Lee’s “Top 13 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
Lee Fowler‘s “Top 13 Albums of 2013”
13. Wooden Shjips – Back to Land
Late acquisition, just in time to make the list. These guys put together everything I love sonically: droney, sped-up Earth-ish repetition, punk simplicity, and gauzy gauzy gauzy guitars. They’ve got one trick on this record, and they play it for all it’s worth. It’s the kind of conviction that makes you want to see what they’ll be up to next.
12. Stephen Malkmus – Ege Bamsi
Malkmus moves to Germany and records a seminal album by a legendary German band. This, the incarnation of an indie rock elder statesman’s love for Can, was my lone Record Store Day purchase, and it’s this kind of record that makes RSD worthwhile. Can didn’t need it, but Malkmus can make anything cool. This is no exception.
Standout tracks -“Sing Swan Song” “Spoon”
11. ILLLS – Hideout from the Feeders
This is one of the records I ran across writing for TBI, and I’m glad I did. There’s a bigness, a nastiness, an immediacy to this record that’s hard to resist. Everything is drenched in reverb, swirling in a sonic cavern full of tortured guitars, nearly indistinguishable vocals, and ethereal echoes. They care enough about the melody, though, to know how to slice it right through the mix.
10. Billy Bragg – Tooth and Nail
When songwriters have established careers, it’s hard to start through his catalogue with his latest record. I was expecting a brash, rough-and-tumble protest singer, but I got a sage crooner, wise and patient, leading me through twelve songs of world-weary hope and resignation with a British accent. There’s back porch here, there’s steel guitar, there’s singer-songwriter, there’s Woody Guthrie, there’s dusty roads, twilight, and open space.
9. Alex Faith – ATLast
Full disclosure: Alex is my friend, he gave us our dog, and he likes my ties. I wouldn’t know this record existed if I didn’t already know Alex. Christian hip-hop is a strange world, full of different camps, convictions, and preferences. Alex lives comfortably in that world and has walked the fine line between theology and application, substance and swagger, verse and hooks (and I hate hooks!) There’s a polite, lazy Southern hospitality in the mix and in his delivery. Check out the sick verses by Tedashii and Corey Paul on “Pull Up.”
8. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
It really is unfair to compare these guys to the Mumfordian masses of folkgrass stomp-n-clap stadium fillers. This is my lone dip into that pool, but there’s a soul and a subtlety in these songs that lifts them above their genre-aping peers. There’s more soul here than in most modern R&B, and there’s still some twang left over. The instrumentation is often restrained and thoughtful, and it knows when to respectfully bow out to let the vocals carry you through sincere expressions of loneliness, pleading, and devotion.
7. Terry Malts – Nobody Realizes
This Is Nowhere – Sometimes you need music that’s visceral and unapologetically human. You need music that is serious, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Terry Malts “Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere” is that kind of music. It’s grown up punk that’s trying not to grow up. Another TBI discovery I am thankful for.
6. Carnivores – Second Impulse
This is the carnival psychedelic surf music you hear coming from your neighbor’s garage. These Atlanta gentlemen (and lady) have drug these sounds back from the beach through layers of reverb and psychedelic haze. It’s not Southern music, and it has an uncommon breeziness you don’t hear ‘round these parts. Just a delightfully consistent, well-crafted set of skuzzy tunes.
5. Listener – Time is a Machine
Dan Smith’s talk music could have gotten a bit tired. What is a quirky, unorthodox vocal delivery could have become a pretentious spoken-word freak show. I saw him with a full band in oppressive summer heat during the last Cornerstone festival in 2011, and he had happily avoided this fate by marrying his barbaric yawp with a terrific droney sludge. And, really, droney sludge goes great with everything. If you add droney sludge to your songs, you too can be #5 on my year-end list!
Standout tracks – “Not Today” “It Will All Happen the Way It Should”
4. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
It’s hard to pin down what’s so great about this record. There’s a smoky, apathetic (yet earnest) thread that runs through every laid-back track. It’s the kind of record that can be the soundtrack for everything you do, just because it so faithfully articulates aurally what is true in reality. “Goldtone” expresses the heart of the record: “in the night when all hibernate, I stay awake, searchin’ the deep, dark depths of my soul tone…golden tones.”
3. Dustin Kensrue – The Water and the Blood
Probably one of the most punk rock things you can ever do is play unapologetically Christian music. It is entirely uncool. Even more punk rock is writing Christian music that is actually about Jesus. This is a great contribution to praise music, not in the line of Tomlin and Hillsong, but of Luther, Watts, and Cowper. Hymnody is hard, but Dustin Kensrue makes it look easy.
2. Starflyer 59 – IAMACEO
As is the case in almost everyone’s list, my #1 and #2 are a coin toss. Starflyer 59 isn’t going to put out a bad record, and this is no exception. More tight production and impeccably crafted songs. Blue collar ethics and vigor combine with a songsmith’s precision and what is certainly the best album cover of the year. Someone has described Starflyer as “defiant melancholy” and I think that’s a perfect description of the mature, resigned, but hopeful tracks on this record.
1. Bottomless Pit – Shade Perennial
I loved Silkworm, and I loved the first two Bottomless Pit records. This one retains the melodic sense of the first two BP records and the big guitars of later-era Silkworm. I don’t want to call it a return to form for these guys because this is certainly a progression from their previous records. There’s more bite in this one for sure. Some bands are somehow able to coax your emotions out of their instruments. On this record, even the feedback is enough to make you close your eyes and lean back for a bit.