Wrapping Up 2013 With Favorite Album Picks from TBJ’s Friends, New and Old

TBJ2013

There have been a multitude of lists out since the start of the month, hell, even before December began. There’s usually a ranking and a boatload of opinions involved in such lists. We thought a nice alternative would be to round up friends, new and old, and gather their picks of the year. This group includes venue staff, writers, musicians, producers, record label heads, artists, and promotion people. The aim was to get one favorite album from each person, but some people felt limited with just one choice, so they gave us more than one. Without further ado, in no particular order…

Lio Kanine (Co-founder, Kanine Records) – First I would have to say that my #1 favorite album of 2013 was and is all of the records that we have released under Kanine Records. The reason being is that I look at records / albums as a documented piece of time. I’m a huge history buff and have always loved history class and books in school. So that is part of the reason that I love collecting records. They are like a piece of history. And to be able to collect a piece of history that is happening in your own time is one of the coolest things ever. So each of the releases that we put out under our own label, Kanine Records, tells its own story of what happened that year that I was around. [Listen to the label’s releases here and buy them here.]

Pick #2. Joanna Gruesome, Weird SisterThey blew me away at CMJ this year more than another other new band that I haven’t seen before. Their songs never get old and you can listen to this album over and over again and it still maintains its youthfulness. Its just super fun and I simply just love it. And each time I listen to it, it reminds me of how great CMJ was this year for me. It was by far my favorite CMJ from the past 13 years that I’ve been in New York. And this band helped make it part of that.

Pick #3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, IISimply catchy and great. You can hum along to this album even if you don’t know the lyrics. Its got elements of ’60s greats and ’90s indie cult classics, all mixed into one. This is truly an album that can last the testament of time.

Pick #4. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold: “I walking in Ridgewood, Queens so Stoned and Starving, flipping through magazines, reading ingredients.” That line is so New York that you know it will be a major part of history. I’m stoked to have this original vinyl in my record collection. I repeat this line over and over again to all of my friends. It has become a tagline for us and that is when you know that it truly is a great song.

Pick  #5. Rodriquez (reissues): These re-issues have become a huge bonding point for me and my Pops. We both never knew that this guy existed and after they came out, we both watched the movie together and bonded over Imperial Stouts and his songs. And if it wasn’t for him making such great songs, that would of never been possible.

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Jett Wells (U.S. Trade Marketing Manager, Believe Digital) – Jai Paul demos or Jai Paul by Jai Paul: This release has so many sketchy things around it. Was it really stolen and leaked by a mysterious pirate, or did Jai Paul release it himself to get back at XL Recordings? Either way, it’s obviously an unfinished product but has the most innovative sounds in 2013 easily. The man is just gifted and created something  original. While a lot of artists remind us another band, Jai Paul can’t be mistaken for anyone else. No doubt his media silence and mystery helps his mystique as a musician, but his talent demands respect on its own right. If this album were mastered correctly, people would be talking about Jai Paul as one of the best up and coming producers. Unfortunately, nobody really knows if he takes his music that seriously…

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Alex Duke a k a Wizard Skull (Bushwick, Brooklyn artist) – Devendra Banhart, Mala: I think this is the only album released in 2013 that I listened to, so even by default it would have to be my favorite album from 2013, though I prefer his earlier albums over this one, it’s still a good listen.

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Olivia LaRoche (Co-host of the Noise Pop Podcast on KQED.org) – My pick for best record of 2013 is a tough call. It’s really between Rhye, Disclosure, Savages and Tegan and Sara. Each of their records brought something completely new to the table this year. However, since I have to pick, I’m going to go with Rhye’s WomanIt’s just such a beautifully intimate and soulful record. It’s able to be sexual without being exploitative, which I think is hard to find in R&B and pop music especially. Milosh’s vocals add both vulnerability and power to each track that makes what could have been a decent, low-key record a really gorgeous record, instead.

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Jacob Moyers (Talent Buyer, Cameo) – Brazos, Saltwater: Brazos is the solo recording project of Brooklyn via Texas man, Martin Crane, who bestowed this masterfully crafted gem to us in May through Dead Oceans. Martin and crew boast one of the best live sets in Brooklyn at the moment. Definitely worth keeping an eye on these guys. Psychic Twin, Strangers 7′: I’m a sucker for minimal ’80s beats and lush vocal arrangements. Add a few synths and you’ve got a simple recipes for a good pop music. Erin Fein makes this look easy with her second single and first release on Polyvinyl Records. Blue Hawaii, Untogether: The Braids side-project simply nailed it with their Arbutus Records debut release. Singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s voice is chilling and backed by a tasteful blend of organic and electronic pieces I don’t think you can ask for anything more. Fort Romeau, Jetee / Desire: A Dark and Moody single released by London-based producer Mike Greene a k a Fort Romeau fits perfectly among Ghostly’s catalog. I can’t wait to bring this guy to NYC.

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Melanie Gabor (Founder, Wolf Teeth Music) – If ever there was an album worthy of being named “Album Of The Year” for two straight years, it would be Port St. Willow’s Holiday. Nick Principe self-released the album in the summer of 2012 to widespread critical acclaim, prompting Downtown Records to sign him, giving the album a well-deserved re-release in early 2013. The album was created in such a way that it almost demands to be listened to in its entirety each time, with each song flowing seamlessly into the next. Filled with flawlessly airy vocals, hypnotic drum patterns, and incredible lyrical depth and ambiguity, Port St. Willow’s Holiday has set an impossibly high standard for all other releases and it’s far and away my favorite release of the past several years.

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Joe Steinhardt (Founder, Don Giovanni Records | Musician, Modern Hut) – Dudes, Greatest Hits: After I had already turned in my best of 2013 list, I heard what has become my favorite demo of 2013 and a band I am greatly anticipating new material from in 2014: Dudes. Dudes are from Washington, D.C., and they put on both an incredible live show, and also made a hell of a demo. They kinda remind me of a mix of one of my favorite unsung New Jersey bands, Rubber Molding, mixed with The Fall. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

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Max Goransson (Musician, Clouder / Quiet Loudly /Black Salad)Public Speaking, Blanton Ravine: Public Speaking is Jason Anthony Harris, easily one of the most criminally unknown musicians in NYC.  While some fair reference points could be found in the likes of Arthur Russell, Talk Talk, City Center, and Radiohead (at their most experimental), Jason Anthony Harris’ sound is very much uniquely his own.  Throughout Blanton Ravine, horns, strings, field recordings, backwards samples, and auxiliary hand percussion of all conceivable forms snake their way in and out of the sonic landscape, helping create a dark, sad, mysterious piece that is beautifully haunting and impossibly crammed with brilliant ideas.

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Gregg Foreman (Musician, Cat Power / Pink Mountaintops) – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away: This is an easy choice, Nick Cave brings us something real and something somewhat dangerous, where modern music has been lacking a combination of the two. Push the Sky Away is dark, yet dreamlike in its fluid delivery. Also one of the best live shows and perhaps his best LP since 1994’s Let Love In. Nick Cave, in the end, provides what I love in a great record: the storyteller, the backdrop and the sonic layers of atmosphere to propel the former…

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Kevin Diamond (Musician, Shark?) – Darlings, Perfect Trip: I had a lot of favorite records this year, but it was really great to listen to this album by our friends Darlings and hear how far this band has come. The first show we ever played was with Darlings, and they also played our record release show this year. One of the reasons I like living in Brooklyn is that the people around you keep challenging you to one-up yourself, and that’s no more clear than on this slab of perfectly executed feedback-n-sugar pop songs. Highlights: “Extras Talk To Extras,” “Senate,” and “Little Video.”

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Devon Maloney (Writer, Wired, Pitchfork, The Village Voice, Nylon, Rookie, Grantland) – My favorite album of the year is unquestionably Haim’s Days Are Gone. I say unquestionably because it wasn’t a choice that I made intellectually or “objectively,” as a critic or someone who listens to and likes a lot of music–it was the first and only record I put on this year that elicited that incredibly rare, feel-it-in-your-bones joy. There was very little “growing” to do with Days Are Gone (instrumentally at least) and it wasn’t an album that began to let you down over time, either. Discovering (and subsequently talking about nothing but) Haim was a really pure, organic, and immediate experience for me, very much like how I fell in love with music (pop stars, mostly) before there were social or professional strings attached to the process.

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Tommy Siegel (Musician, Jukebox The GhostDrunken Sufis | Co-founder, Bad Friend Records) – Pretty and Nice, Golden Rules for Golden People: Frantic, brilliant pop songwriting.  Full of odd twists and turns, great hooks, and clever dual-guitar interplay like an encapsulation of the best parts of early XTC.  Other favorites: Buke and Gase, Marnie Stern, Adam Green and Binki Shapiro, Tereu Tereu, Parquet Courts, Norwegian Arms, Yellowbirds, Bad News From Houston, and Celestial Shore.

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Jesse Lauter (Music Producer) – Superhuman Happiness, Hands: The record people will hear five years down the line and wonder why they missed this masterpiece. This album is brought to you by Stuart Bogie (Antibalas) and his merry band of funky pranksters.

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Emmy Black (A&R, Bar/None Records)The Front Bottoms, Talon of the Hawk: Rarely, a band comes around that makes you feel understood. The Front Bottoms are that band, they speak directly to your emotions. Talon of the Hawk takes you on a fantastic roller coaster ride that goes beyond music and that is why Talon is my number one album of 2013.

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Claire Suellentrop (Founder, Eat Well. Party Hard) – Two main favorites. Buke and Gase, General Dome: Stylistically, Buke and Gase’s mix of cold, nearly-post punk instrumental snarl and warm, foot-tap-inspiring vocals captivated my attention early on in the year, then held it for months following. And emotionally, this record symbolizes forging ahead on one’s own path, disconcerting though it may be to branch out from routine and take on new roles + responsibilities, all of which took place for me personally during the promotion process of the album. Bibio, Silver WilkinsonOne review sums up this album as “an all-inclusive, welcoming sound that puts a wide range of potential conflicts of interests…into the same frame, providing pleasant surprises and never making a huge deal about how diverse it [is].” The collage effect, and its overall lightweightedness (not a real word), is exactly what hooked me on it. Hip-hop instrumentals, floating British folk, hints of psychedelic funk all weave together, yet Bibio somehow manages to keep listeners’ heads from spinning. “You” and “A Tout A L’Heure,” in particular, are gems.

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Karl Meyers (Co-owner, Main Drag Music) – Main Drag Music’s guitar repair department says John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts was their favorite album of the year.

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Jose Gonzales (Fulfillment Coordinator, Insound) – One of my favorite records of 2013 was Date Palms, Dusted Sessions. I loved this album because it makes you feel small but not in an insignificant way…in a cosmic way, where you realize you are part of something bigger than yourself. The music combines psych elements, country elements  and ambient elements that slowly take you on an aural journey. It’s the soundtrack to cool starry nights alone or with a loved one.

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Michael Marotta (Writer / Publisher, Vanyaland | Founder, Vanya Records | Social Media Director, Boston Calling Music Festival) – Suede, Bloodsports: Eleven years since Suede’s last record, and 14 since their last tolerable one, Britpop’s unofficial kickstarters unleashed a monster return to form what most fans gave up wishing for long, long ago. They may not have earned any new admirers here on Bloodsports, but by crafting a whip-sharp record that falls somewhere between ’90s classics Dog Man Star andComing Up, Suede reaffirmed their place as one of the most vital British rock bands of all time. It didn’t hurt that they finally gave their long-suffering fans something to be proud of.

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Katie Chow (Writer, BlackBook Magazine, American Songwriter, Prefix, The WILD Magazine) – Lea Lea, Lea Lea: There’s a new London diva on a mission, and her name is Lea Lea. The rising star uses her voice to take on global injustice, and those slinky, bass-heavy beats should be filling dance floors everywhere. Few new artists feel so fully-formed straightaway, and Lea Lea’s bright-eyed outlook and unique style should take her far.

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Travis Johnson (Musician, Grooms | Pedal Maker, Death By Audio) – Julia Holter, Loud City Song: Barely beating out Forest Swords, but beating him out just the same, this is THE record from this year that points my brain in directions that feel exciting, beautiful, strange, and sometimes dangerous. It’s not overtly spooky or noisy or anything like that, but there’s a subtle strain of unease, no matter how pretty it gets. It also just has my favorite songs of the year, “Horns Surrounding Me” and “He’s Running through My Eyes.”

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Kodi McKinney (Metal Promoter, The Syndicate) – NOTE: I promote metal records to radio with The Syndicate and write for MetalInsider.net, so I’m used to getting asked for my opinions on top metal albums of the year.  But I also love a LOT of stuff that doesn’t fall under that category, and I gotta admit, this was one of the strongest years I’ve seen in a while for artists making fresh debuts or just starting to hit their stride.  So, let’s talk about that! Beastmilk – ClimaxI’ve always liked Joy Division well enough, but I never thought my two favorite indie records from this year would owe them such a huge debt. Yet while Savages has their sneakiness and some of their sparseness, Beastmilk has their drama and their paranoia, but blown out to another level.  This Finnish band is heavily grounded in post-punk, but elements of goth, noisier shoegaze and even a few guitar tricks from black metal add this whole extra propulsiveness that I always secretly wanted from bands like this while still being perfectly hooky. There’s a line vocalist Kvohst sings in “Genocidal Crush” – “I’ll be the devil and you’ll be the details” – that sounds ridiculous on paper, but in context works perfectly and nails Beastmilk’s darkly seductive designs. In Beastmilk’s world, love and the apocalypse are intertwined, and it’s anyone’s guess as to which one leads to the other. Look past the peculiar name and prepare to be blown away. Other favorites artists whose albums I loved this year: Savages, Mikal Cronin, Daft Punk, Ty Seagall, Of Montreal, Pissed Jeans, Hunx and His Punx, Arctic Monkeys, and Heliotropes.

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Alan Yaspan (Marketing and Social Media Manager, Glasslands) – The 77-minute run time of the Wayne Shorter Quartet’s Without A Net feels paradoxically streamlined, mainly because it’s so well-balanced, with moments of baffling synchronicity between its performers. It’s actually a live compilation, rooted in modern be-bop with moments of uninhibited free improvisation to break up the lead sheets. The octogenarian Shorter sets the reckless tone on the tenor sax, but pianist Danilo Perez also stands out with an idiosyncratically frenetic style. I hope I’m not trolling by submitting a jazz album, but y’all already know who the champ popsters of 2013 were (in case you don’t, they were Austra, Earl Sweatshirt, Blood Orange, Janelle Monae, Death Grips, Infinity Shred, and Children of Bodom).

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Shervin Lainez (Musician Photographer) – My favorite record of the year is Ripely Pine by Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. It’s a strong, poetic swooping record with amazing arrangements and the kind of vocal delivery that makes you instantly emotional.

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Cheers to 2014!

xo

TBJ

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