Man what a dog shit year!
I’m kidding, it was okay I guess. I just felt sort of left out this year. If last year went down in history as The Year Brad Got Really Into Rap Music, then this year will go down as The Year Brad Didn’t Really “Get” Stuff. There was so much critically acclaimed music that I wanted to like but was unable to. I listened to that Deafheaven album three times and I don’t get it. I listened to Yeezus countless times, and while I love “Bound 2” and “Blood on the Leaves,” there’s not another song off that album I need to hear again. I don’t get Vampire Weekend. I’ve explained that. And I think I’ve been pretending to love the National this whole time when I really think they’re just okay. I bet if we all thought hard about it we’d realize we made way too big a deal out of the National.
So, without any of the heavy guitar rock albums I normally gravitate toward (Queens of the Stone Age released a solid one that doesn’t make this list but deserves a mention), I made a conscious effort to enjoy other types of music. So this year was not only The Year Brad Didn’t Really “Get” Stuff but also The Year Brad Got Really Into Electronic Music. All in all I think I liked this year and I like this list and I hope you do too. You can find my top ten tracks below the albums. Thanks for reading.
10) Local Natives - Hummingbird
Man, I gotta say I’m really surprised to see this one on here. It’s like, yeah, I guess that album was alright, but top ten? For real? Are you tripping on pots, bro? To be honest, the first time I heard this album I was tripping on some pots, and I will tell you, this is not a great album to listen to high. It’s emotional and sappy, and just not high-friendly. I mean if you’re high you want something really out there like some Can or some Weird Al (that guy’s nuts!). You don’t want to be assailed with so much emotion, or think about your mom dying. “Every night I ask myself, am I giving enough?” sings Kelcey Ayer in tribute to his departed mother on one of the best songs of the year, “Colombia.” Who asks himself if he’s giving or loving enough at night? I, for one, am too busy asking myself if my girlfriend can hear me masturbating. Hummingbird is not fun, but it’s a beautiful, sad, sobering album for sober adults. Or adults who are drunk and alone.
9) Pusha T - My Name is My Name
One of the best and most disappointing albums of the year. It starts off so strong, with the one-two punch of “King Push” and “Numbers on the Boards.” These tracks are gritty, sharp, and make me feel like a pretty rad, bad dude when I walk around listening to them. What makes them work is they don’t aim for hooks. Kanye West’s production is flamboyant to a degree, but he lets Pusha do the heavy lifting. When the album does strive for hooks, we get unnecessary bullshit from Chris Brown or Kelly Rowland. The hooks slow things down, but anytime Pusha is rapping, I’m engaged. And he’s never better than on “Nosetalgia,” where he and Kendrick Lamar trade tales of the cocaine trade. Push is at the top of his game and Kendrick’s verse makes me wonder why people went so nuts for “Control.” What’s more badass than shouting at your father, “Yo son dope, n**ga!” I’ve been texting my Dad that every day since hearing this. I have yet to hear back.
8) Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the Film
Manic Street Preachers are, for better or worse, my favorite band. I love them, and the rules of love state that if you love something truly, you need to love it even when it puts out some shitty albums. On almost every Manics album, there’s a song or two I wish wasn’t on there, and Rewind the Film is no exception. “30-Year War” was a bad choice to close this otherwise thematically sound, beautiful album. But what’s good here is really good. “Show Me The Wonder” has to be the catchiest pop song of the year. Few people will agree with that since few heard it. Being a huge Manics fan is so lonely. If you’re the only person you know who listens to Deafheaven, you’re hip, but if you’re the only person you know who listens to the Manics, you’re just old.
7) My Bloody Valentine - m b v
It’s no small feat for an album to be ranked seventh on a year-end list and also be something of a disappointment. But how could a new My Bloody Valentine album not disappoint on some level? It would have to magically transport all of us back to the early 90s to feel fully satisfying. I listened to m b v (most annoying album title of the year somehow) for the first time long after the hype had died. It didn’t blow my mind out the back of my skull like I’d hoped. Some of it still hasn’t resonated. The middle third drags and “nothing is” truly is nothing. But the only thing really wrong with this album is that it isn’t 1991 right now. And also that Bilinda Butcher sings too many of the songs. I don’t care how good she looks with her new mom-cut. I want more Shields!
6) Palms - Palms
Palms is a collaboration between Chino Moreno of Deftones and three members of post-metal band Isis. I don’t listen to Isis because all descriptions of Isis contain the word “metal” and I don’t care for the metal at this point in my life. But I do care for Palms, which is a very un-metal band. Even the loud moments here feel quiet, because they spend so much time building to their peaks that you hardly notice. I’m not about to give Isis a try yet, but I’m looking forward to another Palms release as much as I am to a new Deftones album.
5) Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
Electronic music is something I’ve just begun to admit to myself that I’m into. I never took a stance against it, the way I once did against rap music, but I never gave it a chance either. It just felt unapproachable and I assumed every song was too long and repetitive. So it was with some reluctance that I listened to a Fuck Buttons album for the first time this year. I was also reluctant because they are called Fuck Buttons and I wasn’t sure my mom would let me buy their CD. That’s when a friend turned me on to the concept of “downloading music illegally.” So that is what I did. With the click of just one link, I deceived my mother and committed theft, all in the name of the F-word Buttons. How far I have fallen. Luckily, it was all worth it because this music is relentlessly powerful stuff that I can really space out to and forget what a depraved menace to society I have become. Please don’t tell my mom or the cops.
4) Sigur Ros - Kveikur
Before hearing Kveikur, I assumed Sigur Ros had just settled into a groove of releasing albums I didn’t want to hear. After Takk… failed to match the majesty of Agaetis Byrjun or ( ), and after I failed to listen to the next two, I figured that’d be it for Sigur Ros and me. And, after founding member Kjartin Sveinsson left the group last year, that could have been it for Sigur Ros and Sigur Ros. But nei (that’s Icelandic for “no,” pretty cool!). The keyboardist amputation might just be what saved the band’s life. Kveikur is the most haunting, aggressive and dark work Sigur Ros has done. Each song offers something spooky, whether its the queasy string arrangements, the band’s newfound fondness for feedback, or the ever-present tumultuous percussion. The latter quality is never more interesting than on “Hrafntinna,” where a snare drum is jettisoned in favor of a violent cacophony of bells. Then the entire song gets swallowed up by feedback, which gives way to a beautiful horn outro. It’s heavenly stuff. Here they are playing it in a cave.
3) Darkside - Psychic
For anyone who normally steers clear of electronic music, this strikes me as a great entry point. Darkside is a collaboration between Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. Jaar is a producer who is twenty-goddamn-three years old and Harrington is his “longtime collaborator” (how long can a time be when you’re twenty-goddamn-three?). The beats here are slow and spooky, with lots of other random shit happening that you pick up on with repeated listens, and Harrington’s ever-returning guitar makes it hard to believe this is an album you’d find in the “Electronica” section. The first couple of songs aren’t as immediate as the rest, so if you want to see if you like Darkside, listen to “Paper Trails,” probably my favorite song of this year.
2) The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
Why would this be at number two when I can only actually enjoy two thirds of it. The copy I purchased at Best Buy somehow doesn’t even include the nineteen-minute noise experiment “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized.” So I guess you could say I haven’t listened to this entire album. Without that song, there are still four songs that comprise about twenty minutes of noise that I generally skip over. But the songs that sound like songs are the best Knife songs you could want in 2013. They’ll never do another “Heartbeats,” and I can’t blame them. They’re too busy trying to be as scary as possible. Sometimes that Karin Dreijer Andersson sounds like a real spooky witch! And on “Stay Out Here” she is joined by Shannon Funchess and Emily Roysdon and they both sing scary too so now you have three scary women singing scarily. The line “You have the most original way of putting one foot in front of the other” reads like the sort of vague half-insult that Stephen Malkmus would sing, but coming from these ladies it made me question my whole life. But scariness and possible witchcraft aside, the Knife are still able to provide a good time. “A Tooth For An Eye” really gets this weird-ass party started, and whatever that noise is that starts at the 2:40 mark of “Raging Lung” is a funny goddamn noise. I appreciate that they sing about such serious issues but aren’t above throwing a bunch of alien fart sounds at you. Swedish nut jobs. I love ‘em.
1) Kurt Vile - Wakin On a Pretty Daze
I was almost going to put this one at number three or something. I hadn’t heard it in a while and just assumed it couldn’t be as good as I’d previously thought. Then I listened again and I can’t imagine giving this highly coveted number one spot to anyone else. To listen to Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze is to be transported to heaven. That’s right. I’m talking about the 1990s. Kurt Vile wasn’t even putting out music in the 90s and the songs here don’t actually resemble any of the actual music that was popular in the actual 90s. I’m referring more to the 90s that exists in our minds. The ones that didn’t happen but seem like they did. The 90s where everyone had an awesome band that was going to make it big and everyone had awesome hair and a coffee shop and a record store. I’ll never be able to go to the real 90s and find out if Seattle really was that cool. But 2013 has Kurt Vile and the 90s don’t. So it’s cool to be here too.
10. Eminem - “Rap God”
9. Action Bronson - “Rolling Thunder”
8. Pusha T - “Numbers on the Boards”
7. Kurt Vile - “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day”
6. Queens of the Stone Age - “My God is the Sun”
5. Manic Street Preachers - “Show Me the Wonder”
4. Local Natives - “Colombia”
3. Kanye West - “Bound 2”
2. The Knife - “Without You My Life Would Be Boring”
1. Darkside - “Paper Trails”