Well, it's that time of year again, folks. Another calendar year's circling the drain and with it swirls a lot of music, most of it total trash but some of it very good.
These are the albums I'll be listening to past the new year. Maybe you will too, maybe you won't. I disavow all claims to objectivity or universality. I rarely check my email, don't answer my phone, have no fixed mailing address, and do my best to only listen to The Clash & Joy Division (and the Supremes, of course), so I don't hear much new music.
Go start your own blog, or better yet, go work for Pitchfork, if you think I've slighted your favorite band that somehow expresses all the profundities of life in 2013. I love you all.
What follows is a year-end list organized by EPs, LPs, and then a miscellaneous list of demos, tapes, and any other detritus that didn't fit elsewhere (like obituaries, which there were a few of this time 'round). There's not much rhyme or reason to it, since I can't organize my own life let alone a list.
Matt originally gained a rep for terse, off-the-cuff misery rock that squalled past in a flurry of 4-track hiss and autistic GBV-style guitar licks. Last year he changed gear with the stark midnight hush of the Bitter Defeat EP. This one follows in that line: we're given 8 tracks of Matt alone, howling out some of KF's best with only his guitar backing him up (and charming Aussie heckling, of course.
I've always thought of Kitchen's Floor's as a blues band, even at their noisiest, on songs like "Lander." On this one, however, Matt's a lot closer to the blues. All the frustrated, apathetic anger and hints of catharsis that were buried under the distorted sludge of previous efforts shine through. The adolescent noise of early KF was fun but this EP proves that KF is a band you can get older with. Wiser, that's another story (but whoever does that, anyway, right?).
BUY IT HERE, or email Breakdance the Dawn to see if CDRs are still available.
Wikipedia tells me that a pharmakon was a specific kind of priest in ancient Greece. Said pharmakon was charged with performing the ritual exile, stoning, or execution of a sacrificial scapegoat, usually a criminal or cripple. The intention was to ritually clense and purify the community.
Margaret Chardiet is from New York City though, so she probably chose the moniker after reading Derrida on acid. Either way, this is a harrowing series of ritual incantations filtered through warped synthesizer moans and proto-lingual howls. Industrial noise horror usually ain't my cuppa tea, but this EP is fucking evil, kiddies. Pull the curtains down, turn up the treble, and zone out to this psychotic piece of Lovecraftian terror issuing from the inner depths of your contorted soul, which awaits ritualistic cleansing. So purge your way to purity!
If you're from a miserable backwater like Tampa, nobody's gonna pay much attention to you unless you punch 'em in the face and force them to. That gives you a lot more freedom than you might otherwise have to improvise.
And improvise these guys certainly have. The rest of the world finally noticed them last year, with their brilliant Children of Desire LP. Technically this is the follow-up LP, but it clocks in at just a tad over half an hour, so I'm counting it as an EP. Children of Desire was melancholic break-up goth at its best. Totale Nite, however, is prom night in a John Hughes film, following a suitable dramatic interlude: the guitars are sunnier, the synth less dramatic, Carson Cox a bit more expansive. This brief LP/EP sucks you into a swirl of synthesizer where daylight has dawned and Merchandise is exploring what it feels like to, maybe, sometimes, fleetingly, be happy. It's a transitional work, and is well worth adding to your nerdtard record collection.
Just fucking buy this thing already!
Bangs said back in 1982 that hardcore punk is like the womb, and lord was he right. If you listen to music like this expecting originality, that's your pathology, not mine. Punk in 2013 is the aural equivalent of comfort food. You put it on to comfort you in your impotent rage and recurrent, mindless frustration.
Nuclear Spring is chock fulla that on this 4-song EP. Heroic guitar leads, impassioned, self-righteous dual vocals, chugga-chugga-gunka-gunka riddim: they've got it all! They also happen to write killer songs in the Blitz vein, with all the moralizing intonations associated with U.K. anarchopunk.
So go on, kids: Slap a circled-A buttflap on your posterior, break an empty whiskey bottle over your head, and start screaming along to Nuclear Spring as they chant, "I wish I'd never been born!"
LIfe stinks, I need a drink.
Unlike most garage bands, Austin's Zoltars don't wanna sound like badasses, greasers, or wasteoid scumbags. Most garage bands go in for amped up dum-dum stumblebum; the Zoltars turn the tone down and focus on writing songs that deserve the name. They sound like self-disciplined nice guys you could bring home for dinner, even though they write songs with the word "heroin" in the title.
These are three mid-tempo, precision tunes that hypnotize you insteada bashing you over the head like the Reatards' legion of imitators. It's perfect music for drinking beer on a hot summer's day, so go buy this and throw it on when July comes rolling 'round.
The Zoltars also released an impressive second LP this year, which you can check out on CQ Records' site, too.
Operating at the fringes of several sounds-punk, goth, ambient noise, etc.-Hungary's Buso feeds urban isolation and winter numbness into his computer and burps out glacial artifacts of this age of rubbish. And it doesn't sound contrived. That's saying a lot in 2013, given that every asshole who wants to be Ian Curtis can dump a 4-track EP on bandcampand call it a career.
This music seems frigid but feels warm. Listening to this EP for the first time since winter, it's clear how much Buso owes to early-'00s Icelandic bands like Mum: this is deeply emotive electronic music that you cannot dance to (unless your preferred move is the sedative shuffle). As the snow falls and I sink deeper into winter depression, Buso's second proper EP will be a constant companion.
Dude is so nice, you can download the EP for free, HERE.
Michelle Shofet's been recording under this moniker for awhile, and her demo tracks are damn near heart-breaking in their beauty. Since then she's found a full band and dived into the deep end of the freakfolk scene.
Freakfolk is a known enemy of this blog, but Glass Cake is one of maybe two exceptions* I make to a scene full of Neil Young and Catpower wannabes. This EP is a whimsical series of light-hearted, even fun, folk cutsiness. Airy guitar notes, minimal drums, and a massive mix that sounds like GC recorded it live. At the heart of it all is Shofet's thin wail, full of inaudible sentiment, soaring above the music and then descending for the choruses.
I don't know what sorta people listen to this kinda music but they probably live happy, productive lives in San Francisco skyscrapers. Go buy the EP, so you can too!
*The other exception being Horrible Houses, for different reasons altogether.
These are EPs I liked, too; I'm too lazy to write a(nother) blurb on them:
Catholic Guilt-Futile Attempts (here)
Sick Thoughts-Need No One (here)
Nnevtelga-s/t CS (here)
Multiple Man-s/t CS ( here )