This was actually a difficult year to put together a Top 10 of Music. So many good releases arrived upon the scene. Their were thrilling comebacks such as Black Sabbath, David Bowie, and The Ocean Blue. A ton of newer bands presented impressive debut recordings as well, some of which are featured in this list. What is really stunning are some of the releases that did not make my Top 10 – a few which had been sure things all the way up until the last quarter of the year. I may look on the list a year from now and wonder just what the hell I was thinking, but all in all, these are definitely bands and artists I stand by 100 percent.
This year, instead of alphabetical order, I have these albums and EP’s listed in order of preference. 13 by Black Sabbath definitely tops the list of the full length albums while Lucky by Arrica Rose defines the pure definition of timeless music from one of the most intriguing singer / songwriters on the Los Angeles music scene today. And so here was have it, Editor Ken’s Top 10 picks of 2013…
The Top Ten Full Length CD’s of 2013
13 by Black Sabbath (Vertigo/Republic Records)
The event release of the year was certainly 13 by the iconic Black Sabbath – one of the most anticipated albums of 2013 that definitely lived up to the hype. Their first studio recording since the much maligned Forbidden in 1995, 13 unleashes the intensity and finds Sabbath at the very height of their creative genius. End Of The Beginning, God Is Dead?, and Dear Father and amongst the cuts leaving lasting impressions on the listener. A staggering comeback for a band whose influences on music in general go far and wide! Original members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler are joined by drummer Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine, and the result are nothing short of legendary. (Info: http://www.blacksabbath.com/)
Etterlatte by Havnatt (Secret Quarters)
Havnatt is the exceptional neofolk collaboration of vocalist Cecilie Langlie and guitarist Tom Simonsen, whose other heavier projects include the likes of Omit and Vagrant God. Last year, Havnatt’s superb debut Havdøgn was released through the Secret Quarters label, receiving a good deal of worldwide acclaim. Starting out as a work commissioned by the family of the late Norwegian author Tormod Skagestad, Havnatt has risen into a thriving entity well worth seeking out. Etterlatte is the name of their brand new full length, an astounding masterwork of sheer artistry once again featuring the vibrant writings of the noted Skagestad. Etterlatte is epic and ambitious, while retaining an intimacy that will sweep even the most cynical music critic off their feet and into an extraordinary state of tranquility. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/havnatt)
The Next Day by David Bowie (Columbia Records)
For those who thought the iconic David Bowie had retired, The Next Day proved to be a vibrant jolt to the senses. His 24th studio album shows Bowie at his most innovative and compelling. From the icy aloofness found within the dazzling The Stars Are Out Tonight, the dark and subversive title cut The Next Day, the exquisite I’d Rather Be High and beyond, Bowie has masterminded a staggering collection of sonic reveries. Repeated listening is absolutely required to fully appreciate the glorious mystique and grand artistry of The Next Day. The cover is sheer genius, the name of the album obscuring the legendary Heroes artwork. While masking triumphs of the past, Bowie turns to what’s left of the future, presenting fans with his most intriguing work since his days creating the famed Berlin trilogy with Brian Eno. (Info: http://www.davidbowie.com/)
Aftershock by Motörhead (UDR Music)
The almighty Motörhead saga continues with an all-out vengeance, as the legendary band strikes back with their 21st magnum opus to date entitled Aftershock. Rumbling like a tremendously lethal earthquake through your unsuspecting speakers, Aftershock is sure to be remembered as a standout amongst the already classic Motörhead albums. In a genre all of their own, Motörhead was one of the very first bands to combine metal with a punk rock aesthetic, and the years gone by only serve to make them an even more deadly assault force to be reckoned with. From the opening strains of the pulsating Heartbreaker, one finds Lemmy and Company in tiptop form, ready to grab you by the throat and toss your ass into the nearest mosh pit. (Info: http://www.imotorhead.com/)
Ultramarine by The Ocean Blue (Korda Records)
The melancholic romanticisms of The Ocean Blue have returned after a decade of hibernation in the form of Ultramarine. America’s glorious answer to bands such as The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, The Ocean Blue present spiraling melodies and sweeping lyrical sentiments that will envelope the senses. From the rocking strains of Give It A Try, the wistful Sad Night, Where Is Morning? and on, the Hershey, PA collective bestow upon the indie pop world 12 gorgeous tracks that will rapturous linger within the listener for the ages to come. A glorious return combining elements of the past while looking ahead to the future, with Ultramarine, The Ocean Blue has clearly released their most fully realized effort to date. Pure sonic bliss! (Info: http://theoceanblue.com/)
Skogslandskap by Vàli (Auerbach Tonträger / Prophecy Productions)
Vàli is a Norwegian composer whose instrumental folk tapestries are enchanting to behold. Relaxing and cinematic, the 15 tracks contained within send the listener on a journey through the sentimental and the obscure. A fragrant potion of acoustic guitar, keyboards and cello, the composer Vàli will sweep you off your feet, and into state of absolute bliss. Fans of acts such as Empyrium and Neun Welten are sure to delight in what Vàli has to offer, while all other adventurous music aficionados looking for a masterwork of imagination and intrigue should roam through the sonic halls of Skogslandskap as well. From the gorgeous opening strains of Nordavindens Klagesang, the Skogslandskap experience is sure to captivate the senses and set your imagination in flight. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/vali.official)
In Darkness by Agathodaimon (Massacre Records)
Based out of Germany, Agathodaimon has always been known to mesh bleak artistic visions with a dynamic intensity, coming up with exquisite compositions destined to burn deep within your soul. In Darkness is their sixth glorious magnum opus, an intriguing collection of songs showing the band at the very height of their creative genius. The disc opens with the stunning refrains of In Darkness (We Shall Be Reborn), a staggering anthem that is destined to become a genre classic. I’ve Risen is glorious and haunting, a gorgeously symphonic reverie that will remain in your head for the metal ages to come. Going well beyond what is expected in the Black Metal genre, In Darkness by Agathodaimon is nothing short of a masterpiece that is sure to inspire all who encounter its richly rewarding tapestries. (Info: http://www.agathodaimon.de/)
Strangers Only by My Ticket Home (Rise Records)
My Ticket Home has been through dramatic changes since To Create A Cure, their standout debut for Rise Records. The band has returned with a phenomenal second effort that will enrapture many and even puzzle a more than a few longtime fans. While the metalcore underscore is apparent, on Strangers Only, My Ticket Home has taken a trip into the vast terrains of nu-metal. If this was released at the height of the genre craze, Strangers Only would be up there with album favorites by stalwarts such as Snot, Adema, even the early innovations of Korn. One listen to Strangers Only, and you’ll clearly see that My Ticket Home is fully engaged in their new found sound (which they cleverly call “puke rock”), and the results are vastly impressive. Raging tracks include Painfully Bored, Hot Soap, and Keep Alone. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/mytickethome)
Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love by An Autumn For Crippled Children (Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum)
Based out of the Netherlands, An Autumn For Crippled Children present music as intense as it is enigmatic. Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love is their fourth shimmering magnum opus, with spiraling melodies and harsh vocalizations reeling the listener in to the bleakness at hand. Those into the shoegazing tapestries of bands such as Ride and Catherine Wheel will surely thrill to the lavish soundscapes at hand while black metal enthusiasts will revel within the grim lyrical entreaties. As depressive as the title would indicate, Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love will linger within your psyche long after the disc spins to its dazzling conclusion. With breathtaking melodies and vocals that penetrate the soul, this gripping masterwork is destined to an all-out underground classic for the ages. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/pages/An-Autumn-For-Crippled-Children/108017119243983)
Outcasts by Palisades (Rise Records)
“Come to me, in your time of need, when you’re all alone, and there’s no one to run to,” is the opening call to arms on Outcasts, the stunning debut full length from Palisades of New Jersey. Raising the bar tremendously on their full-length debut for Rise Records, Outcasts is an uncompromising, passionate work destined to garner the band a good deal of attention. Their previous EP I’m Not Dying Today brimmed with promise and conviction, and with Outcasts, Palisades is ready to hit the big leagues in a glorious way. Adding a decidedly electronic edge to their devastating post hardcore inflections, there is certainly a good deal to admire about the advancement of the band’s already intensive sound. A work of breathtaking proportions from a band we’ll be a hearing a lot more of in future days. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/WeArePalisades)
The Top Ten EP’s of 2013
Lucky by Arrica Rose & the …’s (Poprock Records)
Arrica Rose is one of L.A.’s best kept secrets when it comes to vastly underrated singer / songwriters. And on Lucky, Ms. Rose and her band explore dream pop territory, and whisk the listener away on an intimate journey that they’ll want to revisit time and again. Whether it’s the spiraling chorus of “welcome to the future” from the magnetic I Wasn’t Done Dancing or the torchy refrains of Without My Love, Arrica Rose delivers wistful lyrics and vibrant melodies that aim straight for the heart. Why Arrica Rose isn’t a household name by now is the greatest mystery of all, but those who discover the vast treasures found within the short but very sweet Lucky will surely encounter the richest of musical rewards. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/arricarosemusic)
Exhale by Stardog Champion (Self-released EP)
Longtime fans of the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania music scene will think they have hit the mother lode of heavy rock when encountering the stunning compositions of Stardog Champion. Combine two ex-members of Breaking Benjamin with the charismatic ex-vocalist of Lifer and The Drama Club – add a kick ass drummer into the mix – and you’ve suddenly stumbled upon one of the very best rock and roll bands to come out of the States in a very long time. Exhale is their debut recording, a colossal five song EP that will leave the listener absolutely breathless. If you like inspiring rock and roll performed with passion and conviction, then Stardog Champion is sure become a massive winner in your music collection. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/stardogchampionband)
Bright Lights by The Blues And Greys (Wednesday Records)
The Blues And Greys is an indie rock collective from Santa Barbara, California whose soaring tunes and expressive lyrics will surely garner a good deal of notice. Fronted by the luminous vocal inflections of Lindsey Waldon, The Blues And Greys channel such classic acts as The Ocean Blue and The Cranberries, while maintaining their own unique visions with their phenomenally vibrant compositions. Bright Lights EP is a stunning introduction, consisting of five gorgeous tracks whose spiraling melodies and infectious choruses will remain in your head long after the disc spins to its conclusion. Less than 20 minutes in length, the Bright Lights EP is a striking first effort with a fascinating lead vocalist and timeless songs that are absolutely captivating. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/thebluesandgreys)
XI (Eleven) by Rebel Revive (Self-released EP)
Based out of the music metropolis known as The OC in Southern California, Rebel Revive is a pop rocking project that you’ll be hearing a lot more about in future days. The mastermind behind Rebel Revive is Matthew Lindblad, former guitarist for New Years Day (Hollywood Waste / Century Media Records). And while Rebel Revive may find themselves amongst the unsigned, do not expect that status to linger on, especially if their debut EP XI (Eleven) is indicative of things to come. Songs such as The Voices and Nameless Faceless are destined to place Rebel Revive on the radar. XI (Eleven) is a glorious debut from a massively talented artist whose timeless songs will make you fall blissfully in love with pop rock once again. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/RebelRevive)
Unravel by Let It Happen (InVogue Records)
Fans of Jimmy Eat World and The Starting Line need to rejoice right now, because Let It Happen has arrived onto the scene and they are on fire! With lethally heartfelt lyrics and spirited choruses, the six songs found within Unravel will surely leave an impact on all music aficionados. Unravel is Let It Happen’s debut for Invogue Records, and its destined to bring the Cincinnati, Ohio collective a good deal of attention. Their previous self-released effort It Hurts, But It’s Worth It was vastly underrated, seething with a ton of ambition and promise. Now with the dynamic Unravel, expect Let It Happen to catapult into the big leagues. Unravel only contain six songs, but may easily be counted as one of the very best pop rock releases of the year. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/LetItHappenBand)
Sick by Beartooth (Red Bull Records)
After departing from the highly successful Attack Attack!, Caleb Shomo spent time battling his own personal demons as well as working on what would be the debut of a brand new entity entitled Beartooth. Sick is the debut EP from Beartooth, a wildly cathartic, deeply emotional effort that lunges straight for the throat. Defining their genre as simply “Loud,” it’s impossible not to be moved by tracks such as the hard hitting I Have A Problem and the triumphant Go Be The Voice. A powerful work from an artist who’s been through hell and back, and ready to share his visions with the world at large. It will be exciting to hear what the full length debut Disgusting will be like when unleashed sometime next year. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/BEARTOOTHband)
The Illusion of Choice by This Romantic Tragedy (Self-released EP)
Although membership changes and record label problems have plagued This Romantic Tragedy over the years, the Las Vegas based collective relentless march on. Their follow-up to Reborn has finally been issued – entitled The Illusion of Choice, this self-released EP shows This Romantic Tragedy at the height of their artistry, presenting five post hardcore anthems destined to gain the band a good deal of attention. Clearly proving a record label need not to be a factor when presenting your work to the world at large, This Romantic Tragedy may indeed be doing it the hard way – but judging by what’s heard on The Illusion of Choice, this path just may work out best – for now at least, because indie EP’s like The Illusion of Choice are they type that get bands signed! (Info: https://www.facebook.com/thisromantictragedy)
The Sound Of A Turnaround by Mark Rose (Self-released EP)
Best known as the front man of Spitalfield (Victory Records) for nearly a decade, singer / songwriter Mark Rose has amassed his own impressive collection of songs since the demise of his band. While most of Spitalfield’s output was fast pasted and alternative rock oriented, Rose’s solo work has been more varied and ambitious in scope. His debut full-length album Wonderful Trouble surprised many with its soulful inflections – and now on his latest EP The Sound Of A Turnaround – the artist has once again presented a sweet and vibrant musical revelation for both longtime fans and newer converts. Although The Sound Of A Turnaround is a relatively short effort, the four songs contained within are destined to leave a lasting impression upon the romantics and dreamers wandering the great big world. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/markrosemusic)
Pretenders by One Last Look (Self-released EP)
Out of the legendary Orange County music scene emerges One Last Look, a charismatic hardcore / electronica band ready to take on the music industry by storm. Their recent Pretenders EP was produced by Drew Fulk, whose own extensive credits include the likes of Motionless In White, Secrets and At The Skylines. An impassioned work of sonic art, Pretenders is a rock solid effort destined to gain the band a good deal of attention well beyond the confines of the Orange Curtain. One Last Look may be an unsigned entity, but don’t expect that status to last for long, especially if their live shows and tremendous self-released EP are indicative of greater glories ahead. Expect to find this band signed to a label before 2014 spins to an end. (Info: https://www.facebook.com/onelastlookband)
Night Demon by Night Demon (Shadow Kingdom Records)
Based out of the Ventura, CA area, Night Demon present their own classic brand of heavy metal, in the grand tradition of Iron Maiden and Diamond Head. Their Self Titled EP was recently unleashed through Shadow Kingdom Records, a thrilling four song adventure destined to possess your soul with its sheer all-out intensity. The trio recently opened a few shows for the Diamond Head / Raven tour and has been invited to participate in the world renowned Keep It True Festival 2014 in Germany. The metal spell has been cast, and the world is now taking heed to the sonic calls of the Night Demon. It will be exciting to hear what manic rituals Night Demon has in store for us in 2014 and beyond… (Info: https://www.facebook.com/nightdemonband)
Top 10 Songs on 2013 (in alphabetical order)
Songs can certainly change the world. A memorable chorus can remain in your head for ages. In this list are some of my favorite songs of 2013. If one single piece of music can make you feel anything at all – whether it be love, hope, hate, rage – it can live within your soul for an eternity. Here are some of the standouts of the year. In this case, they are in alphabetical order and are all worth seeking out…
5th Avenue by Aaron Shanley
(From the album: Bedroom Tapes: Swiss Cottage Teal Roses)
“I stood like tourist lost on 5th Avenue, fucked up and thinking of you.” This song will rip your heart out. Irish singer / songwriter Aaron Shanley is a massive talent in the grand tradition of Elliott Smith and has recorded one of the most heart wrenching songs of the year. There is beauty is melancholy and longing.
In Darkness (We Shall Be Reborn) by Agathodaimon
(From the album: In Darkness)
“This is the ending – this is absolution – this is our final tomb.” Agathodaimon has unleashed a black metal classic for the ages. You’ll feel evil as hell and ready to take on the world when you encounter the track’s lethal refrains.
I Wasn’t Done Dancing by Arrica Rose
(From the EP: Lucky)
“Welcome to the future,” L.A. based singer / songwriter Arrica Rose sings with a sultry sense of conviction – a dream pop confection that conceals a dazzling amount of intrigue. A true stunner showing an artist at the height of her creativity.
Boys Club by Coney Hatch
(From the album: Four)
“Live fast and you might die young. I’m born lucky, so bite your tongue.” Coney Hatch return after a lengthy absence and unleash their best album ever. Boys Club is sleaze rock in its finest hour, with monstrously catchy hooks and over the top party lyrics rendering this one a genre classic.
The Stars (Are Out Tonight) by David Bowie
(From the album: The Next Day)
“Here they are upon the stairs, sexless and unaroused” Legendary rocker David Bowie sings about the timelessness of iconic stars and how they are perceived as immortal by us all. A song as mystical as the subject matter, this shows Bowie can still unleash the majestic hits!
Cool Kids by Echosmith
(From the album: Talking Dreams)
“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,’Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.” Echosmith spent a summer on Warped Tour, and possess a endearing indie rock quality that has plenty of mass appeal. Cool Kids is a glorious pop anthem for anyone who feels decidedly awkward and unhip.
Everything Comes Down To This by Gary Numan
(From the album: Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)
“I don’t know how this is going to end, but everything comes down to this.” Classic Gary Numan: imaginative, emotionally desolate yet hard hitting. Numan treks into NIN territory once more while retaining his own bleak enigmatic visions.
Mexico by Hanna Kim
(From the album: Exodo)
“Somebody please bring me my things, I was never meant to play dead way down low.” A inspiring song about personal liberation that will linger in your mind for the years to come. If you like Norah Jones you will love Hana Kim.
You Dream, I’ll Drive by Little River Band
(From the album: Cuts Like A Diamond)
“Someday we’re gonna blow this town, And chase that old sunset down” The band that brought us classics such as Cool Change and Lonesome Loser scores big with this wistful song for the hopeless romantic in us all.
Sad Night, Where Is Morning by The Ocean Blue
(From the album: Ultramarine)
“Sad night, why don’t you speak to me? What would you say? What would you think?” Where sweet melancholia and atmospheric guitars clash with vibrant results. A mesmerizing song that will sweep the listener off their feet and into a state of pure bliss.
And thus concludes Editor Ken’s wild ride through the dirty musical highways of 2013! See you all on the web and at the shows in 2014!
(Compilation by Ken Morton)