Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

2013 is coming to an end, folks. It's time to put on your party hats and think of resolutions to "be a better you". But, before we do all that, let's recap 2013 for what it was: a good year for music. (Obvz, it was much more than that, but I like to stick to the real, important issues here on Rags and Roses.)
1. Bubblegum by Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band-Kevin Devine accomplished a lot this year. A tour with his side project, Bad Books, a really successful Kickstarter launch, the recording and completion of two albums, and another round of touring with Now, Now. Yeah, kind of makes anything you did this year seem pretty small, huh? Out of all these major events, I have to rank his album Bubblegum the most influential. The album describes the state of our country from a young person's point of view. It speaks of love, financial stress, political injustices, and just not caring about someone's band; all familiar things these days. Do yourself a favor, and check this one out.
2. Talon of the Hawk by The Front Bottoms- It's no secret that I love this band. I saw them four times in 2013, and already have plans to roadtrip to one of their shows in January; ya know, just starting the new year off right. I was afraid to hear what Talon of the Hawk might have in store after falling so hard over their debut album. I just didn't want to be let down. But, I was worried over nothing. Sure, this album has a different sound. It's louder and much more fast-paced than any earlier songs done by the band, but it also seems so familiar; with themes anyone could connect with and Brian Sella's "talking" vocals still pronouncing the word "comfortable" wrong. This album was played at volume in my car for weeks at a time almost every month after it was released. It's just that good.
3. Girl Talk by Kate Nash- "Well, I'm just a girl. But, it's good enough for me...", lyrics from the track "Conventional Girl" pretty much explain the theme of the entire album. Girl Talk was so much different from anything else I've ever heard from Kate Nash, who just so happens to be one of my most respected role models and inspirations. It was raw and direct and fun and empowering and so much more. It introduced Kate as a full on rock star (instead of a Brit-pop act), and a force to be reckoned with. Girl Talk is essentially a Riot Grrrl revival, with a lot of Hole, Kathleen Hanna, and Blondie vibes. Trust me, it will make you want to pick up an instrument and scream about stupid boys. Perfect.
4.Dear Miss Lonely Hearts by Cold War Kids- I was in the 7th grade when I heard Cold War Kids for the first time, and was immediately a fan. I loved the raspy vocals, blues influence, and lyrics about misunderstood criminals. But, I will admit that I fell off the band wagon after that first CD because I had built it up in such a way that nothing could compare. That was until Dear Miss Lonelyhearts came out. It was so resonant of the songs that made me love the band in the first place. Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is so lyrically beautiful, with heavy metaphors and emotion, and is arranged in a way that breathes a believable storyline into the album; as if you could think of scenarios in which the songs would be playing over or the people who lent inspo to the words being belted out by the ever-talented Nathan Willett. I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing the band live this summer, and it made me swoon even more. The members of this band are the types of musicians that we need more of today; real ones.
5. Feast of Love by Pity Sex- After an EP like 2012's Dark World, it was pretty obvious that anything this band put out would be worth listening to. The contrast of pretty/dirty vocals by members Britty Drake and Brennan Greaves, along with the perfect amount of "fuzz" and 90's emo vibes, make this band not only something worth listening to, but something to love. All the lyrics on Feast of Love are honest and sung at the perfect volume, sometimes whispered and cloudy; making it easy to put yourself in a smoky room at some dude's party you don't even know, bored and preoccupied with a breakup or general angst over trivial crap. Pity Sex has quickly become one of my favorites, and I'm stoked to see what they come up with next.
6. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend- I always felt like there was a lot of hype behind Vampire Weekend. Like, so much that I was turned off from ever checking them out. I'm sure that sounds like a really "hipstery, douchey" thing to admit, but I just felt like there was no way this band was THAT good. Sure, I indulged in the singles that were made available by my Pandora station, but I never searched beyond that. But, when I saw Modern Vampires of the City on sale at Target after it's debut, I took the bait. And, I have to say the hype was valid. This album was the soundtrack of my summer; with clever lyrics speaking of reckless abandon and an evident 1960's inspiration. My favorite things about this album were the sporadic voice-overs and use of unexpected instruments; the way they all came together is nothing short of perfection. I think this one will be a hard one for the band to follow, but I'm eager to see what else they have in store.
7. Wildewoman by Lucius- This folk duo really broke out this year with the unexpected sound of Wildewoman. It is a stretch from the twangy guitars they began their careers with, but the result is an indie-pop gem. With harmonies reminiscent of 60's girl groups and powerful drums beating between very organized lyrics, it is safe to say that Lucius found the sound they were always meant to have. Vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig compliment each other so well, and cover a range that brings so much power to their music. Wildewoman is catchy, relatable, and just plain good.
8. Beyonce by Beyonce- This one may seem a little out of place amongst the other albums on this list, but I don't care; it's Beyonce, people. She pulled the biggest and most successful stunt in pop music this year, ignoring all the media, hype, and promotion behind so many other pop "artists'" albums dropping, and just made music she was proud of. Not only did she complete a secret album, but she made seventeen videos to go along with it. Can you believe you have just as many hours in your day as Queen B? This album and it's accompanying videos give fans a look into the inspiration behind the songs, as well as a look into the singer's life. My personal favorite track is "Flawless" in which a voice over from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is an award-winning author and feminist. Adichie speaks of the ways in which we set girls up for failure from the start by putting them second to men. I have so much respect and admiration for Beyonce putting something like this in her album, while most other people in the same genre submit to the over sexualiztion and discrimination of young females. I saw somewhere online where a person said "Sasha Fierce died so that Yonce could live", and let me just tell you that Yonce is a goddess.
9. Whenever, If Ever by The World is a Beautiful Place and I'm No Longer Afraid to Die- Along with earning a place on my countdown, I'm sure these guys also hold the title for longest band name ever. But, it's all good. Because THEY are really good. Whenever, If Ever has a lot of all-instrumental breaks and a general sense of being young adult. Like, this album is what I'd give someone if they asked me how I've been since I moved back from college. SO. MUCH. ANGST. But, in all seriousness, TWIABP is genuinely a great band, whose lyrics could hit home with just about anyone with a heart. Lyrics like, “You ran away/ You were afraid to make mistakes/ but that's the biggest one you made." from the track "Gig-life" and the scattered arrangement of Whenever, If Ever as a whole, set the tone of the band's unique sound and presence; reminding me personally of favorites like American Football and Cap'n Jazz. I have plans to see this band live for the first time in early 2014. and I really, REALLY can't wait.
10. Small Reveal by Aidan Knight- I can't think of another musician like Aidan Knight, and I'm happy with the possibility that there may not be. I've never heard the kind of complexity used in Knight's music by anyone else in the modern indie genre, be it in his lyrics, orchestral arrangements, or the direction that his sound has gone. I'm always eager to listen to anything by him because you don't just hear it, you feel it. Is that cheesy? Maybe. But, it's also true. There is texture and scenery and story and characters intertwined in Knight's words and his various instruments. There is regret and longing and subtlety and realness, that's presence makes this album something a bit more than music. Small Reveal is beautiful, like everything that Aidan Knight has released. And, it belongs on this list for reasons all of it's own. 
So, there you have it! My favorite albums of 2013. I hope you give these all a listen before bringing in 2014. What were some of your faves? I'd love to hear any that I missed, or upcoming releases that you're stoked for. Happy New Years!
With love,

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