Sound Bites Favorite Albums of 2013


Well here we go, another fine year for records. It always is, and anyone who says different isn’t really trying to find the good stuff.  I should say there were a lot other records from 2013 that I liked a lot too, but I guess these are the ones that stuck with me the most. (You may have seen my Top 20 already on BrooklynVegan, but here’s more and more blurbs.) My Top 3 are basically a three-way tie for 1st place — they’re all completely different — so feel free to take them as such. But I don’t believe in ties (Tys is a different story, see #38) so I pulled rank. No MP3s this year, but there are links to streams (Spotify, mostly) and where to buy a physical copy — there is a track from every one of these 50 albums on my year-end mixes. I also made a Spotify playlist of all of the albums on my list that are on the service.

Without any further ado, my Favorite Records of 2013:

1. Hookworms Pearl Mystic (Gringo / Weird World)
01hookwormsThis group from Leeds, UK practice a visceral blend of noise, drone, motorik rhythms and impassioned vocals that basically demands to be listened to at top volume. The parts are old but Hookworms’ electrifying energy makes it feel like they came up with the idea. Seeing them live during CMJ, where singer Matt Johnson seemed to leave his body on stage, nudged this record ahead just enough for me to name is at my favorite of 2013. For that matter, their non-LP single, “Radio Tokyo,” was my favorite track of the year. Hookworms win.


2. Warm Soda – S/T (Castle Face)
02warm-sodaMatthew Melton formed Warm Soda immediately after his previous band, Bare Wires, imploded onstage at SXSW. He doesn’t really alter the power-pop formula with his new band but the change has definitely made his creative juices more effervescent. Keeping with those late ’70s vibes, Warm Soda’s debut actually kind of sounds like it is coming out of a transistor radio: tinny and compressed (in a good way), but with giant hooks and choruses packed into 27-minute running time. It’s hit after hit after hit.


3. La Femme Psycho Tropical Berlin (Born Bad)
03la-femmeThe title of Parisian band La Femme’s debut album, Psycho Tropical Berlin, is a pretty good summation of what to expect: crazed psychedelic pop with a krautrock/coldwave backbone and an affinity for surf rock. Add to that the inherent French element (Ye-Ye enthusiasm and smoky Gainsbourg cool), you get an inventive, modern, highly entertaining album, unlike anything anything else I heard this year.


4. OutfitPerformance (Double Denim)
04outfitAfter a few singles/EPs, UK group Outfit make their long-player bow and I wasn’t quite prepared for what a leap they made. This is sleek, elegant dancepop, endlessly inventive and a little nerdy/quirky — but not so much that it ever pulls you out of the groove. Comparisons to Hot Chip are pretty easy to make but Outfit have their own distinct style. This record remains a UK import. Somebody over here sign these guys!


5. John HopkinsImmunity (Domino)
05jon-hopkinsHaving helped create textural work with Imogen Heap, Brian Eno (and Coldplay), Jon Hopkins delves into dance music for the first time, with this concept album exploring, instrumentally, an epic night out. While it may not feature any Disclosure-style dancefloor bangers, Immunity is an absolute stunner, a record that needs to be heard as a whole, and one whose synthesizers throb like a beating heart.

6. Cate Le BonMug Museum (Turnstile / Wichita)
06mug-museumWritten following the death of her maternal grandmother but recorded after moving from Wales to her new home of California, Cate Le Bon’s third album, Mug Museum, hits the happy/sad sweet spot like a ray of sunshine peaking through the grey. A little less skronky than last year’s CYRK, Cate Le Bon’s quirky Welsh charm, songwriting skills and bewitching voice remain.


7. No JoyWait to Pleasure (Mexican Summer)
07no-joyWorking with Violens’ Jorge Elbrecht, Wait to Pleasure goes beyond the No Joy’s pummeling shoegaze start, showing off previously unheard textures, melody and beauty. They can still attain tinitus-level volume (just see them live), but they’ve now got other cards too and the ebbs, flows and crashing waves make for a great listen start-to-finish. One of the most pleasant surprises of 2013.


8. Factory Floor – S/T (DFA)
08factory-floor25 years since it’s Detroit birth, the sounds of techno and acid house are still inspiring new artists. UK trio Factory Floor take those squelchy 303s and filter them through krautrock and post-punk sensibilities for a near-relentless hour on their long-awaited-but-worth-it full-length debut. While using some of the same equipment Juan Atkins tinkered with in his bedroom in 1987, in Factory Floor’s hands, it still sounds like the phuture.


9. Girls NamesThe New Life (Slumberland)
09girls-namesFor their second album, Girls Names dropped much of the murky gloom prevalent on their debut, instead opting for more crystalline production, driving basslines, propulsive drumming, prominent keyboards and markedly improved songwriting. It’s all a little early-’80s Bunnymen, but Girls Names bring their own style to the proceedings, and every little atmospheric detail works. You still wouldn’t call it happy, but you can dance to it.


10. Ooga Boogas – S/T (Aarght)
10ooga-boogasAustralian musician Mikey Young stays busy with a bunch of bands (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control, Lace Curtain), all of them excellent. And here’s another as part of Ooga Boogas. Their self-titled album genre hops from Fall-influenced indie rock to Stranglers-y new wave to the vaguely Talking Heads-ish groovers. (Also “Studio of My Mind” is the best LCD Soundsystem song they never wrote.) But damn if they aren’t all great.

STREAM (new LP starts w/ track 16) | BUY

11. Joanna GruesomeWeird Sister (Slumberland)
11joannagSomewhere between Veronica Falls and Los Campesinos, Weird Sister takes great fantastic indiepop tunes and throws them in the mosh pit. One of the best album covers of the year too.


12. Minks Tide’s End (Captured Tracks)
12minksA band I thought was over, MINKS return letting bright sunshine burn through the haze of their debut, giving us ridiculously catchy ’80s-inspired synthpop.


13. King Krule10 Feet Beneath the Moon (True Panther Sounds)
13kingcruleAn old soul trapped in a teenager’s body, Archy Marshall really stepped up to the plate on his debut full-length, a pidgeonhole-defying record that melds the sounds he hears around him now (and a few from his mom’s record collection) for something truly modern.


14. Mikal CroninMCII (Merge)
14mciiMikal Cronin does it again. Apart from Warm Soda, perhaps the best pure guitar-pop album of the year.


15. SuedeBloodsports (Suede LTD)
15suedeSuede return (with second guitarist Richard Oakes) to make a great new album, no “comeback” signifier needed. If Coming Up is your favorite Suede album, buy Bloodsports immediately.


16. WeekendJinx (Slumberland)
16weekendReigning in the dissonance for gothy — and danceable — pop hooks, Weekend reimagine themselves just enough and show that they’ve got way more to offer than just sheer sonic blast.


17. Wax IdolsDiscipline + Desire (Slumberland)
17waxidolsSavages (who I like, mind you) may have the image and super-intense live show, Wax Idols’ new album has something they don’t — the tunes. In the ’90s, you could put Weekend’s album on one side of a Maxell XLII C100 cassette and this album on the other.


18. Heaven’s GateTransmuting (Inflated Records)
18heavensgateOut of the ashes of Sweet Bulbs, Heaven’s Gate took some of their old band’s dreamy noise, but took it in a significantly different direction, playing to singer strengths and became more of punky rock band… while still using a lot of effects pedals. Their debut is a terrific representation of what Heaven’s Gate have become — confident, hooky, and pretty damn kick-ass.


19. Kurt VileWakin’ on a Pretty Daze (Matador)
19kurtvileOlivia Newton John once asked, “Have You Ever Been Mellow?” Kurt is probably more like “Have you ever NOT been mellow” but has honed that vibe to perfection here while still letting it all hang out.


20. Heavenly BeatProminence (Captured Tracks)
20heavenlybeatOnetime Beach Fossils bassist Jon Pena works with a small palette — lightly plucked classical guitar, synth steel drums, skittering beats, whispered vocals, the occasional pizzicato strings — but make the absolute most of it, with lots of great little touches in the arrangements. Meticulous, yet has a shrugged off, sexy charm.

21 – 50 are below… Continue Reading

Bye Bye 2013, but before you go, here are some mixes.


Another year, another attempt to sum it up over the course of a bunch of mixes. I should clarify: an attempt to sum up my year in music. Hence, no Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Yeezus, Vampire Weekend or a lot of the other mainstays on most year-end lists. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those records, per se.) Anyway, I know I left stuff off I meant to include (Eagulls come to mind) but it’s a pretty good representation of what I liked this year. As for my lists, my Top 20 of 2013 is up over at BrooklynVegan, and I’ll have a Top 50 up here at some point. I’ve also got some Summer Fridays artwork regulars (and a couple newbies) to do art for these. Enjoy!


The first mix’s artwork is by Erica Recto, who made the cover for this year’s Bastille Day mix. I think I spy her dog, Betty, in there somewhere.



1. Shine 2009 – Eurozone
2. AlunaGeorge – Attracting Flies
3. Outfit – House on Fire
4. Classixx – All You’re Waiting for*
5. Neon Neon – Hammer & Sickle
6. Todd Terje – Strandbar (samba)
7. King Krule – Border Line
8. Heavenly Beat – Complete
9. Foals – My Number
10. Annie – Ralph Macchio
11. Metronomy – I’m Aquarius
12. Phoenix  – Trying to Be Cool
13. Public Service Broadcasting – Inform, Educate, Entertain
14. Blood Orange – You’re Not Good Enough
15. Kisses – Hardest Part
16. Gap Dream – Chill Spot
17. World’s End Press – Deadbeat Sweetheart

I realized after I published that in the actual uploaded, track #4 is by Classix, not Outfit. Feel free to change in your iTunes. Sorry about that.

Mix 2 has artwork from Jeffrey Bergstrom who is doing his first-ever artwork for me. He likes metal! (Also, Coldplay.) He also writes about laffs on BrooklynVegan under the Klaus Kinski pseudonym. I don’t have any metal on my list, but I put the “darker” stuff on this one to fit with the moody cover art.



1. Weekend – Mirror
2. Hookworms – Radio Tokyo
3. Wax Idols – The Cartoonist
4. Girls Names – Hypnotic Regression
5. Heaven’s Gate – Drone
6. Savages – She Wants
7. Toy – Join the Dots
8. pat JORDACHE – O.M.O.
9. Las Kellies – Boy, Sweet Boy
10. Disappears – Era
11. Pinkunoizu – Moped
12. Blouse – No Shelter
13. Dick Diver – Calendar Days
14. Holograms – Meditations
15. Medicine – It’s Not Enough
16. Wire – Love Bends
17. Deerhunter – Dream Captain
18. Dean Wareham – Emancipated Hearts

Artwork for Mix 3 is by Greg Morris who has been doing covers for me for almost as long as I’ve been doing them. He delivers another gem — his most surrealistic yet — for this one:



1. Jon Hopkins – Open Eye Signal
2. Disclosure – White Noise (feat AlunaGeorge)
3. Daniel Avery – Free Floating
4. Gramme – Fascination
5. Lady – Money
6. Jungle – The Heat
7. Pulp – After You (Pulp Vs Soulwax)
8. Hot Chip – Dark & Stormy
9. Xeno & Oaklander – Sheen
10. Ooga Boogas – Studio of My Mind
11. Lace Curtain – Good Intentions
12. Factory Floor – Fall Back
13. Jagwar Ma – Man I Need
14. Lindstrom & Todd Terje – Lanzarote

The artwork to Mix 4 is done by Katie Harkin who fronts the terrific UK rock trio Sky Larkin, and she also sometimes plays keyboards with Wild Beasts. Of it, she says “It’s a multiple exposure I took in a crazy berlin music shop.” Crazy indeed:



1. La Femme – Nous Etions Deux
2. Big Deal – Swappin’ Spit
3. Beaches – Out of Mind
4. MINKS – Margot
5. Wild Nothing – A Dancing Shell
6. The Phoenix Foundation – Black Mold
7. Kelley Stoltz – Kimchee Taco Man
8. Mood Rings – The Line
9. Ariel Pink & Jorge Elbrecht – Hang on to Life
10. Still Corners – Beginning to Blue
11. Serafina Steer – Night Before Mutiny
12. Love Inks – Solar Diary
13. No Joy – Hare Tarot Lies
14. Fiction – Careful
15. Future Wife – I’m Gonna Die
16. Midlake – Antiphon
17. Doldrums – Anomaly
18. No Bra – Minger
19. Colleen Green – Time in the World
20. Future Punx – Livin’ in a Movie

Another longtime Sound Bites mix art designer, Kate Bryant delivers up this trippy prismatic cover that would be worthy of Tame Impala. She made it entirely on her iPhone, btw.



1. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardner
2. La Luz – Sure as Spring
3. Sapphire Mansions – Too Shiny
4. Dream Boys – Sworn
5. The Mantles – Hello
6. Thee Oh Sees – No Spell
7. The Liminanas – Black Sabbath
8. Magic Trick – Crazy Teeth
9. Mikal Cronin – See it My Way
10. Warm Soda – Strange as it Seems
11. Corey Cunningham – Is it Really Really Real?
12. Joanna Gruesome – Secret Surprise
13. Heavy Times – Might Not
14. King Khan & the Shrines – Darkness
15. Ty Segall – The Man Man
16. Kurt Vile – Was All Talk
17. Legs – Thirteen Stories
18. The Proper Ornaments – Drop Off
19. Pampers – Head Bag
20. Fuzz – What’s in My Head?

And lastly, artwork for Mix 6 was done by enigmatic virtual graffiti artist King of the Streets who chooses to do all his tagging digitally. Usually he defaces property or signs or turtles, but here he dreams big, by graffiti-ing the SKY. Deep!



1. Prefab Sprout – The Best Jewel Thief in the World
2. Spires – Candy Floss
3. Foxygen – No Destruction
4. Cate Le Bon – Are You with Me Now?
5. Foret – Corps Maquilles
6. Goldfrapp – Drew
7. Temples – Colours to Life
8. Jacco Gardner – Chameleon
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)
10. Ex Cops – James
11. The House Of Love – Money Man
12. Suede – Hit Me
13. French Films – Latter Days
14. Ski Lodge – Boy
15. Pretty & Nice – Q_Q
16. Elephant Stone – Masters of War
17. Yuck – Lose My Breath
18. John Grant – GMF
19. Julian Cope – They Were on Hard Drugs

These mixes, like all I do, are actually mixed together so the songs meld into each other. No shuffle!