Over the past couple of days, I’ve been breaking down our countdown of our favorite 40 new release albums of 2013. We broke it into four segments
We’re down to the final ten, and there’s no sense in messing around.
As with the other portions of the countdown, click on the album artwork to be taken to a place where you can buy the album.
10)Throwing Muses — Purgatory/Paradise
This is the ninth album by the seminal indie rock band who made their hay in the 1990s. It’s also their first in ten years. In the interim, frontwoman Kristin Hersh has been busy with her other band 50 Foot Wave. She’s also written a couple of books. This album has been in the works for about three years. While we hardcore fans waited with bated breath, we were constantly given updates on the status of the album. We were also given early versions of the new songs as “works in progress”. While this was nice, it also took away from some of the excitement about the new album. It’s a great album that I’m probably overrating due to the fact that they’re in my top three favorite bands of all time. Still, though, I had to place it in the top ten. The fact that I already knew the songs and the fact that she deliberately sequenced the 32 songs in a way that makes no sense hurt the album’s stock, but it’s still hard to vote against an album that has my name in the liner notes.
9)Low — The Invisible Way
This is the 10th album from the Duluth, Minnesota slowcore pioneers. It’s every bit as awesome as I expected it to be. I don’t know how it’s possible, but 20 years into their career, they just keep getting better.
I finally got my chance to see them at Hopscotch this year. They were the last band that I saw at the three-day festival, and it was a perfect ending to what was a very eventful time.
8)Besnard Lakes — Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
This is the fourth album from the Montréal indie/post-rock/shoegaze band centered around the husband-and-wife duo of Jace Lacek and Olga Goreas. I really loved their previous record, and I like this one just as much. If it wasn’t such a stout year for new releases, this would easily end up in the top five.
Like all of their albums, this album has a bunch of references to espionage and morse code and things like that. It’s a running theme with them, and there’s even a loose story line running through all of the albums with this spy guy and a mystery woman. That’s the story that they want us to believe anyway.
I got to see Besnard Lakes back in the spring, and it was really amazing. I had never seen them before, and I really hope that I see them again soon.
7)Boardwalk — Boardwalk
This is the debut album from the Los Angeles dream-pop duo who only met each other a little over a year ago. This is one of the many fantastic albums that I found out about through a mailbag submission. Amber Quintero and Mike Edge went on a road trip together, wrote one song, then a bunch more. The end result is a pretty spectacular work of dream-pop genius with just enough mainstream appeal to put them on the verge of something big. Overall, the album is pretty impressive, but it’s bookended by a couple of breathtaking songs in “I’m Not Myself” and “I’m to Blame”.
Don’t be surprised if this band soon takes the place that Beach House currently occupies as sort of the darlings of the dream pop world.
6)Black Hearted Brother — Stars are Our Home
This is the first record by the new band fronted by former Slowdive/Mojave 3 frontman Neil Halstead. He’s joined by Mark Van Hoen, formerly of Seefeel; and a guy named Nick Holton. This band is a perfect mix of shoegazey, spacey dream-pop and experimental electronic stuff. It leans more towards the ambience and the sun-kissed bliss reminiscent of Souvlaki, especially on the standout track “(I Don’t Mean to) Wonder, but there’s also a good deal of bleep-bloop going on, especially in “My Baby Just Sailed Away”. Most songs find a really happy medium between those styles.
This album totally caught me by surprise. I literally had no idea that Halstead had a new band until it just showed up in my soundcloud stream. I was just letting the stream do its thing one day, and “(I Don’t Mean to) Wonder” came on. It knocked me on my ass. And then when I went to find out what the story was, I was knocked on my ass again. It’s a really lovely album
This is the third album by the Toronto indie-folk singer/songwriter, and by most accounts her most personal album. I absolutely loved her last album and couldn’t wait for this one. It didn’t disappoint at all. It has more of a “full band” sound than the other albums, and it even has a weird Radiohead-esque song in “Someone”, but there’s nothing about this album that disappoints. The new album was released at the end of September, making it part of the 2014 Polaris-eligible class. I should think that it’ll be a shoe-in for the shortlist. I was lucky enough to see Basia Bulat in November, as her band was one of the first to play a show at a new venue that’s attached to the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. It was a really great show, and just what I needed.
Although I no longer make a “Canadian” and “non-Canadian” list, it’s worth noting that this is BY FAR my favorite Canadian album of the year.
4)Weekend — Jinx
This is the second album by the post-punk band from Brooklyn by way of San Francisco. Their 2010 debut album Sports got very high praise and their 2011 EP Red got as much. To say that this sophomore album was highly anticipated might be underselling the situation. The new record was everything that I hoped it would be and then some. Incredible, beautiful noise. Thicker and sludgier than I expected. Hotter and sweatier.
I saw them play this autumn not long after the album came out, and they were very good. It was quite fitting that there were no stage lights. No effects. Just a little bit of fog and pitch black.
There’s a lot of Unknown Pleasures and a lot of Disintegration in this album, and you’ll never hear me complain about that.
3)Typhoon — White Lighter
This is the first full-length album from the 11-member indie-folk orchestra from Seattle. They’ve got violas and violins and cellos and upright bass and horns and lots of percussion instruments and then, of course, they’ve got the standard rock band instruments. And a lot of the band members contribute vocals. In some ways, they’re a lot like the Milwaukee 12-piece post-rock/indie-folk band Altos. That’s fantastic company to be in.
I heard about this band through the mailbag, and I immediately fell in love with the scope of their sound. I’ve spent a LOT of time with this album, and it’s a lot of fun. And I love how some of the songs change styles mid-stream. I love how some of them start out like a folk song and end up like a post-rock song.
In the winter and spring of 2014, Typhoon will be touring North America and I’ll very much look forward to seeing them in the small space that is the Cat’s Cradle Back Room.
2)Torres — TORRES
This is the stunning debut by 23-year old Mackenzie Scott, who calls Memphis her home. This incredible album reminds me of everything that’s good about Cat Power and also everything that’s awesome about Sharon Van Etten. It’s indie-folk. It’s indie-rock. It’s the diary of a sad girl, and it’s breathtaking. It’s honest and it’s real. When she recorded this album, she made a choice to keep it really real. Most of the songs were done in one live take. There are some things that a perfectionist might have cleaned up with multiple takes and edits, but I really love how organic it sounds. Like a performance.
It’s impossible for me to pick out a favorite song from the album, and it’s also impossible for me to name a song that I don’t like. I usually listen to this album front-to-back twice in a row.
On the last day of Hopscotch this year, there was going to be a big scheduling conflict that would have made me have to choose between Torres and Low. Thankfully, Torres played one of the day party shows that day, and I got to see her then. Conflict resolved. She put on a fantastic set and it was a brilliant start to a brilliant day.
In addition to buying her amazing record, you should also treat yourself to a Daytrotter membership, where you can score this session. And go see the Torres band when they come through your town.
And the number one record, which probably won’t come as a surprise to anybody who knows me:
1)My Bloody Valentine — m b v
The third album by the genre-defining shoegaze band and the first since their seminal, game-changing 1991 album Loveless.
In the 22 years that passed between Loveless and m b v, rumors would sprout up every two or three years about a new album that was nearly finished, or a “lost” album, or a band reunion, or how they had announced that they were never going to play together again, or how Bilinda Butcher and Kevin Shields weren’t on speaking terms. All of these were just rumors. This new album became a confirmed rumor a couple of years ago, and every time it got delayed we thought that it was just an elaborate ruse. When Kevin Shields promised the record “before the end of 2012”, then failed to produce the album, we all thought that we were being had. When they started booking shows and actually playing shows, we all realized that it was real. When they announced that the album would be self-released and sold exclusively on their website, everybody got excited. When the website crashed on the release date, we all got frustrated. As we all tried to simultaneously refresh the page, we made matters worse. Finally, though, things worked out.
After 22 years of waiting and another few hours of waiting for the website to work, we all got our instant downloads.
I freaking love this record. From the opening notes of “She Found Now”, which is reminiscent of “Loomer” to the wildly original “Wonder 2” and its jet engine sound, I love everything about this album. It’s absolutely everything I was expecting and much much more. The LA shoegaze band Medicine returned this year after an almost equally long hiatus and disappointed me very much, but this is perfect.
Some of you are probably wondering if I forgot about the new album by The National, or the new one by The Arcade Fire, or the new one by Frightened Rabbit. I didn’t forget about those. I really like those bands, and I have their new records, but I hate two of them. The other just barely missed my list. I might write more about that stuff later, but probably not.