NN PRESENTS: Best Records of 2013

Making a best of 2013 list is not only our obligation as a music blog, but hard work. Seriously guys, Phil and I really labored over this, and it was probably not only the hardest thing that we’ve ever done, but most likely the hardest effort that has ever been exerted in the entire world, at least in 2013. But we do this for you, because we are American heroes, and it is our onus to bring you an absolutely definitive list of what we as individuals liked, so that you our beautiful readers would feel so compelled as to check out the music that we know to be the absolute best.

We split our list in two, because we appreciate a binary approach to things (TWO SIDES!): (inter)national acts and local acts. We did this, because we think it should go without saying that music made in Louisville is so important that it demands it’s own entirely separate distinction. This is where the real difficulty came in; how can we possibly be expected to winnow everything down to just five bands locally and otherwise? For example, writing this out this morning, I realize just how much I loved the newest album by The Weekend, but I already have a rather bloated top five (inter)national acts list, so where should they go? And how can I possibly leave off any band from Louisville on this list? Just looking through our own website I see at least three bands that should’ve been somehow forced into my list, but I don’t have any more room.

So we hope no one’s feelings are hurt, because that kind of seems like a thing that could happen, and honestly we love everyone. Well, most everyone. If time-traveling Hitler is using Nazinet to read this right now, you can get fucked. Read on and let us know what you think in the bottom about our list in particular, or even just the idea of year-end lists at all. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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(Inter)National Acts

Washed OutParacosm
I’m a sucker for Ernest Greene’s slow, dreamy synth-pop. That’s all there is to it. And while I love last year’s superb 2012 Washed Out record Within and Without, I actually have grown to appreciate Paracosm more as a whole . The preferred single from this one is certainly “All I Know,” a more upbeat and catchy toe-tapper.  [LISTEN]

El-P & Killer MikeRun The Jewels
While I wasn’t overly impressed with many hip-hop records this year, this collaboration is fucking awesome. If you can’t have a good time listening to Run The Jewels, check your pulse, dude. I never had much interest in El-P before this effort, but I really loved Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music. Nevertheless, this is one of the best one-two-punch rapper combos I’ve heard in a while, and I hope that this isn’t a one-off effort. I demand more! [LISTEN]

Black Sabbath13
I’m sorry, I just never gave a shit about Dio-era Black Sabbath. Maybe I’ve been missing out, or maybe I just don’t care. Nevertheless, we finally have a new Black Sabbath record with original members Ozzy, Tony Iomi and Geezer Butler. And the result is fucking awesome, in my opinion. There are plenty of vintage powerhouse guitar riffs and vocal melodies scattered all over the place. And while I love hearing these dudes playing their trademark metal, my favorite song is the relaxed Ozzy-driven tune “Zeitgeist.” [LISTEN]

Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Back in 2009, Phoenix blew the fuck up with their super-successful record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.  But after all of their new-born notoriety, what direction do these guys take?  In my opinion,  Bankrupt! is a full plate of fresh, synth-heavy pop songs, without being a boring rehash of anything they’ve done before.  I especially recommend you not missing out on “Don’t”.  [LISTEN]

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
I talked to a lot of NIN fans that were disappointed about this album more or less because it wasn’t similar enough to The Downward Spiral.  And while these same people complained about the funky beats and catchy hooks, I was celebrating another Trent Reznor reinvention.  I know that when you listen to Nine Inch Nails you’re unarguably supposed to be sad and hate everything, but damn, some of these songs are just too much fun to listen to.  In my opinion, “All Time Low” is their best song I’ve heard since the release of 1999’s The Fragile [LISTEN]

Honorable Mentions: Tennis – Small Sound; Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city; JAY-Z – Magna Carta.. Holy Grale

Local Acts

Old BabyLove Hangover
After the release of Misunderstanding Human Behavior last year, you could tell these guys were on to something special, but there was an undefinable element missing. Ultimately the songs on Love Hangover are a bit more mature, taking Old Baby to the next level. My favorite songs from this record include head-bobbers “Into The Earth” and “Love Hungry.” [LISTEN]

Anwar SadatGold
Wow, this is what “modern” post-punk is supposed to sound like. Gold is fucking raw, intense, and almost fragile at times. WARNING: The brand of pissed off noise-making that Anwar Sadat exhibits here isn’t for the faint of heart. [LISTEN]

The DebaucheesBig Machines and Peculiar Beings
Aha! Finally, a brilliant minimalist indie-pop effort out of Louisville that is worth while. This release is absolutely recommended for taking your good time to the next level. And for fans of The Strokes, Talking Heads and/or Nico. [LISTEN]

Straight A’sHumility The Hard Way
After a lengthy hiatus, these guys released one of the most interesting albums out of Louisville I’ve heard in quite a while. From start to finish, Straight A’s blast through 15 awkward post-punk songs quickly without giving you a chance to get bored. And because you care, the third track called “Brand X” is probably my favorite song of 2013. [LISTEN]

ColiseumSister Faith
There isn’t a bad song on Sister Faith, but to me its finest points are confusingly when the band turns down the volume a bit and focuses on Patterson’s voice and settles into an almost pop sensibility. “Love Under Will” is the best example, and my favorite track on the record. But make no mistake there are some excellent thrashers including “Bad Will” and “Black Magic Punks.” This mix of sounds would absolutely satisfy long-time fans of Coliseum but is sure to appeal to a much broader audience than ever before. [LISTEN]

Honorable Mentions: RodanFifteen Quiet Years; The TeethBrennschluss; Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

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(Inter)National Acts

Buke and Gase General Dome.
This record. Holy shit. I can’t even put it into words how much unmitigated joy it brings to my ears every time I put it on. Every. Single. Time. And I play this record a lot, like a lot a lot, to the extent that I’ve tried to stop playing it so that I don’t inadvertently wear it out. As if PJ Harvey fronted The Ex, this album is everything I like about music always, and I cannot more enthusiastically endorse its existence. But I will probably always bring them up, so don’t try and stop me. I mean this when I say (write) it, but please, please, please if you are reading this Buke and Gase, please come to Louisville to play a show. You can play the show and crash at our house. We’ll tell stories together, and become best friends. I just know it. [LISTEN]

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
I consider “From Her to Eternity” one of my top all-five records in existence, although come to think of it, I’m not sure what the other four are exactly, since, you know, my opinion has changed over time and all. Even though Cave has had an already impressive career, “Push The Sky Away” serves as further proof that Cave and company has still got it. This record is hauntingly beautiful, and this despite having no original members of the Bad Seeds on board, proving again how incredibly versatile Nick Cave and his band are at evolving and adapting to carry on. [LISTEN]

My Bloody ValentineMBV
The inner guitar nerd in me lit up to hear MBV earlier this year. I just imagine Kevin Shields having all of these badass amps, guitars, and effects pedals in some magic warehouse somewhere, up to and including gear that he probably brought back from the future. Given that my own guitar playing is usually predicated on eschewing traditional guitar tone, it goes without saying that I respect My Bloody Valentine, who manage simultaneously to create tortured and beautiful sounds. [LISTEN]

On “Exai” Autechre channel their inner jam band, hacksacking their way through what seems like 55 tracks of non-stop Terminator tunes. To be clear, Exai sounds like what a Terminator is probably thinking right now, while they’re staring at you in the shower and thinking about your murder or whatever they think about (other than Autechre). Don’t get me wrong this is an excellent album; it’s just that clocking in at around two hours is very, very dense affair. And they have a b-side thing that they just put out, which blows my mind. I mean, it’s almost like they’re trying to get you to believe that they had some kind of restraint in holding some back during the Exai sessions, WHICH ARE TWO HOURS LONG ALREADY. [LISTEN]

Tim HeckerVirgins
I’ve always enjoyed Tim Hecker’s output, but never more so than on Virginal, his newest release. Where his other efforts have induced an atmosphere of paranoia or confusion, here Hecker creates one of contemplative ease. This is important to me, that I be able to listen to music for a particular function, given my predilection to use it to score my various activities, which are more often than not reading or writing. So know that Virginals by Tim Hecker is excellent accompaniment to most things written by Jonathan Hickman, Rick Remender, or Ed Brubaker (and other stuff too, you know).  [LISTEN]

Honorable Mentions: LowThe Invisible Way; Atoms for PeaceAmok; Oneohtrix Point NeverR Plus Seven; Boards of CanadaTomorrow Harvest

Local Acts

RodanFifteen Quiet Years
It would kind of be criminal not to put this on the list. I mean, it’s the first proper Rodan release in more than fifteen years, and a posthumous one at that given the untimely passing of two original members of the group. Collecting the Aviary cassette, the Peel Sessions, and various live shows, this is an excellent career retrospective to a band that was unfortunately too short lived. I dare you to find songs that are catchier and shred harder than “Tooth Fairy Manifesto Retribution.” You can’t. Also, “Martin,” the second half of a live track in the bonus material, slays so fucking hard I got blisters on my ears. (editor’s note: I really didn’t. That shit would be whack.) [LISTEN]

Straight A’sHumility the Hard Way
Straight A’s are a bunch of goddamned weirdo’s and I love it. I’ve written some words about this here and there, and it’s easy to sing high praises: after a few years this record fucking better be good, and they delivered. Like if Devo and Karp had a baby that loved pop music, Humility the Hard Way rewards its constituent audience with songs that are challenging, but just in that right way where you can appreciate the oddity without losing the melody or the structure. It tickles my inner-freak, but not in as bad a way as that sounds. [LISTEN]

This album is fucking tight. Like a crunked out version of Clams Casino, TinyForest is the brainchild of David Caroll, a former student of a friend, who has an ear for hip-hop that I hope garners him all of the right attention. What’s lovely about this recording is that it kind of popped up and went, like this delightful little blip on the radar, or at least that’s how I interpreted it (translation: I didn’t know it was out when it came out). This is really worth your time to listen to, and if you don’t believe me, read my review from a few months back right here. [LISTEN]

Tropical TrashThink Back Kick A Beer
Tropical Trash are fucking jokers. I mean it. This album fucking slays and it shows all over. The album title gets me on the inside every time. Like laughs style. Like something a redneck would say to some other redneck when they’re being all philosophical and such, except I wouldn’t shed just one tear because I lost my dog or some shit, but because I was laughing. And that level of smart-assery is all-pervasive here, if you can imagine music as a vehicle for sardonic wit. TBKAB shreds, but manages to do so in a way that sneers at it’s audience in a gleefully devious way. I like it. [LISTEN]

Alcohol PartyThe Casual Sex
Alcohol Party were, I think, the too short-lived project that answered the all important question as to why there wasn’t a modern equivalent to Bastro. With The Casual Sex, the trio proved that 90’s-ish, agro indie was still as viable as ever, at least if you want to take your shirt off and scream at the sun after a few beers. Or cocktails as it were, since they were throwing that kind of party. In a year with so many remarkable albums it would be easy to forget the little band that did way back in April or so, but it would be foolish to do so. [LISTEN]

Honorable Mentions: Julie of the WolvesCreate/Destroy; The TeethBrennschluss; Early AgeDemo; Touch AC + Filthy RichThe Necromancer (featuring CJ Prof) [which would have made the list if this was part of a full length and not just a single, so hurry the fuck up, y’all]