So 2013 is coming to an end in just a few short hours, and if you’re like me, you’ve already read over just about every end of the year list out there by now. After all, ’tis the season for “Best of Lists”.
Well, we of course have opinions here at Midwest Action and can’t help but put our two cents in. So here it is, our Top 10 Albums of the Year. Remember, we’re a Midwestern blog so we confined this list to Midwestern music, and although we are based out of Chicago we don’t give a shit about Kanye.
So here we go!
“Stay Positive” by Peekaboos
Peekaboos have made an album that I cannot stop listening to. Their simple yet sophisticated brand of garage punk is too damn catchy to ignore. The energy they bring to their live show only helps to add to their mystique (and they all look fantastic as Batman characters). It’s punk, it’s pop, its fun. You can bang your head and tap your foot to it all at once.
“Sundowning” by Pink Frost
There are some killer tracks on this one. Pink Frost put everything they had into Sundowning. The riffs are heavy, the vocals are proudly belted out, and the drums will echo in your head for days. If you don’t believe me check out “Ruins” below. It’s a perfect piece of pop-rock.
“Catalytic Conversion” by Crown Larks
This album reveals itself more and more after each listen. I didn’t know what to make of it at first but I’ve since come to love the way it presents itself and changes moods in an instant. It’s very relaxing, then extremely tense, then just weird, then really catchy; it’s full of contradictions that should have probably resulted in a terrible listening experience but in the hands of Crown Larks turned into something really unique and enjoyable.
“Are You Watching the Masters? Because the Masters Are Watching You” by Circles
Ok, this technically an EP but it’s too good to ignore. Circles is a dream-team of Chicago musicians (think the Bulls in the ’90s). Coming from some of the city’s best acts, they’ve brought with them a bit of each of these bands (France Has the Bomb, The Ponys, Holy Ghosts, etc.) and made something that feels “classic” and fresh all at once. Can’t wait to hear more.
“Northern Automatic Music” by Panda Riot
It’s hard to talk about Chicago’s music scene and not mention Panda Riot. They’re practically a sensation at this point, and they’ve earned every bit of attention they’ve received. Northern Automatic Music is not only a brilliant piece of shoegaze that rivals My Bloody Valentine’s long awaited MBV but it’s also an undeniably wonderful pop album. You don’t need to love heavy tremolo and reverb to get into this one (but it doesn’t hurt).
“Peach” by Secret Colours
This one stayed on my turntable for quite a while when I got it. These guys are equal parts ’60s psychedelic rock and ’90s Brit-pop and they’re damn good at blending those eras. They’re out in Austin, TX working on a new album as I type this, and I can only expect them to get better with age like a fine multi-colored psychedelic wine.
“D0n’t” by M4SS1V3 3G0
D0n’t l3t th3 “leetspeak” k33p u 4w4y fr0m th1s 4lbum. Massive Ego have rolled up all the greatest sounds of the ’80s and put them into their album. Their bag of influences is quite deep and they know how to use them. This album is like Brian Eno meets Syd Barrett (with a bit less acid). Brilliant stuff.
“Telepathic” by White Mystery
How can you not like White Mystery? They do garage punk the way it should be: fast, loud, and with red hair. I’ve been in love with Alex White’s music for a decade or so now and this is some of the best stuff I’ve heard from her and her brother Francis. I could listen to this one all day.
“Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol 3 – The Metal David Byrne” by Geronimo!
This is an energetic album. You will nearly break a sweat just listening to it and imaging these guys plowing through these fast-driving rock songs. It’s Indie rock but it’s HEAVY, like Sonic Youth meets the Stooges. Or something like that… see for yourself.
“Take Things As They Come” by Myles Coyne & The Rusty Nickel Band
Myles and his gang are some of the hardest working musicians I’ve ever met (and some of the nicest). They love what they do and they put that love into this record. The aptly titled, Take Things As They Come, is so much more than your average folk album. There are some truly great moments in these songs.
The Not-Quite-Midwestern Honorable Mention:
“The Asteroid #4” by The Asteroid #4
You may’ve caught my review of this album a few months back; if so, you’ll know I’m a fan. While the psychedelic rock group hail from Philadelphia, just outside of our “Midwestern Boundary”, I made an exception for this one. In my mind, this album deserves Yeezus, Arcade Fire, or Beyoncé level hype, but it’s far more suited for the humble digital release it received last October (and better than all that stuff). You won’t find it at Target or on Pitchfork’s end of the year list but It’s certainly worth your time.
So for better or worse, that’s it. There are plenty of fantastic albums I could mention that would’ve made this list a lot longer, but you all have champagne to drink and bad decisions to make.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments. Whether it’s hatred or high regard for our “eclectic” taste, we love to hear it. Thanks to all these bands (and more) for helping to make this one of my favorite years for local music.
And more importantly, thank you for reading about, listening to, and enjoying the music with us. We’ll see you in 2014!