Them Blue Midnights’ 20 Best Albums of 2013

A lot of good stuff came out this year, so let me add myself to a seemingly interminable amount of best-of 2013 lists appearing on our information superhighway.

What you’ll see, and you’ve seen in many lists, is the amount of great comeback records this year has produced. From Queens Of The Stone Age to Paul McCartney, there was something in the water this year.

Click on the band name/album title for a worthy youtube track. 

The list, in alphabetical order:

ASG – Blood Drive

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This band sounds like Jane’s Addiction meeting Kyuss, and I got hooked. At once atmospheric and driving, heavy and melodic, this is one of the best hard rock releases of the year.

Babyshambles – Sequel To The Prequel

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This was a breath of fresh air.  Pete Doherty wisely gave much space to his bandmates for the songwriting on this album, which carries none of the missteps of 2007’s darker ‘Shotter’s Nation’. So that was my summer album this year.

Bad Rabbits – American Love

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Now these dudes know how to do it. They remind you of Prince & The NPG without ever sounding nostalgic about it. While the album is a bit overproduced for my taste, I’ll take it: At the foundation is a band that plays their instruments like few bands do now and succulent songs lie underneath some of the synth-heavy moments. Also, check out their amazing cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979

Black Sabbath – 13

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Black Sabbath returns with an album worthy of closing its legendary career, but get it on vinyl if you can: the cd/mp3 versions are over-compressed and miss the organic flow of some of the jams.

Bombino – Nomad

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The Niger-born guitarist employs The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as a producer and the result is a great jam record with nice touches on the instrumentation. Another definite summer record.

Charles Bradley – Victim Of Love

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The dude’s got soul. Released his first album at the age of 63, this, his second is simply the best soul album of the year, and is even produced like a 60s record: the drums are even channeled in 1-ear/mono! From the hurtin’ in ”Cryin’ In The Chapel” to what sounds like what would happen if James Brown were coked out of his mind writing about the state of the world in ”Confusion”, the guy’s got the sound, but most importantly, he’s got the songs.

Clutch – Earth Rocker

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Clutch returns and rocks your face off with rock. You can’t really ask for more out of life, and this album in particular finds the band more focused and heavy than it has been in years.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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Everything has already been written about this record and I’m sure you’ve already read everything you need to know about except this: At a certain point, I drank beer and started dancing while tipsy in front of my cat while listening to this. I use the word dancing very, very loosely.

David Bowie – The Next Day

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Best album cover of all time or the worst? Better than Heathen? Will he ever tour again? Dunno, don’t care, this is pure Bowie and a very, very consistent album.

Ghost – Infestissumam

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One of my favourite bands of all time already, I think. Get the vinyl, it’s red and it’s real pretty. Check out the video I linked, it’s my contender for best video of the year, actually. It’s KISS if KISS was Mercyful Fate with an evil pope as a frontman and nameless ghouls as, shall we say, sidekicks. If you like your metal and you like a good pop song too, this band will more than do it for you. Show review can be found here.

Imaginary Cities – Fall Of Romance

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I don’t want to repeat myself and re-write an existing post, but this release is ridiculously under the radar and may actually be my favourite album of the year. If you haven’t heard this, please check it out and tell your friends/start a revolution. Check out my feature on this band here.

In Solitude – Sister

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This band sounds like mid 80s The Cult + Mother-era Danzig but then with some of the atmospherics of Sisters Of Mercy. In my ears at least. So there isn’t anything really not to like. Big drum sound + echo in voice makes you feel like this was actually released in 1985, without ever being tacky, so points for that. Another awesome metal release.

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

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Everything has already been written about this record and I’m sure you’ve already read everything you need to know about except this: At a certain point, I drank beer and started gazing at my shoes very intensely while this album played. Except I wasn’t wearing shoes, just socks.

Paul McCartney – NEW

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I was expecting a really generic album, to be honest, and instead McCartney writes a few songs that may actually be solo-career standouts. I guess I should have known better. He is Paul McCartney after all. A really fun album that finds some nice introspective lyrics at times from him. Not a dull track on there.

Philip H Anselmo & The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

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Phil Anselmo made an album of what can only be described as anti-music. In his mid-40s, the guy is still pushing the envolope for metal, because nothing I know of sounds like this. I think that for the metal genre, this is one of the most important releases of the year. Check out my show review here.

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

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Like every QOTSA release, I didn’t really like it at first. But then, like every QOTSA release, after a few spins you start to get it, and you becoming gradually more and more obsessed with it. Worth all the praise and attention it got.

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

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Sky Ferreira‘s album will put you in the mood to have a night out as much as it will be the perfect soundtrack to going back home. It’s dancy, poppy, druggy, hazy and it has a style all of its own. She’s a great singer, a great songwriter, stylistically all over the place and I’m looking forward to hearing her next album because I have no idea what she’ll do next.

The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)

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The Bronx  started out more like a hardcore band, but every subsquent release finds them getting better at what they do without losing the initial edge and hunger they started out with, with an increased focus on songwriting.

The Growlers – Hung At Heart

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I looooove the Growlers. I think I saw them twice this year. An early 2013 release will not be an excuse of forgetfulness on my end, for the mighty Growlers have made their best album so far and deserve mighty mighty praise. They’re being written about in the same vein as bands like the Black Lips/nu-psychedelia, but there is much more than meets the eye with these guys.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control

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A lot of bands are currently trying to replicate the early-70s feel of Sabbath, but this band isn’t trying to do anything, this is just who they are. I dunno how you label this though: post proto-metal? No clue. You must give this album a listen. You must. MMMkay??

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Top 30 Albums Of 2011.

Well, here we are. Another year, another list. This year was especially difficult to compile – I’ve listened to A LOT of albums this year through very different settings, countries and airports.

Of course, a lot of this music was  often listened to within the standard context of just getting to work and listening to music on headphones.

Hey, we all have our stories.

In the end, here are the albums I kept coming back to and really stood out for me – in alphabetical order!

Am I missing one? Have suggestions? There’s a comments box below, let’s get the ball rolling!!!

 

PS: You’ll notice that each album title is underlined – just click on it and it’ll get you to what I think is a key track from that album on youtube.

 

Acid Baby Jesus, ‘LP’

Super-authentic garage rock hailing from Athens, Greece. This was one of the albums I had a harder time putting down.

 

 

Black Lips, ‘Arabia Mountain’

It’s all over the place, and some songs work better than others, but it still has some of the best material the band’s recorded to date. And that’s worthy of a top 30 spot.

 

 

Bombino, ‘Agadez’

Amazing Tuareg guitarist from Niger – this is music that completely transports you elsewhere and feels like a hot summer night somewhere far from home.

 

 

Davila 666, ‘Tan Bajo’

Brilliant garage rock from Puerto Rico equally inspired by the early 60’s girl groups and 70’s punk. Lotsa heart, lotsa love, lotsa beer. I love this to death.

 

 

 

Deerhoof, ‘Deerhoof Vs. Evil’

This is so good, and damn hard to describe. I guess you can grab some Pixies, some Japanese-pop, some Sneaker Pimps, and some Chuck Berry, and maybe that would be a good description. Listen, do me a favor, and if you’ve never heard this band, just click on the link and give it a listen.

 

 

Devildriver, ‘Beast’

Sometimes a really brutal metal album comes along and just makes you want to break a couple windows. This would be the perfect soundtrack.

 

 

 

Foo Fighters, ‘Wasting Light’

The latest Foo’s album is probably also their best. Huge songs played to perfection that just makes you rock out. Why make things more complicated than that?

 

 

Frank Turner, ‘England Keep My Bones’

Took a few listens, but this new one from Mr. Turner reminds us why he’s one of the UK’s most honest and inspiring songwriters.

 

 

Graveyard, ‘Hisingen Blues’

Missing some 1970’s-ish hard rock in your life? Look no further than this band from Sweden who have it down to a science (including the moustaches)

 

 

Greenhornes, ‘****’

It’s just total pop-rock perfection – a band that takes their queues from the British invasion and 60’s California Pop, all the way to Memphis Tennessee in 1972 with it’s undeniable Big Star influence.

 

 

Horrible Crowes, ‘Elsie’

Brian Fallon (from Gaslight Anthem) made this album as a side project, taking in all his Tom Waits influences. An album about the loss of a relationship and the gain of a new one. It’s as bleak as it is pretty, and incredibly honest.

 

 

Joy Formidable, ‘The Big Roar’

Somewhere between grunge, riot grrrl and a very indie-rock modern sound, this just works so well. It’s refreshing to hear a band like this – not trying to reinvent the wheel, but sticking to music they love listening to and doing it justice.

 

 

Kasabian, ‘Velociraptor!’

Essentially an album about the overcome of drug addiction and the wasted days/years it caused, this is actually Kasabian’s best album, and really blew me away upon first listen. From The Kinks to Electro, you get a bit of everything stylistically, but the overall theme of the album mixed with impeccable songwriting makes it work.

 

 

La Vida Boheme, ‘Nuestra’

Released last year in their native hometown of Venezuela, this Latin Grammy-nominated band fuses dance-rock, indie-rock, salsa, 80’s pop, and straight up rock and roll, and delivers something that sounds like no other. Released this year in North America so don’t blame me for not putting it on last year’s list 😛

 

 

M83, ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’

Making a double-album is something quite rare these days. But with a sound and songs this huge, M83 made his best album and it never overstays its welcome.

 

 

Mastodon, ‘The Hunter’

I didn’t know how this band would deal with following up an album as good as 2009’s Crack The Skye. It seems they pretty much decided to keep rocking their souls away. It’s the best metal album of the year.

 

 

Miguel Zenon, ‘Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook’

The idea of doing a Songbook is so damn cheesy usually. But by mixing modern-jazz influences onto Puerto Rican standards and maintaing classic, romantic jazz sounds at the same time, this is yet another album that brings you away from wherever you live, and puts you on the beach with a nice drink, somewhere in San Juan.

 

Mikal Cronin, ‘Mikal Cronin’

Having previously recorded with Ty Segall and making a very impressive debut together (with 2009’s Reverse Shark Attack album), my expectations were very high for this album. I was far from let down with this awesome debut album that, just like Ty Segall, takes as much from T. Rex as it does from garage rock. It, surprisingly, is a vastly superior album to me than Segall’s ‘Goodbye Bread’ LP, also released this year.

 

Mind Spiders, ‘Mind Spiders’

Mark Ryan from The Marked Men decided to make a psych-rock/camp side project, and I think I even prefer it to The Marked Men.

 

 

Night Beats, ‘Night Beats’

I first heard of this band early this year through the Austin Psych Fest 3 DVD. Their album wasn’t even out yet and I was already sure it would make this list. 13Th Floor Elevators by way of The Sonics.

 

 

PJ Harvey, ‘Let England Shake’

It has to be said that I hadn’t listened to any new PJ Harvey material (probably) since ‘To Bring You My Love’, but after reading about this album, I decided to give it a shot. It’s beautiful, taught and lyrical, and impeccably-crafted.

 

 

Psychic Ills, ‘Hazed Dream’

Yet another amazing (if more laid-back) psych-rock band. Very accessible and very authentic. Had I not known any better, I would have sworn this was from the 60’s. A very coherent album with an amazing flow.

 

 

Rival Schools, ‘Pedals’

So it took them over 10 years to make the follow up to United By Fate, and they made an album that’s barely a half hour long. It still is a near-perfect record, and it’d be good not to wait till 2021 for the next one, please. And perhaps reform Quicksand, if possible.

 

 

Ryan Adams, ‘Ashes & Fire’

Ryan Adams’ first album in 3 years is a mostly acoustic affair with haunting piano and vocal harmonies featuring Norah Jones. The kid hasn’t lost his touch. It’s one of his slower albums and one that deserves just listening to with the lights out.  Probably best indulged with your lover in your arms and a drink in your hand.

 

 

Sex Church, ‘Growing Over’

This band completely took me by surprise. I hadn’t heard about them before, and what I heard was a mix of garage, psych, 80’s goth and I guess a whole lot of whiskey. I love this album.

 

 

Shapes Have Fangs, ‘Dinner In The Dark’

More psych rock! I guess this was a really good year for the genre, because this album also barely left my record player this year. Road trip music.

 

 

Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, ‘Teenage And Torture’

Imagine Patti Smith and Blondie having a fist fight, and then throw in PJ Harvey as the referee with The Stooges hopping along. Something like that.

 

 

Social Distortion, ‘Hard  Times And Nursery Rhymes’

First album in 8 years, so of course, you can’t help but overcriticize it. But it’s typical Social D., and it’s just really good. Mike Ness hasn’t lost his touch, and this music is so refreshing that you wonder how this only happens once every 8 years. Gimme more, Mr. Ness.

 

 

The Kills, ‘Blood Pressures’

I had trouble getting into previous albums of theirs for some reason, but this one totally sucked me in. It’s really sexy, dark, gritty and addictive. Good news for me: This band is playing here in Montreal on my birthday, Feb 5 2012. Sounds like a plan.

 

  

Wooden Shjips, ‘West’

For their first album recorded in a real studio, Wooden Shjips pretty much kept with the exact same sounds as before. Only, the songwriting’s improved and the band is more effective than ever – it’s like the band finally had no restraints on what they’ve always wanted to do and sound like.

 

 

 

********************TOP 5 EP’S OF 2011**************************

 

Black Angels, ‘Phosgene Nightmare’

Leftovers of the 2010 album Phosphene Dream? Hell yes, bring it on. I’ll relisten to Entrance Song in any shape, form, or remix.

 

 

Crystal Stilts, ‘Radiant Door’

 An EP that was released after their 2011 LP In Love With Oblivion, but actualy recorded prior to it. Even though it’s shorter, in my opinion this is superior to the already-impressive LP.

 

 

Gaslight Anthem, ‘iTunes Sessions’

 One of the best modern rock bands from the US revisit their musical roots, including covers of Tom Petty’s Refugee, The Who’s Baby O’Riley. But it’s their take on ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ that alone makes it worth it.

 

 

UFO Club/Night Beats 10” Split

 When I heard that Christian Bland from The Black Angels formed this side project with Lee Blackwell of Night Beats, I wept with joy.

 

 

Wavves, ‘Life Sux’

 Life Sux is just so much fun. There’s nothing really more to say. Punk rock meets Weezer, somewhere in California while surfing.

 

 

 

 

***AND FINALLY***

 

*********************BEST COMEDY ALBUM OF 2011**************************

 

Metallica & Lou Reed, ‘Lulu’

 I really wish they would take this one on the road and have a karaoke machine.

 

 

 

***

Stay tuned for some signed Crystal Stilts/Ganglians/Friends vinyl giveaway!!!!

 

Cheers x