Czar, Fake Limbs, The Heavy Bombers, Nonagon, Radiant Republic, Sirs, Tijuana Hercules, Tyranny is Tyranny, Victory and Associates, and Whales.

2. Shannon Wright – In Film Sound

I’m just over a year removed from becoming completely addicted to Shannon Wright (Captain Late-to-the-Party strikes again!) and this year was treated to quite possibly her best record yet. On In Film Sound, she’s backed by the rhythm section of one of my favorite bands, the late, great Shipping News (bass player Todd Cook’s new band Old Baby also put out a great record that just barely missed this list). Cook and drummer Kyle Crabtree form the perfect backdrop for Wright’s dark and cascading heavier compositions.

This was a great year for the axe yielding ladies with great albums being released by virtuoso Marnie Stern, genre bending Chelsea Wolfe, and the surf happy gals in La Luz, but even if she was just showcasing her chops on guitar songs, I think for my tastes, Wright would be tops on the year. But when she sits down at the piano for the hearth-aching “Bleed” in the dead center of this record, Wright showcases a dynamic and emotional range that few modern singer/songwriters are trading in right now.

I’m surely not the only one that was slow on the uptake with Wright, and with her roots so deeply entrenched in the Louisville origins of post-rock, I think readers of this site would be well served to have a listen.

1. And So I Watch You from Afar – All Hail Bright Futures

Yeah, I snuck one in here, I’m certainly not introducing anybody reading this site to ASIWYFA, but I can’t in good conscious make a list that doesn’t include them. The Belfastians rebounded nicely from the departure of Tony Wright, with an album much more upbeat and bouncy than their previous releases, featuring a bevy of external instruments and *gasp* extended vocal parts. For my dollar, this puts ASIWYFA in pretty rarified air under the broader umbrella of post rock (and truly popular music in general): three albums that chase markedly different directions than one another, with terrific results from each attempt. You could argue that And So I Watch You From Afar isn’t one of this generation’s best bands, but you would be wrong.

This album is also worth mentioning because, for me anyway, this is the cherry on top of Sargent House’s 2013, one of the best years we’ve seen from a label in a very long time. Don’t believe me? Aside from ASIWYFA the label was responsible for the records from Deafheaven, Native, Chelsea Wolfe, TTNG, Tera Melos, Russian Circles, Mylets, and Zorch. Pretty much any of those records would be right at home on a top list. And the label’s already reloading with releases from Adebisi Shank and Helms Alee early in 2014, it’s probably best we just bow down now in reverence to our new overlords.

Wow, I’m a talky guy for someone from an instrumental band. But there you have it, probably all sorts of records I’m going to regret not putting in here, and I’ll probably change my mind on this order in the next twenty minutes, but hopefully I was able to introduce you to something great that you might not have otherwise checked out.

Kaptain Carbon’s (Tapewyrmmetal.com) Top Picks of 2013

(IamHop: Today’s top picks of 2013 comes to us from our friend Kaptain Carbon, who writes for the site www.tapewyrmmetal.com  and also covers power metal and sword and sorcery reviews at www.HollywoodMetal.com)

This list may be a little different than the other ones I have done. I already did a list of best metal in 2013 with Satan, Caladan Brood, and Oranssi Pazuzu taking top spots. I also did a general list with Run The Jewels and Candy Claws resting comfortably at the top. What in the world is this list and why is M83 included?

Though related to a specific genre, I have found an interest in post rock can lead one to an interest in other things. Post rock and post metal rest close to a wide range of other styles, allowing one to fall into a similar web of related music that borders between genres. Whether by theme, sound, or essence this list can be thought of as similar minded records with completely different sounds. I feel this list starts at post metal and then wanders aimlessly through electronic, soundtracks, post punk, and a slew of unorthodox heavy metal. I may be the worst person to ask to do a post rock inspired list. Maybe not. Well, probably.

Russian Circles – Memorial

“Memorial was a record that did little to innovate the post metal style, but rather went above and beyond in terms of personal refinement. It was Russian Circle’s heaviest record since their 2006 debut and single handedly showed everyone that the band does best when they are on the offensive.”

Eibon – II

“Eibon is a black/sludge/doom act from France that made a 2 track record that was almost world ending. Actually, it was world ending. Rather than tell a complete story, Eibon takes its time in knocking everything to the ground and then trying to set the whole damn thing ablaze. Caught between doom jams and chaotic noise, II made a strong case for self obliteration.”

Gris – À l’âme enflammée, l’äme constellée…

“I mean, who really releases double disc albums anymore? Apparently this Canadian black metal band does.  À l’âme enflammée, l’äme constellée… takes its time to fully introduce itself. With heavy highlights in post metal and cello work, the tenacity of contemporary black metal is cloaked in a warm blanket. Gris has been somewhat underrated and  À l’âme enflammée, l’äme constellée…is no different as it avoided much needed end of the year attention. This fact is only realized after proper introductions with a well crafted and precisely constructed black metal record.”

Thy Light – No Morrow Shall Dawn

“One of the more promising black metal labels is Pest Productions. Aside from a healthy dose of Chinese atmospheric black metal, the label also showcases talent from all over the globe. Enter Thy Light, a depressive black metal act from Brazil, retains the bleak atmosphere of Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM) but sheds its signature claustrophobic production. No Morrow Shall Dawn adds depth to the style with a healthy amount of synth and atmosphere while showcasing a prominent rasp from Paolo Bruno. Aside from a silly logo and a penchant for being melodramatic, Thy Light and their debut far surpasses other black metal releases this year.”

Frustration – Uncivilized

“Since I just mentioned DSBM, some of you probably think I am making up genres. Well, here is another one. Cold wave was a term used to describe the growing disaffected post punk sound as its relation to new wave. Cold wave existed briefly in Belgium and in France for a few short years before falling off into obscurity.  Frustration resurrects that catchy yet dystopian sound with their second release Uncivilized. If there ever was an anthem for 20 years after the robotic enslavement, this would be at the top of my list.”

Castevet – Obsidian

“2013 was the year that I fell hard into the grey area between hardcore, metal, and experimental music. These borderlands are flourishing (or festering) with bands that care less about fitting into a style and more about using every resource available. What happens when one of the guys from Krallice goes off and makes black metal/hardcore music in gravel? Castevet. What does existential unraveling through the hands of tired emotions and bleak projection sound like? Obsidian. The band’s second album, released on Profound Lore, did leagues to promote this New York act and remind everyone that the absence of hope does exist in album form. “

Burial – Rival Dealer

“To really understand Rival Dealer, Burial’s 6th major release, one has to go back to the beginning. After two successful records in 2006 and 2007, the UK garage act entered a period of silence only to be broken by 2011’s Street Halo. For the past few years, Burial has been pushing his ghostly dubstep sound in sporadic EPs, with infusions of electronic dance music and broader directions. 2013’s Rival Dealer is not as good as 2012’s Kindred but the underlying tones of sexual identity and closure through chaos is interesting enough to warrant attention. Burial will never be party music but his continual efforts to push the sound of dubstep past drops, middle school, and energy drinks is damn impressive.”

Abyssal – Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius

“2013 was a year that two abstract black/death bands released decent abstract black/death records. Portal and Abyssal fought hand to hand over which record could make the listener feel more uncomfortable. I think Abyssal wins, but only by a small margin. Selling abstract metal on the basis of texture and the Lovecraftian idea of terror through unknowing is difficult. UK’s Abyssal does a decent job at portraying the utter ruin of, well, everything through a jaunting torrent of blast beats, death growls, and an eternally damned atmosphere. Do you remember what I said about party music? This one is all that you need. “

Paysage D’ Hiver – Das Tor

“A black metal record that I discussed at length but did not include on my end of the year list is Paysage D’Hiver. Paysage D’Hiver is one third of the Swiss space obsessed act Darkspace and takes a much more traditional approach to black metal by encasing the music in a blanket of unforgiving ice. Dedicated to winterscapes and the sound of chilling wind, Das Tor was released on a limited amount of cassettes with no promotion, no announcements, and no fanfare. With tracks reaching the 20 minute mark and a production value suffocated by snow, Das Tor almost becomes a cartoon of itself, which does little to persuade people to stop laughing. I feel that this record would be more of a joke if people knew who Paysage D’Hiver was. Oh, they would laugh. Regardless of any humor attached, Das Tor does exactly what it is suppose to do, which is drain the warmth out of the room and cause the sky to open with freezing rain.”

M83 – Oblivion Soundtrack

“This was my most played record of 2013. The soundtrack to the motion picture Oblivion was done in collaboration with quasi electronic act M83 and producer Joseph Trapanese, whose work on the Tron Legacy soundtrack bleeds into every corner of this record. The pacing of the soundtrack works not only as an auditory narrative but as a stand alone record that is full of excitement and drama. It should also be noted that the film, aside from look and sound, is dull and now a travesty compare to its soundtrack. Whether reading, cooking, cleaning, or tabletop roleplaying, this M83 soundtrack was played weekly in my apartment and, though it failed to make any of my lists, it will always be the sound of a movie that should have been better.”

Bryan Yost’s (The End of the Ocean) Top Picks of 2013


Our Guest today is Bryan Yost, Bassist for The End of the Ocean.

Currently he’s working on a pretty exciting project which in many ways seems similar to bandcamp, except for books! It’s called Litspring and you can check it out here

Click the album art to visit the band’s facebook/bandcamp/website/etc

Paysage D’Hiver – Das Tor
“A mammoth 4 song ep spread out over 80 minutes of atmospheric black metal that takes you on a journey through the most desolate winter you’ve ever experienced.”

The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual
“The Appleseed Cast has continued to prove their relevance in a genre that they’ve always owned. This was a much anticipated album for me and it was a solid follow up to Sagarmatha and Middle States. This album flows effortlessly from start to finish.”

My Bloody Valentine – MBV
“After 22 years since their last release, My Bloody Valentine is finally back with a vengeance and gives us another huge dose of shoegaze that will tie us over even if we have to wait another 20 years for the next one.”

Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
“Party band Diarrhea Planet gives us yet another album full of fun backed by a onslaught of 4 guitars. Why haven’t you checked these guys out yet?”

Maranatha – Spiritless
“Collin Simula, the mastermind behind one-man band Maranatha, has given us one of the sludgiest albums of the year. This album is heavy, full of grime, with a touch of thrash and I love it.”

Extol – Extol
“An intense comeback album for a band I thought had gone by the wayside. A perfect epitome of previous albums makes this some of the best work of their long career.”

Year Of No Light – Tocsin
“Layers and layers and layers of pure genius. Tocsin is a massive, swelling, and vast ocean of sound.”


Horseburner – Strange Giant
“Incredible riffs of crucial rock and roll stoner metal. One of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen live.”

O’Brother – Disillusion
“Heavy in the right places and delicate where it counts. A genuine experience traversed by the leading of shimmering guitars, powerful songwriting, and alluring vocals.”

Shai Hulud – Reach Beyond The Sun
“Shai Hulud continues to develop their blueprint sound of melodic hardcore and gives us another hard hitting and faced paced album full of gut-wrenching, emotional anthems.”

Epileptic Peat’s (You Bred Raptors?) Top Picks of 2013

Today’s guest top picks are from Epileptic Peat, 8-string Bassist and Glockenspiel player for You Bred Raptors. If you live in the States on the Northern east coast, we HIGHLY recommend getting out to one of their shows!
Click the album art to visit the band’s bandcamp/website/social media /etc
1) Wintergatan – Wintergatan
“Out of the ashes of my favorite band “Detektivbyran” comes the beautiful whimsical Wintergatan (loosely translated to The Milky Way) and their self titled debut album. Now a four piece and expanding past their busking roots and Yann Tiersen-esque simplicity, they have taken musical hoarding to a whole new level. And while the scope is larger than ever, the heart is still the same and it’s still just as goddamned brilliant. From eastern music to chiptune infused EDM to dare-I-say ‘rock and roll’, this album has everything. I think it is a good indication of what we have in store from this band. I know the feeling of letting go a ‘problem’ band member. And this seems to be the case with shedding the skin of Detektivbyran and starting fresh with Wintergatan. Positivity overcomes all. Especially if you are a beautiful group of Swedes. “
2) Russian Circles – Memorial 
“While I make no denial that the number one and two spots on the list encase two of my three favorite bands (still waiting for hologram Queen to Tupac an album from the grave for the trifecta), they have definitely earned their right to my throne of 2013. As an avid fan, I am loving the slow evolution of Russian Circles. To a casual listener the difference between “Enter” and “Memorial” is slight. But to us lifers, we appreciate the direction and the subsequent pace. The nostalgia of enjoying what made us love a band in the first place is juxtaposed to us understanding that longevity requires change and only in that can we appreciate growth. When a band jumps a few links in the evolution game it can be jarring and sometimes not all that pleasant (ahem ahem, Radiohead). On the flip side of that coin, when a band stays comfortable forever, it’s painstakingly boring. Looking at you, Chili Peppers.”
3) Queens of the Stone Age – …Like clockwork
“When I think of QOTSA, I think of the eternal question of the chicken or the egg. No one will deny that Josh Homme is the mad scientist behind the band. But while this is his proverbial baby, he makes no qualms about whoring himself out musically to a vast amount of projects with all different levels of time consumption. It is because of his vast versatility and extensive vocabulary that makes Queens of the Stone Age’s music always interesting. So, is it because Josh Homme is an amazing musician and composer that he can dabble in so many projects? Or is it BECAUSE he has his fingers in so many musical pots that he is now such an intriguing musician? Whatever the case, this album is fucking fantastic and should not disappoint any caliber of fan.”
4) The Cactus Channel – Wooden Boy
“This ten-piece Australian outfit’s new album expands on their earlier work of providing me with a 70’s car-chase soundtrack while I’m stuck in between train stations on my daily commute to work. They look like a bunch of band geek preppies (minus the organ player with dreadlocks and a nagging suspicion that he should have dirt on his face and carry around a ratty security blanket behind him). Their new works easily build on their previous debut album. While being fresh out of high school, it is obvious that these kids will have very rich future in music. As a band leader myself I can’t even imagine corralling nine other rapscallions including hot girls playing brass instruments. Because you KNOW those girls are trouble. “
 
5) M83 – Oblivion OST
“Okay, I don’t play a lot of video games. I especially steer clear of a lot of New-Gen games. I also full-on loathe most RPGs so this pic is weird for me. But my band ‘You Bred Raptors?’ does film scoring. I am also a soundtrack nerd and thrive on the goosebumps I get whilst listening to an epic piece of music. That ‘chasing the dragon’ feeling I get is fully satiated with this two hour sprawling landscape of sounds. M83 is nothing short of large in scope of their sounds. The difference between Oblivion and a full length soundtrack from Explosions in the Sky is the departure of a rock-band sound in favor of an orchestra. This might be self-serving but this band gives me hope that it’s possible to acquire the silly little dream I have of scoring music for hardcore dungeon porn. “
6) Zander Zon – Saturn Return
“Yeah yeah yeah, I’m a bass player so I must love every bass player out there. We all have a secret handshake and swear a blood oath to include each other on Top 10 lists in order to make up for all the shows where our singer or guitarist gets a post-show blowjob after they took too many pentatonic solos. Zander Zon is a bass player from London playing a ZON bass. These are fairly specialized fretless basses known for their smooth and liquidy sound. His melodies and harmonies are beautiful coupled with his simplistic approach with few overdubs and post production is easy to appreciate at a base level. Hardy fucking har… I didn’t plan that pun but fuck you, you’re getting it anyway. Zon’s new album is more mature and focused than his previous debut which was weighted down in showmanship and masturbatory technique. This guy does more with 4 strings than I can do with 8. (Secret handshake)”
7) Bangladeafy – The Briefcase
“Full disclosure: A good friend of mine is in this band and my brother did the graphic design for the CD. But that doesn’t make it any less badass. Speaking of bass, here we have Brooklyn based Bangaladeafy. A two piece bass and drum chaotic, frantic and all around ADHD creature. Their name comes from both the drummer of Bangladeshi descent and the over-half deaf bassist/composer, Jon Ehlers. He is seriously mostly deaf. He’s a friend, so to me, he’s a mouth cripple. He can read lips and we watch everything with subtitles. But he’s also one of the best bass players I’ve ever known. He has more than learned to cope with his physical, genetic ailment. The music cries a likeness to The Dillinger Escape Plan, Lightning Bolt and fellow slap/tap happy bassist Evan Brewer of the Faceless. Underneath the 200 BPMs and barking vocals are informed melodies and clever song structures. “
8) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
“I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t at least point out that this album exists. Look, it’s been discussed to death so I don’t have much to add. It is on this list because it IS a fun album. It has some bitchin’ beats and aside from the over-saturated radio sludge wrought with YouTube covers are deep tracks that just kick very primitive ass. My only gripe is the inclusion of so many big name singers and producers. Does Pharrel need to be on fucking EVERYTHING? It’s a little much. I hoped they would be more confident with their product as a duo. I enjoyed Daft Punk more when they had little or no vocals. I don’t need some asshole singing about some stupid, vapid shit to drive the fact home that I wasn’t dressed nice enough to enter the club that it was prominently featured. I know this is EDM. Don’t overdo it. I’m not stupid. I know the song is about fucking.”
9) Pelican – Forever Coming
“Pelican continues their ‘stampede of elephants’ music with 2013’s ‘Forever Becoming’. I’ve discussed in other choices here about band dynamics vastly affecting the sound. This is Pelican’s first album after the departure of their longtime founding guitarist. By their own admission, this is a darker album dealing with those emotions. This can make a break an album in my opinion. The latter was shown in 1999’s ‘Antipop’ by Primus. Dealing with fatigue and cabin fever can contribute to an album being darker and more angry than once intended. For a band like Primus whom have always treated more sensitive subject material with a tempered touch of humor, the album felt like a definite end. On the other hand, Pelican’s album shines in its pressure and tension. The release is fantastic and the journey of not only the songs but the band evolving is radically apparent. It makes them as vulnerable as ever and etched another tree ring into their storied history. “
10) Sigur Ros – Kveikur 
“Speaking of members leaving, this is Sigur Ros’ first album without their founding keyboardist. The album is a definite improvement from 2012’s Valtari which drastically lacked balls. I loved the return to form. And while I did feel an element missing in certain songs left by the absent band member, it also opened up sound in other areas I wasn’t expecting. The scope of emotions showcased in Sigur Ros’ music leaves me wondering how they continually put out the amount of music they do. It would be emotionally tolling for anyone, let alone a couple of 85 pound pale guys from a really cold-ass country. The heart is ever-present in this band and while I get mocked for enjoying my cry-core as much as I do, I admire their tenacity and vision as a band. Having every band watch their documentary “Heima” should be a homework assignment once a year if for no other reason than to just make you feel like you aren’t doing enough with your music.”

Kit Day’s (Guitarist, This Patch of Sky) top picks of 2013

A new day and a new list courtesy of our friend Kit Day, guitarist for Oregon post-rockers This Patch of Sky. You can check them out on bandcamp or facebook (they just released a hell of an album, check the review here as well)

Click the album art to visit the artist’s website/Facebook/bandcamp/etc

As In We – As Above So Below
“A newer band I discovered this year, this album provides a solid foundation of technical post-rock over crushing guitar riffs and complex drumming.  A definite must listen if you’re into “math rock”.”

Moving Mountains – Self Titled
“This album is everything I loved about Pneuma.  I highly recommend watching the Telegraph Sessions of this album.”

Caspian – Hymn For The Greatest Generation
“This album is a little different from their previous work, but still good nonetheless.  I really enjoy the acoustic guitars they incorporate in the songs.”

Message To Bears – Maps
“This album has a very peaceful electronic/folk/ambient sound that seems to calm your nerves and make you feel like you’re floating.”

The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual
“Its the Appleseed Cast.  Need I say more?”

TTNG (This Town Needs Guns) – 13.0000
I first discovered TTNG earlier this year on Audio Tree.  I was watching the live Caspian session and while browsing the rest of the artists I randomly clicked on their video.  The guitarist immediately captured my attention, and after the vocalist came in I was hooked.

This Will Destroy You – Live in Reykjavik, Iceland
“There are only a small handful of bands that I can listen to on repeat, every day, and not get bored.  This Will Destroy You is one of them.  Thankfully they released a live album for me to drown in.”


Human Pyramids – Planet Shhh!
“This album is very unique, very delightful, and very colorful.  If you’re a fan of Lymbyc Systym, you’ll most likely enjoy this album.”


Blien Vesne – Mientras Seamos Jovenes (While We Are Young)
“I accidentally stumbled across this album when I was trying to find new music for a road trip to Disneyland.  This album is fun to drive to, simply because you can drown out the chaos of the world and just breathe.  Plus the fact that they add minimal vocals in just the right places makes this album very pleasant to listen to.”

The Echelon Effect – Atlantic
“Dave from The Echelon Effect made this amazing album this year.  Give it a listen,  you won’t be disappointed.”

Nathaniel Noton-Freeman’s top picks of 2013

Our guest today is our friend and Ambient/Acoustic artist Nathaniel Noton-Freeman. If you are unfamiliar with his work, please check him out on bandcamp or facebook.

Click the album art to visit the artist’s website/Facebook/bandcamp/etc

Solium Fatalis – Solium Fatalis

“Thick and blistering death metal from my New Hampshire based friends. This album has killer riffage, excellent production, and a massive and expansive sound that few other metal albums manage to capture. It seems that Jim Gregory (guitarist) somehow managed to find an album’s worth of death metal riffs that weren’t written in the 90’s and make a complete release with them.”

B.A. Canning Band – Normal Life

“Psychedelic Country/Folk is a genre that I’d never heard of (and one that may not actually exist outside of this band) but they’re certainly deserving of this categorization. This album takes country and folk style playing and adds an element of surreality and dissonance that I have never heard captured in quite this way before. “Normal Life” is a voyage into a just-slightly different parallel universe where nothing is exactly as it seems. Guitar players B.A. Canning and Sky Reuben performed fantastically on this album, and manage to recreate the experience 100% when playing live.”

Noahs Heark – Little Tree EP

“This EP by Ziyad Habib is something that I consider to be truly special. His musical voice is incredibly unique, and every time I listen to this album I feel as if I’ve been taken directly into his head and am experiencing life through his eyes – a world filled with bright sunlight, floating islands, and small animals carried on turtleback.”

On Wings Of Wax – The Empty Bed

“Adam Kluga writes progressive metal riffs that don’t really sound like other progressive metal riffs. His music is beautiful, moving, and complex. It can be sludgy, heady, and at times incredibly light and airy. Adam combines melody with rhythmic concepts in a way that feels fresh and enlightening, and his next release due in 2014 promises to be an even deeper exploration into that sound.”

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

“Boards of Canada’s previous albums are probably some of my favorites in existence, and Tomorrow’s Harvest is no exception. It’s different, though – it seems to look toward a bleak pseudo post-apocalyptic future filled with information farming, data mining, and government surveillance, and away from their nostalgia-drenched sound of the past. The instrumentation is more complex as well – it does away with the single beat/single synth/samples formula of the past, and ushers in a more expansive, less beat-driven sound.”

Deafheaven – Sunbather

“I would place a portion of the responsibility for the sound of Russian Circle’s new album, “Memorial” on Deafheaven’s “Sunbather”. This album has a place in the 2013 top ten of almost everyone that I know, and I think it’s definitely deserving of such. For those not in the know, this album is characterized as a hybrid of black metal and major-key post rock. In some ways, this reminds me of what Mastodon did with “The Hunter” – the frequently major key music is unexpected but surprisingly well executed, and somehow still heavy as heck. I’d also like to give massive kudos to Deafheaven’s drummer – that guy’s stick work is ridiculously clean.”

And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures

“This album is bright, sunny, and jubilant. The riffs are incredibly catchy and driving, the musicianship is stellar, and I keep coming back to this album again and again. I especially love the inclusion of simple vocals, and never fail to shout A-MB-U-LAN-C-EA-M-BUL-A-NC-E along with the track.”

TTNG/This Town Needs Guns – 13.0.0.0.0

“My first experience with this album came while seeing them open for ASIWYFA, and all of the songs from that show stuck in my head in such a way that my first listen to the physical album already felt nostalgic. That being said, the complex instrumentation of this group still manages to feel fresh and exciting with every listen – they blend complex noodling with memorable hooks that end up in exactly the right places every time.”

The Safety Fire – Mouth Of Swords

“At first glance, this album reminded me a lot of “Grind The Ocean” – The Safety Fire clung heavily to their double-picked melodies and rhythmic ideas, but as I listened further into the album I discovered a much more varied and polished instrumentation. In many ways, this band’s first two albums remind me of Periphery I and II – the first album was a little poppier, straightforward, and immediately exciting. The second begins to combine rhythmic and melodic elements much more seamlessly, and this results in a more mature but less overtly flashy sound. It’s also worth noting that the production of this album also felt a lot more organic than the previous release.”

Plini – Other Things/Sweet Nothings/I

“Plini is one of the freshest new guitar players on the block. He combines progressive metal riffage with indie rock and jazz fusion to create a thoroughly exciting and enjoyable listening experience. His level of guitar virtuosity will some day approach that of Guthrie Govan, and I simply can not wait to hear more from this promising young artist. I kept wondering “why is this guy only releasing these short EPs?” but upon further inspection I realized that he’s put out three of them in 2013, and I think this more than qualifies to make my top-ten albums of the year.”

Matt Cherry’s (Guitarist, Maserati) Top Picks of 2013

Kicking off our guest picks week is Matt Cherry of Georgia electronic post-rockers Maserati . You can check them out at http://www.ihaveadagger.net/or check them out on facebook.

Click the album art to visit the artist’s website/Facebook/bandcamp/etc

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk has always had a huge influence on us.  They’re hard and dance-y, but also heavy at times in their own unique way.  We’ve taken cues from their use of low/high-pass filters on a bunch of our own records.  Although their new record is a big departure from the rest of their discography, it totally rules in its own disco-fleetwood laid back kinda way.  We have much respect for bands that branch out of their comfort zone.  

Todd Terje – Strandbar/Spiral 12”s

This guy is a genius when it comes to minimal, spaced-out, uptempo dance music.  The two EPs he put out this year are both phenomenal. 

 

I Am the Center Compilation 

An amazing compilation of old school “new age” music (for lack of a better term) dug up from probably the most dusty record bins in the world, re-mastered and released by equally-amazing reissue label Light in the Attic.  Totally timeless and classic in its own way.

 

Cave – Threace 

These guys are probably one of our favorite currently-active bands around.  Love how the band has progressed over the last five years across releases, from their earlier kraut-psych stuff up to this newer more laid back Miles Davis-y stuff.  All of it rules.  We had the chance to play with them a couple of months ago in Georgia and they are cool dudes to hang out with, too!   

 

Earthless – From the Ages

Completely mind-crushing, face-melting psych rock.  After listening to the last track on a late night road trip recently,  I felt a sense of awe and inspiration about new music for the first time in a long, long time. 

 

Rob – Maniac OST

Killer synth score to the new slasher film that came out this year.  If we’re being honest, the film itself is really just a backdrop to the fantastic music.  Very much in the vein of Carpenter, Goblin, etc.

 

Umberto – Confrontations 

  Badass synth tunes from one of my favorite solo artists around today.  Very prolific guy, too.

 

My Bloody Valentine – MBV

Let’s face it: this record should have sucked so bad, but is instead completely phenomenal.  An instant classic if  you ask me.  The fact that they were able to keep it a secret until the release date was also quite a treat. 

 

Sensations’ Fix – Music is Painting in the Air [1974-1977]

Cool Italian prog rock stuff recently reissued by the RVNG Intl label.  Stylistically it runs the gamut from minimal electronic blips and bleeps to full-band rock jams, but all totally A+ stuff. 

 

Jonas Reinhardt – Mask of the Maker

Maybe, just maybe, my favorite record of new music in 2013.  Found out about this “band” many years ago after their self-titled Kranky release blew my mind.  To be honest, though, the releases that followed over the last few years hadn’t really lived up to that first one, so I had set my expectations pretty low for this when it came out earlier this year.  Wow, though.  Just wow.  The whole thing is totally stellar.