Luke’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
Luke Goddard’s “Top 13 Albums of 2013″
Lauren Mayberry has such a way with melody. Sirius XM’s Alt Nation and XMU have played songs off The Bones of What You Believe to the point that it could maybe make some nauseous. And in most cases, I’m that nauseous listener. I just hate when stuff is overplayed. Chvrches has a way of avoiding this misfortune that’s so admirable. Mayberry’s voice is addicting and perhaps that’s the group’s most lethal weapon.
Standouts: “The Mother We Share,” “Under the Tide,” “Night Sky”
Sweet Mother of Troy, I am absolutely in love with this young lady’s voice. She’s got the goods, man! Lorde is one of those acts that’ll be doing special things for a long time to come. Is Pure Heroine seriously her debut record? Most acts can’t adequately follow up such hot debuts, but I have no doubt in my mind that this girl will. She’s that good. If I told you how many times I’ve found myself listening to this record over and over throughout the day, I think I’d be embarrassed.
Standouts: “Tennis Court,” “Royals,” “Still Sane”
When Sub Pop emailed me to let me know the advance copy of The Head and The Heart’s Let’s Be Still was on the way, I anticipated that package like a real maniac. And so did everyone else here at The Blue Indian. But oddly, we all had very different opinions about the record. When a band makes such a big splash with a debut, sure, it spoils some of us. And perhaps even initially, I wasn’t so sure how good the record was. But the more I’ve sat on this one, the more I’ve realized the old cliché of “wine getting better with age”– so is the case with Let’s Be Still. They’re more mature and are singing about grown-up topics so those of us who loved them for their happy, even bouncy tunes of their debut, self-titled record needed more time to understand and love this one. But this fan has and will continue to do so for years to come.
Standouts: “Another Story,” “Shake,” “10,000 Weight in Gold”
Local Natives had me sold at Gorilla Manor, which was their debut that launched them on the scene as indie darlings. I must say– Hummingbird took some time for me to truly appreciate what they did here with their sophomore release. I’m not sure I can really pinpoint what makes this record so different than their first record, but the change is both subtle yet extremely noticeable at the same time. It weirdly falls right there for me. It may be a bit more mad, which is what drew me in initially but also left me scratching my head because I was so bent on comparing it to their first release. To truly take this one in, you can’t do that. See them as completely different records demonstrating the growth of the band as musicians and writers.
Standouts: “Heavy Feet,” “Ceilings,” “Bowery”
So Mel Washington splits from popular and successful touring indie rock band All Get Out and releases a beautiful, yet heartbreaking at times, collection of songs comprised in the 9-track record, Houses. I’ve had so much fin with this record over the past months and it’s one I come back to often. Washington’s ability vocally seems truly limitless. This is a fella who can do whatever he wants musically . . . and he knows it.
Standouts: “Whiskey Bent,” “Come Back,” “Ran Away”
Washed Out’s Paracosm certainly deserves a higher ranking in this Top 13 list, but spots 2 through 8 are so tight, I could have had the neighbor’s yard man pick them for me and I would have been satisfied. I do feel like I can be biased with Ernest’s work– he is from my home and is an old high school mate of mine, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have to waste your time demonstrating this dude’s success. He’s been a monster hit in recent years and has made this Georgia boy proud. With Paracosm, he impressed me with how he took the chillwave genre that he created and tossed it possibly just to show us all that he can’t be pinned down. Maybe still some chillwave here with this record, but he adds a whole ‘nother layer/level to the deal with all the natural string instruments. Hey E, that guitar looks good on ya.
Standouts: “It All Feels Right,” “Weightless,” “All I Know”
Austin Crane releases his sophomore release under the moniker Valley Maker. And Yes, I Know I’ve Loved this World does not disappoint. He covers tough subjects– some of which will leave people uncomfortable in their own skin, but this is where Crane establishes himself presently as one of Seattle’s (by way of South Carolina) best kept secret. I’ve told him it’s only a matter of time before someone important discovers his Valley Maker catalog and he’s instantly put on the map. I find myself going back to this record on the regular. Truly, a great one.
Standouts: “By My Side (Everlasting Life),” “The Mission,” “Take My People Dancing”
I honestly don’t see how you can have a nice set of functioning ears and not be overwhelmed by the sonic ecstasy that lies in Repave by Volcano Choir. For fans of Bon Iver, the transition to Volcano Choir is an easy one. This is one of those records where I’m honestly not sure if he’s singing words, but who cares? Words here, syllables there, whatever. It doesn’t matter. What makes Justin Vernon brilliant with both projects Bon Iver and now the Volcano Choir record Repave is how he supplements superb musicianship with beautiful gibberish. Okay, it’s not all gibberish– in fact the majority isn’t, but I swear only half of it makes good sense. Again, doesn’t matter. Listen to it– you’ll see.
Standouts: “Tiderays,” “Comrade,” “Dancepack”
I swear I will eventually succeed in convincing my wife of the brilliance that lies in The Front Bottoms’ Talon of The Hawk, more specifically frontman Brian Sella. I first discovered the group when I met them right before we said “action” on one of The Blue Indian Acoustic Alley sessions. From that moment on, I was in love. Sella has a gift for painting real, everyday-life pictures in your head with tons of unrhyming words that clumsily run into each other rather brilliantly. This album is so juvenile, but so smart. Pure genius-type stuff.
Standouts: “Au Revoir,” “Twin Size Mattress,” “Lonestar”
I promise it’s not because WoolFolk is a Macon band because in fact some of them are doing their thing in Athens, GA, but these young fellas are way ahead of the game with this debut release. It’s that plain and simple. I’ve seen far too many bands come and go . . . and go because they spend too much of their talent and time trying to impersonate their heroes. Some folks may hear the band and think it’s too similar to Fleet Foxes to appreciate. And quite honestly, the Fleet Foxes comparisons are there, but unlike the Fleet Foxes copycats out there, WoolFolk go so much further than this comparison. Seriously, the sky is the limit with these fellas. The only reason they didn’t slide into my Top 3 is because I felt obliged to give that honor to full-length records. Let it be known though that Dances with WoolFolk is the only EP in my Top 13 list. It’s stupid good.
Standouts: “Old Boy,” “Hickies,” “You’re Light”
Everyone likes a nice, feel-good story. But, when a songwriter is the main character of that story and has the ability to put the pen to paper and tell said story in song, look out. Jason Isbell’s Southeastern is basically about as autobiographical as it gets for a singer-songwriter, with the exception of a few tracks. If we did Top Tracks at The Blue Indian, Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” wins the Top Track of 2013 by a royal landslide. If you’re a human who enjoys excellent music, buy this record. But to take it a step further, if you’re a recovering addict, buy this record– you will appreciate Isbell and his courage.
Standouts: “Cover Me Up,” “Elephant,” “Traveling Alone”
Some may say that Lights & Motion’s Save Your Heart takes the cake for the epic, post-rock album of the year, but this Blue Indian disagrees . . . fervently. All The Bright Lights blew us all away with their self-titled debut record– almost to the degree that I thought they’d be that band that only regresses from that point. Actually, it’s been quite the opposite. In fact, something tells me their sophomore release The Wind & The Waves won’t even be their best, but merely a stepping stone to something even greater. You put the Duke brothers (James & Jon) and drummer Jacob Arnold in a studio and you’re not going to get mediocrity. If you’re a film director looking for that perfect song for your film, look no further. If you’re someone who enjoys listening to a record with headphones on in a coffee shop and having water fall out of your eyeballs, then buy this record. That’s what I did.
Standouts: “The Wind & The Waves,” “Versus the Dark,” “Still Beating”
Every year here at The Blue Indian, I have to turn in my Top Albums list. And every year, the number one and number two records are so close I typically have my wife pick a random number in her head. You get the point. But, I must say– this year, it wasn’t even close. And that’s not because All The Bright Lights’ record wasn’t incredible, but because Besides Daniel’s This Marvelous Grief is just that marvelous. Folks, I’m serious– it may be one of my favorite records in the last decade. It was originally released in March of 2013 as a 14 track album, but has since been released as a 7 track EP. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on there, but if you can somehow find the record that includes all 14 tracks, do it. I probably listen to this record once a week. I’ve tried putting it away to give other records my full attention; it’s not happening. It won’t be going away for a long, long time.
Standouts: “Untouched and Burning,” “In A Heartbeat,” “10,000 Beautiful Angels”