[Britt Reiser is a copy editor and news writer for Punknews.org.]
It can be argued that these lists are pointless - they're arbitrary, biased, whatever it is you hip kids want to complain about these days. And maybe that's the case. But here it is, my Top 20 Albums of 2013 as decided by me, my arrogance, ignorance, and humility (or lack of). These are the albums that added definition to my year. They gave me something to scream with, to cry to, to celebrate during, or to simply embrace. Though the order was created with intention, these are albums you should check out if you haven't already. They all deserve an open chance.
The album is fun and catchy, with classic angst, standout lyrics and done so with an art of cohesion. If you're struggling to be content with where you are, rather than constantly thinking about where you want to be, this is an album that will speak to you.
Radiator Hospital: Something Wild
Sam Cook-Parrott has put a collection of solo songs together that describe the agony and pain of breakups and lost love. While that's one of the most generic concepts in popular music, this is done with so much raw emotion, a vintage pop sound and unexpected minimalism that he defeats the weary expectations of a tired and true story.
The Dangers of Standing Still was a powerful debut album, enough so that it'd be hard to top. The Oklahoma band's sophomore release didn't quite live up to the dynamite sound they produced in 2011, but it is a solid record and worthy of being in this List. The band continue to be charismatic and draw the readers in with their emotive chants and choruses.
If this is the band's debut full-length, I can't wait to see what else we'll experience from the San Francisco dudes. The album follows a loose concept of being a collaboration of "interviews and casual conversations" with friends, which creates an everchanging mixture of beats and melodies. You can't get bored going from song to song, an incredible collection.
After a five-year hiatus, I am pleased to say the band are back with an album worthy of the wait. This is 27 minutes of dead serious, to the point hardcore that will remind you why they made such an impact and why they remain so influential.
Lemuria are often pegged as a typical "pop-punk" band and it's undeserved. The Distance is So Big is enchanting, everchanging, and vulnerable. Sheena Ozzella is revered for her beautiful, straightforward sound, but the success of this band, and this album, lies in the ability for Ozzella and drummer Alex Kerns to complete their duets and exquisite harmonies.
Defeater's fourth album takes a trip back to the band's old sound, a little less experimental than Empty Days and Sleepless Nights and a lot more of that classic hardcore sound. But don't be fooled, it's not dead, it isn't boring â it's punchy, brutal and a strong addition to their long running theme of a family being destroyed by WWII.
The country-punk, alt-country, whatever you want to call this genre, has never really been my thing, until this album. Wild American Runners is filled with soul, lost love, loneliness, and stories we can relate to and stories we can drink to. The album transitions beautifully, it's laid out exceptionally, and lead vocalist Cory Call has perfected the gruffness of his voice, which is complemented by Kyle "GB" Oppold's vocals. The dudes in this band are talented, and while that's been evident in the past, Wild American Runners brings this into a deserved spotlight.
Two Cow Garage are a band who have gotten better with every release. Micah Schnabel is one of my favorite lyricists, and he rose to the occasion on this album. I've never cared for Shane Sweeney's songs, but this is the album he found his sound and together, they compete with dual vocals, creating a dynamic and full rock and roll record. If you haven't listened to this band yet, do so, especially if you came of age in the punk rock scene and now you're grown up and left wondering where to go next. You'll find solace in the stories told on these albums.
These wonderful dudes put a song called "Focus on Your Own Family" on this record. I think that sums up why this album, and overall, the band is just so dang good.
Real talk â Listeners get the classic OWTH sound on this record and so much more; this record illustrates impeccable growth from their early stuff.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this band or this album. While this is a follow-up to Western Problems, it's a pleasant introduction for me. The album struck me with the pop taste and structure of the songs coupled with an early grunge distortion. While I wasn't immediately blown away, I have accidentally fallen in love with Late Republic, more so than many of the promising records I had anticipated for 2013.
Long time follower, first time reviewer. It's been an honor to watch Elway grow into the musicians they are, conquer each milestone in making this life a career and complete each new album. Leavetaking is the sophomore release for these guys and it's mature and strong. The album starts slow and stays steady, but Tim Browne's lyrics don't falter in their subtle beauty, they're still coated in the youthful angst we're determined not to grow out of. Many dismissed this album when it first came out but it's a grower, and one that will carry through time.
If you can see this band live, do so. Their live performance was the initial jaw-dropping sale I needed for this record. The album opens with a build-up to grandiose; from there it's layered with sweeping urgency and subtle contemplation. It's hard to describe this album because it's hard to describe Restorations. So, if you're looking for something truly unique and probably groundbreaking, this is the album to check out.
While I certainly would not argue this is one of the Bronx's best albums, it is definitely one of the best releases of 2013 (probably about Number 7 on that list actually). It's been five years since these dudes put out a true Bronx sound and they came back with aggression (naturally). The album takes off immediately in the powerful, gruff vocals of Matt Caughthran and weaves through anthemic choruses, mighty drums, prevailing riffs, and even takes a break during "Life Less Ordinary" to slow it down to appreciate the range of his voice. It is an incredible collection of talent and diversity for the band.
Here's the perfect combination of being fun and upbeat while also embracing dark humor. Initially, this full-length comes off as your classic punk rock album. You've got your great choruses, the speedy pace, the places you instinctively pump your fist, all the basics. But then a line will catch your attention and pique your interest; suddenly you're sucked into an Armageddon-like adventure full of humor, fear and love. Direct Hit! nailed it on this album. Most of us are rarely excited for a concept album, and here is one that can stand alone track-by-track but is meant, and is best, if enjoyed as a collective story.
Iron Chic's sophomore album continues to illuminate the path of the human condition. While there's not a huge difference between The Constant One and 2010's Not Like This in terms of sound and delivery, this album is noteworthy because of how inclined the reader is to understand. Singer Jason Lubrano delivers themes of friendship, perseverance and discontentment through well-crafted and catchy choruses that insight a physical response. I want to dance hearing these songs, I want to throw myself into a pile of similarly angst-ridden kids and feel the therapeutic effects of singing these words at the top of my lungs.
This UK-based band was one of my all-time favorite Fest finds from Fest 11. Their sophomore release, Like I Belong grips with Giles Bidder's stunning voice and his ability to capture the complicated emotions of youth in his lyrics. The first song "Queen of Anarchists" sets the tone of the record with what is possibly the best line of the album, " We're old enough to know better than this / and young enough to know it's not worth it to care." This album touches on all the beautiful inconveniences and pleasures of navigating the path to adulthood.
I didn't know what I was getting into when I got a copy of Talon of the Hawk. I couldn't decide if it was too whiny, nasally or if it told the perfect story of relatively mundane life events (with the obvious exception of "Lone Star"). Suddenly it was the only album I was listening to and the simplicity of the frank and vulnerable stories are a lullaby to the rough days we all experience.
2010's Cavalcade was my needed introduction to the Flatliners. By that point they had matured away from their ska roots and landed in a comfortable melodic punk sound which meshed perfectly with my music collection. This year's Dead Language took my breath away in the first 30 seconds of "Resuscitation of the Year." As the album continues, you can tell the Flatliners found a sound they knew they could conquer and conquer it they did.
Probably the darkest album on the list, The Future is Cancelled has held the number one spot for AOTY for the entirety of 2013. The album strikes with "Adultery," which sets the tone for the melodic emotional roller coaster on which the band and listener are embarking. The soulful and relatable lyrics are intertwined so intricately with the powerful and driving melodies of each instrument, this album gives you the goosebumps only a perfect record could. By the time you've reached the last song, "Shoddy Workmanship," you've felt the range of emotion for the commonly dismal human condition â and then you play it again. And again. For all of 2013.
"If the apple gets you kicked out of the garden / do you want to know the trouble I'm in?'