Mahmud’s Top 13 Albums of 2013

There are a bunch of great albums albums I am still digesting (In particular new albums by: Aosoth, Forest Swords, James Blake, Vattnet Viskar, Craven Idol)  but I wanted to get this list out. I reserve the right to change it as I get through the albums I’ve neglected all year.

13) Ponctuation – 27 Club

Spent a lot of time studying for my government french test this year and in my search for good Quebec music, I got into these guys – two person garage rock group from Montreal, solid, catchy songs, a nice variety of tracks. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

12) Celeste – Animale(s) 

I usually hate double albums, I’m of the opinion that the shorter an album the better. Concept albums are generally terrible and self-indulgent. Animale(s) is a two CD concept album- 70 minutes of blackened french hardcore and a silly sounding concept album to boot “bleak story of a boy and a girl, a kind of love story with a tragic ending”. The fact that I enjoy this album as much as I do is a testament to what a compelling listen it is. It could definitely get cut down a bit and it is a bit of a punishing listen (70 minutes of gorgeous brutality is a long time, even for me), but it sucks you in.

11) Subrosa- More Constant than the Gods

Subrosa’s last album ‘No Help For the Mighty Ones’ is a hard act to follow- it was one of my favourite albums of 2011. This is not as good, but is still excellent. Subrosa is growing into their own niche of a weird hodgepodge of metal styles very well and they play better together than they ever have- the lyrics are my main gripe, but it is constantly interesting and the songs go some pretty interesting places.

10) Woe- Withdrawal

Surprised I haven’t seen this album on more top 10 lists- some of the freshest sounding US Black Metal I heard all year.

9) The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Yeah, I know, everyone has this album on their list. Nothing they do will top ‘Boxer’ but it is feels a bit more low key and downtempo than either ‘High Violet’ or ‘Boxer’ (despite the use of strings in the background), reminds me a lot of ‘Alligator’. Not going to change your mind if you’re not a fan, but pretty solid music to sip tea to and read the economist (in other news- I’m getting older).

8) The Body – Christs, Reedeemers

If Portal didn’t release a new album this year, this would probably be the heaviest album of the year. As it is, this is skull splittingly heavy, strange and unsettling. It took me a couple of listens to dig the vocals, but if you like oppressively heavy sludge with a flair for the dramatic, you’ll have a tough time putting this one aside.

7) The Weeknd – Kiss Land

Not much of a progression from his mixtapes, but who cares? Everyone rips on Tesfaye for his lyrics, but playing the degenerate is seldom this entertaining. He’s got a talent for gloomy RnB, and I dig it. Plus he rips on Toronto the first track (“what is a somebody in a nobody town?”) What is not to love?

6) Beastmilk – Climax

This has been a great year for goth influenced rock, and this album – with its catchy hooks and great production (courtesty of Converge’s Kurt Ballou) gave me plenty of nostalgic kicks for the days of black lights and parties in my mom’s basement.

5) Agrimonia – Rites of Separation

First note of this album gave me a big goofy smile and it manages to keep that level of awesome throughout.

4) In Solitude – Sister

Kick ass goth metal. If you like Mercyful Fate or Sisters of Mercy and want some sick riffs to go along with it, you’re a terrible person for not listening to this album.

3) Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory & Injury

I liked ‘Mammal’ a lot, and ‘Tides’ was good, but this is Altar of Plagues’ masterpiece, pushing black metal to its breaking point and beyond. An utterly fascinating journey.

2) Locrian – Return To Annihilation 

Locrian have become one of my favourite bands ever- like Swans they’ve quickly carved out their own subgenre of eccentric awesomeness. This album took me a while to get into, but when it clicked it reveals itself to be totally glorious.

1) Kanye West- Yeezus

I was going to put one of the other albums up here as my top pick, but I checked the play count in iTunes and this is (by a wide margin) my most listened to album of 2013. In particular the deliberately provocative ‘Blood on the Leaves’ is probably the best thing Kanye has done- an ugly song, with an ugly message that sullies one of the uncontested classics of American music. Kanyes is knowingly violating something  sacred- and by extension, the work of artists who paved the way for his own career- to make a twisted pop song. It is is an act of total arrogance and hubris, but however much it repels me I can’t help but love the song for what it is: an artists at the top of his game taking risks to push limits, test his audience and make something that sounds fresh.

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Mahmud’s Top 13 Albums of 2013

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