Alright, I know that 2013 was so yesterday (please tell me you all read that in a Hilary Duff voice. No?) but there were quite a few albums that I think we should all take notice of. Why? Because they were good, halfway decent, surprising, buy worthy (shocking, I know), etc.
Alright, starting with the top:
1. Arctic Monkeys- AM
Guys, I...there were no words. When I first heard that my beloved AM were coming out with their new album I was surfing around for any hint of what the new record would possibly sound like. The only thing I got was that "R U Mine" was probably going to be on it and that it is indicative of what the album's direction was going to be. I was stoked. And then the grainy video recording of their new song "Do I Wanna Know?" surfaced and I was downloading that faster than I could blink. Fastforward to September of 2013 and the world is blessed with this brilliant little gem.
It's definitely another direction for the band, but the Arctic Monkeys are known for their ever changing sound. It's slower, sexier, more reliant on the bass, but it definitely has their calling cards- incredible lyrics, stunning vocals, and wicked musicianship. They're the only band that could have carried off this transformation. And it did pretty well in the US, reaching number 6 on the Billboard charts, their highest ranking to date. Not bad, boys, not bad at all.
Key tracks: "No. 1 Party Anthem", "Knee Socks", "Arabella" (Who am I kidding? Listen to them ALL).
2. AFI- Burials
Learning that AFI was releasing a new album was the only balm that soothed the wound My Chemical Romance's breakup left (I'm still weeping, people, weeping bitter tears worthy of biblical mention). They started releasing their little teaser videos around the same time that the buzz around Arctic Monkeys was starting to build so, to say that I was on musical overload, is a bit of an understatement.
Burials is an album that takes everything AFI has played around with since 2003's Sing the Sorrow and has perfected it. It's dark and moody like aforementioned album yet has some of the eighties synth pop elements found on 2006's Decemberunderground. The album somehow retains the simplicity the band sought on their 2009 release, Crash Love, while adding something unique.
Lyrically, this is AFI's darkest album yet, with "Heart Stops" coming to the forefront of my mind. ("You bathe in love light so I'll die like all the others..." ouch, Davey). Instrumentally, this album is phenomenal, with Hunter really taking chances with the bass, Adam making it known that the drums are there for a reason and Jade doing incredibly interesting things on the guitar (listen to "Anxious" and you'll hear what I mean).
The album also has its fun moments. "Heart Stops" may be dark lyrically but, musically, it's a bouncy song that will definitely go over well in the pit. "17 Crimes" is the track I play most on long drives (ie. the 2013 Halloween Salem Trip) and an L.A Guns remix of it was featured on the Mortal Instruments soundtrack (Jamie Campbell Bower AND AFI...yay!). Finally, "Wild" is kind of reminiscent of My Chemical Romance's ummm, interesting, Killjoys album but in a good way like AFI successfully did what My Chem sought out to do.
All in all, this is one of my favorite AFI albums since Sing the Sorrow and definitely one of my top albums of the year.
Key tracks: "Heart Stops", "The Embrace", "17 Crimes", "Wild", "Conductor"
3. Bring Me the Horizon- "Sempiternal"
BMTH has been a constant screaming presence in my life since I was twenty. There's just something about Oli Syke's endless angry screams that really gets me going. That aside, this album is their album, the album they were destined to make. Savvy? Right then.
Sempiternal was the album I was biting my nails for this year. All the build up to it was exciting and the moment it dropped, it was on my iPod and blaring out through my earbuds for every passenger of the 6 NYC subway train to hear (I'm not sure about the old lady next to me, but I know the dude to my left was totally digging it).
Anyway, Oli Sykes is showing off his vocal range in this album, going anywhere from soft singing (see "Hospital for Souls" and "And the Snakes Start to Sing") to his signature angry growls in an instant. It's a metal album that transcends everything any newer act has tried to do in a while. He's not resting on just screaming; Oli Sykes is trying very hard to bring harmonies into the screams and it works.
Lyrically, this is one of my favorite albums of the year. There are some amazing gems on here. Sykes definitely reached deep for this one and pulled out some incredible lines such as "I can't drown my demons/they know how to swim" and "eye like a car crash". As a creative writing student, I was kind of having prose envy (is that a thing? I'm making it a thing).
Honestly, I could say SO much about this album but I know you ALL have the attention span of fruit flies so...moving on. :)
Key tracks: "And the Snakes Start to Sing", "Antivist", "Empire (Let Them Sing)", "Hospital for Souls".
4. Get Scared- Everyone's Out to Get Me
I'm not going to lie- I was totally worried about this band. I was first introduced to them back in 2011 when I went to see Escape the Fate and they opened. I was completely taken by Nicholas Matthew's vocals and quickly downloaded everything they had. Then Nick Matthews left the band, I stopped following them and suddenly they're releasing a new album with Matthews back at the helm and yeah...madness. See what happens when you stop following for a year? Madness.
Everyone's Out to Get Me is like the love child of In Love and Death The Used and Black Parade My Chemical Romance (it works; believe me). Nick Matthews has a voice that sends shivers up my spine in that creepy way, tinged with madness and pain, but strong and perfect for the band's sound. The gang vocals are there (OMG, gang vocals. I thought those died with Aiden's newest album) and the power chords and it's like Warped Tour 2005 all over again.
The guitar work is creative, the vocals are strong and it's just a fun (in a dark way) record.
Key tracks: "Told Ya So", "My Nightmare" and "Badly Broken"
5. The 1975- The 1975
Let me just be the first to say it- I heard about this band A LONG time ago, like at the beginning of 2013 when I was trying to find new music (I'm always in need of that). Then it seems like every One Direction fan in the world knows who they are and people are obsessing and it was all pouty faces and crossed arms and "Damn, I thought this band would be just mine for a while." Nope.
This album starts with one of those weird intro tracks that really have no place on any album but it's okay. I'll forgive them. It is their first album. After that, you're introduced to Matt Healey's oddly high yet low, weirdly endearing voice that almost sounds like a British guy trying to do a California accent. It's good. I promise.
The 1975 have an awesome poppy sound to them, like eighties synth meets pop rock. It's the type of music you either want to dance or take long drives with the top down to. My favorite thing about this band is Matt Healy and his lovely little voice, but the instrumentals are there and the lyrics are fun (plus they don't take themselves too seriously, as seen in their video for "Girls").
Key tracks: "Chocolate", "Heart Out", "Girls", "Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You?"
6. Palma Violets- "180"
I first heard of these guys when a guy asked me to their show at the Glasslands in Brooklyn. I dragged myself over to Brooklyn from the LES one, rainy end of January Monday night to watch this ratty four-piece band from Lambeth, London perform. Little did I know that my journey from hell in the rain would get me to a show that would be talked about for months.
Palma Violets' "180" is an album that has all the slurs and simplicity of the Libertines but with a bit more energy. They are the perfect example of England's "guitar rock" that is starting to take over the American music scene. There's something punk rock about their simplicity, about their lack of guitar solos and fancy musicianship. And it's that simplicity that sets them apart from a lot of the albums that came out this year.
It also helps that guitarist and vocalist Sam Fryer kind of looks like a younger, less blitzed Pete Doherty.
Key Tracks: "Rattlesnake Highway", "Tom the Drum", "Chicken Dippers", "14"
7. Zane Carney- Confluence EP
It's an EP but it's one of my favorite releases of the year so I had to include it. Zane Carney is sort of the do-it-all man of the music industry. He's a touring and studio guitarist that has worked with people like John Mayer, has been in his own band with brother Reeve Carney (his claim to, umm, fame? is being the bad boy in Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" video), has played guitar in the orchestra pit for Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, and now has a budding music career of his own.
Confluence is a blues and jazz inspired rock album that probably has as much of a place next to an early Rolling Stones record as it does in some artsy hipster's iPhone. Zane has smooth, crooning vocals and poetic lyrics that will make you stop and actually listen.
Unfortunately, Zane just had vocal chord surgery so I don't know when he'll be performing this baby BUT he's on the mend and hopefully you'll get to see him sing this at some place like Rockwood Music Hall or the Bowery Ballroom soon.
Key Tracks: "Talk to Me Baby", "My Love for You", "Fade to Black" (Ahhh, "Fade to Black" is AMAZING LIVE!).
Alright, loves, those are just a sampling of what 2013 offered us and just a few of my favorites. Check them ALL out and give them a listen. I'll be back soon with more music for all of you. :)