Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Top Twenty Part 1 (or is it Part 2?)

In recent years, it has become a social media tradition to spend the month of November not shaving and posting a daily share of the things we are thankful for. I have never really jumped on board with these practices. For one thing, my few attempts at growing facial hair were far more irritating than successful. If I went a whole month without shaving, I’d probably itch a hole right in the side of my face.  Definitely not worth it.

For another, I don’t deal well with the pressure of having to come up with one thing a day to be publicly thankful for. I have an amazing family that means the world to me, a beautiful house, a job that is fulfilling, I am more physically fit than I have ever been, and, of late, I have even become fortunate enough to be playing music with a group of excellent musicians that push me artistically. Even though keeping these various facets meaningful and productive is an often precarious and stressful balancing act, I am humbled and grateful for my life in its entirety every day. Teasing out the strands by being thankful for one thing a day, I think, obscures the entire tapestry. I certainly don’t deserve the life that I have, so I do my best to cherish it. Every day.

At least before something annoys me and I get all grumpy.

I have, however, entertained my own mediated traditions for the past few years, and as in years past, I am releasing the “lower half” of my year-end top twenty list. I sort of fell behind on my posting this year, and trying to catch up resulted in a bit of a writer’s block. When I let go of the self-imposed pressure of writing on every single album I liked, however, things opened up, resulting in some of my favorite posts ever. As a result, several the albums of this year’s list were not addressed individually. Maybe I’ll go back and catch up someday. Or maybe not. In any case, enjoy and be thankful!

20. Zorch – ZZorchhhZorch is chaotic, experimental, and intense, which is a combination that could be heavy-handed when recorded.  Their dodge this, however, by simply having fun.

19. Spock’s Beard Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep: With former Enchant singer Ted Leonard taking a lead role, it finally seems as if Spock’s Beard is a band again. The appearance of Neal Morse in the songwriting credits also reveals an effort to acknowledge their history as they look to their future.

18. Tomahawk – Oddfellows: Mike Patton’s prolific discography is daunting, but this recent release is a focal point. It’s complex enough to hold up under multiple listenings like Mr. Bungle, but accessible in a way that recalls classic Faith No More.

17. Forest Swords Engravings: If Oneohtrix Point Never created Replica by disassembling 80s commercials, Engravings could have been crafted from field recordings of mystical rituals held in ancient ruins. Door slams reverberating down ancient castle halls form the basis for beats as spectral melodies give shape to ghostly movements.

16. Death Grips – Exmilitary: While it may not be as perfect as its successor, the amazing Money Store, Exmilitary is still a commanding starting point. It’s abrasive to the point of almost being irritating, but too engaging to put aside.

15. The Flaming Lips – The Terror: The Lips continue exploring their darker potentials with fascinating results. The casual fan will most assuredly be confused, but the dedicated will find it compelling.

14. M83Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts: Working backward slowly through M83’s catalog reveals that Anthony Gonzalez’s vision, while always artistically engaging, evolved slowly over time. On his second album, The distinctive blend of synthesizers and organs that are now distinctively M83's sound was pretty much developed, while musical structures and songwriting were still evolving.

13. The Who By Numbers: It’s a common assumption that the briefer, more streamlined approach that The Who took in the early 80s was due to the loss of Keith Moon.  By Numbers challenges this notion, I think, as it shows the band moving successfully in that direction before their drummer's death.

12. ShearwaterAnimal Joy: For some, Shearwater might dance perilously close to melodrama. In my opinion, however, their classic approach to songwriting suggests an alternate version of Fleetwood Mac, one perhaps fronted by Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth.

11. fun. – Some Nights: Sometimes good things happen to talented artists. As a whole, Some Nights contains a few moments of imperfection, but it also has some of the best songs I have encountered in recent memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment