While our porcelain skin, fit bodies, and able minds might lead you to believe otherwise, we're not perfect. When we posted our Best Albums of 2013 list yesterday morning, we knew that we'd never be able to cover everything—the good, the great, the inspirational—and by pure human error, we'd have forgotten a few. After all, these minds aren't as sharp as they used to be—all those nights of
whiskey and sleeping pills high-decibel rock shows can take a toll. Luckily, when you're in charge of your own destiny, that can be fixed, or at least addended. Though there are not nearly as many albums here as we threw at your grubby, British orphan feet yesterday, our Honorable Mentions list is like a hot, steamy bucket of gruel. Yes, littluns, you can have some more.
In keeping with RUMTUM's "anywhere but here" exoticist production, the video for Mystic Wonders album opener "When" is built from global clips of paradise beaches, Arabian camels led by men in turbans, and snake charmers. Though RUMTUM has left Ohio for Colorado, something tells us the even harsher winters have kept his favoritism for the Xanadu sounds of tropical terrains running strong. Mystic Wonders instantly transports the listener to a tranquil space on the serenade of a carefree vocal sample, like the most inviting of whistles that beckons to a getaway destination. As winter settles in, we advise pulling the curtains, whipping up homemade Singapore Slings, and tuning out to this and only this RUMTUM record.
A pair of incredibly prolific lo-fi synth abstractionists, Vermont’s Sarah Smith and Zach Phillips travel further than ever into the outer limits of the childhood experience. Imagine the music that might be made by pre-teens who have been allowed to listen to nothing but the most alienating corners of R. Stevie Moore’s extended discography, and you’re probably inching in the right direction. Or maybe you could approach Wooden Ball by thinking of it as the most difficult post-punk or no wave from a parallel universe where the first wave of punk itself never actually existed. There’s no self-serious posturing or empty-headed abrasiveness to be found in Wooden Ball, yet the album’s strident insularity gives it a sort of art-punk mindset.
Knowing that The So So Glos probably hate lists, qualifiers, and even any sort of hierarchy does make us feel guilty to even include them somewhere in our year-end roundup, but their delightful third record, Blowout, shouldn't be forgotten. As drumer Zach Staggers told High Times, "What we tried to do with Blowout was make a record that if we heard that when we were first getting into punk rock it would’ve blown our minds," and even though we've all grown up with an unhealthy education in punk, listening to Blowout is like recapturing something that we've lost. Loud and cathartic and full of singalong melodies, the Glos prove that getting old doesn't have to be a drag—just never stop fighting.
Formed in only the way a modern-day romance can blossom—on Twitter—Upset surprised us this year by making a supergroup record that was neither novel, garish, or disappointing. She's Gone uses Ali Koehler's eminently likeable vocals to bring a tad of sugar to a few layers of poppunk guitars, well-placed drum notes, and bass to bop our heads to. Whether the trio aimed to make a record that reminded us of our youth is insignificant—as we oo and ahh along, images of teenage crushes, candy-by-the-pound, and aimless summer bike rides come to mind. By any luck, Upset's next record will cover the early college years, and we'll continue to look back fondly through condensed-milk poppunk.
Blame Tim Presley's prolificacy. Because Cyclops Reap wasn't a scorching, Homeric contribution to modern psychedelia here we sit in the bargain bin. No matter, because White Fence's fifth full-length effort is replete with thoughtful melodies and lip-biting power. Very few people today write songs this well, and even fewer can write lyrics of this sort of complexity without being meretricious. "No one to watch me," Presley sings on "Only Man Alive" over naked country twangs that are one shade shy of full pedal steel. "No one to ever care at all / I looked in other people's rooms and saw what they thought was important / And remembered."
Most references for a band like Screature are arbitrary. Screature isn’t a pastiche project invented to pay homage to the past. Screature is the latest installment of a lineage. Screature isn’t a glorified postpunk covers band, as many accuse Savages of being. The past is more accessible than ever and groups like Screature draw upon so many precedent groups that citing influences reveals more about the writer's whims than anything. Goth theatrics mingle with 60s garage simplicity and brooding post-punk atmospherics all at once on their self-titled, where singer Liz Mahoney conjures the distress and grief that Dinah Cancer and Kat Arthur are emblematic of. They drink from the same well, so to speak, or frequent the same velvet-curtain adorned cavernous cocktail lounge of the mind.
The stark, cold landscape that graces the cover of Sneeze's sophomore album is particularly misleading imagery, which is not to say that Sneeze's music is lush. Instead, I'm Going to Kill Myself banks on heightened sensations and heavycut feelings—both in lyricism and in guitar sludge—that are nowhere near the elemental harshness of a post-punk record or the detachment of art-rock. The band's additional member might be considered the overdrive pedal, but only if singing about the perpetual heartbreak and emotional malaise that Sneeze is good at might be a touch too painful upfront. Layered beneath the sludge are brilliant melodies, a level of knowing self-satisfaction, and youthful songwriting that's wiser than the hyperintellectual babble you might find elsewhere.
Yes, we may have already shared with you the Best Cassettes of 2013, but that doesn't mean we can't add one more to our honorable mentions. Philadelphia's Jason Henn, whom we've been covering under his moniker Honey Radar all year, has a preternatural knack for blissed-out songwriting that reflects the feeling of staring at the sun for too long. On Mary Plum Musket, our favorite release of his all year, Henn builds vignettes without seams, and in only eight short minutes, the tape is over and done, making it brisk enough to grab any ADD-addled person's attention, but also packed to the brim with easter eggs to be discovered during later listens. It's Guided By Voices-ish, but also of its own world entirely, embedded with extraterrestrial lulls and quiet.
When the traditional conventions of no wave, industrial, noise rock and post-punk are so thoroughly engrained in the psyche of groups like PC Worship, to specify particular influences is to make arbitrary observations. The most significant effect of forebearers on an innovative new band is empowerment. The aforementioned genres demonstrate that any sound is viable in a rock context, but PC Worship isn’t content to emulate yesterday’s pioneers, Beat Punk aspires to the next step in the lineage of rock experimentalism.
Say it with me: paink. Now, punk. Which one sounds more inflected with the nasally naunces of the French accent? The former, of course, and with only that (and an illustrated cover that is the stuff of dreams) to introduce a string of French punk songs from a five-year period in the 70s and 80s, Born Bad Records released a comp that is both historical and fascinating. The number of highwire punk bands that operated in varying cities in France during this time period is astounding, and this collection of tracks reveals a very vivid scene that was alive with oi and righteously raging against the establishment, nary a pince-nez in sight. Accompanied by a thorough and detailed history of both the artists and the community, PAINK is a record that is as nourishing as reading a tome of historical nonfiction—your brain will thank you for digging a little deeper.
Can you hear the sum of all of Salva's transnational journeys on his Odd Furniture EP? The "Mercy" remix with RL Grime put him on the big radars and he's responded tenfold on "Drop That B" by amalgamating his origins in Chicago juke and "Coffee Pot" repetitions set to a hijacking of Miami bass, and the finer points of West Coast G-Funk. "Drop That B" is cut from familar cloths, a bit of "Boyz In Da Hood" hitting hydraulic switches, that make it sound like a challenge issued to Power 106FM to keep him on the airwaves. A swift interjection of the classic "rock this motherfucker like three the hard way," will trigger turntablism flashbacks in the NorCal heads, while the majority of "Drop That B" rides on the SoCal three-wheel motion of G-Funk chopped up with DJ Funk precision.
2013 felt like the return of both the 70s and the 90s, as an overabundance of fuzzed-out psychedelia and nerdy college rock was unearthed and imitated. On The Everywheres' self-titled debut, the two are combined to ease the struggle in near-perfect precision. Songwriter Sam Hill does not forgo melody for noodling but allows the occasional scuzz to overcome to sweet packaging. This record is best enjoyed on easy Sunday mornings when eggs are on the fryer and the coffee is hot, or alternatively when you've had enough of the imitation, tribute-style nostalgia. The Everywheres manage to create something new while also staying true to the distant past.
This tape, released by lovely tape label Patient Sounds, is thirty-two minutes of getting you through the cold months with its sad and wistful qualities. Japanese artist Tomokazu Fujimoto, who records under the moniker Multi-surface (or 面多), has created a spectral, enigmatc release of experimental tones for burrowing beneath the covers and thinking long thoughts. It's absolutely spacially gorgeous and compelling, especially in the way you allow yourself to hear it, meaning that it requires a clear mind, a patient heart, and a thorough dedication to introspection. Though our Best Cassettes of 2013 has already been revealed, this one with certainty deserves an honorable mention—beautiful without being precious, Multi-surface's Late Autumn is a spectacle of seasonal music.
As we told you in September, The Herms' Drop Out Vol. 1 is a reissue worth giving a shit about. Though yes, yes (if we may break the fourth wall), we've gone with a heavy dose of Castle Face releases on both our HMs and our official Best Ofs, this reissue is important and ahead of its time. Drop Out Vol. 1 is a series of twelve tracks (some early Tascam demos, some re-releases) by the band that sound like 13th Floor Elevators, The Avalanches, The Doors, and what it might feel like to skateboard down the highest hill in San Francisco. Castle Face owner and Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer posted an adoring letter to accompany the first track, "Power Joystick", that explains what it was like to see The Herms play, and we can tell that this release is a real passion project for him—and passion begets passion. The record is meandering, twisted, vintage, swirled up, and heartfelt. The Herms are what it's like to find chutzpah in music again.