Top Fifteen Albums of 2013

This list will not include anything by Kanye West.  And I went with 15 because I feel like if you go with 50… you’re just rearranging the thousands of Top 50 lists that are out there.  And while most of these albums are on everyone else’s list… a few are not.  Welcome to the original mix tape.

  • 15: Departure and Farewell by Hem
  • 14: Give In by ON AN ON
  • 13: Seasons of Your Day by Mazzy Star
  • 12: Shulamith by Poliça
  • 11: Pushin’ Against a Stone by Valerie June
  • 10: Desire Lines by Camera Obscura
  • 9: Once I Was an Eagle by Laura Marling
  • 8: Time Stays, We Go by The Veils
  • 7: Wait to Pleasure by No Joy
  • 6: If You Leave by Daughter
  • 5: Ministry of Love by io echo
  • 4: Wondrous Bughouse by Youth Lagoon
  • 3: Until the Colours Run by Laterns on the Lake
  • 2: Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  • 1: Repave by Volcano Choir

/enjoy.

Kanye Really Does Suck. (And so does rap music.)

Kanye West (the world’s most petulant child) recently claimed in his ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘first honest piece of media’ interview that “Rap is the new Rock’N’Roll, and I’m the number one rock star on the planet.”

Yeah, right…

Kanye West, excels at about two things:

  1. Name dropping in songs (and everywhere else for that matter.)
  2. Surrounding himself with brilliant producers.

He is no where near the biggest rock star on the planet, nor is he even big enough to boast a top 40 appearance in sales.  However, with the help of Jay-Z, Kanye did barely squeak into the Top 10 grossing tours a year or so ago…

Unfortunately for Kanye (and rap), only about 7 rap albums make the top 40 over the last several years; and even worse, since the beginning of time, only 4 rap albums have been the best selling albums of the year.

Kanye would also be interested to know that Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds sold more records than Kanye’s eponymous My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  (Which seriously lacks comma usage.)  He might also be surprised to know that Adele, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Mumford and Sons, and a Josh Groban Christmas album beat the piss out him in sales.

I feel horrible for his ego.  It’s so misguided he probably needs to drive a big truck to re-align it.

It seems to me that at some point, Americans (in particular) stopped being shocked at the outlandish nature of rap music.  It was all fluff and puffed out chests, and eventually… America got bored.  A few music reviewers (on the fringe) still exist to try to add legitimacy to this dying ‘art’, but for the most part, people that still enjoy rap as a valid form of music are few and far between.  Many artists have stolen heavily from past rap artists, and employ some of their techniques to create wildly successful and poignant music (see Lana Del Rey or Frank Ocean).  But in the end, people respond to music that makes them think.  They visceral nature of rap, heavy metal, punk, and several other sub-genres make them perfect to entertain the angsty youth of the world.  However, good music is still defined by quality song structure, good instrumentation, and lyrical content that makes you think or illicit a feeling inside of you.

Rap is dying.  Kanye, you can make a giant social scene and be the biggest ass the world has ever known; but you will never be a rock star.  I would let you flip a burger for me though.

And just to add insult to injury, Johnny Cash is still richer than you, and he’s dead.

Coming Clean on My Obsession with the National

I have heard that obsessions are not healthy.  I have heard that things come in phases, and I have heard that I listen to the same songs over and over to a sickening degree.  I have heard that the National are too boring, too melodramatic, too monotone, too brooding, too liberal, too too much… anything.

I have the answer.  They are.

When I dove headfirst into the National’s catalog, it became the definition of my life.  It became the visceral, the surface of my being.  Matt Berninger’s ruminating and sorrowful lyrics were not just fairy tale lands that people use to modify their emotional denominator… they were real-time headlines of my time, cleverly sewn into the fabric of my life.

I detest the fan boy image that typically follows a preoccupation of this degree.  Many people will wear the shirt, the cologne, the hat, and eat the breakfast cereal… they will stay up late watching random videos or dig and dig for leaks of new material or the random cover or the ONE time they played that ONE song at SOME place.  I am not like that.  I don’t crone over the National’s every move.  I follow them on Instagram; it’s true, and I have even liked one of their pictures.  (Little effort was required on my part; I simply clicked my mouse twice.)

I am no fan boy.  I am obsessed.  Again, it is because they report the news of my life.

Technically, the band is hardly matched.  And for those people with the brooding, monotone, melancholy argument… you can surely just fuck straight off because Matt is an absolutely pitch perfect baritone.  When John Lennon accused Paul McCartney of only singing songs about ‘silly love’; Paul aptly responded by selling over another million 7” singles of the song: Silly Love Songs.  You can just state that, “He’s not singing to you,” and move on as opposed to saying a musically retarded statement.  You probably listen to poor music (aka Nickleback) and should just (again) fuck off.  We won’t even get into their heady collaborations with some of the best musicians in the world (Sufjan Stevens, Justin Vernon, Annie Clark, etc.), but the Desner brothers (they’re the guitarists folks!) are impeccable in their song structure and composition.  They are truly rock music masters.  The Devendorf brothers are equally as good, and there could be made a strong argument that Bryan Devendorf is one of the preeminent drummers of our age.

I am no fan boy.  They are a good band.

And again, it’s because they report the news of my life.

When he croons, “I’m trying, but I’ve gone through the glass again,” I recall the time when I went through the front bay window in my house on a drunken night.  Helped ever-so-graciously by my friend Brandon.

Or, “I gave my heart to the Army, the only sentimental thing I could think of…” is a perfect explanation of the reason I joined the military.  Which is because my brother did… sentimental solidarity.

“Brother, I wish you were home, just tell me you’re not alone.  Call me back; I’m on a plane.  I think I’m somewhere over Spain.”  Verbatim.

“Fifteen blue shirts and womanly hands, just shooting up the ladder.”  Six promotions in four years and a closet full of button up blue shirts…

There are countless parallels.  Many which deal with an unhealthy year of imbibing bottles of whiskey to the most copious degree.  Perhaps it was the more-than-obvious symptom that my life was falling further and further into the American Dream that kept me well-oiled (underwater, drunk, sloshed, hammered…) and running.

And I almost scattered it all.

I haven’t spoken of or even reviewed the new album to even the slightest degree.  People ask me how it is, and I nonchalantly put skin on its immensity.  I may make the assertion that it is more ‘metal’ than Metal.  I will say things that are very buzzy like: “it’s so rich,” “it’s remarkably earthy,” “his voice is like a velvet blanket,” or “it’s so immediate.”  Truthfully, after the Walkmen’s album Heaven, I have settled the pop-music-misery.  The new album allowed me to love the National in a new way.  It allowed me to stop reading the news.

I got to appreciate the new album in an altered light: through experience and the numbness of the past.  It’s a quiet night now, and I don’t find myself lost in the haze so much.  I truly love the music, and I can hear the walk-off coming.  As we just become content with our lives as they are… we can pour the instinctual and the instantaneous out for a just a twinkling minute.  Only for a moment.

And then I find myself, in my favorite chair, face calmed by incandescent light as I read a decent book and think, “You can all just kiss off into the air…”

The Existential Blah.

For the past week or so, the song Mute by the moody Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) has been on heavy play.  In the car, in the home, in my head…  It’s been a little while since I’ve been uniquely captivated by a singular track.  It generally happens a few times a year, but I can’t really think of any since Heaven by The Walkmen was released last year.

The song is structurally brilliant and well recorded (done up, etc.); but at the end of the day, the song breathes life into a growing world of existentialist youths.  We’ve gotten past the idea that we could die at any moment, our lives aren’t dangerous, our little micro-universes of what we know consume us.  Our self importance and our image devour us, and we quickly and daily die our tiny deaths.

Everyone wants to know what it is like to die.  To find out there is nothing.  Racing toward the finish line.

/enjoy.

Veils – Time Stays, We Go

I can’t encourage you enough to walk your happy ass over to The Veils website (here) and preorder your copy of their new album today.  The album is set to release in April, and there is little doubt in my mind that this will be one of the best albums of the year.  Don’t delay, vinyl is limited…

/enjoy.