Best Albums of 2013 Pt. 2 (30-21)

#30. The Ocean – Pelagial

TheOcean_PelagialI have always found The Ocean to be an incredible band, ever since I first found out about them. Pelagial is a monster of an album, and possibly their finest work yet. This sprawling concept album that started as one giant instrumental song, became on of the best post-rock/progressive/metal albums of the year. Although I prefer to listen to the instrumental version of the album, the singing and screaming is some of the best to date out of the group. I have honestly been growing tired of most progressive music these days, so it takes a lot for a prog band to really stand out to me, and this album totally stood out. I love the atmosphere and the groove that this album has. It balances the every important line of being impressive without being annoyingly showy. It also shows its brutal side, and when it does I love it. I think most importantly, this is an ALBUM. It has a theme, all the songs are connected, and the packaging of the special edition, which I waiting a long time for, is beautiful. I love this band, and I love the time they put into realizing their concepts, which is why this album is on my list.

#29. EF- Ceremonies

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This is another album that I didn’t listen to a lot when I first got it, but I decided to give it a chance when I went back to make this list. I am very happy I did, because this album is all the things I love about the Post-Rock Genre and more. I will say, when I heard a lot of singing, I was initially turned off, but this band proved that you can have vocals in a Post-Rock setting and have them not be drowned out or too separated. I honestly have been growing somewhat bored with a lot of the more standard “Post-Rock” bands, but EF really stepped it up with this album. It has some incredible arrangements and orchestration. I love their choices of instruments and their arrangements are just emotionally touching. Honestly, I think the reason this album made such an impact on me is that a lot of it reminded me of the softer moments from The Felix Culpa, and I am always looking for music that can connect to that bands totally unique sound. Oh, and the trumpets….Mmmmmm trumpets.

#28 Junip – Junip

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This is the kind of album you get lost in. You put it on, and you are surprised when it finishes, because it flows so well. I love Junips sound. I could best describe it as what cuddling by a fire would sound like, if it were music. They are just so warm and fuzzy and wonderful. I love their choice to overload their sounds, just enough to give it that nice fuzz. I love the fuzzy bass lines and chill grooves. This album may seem repetitive to some, but Junip is a band that could just jam for hours doing the same thing, and I would never get bored. I would just get cozy. They have a unique sound that is connected to indie rock without sounding too much like any one band, other than themselves. I loved their first album, and I love this album. As long as they keep making their fuzzy warm music, I will most likely continue to love Junip.

#27. Norma Jean – Wrongdoers

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This was a band I never got super into, until their last album, “Meridional”. I loved how it managed to capture the more melodic side of the Anti-Mother while still being really heavy and intense. “Wrongdoers” is another step towards their chaotic and heavy origins, but it does not leave behind the things that made their last album so incredible. In fact, I would say that Wrongdoers is such a great culmination album. It really blends the history of their sound into a new, heavy, intense, at times sporadic metal album that would honestly make a really killer swan song, of sorts. Not to say I want Norma Jean to stop making music, but this is just such a good album to put at the end of all their previous albums. It really captures what I think Norma Jean was and has become.  I would probably still go to Meridional more often because I have such a connection to that album, but that does not discount the quality of Wrongdoers. It may not beat Meridional in terms of my personal favorites, but it is an amazing feat of combining years of work into a really cohesive album.

#26. The Dodos – Carrier

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Ever since my friend, Kelly introduced me to this band, they have always had a special place in my heart. That being said, Carrier is another album that managed to slip past me in the never ending stream of new music coming out. I am happy I pulled it out of the catalog and gave it a listen because it really is a fantastic record. It’s the most straight forward indie rock album on this list, but it does that style so well that I had to include it. This album became my soundtrack album while walking around rainy Portland as night fell and the hazy grey sky turned to black. It was one of those moments where the music perfectly fit the scene, and it made everything seem to come together. The album does have a heavy heart behind it, as it was inspired by the death of a friend, which makes it connect with me even more. You can hear the emotion drip throughout the album, especially on songs like “Relief”and “Death”. It’s a powerful album, like most of The Dodo’s work, and I am happy I revisited it, because it’s an album that is worth your time.

#25. Wilderman – Learn to Feel

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I need to start by saying that this album is not for everyone. It is especially not for you if you like clean, digitally produced and mastered music. This album is messy. It’s difficult at times. You can hear it clip. And it is in these imperfections that it’s beauty shines through. This album is just dripping with humanity. The project of Michael Gungor’s brother, Robert and it is a bluesy, messy album full of love and loss and emotion. I love the inclusion of some really beastly synth solos on top of the overwhelming jams that make up this album. This album, more than anything, really captures this mans heart. It is his pure artistic expression. No producers had their hands on it, this is him, in song…and that is why I connect with it on such a deep level. Like I said, not everyone will enjoy this album, but I did, in ways I would have never expected. I really feel like this is an album that needs to be experienced, so go and download it (for free here: http://wilderman.us/about) and give it your time. Let it inspire you.

#24. Pretty Lights – A Color Map of the Sun

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Right when I was ready to be done with EDM, Pretty Lights comes around and releases this funky, soulful EDM album that redeems what I had considered a genre that was on the downhill of its fad status, and even elevated it. This album was recommended to my by my friend Heather, and if it wasn’t for her recommendation, I would have never listened to it. I am really happy she shared this band with me, because this album is something that I have not heard from Electronic music in a long time. Not to say that people aren’t doing this, because they probably are, but I just am not super dedicated to the genre, so I miss out on a lot. I love the soul this album has. The samples are classy and dignified, and most importantly, they are rarely modified up two octaves for whatever ungodly reason EDM thinks to do shit like that. When the more stereotypical EDM stuff happens, its doesn’t bash you over the head with it and it makes it so you can enjoy the musical value of the genre. Plus the amount of variety between tracks makes each song memorable, and not just a sea of breakdowns and LFO’s.   This album is just classy and I am very happy my friend showed it to me.

#23. Typhoon – White Lighter

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I found this band when I lived in Illinois. I found them through itunes when searching for deeper music. I liked them, and I even remember playing them a lot back when I ran a youth group and refused to play shitty christian music for the kids. But for one reason or another, when reflecting on them, I don’t really have a clear picture of their sound. Well, I moved to Portland about a year and a half ago, and low and behold, Typhoon is, along with a couple other awesome bands, from Portland. So, when their new album, “White Lighter” came out, I was really excited to get my hands on some new, amazing, local music. And boy ever did I. This album is everything I wish I could make, if I only had 12 people to help make it with me. Its complex and uses some really amazing time signature shenanigans to craft some absolutely wonderful songs. Oh, and did I mention the band is 12 members? So, all sorts of cool orchestration in this amazing band. This album is just fantastic. The lyrics are deep, the instrumentation is fantastic, and the arrangements are just….beyond words. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to Typhoon, go get this album and listen to it.

#22. Beacon – The Ways We Separate

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Okay, here we are again. This time its beacon, and well…Beacon has made the Thom Yorke’s current project (Atoms for Peace) album that I was hoping for.  So, this album is a more minimal ambient electronic group, with hypnotizing beats and falsetto vocals. And it just feels so right. This is an album to just relax to. It doesn’t feel forced, which was a large problem for me with the last two Yorke projects. Wonderful deep sub-bass, minimal sequenced lines and wonderful ambiance make this album. And I don’t even feel ripped off while listening to it (and album can have more than 8 songs, Thom). This album just has the ability to instantly chill me out from whatever is happening, and it’s a nice feeling. If you are a fan of Kid A era Radiohead, and are sick and tired of Thom Yorke’s bullshit (okay, so Atoms for Peace was a quality album and I will get into why its not on this list in a later post), give this album a listen.

#21. Five Iron Frenzy – Engine of a Million Plots

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Okay, so before I get into this album, I have to say this: There are albums that have already been talked about that are for all objective purposes, better than this album. This album, on a strictly objective level, would probably land closer to 40 than 21. But, as I originally stated, this is not a purely objective list, and this album was there right when I needed it. I was not a crazy Five Iron Fan back in the day. I never got on the Frenzy Boards, and I didn’t drive anywhere to see their final concert. They were fun ska band that my friends were super into. So, when I heard they were coming back, I honestly didn’t care. The kickstarter and the tour passed me by, and I really didn’t pay them much attention. But, as the album came closer to release, I started to get mildly curious. On release, I gave it a listen. By the end of song one I was tearing up a little. Not because of some profound revelation, but because it was nice to know that I am not the only jaded youth group kid who still has faith. But, not the kind of faith that we would boast of while dancing around to “Dandelions” in the youth chapel. No, this is a faith that finds its only hope in that sliver of truth that you can not not be real. It was an extremely powerful album to me, that really hit me right where I am. Musically, its a great album. Its far more of a rock with horns, rather than ska, but that does not discount its value. My only issue with this album, is the goofy “Battle Dancing Unicorns with Glitter” and honestly, as I have continued to listen to the album, it has grown on me. But, at first it just felt too goofy for such a serious album. Anyways, if you liked Five Iron, or maybe even if you didn’t, check this out.  It does a great job of showing hope in the midst of reality, pain, and doubt…and even, in a certain sense, shows how doubt and faith don’t always have to be at odds.

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Best Albums of 2013 Pt. 1 (40-31)

It’s the end of the year and that means people are making stupid promises to themselves they can’t keep and making lists. I am going to engage in the latter with this list of the best albums of 2013. Last year I chose the top 25, but this year there was so much good music, I decided to extend it to my top 40 albums of the year. Before I get started, there are a few things you need to know about my list.

1. I could only include albums I listened to. Now, I tried super hard to listen to as much music as possible throughout the year (especially this last month, where I spent lots of time checking out music from other people’s lists) but I can only talk about music I actually heard, you know?

2. My opinion does play a large role in this. I can pretend like this is all about objectivity, but in reality, if you released some bullshit artistic expression that I will never listen to again, you are not going on my list, no matter how significant other reviewers think you are. I will leave comments as to why I believe this album deserves its spot on the list. I try to look at the music from as many angles as possible, holding artistic integrity in very high regards.

3. I do not include EP’s, live albums, or any other weird releases in my list. To be on this list, you gotta be a full length. There is one slight exception to that on my list (which actually happens four times), which is the idea of multiple EP’s being combined to make one album. Each of these works as a cohesive album, and therefore I allowed it on the list.

4. There were many other albums I loved this year that just didn’t quite make the list. I will release an honorary mentions list afterwards where I will go through why those albums didn’t quite make it.

5. Even though the order does matter in my list, just being on this list means that I considered the album to be over the highest quality. I say this because an album being #40 is still an amazing album. I just believe that album #39 did something to captivate me more.

6. I spent a long time thinking and listening before making this list. Probably more time than I should have. I had a list of almost 200 albums that I listened all the way through before putting it together. I really wanted to make sure I covered as much music as I could before putting the list together.

7. I’m gonna be up front, Kanye West’s new album is nowhere on this list. It was absolute shit, and could be my least favorite album of the year. It will be on a different list, that will be coming soon.

Okay, so now that we got all of that out of the way, lets begin.

40. Sin Fang – Flowers

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Sin Fang was always one of those artists who I was told I would like, and I would download, but I would never get super into. I am not 100% sure the reason why, but this solo project from Sindri Már Sigfússon of Seabear, never caught my attention. So, when it came to putting my list together this year, I decided to give Sin Fang’s “Flowers” my full attention, and I am very happy that I did.  It does a good job of combining more orchestrated indie folk with some really unique electronic tinges. All in all, I am very happy I gave Sin Fang my attention, because this album is worth it.  It starts off my list because its fun, interesting, and does a great job of combining some really cool sounds to make an overall enjoyable album.

39. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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Boards of Canada returns with a really tight collection of haunting, minimal, hazy ambient electronic tracks that flow in and out of each other to make an amazing, cohesive album.  I love their slightly out of tune oscillators and barely wobbling pitch LFO’s. I love how everything has just a touch of noise to it, not to the point where it is abrasive, but just enough to add a wonderful layer of haze. Some might find this album a bit to repetitive and slow-moving, but the slow-moving minimal tracks have always been my favorite from this band, so I adore this album. Not to say the more built up tracks are bad, because they are not. Boards of Canada does a great job of doing little things to keep their simple but beautiful tracks going. Its to pull of musical minimalism well, and they do it.

38. Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

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I feel like when it comes to bands like Streetlight Manifesto, you either get really into an album or you don’t care at all. I absolutely loved their first album, “Everything Goes Numb” but for some reason I could not get into their follow-up, “Somewhere In Between”. So, when I heard they were releasing a new album, I was actually not very excited. But then I heard “The Three of Us” and I was sold. The song, like the album shows a level of complexity that you normally don’t see in ska music that I just love. The song structures are really interesting and keep you guessing. The horns are absolutely on fire. I just can’t get enough of this song. I think the problem with “Somewhere in Between” at least for me, was it was just not unique enough. Maybe if I listened to it more, I would see the things that make it good, but this album really caught my attention right from the start, and kept going strong. Also, with all the bullshit that this band has had to deal with their label, they deserve to know that fans still stand behind them, and this fan absolutely does.  The title track may be one of my favorites of the year, because it is just so much dang fun. And their IV-I-vi-V outro is just so freaking epic. Love it.

37. How To Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion

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This album is the first in an ongoing theme that you will see on this list. Essentially, I noticed time and time again bands releasing albums that I had really high hopes for, and those albums disappointing me. Then, smaller bands I really didn’t know what to think of, doing exactly what I wanted out of the bands that disappointed me. Sorry if that sounds confusing, it goes like this: How to Destroy Angels made the Nine Inch Nails album I was hoping for. You will see that line over and over again in this list. “BAND A made the BAND B album I was hoping for.”  Now, I know with this band its kind of unfair, because How to Destroy Angels very well could be labeled NIN and no one would really care, but whatever. This album is fantastic. I really didn’t think I would get this into it, but man is it good. It manages to keep things going without dragging (like the NIN album does) but also doesn’t go too far out there that it breaks flow (again, like the NIN album does).  It flows well, the choice of sounds is amazing, and it just feels so right. This album was definitely Trent’s best effort in a while (I would say since Ghosts). Not to discount Mariqueen Maandig’s part, because her beautiful voice really pulls the whole project together.

36. Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia

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When I first heard this band, I genuinely thought everything they were doing was generated by a computer. It sounded like a pretty standard rhythmic focused minimal project. Then I saw them perform live. I found out that they are a three piece jazz group that creates all their sounds organically. Man, did I fall in love with watching these guys play. Not only do I love their rhythmic and hypnotizing sound, but watching the way the play with subtle changes and dampening their instruments to create every sound that comes out was just too cool. Love this band. Love the way they are connecting the genre dots and putting their unique spin on both jazz and electronic minimalism. This is one of those more experimental ideas that I totally connected with and fell in love with.

35. Grouplove – Spreading Rumors

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This album is fast, energetic and fun. Holy shit is this album fun. I could never not be into this album purely because it is just so much fun. I just love their high energy, nonstop fun style. It reminds me of all the things I used to like about Cage the Elephant. Grouplove made the Cage the Elephant album I was hoping for. Yeah, they are not as chaotic as “Thank you, Happy Birthday” but its got all the energy and chaos that I expected Cage the Elephant to bring to their latest album (and sadly they did not.) I love their expressive vocals and unique and high energy instrumentation.  They are another band that was touched by the electro-tinge of 2013, but they did it so well, that I don’t even mind. It just fit into their rocky jam sound. This album, more than anything else, makes me feel really good when I listen to it, and I need more of that.

34. Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

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“My mind was a fog… My heart became a bomb, Then the quiet explosion. Turning into tiny particles…Floating through empty space, live a valley with no echo holding your absence. Shored against the ruins, drowning in ten directions. I ould hear the water at the edge of all things. In the middle of this nowhere, hope becomes a loss. Tres Domine.” That quote is the titles of the songs, but together. And I feel like it really does a good job of capturing how this album sounds. I sometimes get frustrated with Post Rock/Ambient bands being too casual with their song titles, but man reading through the names of the songs just now really hit me in a profound way. Anyways, Hammock does minimal post-rock ambience and man do they do it well. A lot of people thought that this band could not possibly follow-up their last epic album, “Departure Songs” (which was on my list last year) but I believe this album is stronger than “Departure Songs” if for no other reason than it’s length. Now, I love long albums. I love double album concepts and long songs. I have a playlist of the best songs that break 20 minutes. But, I felt that Departure Songs had just a little bit of padding that could have not been there and it wouldn’t have affected the album. On Oblivion Hymns, every song feels necessary on this journey through sound.  This album is Hammock, continuing to improve their craft. Put it on and fall through space and time.

33. Polica – Shulamith

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Not gonna lie, I was originally not planning on putting this album on my list. I am kind of sick of this Midwest, auto-tuned 80’s pop movement. I didn’t really get into Polica’s first album, so I wasn’t expecting this album to wow me. But, as I kept hearing a friend of mine raving about how great this album was, I decided to give it a second shot, and you know what, I liked it. I love the use of two drum sets to create some wonderfully groovy songs. I love how much more you get to hear Channy Leaneagh’s vocals without tons of processing on them, because man does she have an incredible voice. Of all the electro-pop-R&B 80’s inspired bands to release albums this year, this one was the only one to make my list, just because its more interesting than the others. I really think the two drummers play a part in that. And the bassist. The rhythm section of this band is so freaking tight, it really adds to the beeps and boops and even makes the occasional auto-tuned moans more enjoyable. This was a really good year for Ryan Olson, as this is one of three albums from him on this list.

32. Protest the Hero – Volition

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This album rocks. So fucking hard. It’s so metal. It’s over the top, power metal, and I love it. I can’t really say much else about this band. Their licks are tight and complex without being too “wanky”. Their double bass is blasting a lot. The vocalist is a bad-ass who manages to make the power singer sound awesome. If you ever listen to this band with me, be prepared for me to yell about how tight the breakdowns are, because they are fucking tight. This album rocked harder than any other album this year, ’nuff said.

31. Rue Royale – Remedies Ahead

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I originally found Rue Royale when I was looking for deeper songs to sing during my house church meetings. I was sick of the shallow lyricism of most modern “worship” music, and I was looking for lyrics that had depth. Lyrics that made you think. Somehow, in my searches, I stumbled upon Rue Royale, and I just fell in love with this band. They were a small band with obviously lower production than bigger groups, but I loved their songwriting. With their latest album they definitely stepped up the production, but they did an amazing job of leaving space in their mixes, something that I struggle with. This album is so well produced. Just their choice of sounds and loops and organic and synthesized are all fantastic. And they still have that deep and meaningful songwriting that originally drew me to them. This is another band that handled the electro-tinge of 2013 with style and grace. Just a wonderful progression of an already amazing and under-appreciated band.

30-21 coming soon!

The future of Does it Suck reviews!

Like any blog I start, I go at it full force, and somewhere along the way I lose steam, and it ends up sitting around collecting dust and the occasional reader while I try to muster up something new to write. Thankfully, for this site, I have loads of albums that I am dying to review, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and do it (or I wasted the time I should have been using writing). That being said, I will be returning to album reviews with my best of 2013 articles, which will cover a large amount of albums I have yet to review (but want to), and then I will be back at it, hopefully reviewing at least one album a week. I won’t be posting the best albums of the year until 2014, because I want to give December a chance to release something good.