So it’s time for my annual blog post, in which I will tell you about some of the music I enjoyed in 2013 (because I always forget loads of things). I’m not going to do it in any order of preference (couldn’t make the choices) and it’ll be a mixture of full-lengths, EP’s and songs (because anarchy).
Foxing – The Albatross
This was only released in November (through the consistently awesome Count Your Lucky Stars) but it’s been on my music playing things constantly since. Within 30 seconds, I am sold. Enamoured. Dedicated. I almost promise it my firstborn. The Albatross is an unbearably gorgeous record, uncomfortably raw in its sadness. The glow of winter permeating from opener Bloodhound into everything after.
Highlights include Rory, a three-minute ode to unrequited love asking simply, ‘So why don’t you love me back?’ The vocal delivery is perfect, the near-break in the notes, the desperate climax. And if there’s anything left in the husk that is now your being, in come the fucking trumpets. Bit By a Dead Bee pt.1 starts all warm, intricate guitars reminiscent of Animals-era This Town Needs Guns, gradually getting moodier until about a minute and a half through, when it all gets a bit bleak. In a good way.
Crash of Rhinos – Knots
It was COR’s year, really. A pretty incredible and well-deserved 2013 it’s been for them. It had been coming for some time. Their 2011 debut, Distal, is one of my very favourite releases of the past 5 years. I didn’t know whether I’d feel the same about their new record. I’m a bit like that, admittedly. There’s something about the first time a new sound collides with your brain that is really hard to replicate.
But with Knots? Nah. Feels like the first time, as it were. It is a departure from the last record, but manages to retain everything that made it stand out; not just the impressive musicianship, but the personalities in the songs. Highlights: the driving melody of opener Luck Has A Name, personal favourite Mannheim (THAT guitar tone) and Interiors, a track that is for sure going to be a live favourite. As lame as it might sound, this is the record COR were always destined to make. There is not one weak track.
This isn’t a formulaic, emo-nostalgia affair. Knots pushes the genre forward rather than looking back, whilst acknowledging its influences. And the fact they’re a UK band (East Midlands represent, yo) in an often US-dominated genre is significant. It’s here, it’s now and it’s ours. And until today… it’s free (PWYW).
Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Another real late entry to the game with a carefully executed surprise release in December. I’m aware of the dodgy ground that putting a major label pop record in here leaves me standing on – poser, or throwing it in as a giant ironic curveball. Let me clarify: I love Beyoncé. And this is her best record yet.
Sure, there’s is some classic Bey in here, Pretty Hurts and the glorious singalong that is XO, but otherwise, it’s dark, sexy and aggressive and that’s always where I’ve preferred her. Drunk In Love is perfection (the Ike Turner bit of Jay-Z’s rap is bullshit though, for the record.) The retro, girl-group playfulness of Blow will be in your head until the end of time. But, Flawless wins everything. When the snippet appeared earlier in the year, I knew this was going to be it. But with the addition of badass feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s excerpt, well… Bow Down Bitches indeed.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Recommended to me by the forever rad @bonersaurjr when I was binging on P.O.S, it is undoubtedly the best rap record of 2013. I find it a bit difficult writing about rap music, despite having been listening to it way before I discovered punk, but anyway. The lyrical dynamics at play between El-P and Killer Mike make for a record that genuinely pushes the envelope and I swear to god the beat from DDFH left an imprint on my brain. Job Well Done comes in like a kick to the face. The whole record is just relentless.
“Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the beat of the year. I said El-P didn’t do it so get the fuck out of here.”
They gave it away for free, too. Go get it.
The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
I was surprised at quite how much I listened to this record. I like pop-punk, and I like their other records, but it’s not my usual go-to kind of stuff. That said, TWY are undeniably one of the most important bands in mainstream pop-punk. They do it with substance, real heart and as great musicians.
It could be a circumstantial thing, I mean, it’s a record that speaks to a 26 year old navigating the world with all those messy feelings of indecision and insecurity. It’s about growing up with fucking nothing, and wondering if you’ll be ever be able turn that into a person who might, one day, make an impact on something or someone.
“I keep a flashlight, and the train times, but you wouldn’t understand.”
The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves is the best track, it comes in with this line, ‘I’M ANGRY LIKE I’M 18 AGAIN’ and I feel it in every bit of me.
And it’s better than Suburbia. Sorry.
Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It
It’s weird when you listen to a genre of music for a long period of time and notice how waves of influences creep in, and how those influences age. When the bands start sounding like the bands that arrived from earlier influences and it all comes full circle. That’s how I feel about Brave Bird. They sound like Brand New via The Promise Ring. Or The Promise Ring via Brand New. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
That isn’t to say it’s derivative. They’ve taken a different route for sure. But this is a record that sounds and feels young. It feels innocent, and vulnerable and it is amazing because of that. Scared Enough and Tired Enough alone could’ve made this one of the best records of 2013. The Worst Things Happen To Me is another highlight, them guitar lines that you can’t help but smile at. Also, Braid references.
“In twenty years we won’t be sad.”
TIOUOL – Release
So here’s something I got hold of this year, I think via one of the fine upstanding citizens that form @GPDRecords. This cut and paste job of great songs, at times featuring various folk from Dowsing, Into It. Over It. amongst others, is perplexing. No song seems to be what you expect of it, which makes for a fun listen. Stillborn In Love opens all sweetness and delicate harmonies, before descending into utter chaos, then later comes Travel/Re-Ritual, which sounds like a collaboration between Why? and The Front Bottoms. With all its crazy flavour combinations, Release is a record I might not fully ‘get’ but that just adds to its charm.
Wade – Full Fuck EP
Ah man, Wade. This EP seemed to come out of nowhere. And it just makes me so damn happy. I can’t think of any other EP released this year that is this fresh, enthusiastic and sharply executed. It’s poppy, it’s fast and has gang vocals delivered in Newcastle accents. It flies in the face of anyone who in 2013 still thinks emo has to be this po-faced, maudlin thing for Serious People. We know how to party.
“It never gets better. Just stranger and more interesting.”
Donovan Wolfington – Die Alone
I can’t remember how I stumbled across this band, but this has got to be one of the greatest openers on any record this year. It just comes at you, with this hugely danceable slice of indie-punk wonder, all crashing guitars and fuzzy melodies, screaming ‘AND I CAN’T WAIT TO DIE ALONE.’ Clever and comfortable in it’s simplicity, Stop Breathing is a great little record, so don’t stop here.
Angel Haze – Echelon
I can’t put the whole record in here because I haven’t had time to fully absorb it in its first few days of release, but if this song is anything to go buy this is going to be the rap record of 2014. You can look forward to reading about it in next years’ list.
I’ve been totally girl-crushing on Angel Haze since I first heard Werkin’ Girls from her 2011 New York EP. Her fearless approach to writing, backed up by monstrous flow, is why she’s killing just about everything. What is most admirable about Angel’s music is that she is willing to give every piece of herself to her songs. It’s not just about bravado, although Echelon has plenty of that, it’s always been about a bigger message.