SIMGE’s Top 50 Albums Of 2013

Chris Rotolo December 30, 2013 New Music, Reviews No Comments


50. Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
49. Grouplove – Spreading Rumors
48. Night Birds – Born To Die In Suburubia
47. Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob
46. Chris Rockwell & The Stickball Social Club – Buildings Will Collapse
45. Foals – Holy Fire
44. Chemtrail – Your Frequencies Have Been Missed
43. San Cisco – S/T
42. The Men – New Moon
41. Palma Violets – 180
40. The Battery Electric – Weaving Spiders
39. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
38. Kevin Devine – Bubblegum
37. A$AP Ferg – Trap Lord
36. Little Big Toe - Coin Toss Timelines
35. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
34. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
33. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
32. Surfer Blood – Pythons
31. My Bloody Valentine – MBV
30. Laura Stevenson & The Cans – Wheel
29. Ed Tang & The Chops – Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner
28. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
27. Local Natives – Hummingbird
26. Thomas Wesley Stern – S/T
25. CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe
24. Kvelertak – Meir
23. Haim – Days Are Gone
22. Chance, The Rapper – Acid Rap
21. David Bowie – The Next Day

20. Senium – You’re Not From Here

Back in 2011 Ocean Township Grunge purveyors Senium traveled to Chicago after catching the ear of Steve Albini (Shellac, Husker Du) to record the band’s debut LP Such Progress. This past year the outfit returned with a self-recorded follow up titled You’re Not From Here that my have lacked the technical touch and polish added by the genre luminary, but brought to the forefront a cavernous grit and raw power that transformed Senium into a completely different type of carnivorous species. The record contains its moments of savagery, such as the raucous refrains of “Don’t Own Me”, as well as sludgy explosives delivered on “Haven’t I The Right?”, and the spine snapping tendencies of “There’s No Other Way”, but the collection lacks the rampant flame-licked turbulence of Senium’s inaugural release…which is a positive, as the instrumental hooks, melodies, and vocal harmonies once buried underneath blankets of scorched-earth distortion have been afforded room to breathe. This is not 1991. It will take more for a band like Senium to catch a break. But, with back-to-back releases of this caliber, it has to be a matter of time, or all my faith in this machine will be lost. -CR

19. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator

At the forefront of everything duo Majical Cloudz does is a commitment to powerful simplicity. Singer Devon Welsh’s powerful and stark vocal swims and sways amid Matthew Otto’s brilliant beats and textures. There are few more heartbreaking listen’s than “Childhood’s End” while “Mister” qualifies as a bonafide, somber dance cut. -MM

18. The Flaming Lips – The Terror

You know the formula by now; Wayne Coyne rolls around in a giant ball and The Flaming Lips go from town to town promoting peace, love, and weirdness. Something pretty fucked up, say a mid-life crisis, must have impacted the Oklahoma City art-freaks as the band explore a deep nightmare on their appropriately titled The Terror. From the opening subversions of “Look…The Sun Is Rising” to the psychotic pulse of “Your Lust”, “The Terror” manages to entrance and make the listener contemplate the prospect of their own mortality at every turn. -MM

17. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law

Much like Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen fame The Joy Formidable is a pulverizing mechanism with destructive hands that discharge devestating axe riffs rather than death rays. As society was drawn to this atom bomb of a being so are we to the power and brilliance showcased on the outfit’s latest long-form collection Wolf’s Law. A made-for-stadium wrecking crew trapped in the intimate shackles of the club circuit, The Joy Formidable states its case for canyon-esque venues and festival main stages with such eruptive selections as “Cholla”, “Maw Maw Song”, and “The Leopard & The Lung”, to name three amongst a multitude. Meshing the musical ideologies of Muse and Metric, The Joy Formidable is primed and equipped to straddle gilded stages. -CR

16. California X – S/T

“California X succeeds at melding hard rock and punk with pop in a way that propelled bands like Nirvana to super-stardom in the 1990’s,” wrote SIMGE’s Jim “CoolDad” Appio earlier this year, and he isn’t wrong. The Amherst, MA power trio propelled forward into the pool of international prominence by proving itself to supporters with explosive live performances about the states and overseas, and further endearing themselves to fans with a debut full-length that successfully captured the band’s concrete wall of sound. Backed by New Brunswick’s Don Giovanni Records and wielding a catalogue that features such combustible cuts as “Spider X“ and “Pond Rot“, California X is rolling like a gang of demonic bikers bred from hell fire and fed early Weezer records from the third prong of pitchfork…May I suggest joining the cavalcade. -CR

15. FIDLAR – S/T

Sporting a prideful acronym that proclaims “Fuck It Dog Life’s A Risk”, FIDLAR emerged in 2013 with a self-titled debut full-length collection for those of us who plummeted over the edge of the fiscal cliff. These young gun slingers from L.A. captured the spirit of backyard BBQs gone off the rails and basement shows broken up by cops bloodied and battered by carefully catapulted PBR cans. This a roster of two-minute breakneck anthems about “Cheap Beer”, “Blackout Stout”, being “Stoked And Broke”, and the debaucherous time frame of “5 to 9” all culminating with an ode to “Coacaine”. FIDLAR is a snarling gang of skaters and their bleached lo-fi meat grinder of a debut reflects as much. -CR

14. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk have never been ones to do things small or simple. Digging through their crate of favorite records, the legendary French disco duo made their glorious return with Random Access Memories, a love letter to the music that molded them. The ubiquitous “Get Lucky” brought together Pharrell and Niles Rodgers slid only tracks up from the 21st century bass stomp of Panda Bear collab “Doin’ It Right”. If “Random Access Memories” is a time capsule, it’s of a snapshot of the past in the present. -MM

13. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

The excellent, eccentric taste of My Morning Jacket singer Jim James is sampled all throughout his main outfit’s varied discography. So when James struck out on his own for his first solo record, one was left to wonder in what direction his unparalleled croon would go. Inspired by Lynd Ward’s visual novel “God’s Man”, Regions of Light and Sound of God gives James to spread out and let loose with intricate backdrops to jam off of. An artist in his prime, exploring his innermost urges. -MM

12. Mumblr – White Jesus, Black God

The burgeoning Philadelphia based Punk outfit Mumblr appeared to be on a unifying mission with the release of White Jesus, Black God (Fleeting Youth Records) and its preceding lead single “Puke”…because who can’t get behind a song named after the expulsion of undigested bowel remnants? Delving deeper into this collection you’ll find a group influenced by the brutal fuzz-smothered tactics of famed Grunge purveyors past, as well one schooled in the hook-littered tendencies of Weezer, Foo Fighters, and Queens Of The Stone Age. White Jesus, Black God is where gentle artistry and brash barbarism clash and conjoin with Mumblr at the helm, orchestrating the calculated chaos, and constructing the allure. –CR

11. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

What do you do after enjoying your greatest success? Take a sharp left turn of course. That’s what truly special acts such as Arcade Fire do, and well, as the arena rockers embraced Haitian rhythms and themes of human disconnection on Reflektor. Indulge in the album’s long time and you’ll find a new sonic diversion or groove with every listen. For a band known for their stark earnestness, Arcade Fire present their latest opus with a subtle wink and a nod that point to their dedication to innovative craft and vision. -MM

10. Owel – S/T

Birthed from the ashes of a local Atmospheric-Rock collective named Old Nick, the Northern New Jersey based Owel emerged in 2013 as one of the most pleasant surprises SIMGE received. A group of musicians well-versed in the withdrawn tactics of their past work, Owel built upon that foundation with a self-titled debut that breaths fire back into a recently revitalized Emo genre. From the swooning opener “Snow Globe”, to the tumultuous mid-bridge “Nothing’s Meant” that expands the sparse visions set forth by The Postal Service a decade ago, to the revisited, retouched, and ultra-appealing Old Nick carryover “The Unforgiving Tide”, Owel’s inaugural collection is a kaleidoscopic sleigh ride through a frosted forest of instrumental textures and artfully crafted melodies for which the follow up is heavily anticipated -CR

9. Savages – Silence Yourself

After emerging as the most buzzed about band of CMJ 2012, four piece punk rockers Savages were backed by considerable hype prior to the release of their debut fell length Silence Yourself. With a defined, confrontational aesthetic, knives were sharpened and ultimately left to wilt as the formidable quartet proved their road tested chops taking to the studio and recording live. That energy bleeds out through the speakers as Savages’ tight rhythm section allows Gemmy Thompson to weave inventive lead guitar lines and singer Jehnny Beth to relay the band’s anti-tech message. -MM

8. The Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk

If it hasn’t already been firmly set in concrete let’s confirm it here…”A woman can severely fuck with a man’s psyche,” so much so that they’d be willing to construct an entire album around such a French-speaking beast of burden named Chelsea who, for 12 songs, tears through the emotions of The Front Bottoms’ frontman Brian Sella like, well, the talon of a hawk. Through his scattershot delivery introduced on the band’s 2011 self-titled debut, Sella’s ability to capture the essence of a young 20-something roaming about the earth (of the Garden State) is far too accurate, which adds to the accessibility of this group, and he’s done it again on Talon Of The Hawk. However, instead of forcing himself to sober up as the cops breakdown a basement kegger, Sella has grown up slightly in this mix and now plays the role of a young lover caught in a relationship gone awry and the post-breakup aftershocks. It’s all here: The hurtful bickering (“Au Revoir”), memories of that pregnancy scare (“Lone Star”), partying to forget (“Skeleton”), seeing her out in the world with another guy (“The Feud”), and of course that last ditch effort to salvage your relationship, only to have her exclaim “hey man I love you but no fucking way!” (“Twin Sized Mattress”). -CR

7. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

After roaming the campus and washing off the post-collegiate blues, the inquisitive among us are to left to look to the sky, and the rest of our lives, and wonder “Why?” Such heavy statements are delivered both directly and ironically on Vampire Weekend’s third effort Modern Vampires of the City. Finding the perfect blend of their eclectic influences and interests, Ezra Koenig and Co. excite both with manic explorations of existentialism and pensive, soul searching slow ballads. -MM

6. Moon Motel – The Lonely Romantic

The latest release by Howell, NJ’s J. Sales, who is better known by his stage moniker Moon Motel is an artistic stroke of catharsis in which the penman weaves a haunting tale of love lost and the emotional anguish that accompanies such a trial into an intellectual and aesthetically stirring arrangement of musical poetry. The Lonely Romantic is a concept album studying the deterioration of our protagonist, the Romantic, as he is forced to abandon the pursuit of the love of his life, the Sniper. “Sometimes, mourning over the loss of a loved one who is still alive can be more heart-wrenching than grieving over a death,” explains Moon Motel in the records’ forward, setting the scene for a collection birthed from “four nervous breakdowns, and immense depression.” The Lonely Romantic is not an account of the good times spent hand-in-hand on the boardwalk, but rather a waltz through scorched earth and the aftermath of love faded. So sit back and bask in the painful imagery presented by Moon Motel…but never discount the courage it took breath life into this collection. -CR

5. Queens of the Stone Age –  …Like Clockwork

Ever wake up after dying on an operating table? That’s exactly what happened to Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme before setting to work on …Like Clockwork. Some people might have turned to God, but Homme found a re-birth in snarl, smoke, and booze. A thumping return to form, …Like Clockwork shows focuses the golden sound and lineup of the “Songs For The Deaf” days funneled through a world weary prism. Searing rockers like “My God Is The Sun” align with sexy tell offs like “Smooth Sailing” and “If I Had A Tail” to make for one hell of a satisfying dystopian ride. -MM

4. So So Glos – Blowout

For the same reasons we’re drawn to the likes of Titus Andronicus so too is there an allure for Brooklyn’s So So Glos, who emerged from their home/recording studio/national tour stop known as Shea Stadium with an intelligent and amusing collection of Punk anthems titled Blowout. Highlighted by the satirical “Son Of An American”, “Lost Weekend”, which makes the case for fun over working toward a fabricated future, and the economic commentary that is “Wrecking Ball”, Blowout very much establishes itself as a record of record, documenting the modern youth’s fight for amusement and survival in such trying financial times…Then I played “Speakeasy” and was convinced The So So Glos had stepped out of the here and now to predict the death of Michael Hastings.

Blowout landed on April 23rd amidst the Edward Snowden leaks and an ongoing discourse about the nation’s transformation into a “Surveillance State”. Hastings, a political journalist with ties to Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed, and more, was at the forefront of the fight against our government’s War On Journalism.

On June 18th Hastings was involved in a fiery car accident in L.A. in which he was killed on impact and his corpse burnt beyond recognition, only hours after relaying to colleagues via Twitter the importance of his forthcoming profile on CIA Director John O. Brennan and the information he recently uncovered.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey “Speakeasy” is spinning on my turntable and Levine’s raspy croon comes through with lines about “this dude from L.A.” who is “gonna kill us all” (a common viewpoint expressed by President and his cabinet), and how “he’s got a thousand ways to talk (Twitter, Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed, etc) but he got no voice at all (due to his untimely and suspicious death).”

Are The So So Glos the Punk-Rock equivalent of Nostradamus? Who can say for sure. What is certain is that the follow up to Blowout will be greatly anticipated. -CR

3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

If you’ve ever caught The National live, you’d know that the performance comes paired with what equates to a full scale drunken tantrum from front-man Matt Berninger as he downs a whole bottle of red and thrashes around. That restless unease has never been more apparent then on the band’s latest Trouble Will Find Me as reflection in age leads to irreconcilable realities and late night longings. The Dessner brothers save their best production abilities for themselves as “Sea of Love” rumbles and rolls to a classic The National crescendo while “Graceless” manages to do the same in an entirely different manner. Complacency or satisfied doesn’t seem to enter into The National lexicon, let’s hope the fire keeps burning as it does on “Trouble Will Find Me”. -MM

2. Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

10 years, two albums of previously recorded works, and an transitional LP (Somewhere In The Between) that saw an evolution in the collective’s sound separates Streetlight Manifesto’s lauded debut Everything Goes Numb and the New Brunswick-based globe trotter’s third long-form release The Hands That Thieve.

At this record’s core the founding elements of Streetlight Manifesto remain intact: Tomas Kalnoky’s spitfire poetics jockey for space amongst the parameters of air-tight measures; a smooth brass machine detonates explosive set pieces in finely-knit arrangements; and Chris Thatcher masterfully perched atop his throne hammers out Old Bridge drum corp-honed heartbeats which give life to these offerings. And though so much of this Ska-Punk machine remained the same, it was the messages that were altered.

Thematically, where Everything Goes Numb was a narrative production (discussing loss, depression, suicide, and a protagonist who survived it all), and Somewhere In The Between a unifying measure (“WE will fall together”…”WE’RE going down, down, down to Mephisto’s Café”…”somewhere in the between is a life of which WE ALL DREAM”…etc), The Hands That Thieve set its sites on subjects more internal, personal, and self-reflective…a delivery that makes more sense when considering the surroundings.

Streetlight Manifesto was clear with its supporters at every Warped Tour stop and headlining showcase. “Do not pay for The Hands That Thieve,” stated this group of musicians entrenched in a messy production and distribution battle with Victory Records, “please go steal it off the internet.”

What emerged from this entanglement was the group’s most experimental record to date, delving into minimalistic brass and bass breakdowns (most impressively displayed upon “With Any Sort Of Certainty”), imparting a bit of Kalnoky’s solo Toh Kay tendencies into the mix with “If Only For Memories” and “Toe To Toe”, and infusing the aforementioned intimacy of “Ungrateful”, “The Littlest Things”, “The Hands That Thieve”, and “They Broke Him Down”, which appear as vehicles to vent about frustrations, limitations, and metal deterioration brought on by Streetlight’s association with their former imprint.

When all the excess is stripped away The Hands That Thieve is a closing statement marking the end of Streetlight Manifesto as we’ve come to know them over the past decade. But thankfully it doesn’t appear to be the conclusion, rather the end to the first act, or “The End Of The Beginning”, as the band so coined their “final” U.S. tour.

As Kalnoky states in the album’s true closing salvo “Oh Me Oh My”…”Truth be told, the lies will unfold, and anything everyone ever ignored will come back up to settle old scores / The writing’s on the wall. It says eventually we fall. And even Romans know. That everything goes.” We look forward to their return – CR

1. Kanye West – Yeezus

Love him or hate him, Kanye West established himself as the most innovative musician working today with the maddening beauty that is Yeezus. One moment screaming in your face, another writhing on the ground in existential agony, West’s latest manages to update the book of production revelations that he continuously sets out as gospel for the rest of hip hop, while taking us on a ride of what it’s like to be impossibly famous and constantly scrutinized. Rarely can an artist deliver such a giant middle finger to the mainstream while finding new ways to forever change it. Such is the genius of Kanye West, take it or leave it. -MM

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About The Author

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May of 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in both Journalism/Professional Writing and Communication Studies. He's held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet’s Arts & Entertainment section as well as Consequence of Sound (

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