Gut Check: Greg's Favorite Songs and Records from 2013

I didn’t get around to listening to nearly as much crud as I normally do, because all I do these days is work. I do two shows a day and write books at night. I have no leisure time. Nothing. I eat takeout and sleep in gym clothes. My vacation time is spent with relatives, convincing them I’m still alive. Yes, this is a cry for help. 

SONGS

“Neon Junkyard”: Deerhunter, Monomania

I’ve said it before: Bradford Cox is the songwriter of this generation. I may not have said it to you, but I’ve said it to someone (probably my masseuse, Harold -- although he doesn’t understand English). Cox is my only musical hero I can’t have on Redeye because I wouldn’t know how to act around him. And I have one rule: if you can’t be yourself around someone, don’t be around them (it’s why I dumped Kate Upton).

Cox is brilliant, and not in a British sort of way, where everything is brilliant. He’s John Lennon, the Pixies, the Ramones, Kurt Cobain, Buddy Holly, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Elvis Presley and the Cramps all rolled into a gaunt beautiful creature.

You know, when I hang out with people in nature, they’ll say, “Hey, is this beautiful canyon proof of God or what?” Not for me. Nature doesn’t do it. Waterfalls, volcanoes, canyons -- they don’t make me think, “Wow, only a God could do this.” I just see nature. However, when I hear a song, I think, GOD. Music is the only chink in my nonreligious armor. I just don’t get how something created by someone else can mess with my system. That happens with this song in particular. Neon Junkyard kicks off Cox’s latest record, and at 40 seconds in, Cox finds that special gear no one else can locate. He finds this gear maybe ten times a year.

“Palace Posy”: Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest

An anagram for apocalypse, it’s the most mind-blowing song from BOC’s stellar record Tomorrow’s Harvest. This song leaps out from somewhere dark in the recent past -- perhaps a soundtrack to a John Carpenter film never made, taking place on a shiny planet where you’re fleeing slow, methodical robots with a hunger for human flesh. I listen to "Palace Posy," and at 2:32, everything changes. When the distorted vocals kick in at 2:59, I am disturbed by the experience. This song captures the essential BOC experience -- misleadingly benign but ultimately threatening. Why is Daft Punk adored, and not these mystical creatures? 

“What’s in My Head”: Fuzz & “Sleigh Ride”: Fuzz, Fuzz

This one-two punch is off the supergroup Fuzz’s debut record, called, appropriately, Fuzz. It’s all just deceptively simple garage rock with vicious riffs and mind-melting melodies. I love Ty Segall (I believe he’s playing drums and singing here); he produces more music in a month than most bands do in a career. But this might be his best work. Fuzz should be everywhere, but it isn’t. I blame Obama.

I could talk forever about "Sleigh Ride" -- it’s the best metal groove since Melvin’s “Honey Bucket” -- meandering riffage at the start, then settles into a relentless pile drive of chords underneath the most sinister vocals since Linda Blair’s head rotated in the mid-70’s. And “What’s in My Head” is the anthem of the year; It makes you violently nod your head, even without medication. It’s my favorite song of the year. 

“Air Bud”: Kurt Vile, Wakin On A Pretty Daze

This is such an awesome, pretty song. Vile sings like he’s stoned, but I don’t think a stoned singer could come up with such perfect melodies and clever phrases. He has the timing of a comedian and the observational talent of a seasoned writer. I imagine he gets laid a lot. This is my fourth-favorite song of the year. The whole album is pretty great. He’s pretty great. We’re all pretty great. That’s how I feel when I listen to this song. The world is pretty great. 

“When A Fire Starts To Burn”: Disclosure, Settle

You know a song is great when it’s pretty much one sentence repeated over and over and it’s still monumentally awesome. This song says precious little beyond its title, but that’s all you need, over and over. I have no idea what it’s about, but why bother. Some things do not bear scrutiny to be great, and this song reflects such. I hope it’s not about arson. I do not condone arson. In any shape or form. Just want to make that clear, for the children reading this.

“Jump and Shout” and “Sugar on Top”: The Dirtbombs, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!

This Detroit band delights in putting on different musical costumes, and this one seems to be that of the Archies. The record's called "Ooey gooey Chewy Ka-blooey," so you know it ain't doom metal polka. My prediction: these songs will end up on soundtracks within the next five years (probably Pixar productions), and the Dirtbombs will never have to work again. Which would be a shame. I can’t wait to hear what they’ll do next. Doom metal polka? I’d like doom metal polka.

“My First White Girl”: The White Mandingos, The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me

The best song about race relations I’ve heard this year, because it’s flat out funny and sweet. I play this song to diffuse troubling situations at my place. The guitar on this song proves shoe-gaze mixes nicely with hip hop.

“I Don’t Understand”: The White Mandingos, The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me

The second-best song off their debut, it’s a vicious Stooges style punk mess that cements this band as the Bad Brains with a sense of humor. Or maybe, the Jim Carroll Band with an MC. The entire record itself is like a rock opera in the spirit, I guess, of The Who’s Tommy. I never liked Tommy. I like this.

“Earth Rocker”: Clutch, Earth Rocker

Biker rock seems easy, but it isn’t. First of all, you need a monstrous riff, and you need an attitude. And talent. This has all three. I would not mess with these chaps in a bar. Unless it was that kind of bar.

“Veaquis”: Nitemoves, Themes

From the record Themes, a more amenable Boards of Canada. I bonded with this song at midnight while being bitten by a disease-ridden sandfly in the Caribbean. The song, along with the rum, made the 21 days of antibiotics worth it.

I love the artwork to their album. It makes me want to smoke.

“City Dump”: The Melvins, Tres Cabrones

Yet another classic monster riff, from a vat of riffs that only King Buzzo knows the whereabouts. A pretty great album overall, with a delightful version of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." Go and listen to "City Dump" now, preferably at the city dump. 

“The Red Wing”: F**k Buttons, Slow Focus

Calm and brutal at the same time, like throwing Death in Vegas and ZZ Top in a blender. At one moment, it seems entirely appropriate for a spa on a cruise ship, then it goes heavier than most death metal. Gives you a likeable headache.

“Don’t Play with Guns": The Black Angels, Indigo Meadow

A wonderful ditty about not playing with guns -- a perfectly written pop song with an addictive chorus that in an ideal world would be blaring from radios in station wagons on the way to the beach. Instead, we have Miley Cyrus's arid, granular tongue.

“Female Trouble” The Melvins, Everbody Loves Sausages

The album is a collection of odd covers by the band of note. A brooding blues cover of the song from the John Waters’ film of the same name, Female Trouble, lurches forward into your life like a wasted Toronto mayor, looking around your living room for something, anything, to snort.

“Carpe Diem” The Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages

Another cover from Everybody Loves Sausages, this a reinvention of the classic song by the Fugs. It’s an amazingly dark but beautifully poppy take on death. As someone who thinks about death a lot, this is the song that tells me, “Thinking about it ain’t stopping it,” but says it with rhythm. You can’t outrun death, you can’t outtalk death. So why bother. It sounds way better than I’m explaining it, trust me.

“Sweets Helicopter": Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin

Another psychedelic gem from an excellent record. San Francisco is producing more awesome psychedelic music now than in the 1960s. Has no one noticed this? 

"Done and Dusted II": Clinic, Free Reign II

A creepy perfect Clinic song, given new life from Daniel Lopatin. It’s got to be hard to be Clinic, when you perfect your sound the moment you record your first record. Then...what do you do? Well, you repeat that album over and over, in subsequent records. Enter Lopatin, who grabs Free Reign and captures whatever makes Clinic so unique, and turns it up to a psychedelic version of eleven. This is my favorite song, off one of my favorite albums of the year. Decades from now, when they look at Lopatin’s career (i.e. how they look at Eno’s now), this will be his turning point, as a producer.

ALBUMS

Fuzz - Fuzz: Song for song, the best record of the year. Perfect from start to finish, every song has a vicious hook and an irresistible chorus. 

Deerhunter - Monomania: A garage rock melodic triumph. Caustic and comforting, simultaneously.

Boards of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest: Like every BOC record, I could not tell you the names of the songs if you put a gun to my head, but I know every note by heart. I own everything they’ve put out, and this record is mesmerizing.

Clinic - Free Reign II: I’ve never heard of this before -- a band releases a decent record (Free Reign), and then a few months later re-releases the thing with original mixes (previously shelved) by musical genius Daniel Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never. It’s like a do-over, but a do-before. And what the dedicated Clinic fan ends up with is a fantastic, groovy, psychedelic record that captures the essence of Clinic that the band could not capture on its own.

The Field - Cupid’s Head: Another great record from a seamless trance groove electronica outfit. I get the feeling that records by the Field are pretty much interchangeable; not because they’re repetitive, but because they are uniformly great. This is what you listen to at the gym and months later wonder why you have the body of Adonis. You never left the gym.

That’s all for this year. See ya.


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