Someone told me that year-end best-of lists are self-congratulatory and pretentious. Screw that. I love best-of lists! Every year I scour hundreds of them online, looking for golden nuggets that flew under my radar. I’m an anti-social and mildly agoraphobic hermit and god only knows what my collection would be like if I only went by the Muzak at CVS. So no apologies! And here’s MY end of 2013 list:
(Click on a link for a video from each respective artist)
Worst album of 2013: Black Flag “What the…” – Calling this band Black Flag is like digging up the corpse of Dave Thomas, waving his unattached skeleton arm around and calling it “Wendy’s.” Horrendous.
10 – Bad Religion “True North” – I never would have guessed that I’d be putting a Bad Religion album on my best of list past 1994, but here we are. The booky-wook brainhead punks put down their thesaurus and bifocals long enough to write a catchy, energetic, mildly old-school punk album where only 25% of the songs sound the same. This is the best thing they’ve done since the very underrated “Stranger Than Fiction.”
9 – Incendiary “Cost Of Living” – Too many hardcore bands either sound like Youth Of Today Champion hoodie-worship or Hatebreed uber-metal moshpit muscleheads. Incendiary seem to take their inspiration from that nougat-y middle period between those two, where Inside Out and Chain of Strength lived. This porridge is not too metal, not too crew. Perfect.
8 – Windhand “Soma” – DOOM! God bless Black Sabbath for inspiring so many bands to sound like this. Thick and heavy as molasses! They have a lady singer and I couldn’t even tell at first. I can’t imagine why these guys aren’t bigger but it’s surely only a matter of time. My only complaint is that the last track is a 30 minute song, which trails off into ten minutes of rain sounds. Come on guys, you’re screwing up my shuffle!
7 – Lipstick Homicide “Out Utero” – It’s nice to have a band from Iowa break out nationally that isn’t heavy like Modern Life Is War or Slipknot. It proves that Iowa can be fun. I’m a proud Hawkeye and Iowan living out of state, and nobody believes me that Iowa City is the shit. It is, and so is Lipstick Homicide. Think Descendents and Screeching Weasel fronted by lesbians at a party. Best melodic punk album of the year.
6 – His Electro Blue Voice “Ruthless Sperm” – How hungover were these guys when they decided to call this album “Ruthless Sperm”? It makes me think of the movie “Critters” but with rolling balls of semen. Run! Splat. How’s that for a sell? Let me put it this way: In a year full of wussy-ass post-punk shoe-gaze turtle-shit, it’s nice to hear a band that can take a cue from the 80s and still be creative and aggressive about it. They sound like Al Jourgensen singing over a very pissed off Joy Division. Thanks for proving that the 80s can still punch you in the face instead of tickling your butt.
5 – Superchunk “I Hate Music” – If you know Superchunk already then there’s no need to tell you about them and if you don’t know Superchunk you probably aren’t reading this. It’s Superchunk. They don’t put out bad albums. Frankly, I’m starting to take it for granted. Double-bonus props/nerd-points for the Jackie Mittoo/Skatalities reference.
4 – Rival Mob “Mob Justice” – Remember when I said it was no good if a hardcore band sounded like an 80s youth crew? I lied. Not only are the Rival Mob the most kick-ass old-school styled Boston hardcore band of the last 20 years, but the singer also looks just like Rob Delaney. What’s not to love?
3 – Nails “Abandon All Life” – Remember when I said it was no good if a hardcore band sounded too metal? I lied. Holy shit, this is the sound of fucking death coming for you. Not slowly in your sleep, not with time. Right now. It’s busting down your bedroom door. Brutal beyond description.
2 – Deafheaven “Sunbather” – Oh boy do black metal purists hate this band. I just imagine a bunch of Norwegian, corpse-painted dudes in Road Warriors outfits wringing their hands and throwing their battle-axes at this record while cursing San Francisco and PBR to Jötunheim. How bad-ass is it for a band to take such a macho, even (allegedly) homophobic genre and add melody, emotion and a PINK ALBUM COVER into the mix. It transcends musical style and flies into the face and up the nose of convention. Black metal is great, but it’s one of the most codified genres of music there is. These guys done just smashed it all up.
1 – Grant Hart “The Argument” – For someone who was 1/2 of the Hüsker Dü writing team, Grant Hart sure is criminally underrated. Yeah, he only puts out about one album per decade and I honestly don’t think there’s a picture of him post-1990 that doesn’t look like he’s a slowly shriveling window-apple. But then he turns around and drops a concept album about Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” And it’s amazing. Yeah, I know that sounds boring as hell on paper. An album about an old book? Is this even music or NPR? Why not a speech about Abraham Lincoln? It’s music! Every song is a different style/genre and it rivals some of the poppier stuff he did in Hüsker Dü. Best album of the year. Just don’t look at his teeth.
HONORABLE MENTION (In no particular order): War Generation – “Self-titled,” Altar Of Plagues – “Teeth Glory And Injury,” Cloud Rat – “Moksha,” Modern Life Is War – “Fever Hunting,” Gorguts – “Colored Sands,” Mikal Cronin – “MCII,” The Ocean – “Pelagial,” Oblivians – “Desperation,” Darkthrone – “The Underground Resistance,” Gogol Bordello – “Pura Vida Conspiracy,” NERV – “EP,” Sickoids – “No Home,” Lumbar – “The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome,” Major Arcana – “Speedy Ortiz,” Skeletonwitch – “Serpents Unleashed,” Terror – “Live By The Code,” Ty Segall – “Sleeper,” Waxahatchee – “Cerulean Salt,” Tomahawk – “Oddfellows,” Night Birds – “Born To Die In Suburbia,” Coffins – “The Fleshland,” Dillinger Escape Plan – “One Of Us Is The Killer.”