Oh 2013, where have you gone? But gone she almost is so here I sit thinking about all the musical goodness that has passed us by.
Let’s be honest: the last thing that anyone needs is yet ANOTHER fucking Best Of/Most Awesome Albums of 2013 list. I’m not into it. But what I am into is doing due diligence in pointing out what may have been overlooked amongst all the fawning over Yeezus. So here are five releases of particular note for particular reasons and I hope you’ll dig into them.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club– Specter At The Feast
Released: March 19, 2013
The multiple personality of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s 6th release is exactly that: a release. Fitful, healing, aggressive, literate, complex, sonically graphic, as dark as it is light and together Peter Hayes, Robert L Been and Leah Shapiro stave off what could have been a full-fledged danse macabre by simply baring their rock and roll teeth (goddamn “Rival”) and sinking them in…hopefully not into one another because that would be weird. Specter… (Hayes and Been’s second album with Shapiro wo/manning drums) is the mark of a band realized; the band they need to be because this time around she fully imprints herself and her sound, which does nothing but complement her partners in rebellion (and a band is only as good as its drummer). It’s like nature at work, everyone plays their part. I’ll break it down for you. Specter… is a three-way of the elements: Hayes acts as Fire (he’s downright sexually menacing in the chaos of “Sell It”), Been counteracts as Water (peaceable and coolly pacifying) while Shapiro is all Earth and the strong foundation that supports them. It’s kinda beautiful, man.
Brendan James– Simplify
Released: August 6, 2013
In the vein of the singer/songwriter, Brendan James possesses the immense gift of being able to paint a lyrical picture and tell a story so vivid you can almost taste it. He’s a New Hampshire native and his fourth album, Simplify, is ripe with what he specializes in: emotionally connected and connective piano driven moments of song that reflect his personal convictions. Whether he’s singing about gun violence or divorce or conscious living, Brendan does it with elegant honesty and care. While the album is frontloaded and the pace tapers according to subject matter, according to Brendan, this album represents him “finding a clarity” he’d been searching for for years and I’m right there with him. Listen to “Hilary” (and yes, Brendan, one day that girl is going to figure out that this song is about her) and I dare you to try and NOT practically ‘see’ every word he says.
Javier Dunn– Trails
Released: June 25, 2013
For the past 10 years or so Javier Dunn has been the right hand guitar-man of singer-songtress Sara Bareilles but now he’s making music under his own steam and it sounds like that shyly confident romantic storyteller with a Taylor guitar on open mic night getting his synth-washed sexy back and phone numbers on cocktail napkins. Trails is all about the love journey and its potential, if not inevitable highs and pitfalls with an overlay of R&B groove and pop sense electronically tweaked- gently. With a few previously recorded songs re-imagined like “By The Sea” and “If You Go” (where homie Sara Bareilles adds sweet co-vocals making it a duet), put this album on and don’t be surprised if you get lucky. Way, way luckier than Daft Punk.
Ours– Ballet The Boxer I
Released: June 11, 2013
It’s been five years since the last outing from this ridiculously underrated and under-known band: Ballet the Boxer I (which hopefully means that a sequel is enroute) from Ours takes a slight left turn from the preceding Mercy: Dancing For The Death Of An Imaginary Enemy. A touch more refined but no less consuming with its grandiosity and full blooded orchestrated rock. The band is tight (main man, Static, on guitar where he should be) and fronted by the glorious and iconic octaves of Jimmy Gnecco (whose lack of mainstream exposure is also criminal), this album is 10 tracks of Gnecco opening emotional veins and battling beautiful demons with his trademark vocal prowess. It’s a self-imposed battle encompassing fragility and strength, from the title track to the heady and sensual stomp of “Pretty Pain,” the exorcising of “Devil” to the defiant, not taking any more shit “Stand.” But what seals the deal is the intensely powerful and redemptive closer “Fall Into My Hands” and you’ll totally want to. Fall into his hands, that is.
The Veils– Time Stays, We Go
Released: April 16, 2013
This album came out in April and by my third listen through, I knew it would be a year-end favorite. It’s just that good. Working under the assumption that when Finn Andrews and his band entered the studio they did so with the expectation of making the best record of their career, Time Stays, We Go may be the Veils most satisfying output yet (or at least on par with Sun Gangs) and, with their fantastic and dramatic history, that’s saying a lot: it’s a beauty. Conveyance of delicacy and hope without diluting their typical visceral piss and dark fire is a tricky walk. One step too far left and we’re in emo territory; to the right and it’s annoying, angry angst where we have to start questioning penis sizes. By the end of the album’s 40 minutes you feel as if you’ve trekked through some sort of beautiful wilderness as wide territory has been covered from ethereally romantic “Sign of Your Love” to the 50s retro and sexually anguished “Candy Apple Red”.