Best Songs of 2013 – Kurt Vile, Grizzly Bear, Destroyer, Wooden Shjips, Arcade Fire, Cut Copy, Shearwater, White Denim
The 2013 Year in Indie Music reviews continue with 38 of the top singles from noteworthy albums released in November. While releases for November were slim – and even more so for December, which is typical at the end of the year – there were still new albums not to miss from bands like Bright Eyes, Arcade Fire, Kurt Vile, Bright Eyes, Grizzly Bear, Thee Oh Sees, Destroyer, Beachwood Sparks, Wooden Shjips, The KVB, Shearwater, The Warlocks, Los Campesinos, Moonface, White Denim, and many others.
The first week of November releases also included a re-issue of Bright Eyes‘ fantastic Christmas Album, which is a great album not only if you’re a Bright Eyes’ fan, but also if you like Christmas music with modern interpretations that even your parents might appreciate.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Bright Eyes from Christmas Album
“Back To The Land” – Wooden Shjips from Back To Land
“Ambiguity” – Shearwater from Fellow Travelers
“Subtle” (Featuring Mikky Ekko) – Active Child from Rapor EP
Arcade Fire’s Fourth Album, Reflektor, Wins With Critics
Even though many of the songs from the album were leaked – some by the band – throughout 2013, Arcade Fire finally officially released Reflektor, their fourth album, at the end of October (so we featured it with November’s releases). According to the aggregate web resource, Metacritic, the user score for each album since Funeral (which received a 9.4) has been a rating of 8.8 out of 10. Critics have been almost as complimentary of AR, but of course, as the band achieved super stardom status, they inevitably became targets for criticism and greater scrutiny.
While there were certainly some reviewers and music fans critical of the new album, the overwhelming consensus has been that Arcade Fire hit another home run, this time with the release of only their fourth album, nearly a decade (wow it really has been that long?) after they took the world by storm, and transcended the indie rock realm into a worldwide sensation, with the release of their debut Funeral (2004) – which is still considered their best album – and their follow-up albums, Neon Bible (2007); The Suburbs (2010), and now Reflektor. That’s one album every three years since 2004.
A big part of the reason that Arcade Fire has had three year spans in between album releases is the result of nearly endless touring around the world the band has done over the past decade, making them one of the biggest money-making live indie bands of the 2000s.
Still, all in all, Arcade Fire have proven time and again that they can put out a great album that will stand the test of time and of the overly cynical critics (even though, again, most critics give them high praise) and of a certain number of music lovers who simply don’t like when bands, even those they love, get too popular, and Arcade Fire is hands-down one of the most popular rock, not just ‘indie rock,’ bands of the past decade. Listen to Reflektor, because it’s damn good, especially if you play it the way it is meant to be played, which is from the first song to the last. Granted, many people don’t really listen to albums the way they’re intended to since the Internet changed everything about the music experience, but we strongly recommend to do so, particularly if you’re really a fan of a particular artist or band because then you’re really hearing it the way the artist hopes people will, which is again, from the first song to the last.
And even better is to listen to an album you care about on vinyl, or the very least, CD. No matter how well they market their services, Spotify and Pandora, and other such music services, simply cannot provide the music quality you get from a physical copy of an album, most especially from vinyl. It’s a completely different, and radically better, listening experience – bar none, hands down, without a doubt, that’s all, folks, and no question about it. While Reflektor was not literally released in November, but instead on Oct. 29, it qualifies more as a November release the way that we look at it – even though large parts of it have been leaked, or purposely released, throughout the summer and early fall of 2013.
“Reflektor” – Arcade Fire from Reflektor
Giant Releases from Los Campenos, Moonface, White Denim, Best Coast and Russian Circles
Other big releases in November included fresh drops from bands like Los Campesinos, Moonface, White Denim, and Russian Circles. Just in case you missed our October releases’ playlist, check out the Best Releases of October 2013, Volume I & Volume II. There’s some 70 free MP3s in just those two playlists – surely, you’re bound to find at least 10 that you want to download to your MP3 player.
“What Death Leaves Behind” – Los Campesinos! from No Blues
“julia With The Blue Dress On” – Moonface from Julia with Blue Jeans On
“Burial” – Russian Circles from Memorial
“Pretty Green” – White Denim from Corsicana Lemonade
“This Lonely Morning” – Best Coast from Far Away EP
“Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine” – Bille Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones from Foreverly
Kurt Vile Releases Two EPs and Clash Cover For A Prolific Q4
Kurt Vile had a productive last quarter of 2013. He dropped two new EPs within a couple of weeks – one with his band The Violators, and the other with the musician Sore Eros, who IRC did an extensive profile of in 2010. While the Jamaica Plain EP did not receive the high praise that It’s a Big World Out There (And I Am Scared) EP with The Violators received.
“Serum” – Kurt Vile and Sore Eros from Jamaica Plain EP
“Feel My Pain” – Kurt Vile & the Violators from It’s a Big World Out There (And I Am Scared) EP
Vile, along with The Violators, found time to cover and release a version of The Clash‘s track, “Guns of Brixton,” back in September. As big fans of The Clash, it was a special treat, even a surprise, that The Violators covered The Clash as well as they did.
In September, a special tribute to The Clash was put together by Google Play to celebrate Google’s release of a new documentary about The Clash, titled Audio Ammunition, which you can watch via YouTube. The tribute includes covers of Clash’s songs from artists like Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, Surfer Blood and Corey Taylor of Slipknot.
November’s Top DIY Releases: The Melvins, Midlake, Cut Copy, Throwing Muses, and Hammock
Also, listen to singles from top releases from The Melvins, Midlake, Cut Copy, Midlake, Throwing Muses and Blood Orange whose video for the track “Chamakay” received over half of a million views in just a couple of months. Don’t miss the MP3 track and accompanying video for the track “Dead Generation” from The Warlocks, a band to watch in 2014. At the conclusion of this section of the November singles playlist is the ambient track “I Could Hear The Water At The Edge of All Things” from dreamweaver Hammock.
On one Soundcloud page, the comments of praise from music lovers for Hammock’s composition were numerous – 77 in all as of 12/31/13 – and there were 556 Hearts and a total of 11,933 streams. It continues to fascinate us just how many young (under 35) music lovers are enthusiastic fans of ambient music. We see it time and time again where ambient songs featured on IRC, and on SoundCloud or YouTube, are popular with people. To that end, we’ll continue to post terrific ambient songs like “I Could Hear The Water At The Edge of All Things.”
There are so many great songs in this playlist – featuring November’s contribution to the Best Indie Songs of 2013 – and such little time to review them all so that we can instead focus on pumping out as many Best Indie of 2013 – from songs, to DIY artists, breakout bands and debut releases – as well as working hard to find the best new indie and DIY releases for the start of 2014, as well as publishing a whole series of posts that have been in the works for some time, featuring amazing music from bands and artists that most of you have probably never heard before, but may be very glad once you have.
“Dr. Mule” – The Melvins from Tres Cabrones
“Antiphon” – Midlake from Antiphon
“Holy Branches” – Radical Face
“Blood Like Cream” – Red Fang from Whales and Leeches
“Free Your Mind” – Cut Copy from Free Your Mind
“Chamakay” – Blood Orange from Cupid Deluxe
“Smoky Hands” – Throwing Muses from Purgatory/Paradise
“Nun” – Teengirl Fantasy from Nun EP
“Dead Generation” – The Warlocks from Skull Worship
“I Could Hear The Water At The Edge of All Things” – Hammock from Oblivion Hymns via Hammock Music
“Gimmie Your Love” – Morcheeba from Head Up High
“Chain My Name” – Polica from Shulamith
Solo Moniker Artists Destroyer and Gap Dream Drop New Grooves
Vancouver musician Dan Bejar, a.k.a. Destroyer, has repeatedly surprised his fans with switch-ups in style, so his decision to record the compelling Five Spanish Songs shouldn’t come as a huge shock. It’s a superb release as the songs “El Rito” and “Bye Bye” (video below). Bejar is one of the most talented solo indie artists to have emerged over the past few years as Five Spanish Songs.
The sophomore album from Cleveland-grown, SoCal-transplanted, musician Gabriel Fulvimar, better known as Gap Dream, is a superb achievement of warm and fuzzy psych-influenced synth rock compositions, with mesmerizing melodies and drum machine rhythms as the lead single “Fantastic Sam” demonstrates.
“El Rito” – Destroyer from Five Spanish Songs
“Fantastic Sam” – Gap Dream from Shine your Light on Burger Records
Compilations, Remasters, Covers/Remixes and Live Releases from Beachwood Sparks, Alt-J, The Killers, British Sea Power, Nick Cave and Grizzly Bear
There were a number of releases in November from talented artists we’ve covered over the years that were not official album releases featuring new material. Among these were albums from Los Angeles psych-pop band Beachwood Sparks of older material from the band originally written, and sometimes recorded (but not necessarily released), in the 1980s, and The Killers‘ greatest hits collection, Direct Hits, featuring the video below, “When We Were Young.” And then of course is the compilation by Alt-J who put together their favorite remixes of their songs by others on the Summer EP, including Jim James Apple C‘s remix of “Fitzpleasure.”
Next, the UK indie rock band, British Sea Power, composed and recorded all of the songs for the official soundtrack of the British television series, From the Sea to the Land Beyond, about the British coastal lands and history. Also fans of the folk rock band, Grizzly Bear, will want the releases their B-Sides album, featuring a collection of terrific songs that were, for example, the ‘other’ song from a 7″ single release. and Thee Oh Sees release Volume 3 of the band’s Singles collection. For Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds‘ fans, or even those who have never heard of the band before, their new release, Live From KCRW, is absolutely a big thumbs up, as the live album’s 8.3 user rating on Metacritic demonstrates. Also, don’t miss the raucous live version of “To Find Out” from The Gories‘ new release, Live in Detroit 5/27/88 on Third Man Records, the small, but heavy-hitting, Nashville label founded and run by Jack White.
“Make It Together” – Beachwood Sparks from Desert Skies
“Fitzpleasure” ( Jim James Apple C Remix) – Alt-J from Summer
“The Land Beyond” – British Sea Power from From the Sea to the Land Beyond OST
“When We Were Young” – The Killers from Direct Hits
“Lupine Dominus” – Thee Oh Sees from Singles Collection, Vol. 3
“Listen and Wait” - Grizzly Bear from Shields: B-Sides
“Higgs Boson Blues” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds from Live From KCRW
“To Find Out” – The Gories from Live in Detroit 5/27/88 on Third Man Records
Swedish Producer/Songwriter, Chris Lauridsen, aka, I Don’t Speak French
Formed in 2010, I Don’t Speak French is the moniker of producer and songwriter Chris Lauridsen from Växjö, Sweden. Lauridsen began I Don’t Speak French as an artistic outlet.
“It slowly grew into something much more with help from fellow musicians and close friends,” Lauridsen told IRC. “The music in its essence is simple, and could be labeled as indie pop, but strives to grow, and develop into something bigger than the box that it has [emerged] from…only time and effort will tell the end to this story of a young hopeless romantic.” We absolutely agree, and think he’s off to a great start.