Top 10 Album of 2013

# 1 Album of 2013, Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend by Rollie Agado

In the grand scheme of things...  selecting an album of the year is pretty arbitrary.   I had a pretty good idea of what my top 10 albums were in early November and even knew what order they would roughly be in.

Selections 1 (Modern Vampires of the City) / 2 (Yeezus) / 3 (Pretend to Be Brave) are all relatively even... you can't really fucking measure art.

The biggest deciding factor in how I ranked these albums, was production value.  

A case could be made for Yeezus minimalist approach...  but it's pretty hard to side with that argument when you listen to work done by Vampire Weekend and Ariel Rechtshaid on Modern Vampires of the City.

A listener can listen to any song and immediately dissect it for influences.  Well, with the exception of Joy Division.  I can listen to Joy Division and have no fucking idea where summoned their sound - I guess it was something inside the head of Martin Harnett

But I digress...  When I listen to Modern Vampires of the City - I hear refractions of sounds and influences on every track.

It's as if they went into the studio to score the soundtrack of their lives.

I've listened to this album in my car - while driving across town at night and it felt appropriate.

 I've listened to this album on a tarmac - waiting for a plane to depart and it felt appropriate.

I'm staring blankly at the screen at 3:56am and look occasionally over to the evening shadows on the wall whilst listing to Don't Lie and it feels appropriate.

Earlier in the year... I sat in the back of my sisters car and kept my niece company in the backseat.  I was in charge of giving her a bottle and company to minimize potential outbursts of baby rage.

On that drive...  the three of us listened to the album and she responded - rhythmically I mean - to the album and the tracks on it with incredible glee.  It was fascinating to see a 10 month old keep time to beat she's never heard.  

That's what this album does.  It finds ways to feel appropriate.

Stand Out Tracks: The Entire Album

 

Lyric Sheet doubles as a huge poster

# 2 Album of 2013, Yeezus, by Kanye West by Rollie Agado

Of all the albums I listened to in 2013, Yeezus was the record I actively thought about in my head when I wasn't listening to it.

It was also the only album in 2013, where I actively sought out thoughts and reactions from friends the week the  album dropped.

If you're reading this journal entry - you probably know me personally.   Perhaps you're scratching your head and you're wondering why I would rank this album so highly.  Here's my personal case for the album and why you should listen to it.

Yeezus  is a meticulously curated artistic endeavor that stands out when compared to anything else released in 2013.

Regardless of the medium... there is always an artist that finds rarefied air that can run parallel to others that are in the same stream.

Louis CK is a great example.  He's a contemporary comedian that tells jokes like every other comedian... he's however operating from an elevated ground.  

Like - Miles Davis, Lou Reed, David Bowie and Madonna - Kanye West is today's ambassador of cool.  I don't exactly know how this pop-culture currency works... but for a very finite amount of time - an artist can do no wrong.  Everything they seemingly touch, wear and produce - transcends to a rarefied place.

Yeezus is that very thing.

Stand Out Tracks:

 

# 3 Album of 2013, Pretend to Be Brave by BOAT by Rollie Agado

If I had any guts... I would have cited this as the Best Album of 2013.   I haven't had an album emotionaly ground & devastate me like this in ages.

I can't count the number of nights I stayed awake at night, starring blankly at the ceiling while singing along to every fucking song on this album.

When I went about navigating life through my late 20's... I sorta knew I had the safety net of my 30's ahead of me.   I sorta feel like I'm no longer afforded that luxury and things are quickly becoming a shit show.  

I haven't really gone out of my way to read reviews for this album...  I've sorta emotionally invested myself into this record and fear misinterpretations of its themes and meanings.

I do however want to go on record and say that when I listen to "Pretending to be Brave" - I feel that there's a sense of "one last gasp".  

Hating the Criminal, Sore Toes and Elbows, and Problem Solvers immediately jump to mind when I make a statement like that.  

Then there's the track With the Sea at My Back...  I can't think of a better song to have my ashes fired out of a cannon to when I die.

You truly can't go wrong with any song on this album... but here are the Stand out Tracks:

#4 Album of 2013, Bulldozer by Kevin Devine by Rollie Agado

The softer half (Use Your Illusion II) to the double album release that is Bulldozer & Bubblegum... it's really hard to not slip on this record and sorta lose yourself.

The first track - Now Navigate is a Paul Simony number that opens with the following lyrics:

There are tiers, as in levels, to reality 
On the industrial corner of North 17th Street & Wythe
Two black public high school kids watch a Nordic model get photographed
To them, she is lunar, impossible, alien life

The album sorta took root within me from that very moment and It hasn't let go.

I really don't know what to add to this album review, but to say that it's a top shelf release from an artist that takes a number emotional risks to reveal things about himself to the world.

In those revelations...  clarity is sorta mapped out for him and the listener as the themes are incredibly relatable to anyone with a fucking heart.

Take for example the track Little Bulldozer - a song that I now associate to someone in my life. For reasons that I can't seem to explain... I always feel closer when I can soundtrack a person and a relationship to a song.  It connects the complicated dots I have in my uncommitted heart.  At some point... I'm going to break down and text her something late at night and close it with - from "your Bigger Bulldozer"

Then there's Couldn't Be Happier... an homage (in my head) to GnR's Don't Cry.  I found this song to be applicable to an estranged relationship/friendship with someone from Michigan who is now residing in Chicago.

We're currently not speaking...  we send drunken texts to one another.  But hold out on things coming around at some point...  

In context, the progress is difficult to see
It's increments, not mile jumps
The grace collects and waits for us
To catch up.  

           Couldn't Be Happier - Kevin Devine

Stand Out Tracks:

#5 Album of 2013: Lost In Light Rotation, Tullycraft by Rollie Agado

tullycraft.jpg

One of the things that I really dislike about myself is that I go about most days really fucking angry.  I don't exactly know why I run hot...  but I often find myself exhausted from having to go about the day having to connect with people and things that let me down continuously. 

An album that helped me take the edge off immensely was Tullycrafts - Lost in Light Rotation.

The energetic-jangly-strumming chord progressions on Agincourt (opening track) maps the anxiety I feel within daily. 

When I wasn't  jumping in place and listening to the record... I found myself curled up in a little ball - deciphering the lyrics to songs like : Queenie Co.

I love my music and I'm tired of my fake friends 
I've watched the Sun come up in Memphis and I can't pretend 
I've tripped n' fell and fell in love with the perfect sound
I took the stabs of no regret to turn me back around 

When I wasn't deciphering the lyrics...  I sat back in utter amazement as Tullycraft romanticized and waxed on Love and the Ramones.

The finest moment on the album is the song No Tic, All Tac.

I love this song so fucking much that I'm seriously thinking about making a FAN Video for it and getting permission from the band to release properly.

The song is about 5 girls who start a fictional? Riot Girrrl Band... I don't know if they're Riot Girrrl, but they're Riot Girrrl in my head.

Their motivations:  "there's no tic, its all tac"

Chelsea - broke her cousins out of CCD / attended secondary modern and got fed up with boys - lyricist of the band.
Vicky -  underlines phrases and circling love... sees the band blowing up in Laurel Tree Pub / made the band practice in the attic above
Eileen - plays guitar...  but wants to play it in Reno
Ally - Her hearts not in it and is the first to go
Morreene - She's the second to quit - she left with Ally...

Too many "tigers" brought the band to a halt and they faded.  They never played a proper show out of Glasgow Queen.  

Vicky tried to take it solo tho'.  Who wants to make this video with me?

Stand Out Tracks:

#6 Album of 2013: Bubblegum, by Kevin Devine & the Goddamn Band by Rollie Agado

One of the most striking album covers in 2013

I took some time a few months ago to share some initial thoughts on Kevin Devine's double album release of "Bubblegum" and "Bulldozer".

I didn't really know what to make of the double release...  I wasn't sure if they should be considered as a collective "double album" or treated as individual releases.

After catching the band in support of the albums a few weeks after the release, I decided on the latter.  

In my head and heart... I can't shake the feeling that they're a lot like Use Your Illusion I and II by Guns N Roses.

Not in sound or prose...  but it's hard to listen to tracks on the record and not want to slip out the other to hear stuff off the other album.

Bubblegum is a little more abrasive/aggressive when compared to Bulldozer.  I sorta liken it to Use Your Illusion I, in that it's the album that has tracks I would prefer to hear live.  

The comparisons purely reside in my head tho'...  there aren't any songs about wanting to live his life in a coma.

There are however a number of songs that touch on very pressing topics. One of the most refreshing thing about Kevin Devine's work is that he's decided to comment on very complex contemporary topics.   Left leaning debate on Obama & Drones, Private First Class Manning and the Fiscal Cliff are all addressed on the FIRST THREE Tracks of the album.

It's not all heady conversation tho'... there's a number of foot tapping songs about self doubt and love too.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is titled "I Don't Care About Your Band".   I'm not exactly sure if the dialogue is between him and a critic or a label that opted to pass on these albums.  It's anthemic of what the two albums are collectively about tho'.

translucent marble touch finish

#7 Album of 2013: Knots, by Crash of Rhinos by Rollie Agado

If there were ever an example of an album that fell across my lap at both the right time and place it would be Knots by Crash of Rhinos.

Artwork by David Hand

Over the past 4 years, a number of small bands have surfaced - that remind me a lot of the Midwest Emo / Mid to Late 90's music scene that was incredibly influential in my life.

I recall Peter Rojas (yes, that Peter Rojas) tipping me off to Algernon Cadawallader who had reminded him of Cap'n Jazz.  Shortly after discovering that band I began to uncover a number of other bands that were similar in vein: Everything Everyone, Tiger's Jaw, Look Mexico, You Blew It!, Dikembe, Snowing, This Town Needs Guns
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In 2013 Braid announced European tour dates and I read a blurb about who was going to open up their shows while visiting the UK.  The name of the band: Crash of Rhinos

I had immediately taken a liking to their name...  and sought them out at my local record store.  It took a little while before I could get their album stateside thru Top Shelf Records, but it was certainly worth the wait.

I think the thing I find most endearing about Crash of Rhinos... is that they have a 2nd vocalist who sings with a very heavy English accent. When the two exchange vocal duties on a track like the song Interiors it reminds me of what Braid did with Hugs from Boys many/many/many years before it.

Stand Out Tracks:

#8 Album of 2013: Light Up Gold, by Parquet Courts by Rollie Agado

One of San Antonio's best kept secrets is FM 91.7 - MUSIC FOR LISTENERS program that airs 12:00am to 3:00am on Saturday Mornings.  In addition to spinning and exposing listeners to really incredible music - they also put on some really important shows around Central Texas.

I discovered: Light Up Gold, by the Parquet Courts through the show in early February and picked put their album after listening to the single Borrowed Thyme.

Their sound reminds me of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Buzzcocks and early WIRE.  Those comparisons in many ways however are a little lazy in that they also sound a lot like a number of other energetic contemporary acts such as TRAAMS and Black Lips.

There's something suspiciously authentic about the recording...  it doesn't seem laboursome (sp?), like when you listen to Best of Friends by Palma Violets.  

There's an air of effortlessness in the recording and that's why I dig record so much.

Stand Out Tracks:

#9 Album of 2013: The Bones of What You Believe, by Chvrches by Rollie Agado

When I saw the cover art for "The Bones of What You Believe" - I immediately thought of "Music for the Masses" by Depeche Mode.  The color scheme & three speaker layout is an obvious nod to the seminal album.

As luck would have it, the music on the "The Bones of What You Believe" is also heavily influenced by Depeche Mode...

Which made late night listens to this record so incredibly enjoyable.  There's too many incredible tracks on this record to truly single out any as favorites.  I would highly recommend these to start tho'. 

#10 Album of 2013: Feast of Love, by Pitty Sex by Rollie Agado

Every now and again, you discover a band simply by taking an interest in their moniker.  Pitty Sex falls into that category.

Their sound immediately reminded me of Dinosaur Jr.'s GREEN MIND.  

I naturally added their album to group of playlists I visited quite frequently and it became one of my top 10 albums of the year.

I haven't had a chance to catch them live, but would go out of my way to see them tho'.  I really want to be surrounded by their wall of fuzz and hope they don't disappoint.

Recommended tracks: