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50 Essential Albums Released in 2013

Posted by Aaron Detroit, November 30, 2013 02:45pm | Post a Comment

Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. I've worked in Hollywood for nine years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 -  at the San Francisco store. Here is my extensive list of new essential listening, released in 2013. There is a wide range of genres and artists represented here because musical passion shouldn't be static!

1. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
The Knife Shaking the Habitual    


After a seven-year hiatus (not including 2010’s collaborative opera with Matt Sims and Planningtorock,) the Swedish sister/brother duo crafted something utterly singular with this sprawling, conceptual, yet immensely thrilling triple-LP. Habitual lyrically challenges gender constructs and unchecked privilege against visceral (and sometimes monstrous) techno that also refuses any box you throw over it. 

 

These New Puritans Field of Reeds



2. These New Puritans - Field of Reeds
   
 No guitars, no dubstep breaks, no angular post-punk posturing. Jack Barnett & Co. look to 20th century composers and Fado for inspiration on their third LP. Woodwinds, brass, field recordings, a magnetic resonator piano and additional vocals from Portuguese vocalist Elisa Rodrigues move TNP into a whole other category of artist, far away from the faceless NME hordes they once mingled with. 
 
3. David Bowie - The Next Day
 
 David Bowie The Next DayQuite honestly, it’s his best since his last great LP --33 years ago--Scary Monsters. This isn’t anything but Bowie being himself, but the emotional weight of his lyrics give the new tracks a vitality missing from much of his work in the previous decade. It’s exhilarating throughout, with most of his famous tropes (Space!!) sounding somehow fresh. New classics like the title track, “Dirty Boys,” the Scott Walker-nodding “Heat,” plus the stellar Bowie-doing-Morrissey-doing-his-best-Bowie moment on “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die.” 
 

Holden The Inheritors

 4.
Holden - The Inheritors
 
  Like The Knife, James Holden took a 7-year sabbatical before unveiling this wonderfully odd auditory landscape…with no sign of a dancefloor anywhere. Mystical and emotive electronic trips from the earth to the stars – complete with modular synth, saxophone freakouts and pagan chants. 
 

5. M.I.A. - Matangi
MIA Matangi
  
I’m completely mystified by folks’ general reaction to this album. By my estimation, this is a perfect balance of everything M.I.A. has done up until now with one foot forward. Its sequence focuses on keeping the party going, while Maya’s taunts, one-liners and rhymes are sharper than ever. Modern music needs M.I.A.!
 

 
 


 6. Pharmakon - Abandon Pharmakon Abandon
   
 Intense, confrontational and instantly classic power electronics/industrial from NYC’s Margaret Chardiet. The maggots on the LP jacket should warn you that Pharmakon is not everyone’s type of racket. Somewhere in a neighboring universe of Throbbing Gristle, early Diamanda Galas, and Prurient.
 
 
 

7. Vår - No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers
    Vår No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers
A romantic post-punk and melancholic industrial-pop LP from members of Iceage, Sexdrome, and Lust for Youth. An aural salute to young manhood and male bonding with nods to mid-80’s Coil and early The Cure. 
 
 






Forest Swords Engravings
8. Forest Swords - Engravings
   
Brit producer Matthew Barnes’ aural universe on Engravings is all at once creepy, dreary and lovely.  Dubby beats, spidery (and occasionally doomy) guitar-lines, glitchy and ghostly voices make this your new essential rainy day listening.
 
 
 
 
 

The Body Christs, Redeemers
9. The Body - Christs, Redeemers
 
  Portland-based two-piece The Body create a soundtrack for some sort of celestial hell; that is, music perfectly evocative of its time and space - Armageddon music, y’all. Desperate shrieking, angelic choirs, and sinister samples weave around cavalcades of riffs, drones, weighted pounding and tribal drumming. Once again includes help from members of The Assembly of Light choir.
     



10. Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band - Take Me to the Land of Hell
     
If your opinion on Yoko Ono is of the Boomer-constructed variety --Yoko Ono Take Me to the Land of Hell the antiquated B.S. that she broke up the Beatles and her music is just “a bunch of screaming”— this particular list is NOT for you. Now, if this album would be your first foray into the musical world of Ono, then it’s a really great place to start. Despite the LP’s sticker big-upping her various collaborators here, it’s a Yoko album through-and-through (though co- producer Yuka Honda – of Cibo Matto - clearly understands Ono’s strong suits.) Hell easily stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of her 1970’s work when she first took the avant garde to pop audiences. From angular and punky workouts to chilling personal ballads to funky political polemics, this is (just like Bowie) her best album in 30 –odd years. Very few really have the ability to so successfully straddle the line of profundity and absurdity like Yoko, and Hell demonstrates that quite well.
 

11. My Bloody Valentine - mbv
   My Bloody Valentine  
A year heavy with vets, but no one had anybody more excited than My Bloody Valentine (this guy included.) The logical follow-up to Loveless – 22 years later – and it’s a total stunner.  mbv is MBV doing what they do best, and quite certainly, it was worth all those delays and the epic wait. It has familiarity that’s instant, but still pushes guitar rock into new terrains like no one else can.



Grouper The Man Who Died in His Boat
 
 

12.
Grouper - The Man Who Died in His Boat
   
 Gorgeous, ethereal hymns. Liz Harris’s companion piece (of sorts) to 2008’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill… is her most accessible work to date and her most infectious while maintaining Grouper’s aural haze and dark themes (The title track is based on a true story of young Harris finding a dead body.)
 
 

13. Humanbeast - Venus Ejaculates into the Banquet
     Humanbeast
This gender-subverting Rhode Island duo formerly dealt mostly in brutal sonics. Now they have traded-in the ear-splittin’ for body-movin’ to brilliant results. Most surprising here are the gorgeous slow burner beat-laden ballads. The house diva on a bed of nails or the gospel singer wrapped in dirty, dirty sheets!






 John Grant Pale Green Ghosts
14. John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts
     
On his sophomore solo album, John Grant teamed up with Biggi Veira from Gus Gus to craft  an album that rockets him far above the heights of  his solo debut and his work with his former band, Czars. Dark orchestration, synths, and his always confessional lyrics propel the standout title track, but elsewhere he mines some 70's AM Gold while getting his hateration on with ‘I Hate this Town.’ Alternating on the axis of “ wry” and “soul-crushing.”
 

 15. Primal Scream - More Light
     Primal Scream More Light
Bobby Gillespie & Co. made one of their finest LPs of their career with More Light. It’s a very fine-tuned LP that succeeds at the cohesive weave of all Primal Scream’s disparate parts and genre-hopping form year’s past. The album easily stands next to career high-points like Xtrmntr and Screamadelica, Urgent political electro-rock with noice Psych furs-esque sax hooks and awesome guest spots from Mark Stewart of The Pop Group.
 

Cakes da Killa
 
 

16. Cakes Da Killa - The Eulogy
     
The Eulogy’s opening verse (after a crazy, pitched-up ‘MacArthur Park’ intro) is hard! Much in the same way Lil’ Kim announced herself to the world at the front of Hardcore. An important artist for the 21st Century; just getting started.
 

17. Factory Floor - Factory Floor
       Factory Floor
I know everyone was busy groovin’ to Daft Punk, but Factory Floor’s debut full-length was the album that induced body-spasms in my household. Think: Chris & Cosey with a little speed in their tea.
 






Death Grips
18. Death Grips - Government Plates
     
 As with their major label contract-killing  LP, No Love Deep Web,  Death Grips  released a new LP in November  with no lead-up hype and as a free download. Government Plates opens with the sound of a bottle breaking, signaling that the LA Based-duo is about to cut your throat. Like M.I.A.’s Matangi it’s a challenging first listen due to its uncharted electronic terrain full of twists, sharp, sharp turns and dead stops, but it’s a far, far darker ride. It inevitably leads you to obsessive listening as the tracks reveal their glitchy, sneaky and unconventional hooks. The vocals are more chopped, pitched and fucked-with than ever before, yet the album feels like the most cohesive statement the band has made thus far. There is no blueprint here, Death Grips are obliterating everything in front of them to form their own path. 
 

19. Jessie Evans - Glittermine
Jessie Evans Glittermine
     
It’s been a few years since Evan’s solo debut, Is It Fire?. She has spent the time globe-trotting, relentlessly playing shows, and honing her craft which her sophomore solo record, Glittermine, readily showcases. Snaky horn sections glide over icy-synth stabs, roller-disco, dubby & jazzy grooves and Evan’s sexy and optimistic beckoning. 
 


Teeth of the Sea



20. Teeth of the Sea - Master
     
Master is the perfect title for this ferocious untameable beast, UK quartet Teeth of the Sea’s ’s 3rd and definitively best album. A sprawling collage of sounds including eerie synthed-out Krautrock, Sci-Fi jams, ambient drone excursions, blasts of white noise and metallic riffing -sometimes all within the same song. 
 
 
 
21. Merchandise - Totale Nite
   Merchandise Totale Nite
Lengthy, sometimes psychedelic, somewhat nebulous, but always meaty rock tracks laced with crooner Carson Cox’s languid lyric swallowing. Sort of like listening to 1980’s college radio with fuzzy reception, Ian Astbury's and Morrissey's vocals blending together over some JAMC jam coming in from a different station. 

 




No Bra Candy
22.  No Bra - Candy
     
There has been a long hiatus in output from performance artist Susanne Oberbeck aka No Bra. 2006’s club hit “Munchausen” and  its follow-up album,  Dance and Walk, were ironic and wry minimal wave. This year’s “Candy” was somewhat of a surprise release after the long absence, but also a revelation since Oberbeck has adopted a more traditional guitar-bass-drum set-up for the lumbering no-wave sound on the album; most likely influenced by her new adopted city of New York. No Bra lets you know what you’re in for on the album’s stand-out track, “Date With The Devil”: “The Devil said ‘Sing me one of your songs’ I said, ‘Well, they’re not really songs, more like shouting!”  The one Arthouse-sex-horror-comedy-industrial-no-wave album you need this year.
 

23. Prurient - Through The Window
    Prurient Through the Window
The sister album to 2011’s Bermuda Drain. Dominick Fernow’s own instuctions for his foray into late-night techno: “Listen at night in the hills watching as headlights approach.” 3 Tracks, 32 minutes. Perfection. 
 
 







24. Le1f - Fly Zone / Tree House
     
For me, hip-hop this year was all about Cakes, Mykki Blanco and NYC’s Le1f. He’s crazy prolific, having released two full-length “mixtapes” this year. (I put mixtapes in quotes because in the world of queer hip-hop the mixtape has become shorthand for “free album.”) Fly Zone is the slightly fiercer of the two.  Breezy rhymes over subterranean grooves that are as experimental as they are ear-worms. "I am whatever you say I am/ Stop worrying about how gay I am."
 

25. Kirin J Callinan - Embracism
    Kirin J Callinan   
Embracism is confusing as it is infectious.  It’s part tongue-in-cheek piss-take, part serious artistic statement.  Aussie guitarist/vocalist Callinan distills all the famous frontmen from his homeland (from Cave to Hutchence) into a wickedly affecting brew--sneer and smirk alike. 
 
 

Boards of Canada Tomorrow's Harvest





26. Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
     
Boards of Canada’s long, long-awaited Tomorrow’s Harvest is a doomsday soundtrack that makes you excited for the inevitable future days of the Arizona Bay.  Evocative of all the sci-fi, apocalyptic and horror films of your youth, giving nostalgic pings with its front-and-center Carpenter-esque synth work. 
 

 27. Leila Abdul-Rauf - Cold and Cloud
     Leila Abdul-Rauf
Grey weather listening.  Abdul –Rauf normally makes racket in much heavier projects (Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune, Saros, Amber Asylum) but on Cloud, she employs piano, brass and ethereal vocals to make the perfect soundtrack for a dreary day, even if that weather is just in your head. 
 


Stara Rzeka



28. Stara Rzeka - Cie? chmury nad ukrytym polem
   An EPIC blend of folk, kraut, black metal and Nico worship. You will not hear anything else like this in 2013, and likely not after…unless it’s from this Polish one-man band. 
 

29. Deerhunter - Monomania
      Deerhunter Monomania
Monomania is the first LP by Deerhunter since they revamped their line-up, and so it makes sense that this is a slightly different animal than their previous offerings. It’s noisey as hell and blatantly queer yet still manages to be their most consistently accessible LP to-date. 
 
 
 
 



Lisa Germano No Elephants

30. Lisa Germano - No Elephants
   
Germano’s 10th full-length was quietly released early in 2013 by Badman Recording Co. (She’s only on the coolest of labels – previous homes for her earlier releases were 4AD and Michael Gira’s Young God) to almost no fan-fare. Germano has never sold-out the house or gone platinum, but has consistently put out exciting, innovative and experimental LPs for over 2 decades. No Elephants is no different; its motif is built around iPhone ringtones and the random buzzing created by amps or PA speakers when a cellphone is placed too near. Her voice weaves through the sounds in its delicate rasp. It's unlikely you'll hear such magical and interesting pop music elsewhere. I deeply hope Germano is making music for more decades to come. 
 

31. Miles - Faint Hearted
      Miles Faint Hearted
Miles Whittaker --one-half of Demdike Stare but also known for his work with Andy Stott in Millie and Andrea—made exactly the sort of electronic record I’m a total sucker for; culling inspiration from my favorite early 90’s heavyweights Aphex Twin and Plastikman as well as occasionally throwing-in some Krautrock & Neoclassical flavors. 
 

 


Autre Ne Veut

32. Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety
     
Autre Ne Veut, the off-kilter electronic-soul project of NYC’s Arthur Ashin, seemed like it initially existed to deconstruct R&B-flavored pop or maybe even as a slight piss-take. But Autre Ne Veut’s second long play revels in the genre rather than pulling it apart. Ashin’s falsetto often reaches beyond its boundaries. It's enough to make the listener blush; as if we you had just caught him in front of the mirror –hairbrush microphone in hand --  singing along to R. Kelly at the top of his lungs. 
 
 
33. The Heliocentrics - 13 Degrees of Reality
    The Heliocentrics
  UK Psych-Jazz collective that take cues from Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and the like but add their own modern magick for our paranoid, post-9/11 world. 
 



Nick Cave Push the Sky Away




34. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
   
  Warren Ellis And Nick Cave’s prolific soundtrack work seems to have heavily seeped into The Bad Seeds, breathing a welcomed new icy-cool atmosphere into the beloved institution. 
 
 

35. Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My TimeSky Ferreira Night Time, My Time
    
You really won’t find another straight-up pop record from 2013 this friggin’ good. Big, BIG Benatar choruses juxtaposed against new-wave riffing, pulsing Suicide-esque rhythms and production notes cribbed from Bowie’s Low. Apparently, it took some 5 years to convince her label to record and release this album. The label then inexplicably shelved any plans to release the album physically (though plenty of “promotional” CDs are floating around) instead Ferreira’s pop masterpiece got a soft digital release. Regardless of format, if you need a big pop sugar-rush -- Ferreira’s got the hook-up.
 

Author & Punisher
36. Author & Punisher - Women & Children
       
Killer one-man industrial havoc ala Godflesh and Skinny Puppy from mechanical engineer Tristan Shone.  When I first heard his music, I wondered why it sounded so fresh to me even though its influences are so obviously pulled from the era when metal and industrial were forging their first unholy unions in the fiery pits of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Turns out, Shone makes the music on his albums with self-fabricated instruments that give his tracks those unique layers of sound. 
 

37. Dalhous - An Ambassador For Laing
 Dalhous
Dalhous’s debut LP is a great companion album to BOC’s Tomorrow’s Harvest. It conjures up much of the same apocalyptic imagery, but with it’s own path through the eroding landscape; a complex and exciting patchwork of samples and breakbeats.
 

 



The Asphodells
38. The Asphodells - Ruled By Passion, 
Destroyed By Lust
   
  Most would likely remember Andrew Weatherall from his popular early 90’s remixes for acts like Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine. The Asphodells is Weatherall’s collaboration with Timothy J. Fairplay and it’s not all that far removed from those heyday mixes; New Order-esque melodic funk, Acid squelches, WaxTrax! Beats, dubby bass, BLISS!
 

39. Janelle Monáe - The Electric Lady
   Janelle Monae  

Monae continues her far-out Sci-fi-Soul Metropolis song-cycle; following the continuing saga of "archandroid" Cindi Mayweather on Suites 4 & 5: The Electric Lady. She enlists some serious help from like-minded heavy-hitters (Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel and Solange ) with infectious results. Her duet with Badu, “Q.U.E.E.N.,” is easily one of the year’s best singles. 
 


Melt Yourself Down



40. Melt Yourself Down - Melt Yourself Down 
     
 Pete Wareham’s MYD is a hot stew of North African rhythms, no-wave skronk, optimistic sloganeering and electronic peppering. 
 
      

41. The Haxan Cloak - Excavation 
     The Haxan Cloak

Music made to listen to alone in the dark. Bobby Krlic’s soundscapes are sinister but somehow inviting all the same.  
 
 


 



42. Throwing Muses - Purgatory/Paradise 
     
Their first album in a decade and it’s a monstrous 32 tracks. All the more to love. This is some of Kristin Hersh’s strongest studio work in years and despite its intimidating tracklist size, it’s a consistently gripping spin. Packaged in a lovely hardback book with essays by Hersh and graphic design by drummer Dave Narcizo.
 


43. Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day
    Mazzy Star
  Like MBV, Mazzy Star pulled off a supernatural comeback with a didn’t-miss-a-beat LP after a near two-decade absence. Hope Sandoval’s voice is the warm blanket it’s always been while David Roback continues to construct blue-tinted daydreams with his guitar.  
 
 
 



 
Satellit Transister 44. Satelliti - Transister
      Italian synth/drums duo’s experimental jazzy krautrock (or is that Krautrock-y jazz?) tangents. Great, mind-melting companion listening with The Heliocentrics and Melt Yourself Down. 
 
 

45. Asia Argento - Total Entropy
 Asia Argento
   If you’re the sort of pop culture personality that Asia Argento is – actress, director, DJ, Giallo royalty etc. – this is exactly the sort of album you should make. A super fun and weird genre-hopping ride (from dancefloor to Lee & Nancy-style duets to psychedelic ballads) with lots of established collaborators; not unlike like recent efforts by Charlotte Gainsbourg, but maybe with a little bit more of a punk sneer. 

 


Holograms
46. Holograms - Forever
     
Bigger and better second LP from cherubic Swedish dudes putting a charming, romantic spin on the ol’ Killing Joke blueprint. 


47. Savages - Silence Yourself 
   Savages Silence Yourself
  This record was a grower for me. Its  influences (The Banshees, Joy Division, Patti Smith) so obvious at first that they were a distraction from the album’s ferocity and vital juices. Sure, innovative it is not but it’s passion and idealism is refreshing and exhilarating in the current pop music sea of nihilism and brand pushing.
 





Raspberry Bulbs
48. Raspberry Bulbs - Deformed Worship
     
Rasberry Bulbs is Marco del Rio from Bone Awl’s project, so it often gets mislabeled ‘Black Metal.’ But Deformed Worship has more in common with late ‘80s Sub Pop singles: Lo-fi, raw, aggressive and influenced by metal as much as it is by The Stooges, Joy Division and Black Flag. 
 

49. Dva Damas - Nightshade
     Dva Damas
Reverb-drenched guitars that give off a campy-but-dark Cramps-vibe, detached-but-sexy vox, and minimal electronic beats make-up this much-welcomed debut from LA duo Dva Damas. 
 

 





Tropic of Cancer
50. Tropic of Cancer - Restless Idylls
 
 Ghostly ethereal, buried vocals move languidly through icy post-punk, captivating shoegaze and funeral hymns on Camella Lobo’s first proper LP. 
 
 
 


Honorable Mentions (Other worthwhile listening):
 
 
People at Parties
 
 
 
TOP 15 EPs:

 

1.                     Mykki Blanco Betty Rubble: The Initiation

2.                               The Body Master, We Perish
3.                                Katie Gately Katie Gately
4.              John Foxx and The Belbury Circle Empty Avenues
5.                                     Zebra Katz DRKLNG
6.                               NCW vs. Piss Golden Lands
7.                                   Soap&Skin Sugarbread
8.                                        Rainer Veil Struck
9.                       Pye Corner Audio Superstitious Century
10.                                             Anika Anika
11.                              Joey Casio Daybreak / Ignite
12.                              Pale Sketcher Just Won’t Sing
13.                                            Worn Feminist
14.                                             Moin Moin
15.                                        Miles Unsecured
 

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