Read about the top 10 albums of 2013 according to Sound in the Static. Which album gave us just the right amount of impending doom, made us believe in beauty again and who led us down a path of satisfying violence? SnS's Includes Speedy Ortiz, Thee Oh Sees, Andrew Bird and more.
1. Speedy Ortiz / Major Arcana
It seems like Sadie Dupuis is channeling some of the greatest women in punk rock who have since been turned into indie goddesses. I'm talking of course about the great Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk). 'Major Arcana' would have fit nicely next to the great albums of the late 1990's to the early 2000's, but fits just as well as a fresh take on modern lady rock.
Songs like "Tiger Tank" and "Cash Cab" aren't afraid to be a little gritty while "No Below" shows off a pretty and raw mix. In "Gary," Dupuis's honesty comes to life as she reminisces on her experience at a summer camp where she actually formed Speedy Ortiz. She sings, "once you've sat with kids, it's so hard to leave the table before the kids full-grown."
Raw talent, honest melodies and real lyrics are what make Speedy Ortiz a band to watch and my favorite album of the year.
2. Baths / Obsidian
You don't just walk away from this album, you melt through the layers of time, regret and existential questioning that Baths brings to this album. Every song asks the questions you'd never speak aloud. "Where is God when you hate him most, when the mouths in the earth come to bite at my robes?"
'Obsidian' reveals the eternal darkness within every time. Traveling from "Victorian doorways" in "Ironworks" to the ancient and primal beats of "Earth Death," there is no corner where the constant cycle of destruction and death can't touch. "Myself can not get out of being pulled into the earth."
The album ends with "Inter" a lilting, haunting piece. It comes as an acceptance into the continuous cycle of life and a release from the beautiful and inescapable darkness that is 'Obsidian.'
3. Thee Oh Sees / Floating Coffin
There is nothing more badass than heavy guitars, deafening percussion and thoughtful melodies. For anyone who's seen the "Toe Cutter - Thumb Buster" video, Thee Oh Sees enjoy a little bit of casual, merciless violence. 'Floating Coffin' has showcased their love for violent sound and solidified their identity.
There's always a little bit of calloused disgust in their lyrics. In "I Come From the Mountain," it begins as a simple story describing the difference between girls and boys. But leaves you unsettled, "flipping out our insides, what a fright."
Thee Oh Sees have come a very long way––they started in 1997 as Orinoka Crash Suite. 'Floating Coffin' is a confident album that says Thee Oh Sees are just getting started.
4. Jai Paul / Jai Paul
"It's been leaked," a friend of mine said the day Jai Paul's "album" seeped through the cracks of the internet. I had first heard of Jai Paul from a monthly playlist from Birp! quite a while back with his demo of "BTSTU." I had that song on repeat for months, and then I forgot about it and then once I found it again, it was on repeat for another month.
There's a worldly feel about Jai Paul's music, mixing Middle Eastern musicality with a few modern media references, you start to get a feel for what kind of person is behind Jai Paul. I dare you to find the sample of Ron from Harry Potter in "Jewel." Jai Paul's songs have a way of enjoyably getting caught in your head for days, and then you'll stumble upon the source of his samples giving his music an oddly familiar sound. I'm still not sure where "Raw" comes from, let me know if you do.
5. Darkside / Psychic
'Psychic' is a true piece of art. The layering of sounds mimics a textile artist at a loom. The progression of the album imitates a skillfully crafted film. The rhythms slowly build on themselves until a modern cathedral is created.
The fluctuating lengths of each song give the allusion that the album is one continuous song, a feat hardly well done today. Darkside has an intimate dance party vibe. They're the kind of music you'd put on at a small after-after-party or driving through the night aimlessly. "Paper Trails" is arguably the most accessible track, jumping right into the irrefutable beat. But there are plenty of hidden gems strewn throughout the album.
"Hearts" and "The Only Shrine I've Seen" are instant favorites separated by delicate pieces like "Sitra." As their debut album, 'Psychic' is sure to pull Darkside through a long, mature career.
6. Andrew Bird / I Want to See Pulaski at Night
Andrew Bird creates fantastical music that lets the listener travel to worlds they didn't know existed. 'I Want to See Pulaski at Night' borrows from long-dead classical masterminds and regular folk alike. The carefully crafted melodies and use of chords bridge the gap between brilliance and pedestrian. "Ethio Invention No. 1" offers it's service to foreign leaders brainstorming peace actions while "Lit from Underneath" gives solace to lonely Chicago city walkers hoping to escape to the backwoods.
'I Want to See Pulaski at Night' has a perfectly minimalistic attitude. Andrew Bird only uses what is needed and leaves us feeling as if nothing was missed. "Logan's Loop" creates a culture all it's own. An Americana feel paired with Asian string accents creates a sense that this music was here from the beginning. And it's giving us a second chance in "Pulaski at Night."
7. Parquet Courts / Light Up Gold + Tally All The Things That You Broke
Parquet Courts is bringing back the original garage-rock band. They call themselves "Americana punk" but I think that really just means they like to get into, get into it fast and move on. Their songs are at an average of two minutes, but those two minutes are jam packed with energy.
One of their longer songs "The More It Works" could be an anthem for pretty much any product you want to tack the lyrics "the more you use it, the more it works." That can be said about most of the songs by Parquet Courts. You can apply them to most situations, and make it what you want. These songs are good for driving, breaking up with someone, getting to know someone, partying or "Falling On Yr Face."
8. Vampire Weekend / Modern Vampires of the City
There's been a ton of hype around this album this year. And while I don't disagree with them the genius behind this album, I'm not sure it's exceedingly better than Vampire Weekend's earlier albums. What I Love about Vampire Weekend is the intelligence in every single second of their music. All their references even need a dictionary (Spin has an entire Vampire Weekipedia). But what makes 'Modern Vampires of the City' so fantastic is the darker, self-awareness seen in the sometimes morbid lyrics sung by gentle and perfectly crafted vocals.
But regardless of the brilliant Ezra Koenig's Columbia education, hilarious open letters to pop stars and reviews of hip-hop albums, Vampire Weekend is still just good music. One of my favorite songs, "Step" sticks with their Victorian sounding keyboard and gentle vocal coos.
9. Ty Segall / Sleeper
I talked to Ty Segall last year when he was in my town for a small concert, and I was shocked to find out that he was incredibly kind and normal. 'Sleeper' strays a bit away from the face-melting earlier records like 'Goodbye Bread' but replaces that with an organic and real feel.
There's a folk streak that runs through Sleeper, grounding Ty Segall a bit. It's not as angry as 'Slaughterhouse' was but it's just as dark and complex as his harder-core material. Reflection, skill and restraint are shown in this album. "She Don't Care About You" is an exemplary song for these newly instilled values. While this album might make the head-bangers a little disappointed, I really can't wait to see this direction develop for Ty Segall.
10. Chelsea Wolfe / Pain is Beauty
If you haven't heard of Chelsea Wolfe, now is the time. Not only is she stunningly gorgeous but she's incredibly unique. I've never heard anything like her music before. Labeled as 'drone-metal-art-folk,' Chelsea Wolfe is one of a kind. I interviewed her for an article earlier this year over at TYCI and on top of her eloquence, she's strikingly honest. She told me that she ponders death a lot, especially since she hasn't had much experience with it. She's not pretending, and it shows in her music.
"We Hit a Wall" begins with Wolfe's hauntingly powerful voice paired with an inventive and strong bass line. This album features viola player Ezra Buchla, and violin player, Andrea Calderon, first introduced in "House of Metal." The real instruments balance out the use of electronic sounds and create a complete and full sound. 'Pain is Beauty' is rich, deep and different––something that will resonate long after the record has stopped playing.