I loved 2013, here’s why:
Welcome to the most complex end-of-year article/essay/mental ejaculation you’ve ever read.
21 Records For 21 Years
Disclaimer: The guys at Sleeping Shaman know more about metal than I ever will (although I will fight any metal fan to the death if they don’t think Masters of Reality is the greatest ‘heavy’ album of all time. I’m serious. Sweet Leaf? Lord of this World?)I probably wouldn’t fight you if your answer was To Mega Therion by Celtic Frost, that’s a close second. I know what I like, and I know (hopefully) what you readers like – up until 6 weeks ago, I was solely a reader, not a contributor. So for the most part, unless it was completely unavoidable, I haven’t really speculated as to what metal albums you should listen to – obviously there are metal bands in there, purely because they have to be in there. Carcass are back! Darkthrone are metal again! Pop. 1280 would make most metal bands piss themselves! I have, however, got a diverse – and no less ‘heavy’ – selection of records you might want to take a chance on. There’s punk, industrial, Kraut/jam, noise, post-punk & No Wave-alikes to be found herein. And fuck it, there are a couple of pretty records in the mix too. When your neck is windmilled out, your hair is matted from headbanging, when you’ve listened to so much metal you are crying out for something a little tasty ( I don’t believe that you don’t have those days, even you) – give these records a listen, you won’t regret it.
My top 7 records in general from 2013
1) The Icarus Line ‘Slave Vows’ (Agitated) / Mudhoney ‘Vanishing Point’ (Sub Pop)
Like I said in my review, ‘Slave Vows’ is my album of the year. However, that may have been a slight lie. I have, for the first time since I began obsessively listing my favourite things, TWO favourite albums in one calendar year. I simply cannot and could not pick between the two. Firstly, ‘Vanishing Point’ is not only one of the most addictive records I’ve ever heard, but I also had no expectations of Mudhoney. When was the last astounding Mudhoney album? – (okay, okay, I lied, Mudhoney haven’t made a poor or even average record. But I didn’t expect one this fucking amazing). When did Mark Arm last sound this pissed off? I liked ‘The Lucky Ones’, but ‘Vanishing Point’ is on another level, as good as anything they’ve ever done.
‘Slave Vows’ definitely IS the best thing The Icarus Line have ever done, but that was always going to be possible – they don’t have a Superfuzz Bigmuff + Other Singles in their catalogue to contend with. I have listened to ‘Vanishing Point’ around 100 times this year, so it must be number one. But so must ‘Slave Vows’ for tearing my ears to shreds. TIE! (opinions welcome.)
‘Chardonnay’ from ‘Vanishing Point’ – it’s Hardcore Punk. Exactly as you know and love, complete with Mark Arm’s best ‘YAAAAAGHHH’ in years. ‘I Don’t Remember You’ is also one of my most-sung-songs of my meagre existence on this planet, equally worthy of highlighting.
‘Rat’s Ass’ from Slave Vows – if ‘Raw Power’ was a double album, this would open Side C with a bang.
I could dissect the albums track by track – but that’s not meant for this space. I simply have to tell you that these are my two favourite albums of the year. They’re special. Very special – look at the quality of the albums they’re stopping from hitting the top spot.
3) Iggy & The Stooges ‘Ready To Die’ (Fat Possum)
This is the greatest of the great ‘comeback’ records on my countdown this year – although I seem to be the only person on the planet that likes their Steve Albini-produced first ‘comeback’ album ‘The Weirdness’. Iggy Pop is my favourite dude on Planet Earth. ‘New Values’ is my favourite record. ‘Ready To Die’ continues in that vein. ‘Nuff Said.
Highlight: Job (which pretty much describes my life)
4) Pop. 1280 ‘Imps Of Perversion’ (Sacred Bones)
Pop. 1280 are heavy dudes. Their records are primitive punk corroded by the digital age, re-animated into a horribly visceral Noise-rock shindig for the undead (yeah). A lot of people talk about all the intensity and sinister vibes in Pop. 1280’s sound, but few mention the cathartic, expressive style of punk they grind out, and simply how fucking fun this kind of ear-shredding is to folks like me. Their sound falls between all the cracks of industrial/horror music – Einstürzende Neubauten, Chrome, Suicide (first record), The Stooges, Birthday Party, early Swans, early Sonic Youth, Killing Joke, Jesus Lizard, Cop Shoot Cop, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks… (they won’t thank me for it, but they also have all the things you/we/I love about early Mudhoney.) They act, sound and give as many fucks as these hallowed noise-rock miscreants. Produced by SST Records leg-end Martin Bisi, ‘Imps Of Perversion’ is not a replica of old sounds, but a reanimation of the corpse of Rock And Roll – finally a band with some attitude maaaan! I guess Martin Bisi is the only producer on Planet Earth to have heard the most heinous sounds ever created belching out of amplifiers and still be up for more sonic punishment. I salute you, Pop. 1280, you sick people. (PS. their last record ‘The Horror’ is another absolute ripper from the guts of cyber-hell)
Highlight: Do the Anglerfish
5) The Men ‘New Moon’ (Sacred Bones)
The Men are some pretty intriguing guys. They’ve borrowed from No Wave, Black Metal, Shoegaze, Krautrock, Psych, Folk, Country, Indie – but this record is their best. This record has been compared to Tom Petty, Neil Young, Husker Du, Velvet Underground, REM, Replacements… whatever, it’s brilliant. Track after track of incredible heft and delicacy wander by, leaving trails of mind-worms that lead you back again and again to New Moon. In a year of incredible records, this may be *objectively* the best I’ve heard this year. Sucks for them that Stooges are my favourite band. Stooges and three of their wildest offspring pip them to the post – there’s always hope for next year.
Highlight: The Seeds
6) Psychic Ills ‘One Track Mind’ (Sacred Bones)
1 part MDMA, 1 part JAMC, 3 parts SM3, 5 parts THC = Psychic Ills. ‘One Track Mind’ has legendary noisemaker Neil Hagerty (Royal Trux) on production duties, art by 13th Floor Elevators songwriter Powell St. John and is the most baked-sounding record you’ll hear all year. Thunderous Heavy Sounds on the sizzlingest, badassest label around at the minute (for more on my favourite record label this year, see the ‘Classified Results’ section at the bottom.) & Light one up!
Highlight: See You There
7) Grant Hart ‘The Argument’ (Domino)
If you know anything about this man, you will appreciate why I think he’s the legend that he is. The Argument is the third double album of his career. It spent years in developmental hell – but words can’t convey the depth and potency of the end result. It sounds polished and refined in places, scratchy and raw in others. No real tag for it, just great music. I can’t really put into words the strength of this record, only to compare it to Berlin by Lou Reed. Lester Bangs pretended to hate Berlin; he certainly would have loved The Argument.
Highlight: So Far From Heaven
Heavy Seven In Seven Words
Post-punk heaviness dominates this list – with a touch of classic metal
1) Savages ‘Silence Yourself’ (Matador)
Lioness punk band hit with ferocious intensity
Highlight: No Face
PS. What has eight legs, no Y chromosomes and more balls than any band I’ve seen live?
2) Iceage ‘You’re Nothing’ (Matador)
Rabid punk from stylishly angry Danish kids*(see below)
PS. Have Iceage eaten Lydia Lunch (no pun intended)? Where else could that guitar sound have come from?
3) Chelsea Light Moving – S/T (Matador)
Surprisingly harsh metal record from Thurston Moore
PS. Sonic Youth and Thurston Moore get a lot of stick for being ‘hipsters’ or more simply ‘a band that hipsters pretend to like.’ But a listen to any of their SST records would make people change their minds – especially ‘Bad Moon Rising’.
4) Beastmilk ‘Climax’ (Svart)
Misfits Killing Joy Kennedys punk-deathrock orgy
Highlight: Love in a Cold World
PS. I had to wait ages to get this, it sold out on Amazon and in shops pretty much immediately. Yes, that does make me the fool for still paying money for records. But hey, that’s what I do. My favourite band as a kiddy were Misfits, Danzig is effectively a relative of mine (in spirit), and I hear a lot of that – and Killing Joke (another favourite) – in Beastmilk.
5) Carcass ‘Surgical Steel’ (Nuclear Blast)
Great return from my favourite science teachers
Highlight: Unfit for Human Consumption
PS. I love Carcass so much that I used to e-mail Dig, the guy who runs Earache Records, and ask questions about them – he replied. I also emailed Bruce Dickinson’s Radio 6 show asking him to play ‘This Mortal Coil’. He obliged. METALLL!
6) Darkthrone ‘The Underground Resistance’ (Peaceville)
Best album since ‘Panzerfaust’? Most definitely yes ** (see below)
PS. “it’s Darkthrone, Jim, but not as we know them.” I like every Darkthrone album. I guess some of you do too. It’s certainly better than anything they’ve done since ‘Panzerfaust’. That’s not faint praise in my book,’ Panzerfaust’ is a 10/10 – it doesn’t get more BM than that.
7) Pissed Jeans ‘Honeys’ (Sub Pop)
Twitching pulsing dizzy ripping boogie Albini style
Highlight: Bathroom Laughter
PS. they might very well make you piss your jeans. With excitement.
Sleepy Seven In Seven Words
I do not condone the use of marijuana to enjoy these records to the fullest…
1) The Black Angels ‘Indigo Meadow’ (Blue Horizon)
Stay away from the brown acid maaaaan
PS. they can do no wrong in my eyes. Even when they’re bollox they’re still 99.9% better than most bands.
2) Föllakzoid ‘II’ (Sacred Bones)
Glowing groovy krautrock mayhem from trippy Chileans
PS. The true soundtrack to Reefer Madness.
3) Crocodiles ‘Crimes of Passion’ (Frenchkiss)
Mary Chain fuzzrock, pinch of pop
PS. I have confidence these are a viable alternative to the bands metalheads listen to when they’re ‘chilling.’
4) Deerhunter ‘Monomania’ (4AD)
Woozy pop band grow a sharp edge
PS. they’re a fuzzy, arty AND visceral band. Deerhunter are as forward-thinking as Radiohead, as stoner-friendly as the Cramps.
5) Wooden Shjips – Back To Land (Thrill Jockey)
Not my favourite Wooden Shjips album … yet
PS. I love Wooden Shjips.
6) My Bloody Valentine ‘m b v’
The album I have been waiting for
PS. another one of those bands that just ooze class. Every track is perfect on each of their albums. Bastards.
7) Low ‘The Invisible Way’ (Sub Pop)
Uplifting, euphoric record from Duluth’s finest Christians
Highlight: So Blue
PS. Low are what I imagine the elevator to Christian Heaven sounds like. As heavy and emotionally engaging as Darkthrone. They’re the Yin to their Yang. As dissimilar as bands that play instruments can get, yet both have the same effect. If you haven’t discovered Low, this record is a good starting point. Plus the cover looks similar to ‘Planet Waves’ by Dylan.
Band of the Year (tie): The Icarus Line / Mudhoney
Album of the Year (tie): The Icarus Line ‘Slave Vows’ / Mudhoney ‘Vanishing Point’
Wildcard Album of the Year (tie): The Men ‘New Moon’ / Pop. 1280 ‘Imps Of Perversion’
Musical revelation of the Year (tie): Bo Ningen (live) / Savages
Favourite Gig of the Year: Savages, 00:00AM @ End Of The Road Festival
Favourite Live Track (3 way tie): ‘You Made Me Realise’ By My Bloody Valentine, Birmingham 02 Academy / ‘Took My Lady To Dinner’ By King Khan & The Shrines, End Of The Road Festival / ‘Give Me A Gun’ By Savages, End Of The Road Festival
Favourite Reissue (tie):’ White Light White Heat’ by Velvet Underground/ ‘Live 81-82’ by The Birthday Party / ‘Immaculada’ by The Men / ‘LSXX’ By The Breeders
Favourite Live Album: ‘ Not Here/Not Now’ by Swans (download)
EP: TALLY UP THE THINGS THAT YOU BROKE by PARQUET COURTS
Most Rock ‘n’ Roll Moment: Blatantly including ‘pop’ bands in my lists. Crocodiles? Deerhunter? Sleeping Shaman? That’s some Rock N Fucking Roll right there. (The real answer could lead to my arrest.)/ Pussy Riot eventually getting released
Album I haven’t bought this year but will probably get my hands on early next year and am really looking forward to (tie): ‘Aftershock’ by Motorhead / ‘Abandon’ By Pharmakon
Label of the Year: Sacred Bones Records/Brooklyn. Without a shadow of a hint of a subtle taste of a doubt. They’ve expanded their flawless catalogue to include several more 10/10 perfect records (Men, Pop. 1280, Follakzoid, Psychic Ills are all in my 21 album countdown. Pharmakon would be if I’d have bought it before I wrote this thing. I’m a fanboy with a vengeance. They’re also producing my most anticipated releases of 2014 (that I know of) – Killed By Deathrock (a compilation) and Tomorrow’s Hits by The Men. My my, what fine taste they have.
Album art of the year: Psychic Ills ‘One Track Mind’ – Powell St. John.
Head-smacking dumbass moment: Missing a Parquet Courts show because I was too stupid/hungry/drunk to remember they were playing. Not clever.
Other cool albums not in my countdown (GO LOOK SEE) – Parquet Courts (album) (!!!), Julian Cope (!!!), METZ (!!!), Thee Oh Sees(!), Throwing Muses(!), Melt-Banana, Suuns(!!!), Kurt Vile, Phosphorescent, Sigur Ros (!), Endless Boogie, Dead Meadow, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Acid Mothers Temple(!!!), White Hills, These New Puritans, In Solitude, Meat Puppets (!!), The Fall, Bardo Pond, Fuzz, Night Beats, Kadavar, Watain, Voivod, FIDLAR, Kvelertak… & many more
(!!!) – could have been in the main list(s)
(!!) – superb
(!) – great
(no mark) – also great but not as much listening has happened
Thanks to Rees for putting up with endless music and remembering the lyrics to Can songs (his favourite band are The Darkness – Can aren’t his thing), Jason for new bands, putting up with my antics at gigs and rocking Glastutbury with Tilted Smile, Winnie for sharing magical forest-based musical experiences with me and Shaman Lee for the opportunity and fantastic support. Finally, thanks to my Mom for taking me to see Adam Ant – and giving birth to me.
Om Mani Padme Hum
* The press have been very influential in tagging these dudes as ‘fascists.’ I personally will not listen to, or will not tolerate, any bullshit like Nazi punk/Nazi Black Metal/Nazi whatever. I simply will not have it. Ideologically, I am as left wing as it gets – and I’m a moral person. Nazism, fascism, discrimination and prejudice of any kind hold no place in music.
That said, there is a gap between fantasy and reality when it comes to music. Much in the same way I know Jason Voorhees poses no threat in real life, I am aware that Cannibal Corpse’s (as an example) lyrics are FANTASY. However, having followed Iceage for some time, I am familiar with the video (New Brigade) where imagery is used that could be interpreted as being ‘fascist’ or ‘Klan’ (i.e. the hoods, fire). It is presented in a ‘real-life’ setting, which makes it more questionable. But…
Siouxsie Sioux wore a Swastika armband when accompanying the Pistols on their infamous TV appearance; ‘Joy Division’ is a term for a Nazi prostitution wing – fascism and popular punk bands have a close history. Some bands use symbols to subvert ideologies, some to enforce them. I believe, like Siouxsie & Ian Curtis, Iceage’s aim was to be provocative and subversive.
Writers, critics, bloggers have all had their say – but when asked to explain his political views, Iceage guitarist Johann Surrballe Wieth told Spin magazine that he considers himself to be “left-wing as a private person. But it has nothing to do with my music.” If his prerogative is to engender fascism and Nazism, then he is going the wrong way about it.
I am more wary of ‘religious’ acts that DON’T explicitly warn listeners of their agendas i.e. Creed, Shinedown, As I Lay Dying, Blessthefall (who?) etc.… so if I am wrong and Iceage are liars, I can only apologise. But the music speaks for itself.
Contentious imagery is present in the music we (I, you, anyone) listens to – I dare you to count how many Motorhead albums you would have to throw away if you took issue with the fact that they were being made by a guy wearing an Iron Cross, bullets and jackboots (here’s a clue: it’s all of them.) Contentious imagery does not a racist make, folks. Ignorance does.
** As with Iceage, Darkthrone and Black Metal in general have close ties to fascism and racism. Panzerfaust, one of my favourite Darkthrone albums, features Varg Vikernes. Books have been written about how fucked up he – and the Norwegian Black Metal scene in general – was, and I don’t know enough about it to try and go into it here. I have listened to Darkthrone for years, and like Fenriz, I am completely non-partisan towards the members of each of the bands embroiled in the horrible events. Darkthrone have never been involved, so their records are without taint in my book/end of year list/mind – after all, they were the ‘trendy’ ones that changed from Death to Black Metal when it was ‘cool’ to do so.
If you’ve read this far, you deserve an award. Over and Out x
Scribed by: Ross Horton