The Monolith’s 2013 in review – part 4!
Anthony has joined The Monolith’s team just in time for the new year, and what better way to introduce him and his taste than a look at his favourite records of the year just gone?
Hello and welcome to my end of year best-of list. Before we get started I should give some insight to my listening atmosphere. You might be looking at my list and thinking its unfair for me to be putting movie soundtracks and game soundtracks on here since they get the huge advantage of visual accompaniment and you’re probably right, but I’ll explain my reasoning nonetheless: I spend most of my day sitting at a computer drawing. Music with lyrics, or music made to be listened to like an album, can be very tiring to hear over and over when I’m drawing for hours on end, and I find soundtracks help me get in a cinematic mood while I draw; it’s conducive to creativity!
That being said lets jump right in.
15. Bonobo – The North Borders
I had never heard Bonobo before this year and since discovering their discography, I’d have to say this probably isn’t my favorite release of his (Simon Green), as the more jazzed up 2006 release Days to Come hits me in my Jaga Jazzist boner a little harder.
The North Borders is the perfect album for a dreary rainy introspective kind of day. I’m pretty certain it’s made my top 15 list because of its enhancement when listened to while blazing a fat one. And for mostly that purpose I will keep bouncing alongside Green’s sampled percussions and vibes for some time to come, joint in hand.
Forgive me for not starting out with a bang, but hey thats what this 15th slot is for, amirite?
14. Protest the Hero – Volition
Volition is very very fun and energizing to listen to. It’s not totally mindblowing or revolutionary like their sound was when they first hit the metal scene, but the riffs are totes #buttholetight, and the vocals are cheeky as ever, which has certainly kept me entertained.
This song “Mist” is all weird and heavy but in a major scale and who doesn’t love that sound? And we get to picture Chris Adler playing pop-punk drums, which just tickles me.
13. Sub Focus – Torus
Ok, so here’s where my list starts to get weird. Sub Focus gave us some really strong, really thick synth-laden tunes to bump with his self-titled 2009 release and I absolutely loved it. Now, in 2013, this album comes along and I’m just more confused than anything. I’ve never heard such a diverse but disjointed mishmosh of ecstasy-melting-my-brain-club-music placed under one name.
Unfortunately there are a couple of very cringe worthy moments of dub-step on this album that make me question his integrity, but all in all his attempts at variety and somehow tying it all under a very nostalgic 90′s sounding vibe makes it come together in the end. I find myself putting it on and bopping away all the time so I guess I must like it.
12. Eirik Suhrke – Ridiculous Fishing (Game Soundtrack)
Alright, I know this is a weird pick, but goddamn this game is a fucking blast to play, and the catchy as hell tunes always keep me from muting it (even when playing on the john). Sometimes I’ll go as far as hooking it up to my car stereo while I wait for it to warm up (because: winter weathers).
Game soundtracks need to be very smartly crafted, the songs need to be strong enough to be on repeat over and over AND OVER without wearing down on the listener, and that challenge alone deserves a reward. Great game music for me is when it doesn’t just get out of the way for the game, but instead actually enhances the already wonderful experience and this soundtrack does just that.
11.Porcelain Raft – Permanent Signal
I have to admit this is a bit of a biased pick seeing as my good friend and bandmate Matt Olsson toured as their drummer this past fall. OK, FINE, there’s more to it than that even; my other good friend and previous bandmate Jonny Rogoff (also of Yuck fame) is the recorded drummer on this album. So yeah, I have personal attachment to it.
But even that aside, Mauro Remiddi has given 2013 yet another wonderful album to light up a fat one and completely daze out to. The production of the album is the kind that if you crank it as loud as possible on any sound system, from high def stereo speakers to laptop speakers, its going to sound fucking raw and fucking awesome – and the atmosphere is thick here, sending you helplessly flying into dirty, sexy, somber, space.
If you get a chance to see them live I highly recommend it, as Mauro’s soul wrenching croons will melt any weary heart in the intimate setting of a club-like venue.
10. Extol – Extol
Is this real life? Extol released a new fucking album!? YES.
I was very very VERY excited when I heard the good word about this album. It may not be my number one this year, but it is certainly the most triumphant album of the year. When I need to feel the wind in my hair and sing at the top of my lungs I crank the self-titled track on this self-titled album. Extol has returned with a vengeance and any self respecting metalhead would do well to scope this out!
My only gripe with this album is the glaring lack of any remnant of sound from their 2005 release The Blueprint Dives. It may not be the usual fan favorite, but that was definitely my favorite Extol release, and while I’m happy to hear Ole Børud create vast, thick, self-made harmonies all night and day, I miss the meandering atmosphere they started to delve into on that record; the one that didn’t need double bass and chugging guitars to be heavy and dark. Oh well though; I’ll take what I can get and I’m certainly still very pleased with this release.
9. Yuck – Glow And Behold
Once again I am a little biased here, being good friends with these fellas, but I can’t deny the heartwarming goodness that is Glow And Behold. It transports me back to the days when I would crush on the girl next door, misunderstanding the change of days around me, and feeling awkward but defiantly optimistic nonetheless. This is an album straight out of Max Bloom’s heart to the young weird happy person in us all.
If the steely wall of charmingly ill-tuned guitars doesn’t hook you, the wit and candor of the lyrics should do the trick.
8. David Maxim Micic – Bilo 3.0
This album is a total masterpiece of fucked up, heart-on-its-sleeve modern-day metal.
Don’t let the comparisons to Devin Townsend water down your opinion of this definite up and comer. Sure, the wall of sound and strong songwriting of a Townsend-ite is present here, but the way Micic unashamedly pushes the walls of the metal genre down needs to be acknowledged. The vocals are brilliantly varied, from the rawest scratchiest screams to the most soaring and operatic of melodies. There are big hooks, yes, but there are also some really creepy dives/turns on here. I mean CREEPY. And WEIRD. And holy shitballs did I mention just how BIG this album sounds? The production is top-notch.
You know what? I’m actually having trouble writing about this album because I don’t think I can find the right words to describe its particular flavor of awesomeness, so just do me a favor and check out the song “Smile” and don’t look back.
7. Steve Price – Gravity
When I saw Gravity I knew it was visually revolutionary (Sandra Bullock aside). What I was most pleased about, however, was that the soundtrack carried the movie in a way that I can only imagine made it one of the hardest to compose soundtracks of our time.
Steven Price grabs you by the balls, and then rips your balls off, and then glues them back, and then rips them off again. The thick vast emptiness of space is completely exemplified by his sparse drops of pianos and strings, weaved throughout a tapestry of floor pounding beats and pulses. Probably my favorite thing is the complete lack of Hans Zimmer-esque Inception bassdrops – none of that here thank you very much! All original, all innovative, all beautiful, all about space. What more could a young dreamy man like myself ask for?
6. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
I don’t care if you’re tired of hearing about it; this album is fantastic! I’ll keep it brief: I mostly listen to the second half of the album, which is chock full of beautifully acoustic arrangements mixed with the bleeps bloops and vocoding we’ve all come to know and love.
Catch the right mood at a party and throw on “Doin’ It Right” and just watch the whole place erupt into shoulder swaying dance moves. Just watch; it’ll happen!
~ “Keep building these random memories”
5. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer
This album is a good thing, and an important thing. While the djent wave continues to try and reign supreme in their absence, The Dillinger Escape Plans come back to teach them young whippersnappers a thing or two about being technical and heavy at the same time, and that you don’t have to play 8 strings to do it.
As long as Dillinger keep their integrity to be as loud, dissonant, and as fucking pissed off as possible, then I will always have a reason to listen to heavy music. Dillinger are still as obnoxious and violent as ever here too. Are you uncomfortable yet? No? Well Ben Weinman and co. have something to say about that.
~”Fuck you, now try to disbelieve it”
4. Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)
Intronaut get a lot of praise for their rhythm section, but just listen to the jam below and learn why there’s more to the band than meets the eye. The song writing is even more stripped back than ever before on Habitual Levitations, and the ‘feels’ come in droves upon droves.
For me, this album is relaxing, meandering, not-sure-if-my-brain-is-off-or-if-its-in-a-different-consciousness metal at its absolute most vulnerable and beautiful. A very lovely album, and five stars for its (obvious) promotion of smoking while listening.
3. Cliff Martinez – Only God Forgives
From the movie Only God Forgives by the very intense Nicolas Winding Refn, I picked a pretty intense song from a soundtrack thats mostly weird atmosphere and tension making bumps of sound. But it was this moment of the soundtrack that really made me fall for it, so here it is. Martinez gives those infamous Refn moments of still frame film so much tension and drama that most of the time its hard not to feel completely unnerved while watching/listening. Its one of the most haunting soundtracks this year and for that reason it has reached my #3.
SPOILERS FROM MOVIE IN VIDEO:
2. Anamanaguchi – Endless Fantasy
Yay, we did it!
I was a Kickstarter backer of this project, and to support a Kickstarter where I received the album immediately was a no brainer. That’s how you kickstart!
Anamanaguchi went from mediocre 8bit-punk band to synth pop juggernaut overnight with this album, and it almost hurts how catchy and dancy it is – I’m dancing in my chair just writing this! Most people may not know these non-Top 40 pop tunes, but anytime I throw this jam on or any other dancy jam from the album on at a party it gets the whole place jumping, and I guess thats what I look for in an album these days; if it gets everyone moving and having a good time then I’m a happy clam. Instant good vibes; thanks ‘guchi!
1. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
I have way too many ways to gush about this album. The fact that it was the hardest one to pick a song to represent says a lot already – and what the fuck? The first song on the album is eight minutes?! Isn’t this a Disney-made popstar cashing in on his top 40 radio play?
If you told me a year ago I’d be naming Justin Timberlake as my #1 of 2013 I would have called you crazy – but thats just it; JT has done exactly what I’ve always dreamed of people with his amount of fame and talent doing. He’s pushing a genre of music to its absolute farthest reaches in a way I never thought possible. Hell, he’s gone and made the R&B equivalent of a 70′s conceptual prog album.
(I should quickly mention, however, that part 2 of this album is a horrendous display of b sides, and should have been labeled as such. We don’t like to talk about it)…
The 20/20 Experience is dense. Seriously. It’s dense. The songs are long, they’re produced with an absurd amount of innovation, and completely filled to the brim with their instrumentation and vocal harmony. Don’t even get me started on the lyrics; expertly crafted and carefully but effortlessly designed to be as sexy, smooth, witty and soulful as only a master could pull off. There. I said it. this album IS a goddamn masterpiece from beginning to soul crushing end, and I’m so happy that it exists and I’ve been alive to hear it.