Life Melters 2013

Words: Kevin Stebner

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Once again, I’m coming late to the game for the best jams of the year. But, as always, I needed that extra month to let things stew, lest we lose all music that came out in December (like the Self Defense Family LP, for instance). I like to choose songs over albums, and am prone to find a jam and listen to it over and over. Why let a perfect song get lost just because an album is uneven? That said, were I to make a best of albums list, a great many of these would top it as well. But I just wanted to share my favourite jams of 2013 with you.

~ Love, Kevin

Self Defense Family – “Aletta”
From: Try Me (Deathwish Inc.)

~ This is truth: Self Defense Family are the most exciting thing in punk right now — whether measured in terms of ethic, output schedule, band structure, no-fucks-given outspoken confidence, lyrical character, whim-taking, or even just song quality. They have no contemporaries, their shit is just better. And in 2013, SDF put out a ton of releases, each one filled with jams. If I can’t pick the one I released, then I’ll pick my second favourite: With “Aletta” they wrote the best love song by ripping apart the love song. Tear it down to bring it up.

Lucid 44 – “Torture Film”
From: Sweep/Sweep (Tonto is Jesus/Isolated Now Waves)

~ Easily one of the best (and certainly the most underrated) songwriters in Calgary, Markus Overland dropped a grumbly and understated monster with Sweep/Sweep from his Lucid 44 project. Fidelity-wise, this is his most assured release, to coincide with the level of writing. “Torture Film” is a re-recording of an old song with a harrowing vocal timbre and slow groove into impromptu jam, done with the confidence of following a decade-long labour of love.

Endless Rope – “Deterritoralise This”
From: Negi Surf (Self-Released/Common Thread)

~ This is a killer tape from the UK, and somehow related to Facel Vega, so I had to have it. Utterly snotty-nosed vocal styles growl over ripping guitars that are aptly described by the tape title: Negi Surf. It’s got Rev. Summer charge, UK post-punk and goth cool. Not since “Moon Over Marin” has this kind of thing sounded so pissed and rad.

Dasher – “Sodium”
From: Yeah, I Know (Self-Released)

~ Another unknown and killer punk tape. Dasher do that thing — fuzzed out guitars, shouted vocals, semi-grunge throwback — that’s hot with the kidlets and totally ruling the underground now, but Dasher do it better. “Sodium” has a sailing, pedal-laden lead matched with totally badass androgo-vocal bark. It’s got all the pieces that a thousand other bands have, but Dasher know how to correctly put ’em together.

Fiver – “Undertaker”
From: Lost the Plot (Triple Crown Recordings)

~ Were I forced to pick an Album of the Year, Lost the Plot is undeniably the one. Simone Schmidt actually released TWO of the best albums of 2013, and I could have easily picked “Widow” from the Highest Order LP, which came as a close second as favourite Schmidt jammer. For slow, smoke-ridden, deep-voiced, country/folk, Lost the Plot is perfect. Pick any song, they’re all jams. But for me, the record’s closer “Undertaker” possibly hits hardest. Two chords plodding along, poetess in-chanting, ending with a Dirty Three-like violin wail. Must grip.

Shahman – “Like an Old Friend”
From: Sounds That Look Like Us (Revolution Winter)

~ I’m too close, but that’s only because I had no choice. I don’t care. In my opinion, Shahman created the finest hardcore statement in this country in 2013. It’s astounding to me how little people have picked up on this record. Shahman run the gamut between quiet and loud, introspective and hard, all done by just two boys. Is it hardcore, sludge, post-rock, what? All I know is that it’s beautiful, and so singular in vision, with the assumed psychic interplay between the brothers Johnson. Put a spell on me.

The Courtneys – “90210”
From: The Courtneys (Hockey Dad)

~ Cousins gave us the theme song for summer with “Thunder” last year, and the Courtneys provided it for 2013. “90210” is astonishing in its simplicity: upbeat melody, memorable vocal hook, four-on-the-floor the whole way. Sonic Youth were at their best when they were having fun. This is like that. These ladies brought the soundtrack to chill evenings and biking through flood-tides.

Roboctopus – “Disco.txt”
From: Disco.txt (Cheap Beats)

~ No question about it, Endless Fantasy is dope, but Roboctopus put out the best chiptune release of 2013. This song has a totally funky shuffle, fun melody, unreal LSDJ instument use, pounding kicks, and the sneakiest drop a minute in. I listen to a lot of chiptune, and in a genre easily mired in same-y-ness, trust me: “Disco.txt” is THE chip jam.

Raein – “Amore e Morte”
From: Loma Prieta/Raein split 7″ (Deathwish Inc.)

~ When it’s juxtaposed like this, it becomes apparent that American hardcore has taken the wrong turn. Because placed alongside the inventiveness of Raein, the angle North America has taken, even by the masters at the moment, pales. Raein take that Italian chaotic thing and have honed it, bettered it, slowed it, added melody and dash, kept the noodles in check, and ultimately run circles around their contemporaries.

Lab Coast – “Recognize I’m Wrong”
From: Walking on Ayr (Mammoth Cave Recording Co.)

~ I suppose the GBV comparison is obvious, if apropos. The thing is, Lab Coast have bettered anything Pollard & co. have released in the last 15 years. Only after 40 listens do you even realize the intricacy of these songs. Everything appears as simple pop, yet changes so swiftly and deftly. You don’t realize anything repeats, you don’t know you just listened to a perfect indie rock song — but you did.

Top 10 of 2013

Words: Christopher Laramee

Solaris OST

Eduard Artemyev – Solaris: Music From The Original Motion Picture By Andrei Tarkovsky (Superior Viaduct)

Finally available after years in the wilderness, this classic of hissing synth washes and choral madness is THE reissue of the year, no doubt. The best sci-fi soundtrack of all time.

I Am The Center

Various Artists – I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990 (Light in the Attic)

Light In The Attic continues to prove their steez as one of the best reissue labels on the planet. The beautiful packaging and the blasted drool contained in the grooves hits all the sweet spots. Essential if for no other reason than exposing folks to Michael Stearns’ jaw-dropping Planetary Unfolding album from 1985, this gem also includes heavy hitters from Iasos, Laraaji, and Constance Demby, amongst other treats. OMMMMMMM…….

7 Days of Funk

7 Days of Funk – 7 Days of Funk (Stones Throw)

Snoopzilla (nee-DOGG) and boogie king Dam Funk together for a whole album? YES PLEASE. This one fullfills all expectations easily and is Snoop’s best foot forward since Dre’s The Chronic 2001. Smooth? I’m still on the floor as I type this.

Hawkeyes

Hawkeyes – Poison Slows You Down (Meat Tooth Recordings And Snacks)

The four-guitar, bass and drums instrumental wall of fuck from Kitchener/Waterloo’s Hawkeyes made me breathe cement, and I liked it. Being epic and subtle with this much firepower at your disposal is a hell of a trick to pull off. Screw the stoner/doom tag, this is elemental ROCK of the highest order. Best thing to come out of Canada this year.

Ketamines

Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters (Mammoth Cave Recording Co. / Southpaw)

The other Canadian release that floated up above the rest was YCSTM. With more spit and snark from TO’s K-dawgs, this record’s a real clear shot of tunes, tunes and, yes, more tunes. If Hawkeyes made me breathe cement, these dudes made me inhale Scotchgard.

Carlton Melton

Carlton Melton – Four Eyes EP (Blackest Rainbow)

Oakland’s finest continue cloud-bursting on this four-song release for the great Blackest Rainbow label. Vistas. Smog. Glimpses of space through the streetlight. In a year when the word PSYCHEDELIC gets bandied about with worrying and unjustified frequency, here’s the real deal, people. HEADBANDS ON.

White Hills

White Hills – So You Are, So You’ll Be (Thrill Jockey)

The latest effort from the hardest working band in America didn’t blow me away on first listens, but lately it’s been stapled to the turntable. Building on their strengths and using the studio to maximum effect, this one just takes off like a motherfucker, with Dave W’s guitars shearing the speakers AND ears of the listener. “The Internal Monologue” is the best pure drone whirl anyone put out this year. Kudos!

The Ballasted Orchestra

Stars of the Lid – The Ballasted Orchestra (Kranky)

Speaking of drone, here’s one of the greatest albums of the last 20 years, tweaked and brought up to speed. Anyone who “likes” atmospheric music, head music, DRONE stuff, if you don’t have this one already, well, check your papers. Don’t wanna Dad anyone, but come on, get with it! Your third eye will thank you!

The Cult of Dom Keller

The Cult Of Dom Keller – The Cult Of Dom Keller (Mannequin)

This one is a compilation of tracks from previously released CD-Rs. What really gets me is how well it hangs together as an album listen. The Cult Of Dom Keller is the best thing, along with Mugstar, Hookworms and precious few other groups, that the UK has issued forth in awhile. Their thing involves a dark and distorted wall of sound that doesn’t forget a certain melodic sense, while simultaneously making you realize most of the boring shit-gaze currently making the rounds is, well, shit. Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3, et al, yeah, everyone’s doing it these days, but none anywhere near the quality these gents have. Buy now.

Krang Rats

Krang – Rats Flying Planes (Self Released)

Duane Allman fucks with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop? A chance meeting of an eagle and a spaceship on a McDonalds rooftop? All this and more, my friends. Two tracks of hard broom-age that mos def make those cold prairie nights a little more tolerable. Hell, they’ll do it for you wherever you hang your hat. I smell their sweat on my tape.

Wack to the Future :: The 13 Lamest Things About 2013

Words: John Packman

The Great Outdoors

Negativity is underappreciated. I cannot stress this enough. Sometimes the gas face needs to be given and received. We live in an era where The Secret is a bestseller, twee ukulele music shills hybrid cars, and Gwyneth Paltrow has a magazine. This horrible beige monoculture is a desert and I am your John the Baptist.

13. Rob Ford/Crackgate

Let me be very clear on this issue: I am as sick of hearing about this buffoon as you are. I actually think he deserves to be higher on this list, but I stuck him at number 13 for the sole purpose of getting him out of the way.

12. Guy Fieri’s violent altercation with his hairdresser

Sure, anyone who willingly sells bottles of something called ‘Donkey Sauce’ with his cartoon Smash Mouth-looking-ass face immortalized on the label is pretty much the walking embodiment of wackness to begin with, but the cherry on this particular sadness sundae was humanity’s collective realization that this guy employed someone full-time to make his hair look like that. Speaking of Smash Mouth…

11. Late-90s nostalgia officially becomes a thing

I have nothing to support this beyond the release of a new Korn album and enough anecdotal evidence from eavesdropping on fellow public transit passengers to suggest that said Korn album was long overdue. Lou Bega featuring Danny Brown, coming up in a hot minute!

10. That movie where the dredged-up, bloated corpse of Vince Vaughn snaps a couple off at the sperm bank for extra beer money and 15-some-odd years later all of his sperm-spawn show up and ask for an allowance increase or whatever and he learns the true meaning of fatherhood or whatever

No, of course I didn’t see it.

9. Lou Reed dies right around the same time that I become aware of the ‘Perfect Day’ PlayStation commercial

When I’m not writing my own name in syringe-blood on the mildewed walls of the Chelsea, I’m busy PWNING SUM L4ME-455 N00BZZZ AT COD. I should add that this use of ‘Perfect Day’ is no more or less appropriate than using it as your wedding song.

8. Russia acts like a massive dickweed; gets the Sochi Olympics anyway

Gay men are routinely beaten beyond recognition, protestors and anarchist pranksters are sent to the gulags, kids in bombed-out apartment towers are shooting skin-melting mutagen-heroin, the mafia runs everything, and Ilya Kovalchuk got a new contract without being forced to sit out a year, and the best the sporting world can do is a stern finger-wagging and the occasional promise to wear a rainbow-flag pin somewhere inconspicuous? What were the other two countries with Olympic bids, Zimbabwe and Mordor?

8. George Clooney goes to space

Alfonso Cuaron’s sci-fi epic Gravity is a near-masterpiece. The ‘near’ is provided by that great big juicy Christmas ham George “Golden Girls” Clooney and his absolute refusal to deliver any of his lines as though he were actually hurtling through space with 1% of his oxygen remaining. Here’s my impression of George Clooney if he had been cast in Mystic River: “Hi, I’m film and television star George Clooney. Say, is that my daughter in there? You look ravishing tonight.”

7. PRISM is revealed to be a thing

You know, when Batman rigged up that doohickey that could listen to everyone’s cellphones, Alfred almost quit over how wrong it was, and those two are tight bros from way back when.

6. This trend piece on vaporwave

Particularly that last line about ‘casinowave’.

5. The Obamacare website keeps crashing

America spends years on this ridiculous philosophical debate about the nanny state and self-determination and the social contract and wrist microchips and taking the mark of the beast and it turns out that the real futuristic dystopian nightmare involves a corrupted .ini file. Geoff the IT guy is on vacation at Epcot for another few days and we just gotta wait this one out fellas.

4. The Fukushima plant turns out to have been leaking contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean this whole time

Speaking in my capacity as a resident of Vancouver who loves seafood, I can at least take solace in the fact that all those cigarettes I smoked over the years may not have mattered in the long run. What gives, Japan? It’s not like your government to cover up its past transgressions.

3. The provincial governments of Alberta and BC enter into a tentative agreement to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and no-one notices

Why didn’t anyone notice? I must regretfully refer you back to number 13.

2. That one guy from that one band turns out to be an insane crack-smoking kid toucher

Why am I using such vague terminology? I must regretfully refer you back to number 7.

1. Raccoons attack my cat and irrevocably damage our relationship

At this time last year, my cat was a precocious, rambunctious, playful, aggressive, happy little fella who would walk right up to you and headbutt you, demanding to be petted. Now he is a frail husk of a cat, startled by anything and everything, peeing himself at the sound of a car horn or a bird chirping. He has PTSD from being attacked by damned filthy raccoons. Raccoons cut his nose and the end of his tail (the latter of which has still not fully healed) for no reason other than their eternal devotion to their chaotic evil alignment. Raccoons have been whitewashed in the media and made to look cute. They are not cute. They are vicious, disease-carrying, garbage-eating vermin with long, sharp claws. The Great Outdoors was the only movie to get this right. That stupid Raccoons cartoon show is virulent propaganda from the pro-raccoon lobby, and it should be banned from the airwaves. Team Cyril Sneer, all the way. I only pray that Groucho and I can arrive at some sort of peace.

John Packman is one half of The Steve and John Power Hour with Steve and John.

Best of 2013

Words and Image: Jeremy Curry

best of 2013

These days the amount of music being churned out is at an all-time high. It’s easier to release songs through bandcamp or soundcloud, and more and more musicians are choosing to release tapes, which makes things a lot cheaper for the artist, label and listener. It’s pretty hard to keep up, although there is no way of discovering everything great that came out in this year, or in previous years. It’s almost exhausting trying to come up with a list of the BEST, but some notable releases would have to be Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven, which sounds like being stuck inside an ’80s synthesizer with Enya’s vocals programmed into samples, and Eiko Ishibashi’s Imitation of Life, which was actually released in Japan in 2012, but now has a proper North American release this year. The latter was produced by Jim O’Rourke and has incredible orchestral arrangements, not to mention the fact that Ishibashi’s vocals are stunning.

The other cool things I experienced this year are as follows:

– Tubby Burgers.

– An impromptu dance-off with an older gentleman at a Ceephax Acid Crew Show.

– Seeing Jay Arner and the Ketamines play in someone’s living room during the flood in Calgary.

Law & Order: SVU marathons (Although this might be damaging my brain and giving me nightmares).

The other albums I enjoyed this year are as follows:

ÄÄNIPÄÄ – Through a Pre-Memory (Editions Mego)
About Group – Between the Walls (Domino)
AGF – Kuuntele (AGF Producktion)
Andy Kaufman – Andy & His Grandmother (Drag City)
Bill Callahan – Dream River (Drag City)
Bill Orcutt – A History of Every One (Editions Mego)
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
Body/Head – Coming Apart (Matador)
C. Spencer Yeh/Okkyung Lee/Lasse Marhaug – Wake Up Awesome (Software)
CFCF – Outside (Paper Bag)
Cindytalk – A Life Is Everywhere (Editions Mego)
Classixx – Hanging Gardens (Innovative Leisure)
Cornelius – A Ghost In The Shell Arise OST (Victor)
Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie “Prince” Billy – What The Brothers Sang (Drag City)
Dean Blunt – The Redeemer (Hippos In Tanks)
Death Grips – Government Plates (Self-Released)
DJ Rashad – Double Cup (Hyperdub)
Donato Dozzy – Plays Bee Mask (Spectrum Spools)
Dur-Dur Band – Volume 5 (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Eiko Ishibashi – Imitation Of Life (Drag City)
Ensemble Pearl – Ensemble Pearl (Drag City)
Fire! Orchestra – Exit! (Rune Grammofon)
Jai Paul – Jai Paul (Self-Released?)
Jan St. Werner – Blaze Colour Burn (Thrill Jockey)
Jay Arner – Jay Arner (Mint)
Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back (Hyperdub)
Julia Holter – Loud City Song (Domino)
Keiji Haino / Jim O’Rourke / Oren Ambarchi – Now While It’s Still Warm Let Us Pour In All The Mystery (Black Truffle)
The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (Rabid)
Laurel Halo – Chance Of Rain (Hyperdub)
Low – The Invisible Way (Sub Pop)
M.I.A. – Matangi (Interscope)
Magik Markers – Surrender To The Fantasy (Drag City)
Matmos – The Marriage Of True Minds (Thrill Jockey)
Merzbow & Oren Ambarchi – Cat’s Squirrel (Black Truffle)
Miguel Baptista Benedict – Super(b)-Child-Ran (Brainfeeder)
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Kismet (Self-Released)
My Bloody Valentine – m b v (Self-Released)
Nate Young – Regression: Blinding Confusion (NNA Tapes)
Okkyung Lee – Ghil (Editions Mego)
Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven (Warp)
Perfume – LEVEL3 (Universal J)
Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (GOOD Music)
Quasimoto – Yessir Whatever (Stones Throw)
Ras G – Back On The Planet (Ninja Tune)
Rene Hell – Vanilla Call Option (Pan)
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels (Self-Released)
Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips (Last Gang)
Steve Arrington & Dâm-Funk – Higher (Stones Throw)
Viet Cong – Cassette (Self-Released)
Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)