Top Albums of 2013

Inspired by Shanman’s top albums of 2013 post I’m posting the albums I got into this year. I haven’t been terribly inspired by music for the last couple of years. Most of what’s popular is soft, slow, and boring. Carrie Brownstein, writing about Quasi, said, “They are anti-slipper in a sonic age that has drifted further and further towards leisure-wear.”

Fortunately there are a few bands that are anti-slipper this year:

Justice – Access All Arenas

Ever since I heard Justice’s first album on Australia’s Triple J radio years ago I’ve been a big fan. I enjoyed their second album too, but the new live album pulled all their music together into a tight set that I cannot stop playing. Access All Arenas is my most-listened to album this year.

Quasi – Mole City

I didn’t like this album at first and thought it was the first misstep in Quasi’s catalog since they began an unbroken string of outstanding albums with 2001’s Sword of God. Knowing that their records usually take a while for me to “get it” I jumped at the chance to see them at the Biltmore in November. Their wild, energetic show opened up the album for me and now it’s on heavy rotation.

Mudhoney – Vanishing Point

Years ago I used to be bummed out that I never got to see Nirvana play live. Once I saw my first Mudhoney show in 2000 at the Starfish Room, I decided that Nirvana was the second-best grunge band and Mudhoney, although they never got the same recognition, were tops. Mudhoney is also a rare band that can continue putting out albums long after most bands would have passed their best-before date.

Melt Banana – Fetch

Japanese noise band who recently became one of my favorite bands. Finally got to see them this year at the Biltmore and the new album rocks!

Ash Grunwald – Gargantua

I’ve never been much for solo bands. Ash, however, came into the Media Club as a one-man blues show earlier this year and proved that everyone else is doing it wrong. His new album, Gargantua, pulls together a selection of new and previously-recorded cuts. For someone like me who doesn’t know much about his past work, this is a perfect introduction to his thundering blues songs.

Marnie Stern – The Chronicles of Marnia

I stumbled across Marnie on Rdio when I saw a bio of an artist who named Sleater-Kinney as an influence. She was on the verge of releasing her new album and was playing at the Media Club a week later. Went and saw her and discovered that her new album is her best.

Paper Lions – My Friends

The recent Media Club show was, by a high margin, the best show this year. The band traveled for 13 hours through a snowstorm from Edmonton, arriving at midnight for an “early show.” John MacPhee, the singer, had flown ahead to do an interview with The Peak radio station. To hold us over while the band continued to slog through snow and ice, he did an impromptu solo set which was memorable not only because of how good the songs are without a band behind them, but because he introduced each song with the song’s story. For me, the stories made the songs more tangible and interesting.

When the band scrambled through the door and onto the stage they expressed how thankful they were that everyone stuck around and promised to rock the house. Which they did. Best show of the year.

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