Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 17, 2014

“The Mixes” Series: Monument and Ash, 2014

I really don’t know how best to describe 2014, musically speaking. It seemed that I heard over and over again, “Not a lot of great music this year.” And yet, by year’s end, I disagreed — wildly. I’m still not sure that there were many (if any) records I’d throw in my album canon (no, not an album cannon, though that would kick ass), but, in general, there were a lot of really great records that emerged throughout the year. In fact, there were two records I didn’t discover until December that I absolutely fell in love with but quick. So, yeah, that’s pretty much why you can never start these things too damn early.

In terms of what dominated the musical landscape of 2014 — or, at least, my musical landscape — there was a strange mix of punk, female vocalists and the sweet, sweet tenor of indie stalwarts. Or, at least, bands that so reeked of indie stalwarts that I found myself transported to the early 1990s. Yes, Guided By Voices kicked out two more records, while Spoon returned with another gem (though, strangely, they failed to make my actual mixes, if only because there was too much to choose from). While I don’t know how many records I actually listened to, I can tell you that my “Best of 2014″ folder included 180 songs that I painstakingly whittled down to two-CDs’ worth of music. (More on that below.)

So, without further adieu, here’s what 2014 had to offer…

Album Cover of the Year:

together PANGEABadillac

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Vocal Moment of the Year:

Frankie Cosmos – “Owen” (At the 29-second mark, Frankie Cosmos (along with Aaron Maine, I believe) erupt into this sudden drum- and guitar-laden duet as they belt out the words, “It’s raining in my head.” I loved the record the moment I hit play on track 1, but this single moment floored me the first time I heard it.)

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

Radiator Hospital – “Blue Gown” (Hard to argue, really, particularly since it features Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield.)

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

Beck - Morning Phase (There’s just no need for this. I’ve never been the biggest Beck fan, but I loved One Foot in the Grave, and pretty much enjoyed everything up to and including Midnight Vultures. Since then? No thanks.)

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (Too slick, too dull. The only song I liked off the album was the title track, and even that featured a too-breathy Jenny Lewis. Bring back The Watson Twins!)

Sun Kil MoonBenji (Ladies and gentlemen, may I present indie Eddie Vedder!)

The War On DrugsLost in the Dream (Can’t. Stand. His. Voice.)

Wye OakShriek (I tried and I tried and I tried to like it. It was impossible. Frankly, there was nothing to justify their decision to do a guitar-free record riddled with synth bullshit.)

Most Disappointing Records That I Was Highly Anticipating:

Interpol - El Pintor (I hoped and prayed in 2014 that they’d finally figured it out. Instead, they just got older. Fuck.)

Jenny LewisThe Voyager (See above.)

Stephen Malkmus & the JicksWig Out at Jagbags (There’s a line in an old Twilight Zone episode called “The Piano” where the rich socialite has just embarrassed himself and asks his butler, “Why aren’t you laughing?” The butler then replies, “I don’t find you funny anymore.” I could say the same of Malkmus, though I might substitute “interesting” for “funny.” There’s just a melody and insistence that’s no longer there.)

PixiesIndie Cindy (I’d be lying if I said there was nothing I liked on this “album” (three collected EPs), but for fuck’s sake, why? WHY, FRANK BLACK, WHY?!)

Wye OakShriek (See above.)

Videos of the Year:

Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me

Connections – “Aylia

The New Pornographers – “War On the East Coast

Pissed Jeans – “Boring Girls

Record That Would Have Been in My Top Ten Records of the Year Had It Not Been an EP:

White ReaperWhite Reaper

Ten Honorable Mentions of 2014 (in Alphabetical Order):

ConnectionsInto Sixes (Anyway)
CreepoidCreepoid (No Idea Records)
Fucked UpGlass Boys (Matador / Arts & Crafts)
Guided By VoicesCool Planet (GBV / Fire)
Guided By VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit (GBV / Fire)
Inventions - Inventions (Temporary Residence)
Mitski - Bury Me at Makeout Creek (Double Double Whammy)
Spoon - They Want My Soul (Loma Vista)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial OrchestraFuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (Temporary Residence)
Chad VanGaalenShrink Dust (Sub Pop)

Top Ten Records of 2014:

10. Big UpsEighteen Hours of Static (Tough Love / Dead Labour)

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9. ChumpedTeenage Retirement (Anchorless)

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8. Modern BaseballYou’re Gonna Miss It All (Run for Cover)

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7. Against Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)

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6. Cloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else (Carpark / Mom & Pop)

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5. NothingGuilty of Everything (Relapse)

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4. together PANGEABadillac (Harvest Capitol)

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3. Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

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2. LVL UPHoodwink’d (Double Double Whammy)

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1. Frankie CosmosZentropy (Double Double Whammy)

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Frankie Cosmos (real name Greta Kline) did something that no other band did this year: she surprised me. Frankly (Franklie?), I didn’t know what to expect when I first hit play on the stunning Zentropy. I had never heard of Frankie Cosmos, though apparently she’d recorded a bevy of records (around 40 — 40 FUCKING RECORDS!) that had simply never been brought to my (or, it seems, most people’s) attention. Keep in mine, Kline is only 19 years old, which becomes abundantly clear lyrically as she sings about art school, her dog, and her being the type of girl that buses splash with rain. The thing of it is, though, she doesn’t come off as immature or silly. Quite the contrary, actually. She is somehow worldly, even if that world exists primarily in her own bedroom and with the people directly in front of her. Kline possesses a quality that I find downright refreshing: she’s confessional. She’s honest. She writes songs/lyrics from a very real, personal place (akin to the emotional honesty of the new Against Me! record), but she never sounds as though she’s naive or simply complaining. It’s as though we’re given access to an extremely well-written diary whose owner is equal parts of quirky and vulnerable. And if that’s not enough, the record clocks in at around 20 minutes. Who in the hell does that?! The bottom line is this: Zentropy is exciting. It’s fresh and sweet and heartbreaking. And it’s by far the record I’ve listened to more than any other in 2014. Kudos to you, Frankie Cosmos. Guess I’ve got 39 more records to get my hands on…

As always, I made two CD-length mixes this year, which, as usual, forced me to omit so many great songs. Seriously, I was devastated by some of the numbers I had to leave out. While I once again don’t know how many records I actually plowed through, I know it was a shit-ton. I sort of made it my mission to only listen to 2014 music this year (along with a shit-ton of podcasts, that is). So, yeah, I listened to a lot of records a lot of times.

So what’s changed? No CDs. “Huh?” Yeah, you heard me. I made two mixes, both of which would fit on a standard CD. And, yes, I made cover art for those CDs, because I’m anal and a creature of habit. But seeing as how we’re in an iTunes age where CDs have gone the way of the dodo, I essentially decided there was no reason for me to make physical copies. What’s more, I’m very lazy.

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. This year I considered uploading the actual files as opposed to including YouTube links, for instance. In the end, I once again decided to stay true to form, namely because it’s easier for me to share music that’s free online as opposed to including files that may not be so free. Let’s leave it at that. Most of the links below feature the actual studio versions of the songs, with some exceptions: there’s an alternate version of The Orwells’ “Who Needs You” from their appearance on Letterman (and I urge you to stick around to the end), a live version of Ought’s “Today More Than Any Other Day” (because it’s fun), and a stream of Herzog’s entire record, as I couldn’t find “Boys Part 2″ on its own. Again, I hang my head in shame regarding the omission of so many great songs. I’m only one man.

Because 2014 was full of great album openers and closers, I thought I’d add an extra wrinkle this year and denote those songs in my mixes, with an * indicating songs that opened records, and a ^ indicating those that did closing duty.

Oh, and one last note. This year I included a song that is easily the longest song I’ve ever put on any mix ever. That is all.

With that, I give you the 48 songs (same total as last year) that comprise my 2014 mixes…

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Monument front cover.

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Monument interior artwork.

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Ash front cover.

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Ash interior artwork.

Monument (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2014):

1. Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal” (Sunbathing Animal)
2. Big Ups – “Justice” (Eighteen Hours of Static)
3. Joyce Manor – “Victoria” (Never Hungover Again)
4. White Reaper – “Ohh (Yeah)” (White Reaper)
5. together PANGEA – “Make Myself True“* (Badillac)
6. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”^ (Here and Nowhere Else)
7. Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues“* (Transgender Dysphoria Blues)
8. LVL UP – “Medication” (Hoodwink’d)
9. Radiator Hospital – “Blue Gown” (Torch Song)
10. Modern Baseball – “Apartment” (You’re Gonna Miss It All)
11. Iceage – “The Lord’s Favorite” (Plowing Into the Fields of Love)
12. Fucked Up – “The Art of Patrons” (Glass Boys)
13. Little Big League – “Sucker” (Tropical Jinx)
14. Celestial Shore – “Creation Myth“* (Enter Ghost)
15. Connections – “Aylia”* (Into Sixes)
16. Guided By Voices – “Vote for Me Dummy” (Motivational Jumpsuit)
17. Chumped – “Hot 97 Summer Jam” (Teenage Retirement)
18. The New Pornographers – “War On the East Coast” (Brill Bruisers)
19. Frankie Cosmos – “Owen” (Zentropy)
20. The Orwells – “Who Needs You” (Disgraceland) [Alternate live performance on Letterman]
21. The Whigs – “Friday Night” (Modern Creation)
22. Angel Olsen – “Forgiven/Forgotten” (Burn Your Fire for No Witness)
23. Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97“* (HEAL)
24. The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Not Love or Death” (Mended With Gold)
25. Nothing – “Get Well” (Guilty of Everything)
26. Ought – “Today More Than Any Other Day” (More Than Any Other Day)

Ash (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2014):

1. Mitski – “Texas Reznikoff“* (Bury Me at Makeout Creek)
2. Tweens – “Want U” (Tweens)
3. Angel Olsen – “Unfucktheworld“* (Burn Your Fire For No Witness)
4. Chad VanGaalen – “Lila” (Shrink Dust)
5. Herzog – “Boys Part 2“^ (Boys)
6. Connections – “Angie” (Into Sixes)
7. Frankie Cosmos – “Buses Splash With Rain” (Zentropy)
8. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me” (Alvvays)
9. The Fresh & Onlys – “Who Let the Devil” (House of Spirits)
10. Celestial Shore – “Gloria” (Enter Ghost)
11. Chumped – “Anywhere But Here” (Teenage Retirement)
12. together PANGEA – “Badillac” (Badillac)
13. The Rural Alberta Advantage – “45/33” (Mended With Gold)
14. Joyce Manor – “Christmas Card“* (Never Hungover Again)
15. Radiator Hospital – “Midnight Nothing” (Torch Song)
16. Literature – “Court/Date” (Chorus)
17. Against Me! – “Black Me Out“^ (Transgender Dysphoria Blues)
18. Parkay Quarts – “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth“^ (Content Nausea)
19. LVL UP – “I Feel Extra Natural” (Hoodwink’d)
20. Avi Buffalo – “Won’t Be Around No More“^ (At Best Cuckold)
21. Nothing – “Guilty of Everything“^ (Guilty of Everything)
22. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – “What We Loved Was Not Enough” (Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything)

Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2014. With that, I now ask that 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 2014. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with? What the hell else?
  2. Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2014 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 2013, 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).

Until the Best of 2015, have at it, you vultures!

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | November 13, 2014

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new. I’m not only quite busy, but extremely lazy. It’s not that I haven’t been reading poetry; rather, it’s simply a matter of getting too wrapped up in working, teaching, parenting, drinking and sleeping. Well, all but that last one, really, as I still can’t figure out how to do it correctly.

I actually taught a lesson on the poetry of war in my last class, which is always fun despite the grim subject matter. Still, there’s something rewarding about discussing poetry with a bunch of students who have zero to little interest in the medium. I always ask if any of my students read or write poetry, and there’s always a small number of hands that go up. And for those who do, in fact, claim to be interested in poetry, it’s the writing, not the reading. That is, I typically gather that they’re interested in what equates to 7th grade journal entries. But that’s fine. Any interest in poetry on their part is more than welcome and appreciated. What’s more, the lesson ties in nicely to another reading we discuss in class, which is Walker Percy’s “The Loss of the Creature.” There’s a great section in the essay in which the author proposes giving dogfish to English students and giving sonnets to medical students. He proposes that they’d get more out of that than they ever would if, say, the English student found a sonnet on his desk. It’s essentially an essay on packaging and consumerism. On reclaiming our sovereignty as individuals.

In any event, that long and boring introduction has zero to do with today’s poem. I started writing this one over a year ago, and only this week came back to it. Initially I had written two lines, which I’ve since changed drastically. I’m not sure that this is finished, but it’s here all the same. Thanks for reading.

Our Dead

In the overgrown cemetery
around the corner
from my father’s house,
we buried my grandmother who died
of grief next to my grandfather who died
one year prior, the two of them
forever committed
to one another, to the earth,
to the rain water
that swallows them up some nights
so that the two of them may float
inside their own magnificent bubble,
along their private, wave-like crescent,
weightless, held, transfixed there
below ground, bobbing
ever so gently inside the silver light
that shines, still, within them,
as we, doomed to walk
the three blocks from door
to headstones on days
we see fit, stand over them,
breathing, wondering
what must they be doing down there,
wondering why it is they went,
one after the other, into the cold,
crooked grip of Death, or why we, now,
are left here alive, wondering at all.

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | November 11, 2014

“Happy” Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day.

What a strange and wrong-sounding sentiment. To greet a veteran and wish him a “Happy Veterans Day” seems like the wrong expression of gratitude. There’s nothing “happy” about war. There’s nothing to be celebrated. There’s nothing heroic about war. There’s no “winning” a war.

By no means am I implying that we shouldn’t thank and honor and appreciate our men and women who put their hands up, went overseas and served our country. Of course we should be doing just that. If you see a veteran today, thank him. Buy him a cup of coffee. Buy him a meal. Shake his hand and step outside of yourself. Realize what he gave up, and what he continues to give up. Appreciate that the war is still inside him. Appreciate that he may be (though hopefully isn’t) struggling still. Honor his sacrifice for you and your family.

But to wish one of these men or women a “Happy Veterans Day” seems like the incorrect greeting. I’m not the first person to say it, but while I don’t support our wars, I sure as hell support our soldiers. It’s a miserable business they enter into. It’s something beyond their expectations. And I say this not as someone with any sort of military background or first-hand experience on the battlefield, but as someone whose step-father served. As someone who’s brother- and sister-in-law served. As someone whose uncle served. As someone who’s seen the effects of war not “over there,” but back here. As someone who’s watched a man quietly eaten alive by what he endured in Vietnam — who carried the war inside of him and, only once, drunk and angry, let me in to tell me that the soldier to his right had his head blown off in combat.

For years I longed — anguished – to understand what was going on inside of my step-dad, who I loved. I had already fallen in love with the poetry of Bruce Weigl and the books of Tim O’Brien and Larry Heinemann and others. My fascination with the literature of the Vietnam War made me want to know and understand my step-dad in a different sort of way — it made me want to ask him what happened, and why he was how he was.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I tried once, but it was clear he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) talk about it. So instead I bought him some of the books I read. I thought to somehow engage him through literature might help. Honestly, I doubt it ever did. We connected in many ways, but this was not one of them. There just was no way in, because he, like so many of our veterans, can’t talk about the war they bring home with them. For those who can — who can seek out help and counseling to unburden what they may have done and/or encountered — I am thankful. Their families are thankful. But for those returning soldiers like my late step-dad who don’t know how to deal with what they carry home, I can only hope that we all of us can find ways to help them. We owe them as much, and so much more.

Thanking a soldier today might not be everything, but it’s something. The idea, though, is to make every day Veterans Day — to reach out to someone who needs help. And I am as complicit as anyone. By no means do I write this and point the finger, asking, “What are you doing to help?” What am I doing to help? Not enough. At the present time, an obscene 22 returning soldiers are committing suicide on a daily basis. Extrapolate that number over a year. Horrifying.

I thought I’d include a wonderful and heartbreaking poem by Iraqi War veteran and poet Brian Turner, from his collection Here, Bullet:

Sadiq

It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient
because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more.
– Sa’di

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.

Maybe we abandon wishing veterans a “Happy Veterans Day,” and instead say, “Thank you,” or “What can I do to help?” I wish I’d done that with my step-dad sooner and more often. I wish we all did.

Thank you, veterans, for your service.

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | September 19, 2014

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

Yeah, I’m well aware that it’s been a while, but so what. I owe you nothing.

My dad’s been sick for a while. Years, really. He’s suffering from an affliction called Frontotemporal Dementia, which is pretty much what it sounds like. His short-term memory is pretty much shot, and his ability to speak is challenged, at best. The disease manifests itself in vocal tics — loud screams that sound somewhere between a shout and a laugh. His ability to walk is hindered, and he sleeps all the time. The bright side, I suppose, is that he doesn’t realize the condition he’s in. He’s my dad, but he’s a stranger all the same. Worse, still, is my resistance to spending time with him. I don’t know how to interact with this person who raised me, who I’ve known for 39 years. I see him, only I don’t see him. He is someone else entirely, and to pretend that everything is okay seems beyond me. I don’t know how to be with him. I ask him questions that go unanswered. I speak and hear my words drowned out by his screaming. He is declining rapidly, and because of that I know I should be present. Selfishly, I’m not. I rationalize my absence by telling myself he doesn’t know the difference, which he most likely does not. Still, I know my rationalization is just that, and it’s my own shortcomings that need addressed.

I began this poem roughly nine months ago, and still I don’t think I’ve gotten it right. Not yet. All the same, I guess I thought by sharing it was to acknowledge my dad, still here, now.

Debt

According to the rules of the world
I must love you. And I do love you.

I love you as any son loves his father —
not because you made me

into what I am today,
but because you made me at all.

I owe you for that. A phone call,
at least. Or maybe I stop by the house

for a bite or whatever beer you’ve got
tucked away into the corner of the fridge.

Some sort of thank you for the middle school
drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups

on those rare nights I didn’t sleep at mother’s.
A card, even, for all the times

you unleashed my brother and me
upon the pristine shopping mall, armed

with enough singles for an afternoon’s
worth of pizza and the flash-bulb bleeps

of the arcade, where we washed ourselves
in the static hum buzzing from every screen,

bathed in the glow of Galaga, Tempest and Joust.
We elbowed our way through the tiny riots

thick with the sinewy bodies of boys
too eager to hiss Fuck! at the cartoon villains

who bombarded them with bricks and hammers,
who stole away with their women, who teased

their dumb, young brains into believing
any of it mattered. We pushed forward,

my brother and me, because we wanted it, too,
and wouldn’t give in until we fed every last

quarter into the games’ slim, black mouths.
Our bellies sick with pizza grease and loss,

we’d head for the mall’s exit, waiting for you
in the cold while trading stupid jokes and punches.

And then, at last, you’d arrive, your red Dodge
grey as the Pennsylvania sky, windows

steeped in bird shit, the back
passenger door that wouldn’t lock, not once.

I sparred with my brother. I gave up after-
noons with you for the din of the arcade,

or was it you who gave them up
so that you might live some other life,

away from us, where there was no such thing
as children, and there was no such thing as loss?

Whatever. It happened one way
or the other. Who can remember?

I grew old and watched your brain go black.
I look at you and wonder if you wonder,

if you recall one iota of this life we shared
or if you’d even want to. I traded away

my memories for whiskey and beer.
You traded yours away for nothing.

BD

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 Plan – Uncanney 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

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