A PERSONAL TAKE on 2013. A kind friend put it into a Souncloud playlist. click anywhere!
25. DIRTY MA’S – PLAY IT OUT
About 5 months ago an Australian band released a Brit Pop song and it was almost too cool and effortlessly great, but then because they were so effortlessly cool, or maybe because they were getting sued by the whole of the 90s and by the person who invented bucket hats, they have taken it down. Trust me on this one and stick around; they can’t keep teasing us forever…
24. THE PARROTS – I DID SOMETHING WRONG
The Madrid 3-piece, The Parrots, are about as American as a Spanish band can be; they sing in English with the intoxicating weirdness of The Strange Boys but coupled with more potent guitars which makes them sound more like Black Lips. ‘I Did Something Wrong’ is my pick of the jangle-stompers from The Parrot’s 2013 demo EP, Aden Arabie, and exhibits a more Americanised version of a lot of the music that has come out of Madrid and Barcelona’s underground music scenes over the past few years. They are the tip of the coolest iceberg in España. Also, the band are set to play at 2014’s South By South West festival, which I think will count as their first gig outside of Spain. Look out, world. Also, it’s available free on their bandcamp!
23. THEO VERNEY – MOVING FOREVER
Theo Verney is Mr. 2013. He released two proper nice EPs, each containing plenty of five star garage-rock tunes. October’s Heavy Sunn EP featured the title track which was basically of a bunch of guys turning the squelch up to the max and making as much noise as possible. The EP exhibited much of the guitar work which made March’s T.V EP such a jewel in independent UK music’s crown. Theo Verney played and recorded everything on the T.V E.P himself, from the guitar work of ‘Blood Let’ to the spinning psych wilderness of ‘Moving Forever’. He’s savvy with his releases too, working with Italian Beach Babes, Art is Hard Records and HateHateHate Records this year meaning he’s been involved with three of the leading lights of the UK scene.
22. LIFE COACH – FIREBALL
What was your favourite HARD-ROCK song of the year? Well here is mine. Life Coach are some guy called Phil Manley and that guy Jon Theodore who played drums for Zach de La Rocha in One Day as A Lion. Jokes aside, ‘Fireball’ documents one man really playing the drums and one man really smashing out 4 and a half minutes of guitar that sound more like self-pleasuring than anything else. It’s overtly masculine but not in a way like Jeremy Clarkson would like it; it sounds like Josh Homme making love, it’s seduction by guitar.
21. THEE OH SEES – I CAME FROM THE MOUNTAIN
Thee Oh Sees are a relentless force; in their sound, their output, their loyalty to the genre of garage rock they have made their own they are inexhaustible and unstoppable. Despite the fact that perhaps it’s not the most inventive song on the album, as an album opener ‘I Came From The Mountain’ serves to convey the kind of ferocity and power that the Thee Oh Sees animal has always been capable of. If you are guaranteed one thing when you listen to Thee Oh Sees it’s authenticity; John Dwyer has spent most of his career being a skull-rattling noise terrorist so when he wants to turn it on, he will. ‘I Came From The Mountain’, therefore, doesn’t disappoint and is a garage rock gem, which also sounds like it has spent plenty of time with its head down John Dwyer’s psychedelic toilet receiving swirlies.
20. MENACE BEACH – DROP OUTS
Following 2012’s excellent Dream Out EP, Menace Beach continued to show that, in 2013, they are one of the UKs most instantly accomplished and dynamic new bands. Their ear for a sugary sweet melody and a surging guitar onslaught sets them apart from many other 90s influenced indie-rock pretenders. ‘Drop Outs’ finds them more sugary sweet than the surge of ‘Dream Out’; ‘oh oh oohing’ in the verses and holding back on the bratty noise barrage of previous songs like ‘Burn Out’ whilst definitely still satisfying your fuzz glands. Also, crazily enough all their music is available free on their bandcamp – hit it up!
19. MOZES AND THE FIRST BORNS – I GOT SKILLS
Ultimate slacker Dutch garage rock outfit, Mozes and the First Borns roll through the first song from their self-titled 2013 cassette with all the swagger of a stoned country and western band, in a good way! They embody everything that is great about the output of the stupidly prolific and fun-loving Burger Records; their drunken chorus on this song being: ‘Skills, I got skills, I got skills to make it through your doorway’ before falling face first on the ground and rolling around pretending to do guitar solos, no doubt.
18. PINACT – TELEPHOBE
Glasgow two-piece, and Art Is Hard Records darlings, Pinact, have had a great 2013. There is not one of their lo-fi scrappy punk-pop tunes that hasn’t hit the mark, but Telephobe was the first one I heard and its almost enviable simplicity makes Pinact sound like the band you totally think you could be if you were trying to do pop punk in your bedroom, but could never emulate. The vocals even sound like how I think I would if I were in a pop-punk band, although ultimately I’ll always sound a like a drunk choirboy. Telephobe displays the humble, catchy jams that Pinact have made their own, and I for one will be spreading said jams on my crumpet for years to come.
17. ONLY REAL – PUNKS AND POTIONS
Only Real has done it! 2013 was the year that Only Real released his 4 song Lo-Fi Surf Pop Rap album and I’m so glad. He crept into 2012 with his endlessly woozy, perfect and sun-dipped ‘Cadillac Girl’, where his lyrics took a bit of a back seat to the riff, which was so cool you felt like you could almost sink into it and sit down. Since then, a series of releases including ‘Cinnamon Toast’ and particularly ‘The Drivethrough’ featuring the now widely appreciated Childhood, made me sit and up and wonder if he was taking this rapping thing all the way. Niall Galvin, AKA Only Real stays true to aforementioned catchy, woozy lo-fi riffs and hooks on ‘Punks and Potions’ but the sound is cleaned up in the verses so we can properly get our ears around his choppy, flipped, multi-syllable delivery in all its youthful glory. REP REAL!
16. BASS DRUM OF DEATH – I WANNA BE FORGOTTEN
A band built on energy like Bass Drum of Death can’t afford to stand still for very long, so the fact that there were 25 months between their rip-roaring debut and their self-titled follow up might have had me worrying they were never going to match ‘Get Found’. But not to worry, they came straight out of the blocks with ‘I Wanna Be Forgotten’ and while some people might say that stylistically they have indeed been ‘standing still’ for two years, I’d say they’ve been manically jumping up on down the spot pouring beer on their head. There are only a handful of bands that pump out meaningful energy with their train-wreck riffs and slurring garage rock ‘ooh oohs’ like Bass Drum of Death.
15. THE MAGIC GANG – BRUISES
I think Magic Gang are a YRRS side project, and they introduced themselves with the endearing, super nostalgia hit that is ‘Bruises’. It glows with all the lo-fi psychedelic cool of Gross Magic and is as effortlessly offhand as early Weezer before they started singing about lesbians and life stuff. The hooks and licks demand your attention and there is someone playing one of those shaky eggs and someone else on a tambourine, but it’s not goofy. It’s slacker for sure, but mainly it’s jingly good vibes.
THE BAND HAVE TAKEN THE SONG DOWN OFF THE WHOLE INTERNET : [ listen to their new single ‘With my Baby’ here
14. DEAD GAZE – ROWDY JUNGLE
This song is just so great. You can’t listen to it without thinking it sounds like The Pixies’ ‘Where is My Mind’, but I think that would be a misleading starting point for ‘Rowdy Jungle’. Imagine if The Pixies wrote Disney songs; the melodies are just so joyous and enjoyable as are the lyrics; ‘believe me when I say there is absolutely nothing that will get in our way’. It is nothing if not poppy, and it just might be the poppiest noise onslaught of the year
13. GNARWOLVES – LIMERANCE
I have been trying to work out why Gnarwolves are so great, and it has taken me a while. For each of the last three years they have released an explosion of an EP which has made it easy to track their progress and mutation into one of the UK’s most widely recognised yet dangerously exciting bands on the punk scene at the moment. ‘Limerance’ is from their 3rd EP, Funemployed – it starts brooding before becoming a genuine and rip-roaring hardcore pop-punk monster. I have decided that maybe Gnarwolves success comes off the back of the kind of ‘accessibility’ (dirty word) that ‘Limerance’ showcases. They temper real aggression with high-energy shout-along choruses and have such tight control of every song’s emotions; never letting the song run away into anything too menacing. So no matter what they think of themselves, ‘I am the bastard son of everyone I’ve loved’, for example, it sounds like they’re having too much fun pummelling, thrashing and yelling their way through all of their songs to make a more malicious brand of hardcore punk. This coupled with a grounded relationship with their ever growing fanbase makes them approachable and real; they are a band you can listen to every day and ultimately this is what will bring them continued deserved success.
12. SODA BOMB – AIRHEAD
Don’t let yourself believe that anything is pop-punk until you listen to Soda Bomb. They rereleased and rerecorded a bunch of songs from previous EPs and fortunately one of them was ‘Airhead’. It’s even got that distinctive pop-punk chiming of whining guitars at the start and it’s brash and confident as it wallows in teenage misery. Pointless wanky adjectives almost fail me, but it’s just that I forgot that any bands could make pop punk that sounded as good as this. Unfortunately my head has been unable judge it outside the realm of ‘this is like early Blink 182’, even though it obviously isn’t, but the whole EP is available free from their bandcamp! Listen to it and write something cleverer than me.
11. JACKSON SCOTT – THAT AWFUL SOUND
North Carolina based singer-bonglighter, Jackons Scott, mines the psychedelic depths of his mysterious imagination in ‘That Awful Sound’, the lead single from his 2013 album, Melbourne. The guitars are drifting and warped and are matched only by the drifting weirdness of the vocals; his voice stumbling through the song, yet woozily floating a few feet off the ground at all times. Reality is killing him and his enticing, trippy soundscape is his escape. Everything is darker than it first appears with Jackson Scott.
10. BULLY – BRAINFREEZE
I thought I wouldn’t include songs I’d already written about (because there should definitely be a place for Moses Campbell, New Swears and Tuff Love in this list), but here are Bully with ‘Brainfreeze’ and without wanting to repeat myself the song does a great job of representing some manifestation of youth as both carefree and anxious. Their particular variety of sunshine-punk comes to the fore in ‘Brainfreeze’, it’s all breezy lo-fi guitars and bratty vocals with unmatched enthusiasm.
9. THE SLEAZE – TEKTONIK GIRLS
Total Punk records’ The Sleaze live up to their name. Their brand of punk is creepy and warped but it almost moves too fast for you realise quite how violated you may have been. On their EP released earlier this year, which is totally great, they proved they could do just about everything, from the searing 70’s snarl of ‘Tektonik Girls’, to slightly less unsettling songs that sound like they could have come out of some manifestation of King Khan over the years, to a second version of ‘Tektonik Girls’ at the end of the album which sounds like someone taking a chainsaw to a beehive. The Sleaze are coming and they want to lick your face and break your nose.
8. YUPPIES – GETTING OUT
Earlier this year I was digested and then spat out by Yuppies’ self-titled debut LP and I came away from my brief time in its particularly acidic stomach not entirely unscathed but feeling that this was my favourite song. It’s a no holds barred kind of garage-punk, rock and roll track and definitely provides a consistent chunk of the crashing ‘flow’ in their ‘ebb and flow’ poignant monologue soundscape kind of album. They’re precocious, Midwest-frustrated and sarcastic but ‘Getting Out’ proves they can pen rousing, rattling punk songs just as well as anyone.
7. SPEEDY ORTIZ – TIGER TANK
Maybe being intimidated by a band isn’t a bad thing. I heard first Speedy Ortiz on their 2012 single, ‘Taylor Swift’, in which lead singer, Sadie Dupuis, bragged ‘I got a boy in hardcore band/ I got a boy likes to fuck to Can’, bringing into question whether I was taking part in the humorous sneering at the switching of gender roles, or just being sneered at – Dupuis has ‘too many boyfriends’ to see me tonight and besides, her boy is in a hardcore band. Whatever the case ‘Taylor Swift’ went a long way to setting the tone, if not the volume, for Major Arcana, Speedy Ortiz’s 2013 offering. It seems a no-brainer for a slightly twisted, sardonic punk band to make their songs louder and more riotous, but doing so in a controlled way and not losing any of the melodies or the venom of Dupuis’ biting wit, is the triumph of this album. Nowhere is this clearer than on ‘Tiger Tank’, which displays a band shifting tightly through the gears, only hinting at their assured yet wild power during the second part of the chorus to maintain the balance of sharp vocals and the carnage of the clashing guitars.
6. PARQUET COURTS – YOU’VE GOT ME WONDERING NOW
We had 2013 to ponder and reanalyse Parquet Court’s debut LP, Light Up Gold (which is definitely a 2012 album), and to decide what it really meant to shout ‘Socrates died in the fucking gutter’ in the middle of a garage-punk song, quite a lot I reckon, although personally I was more inspired and amused to hear that no matter what there are still ‘Careers in Combat’. The excellent Brooklyn-based four piece didn’t allow the inner music journalist in each of us spend too long mulling over the perceptive and acerbic lyrical content Light Up Gold before shocking us into action again in October as we were faced with the Tally All The Things That You Broke EP from which ‘You’ve Got Me Wondering Now’ is taken.
As a song, it obsesses with rhythm just like Light Up Gold’s opener ‘Master Of My Craft’, rattling throughout the 2 minutes 24 seconds, sounding initially like the 1970s punk bands that Parquet Courts are so often compared to before morphing into a sort of super sped up rhythm and blues-type thumping. This is accompanied with a demented recorder line and the unique, prickly poetry of Andrew Savage making ‘You’ve Got Me Wondering Now’ even more cavorting than anything on their previous album, yet still includes plenty to induce a wry smile.
5. MAC DEMARCO – YOUNG BLOOD
Mac DeMarco is my favourite adult even though I can’t really believe he is an adult. After releasing two albums in 2012, he spent 2013 touring, doing funny covers (this is the best thing) and being so cool and also released ‘Young Blood’. ‘Young Blood’ finds Mac going back towards to his crooning Elvis impression of his first album Rock and Roll Night Club, and temporarily veering away from the more mature sounds of his second album, 2.
The sound of the guitars and the synth organs, which we now know as that ‘typical’ Mac DeMarco sound, is more present than ever; it sounds like someone’s put the record on at the wrong speed, and then covered it in honey; probably honey that Mac himself has produced from his special honey glands. He’s a really good musician too; effortlessly goofing his way to tunes that no one else can come up with. Mac DeMarco is gonna keep doing his thing, and if he only ever puts into action a third of the ideas swimming around his imagination, then he’ll continue being one of the most entertaining guys in modern music.
4. SPEEDY ORTIZ – HITCH
I’ve always admired the moment in a song when discordance becomes harmonious, and Speedy Ortiz are a band whose misshapen pieces continually fit together one way or another. The guitars are united in attacking each other, but ultimately everything is brought together by Sadie Dupuis’ voice, mature and knowingly clever than anyone else who is listening to ‘Hitch’. She has an ear for a darker melody but more importantly, she is really good singer, I feel like that isn’t mentioned enough. Female fronted indie rock and punk bands seem to be becoming more and more recognized by the wider alternative community, which is great news, but they also seem to have avoided being grouped together for being female fronted, which is even better news. Besides, not all of these bands are derivatives of Riot Grrrl bands; their lead singers are principally disgruntled and frustrated with issues other than being a woman. Speedy Ortiz are much more a spiky Pavement than a Bikini Kill-lite.
3. JOANNA GRUESOME – WUSSY VOID
We all think we’ve got to the bottom of what Joanna Gruesome are because we know they met at anger management classes or something. We’ve figured them right out, these misfits are so angry and angsty that they are perfectly, and maybe solely fit for being on stage and shouting ‘I dream of pulling out your teeth!’
Maybe it is the effect of watching a band over a longer period of time (a band who have now grown into indie blog favourites) that makes me doubt the theory that they popped out of some anger womb, all perfectly formed and ready to bite your head off. Their 2013 album, Weird Sister, is essentially made up of newly recorded versions of songs that have been around since the earlier days of Joanna Gruesome, so at the very least it is worth considering that it was a year or two in the making. As an album it has had time to mull itself over, to extract the persisting emotions and perhaps sheer anger doesn’t stick around long enough to be included. What does, however, is something that is more far more brooding, tempered with anxiousness and time.
In ‘Wussy Void’, Alanna McArdle’s vocals lilt and pitch-perfectly twist like nowhere else on the album, floating lightly above layers of fuzzy guitars like the colourful reflections of engine oil in a dirty puddle (haha). At every juncture in the song, and this is true of the whole album, the band are displaying another level of their ability to create melody and hooks, almost as if they don’t quite know what they are capable of yet, making for a nervous and itching excitement throughout. The album does include its more aggressive moments and part of the nervous excitement seems to come from the bands uncertainty as to whether they will carry out their threats or not; are they so angst-ridden that they will not only dream of pulling out your teeth but will actually do it, or have they found a way out through a celebration of melody and noise? ‘Wussy Void’ suggests the latter.
2. NAI HARVEST – WHATEVER
Nai Harvest a 2 piece, which you’d never have guessed from the amount of noise they make and on their debut full-length, Whatever, where Nai Harvest take everything great from their US contemporaries past and present and dirty it up; their more distorted sound and force more than makes up for the fact there are only two of them.
In title track, ‘Whatever’, the prickly guitar line starts by taking an almost autistic tight control of the song, whilst the raw power of the vocals tries to break free, and eventually succeeds with the shout-along lines, ‘Being busy doesn’t keep me happy/ It keeps me sane’. It’s bullishly sincere. I think we all need to experience real feelings at least once a day and the noodley thrashings of Nai Harvest more than provide that.
1. FIDLAR – AWKWARD/NO WAVES
If my favourite song of 2012 was FIDLAR’s first version of AWWWKWAARRRDDD with Kate Nash, then it should figure that the rerecording is my favourite song of 2013. At this point it’s irrelevant to debate whether it was necessary for FIDLAR to do another version of this song, because I think it’s great. Also, I’d be completely lying to myself if I said that FIDLAR weren’t the band I listened to most in 2013 and as I recall I had a good time doing so.
Throughout history an obsessive and almost sole aim of art has been to express love, heartbreak and the essence of human relationships. A few lines from Shakespeare’s sonnet 116 read
‘Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove’
But then again, Shakespeare, ‘I’ll probably end up fucking up and make it super awkward’ so perfectly expresses the tangible fear, hopelessness and interest of any human interaction that it’s sung as if those are the only words that this generation needs on the matter. On a day to day level we are more scared of being awkward than dying, and FIDLAR know it. ‘Awkward’ turns the mundane into something life affirming and something that we have all shared. If you haven’t shared it, you basically aren’t invited to the FIDLAR party. ‘Awkward’ is the bummed out teenager inside all of us who keeps failing at everything that matters, but nothing would be any fun if we were good at everything.
The songs from FIDLAR’s debut self-titled have been with us for such a long time it’s easy to forget that they were part of a 2013 album release. ‘No Waves’ has got that guitar bit that is like ‘dalalalalalalalala delalalalalalala’ and if a review of any piece of music is supposed to sum up a song’s spirit, then reviewing a song by picking out a guitar bit because it goes ‘dalalalalalalalala delalalalalalala’ should perfectly capture the spirit of any FIDLAR song.