Tyler Hanan’s ‘Best Of 2013’ In Music


Personal year end lists are a beautiful thing, regardless of feelings towards the “best of” list’s annual, suffocating December deluge. Amalgamated and popular vote-based lists may filter out any releases that are remotely different, unknown, or unhip, but personal lists from trusted sources are a treasure trove of goodness, a ready-made shopping cart that can be rung up at any time. These are becoming evermore necessary, with the amount of incredible music growing exponentially and the percentage of which we have time to listen to ever dwindling.

Then there’s the matter of actually making the damn lists. Does this properly quantify my 2013? Did I really only love one metal album enough to put it on the list? Should I give priority to the more unknown artists’ albums? It’s folly. Then there are the artists who crafted some of the very best songs of 2013, but whose records didn’t make the cut as a whole. My favorite part of this year was all the diverse, fantastic pop music that came out, yet Haim, Emily Reo, Chvrches, and many others didn’t make it. I think Yeezus is one of the most important records to come out this year. I love it (that feels weird to say), yet here it isn’t. As much as I love touting these ten albums, I feel the need to just as fervently tout twenty others that didn’t make it.

Ultimately, the majority of the pleasure taken from end of the year list-making is taken by the people making the lists. That’s okay, though, even if they are just picking the same twenty albums everybody else picked. I certainly picked a few of those. This is an opportunity to look back, to share, and yes, to pat ourselves on the backs. We have damn fine taste in music. Let’s go get ourselves a round.


In something resembling order… the Best of 2013:

Mutual Benefit Love’s Crushing Diamond

Mutual Benefit is the moniker of one Jordan Lee, Kassette Klub curator, staple of the lo-fi/pop/cassette scene, and creator of some of the gentlest, most rapturous tunes released into the world. Love’s Crushing Diamond, his first proper LP and greatest work yet, has served as a breakout album for  Lee. The larger indie world is becoming taken with his pretty compositions and the intimate sonic spaces they create. The attention is certainly merited, as LCD is a gorgeously rendered creation with arrangements possessing an unearthly emotional heft. A fabulous music video – BANGS’ take on “Advanced Falconry” – serves to further these traits even more.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/102405083″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

MoonfaceJulia With Blue Jeans On

Whether crafting an album with a focus on a single instrument (2010’s Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums, 2011’s Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped) or teaming with Sinaii to craft a fraught, rock breakup record (2012’s Heartbreaking Bravery), Spencer Krug ((Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, et al) ) has made albums that, while fused with that bizarre Krugian element, are all quite consciously distinct from the each other. This continues in Julia With Blue Jeans On, for which Krug stripped away just about everything. On this record, there are only two ingredients: Krug’s voice and a piano.

In stripping anything away, Krug produced his most whole work yet as Moonface. It’s gripping and suspenseful, a lonely and emotionally raw monolith that is impossible to tear eyes or heart (which, pounding, is lodged firmly in throat) away from. Julia refuses to let go, and you’re not sure you want it to.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/109554915″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Sky FerreiraNight Time, My Time

A pop star with more troubling personal drama than most, Miley aside, Ferreira’s long awaited debut swept aside all worries of how these things would affect the singer’s output. Night Time, My Time is a massive album loaded with home runs. It’s unlike any other recent pop album in the different elements it pulls together from different times and production styles. It’s heavy, it’s poppy, it’s pissed off and vulnerable. It sounds like an 80’s diva one track and a goddess of grunge on the next – and it works! No other artist will put together a record that sounds quite like this one.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/112207900″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Julia HolterLoud City Song

The media’s favorite hook for this album is that it’s Holter’s “most accessible.” A classicly-trained musician making “simple” pop songs and stupefying arrangements, Holter simply crafted her most daring, cohesive, and consistent piece yet. Loud City Song, which takes its inspiration from 1958 musical Gigi, is a story of love and life in the city. It’s Holter’s first album recorded in a studio and with an ensemble of musicians, and it certainly sounds the part. Crisp, empty spaces, pulses of a plucked cello, and anxious horn blasts are among the most prominent results, and the crisp touch accentuates Holter’s ever-improving arrangements fabulously.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/102429923″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Janelle MonáeThe Electric Lady

There are no surprises here. Monáe is a master of concept, performance, and genre-hopping. The Electric Lady is a huge, vibrant, and funky masterpiece, and it is so, so sexy. The Electric Lady will make anyone feel like they can dance. “Primetime” will father a thousand babies. Even moreso than with the Ferreira album, this is a record that only this specific artist could make. There is no one else out there like the electric lady, Janelle Monáe.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/112610480″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Joanna GruesomeWeird Sister

Weird Sister doesn’t give a damn. Up-in-you-stuff and furiously fuzzy, Joanna Gruesome have a real edge, razor sharp hooks, and perfectly imperfect lo-fi production on this record. It hits numerous musical pressure points, a major reason it’s so beloved in a number of different circles.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/98697649″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Sed Non SatiataMappō

Die hard fans of these Euro-skramz maestros have been longing to devour this album, and they flipped when the chance finally came. This album is massive, glorious maelstrom.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/99796621″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Oneohtrix Point NeverR Plus Seven

Moreso than any other of the auteur producers releasing albums this year, (I’m still trying to love Tim Hecker’s Virgins) Daniel Lopatin delivered. I still think it sounds like Baby Mozart grown up and gone down the wormhole, but I mean that in the best way.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/108663474″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Sigur Rós – Kveikur

I considered watching We Bought A Zoo just because Jónsi did the soundtrack. Then Sigur Rós went and did an album that’s almost heavy and industrial at times, besides the ever-present chilly majesty and wonder of their work. It’s a bit of a turn, and a fantastic one at that.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/92929153″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To DieWhenever, If Ever

After a string of much-loved EPs, The World Is put together an album that managed to be even better. With twinkly guitars, chintzy synths, and blistering, cathartic crescendos and explosions at peak execution, they crafted an album that continues to one-up itself with each successive emotional freight train.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/92248660″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Apologies to: Emily Reo, Grouper, The Knife, Chelsea Wolfe, Coma Cinema

Follow Tyler on Twitter for far too specific but occasionally clever jokes about music, movies, and the majesty of the internet. 

Tyler Hanan

Tyler raves about movies on the Let The Right Films In podcast. Listen to him make jokes over his beleaguered cohost Kayla St. Onge and their more qualified guests who deserve so much better at soundcloud.com/ltrfipod. Find him on Twitter @tylerhanan.
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