Tag Archive: Best of 2013

I’ll be honest. Before this year, David Bowie wasn’t really on my radar. I loved the hits and some of his albums like Ziggy Stardust, but he wasn’t someone I really looked at as a currently-active artist. The only song I knew past “Let’s Dance” was “I’m Afraid of Americans,” due to its association with Trent Reznor. But when Bowie announced The Next Day, I was really excited at the opportunity to appreciate a new release from him. I liked “Where Are We Now?” and loved “The Stars Are Out Tonight.” I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the album was like.

Bowie did not disappoint. I love every single song on this album. The title track’s foreboding atmosphere, building to a triumphant chorus that I never get sick of. Every guitar riff feels like a classic as soon as you hear it, like on “Boss of Me,” “(You Will) Set the World on Fire” and “Valentine’s Day.” I love the stories he creates on so many of the tracks too, such as the teenage soldier on “I’d Rather Be High,” another favorite of mine. I also enjoy how the album is reflective on his own past, but rarely obvious in its throwbacks. It reminds me most of another dark Bowie masterpiece, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, which is my favorite of his albums. This album far exceeded all of my expectations and showed that Bowie putting out his strongest work in three decades. For those reasons, it’s my album of the year.

Best Moments: All of the title track, the drunk horns in “Dirty Boys,” the lyrics in “I’d Rather Be High,” the opening female vocal on “If You Can See Me,” the mix of synths and guitars of “Love Is Lost” and of course, the “Five Years” tease.

Savages’ created my favorite debut album by far for 2013. I love how intense and sparse this record sounds. Not one note in its 40 minutes sounds out-of-place or unneeded. Jenny Beth’s vocal delivery has shades of 80s post-punk but her performance feels wholly her own and is completely captivating, such as on “I Am Here” and “Husbands.” The rest of the band is right there with her, creating punishing landscapes of guitar, bass and drums that sound like they’re going to physically attack you. After every song, I was wondering if the pressure would let up and while there would occasionally be a slower number, the tension never abated.

The track that probably exemplifies this energy best is “She Will,” one of my favorite songs of the year. The opening riff is sharp and memorable. The lyrics seem to be forced out, like Beth doesn’t want to say the words. But then the chorus comes in. The drums bash on the cymbal over and over, the guitar takes on a far harsher tone and Beth repeats the title like a woman possessed. The slower numbers are just as strong, like closer “Marshal Dear,” carried by icy piano keys.This album won my over wholeheartedly and I can’t wait to see what Savages does next.

Best Moments: The odd audio clip that opens the album, only to go right into the driving bass line of “Shut Up,” the blast of energy that is “Hit Me,” the warped clarinet on “Marshal Dear” and guitarist Gemma Thompson’s ability to go from the nastiest guitar tones to Edge-like echos on “No Face.”

I actually reviewed record a few months back. I think I put my thoughts on this album there the best. Trent Reznor really does a fantastic job of showing both the continued viability of Nine Inch Nails and industrial metal as a whole.

Best Moments: The swarming drones of “Disappointed,” the taunt sound effects and string scratches that start “All Time Low,” the chaotic breakdown in “Copy of a” and the out-of-nowhere saxophone in “While I’m Still Here”

When I first listened to this album in full, I wasn’t sure what to think. I liked many parts of it, but it was difficult to tell how it felt as a whole. It was only on repeated listens that Reflektor connected with me. I like how it has a kitchen sink approach, with each song having a unique style.

Yet, I still feel some tracks go wonderfully together, like the aggressively in-your-face “Normal Person” and the bouncy “You Already Know.” The chaotic drums that convert into a Neil-Young chorus on “Awful Sound” and the 80s-synthtastic “It’s Never Over” are two-sides of the same coin, two interpretations of the same story. The differing styles keep it from feeling repetitive. The title track and “Afterlife” both marry that Caribbean rhythm with Arcade Fire’s usual bombast and sincerity. The latter particularly has grown on me and has my favorite set of lyrics on the album, with Win moving from condemning the idea of an afterlife to realizing the appeal in an afterlife shared with a true love. While it could have been a little shorter (No need for “Here Comes The Night Time Pt. 2”), Reflektor is another winner from Arcade Fire.

Best Moments: The rave segment of “Here Comes The Night Time,” the “Billie Jean” bass line on “We Exist,” Bowie’s backing vocals on “Reflektor” and any time Regine sings.

Every time The National are set to release an album, someone (likely an Internet commenter) will wonder if this is the record where the band will change its sound. On Trouble Will Find Me, the answer is still no. Why? Because there is no need to fix what isn’t broken. The National’s latest continues a string of successful albums with the usual mix of moroseness and humor from Matt Berninger, tight guitar work from the Dessner twins and powerful rhythms from the Devendorf brothers. Songs like “Humiliation,” “This Is The Last Time” and “Graceless” are thrilling trips that build layers on top of layers, sometimes exploding, sometimes pulling back. Memorable melodies engulf nearly every number on the tracklisting, making this record one of those rare affairs where skipping is unnecessary. That consistent excellence is what helps make The National one of the best bands playing today.

Best Moments: “Pink Rabbits” saloon piano, when the drums kick in for “This Is The Last Time,” that smooth, jazzy guitar in “I Need My Girl,” all of “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Sea of Love”