Well folks, here we are again looking back on another year gone by. Fresh out of the frost, here’s the list of albums that received the most play around these parts in 2013. You’ll also find a mix containing some of our favorite songs from 2013 at the bottom.
The Entrance Band – Face The Sun
Four years on from the release of their previous full-length, LA psych juggernauts The Entrance Band returned with an album built upon the personal struggles and spiritual transformations experienced by all three band members during the extended period of gestation. Balancing both sides of the journey toward the light, Face the Sun finds The Entrance Band in a more transcendent, melodic space while maintaining a hauntingly beautiful darkness in its undercurrent. Songs like “The Crave” and “Year of the Dragon” depict the introspective journey through the tunnel of addiction and sorrow, while “Fine Flow” and “Fire Eyes” channel a more cosmic side with the interplay between guitarist Guy Blakeslee and bassist Paz Lenchantin at near subliminal levels. A journey to the depths of the darkness can be known to strip away the heart and soul of a band, but in the case of Face the Sun it seems as though the members have returned to the surface with a brighter and more inspired outlook than ever before.
(originally published in Relix Magazine)
White Fence – Cyclops Reap
Once again, in 2013, the ever-prolific Tim Presley released an album loaded with lo fi, garage-rock nuggets that sound like they could have been released over 40 years ago. Recorded during a 4 ½ year span and largely inspired by the loss of his father, Cyclops Reap strips away some of Presley’s trademark punk murk, making way for a more spacious, folk-inspired sound. Surely one of the finest to come out of the White Fence cannon.
Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
These two young California sons managed to meld the ideas they’d been crafting while separately away at college into a beautiful piece of ‘60s inspired paisley psych-pop. As history often shows, combine two unique songwriters, especially one who possesses a highly volatile personality, and magic is bound to happen. However, tragedy and conflict are often bound to follow.
Endless Boogie – Long Island
There aren’t too many bands that still embody the old New York spirit the way Endless Boogie has for the past decade. Long Island, the band’s third proper release for No Quarter, unapologetically churns and tunnels its way through the group’s signature, riff-caked groove, tugging at their namesake for 80 minutes of stoned-out bliss. You either love ‘em or you don’t. They certainly don’t give a shit.
Steve Gunn – Time Off
For nearly 15 years, New York-based guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn has existed on the periphery of the contemporary avant-folk scene, acting as a solo artist and touring member in Kurt Vile’s Violators, as well as one-half of the Gunn-Truscinki Duo. But on Time Off, Gunn’s immense talent comes into full view as he leads a trio of old pals through a series of six extended folk journeys that touch on everything from Pentangle to Fahey to Indian Ragas to the Grateful Dead. Gunn’s soft, slightly haggard voice is showcased on songs like the heady acoustic jam “Lurker,” while the guitar interplay on “New Decline” would have Bert Jansch and John Renbourne singing praises. The title, Time Off, perhaps is not so much a suggestion that these songs were recorded during a particular downtime, but rather a nod to the music’s timelessness—where time can simply be switched off leaving music as the only dimension in which events may take place.
(originally published in Relix Magazine)
Wooden Shjips – Back To Land
For Back to Land, the new album by West Coast Psych amblers Wooden Shjips, leadmen Ripley Johnson and Omar Ahsanuddin packed up and moved to Oregon to record their first set of tracks outside of the Bay Area. With the lush climate and natural surroundings inspiring their musical direction, the pair tapped into a more grounded, organic sound without diverting the course of their modernist space-psych core. Throughout each the album’s eight tracks, a distinctly brighter flag flies atop the Shjip, as melodies step out into the forefront, washing away much of the sledge-y murk that cloud their previous recordings.
(originally published in Relix Magazine)
Night Beats – Sonic Bloom
Recorded in a Tacoma, WA warehouse, Sonic Bloom album perfectly captures the Beats at their drugged-fueled, raved-up best.
Ty Segall– Sleeper
California’s garage rock son turns in his electric and fuzz pedals for a simple acoustic on the emotionally-charged, introspective Sleeper LP. Recorded following the loss of his father, Sleeper showcases the unadulterated beauty of Segall’s knack for melodious songwriting.
Kevin Morby – Harlem River
Harlem River is the debut solo album from Woods bassist/Babies guitarist Kevin Morby. Aided by a stellar cast of backing musicians, along with the help of Rob Barbato’s (Darker My Love) impressive production work, Morby delivers an intimate collection of songs that touch on the loneliness, addiction and hardships of a touring musician. Having joined Woods before he was legally allowed to drink in bars, Morby’s tale rings with the wisdom and experience of a man who’s spent the better part of his life on the road.
Fuzz – S/T
For the past several years, Ty Segall has largely existed as a solo artist. But with Fuzz, his latest project formed together with high school friend and Ty Segall Band guitarist Charles Moothart, it seems the lone wolf has finally found a pack in which to roam. Heavy psych of the highest order.
Greetings friends and fellow travelers. As the year comes to a close, we find ourselves looking back on all the great music that came out of 2012. This year offered much hope for the future, including the emergence of folk singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt; Swedish music collective GOAT; Southern England’s Beaulieu Porch; and new Brooklyn based label Beyond Beyond is Beyond, who brought us the debut album from Prince Rupert’s Drops. This was another exceptional year for new releases and we’re psyched to present to you our picks for the best albums of 2012. Tell us about your favorite albums of 2012 in the comments section below.
The following is a list of albums that we found to be particularly engaging this year.
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient [Secretly Canadian]
After The War on Drugs released their debut LP, Wagonwheel Blues, in 2008, lead Druggie Adam Granduciel retired to his Philly home to experiment with samples and recording techniques. Several years later, that process spawned Slave Ambient, which combines a distinctive blend of psychedelic Americana guitar rock with celestial ambient textures that flow throughout the album in a droning undercurrent. While many bands have struggled to bring their experimental side into the studio setting, The Drugs have done exactly that with Slave Ambient. On tracks like the sprawling ambient outro “The Animator,” this experimental side comes into full view and hints at the complexity involved in the sonic layering within these songs.
“Come To The City”
Woods – Sun & Shade [Woodsist]
With each new release, Woods continue to evolve and impress. As with 2009′s Songs of Shame and 2010′s At Echo Lake, the group continues their trajectory toward a more song-oriented approach on their sixth LP, while still encompassing their creep side through extended jams like the nod to Neu!’s Hallogallo, “Out of the Eye” and spiritual sound quests like “Sol y Sombra.” Lead singer Jeremy Earl’s falsetto tone sounds slightly more polished, however, his Shagg’s style guitar work is still delectably off-kilter. This release shows major step in the group’s songwriting abilities, with many of the songs ranking alongside their best.
“Any Other Day”
Pure X – Pleasure [Acephale]
The debut full length release from Austin’s Pure X has made a profound effect on me throughout the year. You know how, sometimes, upon first hearing an album, it forever reminds you of that period of time? Well, for me, that’s the case with this one and last Winter. I played it endlessly and with each listen I discovered something new. Every one of the stoned-out songs is a sprawling trip through through mimimalist, seemingly-nonexistent melodies that thrive on the textured reverb-drenched squalls of sound as well as singer Nate Grace’s nuanced vocal approach. It’s a listening experience that requires headphones and a ready mind.
Real Estate – Days [Domino]
On Real Estate’s sophomore LP, the New Jersey suburbanites move past the lo fi surf pop heard on their debut, into a territory that is decidedly their own. The combination of dueling guitars blend together like those of Verlaine and Lloyd on many songs like “Easy” and “Green Aisles,” while others show lead singer Martin Courtney’s progression as a songwriter highly capable of evoking images from one’s adolescent years. It’s an album everyone can like, and based on it’s recent success, it seems that most people do.
Quilt – S/T [Mexican Summer]
The debut LP from Boston’s Quilt is a recent discovery that quickly made its mark on my list of favorites. The group dabbles in a wide range of sounds that channel everyone from the Airplane to The Incredible String Band and other west coast 60s psych acts to Raga to British folk influences like The Pentangle and many others. Songs “Rabid Love” and “The Silver Stairs of Ketchikan” even recall a less eerie Woods, taking on a similar minimalist freak folk approach led by the choir-like vocals of Anna Fox Rochinski. The album, produced and engineered by Apollo Sunshine’s Jesse Gallagher, is the result of a series of extended experimental jams and free form songwriting. Many of the songs take on mantra-like form, with repetitive chants and Eastern melodies that guide the listener through dreamy, transcendent sound quests.
“Cowboys In The Void”
White Denim – D [Downtown]
On D, White Denim moves in a more progressive direction. The album’s complex arrangements and near-perfect vocal harmonies showcase the group’s impressive chops and their continually evolving songwriting approach. While D is certainly White Denim’s best effort to date, it only begins to hint at the potential they can still reach.
Gillian Welch – Harrow & The Harvest [Acony]
Gillian Welch and David Rawling’s highly anticipated new release finally made its way to our ears this year, proving that the wait was all worth while. The songs hearken back to a past time, keeping alive a style of music that has seemingly packed up and gone, while still sounding fresh and current.
“The Way It Goes”
Woodsman – Mystic Places [Fire Talk]
On Mystic Places (the only EP to make this list), Woodsman successfully capture their more experimental side with a series of organic, mostly instrumental, tunes that travel through loop-heavy drones and propulsive zoned-out drum beats. Combine all of that with VHS-ripped vocal segments and the group’s nack for kraut-inspired improv and you have one of the finest psych-rock releases of the year.
Twerps – S/T [Underwater Peoples]
The debut full-length release from Melbourne, Austrailia’s Twerps is a welcome extension to the wave of jangly, surf pop flooding onto the scene in recent years. Separating themselves from the pack with the raw, matter-of-fact lead vocals of frontman Marty Frawley, the group channels 80s Flying Nun artists like the Clean, while also nodding to 90s lo fi acts. It’s as though punk sensibilities have combined with those of the pop world to help this seemingly tossed-off effort sound so cohesive and compelling. Most of the album’s warm pop numbers are driven by treble-heavy, Tom Verlaine style guitar riffs and simple, catchy hooks (“Dreaming,” “This Guy,”), while others (“Bring Me Down”) strip all of that away, exposing a far more melancholic side of Twerps’ sound. Both sides come together with the anthemic final track “Coast to Coast,” where Frawley proclaims “The sun’s in my eye, and I’ve never felt so high,” a fair declaration to close out one of 2011’s finest efforts.
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo [Matador]
Smoke Ring for My Halo is Kurt Vile’s fourth and finest LP to date. On this one, the Philadelphia-native steps into a more polished zone, continuing to build upon his unique mix of twangy finger-picked ballads and fuzz-heavy guitar rock anthems.
Yellowbirds – The Color [Royal Potato Family]
The debut solo release from Apollo Sunshine’s Sam Cohen is a highly impressive effort from start to finish. Over the course of 11 tracks, Cohen guides us through a calming psychedelic journey that begins with the very first note of “The Rest of My Life.” Much of the album evokes a throwback 60′s psych sound, but with the addition of an arsenal of effects and an auto-harp, a fresh wave rushes through each song. Cohen’s approach to his solos shines a light on his Berkelee schooling, setting him in place among the top guitarists on the scene today.
“Our Good Days Are Gone”
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges [Constellation]
New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is the second solo album from Montreal-based saxophone virtuoso Colin Stetson. Using mainly his saxophone, and recording many of the tracks live, Stetson builds lush soundscapes that recall the likes of nothing you’ve ever heard before. While many adventures of this type often come off as failed, free-form sonic experiments, New History is compelling and highly musical throughout.
Sun Araw – Ancient Romans [Drag City / Sun Ark]
Sun Araw’s double LP Ancient Romans, is probably the most accessible grouping of songs in the Los Angeles artist’s cannon. This one isn’t for everyone, but if you can wrap your head around the odd times and complex sound textures that guide this adventure, then you may discover the true genius behind the loop master’s art. Another one that rarely left the vicinity of my turntable this year.
Amen Dunes – Through Donkey Jaw [Sacred Bones]
Through Donkey Jaw is the second full-length release from Damon McMahon’s Amen Dunes project. Meditative, hazy guitar lines and McMahon’s floaty vocals guide the songs through minimalist psych excursions. A highly transcendent listening experience.
Megafaun – S/T [Hometapes]
The fourth full length from Durham, NC’s Megafaun, largely explores the more rugged, American side of the their rural sound. While the self-titled album is largely accessible, it also leans toward their experimental side with tracks like “These Words” and “Serene Return.” One of the year’s most stunningly beautiful releases.
Peaking Lights – 936 [Not Not Fun]
Madison, Wisconsin’s Peaking Lights are a married couple who’s music sounds like Tom Tom Club on a boatload of acid. Infusing dub-style grooves with psychy sounds and effects, 936 is, simply put, a danceable astral adventure.
“All The Sun That Shines”
Tinariwen – Tasilli [Anti-]
Recorded in a remote section of the South Eastern Algerian desert, Tassili, Tinariwen’s fifth studio release, sets a different course than previous efforts. On the long player, the group strips down their sound—trading Stratocasters for acoustics, employing the use of un-amplified percussion—and, for the first time, invites a few notable outsiders to appear. Guests include Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, who ventured to the desert to record with the band, in addition to Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Returning to the their beginnings, Tassili recreates the origins of Tinariwen’s music—acoustic songs performed by an open fire, much like the refugee camps where they originated.
“Tenere Taqqim Tossam”
Panda Bear – Tomboy [Paw Tracks]
Four years after the release of the Noah Lennox’s groundbreaking album Person Pitch, came the release of the more conventional and structured effort Tomboy. Lennox continues to churn out blissful psychedelia with modern Brian Wilson-style vocal harmonies, although in a more simplistic fashion that shows a progression in his approach to sampling and looping techniques. Deserving of many listens.
Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread [Drag City]
On Goodbye Bread, Ty Segall steps into the singer-songwriter shoes with an album full of Lennon-esque vocals and crashing, fuzzed-out guitar riffs. Another great guitar-rock album from 2011.
“I Can’t Feel It”
Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream [In the Red]
At this point I’m pretty tired of writing about albums, but this one happens to be my favorite garage rock album, in a large sea of them, to come out of 2011. Let’s leave it at that.
Best New Release From The Past:
The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions
Best Live Releases:
Miles Davis – The Bootleg Series, Volume 1: Live in Europe 1967
Grateful Dead – Europe 72 Vol. II
Phish – Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97
Frank Zappa – Live at Carnegie Hall
The Paperhead – S/T
Middle Brother – S/T
The Barr Brothers – S/T [featured on last year's list]
The Feelies – Here Before
Wilco – The Whole Love
Bonnie Prince Billy – Wolfroy Goes To Town
MV & EE – Country Stash
Bon Iver – S/T
Beyondo – Free The Twin
Ducktails – Aracade Dynamics III
Stephen Malkmus- Mirror Traffic
Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
Julian Lynch – Terra
Rangers – Pan Am Stories
Wooden Shjips – West