J Hubner: My Favorite Albums of 2013 – Six Months In

boards-of-canada_tomorrows-harvest-608x608We are officially halfway through the year.  A little past that point, actually.  Since we spoke last time Easter, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July have passed.  We’re only a month away from the final episodes of Breaking Bad, there was that whole Game Of Thrones thing, and the wonderful James “Tony Soprano” Gandolfini died.  You know what else has happened since April?  A s**t ton of great records have been released.  There are still three albums from the first three months of the year that made it onto my “six months in” list, but April, May, and June brought some incredible records, one of which I love dearly.  You ready for this?  Good, cause I know I am.

1. Boards of Canada-Tomorrow’s Harvest

boards-of-canada_tomorrows-harvest-608x608Hell, even the name of the album says so much.  It sounds like some sci fi flick from the late 70s or early 80s where scientists are growing future generations in hydroponic gardens miles below the earth’s surface.  Seriously, this album is on my platter more than it’s not on it.  Every little piece about this record, from “Gemini” and its horn introduction, to “Reach For The Dead” and it’s Knight rider-meets-Dawn Of The Dead rattle and ominousness, this album grabs my attention and pulls me in, and that’s just the first 7 1/2 minutes.  I don’t think any band in recent memory with this much history, baggage, and expectations hanging over their heads pulled off a return to form like this.  And you know what?  They didn’t change the family recipe all that much.  If anything they refined their sound to what makes Boards of Canada so special.  That eerie cool, the retro synths, and the overall melancholy that makes a guy almost 40(sorta like me) pine for his childhood filled with afternoons renting Betamax tapes from Video World, riding my bike two miles to the convenience store so I could play arcade games and buy candy, and those late nights staying up in the summer and watching whatever B-movie was playing at 1am.  With Tomorrow’s Harvest Boards of Canada have created a classic, no, masterpiece of the highest order.

2. My Bloody Valentine- m.b.v.

mbvI don’t think any band in recent memory with this much history, baggage, and expectations hanging over their heads pulled…hey, that sounds familiar.  Anyways, Kevin Shields spent the better part of a quarter of a century creating this sonic treasure of a follow-up to arguably one of the most important guitar/noise/shoegaze records ever.  Loveless was an album that created a genre.  It may have existed prior to it, but Loveless put that name “shoegaze” in bedrooms and cars of Midwestern schlubs like myself.  So with all of that hanging over his head, Shields and the rest of MBV dropped a bomb on one random Saturday evening in February of this year. m.b.v. for all intents and purposes was already adored by a ton of long suffering fans, even before hearing a single note from it.  This album could’ve been a piece of royal shoegaze crud and there would have been troves of fans arguing its genius.  Fortunately that didn’t have to happen and MBV came through, 22 years later, with an astounding piece of aural beauty.  The years of tinkering and knob pulling gave us an album that Shields, Moulder, and Flood couldn’t have realized back in 91′.  Everything is heard beautifully.  Sure, part of Loveless’ charm was the impenetrable wall of noise.  The melting of guitar, bass, drum, and voice into a dizzying pulse of sound that you either got and adored or you dismissed it as shite and moved on to something tamer like Ride, Lush, or Rick Astley.  This time around there’s still plenty of sonic tinkering, but more than a pulsating, tremolo’d beast, m.b.v. is sonic geekery of the highest order, and pure pop bliss to boot.

3. No Joy- Wait To Pleasure

nojoywaittopleasurecover1What a surprise when I heard “Hare Tarot Lies” for the first time.  Who the hell was this band No Joy?  The pretty female harmonies, the woozy guitar, and the drugged-out drum beat that carries the song into a chorus of menace and darkness.  Well No Joy turns out to be two gals and a guy from Canada that make an updated version of shoegaze and noise pop that simmers on the stove, but will burn your ass if you’re not careful.  Wait To Pleasure has become one of my simple pleasures in 2013.

4. Atoms For Peace-Amok

AtomsforamokI feel like this album isn’t getting the credit it deserves.  Sure, it’s more jittery electronics for Thom Yorke to dance strangely to in music videos.  Yep, it’s Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich not paying attention to the rest of the band that allowed them to tinker on laptops and DJ in London clubs till the whee hours of the morning.  But you know what?  It’s Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich.  They can do whatever they want.  It could be Thom on the butt trumpet while being accompanied by a little person choir as capuchin monkeys in lederhosen drink from steins filled with fermented banana juice.  There would still be artistic merit to it…I think.  Luckily it’s not any of that, it’s actually a dark, electronic masterpiece so filled with blippy clicks and claps that every listen is a feast for the ears.  And when you throw Flea, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco into the mix, do a little Miles Davis/Teo Macero cutting and pasting jam sessions and you have something very special.  You know why?  Because I said.

5. The Besnard Lakes-Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO

besnard lakesWhat a wonderful find for 2013.  I’d heard the name The Besnard Lakes mentioned earlier this year, but I wasn’t too familiar with them.  I knew they were Canadian, psychedelic and The Beach Boys were mentioned with them, and they looked really cool.  But once I listened to Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO, I realized what I’d been missing.  Epic songs, ethereal harmonies, ghostly melodies, and hazy psychedelia permeate this album. It’s a hell of a listen.  Over and over again.

Here’s some more albums I’m still loving, and except for that number one spot these other records could rotate in and out of the top five here.

6. Deerhunter-Monomania

7. The Flaming Lips-The Terror

8. Kurt Vile-Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze

9. Youth Lagoon-Wondrous Bughouse

10. Beaches- She Beats

11. Yo La Tengo- Fade

12. Unknown Mortal Orchestra-II

13. Wild Nothing- Empty Estate

14. Deafheaven-Sunbather

15. Still Corners-Strange Pleasures

16. Alex Calder-Time

17. Ducktails-The Flower Lane

18. The Holydrug Couple-Noctuary

19. It Hugs Back-Recommended Record

20. Jagwar Ma-Howlin

There are several albums coming very soon that I’m really excited about, like Medicine’s To The Happy Few, White Hill’s So  You Are… So You’ll Be, NINs Hesitation Marks, No Age’s An Object, and Of Montreal’s lousy with sylvianbriar, just to name a few.  Lots to look forward to folks.  I’ll be talking about Of Montreal in the next day or two.  That new single is killer.  Classic Exile On Main Street stuff.  Yum.

What are you waiting for?  Get out there and buy some music!

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8 responses to “J Hubner: My Favorite Albums of 2013 – Six Months In

  1. Looking at your list makes me think you like dream pop a little. I just discovered No Joy myself this year and expect great things from them but Besnard Lakes just keep releasing album after awesome album! Oh, and they put on a fantastic live show.

    • Yes, I love dream pop, shoegaze, noise rock…anything that induces a trance-like state and has walls of guitars squall.

      I had the chance to see The Besnard Lakes in Chicago a couple months ago at a small club and at the last minute couldn’t go. I have very few regrets in life. That is one of the few.

  2. This is a really great list. I am not familiar with No Joy, but I will be soon. I really love the Kurt Vile record, it’s just so perfectly melodic. I finally caught YLT touring on Fade, after being a fan for many years!

    • You need to check out Wait To Pleasure soon, as it’s an amazing album. And that Vile record kills. Love it!

      I saw YLT three years ago at a ballpark in South Bend, Indiana, open for Wilco. They were amazing! Love Ira, James, and Georgia. They never disappoint. Hell, I even loved Summer Sun.

    • Hey! Glad I could make you laugh(and that you didn’t get in a wreck in the process).

      This has been a really great year for new music. I thought 2012 was good, but this is gearing up to be even better.

      Cheers!

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