My favorite album of 2013


I've had a very casual relationship with metal. By all measures I'm right in its target demo, but the geeks got me first. My reticence towards it, I once justified, was that metal frequently didn't have enough melodic invention or variance for me to get into it. However that doesn't explain why I love punk. I suppose when I was in high school and was swamped by Judas Priest T-shirts, metal felt a little too aggressive and domineering, whereas punk was my impression of the underdog. It didn't dawn on me until later that both forms stemmed from some sort of rejection from mainstream society and were two sides of the same coin. In the outermost corner of Sacramento County in 1984, though, metal was the weapon of choice.

San Francisco's Deafheaven should offend purists of all persuasions. Their instrumentation is straight metal, but their melodies are much more complex. They use major seventh chords -- Adrian Smith would eat them alive for that. The next assignation they contend with is being part of the shoegazer thing, except instead of gently receding into the banks of noise, singer George Clarke screams his head off. They're the consummate "fuck genres" band, in word and deed, but you have to hang the black metal flag on them somewhere.

Sunbather returned the most on my investment and throttled my skepticism. The quality I associate with it is beauty, in which most albums this loud have no real vested interest. The melodies on Sunbather breathe freely in an alpine rush, and take the guitars with them rather than the other way around. No album released in 2013 maintains such sustained interest or completes such surprised turnarounds. Since the lyrics are unintelligible without a lyric sheet, that means Deafheaven had a huge triumph pretty much on instrumentation alone.

I listened intently to my top three albums of 2013 last week, hoping one of them would find an edge. Sunbather turned out to be the most whole experience on all levels: cerebral, instinctual, emotional. It makes up for San Francisco's giving us all those tacky jug bands in the sixties, and is the loudest album I ever loved. For anyone who thinks they've got metal figured out, here's a pink carnation, which matches the cover art.

My 40 Favorite Albums of 2013:
1. Sunbather, Deafheaven
2. Once I Was An Eagle, Laura Marling
3. The Next Day, David Bowie
4. Loud City Song, Julia Holter
5. Anxiety, Autre Ne Veut
6. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Foxygen
7. Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend
8. The Electric Lady, Janelle Monáe
9. R Plus Seven, Oneohtrix Point Never
10. Days Are Gone, HAIM
11. Overgrown, James Blake
12. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Neko Case
13. Acid Rap, Chance the Rapper
14. The Argument, Grant Hart
15. Untamed Beast, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
16. Sticky Wickets, The Duckworth Lewis Method
17. Monomania, Deerhunter
18. You’re Nothing, Iceage
19. The Stand-In, Caitlin Rose
20. Tape Deck Heart, Frank Turner
21. Big Wheel and Others, Cass McCombs
22. Random Access Memories, Daft Punk
23. General Dome, Buke & Gase
24. Negativity, Deer Tick
25. Reflektor, Arcade Fire
26. Personal Record, Eleanor Friedberger
27. Yeezus, Kanye West
28. Desire Lines, Camera Obscura
29. One Day I’m Going to Soar, Dexys
30. Nomad, Bombino
31. Old, Danny Brown
32. Engravings, Forest Swords
33. Silence Yourself, Savages
34. The Backward Path, Dan Melchior
35. Stories Don’t End, Dawes                                              
36. Uncanney Valley, The Dismemberment Plan
37. Truth Serum, Garland Jeffreys
38. Vanishing Point, Mudhoney
39. Slow Focus, Fuck Buttons
40. Animals in the Median, Radiation City
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