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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lee's Top Ten of 2013

Bottomless Pit: Shade Perennial

This is their third release and my favorite. I love Steve Albini's production work. The band sounds heavier than before. Andy Cohen plays at his most aggressive and Tim Midgett never runs out of riffs for that baritone guitar or whatever the hell he plays. They're one of the better current rock bands in this country and still, as former members of Silkworm, leading scholars of the Travis Bean guitar legacy.

Primal Scream: More Light

This was the best album of the year. It's every genre of music rolled in one. French soul pop or free jazz, anything and everything. They are the best of the British experimental bands. Bobby Gillespie is one of those rare performers that grows more evil with age, and defines the cutting edge musically. No band has mixed psychedelia with anarchy as perfect as this one.

Polvo: Siberia

Still ahead of their time, Polvo's one of the coolest guitar bands ever. This was a better album than the last. They're in a sweet spot musically, it's just no one hears about them. When the world feels out of tune, that's when their music feels so right. Post-Rock takes on different forms, but the essence of the genre, would be Polvo.

The Flaming Lips: The Terror

The Flaming Lips are in their progressive rock phase. The more psychedelic they get, the heavier and darker everything gets. It's very percussive, reminiscent of 1970's Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. People say they're America's answer to Radiohead, opening new doors sonically, but they're more than that. They're visionaries that actually perform the music as concept albums, along the way of the prog bands of the 1970's (e.g. YES, King Crimson, Genesis) The Lips are constantly reinventing themselves to avoid being stereotyped and dated. Few bands have remained this innovative for as long as they have and this particular album could be a peak in their career.

 My Bloody Valentine: m b v

One of the biggest comebacks of all time. If you're a fan, it was worth the wait. Side 1 is similar to the "Loveless" sound, floating atmospheric music that your ears melt into. Kevin Shields' guitar work is always fascinating and hypnotic. Side 2 is more rhythmic, with tape loop sound-effects and odd repetitive drum patterns. This is the most apocalyptic My Bloody Valentine, and they were already creating the soundtrack to the end of the world in 1988.

HBS: In Deep Owl

Ben Shepherd of Soundgarden made a wild solo album this year. It's totally unpredictable, lo-fi/hi-fi avante-garde acid rock with acoustic tracks in weird tunings. He wrote a lot of the best Soundgarden songs if you check the credits. He has his own thing, a unique style of songwriting and after listening to this, you can hear his influence on Soundgarden albums. He's like a demented Frank Zappa without the orchestrations and his throat is ripped apart, raw like Mark Lanegan or Tom Waits.

Lee Ranaldo and The Dust: Last Night On Earth

A perfect sophomore album. It's a mix of rockers and acoustic songs, but the band sounds new, coming off the Sonic Youth break up. Lee Ranaldo proves he can stand on his own as a lead singer songwriter and there are guest appearances all over the album from the John Zorn fusion scene of New York City. 2013 wasn't a great year for this type of music; grunge or indie-rock, whatever it's categorized as, but it feels timeless and original. Out of all the members of Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo's making the best music now, and some might say the best of his career.

Black Sabbath: 13

I was psyched for this album to happen. Bill Ward or not. I don't think it's a bad album. Is it a classic? Definitely not. But it's raw and I love Tony Iommi's guitar solos. Rick Rubin did not fail us. The band rocks out 'enough', for a bunch of mediocre songs, what did anyone think it would sound like? Expectations were unrealistically high for this one. If you strip it down to the bare riffs and Ozzy's natural vocal tone, you have the core of the original Black Sabbath. They just didn't have another "Paranoid" in them. Why would they? They're 100 years old. If this album means anything, it's a reminder- Black Sabbath is still the ultimate stoner rock band.

Joel Phelps and The Downer Trio: Gala

Joel Phelps has been around since the 1980's. He's an overlooked songwriter who's prolific and consistently good in his releases. "Gala" is a dark rock record with alt country and folk influences. Some of the songs sound like Townes Van Zandt if he were fronting a loud rock band. His music is personal and sincere. Phelps' voice can be overly passionate for some, to others dynamically impressive. This album took years in the making, and sounds like it. It's very intense and in your face lyrically and emotionally.

Mark Lanegan: Imitations

It's a mood record, like those old Serge Gainsbourg cover albums. It sounds like his style of songwriting, whiskey soaked vocals over swampy blues, but a collection of obscurities. When most singers do covers like this, it's in Vegas for money. But Lanegan's not cashing in. I think he's coming from a more soulful place, when cover albums were focused on the performer. His distinctively haunting voice is what makes this album great. I've always thought of him as one of the few that can cover a song better than the original, because he can sing anything cooler than anyone. That's Mark Lanegan.


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