The Top 20 Albums of 2013 (So Far…)

bob-dylan copy

I always have difficulty when coming up with these lists because there are often albums I’ve enjoyed that I’m forced to leave out. When I had the current mid-year list down to 25, I thought about bucking my yearly tradition of 20 and upping it to 25. Then, I recollected a long forgotten high school memory. During my junior year, our basketball coach had a decision along the same lines – with 10 returning seniors and a strong incoming Junior class of 10 quality players, he had to make cuts in order to meet the roster limit of 15. Instead of manning up and just cutting some of the old players or telling some Juniors to take a year off, he let the extra five Juniors (one of them being me) stay on the team as kind of a practice team. This would turn out horribly with our group of five often feeling outcast and forgotten, and by seasons end, we’d named ourselves The Bullheads (because in Iowa, a catfish isn’t considered a keeper). I decided that, yes, there are some great albums on the outside looking in this year, but at the same time, including them would water down my already loaded list. 2013 is off to a great start musically, and here are my “Top 20 Favorite Albums” so far (no bullheads included: i.e. Daft Punk).

Honorable Mention:

A$AP Rocky; Long Live A$AP

California X; Self-Titled

Cough/Windhand; Reflections of the Negative

The National; Trouble Will Find Me

Wavves; Afraid of Heights

20. Colin Stetson

New History Warfare Volume III: To See More Light

[Constellation; 2013]

For the third installment in his distinctive series of New History Warfare albums, Stetson continues doing what has worked in the past. His ability to cyclical breathe whilst humming/growling out a separate melody is still as remarkable as it was back in 2008. At first it seemed like a performance based on embouchure-lung-acrobatics, but with Volume III: To See More Light Stetson reasserts himself as more than just a freak show. His ability to create ambient, honking backdrops from the microphones placed within his horn remains one of the strangest collection of sounds out there today, but the best moments on the album are when he switches it up and brings in Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. Back in 2011 Stetson supported Vernon on his self-titled album, and the favor is returned on To See More Light with Vernon’s distinctive falsetto voice providing the perfect complement to Stetson’s fluid, looping backdrops. Now if they’d only go all-in and make a complete album together. Who wouldn’t want to hear Stetson honking away in Vernon’s legendary cabin in the woods?

“What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?”:

19. FIDLAR

FIDLAR

[Mom & Pop; 2013]

There are so many reasons why what FIDLAR does shouldn’t work. On their first full-length self-titled album they sing primarily about getting drunk, surfing/skateboarding, and doing drugs – the type of subject matter that one may find a couple dozen bands unsuccessfully singing about at Warped Tour this summer. Yet somehow, FIDLAR pull it off. Musically, the band blends punk/rockabilly/garage rock, a recipe that’s been done and done again. Yet somehow, FIDLAR pulls it off. Even the band’s acronym name (Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk) is the same type of Tony Robbins, YOLO fare that would make one apt to squirm in their chair. Yet somehow, the name FIDLAR somehow fits perfectly.

But how? It may not be intelligent, and it certainly isn’t breaking any new ground musically, but what FIDLAR has pulled off with their self-titled album is a collection of 14 earnest songs that are teeming with youthful energy and indifference. It is a party album at its core with songs about cheap beer, smoking pot, and album finisher “Cocaine.” Even if you don’t condone these kids’ recreational drug use, you won’t be able to resist the addictive nature of their songs with one memorable hook after another, coming at you like an endless night of revelry. Before you know it, you’ll be jonesin’ for more FIDLAR in no time.

“Max Can’t Surf”:

18. Grouper

The Man Who Died in his Boat

[Kranky; 2013]

When I was in high school choir, my friends and I would try to annoy our curmudgeonly director Mr. Brown by intentionally singing slightly off-key. It was an acquired skill, but when we were able to pull it off just right, he would stop the entire choir and shout, “I’m trying to make chicken salad and all that you’re giving me is chicken shit!” I imagine this would be Mr. Brown’s same reaction to the layered choir of dissonant Liz Harris voices on her latest Grouper album The Man Who Died in his Boat. Most people would describe Grouper’s ethereal chants as ambient music, but rarely does it encompass the calming nature often associated with the genre. Instead, Harris’s interwoven voices somehow discordantly do battle while melding together as one eerily, ominous force. I imagine it is what it might sound like if a children’s’ choir decided to cover Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising. The album title, based off of one of Harris’s childhood experiences, fits perfectly with the music. The songs can be as calm and intimate as a summer day out on the lake yet as limp and gloomy as a dead body sitting within a bobbing boat, lifelessly holding a fishing pole.

“Being Her Shadow”:

17. Mazes

Ores & Minerals

[Fat Possum; 2013]

From the first time I heard Ores & Minerals, I knew I loved the band’s sophomore album. The problem was in the fact I didn’t know why I liked it so much. Few of the songs feature choruses, and if they do, they aren’t instantly memorable. There aren’t any tracks on the album that beg your attention nor do the lyrics ever delve much beyond the contents of a fortune cookie. The songs seem to ramble on for long stretches of time, never really going any place. Yet, despite all this monotony, I couldn’t quit listening to the album.

Often it reminds me of The Feelies easy-breezing ways or the Modern Lovers low-key assault, and at other times Mazes have hints of Wire or Television’s airwaves whirring just below the surface of their metronomic loops. But just when I think I’ve got my thumb on the band’s jangle pop leanings, their songs will throw me asunder, kraut rock leanings taking hold of each track, turning what starts as a simple, constant loop into a growing, evolving organism (perhaps the geologic album title isn’t far off). Some tracks bring in the Pavement/Malkmus influence more prominently displayed on their first album, A Thousand Heys. What’s all the more confounding is the fact that there is rarely a reliance on distortion, a mainstay on their debut album. On Ores & Minerals, every song is so clean, crisp, and neatly pressed that you’d swear it’d come straight from Don Draper’s closet. I still don’t know why I like this album so much, but sometimes the puzzle doesn’t need to be solved.

“Ores and Minerals”:

16. The Body

Master, We Perish

[At a Loss; 2013]

2013 looks to be the year of apocalyptic movies (After Earth, This is the End, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Oblivion, World War Z) but I doubt any of these films can pull the Rapture off quite like The Body have with their 2013 release Master, We Perish. The album reveals The Body as masters of theatrics, taking the listener on a journey that is unquestionably ending in destruction. On this three song EP, the band manipulates the listener to cinematic lengths. On “The Blessed Lie Down in Agony,” the band lulls you into a sense of calm despite the hints of impending doom found within the ghostly female choir, foreboding from the shadows. The song builds strength as the chewed up drum loop arrives. Then, at the 2:48 mark, the click of a gun trigger is heard, followed by the complete decimation via Chip King’s merciless guitar. “Worship” works the same movie magic but in a very different approach with six minutes of pummeling drums and echoes of torture from the cell next door. Once again, the riffs arrive and once again, no one escapes unscathed. The Body have found a way to take doom metal, an often repetitive genre, and make it unpredictable (more than can be said for After Earth).

“The Blessed Lay Down and Writhe in Agony”:

15. Chelsea Light Moving

Chelsea Light Moving

[Matador; 2013]

I was beginning to think Thurston Moore had gone soft on us. Don’t get me wrong, his softer side is nothing to scoff about. His two solo albums from the past five years have been intimate, atmospheric listens, and Sonic Youth’s two releases in the past decade have been much more stripped down in comparison to the days of Dirty and Goo. But with his recent divorce with band mate Kim Gordon (and probable break-up of Sonic Youth), it seems Thurston has reconnected with his distortion pedal, stirring up the ashes of his bratty brand of disorder on his new project, Chelsea Light Moving.

On Chelsea Light Morning, some may be quick to thinking Moore is going through some type of post-divorce, mid-life crisis, ripping out Bleach-era riffs that are more accustomed to being blared out of a pawn shop guitar than one of Moore’s legendary Jazzmasters. But it becomes quickly apparent that this isn’t an old man grasping for the straws of youth; Chelsea Light Morning is all about having fun, even if it means spending five minutes exploring an old school metal riff on songs like “Alighted” or revisiting a punk rock classic on their cover of the Germs’ “Communist Eyes.” While all of the songs definitely feature Thurston’s signature chiming sound, it’s blatantly clear that fellow band members Keith Wood, Samara Lubelski, and John Moloney have provided a catharsis in the wake of major changes in their front-man’s life. If you’re looking for the next Sonic Youth album, you will be disappointed. However, if you are interested in hearing Thurston Moore have some fun with his friends, pull up a chair and take joy in hearing a 54-year-old man still stoking his youthful fire after all these years.

“Alighted”:

14. Low

The Invisible Way

[Sub Pop; 2013]

It would be easy to look at what Low is producing 20 years into their existence and assume that not much has changed. Their music is still the basic recipe of harmonizing voices, a plodding pace, sparse instrumentation, and repetitive lyrics. But looking in the rearview mirror of Low’s back catalog, and the change within the band’s sound is much more evident. Their first album I Could Live in Hope was an album of understatement, songs that ventured forth slowly, allowing the silent spirit in the room to be a prominent presence. On their 2013 release The Invisible Way the white space on the canvas has been all but filled in. Songs like “So Blue” and “Just Make It Stop” push forth with Mimi Parker’s voice coming at you as a layered, angelic victory march. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy’s production allows the songs to still have the delicate nature of Low’s past work while bringing in a wider spectrum of colors.

Musically, Low were once a band that ignored the common tropes of pop music, opting to focus on the mood rather than the melody. Getting a Low song stuck in your head just wasn’t applicable in the 90s. The same can’t be said 20 years later with this Duluth, Minnesota duo belting out one unforgettable tune after another for 11 straight, melodically commanding tracks. Even though Low will always be remembered for their seminal early work, there’s something kind of comforting about singing along with a Low album.

“So Blue”:

13. Clinic

Free Reign II

[Domino; 2013]

What if there was another version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band out there that has never been heard? And what if that remixed version was actually better than the original? This is the case with Clinic’s Free Reign II, one of the strangest releases of the year. Just last year Clinic released Free Reign. Originally, the band had worked with Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never fame, but uncertain of the sonic changes brought about by Lopatin, the band opted to release their original psychedelic album, stashing the remixes for a rainy day. The result was an album that followed in the predictable Clinic archetype. The album was enjoyable, but didn’t break any new ground.

Then only a couple of months later in a true sign of second-guessing, along came Free Reign II, an album comprised of Lopatin’s dusty, stashed away tracks. With the track listing flipped on its head and Lopatin as the overseer, Clinic’s signature sheltered psychedelia becomes a spacey, airy carnival of bouncing organ riffs and smoldering bass lines. The songs remain in the realm of Clinic, but Lopatin’s fingerprints can be found on the outskirts of each track, providing the flourishes and undercurrents that the original album lacked. This isn’t a remix album; it’s a Mulligan.

“You II”:

12. Kurt Vile

Wakin On A Pretty Daze

[Matador; 2013]

The fact that Kurt Vile didn’t crack my top 10 this year should be a cause of concern for anyone who’s followed BDWPS for the past few years. I spent the majority of 2011 gushing over Smoke Ring For My Halo and went on to name it the best album of the year. To say Wakin On A Pretty Daze is a drop off would be misleading. Sonically the album features the same warm reverberations and the songs are just as relaxed and self-assured as anything done by Vile in the past.

Really, the only reason Wakin On A Pretty Daze hasn’t had as big of an impact on me is due solely to the fact that Vile sounds happy. Yes, happy. Don’t get me wrong, happiness is cool and all. In fact, I think more people would enjoy the latest Vile album over Smoke Ring For My Halo (most people opt for happiness I suppose). But for me, what made his work in 2011 so profound was the discontent and despondency found within Vile’s mumbling voice and bitter lyrics. No, Wakin On A Pretty Daze isn’t “profound”; it’s joyful bliss. It’s the music of a man who is basking in the love of his friends and family, and his music exudes with the warmth of that love. Like always, Vile is singing straight from the heart. Who am I to fault him for being content?

“Shame Chamber”:

11. Foxygen

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

[Jagjaguwar; 2013]

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is a pretty fitting album title to Foxygen’s sophomore album. As we move into an era where dub-step, auto tune, and Justin Bieber are considered acceptable in the music industry, Foxygen are time travelers from the 60s (an era of peace and magic), reminding us of a time when music could be charmingly flawed, have a sense of humor, and more importantly, have an optimistic soul at its core.

But We Are isn’t simply a period piece; it’s a journey through a record collection that ranges from the Stones to The Kinks to Velvet Underground and even a little Dylan in there for a good measure. Each song teeters between these influences while still infusing this Los Angeles duo’s playful imagery and penchant for melodies that belong in another time. Rather than simply being a chameleon cover band that can take on a multitude of 60s sounds, Foxygen have asserted their personality on their sophomore album making it blatantly clear that, yes, they are influenced by the past, but like the Wyld Stallyns from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, they are creating an homage that is tailor made for the modern age. PARTY ON DUDES!

“San Francisco”:

10. Marnie Stern

The Chronicles of Marnia

[Kill Rock Stars; 2013]

The Chronicles of Marnia is Marnie Stern’s most accessible album to date, but don’t get too worried. It’s still as untamed, unpredictable, joyous, and outlandish as her past work. If you were to play one of these tracks for those uninitiated, they’d likely still find it otherworldly and weird, but if you’ve ventured into the mystical land of Marnia before you’ll likely find that her songs are more mature, purposeful, and focused than in the past. A major part of this change is the departure of drum virtuoso Zack Hill (Hella, Death Grips). While the combination of Hill and Stern resulted in some of the most intricately frenzied music of the past decade, the instrumental acrobatics and one-upmanship often took precedence over Marnie’s knack for creating strangely memorable melodies.

The addition of Kid Millions of Brooklyn’s Oneida provides more stability while still maintaining the exuberance of Marnie’s past work. Rather than do battle with Marnie, he helps to drive the point home that she is one of the most creative, inspirational musicians out there today. Hooting, hollering, growling, and finger-tapping – the tenets of what make Marnie great are still in tact. But amidst all the usual madness, she also sounds strangely mature.

“Nothing Is Easy”:

9. Mikal Cronin

mcii

[Merge; 2013]

While fellow San Francisco garage rockers Ty Segall and John Dwyer churn out new material like an assembly line, Mikal Cronin takes on his recording career with a much more laid-back approach. A two-year lull between albums is far from a hiatus, but in comparison to his musician friends, Mikal is a perfectionist in the studio and his work on mcii shows just that. On his self-titled debut, Cronin remained grounded in the garage rock approach that worked for those around him, but this time around he has taken his own path, recording songs that are both beautiful and sheen in production. The 60s reverberations and fuzz distortion still remain on many of the tracks, yet Cronin takes on his signature power-pop sound with an unprecedented wisdom and nuance.

The highlights of the album are in fact completely outside expectation for Mikal. Acoustic slow-burner “Don’t Let Me Go” and album closer “Piano Mantra” show a complexity to the lo-fi San Francisco scene not evident before mcii. The latter is a slow build, starting with a somber piano ballad and Mikal’s soft voice singing out his despair. By the end, the distortion arrives along with a feeling of redemption in Mikal’s mantra of “Open arms have given me hope.” While Ty Segall can certainly throw together a great collection of sweaty rock n’ roll, Mikal has shown that with a little bit more focus and attention to detail, truly remarkable things can be accomplished.

“Piano Mantra”:

8. Torres

Torres

[Self-Released; 2013]

One of the biggest highlights from SXSW this past spring was the Torres set I caught on the first afternoon of the festival. I’d been enjoying the self-released, self-titled album for a several weeks, but not until that I point did I ingest the power of MacKenzie Scott’s voice. I stood there, dumbfounded, covered from head-to-toe with goose bumps as a giant lump grew in my throat. Needless to say, she had me in a heartrending trance on the verge of bursting into a blubbering idiot.

Like a musical witch, Mackenzie brews a magical concoction with her mixture of whispering pleas and aggravated caterwauls. In fact, I would go so far as to say Scott has one of the most powerful voices out there today. To top it all off, Scott’s lyrics pour out straight from her heart, confessional and candid. While the album may not fully capture the intensity of a live Torres performance, the production gives the album a feeling of vulnerability with most tracks featuring only Scott, her guitar, and the echoes within the room. It is an album that at times can make you feel alone, but more often that not, it’s a reminder that you’re not alone.

“Come to Terms”:

7. Deerhunter

Monomania

[4AD; 2013]

Deerhunter have described Monomania as their “nocturnal garage rock” album, a fitting description, but don’t be fooled. No matter how much riffage and chest thumping chicanery the band executes, the lyrics tell a much deeper story. If this is their attempt at making a Stooges album, then they must have thought “Search and Destroy” was more about the “forgotten boy” and less about that whole “searching to destroy” thing. If Bradford Cox is destroying anything here, it’s himself. On opening track “Neon Junkyard” he looks through his trash heap of painful memories and decides by the end that one must learn from the agony instead of collecting it. It may start with this uplifting message of introspection, but the remainder of the album quickly becomes a stroll through said junkyard of past heartbreak and shame.

The second half of the album gains a focus on heartbreak, more specifically, stories of homosexual experimentation gone wrong. Amidst all these intimate tracks is the revelatory “Sleepwalking” where the narrator realizes that for years he has been ignoring his loneliness. And when he finally does take a look at his life of pursuing a “hopeless dream” that “life will never bring” he looks inwardly to reveal his “heart is hard now.” Connecting back to the album opener’s message of learning from mistakes, “Sleepwalking” shows him waking from his avoidance dream to realize the pain buried beneath the rubble. Just like the junkyard of torn debris and heartache, Monomania’s reliance on distortion and attitude are all just bravado masking the album’s tender fragility. With a little digging, you might just find the heart of the album, scarred yet still beating.

“Sleepwalking”:

6. Phosphorescent

Muchacho

[Dead Oceans; 2013]

Over the past 10-years Houck has pretty much remained grounded in his barebones approach, often bare to the point of painfully hitting a raw nerve. A constant within his work has been a candidness that is so confessional and heartbreaking that the listening experience tends to make you feel like Houck’s psychiatrist. Just like Dylan in 83′ with his album Infidels, Houck put a twist on his approach with Muchacho, bringing in an artificiality to help dampen the blow of sincerity. Lush orchestration flourishes throughout the album and guitar licks swirl around each note like the ghost of Knopfler has returned from 83’ (no worries – Knopfler is still alive).

In the middle of all this beauty and space sits Houck and his distinctive voice. His nasally croak stands in stark contrast with the beauty of the music, his heartbreak still evident, even amidst the musical equivalent of Van Gogh’s “Starry Starry Night.” Just as it worked for Dylan in 83, the dichotomy of the voice and the verdant production results in a more palpable listen with the emotional heft still intact. Like Dylan learned 30 years ago, sometimes it is better to mix a little sweet with the sour.

“Song For Zula”:

5. Youth Lagoon

Wondrous Bughouse

[Fat Possum; 2013]

In 2011, Youth Lagoon’s Year of Hibernation was a nice little discovery, the music of a 21-year old, Trevor Powers, concocting his minimalist, personal synth mixes from the comfort of his bedroom. What made the album such a great unearthing was Power’s ability to pull the listener in early in each track with his personal hushed lyrics, only to be bamboozled by a full on glorious crescendo. Despite going back to this wheelhouse again and again, it never got old over the charming eight tracks.

But in 2013, Power’s is no longer just a kid, and he no longer needs to rely on the simplistic song structure that worked so well in the past. Wondrous Bughouse is evidence that his talent goes far beyond the bedroom, a collection of psychedelic, mind-expanding tracks. Shifting from the synths of old into harpsichords and Moogs, Powers is able to expand upon his songwriting in a way that is both demanding and thrilling. None of Power’s charm is lost in the studio with his nasally voice still crackling from the distance, and despite the major increase in production, it still sounds homespun. Wondrous Bughouse is both quaint and otherworldly at the same time, like dropping acid on that beanbag in the corner of your room.

“Pelican Man”:

4. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge

Twelve Reasons to Die

[Wax Poetics; 2013]

Ghostface has always been known to spin a yarn, especially on the Scarface-esque Fishscale, but never has he executed his storytelling in such a linear, focused fashion than on his 2013 release Twelve Reasons to Die. Each track clocks in around three minutes, mini-vignettes that serve as the next chapter in the story of Tony Starks and his life as an enforcer for the DeLuca crime family. Stark builds a reputation with the family, moves up in the ranks, and decides to split off and start his own crime syndicate. Unfortunately, Starks is wooed by a vixen named Carmella on “The Center of Attraction,” a stunning love song that quickly turns sour when Stark discovers she set him up, and so distracted by love, he’s killed by the DeLucas.

In what sounds like a storyline straight from a Todd McFarlane comic book, Stark’s remains are then pressed into twelve vinyl records for each member of the family, unbeknownst to them that the playing of said records would resurrect his vengeful ghost. Thus begins the 2nd half of the album, a ruthless blood fest of Kill Bill proportions. Ghostface’s lyrics reveal the storyline, but Adrian Younge’s production paints the setting. Younge’s dabbling in cinema is evident throughout the album with a mixture of Italian film music, blaxpoitation swerve, and spaghetti western dramatics. Add a hint of 60s psychedelic soul and 70s frenetic funk and you have the auditory equivalent of Django Unchained. My references to Tarantino films is no coincidence. It’s hard to listen to Younge’s nuanced mixture of retro film staples without imagining Mr. Blonde cruising to the “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies,” Beatrix Kiddo rising from her grave to exact revenge, and Django riding into the sunset.

“The Center of Attraction”:

3. My Bloody Valentine

mbv

[Self-Released; 2013]

For some reason, I expected the first My Bloody Valentine album in 20 years to lean more toward the pop-tinged songs that gained the band notoriety (“Only Shallow,” “When You Sleep,” “(When You Wake) You’re Still In a Dream”). So imagine my surprise when I finally did hunker down and check on the new album, mbv, and discovered they’d gone the opposite of my expectations and released an album completely devoid of sugary hits, an album so dense and foggy that you feel like you are being held captive by the band in the unventilated bow of a schooner for 47 straight minutes. Seasickness will set in within the first nauseating 30-seconds of album opener “She Found Now,” the claustrophobic atmosphere reverberated, the pulsating waves of endless tremolo guitar. This is not an album rehashing the past; Shields has led us into uncharted waters, kicking and screaming.

Not only is mbv not a disappointing reunion album, it is questionably the band’s best album to date. It seems without the anchor of a major label holding MBV locked in melodic territories, Shields is now free to completely let loose without worrying whether his alarming auditory-humidity completely overtakes you. The irony of the situation is that it looks like the freer Shields is to explore, the more isolated and claustrophobic his sound becomes. The strangest thing about this already bizarre album is that it often resembles a repetitive, mess of warbling, reverberating guitars, unpredictable drum loops, and aloof vocals that will have you asking yourself, “This music is 20 years in the making?” Then again, as you listen closer to that same repetitive, mess of warbling, reverberating guitars, unpredictable drum loops, and aloof vocals, you’ll be wondering how someone could create something so intricate, so unique, and so mind-altering in only 20 years.

“Who Sees You”:

2. Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

[XL; 2013]

I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to like Vampire Weekend anymore. I was beginning to tell myself that they were just too saccharine, too accessible, and too over-exposed to be making music of any legitimacy anymore. When I heard they had a new album, part of me really, really wanted to hear it (because deep down I love the band), but the self-important, knee-jerk side of me scoffed and begrudgingly thought, “I guess I have to check it out…” I went into my first listen with this stiff upper-lip, but by the end of the album I was uncontrollably singing along to songs I’d just been introduced to. That day I learned that it is impossible to not like Vampire Weekend.

Not only is Modern Vampires of the City a great addition to the band’s already superior library of music, it’s hands down the band’s best work to date. While past albums showed the band experimenting in various soundscapes ranging from the plains of Africa to classical music halls of London, on Modern Vampires of the City the band is self-assured and confident, utilizing all the elements that made their past albums so entertaining and using them together in a masterful mix. On the past two albums there were always tracks that felt out-of-place, but every track on their 2013 release transitions into the next, each taking on a new persona while all fitting into the vampire-laden cityscape. Despite the darker lyrics of death and desperation, the band still keeps it light, smiling in the face of hopelessness. Ezra Koenig still sounds like a modern-day Paul Simon, but more than ever, he’s piggy-backed on Simon’s talent for quirky lyrics and obscure references. While past albums had you revisiting them due to the melodies, Modern Vampires of the City will have you coming back for the knowledge.

“Everlasting Arms”:

1. The Flaming Lips

The Terror

[Bella Union/Warner Bros.; 2013]

On the surface, The Flaming Lips come off as a fun-loving bunch of guys with their silly appearances in car commercials, their live show circus theatrics, and their songs primarily about love. While the necessity of love remains a theme on their latest release The Terror, it is so buried beneath grit and grime that one may miss it due to the apocalyptic nature of the album. While 2009s Embryonic took the band’s usually affable demeanor to the darkened edge of the cliff, The Terror is a free fall into the abyss. If time slows down when you die, then The Terror suggests what that experience feels like in the span of about 70 minutes – horrifying and liberating at the same time. Being the best Flaming Lips album since The Soft Bulletin, it stands in stark contrast to the lush orchestration and positive energy of their seminal album. The Terror is Soft Bulletin’s deranged step-brother.

In the past Wayne Coyne has found hope in humanity, but The Terror shows a change of heart with a message of loneliness in a desolate, flawed world. From start to finish a constant drone can be heard in the cellar below, threatening to crack the floorboards any moment, and that big crack happens near the end of the album when vicious tracks like “Turning Violent” and “Always There… In Our Hearts” arrive in a sadistic downpour. Throughout the album, Steven Drozd’s metallic guitar riffs scream out harshly, slicing through the muck of retro-synths piling up on the deserted highway. By the time the dust has settled, the final track arrives, a beaten and torn cover of The Beatle’s “All You Need is Love.” Yes, it’s true – all you need is love. But The Terror raises the question: what do you do when there’s no one left to love?

“Always There In Our Hearts”:

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12 Comments

Filed under Top Albums Lists

12 responses to “The Top 20 Albums of 2013 (So Far…)

  1. Great list! Glad to see mbv here, along with some other stuff I’ve enjoyed. I have yet to check out some of the others.

  2. I’m so impressed at the detail you’ve gone into here. I haven’t heard many of these albums. So thank you for the pointers.

  3. Very happy to see Phosphorescent and Marnie Stern here. Will definitely check out the others listed here

  4. Pingback: Allflaws, ‘Versus The Soul’: Album Review | MUSIC REVIEW 2013

  5. I would have put Vampire Weekend as number one, but the truth is I haven’t heard the new Flaming Lips album. Is it really that good?

    • I was up in the air on the top three. All of them could be number one in my opinion. I just thought in terms of focus and concept the Lips have outdone themselves this time around.

  6. great list mate! foxygen and fidlar a definite.

  7. It’s great to see mbv and MVOTC getting some love! Great site!

  8. Pingback: Questioning the Scripture of Bill Hicks | Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs

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