James Woodard's Best Albums of 2013

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Current critics pick their favorite sounds of the year.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats / Mind Control / (Rise Above)

Uncle Acid makes me believe in rock and roll again. Since the first time I spun their breakout album Blood Lust, I was hooked on the lo-fi, riddled with mistakes, recorded-in-a-barn aesthetic coupled with Blue Öyster Cult meets Black Sabbath riff mastery. The follow-up is a bit cleaner, more concise, and less rough around the edges, but we won’t fault it for that. Essential spin for worshippers of The Riff.

Pissed Jeans / Honeys / (Sub Pop)

Their first release since 2009’s brilliant King of Jeans, Honeys pulls no punches with groove- and riff-heavy noise punk. Hilarious, irreverent and unconventional lyrical content is a trademark of the band, and this record is no exception; featuring songs about health care options, cafeteria food and meeting new people on Facebook. So pvnk.

Steven R. Smith / Ulaan Khol – Ending / Returning / (Soft Abuse)

Steven R. Smith decided to do a split with himself, and the result is an incredibly interesting and dynamic take on the art of songwriting. This double LP features the same songs on both discs with very different approaches; the first disc is calm, quiet and pastoral, while the second disc explodes with fuzzed out, speaker-tearing textures.

Steve Moore / Positronic Neural Pathways / (VCO Recordings, Cassette)

A “sequel” to his 2011 album Primitive Neural Pathways, Steve Moore’s new tape (released on his own VCO Recordings imprint) picks up right where the previous album left off. Driven by cheesy ’70s analog rhythm machines and a small army of vintage synthesizers, PNP takes the listener on a journey into subconscious realms of the mind.  This could be the soundtrack to some Philip K. Dick acid flashback through the cosmos, beamed into the listener’s forehead by a pink laser emitted by the God Satellite.

Majeure / Romance Language / (Temporary Residence)

Majeure’s new LP consists of two side-spanning, epic, sweeping pieces that are perfect for midnight drives through desert landscapes and neon-stained highways. Both songs, which clock in at over 10 minutes each, bubble and swell with arpeggiated and windswept synths. Romance Language could be the soundtrack to either hunting down and/or falling in love with an android.

ROB / Maniac soundtrack / (Death Waltz Recordings)

ROB’s Maniac score is the ultimate tribute to ’80s horror synth soundtracks, taking cues from the likes of John Carpenter and Ennio Morricone. While definitely a throwback to the good ol’ days, it is surprisingly fresh and modern. Besides being an incredible and atmospheric album in its own right (though I wish many of the tracks were longer), it is the perfect accompaniment to one of the greatest slasher flicks in decades.

Melt-Banana / Fetch / (A-Zap)

This new Melt-Banana record can be described in one word: fun. This album is so jubilant, ecstatic, bouncy, noisy, crazy and off-the-wall that it sounds like a ball pit in a bouncy castle filled with fuzzy critters and toddlers with smiles painted on their faces dancing to a broken drum machine set to a 220bpm punk beat. Whoever missed them when they played at that shitty hookah bar on the North Side a few years ago truly missed out.

Frontier Ruckus / Eternity of Dimming / (Quite Scientific)

This is probably the most epic and thorough folk album I’ve ever heard. Eternity of Dimming spans two discs, 20 songs, and over an hour and a half of material. It is definitely a tall glass of water, and it took me multiple sittings to even feel like I cracked the surface. Songwriter and lyricists Matthew Milia crafts cryptic and prosaic passages that conjure pangs of suburban nostalgia and memories of the past, like empty strip malls and dust-covered Super Nintendos.

Boyfrndz / Natures EP / (Self-released LP, BLWBCK Cassette)

It’s quite difficult to make music that is both technically challenging from an artist’s perspective while still being palatable to the average listener. Boyfrndz wrecks this line of thinking with their Natures EP, which is both infectiously catchy and mathy enough to satiate the most technical-minded music nerd. Recently signed to the lauded Brutal Panda Records, the rest of the world better brace for impact.

Michael Sharp / Self-Center / (Red River Family Records, Cassette)

A San Antonio ex-pat now residing in Austin, Michael Sharp is a multi-instrumentalist whose musical output varies wildly, from drumming for hardcore punks Impalers to playing a bit of everything for the incredible psychedelic duo Sungod. His new tape, Self-Center, is a quartet of tremolo- and delay-soaked solo guitar pieces recorded live. Essential listening for fans of drone and psychedelic music.


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