Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 19, 2013

“The Mixes” Series: Positive and Negative, 2013

Musically, I don’t know how best to describe 2013 other than to say that it was, well, above average. I realize that’s a less than enthusiastic summation of this past year’s output, but albums on the whole seemed to suffer. Yes, there were plenty of great songs that emerged, which is pretty much always the case. But like I’ve said in years’ past, there were a bevy of records in 2013 that lacked “staying power.” In other words, there wasn’t a whole lot of “great” in 2013. This doesn’t mean, however, there was no great; there was.

Maybe it was my fault? I mean, 2013 was an odd year, to say the least. Aside from getting hitched (which was, of course, the highlight of my year), a lot of, well, terrible things happened. I’m not convinced it has a damn thing to do with the whole “13″ business, as that’s plain ridiculous. Rather, a shitstorm of bad news came down upon my collective family. I suppose the abundance of awful would have been enough to reflect nothing but sad bastard selections for my mixes, but that wasn’t the case at all. The music was independent of the bad tidings, and, in fact, provided an escape as opposed to a hole to climb deeper within.

Last year was dominated by what I referred to as “Garage Pop.” This year was certainly a bit more eclectic, despite an even greater influx of Doom Metal, Hip Hop and New Wave circa 1982. The other common thread that seemed to dominate 2013 was “older” bands releasing new — and very good — records. In other words, I don’t think 2013 was flooded by strong debut records, but by established bands either returning to form or continuing their habit of releasing grade-A material. Well, except for one band, that is, who blew the fucking doors off everything.

So, without further adieu, here’s a look back at the music that did its thing in 2013…

Album Cover of the Year:

SavagesSilence Yourself

Best Vocal Moments of the Year:

Of Montreal – “Imbecile Rages” (At the 3:27 mark of the closing track of Lousy with Sylvianbriar, I nearly lost my mind. Kevin Barnes’ sustaining note of the word “anymore” is beyond piercing; it’s astounding. He holds (and affects) it for a mind-blowing 16 seconds. To say I’ve listened to it repeatedly is a wild understatement.)

Connections – “Finally” (It’s not that this song featured a stand-out moment, per se; rather, it’s that Connections immediately channel Guided By Voices better than, well, Guided By Voices on their debut, Private Airplane.)

Song I Heard Once and New Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:

Swearin’ – “Dust in the Gold Sack” (You can check out the studio version — the one that’s on my actual mix — below.)

Most Overrated Record(s) of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:

Kanye WestYeezus (To be fair, I can only assume this is among the most overrated records of 2013, as I haven’t heard it and have no intention to.)

Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium (Are you fucking shitting me, Magnet?! There’s one good song on this record. The rest is a total snooze. I adore Magnet, which is what makes their choice of Album of the Year so depressing.)

Worst Comeback Record By a Band Whose Comeback Record I Was Highly Anticipating:

The Dismemberment PlanUncanney Valley (What an unbelievable piece of dogshit!)

Video of the Year:

Arcade Fire - “Afterlife

Ten Honorable Mentions of 2013 (in Alphabetical Order):

The Baptist GeneralsJackleg Devotional to the Heart
California XCalifornia X
Mikal CroninMCII
DeerhunterMonomania
FIDLARFIDLAR
The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
The Octopus ProjectFever Forms
Palma Violets180
TelekinesisDormarion
UpsetShe’s Gone

Top Ten Records of 2013:

10. Lady Lamb the BeekeeperRipely Pine

9. Throwing MusesPurgatory/Paradise

8. Swearin’Surfing Strange

7. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City

6. WaxahatcheeCerulean Salt

5. Of MontrealLousy with Sylvianbriar

4. The MenNew Moon

3. Arcade FireReflektor

2. ConnectionsBody Language

1. ConnectionsPrivate Airplane

Wait a minute. Did Cousin Brandon really just list two records by the same band as his best and second best records of the year? He sure as hell did!

Columbus, Ohio’s Connections absolutely killed it in 2013. Their debut record, Private Airplane, was as old-school Guided By Voices as a band can get without actually being GBV. It had all of the GBV anthemic staples, in that the album was both fuzzed out and wrought with singalongs and hooks. Body Language was nearly as perfect, but I had to give the edge to their debut in that it was the first of the two I heard, and I was floored instantly. Connections completely spit in the face of my diatribe above, in that I declared this the year of established bands. I’m completely happy to contradict myself in this case, though, as I would officially consider these albums “great.”

As is my way, I made two CDs worth of music this year, which once again forced me to leave several well-deserving candidates behind. I listened to an absolute shit-ton of albums I listened to this year before narrowing them down to the 26 and 22 finalists on Positive and Negative, respectively. Interestingly (and perhaps for the first time ever), both mixes open with an identical band, then close with an identical band.

As for the tracks below, I linked to studio versions of the songs and some live/alternate versions of the songs that actually appears on the mix, either because I couldn’t find the studio version or simply really enjoyed the live performance. For instance, I linked to the studio version of “Imbecile Rages” above, yet went with a live performance below. For some reason I couldn’t find any version of Upset’s “About Me,” so I spit on you, Internet. Again, apologies to all of those great, great songs I had to omit for the sake of space. Do better, Technology!

With that, I give you the 48 songs that comprise my 2013 mixes…


Positive front cover.


Positive interior artwork.


Negative front cover.


Negative interior artwork.

Positive (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2013):

1. The Octopus Project – “Mmkit” (Fever Forms)
2. California X – “Mummy” (California X)
3. Connections – “Aimless” (Body Language)
4. The Thermals – “Born to Kill” (Desperate Ground)
5. Palma Violets – “Johnny Bagga’ Donuts” (180)
6. Upset – “She’s Gone” (She’s Gone)
7. Swearin’ – “Dust In the Gold Sack” (Surfing Strange)
8. FIDLAR – “Wake Bake Skate” (FIDLAR)
9. Wavves – “Gimme a Knife” (Afraid of Heights)
10. The Men – “Electric” (New Moon)
11. Deerhunter – “Monomania” (Monomania)
12. Iceage – “Rodfaestet” (Iceage)
13. Guided By Voices – “Xeno Pariah” (English Little League)
14. Wimps – “Nap” (Repeat)
15. Chastity Belt – “James Dean” (No Regerts)
16. Throwing Muses – “Sleepwalking 1” (Purgatory/Paradise)
17. The Joy Formidable – “Cholla” (Wolf’s Law)
18. Grooms – “Iskra Goodbye” (Infinity Caller)
19. Hospital Ships – “Joan of Arc” (Destruction In Yr Soul)
20. Superchunk – “Trees of Barcelona” (I Hate Music)
21. Mikal Cronin – “Shout It Out” (MCII)
22. Eleanor Friedberger – “Stare At the Sun” (Personal Record)
23. Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young” (Modern Vampires of the City)
24. Of Montreal – “Triumph of Disintegration” (Lousy with Sylvianbriar)
25. The Baptist Generals – “Broken Glass” (Jackleg Devotional to the Heart)
26. Arcade Fire – “Here Come the Night Time” (Reflektor)

Negative (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2013):

1. The Octopus Project – “Sharpteeth” (Fever Forms)
2. Connections – “Mall Lights” (Private Airplane)
3. The Thermals – “The Howl of the Winds” (Desperate Ground)
4. Upset – “About Me” (She’s Gone)
5. Guided By Voices – “Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)” (English Little League)
6. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – “Crane Your Neck” (Ripely Pine)
7. Saint Rich – “You Ain’t Worth the Night” (Beyond the Drone)
8. Okkervil River – “White” (The Silver Gymnasium)
9. Islands – “Becoming the Gunship” (Ski Mask)
10. Rogue Wave – “Used to It” (Nightingale Floors)
11. Waxahatchee – “Lively” (Cerulean Salt)
12. Throwing Muses – “Triangle Quantico” (Purgatory/Paradise)
13. Crystal Stilts – “Nature Noir” (Nature Noir)
14. Hospital Ships – “Come Back to Life” (Destruction In Yr Soul)
15. The National – “I Should Live in Salt” (Trouble Will Find Me)
16. Swearin’ – “Loretta’s Flowers” (Surfing Strange)
17. The Baptist Generals – “Floating” (Jackleg Devotional to the Heart)
18. Dr. Dog – “Too Weak to Ramble” (B-Room)
19. Telekinesis – “Symphony” (Dormarion)
20. Of Montreal – “Imbecile Rages” (Lousy with Sylvianbriar) (NOTE: Go to 3:57 in the video link.)
21. Mikal Cronin – “Piano Mantra” (MCII)
22. Arcade Fire – “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” (Reflektor)

Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2013. A shit-ton of work, as always, went into this year’s edition. Now, I demand you do the following four things:

  1. In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2013. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with?
  2. Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2013 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
  3. If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 20122011, 2010, 2009, etc.
  4. You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).
  5. UPDATE: I’m on Spotify now, and I’ve actually curated this year’s mixes there. You can find me under the name “Jewdy Blume.” Shocking, no? I may get around to posting all of my past mixes there at some point.

Until the Best of 2014, have at it, you vultures!

BD


Responses

  1. Psyched to see this on my door step. A couple initial thoughts:

    a. I love that you have a “Wimps” track on there. That is a really fun album.
    b. I was surprised that you had California X on your mix. I wouldn’t think that band would be on your radar. Nice.
    c. After our initial conversation, I didn’t think Purgatory/Paradise would make the cut. The more I listen, the more that album whoops ass.
    d. Arcade Fire at #3? In my opinion that was one of the most overrated albums of the year. After seeing that I was afraid that you would have put “Daft Punk” or “Lorde” as #2 and #1.

    Anywho, thanks for sharing. My mixes are getting there. I’ll let you know when they are finished.

    • a. Totally agree with you on the Wimps record.
      b. Not quite sure why the California X record didn’t receive more attention. Totally within the Dinosaur Jr. ilk. Guitar-driven and lots of fun.
      c. Really loved the Throwing Muses record the more I listened to it. Felt like Kristen Hersh put this out not as a money grab, but as a need. Just made sense to me as a collection.
      d. Why the Arcade Fire record ranked so high was because of its success sonically. What I mean is that I found so rewarding to listen to with headphones on. What’s more, it only got better with each listen. Initially I didn’t care for the album, and yet the more times I put it on, the more I enjoyed it.

      Also, fuck Lorde. And fuck the Lord.

      Thanks so much weighing in, Cormac. Can’t wait for your collection, as well.
      CB

  2. Hey CB,

    Man, I’m slipping. I know even fewer of your recommendations than normal. (I usually know about 20 to 30 percent…this year, even less.)

    I always look forward to this post each year, I get excited when I see a link pop up somewhere for it.

    The one comment I can make is that I really dislike Reflektor. Generally, I’ve been pretty much a fan of The Arcade Fire, but this album feels pretentious and a little stupid to me….up to and including making it “two albums” even though there are only like six or seven songs on each…something that would easily fit on one album, but they break it up as if they’re so special they need it to be two separate albums…anyway, I’ve only listened three or four times, but it never grew on me. Very disappointing, as I was really looking forward to it’s release.

    Other than that, hope you’re well. And I very much share your hatred of Lorde. A 17 year old girl telling me about how much she has learned in her life make me want to kick something…mostly just her. And if I hear that damn Royals song one more time, I won’t be held liable for the devastation I unleash. Ugh.

    Anyway, enough from me. You rock, as always. Rock on with a mighty rock, good sir.

    -Craig

    • Hey there, Dodge:

      First, thanks so much for the kind words. Why you think a 17-year-old girl doesn’t have the same life experience as a 38-year-old man is beyond me though.

      As far as your take on the Arcade Fire goes, I get it. What’s more, I agree that it’s absolutely pretentious. You know what else? They’re ALWAYS pretentious. They just are. I mean, go back and look at Funeral, for instance. It’s not just an “indie” or “rock” record; rather, it’s aspiring to something more. It’s conceptual. In fact, all four of their records are conceptual in nature. By no means is Reflektor their best work, but considering the musical landscape of 2013, it’s still one of the year’s best records. I urge you to plug in your headphones and give it one more listen, pretentious or not.

      Take care,
      CB

  3. Nowhere near ready for my top 10 but I will point you in the direction of Typhoon – an Arcade Fire”ish” feel but not as pretentious yet (For the record, I also enjoyed Reflektor, don’t have the hate for Lorde that many do and have thought about listening to all 22 albums (yes, 22) Buckethead released this year before creating my top 10.

    • Thanks for the tip, Goose, but I really don’t have much interest in listening to another band trying to be Arcade Fire. That is, there was some band I listened to last year or the year prior who were dead set on completely ripping off that sound, and doing it poorly, I might add. I’m fine with being derivative, but do it well. Still, for your sake, I’ll give Typhoon a listen.

      And 22 albums? All this year?! Holy hell!

      Thanks for reading,
      CB

      • Yeah, I hesitated to mention Arcade Fire since while there is a familiarity, I do understand the tiredness of hearing a band sounds like AF. But it’s too late now. The cat is out of the bag. And getting him in once was hard enough.

        • Stupid cat.

  4. Hey Brandon
    I’m used to your musical taste not aligning with mine, but Connections, particularly Private Airplane, sounds tediously repetitive to me. Of course taste in music is so very personal and I support your right to like what you like even if it’s not for me. Lots in the list I haven’t heard and will check out.
    My list includes The National, although their newest is no where near level with High Violet. Arcade Fire was okay. I feel the same “okayness” about Vampire Weekend and I agree with you completely about Okkervil River.
    I liked (in no particular order):
    Portugal, The Man – Evil Friends
    Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter At the Feast
    Brick + Mortal – Bangs
    Foxygen – We Are the 20th Century Ambassadors
    The 1975 – IV
    Spacehog – As It Is on Earth
    Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
    The Neighbourhood – I Love You,
    Arctic Monkeys – AM
    The Strokes – Comedown Machine
    I can feel you rolling your eyes all the way down here and I didn’t even include any hip hop/rap of which there was a lot of good stuff.
    Also, did you catch Malachai’s Snowflake playing in the background of Sears holiday commercials? WTF?

    • I enjoyed the UMO record as well. Good call there.

    • Thanks for weighing in, lafix. I knew I could count on you!

      While I whole-heartedly disagree with your take on Connections, I too agree that music is wildly personal. For me, Connections was pure joy, and not a moment of the record(s) was wasted with “throwaway” songs.

      For some reason Trouble Will Find Me resonated more with me than some previous National records, despite realizing it’s probably not as strong. I’ve never been the biggest fan of theirs; rather, I’ve always thought they were okay, but not great. Trouble Will Find Me opens with three outstanding numbers.

      The only other records on your list that I listened to this year were Portugal, The Man (just didn’t really get into it), The Strokes (boring), and Foxygen. The Foxygen record was a head-scratcher. It was like I was trying to convince myself that I liked it, and I DID enjoy a track or two (“San Francisco”), but I always ended up on the wrong side of the fence with that record.

      And, yes, I caught “Snowflake” on that Sears commercial. How could I not?! Seemed like it was on CONSTANTLY!!!

  5. Pssst, that’s Brick + Mortar. Sorry about that.

  6. Hey CB,
    To start, thanks for doing this every year. I’m listening to Positive for the first time right now and I’m enjoying it a great deal. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, I have been particularly out of the loop this year and I’m looking forward to doing a lot of digging based on the mixes.
    Everyone seems to be weighing in on the Arcade Fire (or I’m sure I’m not the first to posit that it should have maybe been released under the Arcade Soundsystem (hopefully not so many to make it obnoxious to do so)) record. I really like it. I like the new, James Murphy influenced sound and I think they did some really interesting stuff. It’s not their best (I think I would put it right in the middle in a ranking of their releases), and I think there are a couple of misses, and they did do that thing I really fucking hate where they put 3-5 minutes of intentional silence at the end of the last track, but there is some really good stuff on there. Good album.
    In my limited scope on the year I do definitely tend to agree with your thought that the year seemed to be heavy on great songs, maybe a little short on great complete albums. I can’t imagine they are something you enjoy, but I liked the Radical Face record a lot. It may have been my favorite this year, or maybe the Mikal Cronin one. I also really liked both Connections records a lot, Hospital Ships, Polvo, Palma Violets, and the Thao and the Get Down Stay Down records were pretty good as well. I’m probably going to do a lot of cramming over the next couple of weeks and throw my much less informed this year mix together in early January. Oh, and I also totally had the same reaction to the Swearin song. Instantly knew Dust in the Gold Sack was going to make the cut.
    The only one that I really missed the boat on was the Throwing Muses record. I was never a big fan to begin with, but I couldn’t get through it. Figure we can’t agree on everything.
    Anyhoo, Thanks again man.

    • Hey there, wuwrobots:

      No need to thank me. Honestly, I’d be doing it with or without a blog, but your thanks is appreciated all the same.

      I totally agree with your take on the Arcade Fire record. It’s just that when it’s good, it’s REALLY good, and when it “misses,” as you put it, it REALLY misses. It’s a total headphones record. In terms of ranking it against their other work, I’d still put The Suburbs at the top of the list, followed by Funeral, then Reflektor, then Neon Bible last. Again, not being a great year for the record, I think Reflektor was among the best.

      The Mikal Cronin record was really a fun listen. Haven’t heard (or heard OF) Radical Face, so you may have to hip me to that one. Hospital Ships are just a cool band. I feel like there’s a real attempt to do “more” with them. The Polvo was okay, but I was never a huge fan. Didn’t hear the other ones you listed. Also, glad you also loved “Dust In the Gold Sack.”

      As far as the Throwing Muses record, I can see how it’s a lot to get through, being a double-album and all. I think they did it right, though, in peppering it with so many short, yet catchy tracks. They’ve always had a spot in my heart, as The Real Ramona is one of my favorite records, and I used to have a massive crush on both Kristin Hersh and her step-sister, Tanya Donelly. (By the way, Belly’s record Star is one of my great guilty pleasures, and King shouldn’t be slept on, either.)

      Thanks again for commenting. Looking forward to your mix!
      CB

      • Hey man. That’s nifty. I didn’t know that Tanya Donnelly and Kristen Hersh were step-sisters. I like neat factoids like that. I’ll have to give The Real Ramona a spin. I also saw above that Purgatory/Paradise is one that may be warmed up to with multiple listenings. Maybe I’ll give it another go. Star is a good record, I do agree (I grabbed that one for ~$4 in a used bin about 10 years ago and ended up really pleased about it).

        I imagine Radical Face is probably a little too “soft-artsy” in a way that may leave you either bored or just turned off, but for what it’s worth here is what I consider the best track on their new album:

        Regarding the Polvo record, I will admit that as a way of putting it, I enjoyed the record a lot but I don’t know if any tracks will make my mix. It is possible that it was colored by the fact that I was just pleased to be pressing play on a new Polvo record. Also, I read your take on Foxygen and I could have written it myself. Total agreement. I also enjoyed San Francisco a lot, but didn’t really find much to grab onto beyond that.

        Thanks again!

        • Okay, so the Radical Face track is somewhere between The Shins and Rogue Wave, with some “California Dreaming” thrown in for good measure.

          Definitely check out The Real Ramona. Songs like “Not Too Soon,” “Honeychain” and “Two Step” are just fantastic. In fact, here’s “Not Too Soon” for you:

          There were other records this year I enjoyed — Beach Fossils, Buke and Gase, Torres, Kate Nash, Surfer Blood — but at some point you have to make “tough” decisions. By the way, there were things I really liked about the Quasi record, but it was hard to pull a song off it it and throw it on my mix.

  7. Whoa!

  8. Dear Mr. Hipster
    Why is this not on your list?

    Sincerely,
    The Musically Challenged


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