Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2013 Music Review, Pt. 005: Top Albums (25-01)

Here it is! The final list of my 2013 music year in review!

After writing about so much new music, it’s safe to say 2013 was an odd year in music. A lot of artists I had never heard of until this year made a big impression with me this year.

After wading through the ridiculously pretentious waters of hipster indie/shoegaze rock, noise rock, even some radio-friendly albums, and some ghastly attempts at metal/metalcore, I found a few gems and diamonds in the rough to claim as this year’s top music.

I gotta give a big thanks to anyone who has stuck it out with me throughout this process this year. I am more than thankful for the chance to share massive amounts of music with you all and I hope something in these lists were appealing to you.

This was a very challenging year for me to do this sort of excursion into music, given that I made a move across the country, started graduate school, and have had many new responsibilities with my professional life.

Regardless, thank you again.

Enjoy the last 25 picks!

25. Stories from Elsewhere, Rhian Sheehan
Released: March 07, 2013
If you are in need of someone to write a soundtrack for your everyday life, enlist the help of Rhian Sheehan. Sheehan creates of the most stunning compositions of neo-classical tunes. He brandishes pianos, anything with strings, and music boxes and devises soft, soothing, and delightful tunes. He is a one-man multi-instrumentalist orchestra.
24. Kveikur, Sigur Ros
Released: June 17,2013

Earlier in the year, I laughingly stated that Sigur Rós might have released the heaviest album of the year. I sort of still stand by that statement because Kveikur (Icelandic for Candlewick) is remarkable change of pace for these post rock/atmospheric gods. The album takes many uncharacteristic mood swings and showcases a darker sound than past releases.

23. Atlas: Darkness, Light, Space 1, Space 2 (All 4 EPs),
Sleeping at Last
Released: January 29, 2013; June 10, 2013; September 17, 2013; November 21, 2013
Yes, four EPs. But the 21 songs are startlingly consistent and beautifully written. Anyone unfamiliar with the music of Ryan O’Neal should know that he is incredibly tenacious in his work ethic. He constructs soft, chill, bright, comforting tunes that make any listener feel safe and composed.

22. The Albatross, Foxing
Released: November 12, 2013

Perhaps leading the way in the emo revival is Foxing. The Albatross is a necessary album for anyone who has felt heartbreak or loss of any kind. Foxing seeks to work through complex emotions with somewhat simplistic, yet, relatable lyrics and stories.

21. The Hurry and the Harm, City and Colour
Released: June 04, 2013
In my book, Dallas Green can do no wrong. While The Hurry and the Harm doesn't reach the level of his masterwork, Bring Me Your Love, Green proves he is still an incredible composer of indie folk tunes. Ever since he added the full band, the growth and experimentation has not slowed down. Dallas continues to mature with each release, showing his willingness to create enlivened music with a purpose.

20. Common Courtesy, A Day to Remember
Released: October 08, 2013
I don’t know how much more blood and sweat can be poured into an ADTR album before they run out. While I haven’t really appreciated their live shows in the past, I can always appreciate the efforts of their albums. Common Courtesy serves as a testament to the band’s devotion to their craft with many reflections to life on the road.

19. Illumination Ritual, Appleseed Cast
Released: April 23, 2013

I lost track of Appleseed Cast a few years ago. I was following them through high school and went a different path, but I’m glad I found this album. Illumination Ritual is a groovy, experimental atmospheric post rock release with sprinklings of vocals here and there, in typical Appleseed Cast fashion.

18. Everyday I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came, Jesu
Released: September 23, 2013
This album is as beautiful as it is creepy. Everyday... is a spacious and patient probing of musical meanderings and discomfort. Just when I think I understand how chill this album can be, I'm hit with a sweeping reminder that Jesu is built on darkness. Jesu is instrumental, neo classical, post rock, post metal, post sludge, post doom, post-EVERYTHING!

17. Entities, Pomegranate Tiger
Released: January 31, 2013
Instrumental prog metal just found a new act to praise. Despite the terrible band name, Pomegranate Tiger makes impressive jazz-inspired djent metal tunes that take on many different genres throughout the drawn-out experiences the band creates. If the opening lick of “New Breed” doesn’t give you chills, something may be wrong with your heart.
16. Change Will Come, Least of These
Released: August 03, 2013
 Least of These is a little-known Indie post hardcore act that reminds me of every phase of As Cities Burns’ evolution as a band. Change Will Come is a lesson in perseverance and striving for becoming a stronger person through its overtly confessional style lyrics. Much aggression and emotion is present throughout the album, as the band masterfully envelopes feelings of isolation and determination through guttural screams and impressive clean vocals.

15. Altered State, TesseracT
Released: May 28, 2013
I spent a lot of time with Altered State and I didn’t like it the first time I listened to it. However, I knew there was something here. And I was right. This UK prog metal act has constructed a ten-track album ripe with a sonically charged exploration of the human condition. “Of Matter—Resist” was one of my favorite tracks of 2013 because it includes so many layers that make this band so important to the metal scene.

14. Beyond Was All Around Me, Young Man
Released: April 09, 2013

Young Man is the illegitimate brainchild of symmetry/symmetry, Kenny Vasoli (personL-inspired) and Pink Floyd spawning some downright inspiring experimental rock tunes. I haven’t been explicitly impressed with an album like this in a long time.

13. Living Mirrors, Disperse
Released: February 19, 2013

This album is a great example of being on Spotify and seeing a friend listening to a random band I’d never heard of and then I end up loving that band. Disperse is one of those in between metal bands. This album shows many signs of prog and djent metal, yet lacks any harsh vocals—instead showcases a powerful lead vocalist who harps over dazzling guitar work and explosive drums.

[Note: This is where the list gets tight. Hardly any wiggle room between these choices.]

12. Mouthful of Swords, The Safety Fire
Released: June 05, 2013

I kept trying to deny this album but I kept coming back to it. I tried to resist its tasty licks and dominant vocals. But I was no match for the Safety Fire. Blending a mix of BTBAM and Animals as Leaders, Mouthful of Swords became a go-to album for any prog metal lover.

11. Migrant, The Dear Hunter
Released: April 2, 2013

In 2011, I snubbed Casey Crescenzo by not truly appreciating his Color Spectrum mega album—which in hindsight is an incredible album and should’ve been higher on my 2011 list. Migrant is a conglomeration of everything the Dear Hunter has been and is becoming. Crescenzo is a mastermind of all things rock, jazz, folk, strings, horns, everything. The man is a master of everything. Not to mention that voice is to die for. Give it a shot. Let Casey sing to your soul.

10. Repave, Volcano Choir
Released: September 03, 2013

It’s hard to get an eight-song LP perfect. One misstep and it can throw off the entire balance of an album. Luckily, Volcano Choir didn’t have that issue. The band, a conglomeration of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and post rock outfit, Collections of Colonies of Bees, enmeshed so many jaw-dropping moments within this 40-minute uplifting frolic through musical articulateness.

09. Yeezus, Kanye West
Released: June 18, 2013

Yep. Take this, haters. Kanye West in the top ten. For all the naysayers of King West, I have one message for you: Appreciate his music for what it is—a constantly evolving experience of avant garde hip hop. Yeezus very bluntly is a middle finger to the current state of hip hop—especially since King West, himself, said he didn’t want to create a song on this album that could be used as a marketable single. He challenges listeners and brings some of his strongest and daring material to date.

08. Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth, Kiev
Released: October 22, 2013

Kiev is what would happen if Radiohead had an improvisational jazz horn section constructed into it. It’s incredible. Each track builds onto the next and for an up and coming act to have such a command on its style so early in the game, I am eager to see where this band goes from here. I only had 10 albums left to listen to before I was caught up with everything I had on my list from 2013. I figured my list was set. And then I got to this album. And it broke my list. I’m glad it did.

07. Volition, Protest the Hero
Released: October 29, 2013

Protest the Hero has been around the metal core scene for a while now. I saw the band on its very first tour and my heart was stolen then and it is being stolen again with this new album. I was apprehensive to tackle Volition after the band put out a stinker a few years ago, Scurrilous. However, each track hits on all cylinders throughout this math metal masterpiece. The band has always been able to impressively 

06. Sunbather, deafheaven
Released: June 11, 2013

This is one of the most important metal albums of the millennium. deafheaven took to create an experience with its whirling dynamo of black metal meets atmospheric instrumental post rock. Like Sigur Rós, vocals often take on a different role with this music—serving as an extra instrument, instead of a perfectly constructed element of lyrical expression. deafheaven gives listeners the opportunity to rest from the chaos in many scattered moments of bright beauty before dropping listeners right back into the pandemonium.

05. White Lighter, Typhoon
Released: August 20, 2013

Top five starts off with an essential release from Oregon’s own, Typhoon. This 12-person Indie orchestra is one of the most impressive acts in music today. This album chronicles the struggles of reality and mortality of lead singer, NAME NAME, as he battled Lyme disease last year. The songs tell absolutely lively and inspiring stories. Each song is uniquely vibrant and beautiful. For fans of Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists, and Modest Mouse.

04. For Now I am Winter, Ólafur Arnalds
Released: April 02, 2013

Stop what you’re doing and click the song below and watch the video for “Old Skin.” I’ll wait. This album is worth a listen from everyone on the planet. Ólafur Arnalds has carefully created the most whimsically elegant album of 2013. He brings his piano to life in magnificent ways. The atmosphere and ambience are on point. Each track featuring vocals from friend and composer, Arnór Dan, stand out as delightfully dominant compositions.

03. Is Survived By, Touché Amoré
Released: September 24, 2013

Many know my devotion to Touché Amoré, and I stand confident in my belief that TA creates some of the most impassioned, honest, and unrelenting music in the post hardcore/hardcore scene. Jeremy Bolm spends this entire under 30-minute album pondering life, mortality, and the difficulties of devoting one’s life to the love of artistic expression. The band went for a more spaciously atmospheric/accessible approach with Is Survived By, yet this doesn’t slow its ability to create some of heaviest music on the scene today.

02. Owel, Owel 
Released: April 02, 2013

Owel’s self-titled debut LP was probably the album I listened to the most in 2013. Owel makes solid experimental indie rock tunes that are comfortable, accessible, and ambitious. That’s the perfect word for this album—ambitious. For a debut album, it seems as though Owel already has it figured out. With no label, no major backing, they have a sound that should be on the radio, but isn’t. Again, I’m almost thankful for that. Regardless, Owel mixes styles of Copeland meets Explosions in the Sky and Dear Hunter. This album gives me hope for the future of music.

01. Winterwell, Mree
Released: August 06, 2013

I have tried to share this album with anyone and everyone who would listen. I am absolutely flabbergasted that this album and Mree have not become mainstream sensations yet. In a way, that makes me happy because I’d hate to see her artistic abilities limited in any way. The key factor in this album claiming number one is that I focus my attention on full albums, from beginning to end, and how the acts create a full experience. This album is a complete experience with no room to remove and element—for they are all necessary.

Mree (Marie Hsiao) is a 20-year old multi-instrumentalist who already had one LP under her belt before releasing this dazzling expression of life and love. Her airy voice is surprisingly strong when she belts out her choruses and beckons listeners to dig deeper within themselves to find the beauty in life. Watch her videos on Youtube, listen to this album, become one with these tracks. I am forever changed because of this album.

I’m thankful for those who read this…

This experience was incredible.

Catch up on the entire list:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2013 Music Review, Pt. 004: Top Albums (50-26)

Greetings again!

This was probably the most difficult section of all to rank because this section contained the thick of the competition for me. If I moved one album it changed the flow and feel of the entire list.

Even so, when it came to writing about these albums, I didn’t want to stop.
There are so many incredible pieces in this penultimate list.

I’m confident in these choices and cannot wait to get to the final section!

That will arrive on Monday.
And then I will post the entire list in one post here and on Facebook, for those who wish to see it all in one place.

Let’s go!!

[Note: As always Album Title in Bold Italics, Artist Name in Bold.]

50. Phoenix, Everything in Slow Motion
Released: December 10, 2013

Everything in Slow Motion released a powerful debut album in 2013. The band brandishes a sidewinding sound similar to As Cities Burns meets Blindside and Thrice. They rely on emotionally charged religiously introspective lyrics that allow for great moments of chaos and beauty.

49. Fever Hunting, Modern Life is War
Released: September 03, 2013

Modern Life is War made a surprise return to the scene in 2013. Fever Hunting finds Modern Life is War comfortably returning to form as hardcore legacies. There isn’t a moment on this album that makes me question the intensity and passion of this band.

48. Pelagial, The Ocean
Released: April 30, 2013

There aren’t many songs/albums by The Ocean that aren’t simply great. This is a metal band that truly understands all aspects of the genre. I got into this band a lot in 2013 ; I appreciate their utter brutality, their subtle eloquence, and their intricately planned stories.

47. From the Bird’s Cage, HRVRD
Released: February 19, 2013

From the Bird’s Cage was my go-to album for painting/all-things creative during my winter of creation in 2013. HRVRD (formerly Harvard) present a dynamically calm and experimental sound, akin to a post rock Circa Survive. The band proves to be more patient and succinct in this ten-song LP, making consistent and conscious choices.

46. Welcome: oblivion, How to Destroy Angels
Released: March 05, 2013

Reznor released a very lackluster Nine Inch Nails album this year. However, his release as How to Destroy Angels made an incredible impact, building off the landscape constructed from the an Omen EP_. Post industrial, experimental, and whimsically sang by his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, Reznor and his troupe of support have created an essential example of transcending genre.

45. Eros|Anteros, Oathbreaker
Released: July 16, 2013

This Belgian hardcore act is out for blood. Oathbreaker is well on its way to becoming the next hardcore legends. The band will ride the wave of a dominant female vocalist/screamer and completely deft instrumentalists that create heavy tunes as competently as they do the ambient final track, “Clair Obscur,” which was a favorite of mine from 2013.

44. The Weatherman, Gregory Alan Isakov
Released: July 09, 2013

The Weatherman is Gregory Alan Isakov at his best. Isakov has a voice quite rare to the folk scene. He croons each track with the greatest of ease and creates some of the most competent and imaginative lyricism today.

43. …Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age
Released: June 03, 2013

Six years is a long time to wait for an album (not to mention the SEVEN years Tool fans have been waiting for a new album). So, when Josh Homme decided to create a new QOTSA album, fans had to expect it would be a hit. And it was. This album contains some of the most down-and-dirty rock and roll you will hear this decade.
42. Knots, Crash of Rhinos
Released: July 22, 2013

As the post hardcore insurgence/emo revival took full storm of 2013, Crash of Rhinos came about as a random find amid the Spotify expansiveness. On only one listen I knew this album would be a competitor on my list. Fans of Fugazi, Sparta, and La Dispute will admire this great promise for the post hardcore realm.

41. Arc, Everything Everything
Released: January 14, 2013

Whenever I came back to Arc I couldn’t get the comparisons to Bloc Party out of my mind. Everything Everything options the all things groovy, chill, funky and takes them to the nth degree. There is much comfort in this debut release. As though the band has already found what it was looking for creatively, this can be dangerous. For now, I appreciate their audacious sound.

40. Collisions & Near Misses, K Sera
Released: February 26, 2013

K Sera did a Kickstarter account for this album. Not just to make its album, but to have the modern legend, Casey Crescenzo (Dear Hunter), produce the album with them. Collisions & Near Misses features many expansive romps of orchestral moments coupled with delightful horns and an eager storytelling vocalist.

39. Young Legs, Anthony Green
Released: November 12, 2013

I got chills when I listened to this album for the first time. Anthony Green has made an incredibly mature album. Green’s love and devotion to his for family is blatantly strewn through many tracks and even on the album cover. Anthony Green is one of my favorite artists and Young Legs presents him as a viable creative mind that has done a lot of growing up over the years.

38. Hummingbird, Local Natives
Released: January 29, 2013

Talk about a fun and chill album! Indie rockers, Local Natives, made waves with their debut LP, Gorilla Manor, and certainly followed it up with a worthy sophomore effort. Hummingbird is a charming collection of accessible and dreamlike tracks.

37. A Quiet Darkness, Houses
Released: April 16, 2013

Dream-pop folk is a new genre to me, and I think it fits Houses more than any other act I have heard. This airily atmospheric and often industrial duo has championed its own style of post rock. Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina serve as dual vocalists that pack an inspiring punch with their complimentary vocal melodies.

36. All Hail Bright Futures, And So I Watch You From Afar
Released: March 19, 2013

Anyone in need of some deedly-doos? Or beedly-deedly doos? These oft-melodic and upbeat instrumental post rockers are more than willing to show off their guitar tapping nimbleness and jam band potential. All Hail was one of the most fun records from 2013 and allowed for much growth in this band that made my list two years ago for their Gangs LP.
35., This Town Needs Guns
Released: January 22, 2013

Absolutely tantalizing atmospheric math-rock—Mute Math meets As Tall as Lions meets Hammock TTNG lost half of its members, wasn’t sure if it’d continue, and then released a brilliant sophomore album.

34. I Want to See Pulaski at Night, Andrew Bird
Released: November 12, 2013

Andrew Bird consistently composes impressive minimalist folksy, gypsy-like, classical tunes. He enlists violins, upright bass, mandolins, banjos—essentially anything with strings is well within Bird’s game plan of anything-goes nature for any album.

33. Miles and Miles, Handsome & Gretyl
Released: September 03, 2013

Miles and Miles is easily the most charming album of 2013. This married couple took to song and crafted 11 loving, heart-warming, and, at times, somber pieces of music. If you need a pick me up in any way, turn on this album and watch the smiles grow.

32. Letters Home, Defeater
Released: July 16, 2013

Defeater has been building for his album for years. Each of their releases relates to the story told in Letters Home, which is yet another incredible release from one of the best hardcore bands today. Defeater has shown great poise and patience throughout the years to build their story of a soldier away/lost at war and the anxieties of a family dealing with the reality of military service.

31. Tenboom, Penny and Sparrow
Released: January 08, 2013

Some damn good acoustic storytelling right here. This was another album I didn’t expect to get me all hot and bothered this year, but it did. This duo of roommates assembled ten incredibly sultry folk tunes comparable to Bon Iver’s debut meets Mumford and Sons. Try listening to “Duet” and then not forward it to your significant other. Just try. It’s impossible. It’s a beautiful song.

30. Doris, Earl Sweatshirt
Released: August 20, 2013

His name is Earl Sweatshirt. Don’t forget the name. This OFWGKTA member dropped his newest array of beats and stories and impressively managed to maintain a level head throughout the process. While his buddy, Tyler the Creator, released a new album this year that I wasn’t too fond of, all of Tyler’s features on this album are pretty great. Again, didn’t expect to dig this album as much as I did. But it’s full of great stories.

29. Whenever, if Ever,
The World is a Beautiful Place and
I am No Longer Afraid to Die
Released: June 18, 2013
Unsurprisingly and in celebration/reverence of the long moniker, this group has nailed down the emotional post rock game. Many of these songs are now a part of me and serve as testaments to a changing culture of what it means to be a man with feelings to share. The World is… creates dazzling landscapes to delight fans of Caspian, La Dispute, and Pianos Become the Teeth..

28. Grownass Man, The Shouting Matches
Released: April 16, 2013

Justin Vernon had a busy, busy year of musical creation and none of it involved Bon Iver. Working with longtime friends from Megafaun and Peter Wolf Crier, Vernon and company released some impressively laid back rock and rock—reliant on the rarely utilized twang side of Vernon’s pipes.
[Note: Probably my favorite album title of 2013.]
27. L’ami du Peuple, Owen
Released: July 02, 2013

Matt Kinsella has one of the most calming and comforting voices. Folk fans will love the subtle twang to this collection of ten beautifully arranged acoustic tracks, while emo fans will love the honesty and transparency in bearing his soul through a myriad of contemplative, thoughtful lyrics.

26. Love, Cloud Cult
Released: March 05, 2013
Pretty confident Cloud Cult can do no wrong. The music is creepy at times, but I think that’s what makes CC’s brand of experimental folk so alluring. Each album is always methodically and thematically written, produced, and orchestrated in ways unimaginably consistent over the years. I came to this album late in the year and it certainly stood to the test.

There you have it! Part Four is in the books!

Look out for the FINALE this weekend!

Be sure to check out the rest of the countdown: