Updated Wed, Dec 11, 2013 10:20 am
This is the fourth in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors. Check out all of this year's lists at this link.
TOP 10 OF 2013
1. Water Liars, Wyoming LP /"Moon Over Madison" 7-inch: One of the most beautiful records I’ve heard in a while. I’ve been into Justin Kinkel-Schuster's work since the days of Theodore and loved the debut from Water Liars a couple years back, but Wyoming is unbelievable. Andrew Lampela told me that he would pay to have them sing him the phone book, and I agree. "Moon Over Madison" came out later in 2013 as a 7" and contains an amazing Hasil Adkins cover that is one of my favorite songs of the year.
2. The Black Angels, Indigo Meadow: I had heard these guys on-and-off for years but really got into them this year after hearing this album and seeing them in Austin at SXSW. I love good psychedelic rock and The Black Angels have got it down to a science. Also, they are probably the loudest band I have seen live--that has to count for something.
3. William Tyler, Impossible Truth: Impossible Truth is William Tyler’s second album. Tyler also also played with two of my favorite bands, Lambchop and Silver Jews. His solo work has ventured into the genre of American Primitive, bringing his own style to instrumental guitar music. In addition to being one of my favorite acts from this past year’s Nelsonville Music Festival, Tyler has put out a beautiful record.
4. The Men, New Moon: Rock and roll is far from dead. And even a cynic like me was surprised to find The Men a couple years back, putting out exciting rock music in Brooklyn, of all places. New Moon, their third record, brings some new directions and experimentation, but none of that changes the solid songs that make up this album.
5. Fuzz, Fuzz: I’m a big Ty Segall fan (who had a great new album called Sleeper this year) so when I first heard about Fuzz I was excited. Segall plays drums here and takes up some vocals as well, joining with Charlie Mootheart to create some serious late '60s/early '70s stoner rock. Think Sabbath or Blue Cheer but with more distortion, fuzz and bong hits.
6. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold: Another new band which I was bit apprehensive to check out at first, but eventually couldn't stop listening to. Parquet Courts move away from their Pitchfork-pushed peers by being a refreshingly rocking band, devoid of gimmicks or glitchy synths. Solid songs that make rock and roll relevant again. Don’t believe me? Listen to "Borrowed Time."
7. Daniel Bachman, Jesus I’m a Sinner: Another new find was the music of Virginia’s Daniel Bachman. Despite being on the early end of his 20s, Bachman is one hell of a guitar player. "Continuing in the American Primitive traditions of John Fahey" might be a good description of Bachman, but a closer comparison would be fellow Fredericksburg musician, the late Jack Rose. Excited to see him live at Stuart’s Opera House on Jan. 18!
8. Sebadoh, Defend Yourself: Lou Barlow started Sebadoh after years of playing in Dinosaur Jr., so it’s no surprise that after a couple years of reuniting with that band, a Sebadoh reunion would follow close on its heels. And much like the newest Dinosaur Jr. albums, it is also surprising how good Defend Yourself is. This not a dialed-in reunion. Sebadoh is a great band making new music that is worth hearing.
9. Endless Boogie, Long Island: I love Endless Boogie, and how well their name describes their music. I’ve been a fan for a couple years, and now that Matt Sweeney has joined up, I like the idea even more. They carry the torch of pure rock and roll and one of its most important time honored traditions: the long jam.
10. Mikal Cronin, MCII: Another great musician from the San Francisco/Ty Segall circle, Cronin follows up his awesome self-titled debut with MCII, an album full of songs that sums up what it's like to deal with being a grown adult all of a sudden, and all that comes with it. "The Weight" is an epic song, one that shows talent beyond Cronin’s young age.
JUST OUTSIDE MY 10 FAVORITES (but not by much)
Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin; Superchunk, I Hate Music; Russian Circles, Memorial; Bill Callahan, Dream River
Songs: Ohia, Hecla & Griper and Magnolia Electric Company: I knew Jason Molina of Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia, though not too well. I am younger than him but we grew up in the same city. I had his dad for science class in junior high, and one of my closest friends grew up with him playing music in the same high school I would attend myself 10 years later. When I first heard his music near the end of high school, it really hit a chord with me, besides the obvious "he’s an amazing songwriter and musician, etc." I actually knew what he was talking about. I grew up looking at the "Blue Factory Flame" myself, and the idea that someone could come out of there and make music like this was like lightning for 16-year-old me.
When Jason passed away in March of 2013, it hit me pretty hard. I went and did what I hope generations of people will continue to do: I listened to his songs. These two re-releases from the beginnings and "end" of the Songs: Ohia years (Molina would later mostly transition to Magnolia Electric Co. as his musical vehicle) capture two different snapshots of a very talented songwriter. Hecla & Griper, which features my good friend and fellow Aquabear Todd Jacops, was recorded back in 1998 after one of the first cross-country Songs: Ohia tours. Magnolia Electric Company finds Molina several albums into his career and changing direction a touch, almost announcing it full-on in the album’s opener "Farewell Transmission," which might be one of my favorite songs ever. Molina’s continual refrain of "I will be gone, but not forever" takes on a much more intense and serious meaning for me at the end of this year. If you are not familiar with Jason’s music, I don’t know if there is anything I can recommend more.
15.60.75 (The Numbers Band), Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town: Exit Stencil Recordings unearthed a Northeast Ohio gem with the reissue of 1976’s Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town from Kent’s 15.60.75 (The Numbers Band). This album contains some awesome psychedelic blues rock and roll that could only come from a place like Ohio in the 1970s. Sadly, 15.60.75 (The Numbers Band) never hit the mainstream like its fellow Northeast Ohio acts of the same time: Devo, Pere Ubu and The Pretenders. Good stuff.
Supernobody, Checkered Pastures: Mike Elliott is one of my favorite songwriters around. I was very excited to hear about Supernobody, a new band including Elliott and some of Athens’ finest musicians. Since its release I have been listening to Checkered Pastures over and over, and its songs have quickly joined Elliott’s other work among my favorites.
Connections, Body Language: Hailing from Columbus, the members of Connections have put in their time in bands like Times New Viking and 84 Nash. They make perfect fuzzed-out pop songs with nods to some of my favorite bands like Dinosaur Jr and fellow Ohioans Guided By Voices. Body Language is a solid album from start to finish.
This Moment In Black History, Higher Deffer: Cleveland’s This Moment in Black History have been putting out solid albums for years now and their 2013 release, Higher Deffer, is no exception. "Family Day at Euclid Beach" transports me immediately to the summers of my own youth, staring at that same Lake Erie from a bit west of the song’s namesake.
Hex Net, Future Holds: Another one of my favorite acts from Ohio (and Athens, too) put out some vinyl this year and it did not disappoint. Future Holds is a burner all the way though, with Seth Riddlebarger’s guitar lines searing and twisting through one of the most solid rhythm sections you will find around this town. A great band manages to capture their live sound in the studio, and Hex Net has done that with Future Holds.
Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unleashed: I don’t listen to much metal, but Skeletonwitch is one of the exceptions. It is great to see the band get bigger each year, and the acclaim they have received for Serpents Unleashed is well deserved. This album finds the band hitting their stride: powerful songs with perfect production (courtesy of Converge’s Kurt Ballou) that showcases how heavy these guys can get.
The D-Rays, The D-Rays: The D-Rays round out a solid showing from Athens in my favorite Ohio releases of the year. These guys play surf-rock with the frenetic energy of a punk rock band but with the precision that can only be delivered by three incredible musicians. On their first full length, they tear through 10 originals and a cover that matches the 45rpm speed on this 12-inch LP.
Brian Koscho lives in Athens with his wife Sherri and their cat Maggie. He works at Stuart’s Opera House and the Nelsonville Music Festival, and is the co-founder of Aquabear Legion which will celebrate its 10th year in 2014! He plays bass in Unmonumental and spends the rest of his time listening to records and trying to sleep as much as he can.