Happy New Year Dearest Reader,
To celebrate our miraculous survival for another year, I have several favorites to share with you. The Opinion Tree bows heavy with fruit, come sit with me and enjoy the harvest. We’ll be going through the best of Music, TV, Games, and Movies, so come back often. In this post we’ll be looking at the best albums of 2013.
1. …Like Clockwork- QOTSA
A dark, groovy album finds Homme bending his traditional drone into new territory, summoning up emotional ballads and pop vocals. The QOTSA skeleton remains intact beneath though, driving songs forward with some of the few great rock chops left on Earth. While certainly a departure from the acidic Era Vulgaris, Like Clockwork is an inventive and catchy album from one of the few rock titans not content to rehash.
Best Song – Kalopsia : Clockwork was many standouts over a disparate range, from the ballad Vampire of Time and Memory to the grungy leather-cool of If I Had a Tail, but nothing captures the wandering ascetic of Homme’s entry here quite like Kalopsia, a deeply bipolar dirge that doesn’t waste a second, building to a shattering breakdown, leaving only the stripped down core behind.
2. AM – Arctic Monkeys
Speaking of not resting on your laurels, the Arctic Monkeys are another rare band that seems to actively be resisting their past efforts. Alex Turner and company has, with each album, gotten progressively further from the bratty Brit rock that defined their titanic debut. Hoping to expand their sound they’ve assimilated production from Homme and reached back to older vocal styles. Well, it’s finally paid off dividends. AM is a strong yet unique album showcasing both Arctic Monkey’s strengths and fresh composition.
Best Song : Arabella – Another tough call, when regarding the near perfect RU Mine?, the world beater I Want It All, or the most expansive sounding song on the album Knee Socks. Arabella slightly gets the edge from me on personal taste, I just like the 70’s rock fused to this sprinting tune, down to the guitar solo.
3. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic – Foxygen
Like Tame Impala, Foxygen is a blast from the past. Their trip-synth approach is married with 60’s vocals and backing band. However throughout this awkwardly named record, time signature changes and Sam France’s wailing, desperate, crescendoing voice mark this as a modern indie record, a product of the 10’s filled with meticulous sound engineering, brash hope, and boredom.
Best Song – On Blue Mountain : This thrumming ditty takes the best from 70’s soul and builds an epic anthem which constantly changes rhythm and tone, switching to blues and rock as it sees fit. The buildup during the second half of the song (“put the pieces back together”) was one of the best in indie rock this year.
4. Major Arcana – Speedy Ortiz
Here’s something we don’t see much anymore; a singer-song writer splashing in the 90’s grunge waters left behind by Hole and its ilk. Speedy Ortiz is new to the scene, but their thrashing guitars sound practiced and the lead vocalist has an interesting voice, with slight echoes of the Mars Volta. Adding fuel to the fire though is great songwriting from Sadie Zupuis, who evokes fierce emotions like the sadistic determination of the torture laden Pioneer Spine. Indie mostly likes to ignore the last twenty years of popular music, but Speedy Ortiz shows that the 90’s can be capitalized on as well.
Best Song – No Below : A downbeat yet sweet ballad about love that can only be understood and expressed in a bizarre form, this standout captures the sweetness of Sadie’s voice and mixes it with the sinister undertones of the subject matter. It’s a feels-good-to-feel-bad jam.
5. Walking on a Pretty Daze – Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile is my resident chill-out artist. Like The Growlers, it’s not so much about the particular song as it is about relaxing and going with the flow as the guitar and voice keep rolling along. Walking on a Pretty Daze is Neil Young mixed with Ty Segall but a bit less ferocious and lot easier to understand. Vile has taken the time to stretch out the songs here. Kurt says it best; “ Imagine your favourite song, or something that you play over and over in the car, except that you don’t have to start it over as much.”
Best Song – Never Run Away : The title track better encapsulates what’s going on here, but Never Run Away is a to the point hit off an album that’s mostly uninterested in hits. This is probably a better starting point before jumping right into the excellent but nearly ten minutes of Walking on a Pretty Daze.
What were your top albums?
Originally published on Synthetic Error January 18, 2014