Boogie Staff Picks: The Year in Music [2013]

Posted on: December 26th, 2013 at 10:00 am by

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Grouplove at Bowery Ballroom, September 2013

It’s absurdly easy to amass music nowadays, which makes it damn near impossible to hear all the new releases out there. Trying to keep up often feels like a chore, and music should never be that. In our Sisyphean effort to catalog choice tunes each year, we become more and more aware of the subjectiveness known as the “Top Ten.” Yet we still feel inclined to share our two cents.

Without further ado, here are our favorites…

Elie’s Picks
1. Bear Mountain – XO
XO was actually independently released in 2012, but picked up by Last Gang Records back in May. So it’s good enough for government, as they say. And good thing, because this record receives spins almost daily. It’s like crack. With seven super-addictive electro-pop tracks, XO is constantly on loop. Great for all moods.

 

2. Grouplove – Spreading Rumours
Spreading Rumours is brilliant in its middle-school-pop simplicity. We still wake up singing some of these melodies, even after not hearing the songs for weeks.

 

3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Arguably the best album yet from the city-based quartet. This third effort ditches the afro-pop for a more experimental, reverb-laced affair.

 

4. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
Eighth overall album, but second for Atlantic Records, the prolific Portland outfit shows no signs of wear-and-tear. The first half of Evil Friends is near perfection.

 

5. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
We can forgive the Scottish synth-poppers for swapping the “u” for a “v.” Catchy femme-pop melodies and danceable rhythms define this debut album.

 

6. Moby – Innocents
The onetime Lower East Sider called up some of his pals (Wayne Coyne, Mark Lanegan, Damien Jurado) to collaborate on one of his best records in years. The perfect soundtrack to your chillout sesh. Check out “The Lonely Night” and “Almost Home.”

 

7. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Despite a dose of inner-band turmoil, this progressive duo evokes the likes of Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground. This latest long-player boasts a handful of certifiable earworms worthy of your hearing.

 

8. Palma Violets – 180
The Londoners’ psychedelic garage rock is of another time and place. But we love visiting those “Best of Friends” there.

 

9. Phantogram – Phantogram
Technically, this eponymous release is an EP, but it’s the duo’s first output since signing with Universal. It’s in the same wheelhouse as their previous output, but somewhat more ambitious. Full length comes out in February.

 

10. Sound City Players – Sound City: Real to Reel
Dave Grohl’s epic homage to the recording studio behind some of the best-selling records of all time. The track list is chock-full of A-list collaborations (Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks) with the Foo Fighters as backing band.

 

Holly’s Picks
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
I have a soft spot for this album. It was my go-to summer soundtrack during the weekends I was wandering the sweltering Lower East Side, while on my way to get falafel or review a gig (one of the tracks actually makes mention of a falafel shop – apropos!). Anyway, I have a hard time listening to this album and not getting nostalgic. Personal connection aside, every single song on this record is an earworm full of cleverness. Being a Bostonian, Modern Vampires of the City had me at the lyric, “You’ve got the luck of a Kennedy.” Each track on this album maintains an understated brilliance, and is definitely worth checking out.

 

2. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Frabbits dropped their fourth album this year, full of noise and fatalistim-with-a-dash-of-hope, delivered in an always pleasing Scottish burr. They’ve strayed from their more folksy days of The Midnight Organ Fight, and in a good way – there’s more oomph packed into their loud religion-infused, lovelorn tracks. Each song is loopable, but I was stuck on “The Woodpile” and “Acts of Man” for a good portion of the year. There are a few growers on this album, too. It’s probably not for everyone, but this album hits a sweet chord for me.

 

3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Having loved the last two albums (High Violet, Boxer), I was initially disappointed that I didn’t fall for this album right away – it took a bit for me to come around. But when I woke up to it, I was lost (once again) in a musical black hole of Matt Berninger’s baritone. I am always taken with The National’s melancholic undertones – their music is like a cozy blanket in a drafty old house. Trouble Will Find Me is laden with syncopated beats and unfeigned lyrics. Give it a go, particularly “Sea of Love” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap.”

 

4. Augustines – “Cruel City”
It’s only one song, but it received more air time on my speakers than the majority of music this year. The drums alone on this track are worthy of any new music top ten list of the year. It was love at first listen, especially when your ears reach the bridge. Augustines are set to drop their second full length in early 2014, and if this song is an accurate representation of what’s to come, you’ll be seeing them on our 2014 list. Also worth noting is their live performance – it’s a force to be reckoned with, and one of the best shows I saw this year. There’s just something about these guys…

 

5. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
New to the scene, and making it super convenient to search for them on the internet, CHVRCHES have created a topnotch electrosynth album.  As noted before, Lauren Mayberry’s voice is liquid candy, and pairing with melodic electronics, it’s enough to make your head explode. The lyrics lean toward the abstract, but they deliver a message loud and clear, even if you don’t necessarily understand what that message is.

 

6. Palma Violets – 180
I still believe that it’s only a matter of time before Palma Violets reach Strokes status. 180 is infectiously grungy, yet deferential. It’s a nice change up from everything being caked with electronics and layering nowadays. 180’s lyrics tend to get stuck in your head for weeks at a time (such as “Oh 14, oh 14 take me home” and “You got me dancing in the sun”). The keys mimic an organ, the drums bash about, and the vocals are raucous. It’s quite a ride.

 

7. The Fratellis – We Need Medicine
We Need Medicine is driven by passion and good old-fashioned rock n’ roll vibes. The Fratellis took their frenzied pace and everything else that we loved from their debut Costello Music, and channeled it into a more developed, mature-but-still-loads-of-fun sound. The record’s success also lies in the handful of standalone tracks that are littered throughout the album. Try sitting still to “Jeannie Nitro” or “Seven Nights Seven Days.”

 

8. Bear Mountain – XO
You can’t really go wrong with this record – it’s incredibly versatile. You can either directly engage your ears, or let it hang back as background music – it’s perfect, in that sense. XO’s cheery electro-pop will certainly break you out of any funk. I’m obsessed with the song “Congo,” and, for whatever reason, it reminds me of the 1980’s Fred Savage flick Little Monsters.

 

9. The Postal Service – Give Up, Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition
Sure, this album came out ten years ago (thanks for the age-check, right?), but who hasn’t been trying to wear out this gem ever since? Plus, Disc 2 of the reissue has the new track “Tattered Line of String” that shouts out the LES, not to mention remastered and remixed versions of “Be Still My Heart,” and a live at KEXP acoustic recording of “Recycled Air” that is worth several dozen listens.

 

10. Bastille – Bad Blood
The neosynth London poppers’ debut full-length is fun – plain and simple. It’s lyrically relatable without being overly complicated. The same rings true for their sound. Could definitely be a gateway album for someone who doesn’t much care for electronic-based tunes. They’ve blown up in Europe – put your money on them making it on stateside mainstream radio any day now.

Honorable Mentions:
Arctic Monkeys – AM
Phantogram – Phantogram
Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Paul McCartney – New
Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends

 

Tom’s Picks
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
In my mind, the clear number one album of 2013. And it’s not even close. MVotC trounced all other albums like Reagan did Mondale in ’84, or the Patriots did the Jets in that butt fumble game. This is an Important Album. This is an album that they’ll be writing books about in the (near) future. But what makes it really special is, yes, it’s an important album but it’s also an utter joy to listen to. “Hannah Hunt” is possibly the best song of the year. It’s the sort of song that would make Natalie Portman hand you her headphones to to listen to as she swears it’ll change your life. I dare you to find a better moment in music this decade that the climax of the song at about 2:40-3:20. But it’s not like the album rides one song to glory. The whole album start to finish is incredible. In summary: I really like this album.

 

2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
It’s probably redundant to call this a grower but it is, even by National standards. More consistent and focused than High Violet, Trouble Will Find Me isn’t in quite the same league as Alligator or Boxer but it’s absolutely a great album. Special mention to “This Is The Last Time” which only recently has blossomed in my ears into one of those all time classic National songs, much the same way “Slow Show” or “The Geese of Beverly Road” did.

 

3. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
If you loved last year’s Cloud Nothing album (as I did) then this will hit you in much the same way. “Tiger Tank” especially is perfect early ’90’s angsty alt rock. I was surprised to hear that Albini didn’t produce this album. Major Arcana probably isn’t as good as some of the other albums on this list but I just enjoy it way more, so I’m slotting it in at #3.

 

4. Mikal Cronin – MCII
Fuzzy power pop for those whose collection of Weezer albums ends at Pinkerton. MCII is one of those albums that you’ll listen to every week for six months straight and never tire of it. If I had a car, I would constantly be driving around while blasting this album very loudly.

 

5. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic
My theory on Foxygen is this: they’re a live band version of Girl Talk. They don’t so much as play their own music as grab the best bits of the the ’60’s and ’70’s and then string those parts together in a brilliant collage. They’re so unoriginal as to make complaining about their lack of originality irrelevant because it’s a feature, not a bug, and it’s also their greatest strength. They’re sort of similar to the Brian Jonestown Massacre in that respect, but even more exaggeratedly unoriginal. Simply put: if you like the music of the 1960s, you’ll love this album.

 

6. Mazes – Ores & Minerals
Another one of those albums that, while probably not as good in a strict sense as some of the other albums on this list, it’s just something that I really enjoyed and listened to constantly. “Bodies” sounds like Spoon covering Television, which actually isn’t a bad description for what this whole album sounds like. Go listen to it.

 

7. David Bowie – The Next Day
A really good album, albeit one that I didn’t feel the urge to listen to incessantly (unlike say Major Arcana or Ores & Minerals). But you don’t need to listen to it many times to realize it’s a really good album, Bowie’s best in decades.

 

8. Kanye West – Yeezus
I fully expected this album to be a disaster of Spinal Tap-esque proportions (and I say that as somebody who loves Kanye, defends him at every turn, and who thinks that My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy is one of the top 10 albums of the 2000s) yet, I was pleasantly surprised. Kanye pulls it off. Is it as good as MBTDF? No. It’s another 808s. I’ll take that. It’ll probably be revered in 20 years but until it gets that critical reappraisal, just go listen and enjoy it. Also, “Black Skinhead” might have the best riff since “Seven Nation Army.” There, I said it.

 

9. Haim – Days Are Gone
I didn’t want to like this but I did. It’s hard not to when the songwriting is this strong. It’s not anything more than millennials playing Hall & Oats but what’s the problem with that?

 

10. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Like with Yeezus, I had low expectations for this album and while, I wasn’t as pleasantly surprised as as I was with Yeezus, Arcade Fire is a strong enough band to make the left hand turn into LCD Soundsystem territory work surprisingly well. It’s too long and Win’s “Do you still like rock and roll? Cause I’m not sure I do” is cringeworthy, but it’s not a bad album and it’s almost a good one. Certainly better than most things that came out in 2013. “Normal Person” has a great skronk to it that I love.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul McCartney – New
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
Savages – Silence Yourself
Phosphorescent – Muchacho
Arctic Monkeys – AM

MacKenzie’s Picks
1. David Bowie – The Next Day
2. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
3. My Bloody Valentine – MBV
4. Fuzz – Fuzz
5. Woodkid – The Golden Age
6. Savages – Silence Yourself
7. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
8. JoyCut – PiecesOfUsWereLeftOnTheGround
9. Queens of the Stone Age – … Like Clockwork
10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

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