The nerds will have their say

Picking the top music releases of 2013

Hey here’s an idea — rather than bust out the weird math algorithms that only serve to put boring lowest common denominator consensus rock at the top of the heap why not just let each music writer pick their personal favourite of the year and write about it? Pretty groundbreaking we know. Bask in the glow of music-writer history as we pick our personal favourites of 2013.

V V Brown

Samson & Delilah

YOY Records

After a dose of pop recognition with synth-y R&B hits V V Brown decided to shift gears. Her choice led to the spectacular Samson & Delilah a sprawling and much darker offering from the once dance-happy rock queen. The sophomore album brings in elements of introspective lyricism Moroder-esque disco and M83-like sounds.

The production is firmly rooted in electronic blips and noisy swells more akin to Depeche Mode and the Eurythmics than previously likened celebrities like AlunaGeorge and Janelle Monae. There’s no doubt that the choice to work with Dave Okumu (Jessie Ware) as co-producer was to highlight these darker elements while still retaining the emotional richness that Brown’s soulful voice presents.

There’s so much this album has to offer. It flows from track to track with beauty and elegance. Instead of being a naive party album it’s a journey through lust and wanting with lyricism and rich musicianship to match.




Drag City

Chicago’s Cave is a tight yet experimental outfit that never fails to transport its audience to another time and place. And in the case of the band’s smooth third album that time and place is the swingin’ ’70s. Witness the hot come-on line of opener “Sweaty Fingers” which finds Cave stroking a bass line that takes 12 glorious minutes to reach its climax. Manzarek-esque Mellotron tangents and wah-wah pedal calisthenics abound while pure instrumental bliss takes over on “Silver Headband” and the miasmatic “Arrow’s Myth.” Fans of Black Mountain Queens of the Stone Age and even My Morning Jacket will rally to the deeply groovy manifestations and masterfully measured heaviness of Cave’s exultant freak-flag.


Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Daft Life Limited/Columbia Records

Despite employing an over-the-top press campaign Daft Punk’s big return Random Access Memories really did live up to all the hype. Not only did they effectively dodge the EDM bullet but the robo-helmed duo proved they’re human after all with an album that paired classic rock and funk tropes with the sort of sci-fi cosmosis fans have come to expect and love from the pair. It also didn’t hurt matters that the album featured an impressive array of A-list guests (Panda Bear Julian Casablancas Giorgio Moroder Nile Rodgers) some truly epic big-budget production and perhaps the year’s biggest — and somehow still not annoying — track: the Pharrell-equipped “Get Lucky.” Yes it was a sharp stylistic turn but once the shock ran its course Random Access Memories proved to be the Daft Punk album no one knew they always wanted.


Destruction Unit

Deep Trip

Sacred Bones

I have heard punk records described as “psychedelic” before but have invariably been let down by the vibrations contained in their grooves. Flat. Boring. Probably never had their third eye open for more than a fleeting second at the moment of orgasm during guilt-riddled masturbation.

Deep Trip is a record that I have always wanted to hear. This is a punk record that is truly psychedelic in its sound and content. Layers of cascading pummeling whirling fuzz envelope the steady plodding of the bass while the drumming brings you closer and closer to a state of complete trance. Not an inhibitory trance-state — I am talking about complete excitation. Whirling fucking dervishes. Your brow is moist your heart is racing you feel about to orgasm about to lose bowel control. The veils of reality lift and there stand Destruction Unit. Your guide. Your lord. Your salvation.


Tim Hecker


Kranky/Paper Bag

Virgins is a violent often stressful listen a stunning culmination of a career of maniacal obsession over the slightest auditory detail (a fact that makes a fair bit of sense seeing as Hecker recently submitted his doctoral thesis at McGill on the history of sound). That fixation’s weaved with a magnificent motif-heavy sonic narrative one that — as suggested by the ghastly cover art — finds a thematic home in the realm of sensory deprivation and shock therapy. Unlike Ravedeath 1972 (the excellent one-man-show that was Hecker’s previous album) Virgins features an assortment of incredibly dexterous instrumentalists that contribute to a massive convoluted sound one even more shocking and memorable than Ravedeath . Forget categorizing Virgins as “drone” or “noise” or whatever: this is quote-unquote music at its absolute finest a quest undertaken to destroy the eardrums and remind the listener of what a year’s magnum opus feels like.



You’re Nothing


Y’all. How crazy would it be if the allegations against Iceage were true? What if their obsession with runic iconography their dubiously Klan-referencing videos and those Nordic folks sieg heiling at their shows meant they were actually white supremacists? Would it mean that we couldn’t listen to 2013’s fiercest post-punk record (sorry Savages)? Would it mean that the year’s most nihilistic album — one that had a piano ballad so aggressive that it made us want to punch the nearest senior citizen in the face — is relegated to the scrap heap? Would Iceage be the first band since Skrewdriver to vault white-power music into uncomfortable respectability (because let’s be honest: RAHOWA and Berzerker sound like literal pieces of shit shitting shit into microphones made of 100 per cent shit)? Would it mean we’d have to erase one of the most exciting au courant bands from pop culture’s history books despite the fact that they’ve written two incredible LPs before they could legally drink in the U.S.? Would it mean we’d have to discard Death in June too? Because that would fucking suck. So fuck you fascists for trying to take You’re Nothing away from us.


Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet



This was a year where I stopped caring about having any clear-cut “best album of the year” so picking Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet’s Photographs is more indicative of the records I was enjoying than anything else this year — a number of which it should be noted Lambkin released on his fascinating vinyl imprint Kye.

A densely rich set of electroacoustics field recordings musique concrète and the almighty textural drone Photographs is a double-disc set that caps off a trilogy between Lambkin and Lescalleet including 2008’s The Breadwinner and 2010’s Air Supply . There’s a staggering amount here — too much to describe in this blurb — but I’m giving it the year-end nod for the sheer depth of its sonic exploration. The attention to the album’s presentation is also striking from the lavish 12-panel foldout artwork to both discs bearing the exact same track lengths as The Breadwinner and Air Supply respectively.

If you require albums that have actual songs however my pick of the year is Circuit Des Yeux’s Overdue . Beautiful occasionally harrowing still challenging — you get the idea.



After Dark 2

Italians Do It Better

Part of me thinks After Dark 2 missed most year-end lists simply because it’s a compilation and compilations are understandably overlooked as albums. But this one is different. The way Johnny Jewel operates Italians Do It Better his second After Dark comp was as much a statement by one artist in every sense of the word as Kanye’s Yeezus or Bowie’s The Next Day . As musician songwriter producer and art director (not to mention label owner) Jewel meticulously presented all of his different acts with his inimitable vision as always using the utmost precision and excellence. With tracks by Glass Candy Chromatics Desire Symmetry and Appaloosa he assembled a collection of nocturnal synth jams that together achieved nothing short of euphoria. Why it isn’t everyone’s favourite album is beyond me but I’m happy for it to be mine.


Kanye West


G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam

Kanye West is constantly going viral for his wild unchained ego his endlessly quotable rants and well his participation in the gross glitzy world of Hollywood’s lowest form of output through his baby mama Kim K. It makes sense for you to hate Kanye West just as much as it makes sense for you to be obsessed with him.

That said when he wasn’t yelling about leather jogging pants (and then yelling about the people who made fun of him for yelling about leather jogging pants) Kanye West made 2013’s most difficult fascinating and ultimately rewarding release. Far too weird for hip-hop heads it’s more of an art-school noise project (though it’s likely too commercial for the art-school noise nerds). By polarizing his fanbase referencing his soulful hip-hop past via fragments of samples and ultimately just sneering about race culture and his dick Kanye West captivated anyone who’d listen. No one said the album of the year needs to make you feel good inside.