Everett’s “Top 13 Albums of 2013”
As the year begins to wind down and we look ahead on the work we have for 2014, all of us at TheBlueIndian.com want to extend our sincere thanks to each of you who have supported us in what marks our fifth year as “Georgia’s Indie Music Hub.” Some of us are newer than others, and we’ve expanded to not only have a close focus on music in Georgia, but to also expose our readers across the globe to the incredible music scenes throughout the Southeast. We asked each of our staff and team of writers to compile a list of their personal favorite releases from 2013 for our year-end features. Since each of us have different preferences, we felt individual lists would be the best way to give maximum exposure to the bands we’ve grown to love. We hope you’ll take the time to listen to these artists and appreciate your feedback. Happy New Year! – TheBlueIndian.com
Everett Verner‘s “Top 13 Albums of 2013”
13. PAPA – Tender Madness
With a tinge of West Coast relaxation in their tone, combined with an Americana spirit, PAPA’s first LP is hard to ignore. With evocative imagery and rhythmic acumen, this album manages to feel like it could have been made any time in the past 30 years, but it was put out in 2013 and it fits. With the warm voice of former Girl’s drummer Darren Weiss narrating the exploration of days past, love stories that are tangible rather than overzealous heartbreaking nonsense (see: Taylor Swift) it is a fitting album. The flow of the album is a bit off as each song tends to stand on their own rather than compile for an album, as I typically prefer, I’m reminded of The Talking Heads and Jack Kerouac when I play this album. I’m not sure exactly what Americana means from beginning to end, but Tender Madness feels like American music from the beat generation’s open road mentality to today’s more latched down society. It leaves me wanting more history and futures for us all.
Standout Tracks: “I Am the Lion King”, “Cotton Candy”, “If The Moon Rises”
12. Cayucas – Bigfoot
Santa Monica indie rockers, Cayucas dropped this dreamy surfer rock album early this year to much acclaim, so much acclaim that they landed a Bose commercial. An impressive start for a band and a highly crucial part of indie bands getting enough capital to jump to the next level these days. Whether it was a lucky break or not is irrelevant as the album is solid, even with only 8 tracks. For the purpose of my constant arguments and questions about album length I’ll just consider this a long winded EP. This gem happens to groove in a lo-fi swimmy haze that reminds me of the energy from the Allah-Las self-titled 2012 album. Each of the 8 tracks stands out individually as good pieces and they all fit together to form a throwback sound with modern nuances making me want to move to the west coast and spend my days surfing and my nights by beach bon fires.
Standout Tracks: “Cayucos”, “High School Lover”, “East Coast Girl”
11. AM & Shawn Lee – La Musique Numerique
This cross world duo dropped this dance pop album as a follow up to their 2011 release, Celestial Electric. The duo found each other on MySpace and apparently hit it off well enough to set down their solo careers a couple times to create the less-than-inspired band name AM & Shawn Lee. Regardless of the band name, or lack of band name, this album is pure toe tapping fun. The broodiness and darker corners of their first album have been smoothed down in this effort to create an album with excellent pacing track-to-track meaning I don’t know the names of the tracks because I always hit play at the beginning and then just feel sadness when it stops at the end. I’m not much of a dancer, as anyone who has seen me dance will testify to while choking from laughter on their memories, but this music makes me believe I can, and isn’t that all that matters?
Standout Tracks: “Two Times”, “All the Love”, “Steppin’ Out”
10. The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow
Dark and gripping, The Black Angels’s 2013 album pulls you in immediately with its broody sense of superiority and absolutely masterful work with fuzz pedals humming guitar tones and an organ sound the Phantom of the Opera would be impressed by. The group is named after a Velvet Underground song and brings a good bit of that creativity along with it. With a healthy dose of blues and psychedelic sounds alongside front man Alex Mass’ sullen and sulky vocals that work into the song well-crafted lyrics and tend to harmonize with the organ and guitars and feels reminiscent of the risks of bands like Velvet Underground. In this year that we lose Lou Reed, I find this album timely and wonderful.
Standout Tracks: “Don’t Play With Guns”, “Evil Things”, “Holland”
9. A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP
Trap rap from the NYC? Sure, why not? Jay-Z’s beloved single Tom Ford was his best foray into the Trap game established in the ATL, but it’s just a single compared this this complete trap album. While the album itself is bolstered by cameos like most over produced hip-hop albums the leader of A$AP Mob has dropped an extremely strong contribution, and may end up being the only complete rapper out of his own crew. A$AP Rocky got some good business advice before hitting the studio for this LP and sold his brand and alongside his record contract that has already spawned fellow A$AP mobster Ferg’s first LP. While we can all agree that F**kin’ Problems is probably the most clever song on the album, but it’s his collaboration with Skrillex for the most outrageously explosive track, Wild For the Night. I think this song establishes his ability to draw influences from just about anywhere and push them into tangible and fun songs without changing the way he operates. I have it on good authority that he has no time for platitudes or politeness, which is probably the biggest difference between this trap rapper and those from the South.
Standout Tracks: “Long Live A$AP”, “Wild For the Night”, “1Train”, “F**kin’ Problems”
8. Flume – Flume
I like Aussie-dance pop. I like it live, I like it canned, I like talking about it to strangers. I like the name of their bands, I like the name of their songs, and I really like it when their sound infiltrates American music enough to make some noise. I won’t inundate you with a list or anything, but this kid Flume has reached across the mighty Pacific and has drawn us in. While I’m crediting the original album that came out earlier this year, it should be noted that the Deluxe version includes cameos by the likes of Ghostface Killah, Killer Mike, and Autre Ne Veut. They’re not the most mainstream of American Artists, but Flume is only 22 years old and is already getting nods from the Wu-Tang Clan, so clearly, he’s nothing to F*ck with.
Standout Tracks: “Holdin On”, “On Top”, “Sleepless”
7. Emancipator – Dusk to Dawn
Trip hop has really caught on as the dubstep movement peaked. The festival circuit being heavily driven from headliners to footnote acts on the digital music revolution of the past decade has given platforms for man digital musicians who actually care whether their music is well crafted to begin to overshadow the rage minded party nonsense that annoyances like Steve Aoki bring to the table. Emancipator’s latest contribution manages to move without jarring and stay upbeat while being darker and broody. While Skrillex and Bassnectar combine visual wizardry alongside as many beats per minute as they can, Emancipator focuses on downtempo beats that build into melodic beats that I can’t get enough of.
Standout Tracks: “Minor Cause”, “Valhalla”, “Dusk to Dawn”
6. Washed Out – Paracosm
I am not a fan of Washed Out’s previous album, Within and Without, it felt forced and foreign compared to his Life of Leisure album, but he’s struck back with Paracosm in a beautiful way. Perhaps the dialogue wrote itself in my head when I heard the first few licks off the track “It All Feels Right” and realized that whatever I disliked from his previous work was quite literally washed out and replaced with this incredibly well put together gem. The third times a charm, the sophomore slump was busted, whatever your tastes, pick a cliché and get back to me later. I find peace in his return to a dreamy happiness that I found so enjoyable when Washed Out pioneered one of the best bedroom synth albums back in 2009. Welcome back to my ears Ernest Greene, I missed you.
Standout Tracks: “It All Feels Right”, “Great Escape”, “Don’t Give Up”
5. Royal Canoe – Today We’re Believers
This debut album from these Cannucks is probably not on a ton of radars, and only grabbed mine when the festival crew I run (we have a secret handshake and everything) with ran into them at Savannah Stopover, and then on the street at SXSW. With a band makeup that requires everyone to have some kind of keyboard, synthesizer within arm’s reach and the ability to generate harmony without harmonizing makes this one of the boldest and brilliant forays into the world of Pop music. It is an industry standard that producers run the pop industry with golden mixing boards, so I find it insanely refreshing to hear so many risks from an actual band. Pop music be warned, these guys put on a hell of a show and you won’t find a more creative mix of members who aren’t in bands fronted by Beck or Freddie Mercury. That is probably a bit glowing and over the top, but what can I say other than today I’m a believer in Royal Canoe.
Standout Tracks: “Bathtubs”, “Nightcrawlin”, “Show Me Your Eyes”
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – The Speed of Things
Remember those two guys who looked way too much like Eugene Levy on that interesting, but good 2011 album with the dumb name? Yeah, they’re back and much improved. These Detroit hipsters have followed up to their 2011 It’s A Corporate World with this brilliant and catchy album. This album holds a positive dreamy tone keeping a soft and melodic sense throughout while mixing it up with more upbeat contributions like If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t On The Dancefloor] and the upbeat and wistful Don’t Tell Me. Enjoyable without being cheezy, and gimmicky without being annoying, this is a testament to indie pop music’s evolution as these guys explore the close knit relationship between dance, R&B, and rock music’s melding in the 21st century.
Standout Tracks: “Beautiful Dream”, “If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t On The Dance Floor]”, “Don’t Tell Me”
3. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God
The least surprising thing that happened to me in 2013 was my finding enjoyment in this album. As an MMJ fanboy for more than a decade it was just something that was bound to happen. Jim James doesn’t miss with much, his ability to evolve with the scene and still maintain his original form while continuing to be commercially and critically successful is something that is rare. Thom Yorke, Jeff Tweedy, Ben Gibbard are some of the names I’d put up there with James for the Mount Rushmore of the 2000s, but none of them put out solo albums that came close to this one’s quality. This album is beautiful from beginning to end with new surprises discovered in each listen. It’s another shorter album with only 9 tracks, but I honestly didn’t notice the number of tracks for about 3 months because, as with many of these albums, I just hit play and listen through.
Standout Tracks: “State of the Art A.E.I.O.U.”, “Dear One”, “Know Till Now”
2. El-P & Killer Mike – Run the Jewels
I typically take a defensive approach to writing these, but that’s not necessary here. After Killer Mike’s stellar 2012 R.A.P. Music album produced entirely by El-P, AND El-P’s solo contribution Cure 4 Cancer that was nearly as stellar the Run the Jewels album was one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of the year. It not only lives up to the hype, but it was distributed for FREE. Major props go to Fool’s Gold Records for not only living up to their name, but for also ignoring industry standards for distribution. The album itself comes off like a dark comedy with the hilarious “36_Chain” lauding their fake gold chain necklaces, and the tongue and cheek DDFH with the chorus of “Do Dope F*** Hoes.” Whatever it is that takes performers, especially those in the hyper-testosterone driven hip-hop world, these guys have it in spades and they’re having more fun than anyone else proving it. It’s short for an album, but who cares, just Run the Jewels.
Standout Tracks: “Banana Clip”, “Run the Jewels”, “No Come Down”
1. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
This album threw me for a huge loop. I’ve been a pretty casual fan of Portugal. The Man for the better part of a decade, but they never stood out, other than having a baller name, as much more than a really solid indie rock band. Then, Evil Friends dropped and I played it so much on Spotify that some of the tracks skip (FYI: that’s a joke for people who remember using CDs and tapes). I researched the album to figure out what change in their lineup that was made that catapulted them from the likes of “above average” to “holy-shit I can’t put this down.” It wasn’t the lineup, it was the man behind the glass, none other than Danger Mouse on the switchboard that seems to have been the catalyst. Not to downplay how incredible the songs and lyrics are, but I dare you to listen to all of their music and tell me they didn’t take an incredible leap here. Thanks to them both for what is probably my favorite indie rock album of the past 5 years!
Standout Tracks: “Evil Friends”, “Creep In a T-Shirt”, “Modern Jesus”, “Atomic Man”