Hello, dear readers! 2013 draws to a close, and I have just as many albums I still need to listen to as I do things I loved. Not to mention the new year is kicking off with a bang, the long-awaited Against Me! album. Lots to look forward to! In the meantime, here are my favorite records from the past year.
The latest from the Flaming Lips is a constant exercise in creating tension. This is not an album for relaxing to.
Pet Shop Boys: Electric
After last year's subdued Elysium, Electric is a welcome return to uptempo dance floor bangers from the constantly-evolving synthpop duo. Neil Tennant's witty lyrics of heartbreak and British dryness are in full force, and the Springsteen cover is unexpected in the best way.
Closer to 2006's Decemberunderground than the band's last studio record, Crash Love, AFI embraces all of their â80s goth and electronic passions, alternating between synth-laden gloom fests and driving rockers to create a vibrant, atmospheric and dynamic record.
The elder statesmen of classic California punk rock's sixteenth album finds them calling back to their classic Against the Grain-era records in places, kicking out speedier anthems than many would have thought them capable of at this point. Hit or miss-- that single, "Fuck You?" Come on, guys-- but when it hits, it feels just as exciting as when you were 15.
Water Liars: Wyoming
Country jams in the best sense, with a healthy dose of melancholy and sadness.
Criaturas: Espiritu de Libertad
Furious Spanish-language hardcore from Texas. A little more tuneful this time out, which takes their already excellent attack and sharpens it to a vicious point.
Delivered out of nowhere at the end of the year, Queen Bey presented an intensely personal, epic-scale album. Running from quiet and beautiful-- the closers "Heaven" and "Blue" are incredible-- to dance floor bangers like the incredible "***Flawless" and "Partition," Ms. Carter gave us good reason to bow down, bitches.
Boston's nerdiest punks knock it out of the park on their first full-length, expanding their sound with some slower tracks and a heightened sense of melody. The interplay between vocalists Brendan and Christine is fantastic, and both have never sounded better.
Nick Cave makes a sharp turn from the dirty Grinderman-esque swagger of Dig Lazarus Dig with a quiet, brooding album more in line with Nocturama, just in case we forgot he was doing this sort of thing. His soundtrack work with Warren Ellis is a clear influence here.
Deer Tick: Negativity
Deer Tick may have put out the best record of their career here. Heartbreaking in turns, weird at times ("Thyme" is awesome and totally out of left field from the rest of the album), and filled with songs that get jammed firmly in your ear. Sad bastards sure know how to rock.
Wu-Tang's resident storyteller gets to flex his imagination with this, a concept album about a murdered crime boss returning from the dead to exact his revenge. The few guests stay committed to the idea, while Adrian Younge's production gives the whole thing a feeling of a â70s Italian horror movie.
Boston's Curmudgeon follow up two furious 7-inch releases with a longer, more full-realized 12-inch slab of destruction. Thunderous riffs back screaming vocals confronting social ills both in and out of our beloved, troubled punk world make for one of the year's finest releases.
My Favorite EPs/Demos/etc. of 2013
Because the cruel taskmasters in charge of all this won't let me include EPs in the above list-- otherwise, the No Sir, I Won't EP would have been #2-- I've got this here list of things that ruled in smaller doses this year.
I moved to Baltimore this year, and it's pretty awesome. How about that?
Deer Tick covering Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" is one of the best live things I saw this year. That list also includes No Sir, I Won't at the Sidebar; The Flaming Lips; Dr. Dog; and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
Speaking of, you really should check out the Deervana (Deer Tick performing as Nirvana) set from September. You can listen to it here.