Music News

Backbeat writers look back on national favorites from 2013

Page 5 of 7

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.). While Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' last effort, 2008's Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, was a grinding guitar-driven rock album, Push the Sky Away is quite the opposite in a lot of ways. It's a much quieter and, well, more beautiful effort, one in which Cave's exquisite lyrics and vocals are front and center. — JS

Of Montreal, Lousy With Sylvianbriar (Polyvinyl). Going back to its psych-pop roots, Of Montreal inspired a sigh of relief for fans of that earlier sound with this record. Mastermind Kevin Barnes stated that the album was influenced by the Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead, and that much is evident from the dreamy, '60s-rock-sounding songs. Unlike past efforts where Barnes played everything, Sylvianbriar was recorded live with a full band, resulting in a full, cohesive and hauntingly gorgeous sound. — LS

Aaron Parks, Arborescence (ECM). On the excellent 2008 release Invisible Cinema, pianist Aaron Parks proved that he had outstanding chops as well as a talent for penning compelling tunes. On his much more subdued solo album, Arborescence, Parks shows himself in a warmer and more ethereal world, one that feels more introspective. — JS

Pop. 1280, Imps of Perversion (Sacred Bones). Taking the punk concept of negating what came before it a step further, this album dispenses with melodic guitar for something more like barely controlled spikes of tone. What synth there is eschews prettier tones in favor of a raw, Suicide-esque menace. Imps is intense and aggressive without a tough-guy stance. — TM

Porcelain Raft, Permanent Signal (Secretly Canadian). Like a long-lost Mercury Rev record, the latest album from Porcelain Raft has layers of richly evocative, dreamlike atmospheres. The songs here attain great emotional heights due to Mauro Remiddi's plaintive falsetto. Melancholic in tone, Permanent Signal conveys a powerful sense of life held in suspension but yearning to move forward. — TM

Portugal. the Man, Evil Friends (Atlantic). This experimental Portland-by-way-of-Alaska band released Evil Friends, one of the slickest-sounding indie-rock albums in recent memory, courtesy of famed producer Danger Mouse. "Creep in a T-Shirt" mixes synth-driven beats with attitude-filled lyrics, while "Holy Roller" takes you to church with its background vocals. The band even tosses in a little hip-hop for good measure. — LS

Chris Potter, The Sirens (ECM). Inspired by Homer's Odyssey, saxophonist Chris Potter set out to write a composition related to different episodes of the book. While there are stunning yet subtle moments here that jell particularly well with ECM's aesthetic, tunes like "Stranger at the Gate" show what a powerful improviser Potter is. — JS

Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork (Matador). Featured guests certainly don't hurt ...Like Clockwork, the first full-length release from Queens of the Stone Age in nearly six years. But appearances by Dave Grohl and Trent Reznor aren't the highlight of this record. That would be frontman Josh Homme's fine return to the fuzz tones and rock structures that made the band great in the first place. — AG

Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (Blue Note). Pianist Robert Glasper has long had one foot in jazz and the other in hip-hop and R&B, so it's a no-brainer that he would continue what he started on last year's Black Radio, a release that included a number of guest vocalists. This time around, he recruited heavy hitters Common, Faith Evans, Lupe Fiasco, Brandy and Jill Scott. — JS

Rhye, Woman (Universal Republic). Confession: Woman earns accolades largely because of its first tracks, "Open" and "The Fall." Singer Mike Milosh shamelessly embodies a Sade vibe that has been updated for 2013. His colleague, Danish multi-instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, does minimalist electronics like no other. — MS

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels (Fool's Gold). Fresh off their critically acclaimed collaboration R.A.P. Music, Killer Mike and El-P unite again behind the powerful production of the latter — this time featuring his rapping, as well. Run the Jewels is hard-hitting and exciting, both because of the MCs' surprisingly compatible fast rapping and because of El-P's always potent and underappreciated soundscaping. — NH

Shai Hulud, Reach Beyond the Sun (Metal Blade). Shai Hulud combines the ethic of hardcore with intricate guitar work and intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics delivered expertly by Chad Gilbert, who returned after two albums away. Shai Hulud does not write bad songs. All hail Galactus. — BL

Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unleashed (Prosthetic Records). Metal fans should always be skeptical of bands and albums that are hyped this much in the press, but Serpents Unleashed justifies the attention as one of the must-hear blackened-thrash albums of this decade. — BL

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