Joy’s 2013 Favorites (Shows & Albums)

January 9th, 2014 · 2 Comments · By

Even though I moved away from Charlottesville in September, the kind current editors here told me I was still allowed to post my 2013 list here. This post will only be Favorite Albums and Shows because 1) I haven’t really thought about anything else and 2) this post is long enough as it is and 3) it’s 2014 now.

In case any Nailgun readers miss my old radio show, I DJ for Chicago’s CHIRP Radio now, on Saturdays from 6-9am central time. So you can also see this list in a slightly different form here on the CHIRP blog.

Without any further ado or self-promotion, here is my list. (Read it all! There’s pictures! This took me awhile! It still doesn’t look great!)

1. Kanye West / Yeezus / Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
What do I say about Yeezus that hasn’t already been said? This album is my favorite of 2013 because it is an uncompromising personal statement from one of popular music’s greatest artists. It’s stripped down, challenging, and takes the “soul-sampling Kanye” trope and uses it to make the songs even darker and more jarring. And then there’s “Bound 2.”

2. Parquet Courts / Light Up Gold / What’s Your Rupture?
This album comes from a place where Pavement, The Fall, and the Minutemen are the rock gods and Parquet Courts are the kids hearing it all on the radio and making their own, skewed, earnest version of those songs. Dynamic and wordy, Light Up Gold mixes the absurd (“Socrates died in the fucking gutter!”) with the mundane (looking for something to eat while stoned, the inability to find a good bagel south of the Mason-Dixon line) to produce a record that flows, stops, starts, challenges, and reaffirms everything I love about snotty indie (post?) punk. “Careers in Combat” is a D. Boon-esque political non-anthem; “Borrowed Time” is excellent mosh pit fodder for punching people while having feelings about growing up; and “Stoned and Starving” is a prime example of not a set-ending but a set-shattering jam.

3. The Men / New Moon / Sacred Bones
I put this album on my best of 2013 list because when I first heard it, I hated it a lot. Then it proceeded to ruin my life so intensely for the rest of the year that I feel compelled to write something about it. Initially, I was upset because I felt like New Moon moved the band another step away from their abrasive 2011 record Leave Home, one of my favorites in recent memory. Upon a bit of reflection and two live shows, I realized that the band sounds even better now with the addition of new member Ben Greenberg, and these songs aren’t so bad at all when The Men purposefully chose to play all the loud ones even louder. For the best tracks on New Moon, it made their Neil Young phase sound sufficiently noisy (see the guitar-and-harmonica combo in “Without a Face”) while still churning out some pretty decent rock tunes (“Half Angel Half Light” is really catchy). What I like about The Men is that they’re unrelentingly honest about their influences, their music, and who they are. New Moon is undeniable proof of that.

4. Locrian / Return to Annihilation / Relapse
Chilling, full of empty spaces and quick explosions of sound, Return to Annihilation was released back in July and has been woefully overlooked since. This blackened noise/drone record from Chicago band Locrian proves that successful experimentation with black metal tropes produced more than one fascinating 2013 release, as well as demonstrates the wide range of genres black metal can enhance. The complexity of this record is nearly impossible to put into words, as the textures and images on this record are constantly shifting and moving as I listen, layered upon each other and morphing into new forms each time I hear the record.

5. Deafheaven / Sunbather / Deathwish Inc.
Oh, the whiny think pieces by black metal purists. Oh, the merciless teasing of Deafheaven about the way they looked or their pretty pink album cover. Oh, the vast amount of eye rolling I did in response. This album not only opened me up to understanding more about what makes black metal what it is, it also showed me the possibilities for the genre to give a beautiful yet brutal texture to the swooping, epic, post-rock/shoegaze format. It’s poetic, it’s twisted, it’s some of the most emotional music I heard this year.

6. Pharmakon / Abandon / Sacred Bones
is extremely confrontational. The shattering scream that subsides into ugly synthesized throbbing in “Milkweed/It Hangs Heavy” is only the beginning. When Margaret Chardiet performs live as Pharmakon, she descends from the stage, creeps through the audience, stopping to literally scream in individual attendees’ faces. Her recorded music does almost the same job, forcing its audience to connect with another human through sheer force of will. This album is power electronics/industrial noise at its most primal, a reminder that this beastliness is in all of us.

7. Earl Sweatshirt / Doris / Columbia
The perfect, darkly conflicted, largely hookless response to years of hype for someone who is still so young. Here we see definite maturation for the youngest member of Odd Future often referred to as their “best rapper,” with his newfound willingness to talk about his personal life and darkest fears: “I’m afraid I’m going to blow it/And when them expectations raising/Because daddy was a poet, right?” Earl’s halting, twisted rhymes and out-of-nowhere references combine with guest verses and grimy production to form an honest, personal debut album. The RZA collaboration “Molasses” reminds me that Earl is a worthy candidate to update Wu-Tang’s iconic sound. And I’m still kind of chuckling at Tyler’s One Direction reference on “Sasquatch,” whoops.

8. Inter Arma / Sky Burial / Relapse
Inter Arma are so much more than the big, fat, classic doom riff that kicks off the first ten minutes of their second full-length record. Of the three blackened-something-or-other albums on my list of 2013 favorites, Sky Burial is the closest to traditional metal, but that doesn’t mean the Richmond group doesn’t have an experimental, forward-looking attitude underneath the surface. The album is a crushing carousel of classic metal genres, and it all easily comes together in a showcase of the band’s talent and the singer’s versatility. I saw Inter Arma play Raleigh’s Lincoln Theater a few hours before Sleep absolutely destroyed the place during Hopscotch this year, and they were one of my favorite performances of the festival. Even more so than on the album, Inter Arma’s built towering walls of noise with their sludgy hypnotic riffs, punctuated with bursts of impassioned vocals, and balanced it all with extended sections of quiet atmospherics. It’s immediately clear that the group believes in what they’re playing, and can travel through varying volumes and intensity levels with ease.

9. Wooden Wand / Blood Oaths of the New Blues / Fire
Blood Oaths
is a slice of drone-influenced, alt-country Americana from the infinitely adaptable, sometime-Michael Gira collaborator James Jackson Toth. I often found myself completely lost in the stories he tells on this record, only to be jolted awake when they stomped on my heart a little bit. This is the album with the highest instance of lines in songs giving me chills: “This evening I threw up my heart/It looked like honeycomb.” Blood Oaths takes the daily (e.g. taking a road trip to a blues fest with a significant other) and elevates it to the mystical and the universal. The lingering, elliptical lyrics are perfect to sing along to on a lonely road trip in the dark, as the album and the highway slowly stretch on ahead: smooth sailing now.

10. Pissed Jeans / Honeys / Sub Pop
A beer-stained, hilarious, sludge punk insta-classic. This band, consisting of 30-something insurance salesmen, does not take itself seriously at all. From frontman Matt Korvette tearing through at least four tank tops during an early set at Pitchfork Music Festival, to releasing a music video featuring an ice skating routine choreographed to match “Romanticize Me,” Pissed Jeans have made their brand of Flipper/Melvins/My War-era Black Flag post-hardcore into something entirely their own.

I wrote this list back in mid-November, and since then, two albums have really gotten to me, and I wanted to write just a little more about them. The first is The First and Last Days of Unwelcome by Lumbar on Southern Lord. Lumbar is a supergroup of three metal veterans: Mike Scheidt, Tad Doyle, and Aaron Edge. Edge was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and this record is about his struggles with the disease. The emotional rawness of this album is completely overwhelming, from the vocals to the broken-sounding, Sabbath-inspired doom metal sound. The album is available on Lumbar’s bandcamp, and all proceeds will go to Edge’s medical care. And then there’s the Who is William Onyeabor? collection, part of the World Psychedelic Classics reissue series on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Label. William Onyeabor was a Nigerian artist who recorded back in the 1970s. I cannot stop listening to his transcendent, long-form psychedelic disco songs.

Other honorable mentions (in absolutely no order) include:

Joanna Gruesome / Weird Sister / Slumberland
Yo La Tengo / Fade / Matador
Wolf Eyes / No Answer: Lower Floors / De Stijl
Phosphorescent / Muchacho / Dead Oceans
My Bloody Valentine / m b v / self-released
Run The Jewels / Run The Jewels / Fool’s Gold
Hair Police / Mercurial Rites / Type
Ty Segall / Sleeper / Drag City
Running / Vaguely Ethnic / Castle Face
Oneohtrix Point Never / R Plus Seven / Warp
Danny Brown / Old / Fool’s Gold
Oozing Wound / Retrash / Thrill Jockey
The Body / Christs, Redeemers / Thrill Jockey
Pusha T / My Name Is My Name / Def Jam
Borrowed Beams of Light / On The Wings of a Bug / Hibernator Gigs
KEN Mode / Entrench / Season of Mist
Watain / The Wild Hunt / Century Media

And here’s a list of my Favorite Shows. This list doesn’t include every great show I went to, but these are the ones that came to mind today.

Yo La Tengo at the Jefferson sometime in January. This show came right on the heels of the release of Yo La Tengo’s excellent record, Fade. YLT is one of the most versatile and consistently good bands on record and live. They played two sets for this show, one acoustic and one with a full band. If I remembered correctly, they opened their acoustic set with “Our Way To Fall” and it was exceedingly beautiful. They closed with a fifteen minute jam on “Little Honda” and it was a perfect show.

Swans, whenever I saw Swans in DC. March? Their bass player looked like his teeth were going to crack from the pressure of grinding them together while playing. Michael Gira directed his ragtag band and danced like spirits were possessing him. He turned the heat all the way up and laughed at us. Afterward, he shook my hand and said, “it’s so nice to see young people at our shows.” He was wearing a cowboy hat. I was deaf. I also got to see Swans again at Pitchfork and I was in the front row, so basically, I don’t know if I can do better than I did in 2013.

Miami Nights at Tea Bazaar, during the summer. I was running the door for this show, and I’m short so I couldn’t even see what was happening onstage and I still remember it. Great Dads opened, and then Miami Nights set up their walls of amps and blew the entire Tea Bazaar away. Frontwoman Maxx Katz has insane vocal and guitar skills, and the whole band is one of Charlottesville’s hidden treasures.

Trash Talk at Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago, July 19th. I’ve found that I tend to enjoy Friday shows at Pitchfork the best because they’re less crowded, my feet don’t hurt yet, and I’m not as dehydrated as the other days. Even though I ate a pound of dirt in the circle pit, this show ruled because of the control the band had over the crowd. The frontman wins for managing to crowdwalk early Friday at the blue stage. Never seen that before.

Hopscotch Music Fest, September 5-7th. Go read my Hopscotch Top 10 post for a more complete list of everything I liked there. But Inter Arma, Sleep, and Spiritualized were the standout acts from that incredible weekend.

Great Dads post-Hopscotch at Magnolia. The Sunday after Hopscotch, Great Dads played a set at Magnolia that I think was the best I’ve seen from them. And that’s saying a lot, because Adam Smith’s experimental side project has a different lineup and does something different every show so it’s not easy to compare. For this particular show, Great Dads had a saxophone player and bongos along with their regular players, and they built a slow, shimmering, ambient/drone jam for about twenty-five minutes as all of Magnolia House sat in stunned, sweaty silence.

Borrowed Beams of Light at the Southern, August 31st. This show wasn’t the last concert I saw in Charlottesville before I moved away, but it meant the most. I am a huge, huge fan of Borrowed Beams, and I love seeing them live. I had just interviewed the band for Nailgun, so I was the only one who knew the words to the songs of their new record, On The Wings of a Bug that they debuted that night. The show was so much fun, and I’m glad I was able to leave Charlottesville with a great memory.

The Body and Oozing Wound in Chicago at the Empty Bottle, October. Thrill Jockey experimental metal night. The Body showed off their noise influences, with pounding rhythms, sheer volume, and a lot of yelling. Chicago’s hometown metal band Oozing Wound, playing a release party show for their record, Retrash, demonstrated that their mix of punk and thrash made for excellent moshing. (Shout out to Carolyn Zelikow, who was in town, and was totally game when I said “experimental and industrial metal show.)

Roky Erickson, Dec 30th in Chicago at the Beat Kitchen. Another late addition to my 2013 favorites. Roky Erickson (originally of the 13th Floor Elevators, one of my favorite bands of all time) played a show with a new backing band from Austin. He played some of his solo classics, like “Night of the Vampire,” and some Elevators songs that I never thought I’d hear him play live. The crowd’s support for Roky at this show was overwhelming, and marked yet another instance this year that I found myself getting all teary-eyed at a show.


Tags: feature · review

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amanda // Jan 9, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Great list Joy! The pictures were beautiful, as were the words.

  • 2 davis // Jan 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Nice list Joy, some great stuff on here. You’re a good writer, sorry to lose you from the ranks here, but keep it up. Music happens in places besides Charlottesville apparently.