Sunday, December 29, 2013

Aaron's 2013 Year End List

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Never been one for arbitrary numbers. Nor ranking one album above another. Instead, this list reflects the albums I enjoyed the most this year, metal and non. Maybe some of your favorites are here also, or maybe I can turn you on to a few you were not aware of. Either way here it is:


Deafheaven - Sunbather

If forced to pick a number one, it would no doubt go to Deafheaven’s album Sunbather. I was such a fan of their demo when it was recommended to me by Last F.M. towards the end of 2010. It was exciting to hear how they mixed their BM with Hardcore and Post-Rock. It was so emotional. Then came the second album and it felt too straight forward. I dug it. But not like the demo. Hearing that a new album was coming out was exciting, but I was also a bit tentative about how it would sound. My first time hearing the album was live when they opened for Boris in May. They had the album there for purchase, vinyl only, so I passed. Then they opened with "Dream House". By the end of that song I had determined I would be purchasing the album before I left that night. The songs hit me much in the same way the demo did. It was all there. The ebbs and flows that I loved about the demo and more. Songs were vibrant and alive with emotion. I declared then and there it was my album of the year, and despite many great challengers, it was not beaten. I’m sure it will appear on many a year end list. One more couldn’t hurt (Be sure to check out the great review of this album by Justin C).


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Primitive Man - Scorn

This is the closest any album came to topping Deafheaven for me. The band self released the album in February, it’s a monster of a record. To call it dark and angry is an understatement. I don’t even want to tell you what goes through my head when hearing this album. As I said in my review, “You get the idea from looking at the cover this is not a safe record with some cool riff and songs about drinking beer. This is as intense as the cover would have you believe. Songs have heft and weight to them. There is an underlying anger and ominous aggression no matter the pace of the music. It’s a vibe set early and often.” I had the pleasure of hearing them live this year. As intense if not more so than the album.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


True Widow - Circumambulation

A great band I found out about after their second album thanks to a friends year end list for 2011. From the first listen I fell in love with this band. Their mix of Stoner and Shoegaze was unlike anything I had heard before. Closest example I can give, is think later Earth with vocals. Bassist Nicole Estill and guitarists Dan Phillips both providing those vocals. The music they make along with drummer Timothy "Slim" Starks is sparse and airy yet somehow have these great heavy riffs at the same time. The drums are huge and complement the music with their quiet thuds. "Four Teeth" is THE single of the year. Three albums in and they show no sign of going stale. Another band I had the pleasure seeing live this year.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Owlfood - Destroyers of the Moon

Another great find by a friend who was kind enough to pass it on to me. Their brand of Dronish Ambient is very close to later era Earth, as I said in my review, “Owlfood music is able to give me the feeling of being outside in a vast desert with mountains far off in the distance, gathered around a campfire as the sun sets on the horizon. The album is 7 tracks but is to be heard as a 27 minute piece. There are no pauses or gaps. One song goes right into the next so that the experience is never lost.“ Super chill music for a cold night.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Skagos - Anarchic
I wrote a review for this album back in June stating that I was not really sure how to best describe this album, and here we are at the end of the year and I still feel the same way. But I’m realizing that is the very thing I love about it. It’s not an album that can be summed up in a single sentence. But it is one that makes for many enjoyable listens. Everytime I hear it I catch something that I had not heard before. I love that sort of thing. As I said in my review, “It really is something that just has to be heard. To take something out is to lessen the overall. This is an album to get lost in, to be experienced from start to finish.” Very excited to see where this band takes itself next.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Pendulous - Mirrored Confessions
Very excited to have these local guys on my year end list. Even more excited they have something on Bandcamp so the world can hear what I have had the pleasure of hearing for some time. Heavy on tone and heavier with emotion is the debut from these guys. As I said in my review, “The combination of Death DOOM and clean atmospheric parts are well done. Heavy when it is needed while also allowing songs to breathe and resonate with the listener.” Vocals are great mix of the Death style and clean vocals that have a Patrick Walker vibe to them.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Liar in Wait - Translations of the Lost
Of all the albums on this list this one may have actually got the most spins of them all. I think it is attributed to two things. Length of the album (just a four song E.P. really) and just how good it is. It features two members of the amazing Blackened Sludge outfit Wolvhammer, but this is not Metal. This is described as Coldwave or Darkwave. I’ll be honest I have no clue what that is. Not genres I am all that familiar with. But this album is just great. Gothy with with a low monotone Bowie-esque vocal style that I just love. Guitars float over you. And a feeling of darkened sadness looms over it all. It also has a cover of a Fields of Nephilim song. Love love love this album (The Liar In Wait Bandcamp is streaming only...)


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Chelsea Wolfe - Pain is Beauty

I LOVE THIS WOMAN! (hopefully the wife won’t read this) I was first made aware of her because she had the opening slot for a Wolves in the Throne Room show. I’ve been gaga for her ever since. Truth be told this album was not one I immediately liked. Not being a big fan of electronica and being a big fan of hearing her amazing vocals, this one took a while to get into. But when it hit, it hit hard. In many way this may be her most diverse album yet. But the thing I love the most is that with four albums to her name she has stayed consistent without repeating herself. Constantly pushing forward while staying true to her core. Highlights for me are, "They'll Clap When You're Gone", "House of Metal", and "Destruction Makes The World Burn Brighter".


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Life Leone - Comes Crashing In

It’s bands like this that keep me showing up to shows early to catch the opener. These guys opened for Vista Chino (what Kyuss calls itself now). Had no clue who they were or their sound. But when they started playing I was all ears. They have this interesting mix of fuzzy Desert Rock riffs, and Indie feel to them. Songs are very catchy and you’ll find yourself singing them in your head long after hearing them. A great record to hear while driving.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Panopticon/Vestiges - Split

I love when an album comes with surprises. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Panopticon fan boy. Austin Lunn can do no wrong. Whether Panopticon, Seidr, or Kolga the man is always a part of quality music. And this split is no different. The songs lean more towards his Atmospheric Black Metal side then the American Folk infused Black Metal music on his Kentucky album (a 2012 album of the year for me). The third Panopticon song is a cover of of Suicide Nation’s "Collapse and Die", but the surprise for me was Vestiges. Having no idea who they were and going in blind, they impressed. Their Crusty Black Metal has hints of Post-Rock and great atmosphere. This is a great pairing of bands. It does what a good split should do. Pair two great bands that compliment each other. If your new to either of these bands this split is great introduction.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Vaura - The Missing

Music like this is not something I usually find myself listening to. But the buzz about the bands second album was something unavoidable for me at least. So I checked it out and am glad I did. Featuring members of Maudlin Of The Well and Gorguts this is by far one of my favorites of the year. This gets a ton of spins. A great mix of Black Metal and Post-Punk with gothy undertones. Songs are addictive and have the same vocal style of Liar in Wait that I love so much. They can pull off dark and brooding, melodic and catchy all in one song. I now see why there was such a buzz about this album.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Batillus - Concrete Sustain
CRUSHING!! Another one of those bands I was way behind the rest of the crowd. I missed their debut. But hearing they were playing a show here in L.A. to support their new album, I thought I would check them out. WOW! Their Industrial tinged Sludge is one that kicks you square in the face and your only answer is, “Please sir may I have another?!?!” Great atmosphere throughout and songs that are more to the point then their first album. The song "Concrete" is a great opener. It makes you feel like smashing through a concrete wall (that’s a good thing). This was an album that was an early frontrunner for album of the year for me. Seeing them live was also a great experience, highly recommended (Be sure to read the great review of this album by Justin C).


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Jex Thoth - Blood Moon Rise
Along with Lori from Acid King Jex is one of the great women of DOOM. Her songs are are part Stoner Rock, part DOOM, and part psychedelic rides. Her vocals are perfect balance of feminine and powerful, a female shaman if you will. There is a mysticism to her lyrics. But also some wisdom, as found in the track To Bury.
“Remember this my friend, and the less you’ll have to bury. The more we keep collecting, the more we have to carry.”
It was five years between the release of this album and her amazing debut. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. (You can only stream one song from Blood Moon Rise, but be sure to also check out her work on the first Sabbath Assembly album).


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Torres - Torres
Female singer songwriter Mackenzie Scott who records as Torres. Her breathy vocals sung over her Indie style makes for a great album. Reminds one of P.J. Harvey or Cat Powers at times. Recorded live and minimalistic in sound. Lyrics are as if she is reading from her personal journal exposing raw nerves for all who wish to listen. One of those one off finds you were never looking for, but oh so glad you found.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Usnea - Usnea

What an album! One I put off listening to for reasons I can not explain, so I urge you not make the same mistake. Just crushing. Their Blackened DOOM along with touches of Post-Rock and Sludge are mixed perfectly. As I said in my review, “The closest comparison I can make is to the first Altar of Plagues album. Not in terms of sound but how they can blend genres within songs and the album. There is an atmosphere of darkness that runs through this entire album. Even when it gets quiet (and that is not much at all) you never feel safe. You know darkness is lurking just around the next riff.” Fantastic debut.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Jesu - Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came

Yet another band that I really should have gotten into much sooner but didn’t (why do I keep doing that?). Between last year and this I have bought 8 of their albums to make up for lost time. 2013 saw Jesu return with Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came. Over the years they have gotten a tad quieter than their debut. But the sense of longing and sadness have never lessened. Their droning riffs are filled with melancholy. This is one of those bands that scratches an itch that no other band can. Just another great album from a band that never lets me down.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Wolvserpent - Perigaea Antahkarana

This was band I lost track of when they were originally called Pussygut. But seeing them perform live changed all that for me. They blew my mind in what was probably one of the best shows I saw the whole year (though seeing Neurosis w/ YOB in December may beat it). As I said in my review, “Wolvserpent is a two person band consisting of Blake Green on guitars/vocals and Brittany McConnell on drums/vocals/violin. They play what would be described as Drone/DOOM. Along with that are hints of Post-Rock, Ambient, Black Metal, and enough atmosphere to paint a picture by. Think Sunn O))) meets Godspeed while living in the woods with Wolves in the Throne Room.” Man am I glad I went to that show.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Man’s Gin - Rebellion Hymns

This is a side project of Eric Wunder, half of the amazing Black Metal band Cobalt. I can not begin to express how much their first album Smiling Dogs means to me. With lyrics like, “So sinners unite, the sloven and weakened. If you’re beaten or broken press on frustrated.” is where I found solace during some rough times in my life. So to hear there would be another album in 2013 naturally brought excitement. The first was raw with a live feel to it. It had a Nick Cave vibe to it mixed with Americana and a vocal style that brings to mind at times Alice in Chains. The new one brings all those things back with more. This one finds Erik Wunder expanding his musical palette. This one feels like his Tom Waits inspired album because of how eclectic and, at times, how scrambled (in a good way) it feels. So many ideas going on in this album. The album also features Jarboe and the other half of Cobalt, Phil McSorley. I can never thank Erik enough for these records.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Here is Part 2 featuring the bands that have no Bandcamp but are among my albums of the year.

Tagged with Aaron Sullivan, Batillus, Chelsea Wolfe, Deafheaven, Jesu, Jex Thoth, Liar in Wait, Life Leone, Man's Gin, Owlfood, Panopticon, Pendulous, Primitive Man, Skagos, Torres, True Widow, Usnea, Vaura, Vestiges, Wolvserpent
3 comments:
  1. just listening to that Life Leone stuff. fucking awesome. reminds me of last year's Ty Segall album - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GutRR9FYTw
    fuzzy fuzzy heavy guitars that are total pop indie.

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  2. Glad you dug it. Will check out the link. Thank you.

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  3. I see exactly what you are saying. Very cool. Thanks again.

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