[sic] Magazine

Sub-Editor’s 2013 Round-Up pt. 3: Tracks Of The Year

Drawing to a close my now usual tri-part annual summary, I hereby present those cuts that have best soundtracked my year – the only rule being that each entrant could only be represented once in order to best share the love.

On heavy rotation throughout 2013, these tracks truly rock/humble/excite – delete as appropriate. No doubt you had your own favourites. Here are mine:
1. Wooden Shjips – “Everybody Knows” (Psyche/Space-Rock)

Stuck on the tail-end of Back To Land – possibly the best Wooden Shjips LP to date – “Everybody Knows” finds the arch-psychonauts in a playful mood, augmenting their trademark chug-cum-groove with some West Coast sunshine and, you know what, it’s done these pale-face longhairs the world of good.

It’s all just so perfect. The back and forth fuzz to start is executed with precision. The breezy synth drone is heavenly. Ripley Johnson ‘s stoned vocals are so effortlessly cool, the heavy-echo guitar solo just icing on the cake at this point. For a burgeoning movement whose bubble may be about to burst, Wooden Shjips may have just written its master work.

2. Psychic Ills – “See You There” (Psyche-Rock)


Psyche is so hot right now and there have been fewer finer moments from anyone this year than the whammy-loving “See You There”. The hypnotic groove this track cruises echoes deeply, scanning round its druggy nod like a search light on some police helicopter, exposing the seedy underbelly of the wrong side of town. There’s madness in the eyes of those the light picks up too, long having lost their own one-track minds to the sound of Psychic Ills.

3. Wet Nuns – “Broken Teeth” (Blues-Rock)


You can either limp to a close or go out with a bang. Sheffield’s foremost stoners chose the latter and their snarling self-titled debut is also their last. What a statement to leave behind however when it contains cuts like the two-minute chugathon “Broke Teeth”. Sure, as the two-piece attack blues-rock like the proverbial bull in a china shop, it all becomes a little bit budget Kyuss meets the most stomping parts of the early White Stripes canon, but who cares when the results are this tasty?

4. Pleasure Leftists – “Elephant Men” (Post-Punk)


Top-drawer post-punk from Cleveland, “Elephant Men” is the sound of a band getting their spiky shit spot on, though it’s Factory Records aficionado Hayley Morris that steals the show, belting out line after line through clenched teeth. There’s already a quality EP and single to Pleasure Leftists’ name and 2014 really should be theirs for the taking if they can but follow suit with more of the same.

5. Gnod – “Genocider” (Psyche-Rock/Industrial)


Where to begin with “Genocider”? It’s 16 minutes long and it spends all of them tormenting your ears with pulverising, hell-for-leather industrial-psyche metal. In the ensuing maelstrom you realise you’re locked in. That you’re gonna keep going round and round ‘til the Gnod boys drop down dead from exhaustion. In brief, “Genocider” sounds like what terrified parents think their kids are listening to.

6. Honeyslide – “Drippin” (Shoegaze)


“Drippin” is one of the most perfect shoegaze anthems of all time. It’s far from original – don’t get me wrong – but from the moment these London specialists step on the pedals and cloak the delicate track in fuzz and feedback it is simply glorious. RIYL A Grave With No Name . It’d simply be a crime against music if Honeyslide don’t make it to a similarly spectacular follow-up in the next twelve months.

7. Chelsea Wolfe – “Feral Love” (Singer-Songwriter/Coldwave)


Chelsea Wolfe makes the sort of dangerous, devotional music which attracts damaged obsessives and this year’s Pain Is Beauty is packed with wonderfully atmospheric melancholy. “Feral Love” opens the stunning collection with its bent strings and crumpled beat. The spell-binding melodies then flow like blood from an open wound from hereon in. The best of its type since Zola Jesus ‘s Stridulum EP.

8. Ellery James Roberts – “Kerou’s Lament” (Psyche-Pop)


WU LYF are no more, each of the members going their own way and working on new projects. First to return with anything of real promise is former frontman Ellery James Roberts and he’s brought his awesome heavy-pop back with him. “Kerou’s Lament” is the only track out there for the moment, but it’s enormous and possibly game-changing. Expect big things should an LP surface next year.

9. Emperor Zero – “Mental Health Café” (Post-Punk)


It gives me great pleasure to shout out local lads and stygian Salford boys Emperor Zero have genuinely tabled one of the year’s best tracks in their kickass second single “Mental Health Café”. The sure-to-follow long-player ought to be a blinder too – literally, if some of their sharp post-punk angles catch you any place other than the heart.

10. Forest Swords – “Thor’s Stone” (Beats/Dub)


The enigmatic refrain in “Thor’s Stone” sounds like it’s the product of a synthesised panpipe – an instrument that has no right to be anywhere near this list. Good job then that it’s being deployed by master beat-maker Matthew Barnes , who’s twinned it with an atmospheric rhythm and choice cut-and-paste vocal snippets to super cool effect.

11. The Flaming Lips – “The Terror” (Psychedelia)

It’s all a little weird and rickety; the magic though is in how “The Terror”, the rather sublime title track from one of this year’s best LPs, hangs together when you get the impression it should just spin out of controlled orbit and deep into unchartered territory. Commander Coyne is no amateur, lest we forget.

12. Gabriel Bruce – “Sleep Paralysis” (Singer-Songwriter/Indie-Rock)

Gabriel Bruce’s debut LP is all over the map in terms of style. All the same, “Sleep Paralysis” is one of many highlights, taking Leonard Cohen ‘s cabaret 80s disco and prescribing unto it a dose of swelling indie bombast borrowed from the likes of The National . Those looking for subtlety need not apply.

13. Gambles – “New York” (Singer-Songwriter)

Easily the simplest song on this year’s list, “New York” is also one of the most powerful. Bathed in echo, Matthew Siskin ‘s acoustic chords amble as backdrop for his wounded tale of isolation, the lyrics aching to tell you more than their encoded meaning.

14. Savages – “She Will” (Post-Punk)

That spaghetti-surf bassline that wanders all over the insistent “She Will” is kinda deceptive. Then again, the deluge of sexually charged mania that erupts from frontwoman Jehnny Beth midway through is enough to surprise anyone. Intense much?

15. The Icarus Line – “City Job” (Rock)

The muscular, militaristic chug in “City Job” and Joe Cardamone ‘s wild-eyed holler are manic enough. Throw in a Swans -like surge of nose-bleeding guitar noise and you’ve got yourself a party of rock-star proportions … don’t forget to warn the neighbours.

16. The National – “Don’t Swallow The Cap” (Indie-Rock)

You’ve sometimes got to wonder just how The National keep producing these statements of wonder. Picking a favourite from their strong album was therefore difficult, but the intelligent and grandiose “Don’t Swallow The Cap” eventually beat off determined competition to take home the accolade.

17. Weekend – “Mirror” (Post-Punk)

This year’s Weekend LP was arguably less showy than previous work. In turning down the abject noise though Shaun Durkan has uncovered a rich vein of brooding melody that is just as difficult to avoid. “Mirror” wraps its clammy tendrils around your throat and heart in one deft swoop.

18. Spacin’ – “Ego-Go” (Hardrock/Psyche-Rock)

With a strut that Mick Jagger would kill for and a hard groove nicked straight from Lucifer himself, had “Ego-Go” been penned forty years ago it’d be a staple on every classic-rock FM channel. As it is, wallowing in the iconic excesses of yesteryear, it’s a Creedence -style doozy in its own right today.

19. Throwing Up – “Sarah” (Indie-Punk)

If you’ve only got two minutes then there are far worse ways to spend them than in the company of “Sarah”, an urgent indie-punk riot that intensifies during its short life cycle to become a snotty, catchy anthem for armchair nihilists everywhere. Essential.

20. Jon Hopkins ft. Purity Ring – “Breathe This Air” (Electronica/Future-Pop)

He’s a man of many guises, but one thing’s for certain as, in “Breathe This Air”, Jon Hopkins has, in conjunction with the fantastic future-pop duo Purity Ring, created a thing of forward-thinking beauty, the clipped, cut-and-paste vocals of Megan James given backbone by a stuttering beat.

21. Small Feet – “Rivers” (Singer-Songwriter/Freak Folk)

“Next big thing” is chucked about all-too-often, but Simon Stålhamrhe , aka Small Feet, may be deserving of the title. At the very least, his hypnotic freak-folker, “Rivers”, merits a dose of exposure, Stålhamrhe’s outsider falsetto dancing amidst the chilly plucked strings as if they were snowflakes.

22. Hausu – “Chrysanthemum” (Post-Hardcore)

There are angrier, spikier and generally more emotionally battered extracts on Hausu’s superb LP Total , but, gluttons for punishment that we are, it’s the intensity of the midsection in “Chrysanthemum” that keeps you coming back time and time again for more.

23. Iceage – “Ecstasy” (Punk)

Who knows, in general, where the fury of youth resides? At least the thrilling blast that is “Ecstasy” makes it abundantly clear for once. “Pressure. Pressure. Oh, God, no” yells Elias Bender Rønnenfelt towards the track’s close. His turmoil is our reward.

24. Merchandise – “Anxiety’s Door” (Indie-Rock)

It’s all about that 80s guitar work. Without it “Anxiety’s Door” would still have Carson Cox ‘s wonderfully miserable croon, but the guitar’s what elevates the tinny drum pattern and gloomy brush strokes. Stick this on next to The Smiths and the uninitiated would assume it was a lost classic.

25. The Haxan Cloak – “Miste” (Beats/Bass/Doom)

There are almost no entry points to Excavation , The Haxan Cloak’s hyper-dense LP, but the bleak “Miste” is the exception to the rule, sounding initially like fellow Tri Angle beat-maker Holy Other before deploying some Cold War-era tone generators and Ben Frost ‘s darkest sample deck.

26. Dolfinz – “Resonate Darkly” (Indie/Grunge)

It sounds like the frontman’s chewing his tongue, gargling it in a solution of spittoon residue and razor blades whilst challenging his guitarist to play as fast and overblown as he can. The recording’s terrible – like a cruddy demo from circa ’91 – but it helps make “Resonate Darkly” and Dolfinz so engaging.

27. The KVB – “Dayzed” (Shoegaze/Noise)

With no A Place To Bury Strangers record this year someone had to step up to the plate in order to truly scorch the eardrums. And what a belter “Dayzed” is – the sort of pedal-fed shoegaze and flat-lining noise that equalisers have nightmares about.

28. Deap Vally – “Gonna Make My Own Money” (Blues-Rock)

“Gonna Make My Own Money” is sorta the Deap Vally girls’ calling card for a reason. It hollers an unsubtle message of empowerment in the face whilst shaking its denim hot-panted rear. This is a track in search of equality, about having good times and doing so on your own terms.

29. Föllakzoid – “Trees” (Psyche-Rock)

There are few more exciting ways to open a track than with a killer riff and the one in “Trees” is gold. Repetition is, naturally, key to the psyche revival and here it hammers home to the sound of mesmeric bells and super-stoned mumbling. Epic stuff.

30. FUZZ – “This Time I Got A Reason” (Garage-Psyche/Hard-Rock)

This face-melting single didn’t make Ty Segall ‘s debut album as FUZZ, which is probably due to his prolificacy more than anything else. All the same, the track’s blistering distortion pedals and primal crunch scream out to be heard way beyond the confines of the restrictive 7” platter format.

31. Grouper – “Cover The Long Way” (Ambient Folk)

Rarely is one artist out there alone for so long and in a niche all of their own creation, but until Julianna Barwick crashed the beautiful ambient-folk scene, she was untouchable. Recorded five years ago, “Cover The Long Way” can be considered an elemental swansong from that time.

32. Virals – “Wax Work” (Indie-Rock)

If there was a better early 90s, indie-rock blast this year than “Wax Work” I missed it and these former Lovvers are surely on the right track to make more of the same – more UK guitar music that doesn’t make you blush with embarrassment that is. The fight-back gathers pace.

33. Low – “Just Make It Stop” (Indie-Rock/Alt-Country)

When it comes to slow tempos, minimal arrangements, knockout vocal harmonies and subtle melodies that still manage to burn brightly, Low stand head and shoulders above most others. “Just Make It Stop” is right up there with Sparhawk and Parker’s most impressive statements to date.

34. Dirty Beaches – “I Dream In Neon” (Electronica/No Wave)

One of the lighter, more accessible cuts from Alex Zhang Hungtai ‘s pained Drifters / Love Is The Devil LP, “I Dream In Neon” is nevertheless a brilliantly dirgey trawl through Martin Rev and Alan Vega ‘s personal collection of vintage synthesisers and drum machines.

35. Iron & Wine – “Low Light Buddy Of Mine” (Singer-Songwriter)

Sam “smooth” Beam is developing into a real class act. There’s a laidback lounge vibe to “Low Light Buddy Of Mine” thanks to its sharp percussion, woodwind and sax flourishes, but Beam is no beginner. He knows how to steer his ship and the credibility of his work is never in danger.

36. Alex Bleeker & The Freaks – “Step Right Up (Pour Yourself Some Wine)” (Singer-Songwriter/Alt-Country)

Is it skill or chance that delivers absolute perfection? Either way, the guitar playing in “Step Right Up” is just so warm and inviting that it’s downright impossible to refuse the offer. What lazy days, dropping the top and the wide open road are made for.

37. Suuns – “2020” (Krautrock)

Creepy, Clinic -brand motorik is, of course, the connoisseur’s choice and for Suuns it’s the go-to anchor for their playful kraut, “2020” managing to be both propulsive and insular, its snappy beat and curious wub-wub undercurrent splendid bedfellows.

38. Torres – “Chains” (Singer-Songwriter)

When your music’s this minimal – a creak here, a shimmer there – your voice and what it has to say become all that more important. True to form then, Mackenzie Scott , aka Torres, is here truly magnetic in the sparse company of this surprisingly dark spine-tingler.

39. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “So Good At Being In Trouble” (Garage-Funk)

Perhaps the most chilled of all tracks on this list, “So Good At Being In Trouble” is a great ocean of dappled charm, Ruban Nielson ‘s falsetto bobbing around the garage shuffle and funky bassline like an afternoon with good friends spent on the sundeck in some idyllic spot.

40. Crystal Stilts – “Sticks And Stones” (Indie/Garage-Psyche)

Crystal Stilts have an embarrassing amount of perfect songs in their arsenal already and “Sticks And Stones” is right up there. It’s got one of those effortless swoons that simply cannot be learnt. This sort of sub-three minute wonder is either in your blood or it isn’t.

41. Bambara – “Nail Polish” (Noise-Rock)

Enormous smash-and-grab noise-rocker “Nail Polish” is phenomenal, adrenaline-soaked stuff that shows, through intelligent loud-quiet-loud breakdowns, a street-fighting drive to simply crush any obstacle in their path (read lesser band) clean out the way.

42. Coma – “Hoooooray” (House)

It’s not just any old Tom, Dick or Harry House that makes this list, you know! Coma’s LP on the legendary Kompakt label may have disappointed but this stand-out cut is just too joyous and jackin’ to ignore. The squelchy, stop-start beat and hella catchy key repeat are judged just right.

43. Julianna Barwick – “The Harbinger” (Ambient/Neo-Classical)

Picking a favourite from Julianna’s Barwick’s beautiful Nepenthe LP is like picking a winner from some Miss Angelic 2013 line-up. “The Harbinger” edges it because of its super-delicate post-rock flourishes, sparse piano and windblown choir work.

44. Night Beds – “Cherry Blossoms” (Singer-Songwriter)

“Cherry Blossoms” is one of several barely-there wisps of heartbreak to waft out from Winston Yellen ‘s debut album, but despite its ever-so-slight frame it manages to land punch after emotional punch on your heart’s glass chin. The track finishes in almost literal crying. Devastating.

45. Wax Idols – “The Scent Of Love” (Post-Punk/Goth)

The way the gloomy bassline tumbles over itself and dominates “The Scent Of Love” does more than set the tone for the Cure -like manoeuvers that are to follow. It also opens a portal straight to the dark heart of 80s Goth. Just try and tear your eyes away from this window of lost souls.

46. John Murry – “Southern Sky” (Singer-Songwriter)

There’s a warmth to the classy “Southern Sky” perhaps absent from the rest of John Murry’s impressive, if heavy-hearted, LP The Graceless Age . It’s the homespun, silver-lined foil to his other tales of substance abuse, the all-too-human clinging to hope in the face of adversity.

47. Pins – “Girls Like Us” (Rock)

Having already dabbled with Girl Group-ish C86 in their fledgling career, Pins would now seem to have ideas of Runaways / Blackhearts -style stardom and the stomping tongue-in-cheek, pastiche-heavy “Girls Like Us” is definitely ticking all the right boxes to get them there.

48. Purling Hiss – “Lolita” (Psyche-Rock)

Purling Hiss went for broke this year, cleaning up their sound in the hope of selling some records and, despite a few mis-steps, “Lolita” was instrumental in steadying the transition, marrying classic rock shred with blasts of feedback and heavy repeats to generally gnarly effect.

49. The Mantles – “Brown Balloon” (Indie/Garage-Rock)

Shambling, jangly indie can be much misunderstood by occasional listeners, which is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows wonderful little breezes such as this to play across the ears of the aficionados with little ceremony. This is easily as good as that killer record from The Babies last year.

50. Wooden Wand – “Southern Colorado Song” (Singer-Songwriter/Alt-Country)

James Jackson Toth is known for his powerful, atmospheric country-rock and the way he manages to pull such deep emotion and searing purpose out of deceptive restraint on “Southern Colorado Song” help set him apart as a master of his craft.

The best of the rest (no particular order):

The History Of Apple Pie – “Mallory” (Indie/Shoegaze)
Bleached – “Dead In Your Head” (Garage-Pop)
Boduf Songs – “Everyone Will Let You Down In The End” (Singer-Songwriter)
Crystal Antlers – “Rattlesnake” (Noise-Rock/Garage-Punk)
Deerhunter – “T.H.M.” (Ambient Punk)
Joanna Gruesome – “Sugarcrush” (Noise-Pop)
Milk Music – “I’ve Got A Wild Feeling” (Punk-Rock)
Parquet Courts – “Stoned & Starving” (Punk-Rock)
Pissed Jeans – “Bathroom Laughter” (Sludgecore)
Strand Of Oaks – “Hard To Be Young (2013)” (Singer-Songwriter/Synth-Pop)
Abjects – “Fast Luv” (Garage-Surf/Girl Group)
Alex Calder – “Suki And Me” (Indie/Dream-Pop)
Big Wave – “GW Bridge” (Indie/Pop)
Blue Hawaii – “In Two I & II” (Electronica/R&B-Pop)
Case Studies – “Passage / Me In The Dark” (Singer-Songwriter)
Cheri Cheri Jaguar – “Ice” (Post-Punk/Goth)
Frankie Rose – “Street Of Dreams” (Dream-Pop)
Georgiana Starlington – “Dry As A Bone” (Dream-Pop/Alt-Country)
Jacques Greene ft. How To Dress Well – “On Your Side” (UK Garage/R&B)
Kurt Vile – “KV Crimes” (Heartland Rock)
Mikal Cronin – “Piano Mantra” (Singer-Songwriter)
Smith Westerns – “Idol” (Garage-Pop)
Sonny & The Sunsets – “Girl On The Street” (60s Psyche)
Terror Bird – “All This Time” (Synth-Pop/Goth)
The Men – “The Brass” (Punk-Rock)
Waxahatchee – “Dixie Cups And Jars” (Singer-Songwriter)
Braids – “In Kind” (Dream-Pop)
Chelsea Light Moving – “Burroughs” (Noise-Rock)
Clipd Beaks – “Womb To Tomb” (Noise-Rock)
Julia Holter – “Maxim’s I” (Dream-Pop)
Fair Ohs – “Ya Mustafa” (Afrobeat/Indie-Punk)
Keaton Henson – “Kronos” (Singer-Songwriter/Indie-Rock)
A Grave With No Name – “Streams” (Singer-Songwriter/Neo-Psychedelia)
Beach Fossils – “Burn You Down” (Indie/Post-Punk)
Cloud Boat – “Pink Grin II” (Electronica/Post-Dubstep)
Colleen Green – “Close To You” (Garage-Pop)
Crocodiles – “Gimme Some Annihilation” (Indie-Rock)
Dream Koala – “Odyssey” (Electronic Pop)
Glass Gang – “The Fall” (Electronic Pop)
Grave Babies – “Over And Under Ground” (Post-Punk)
Is Tropical – “Yellow Teeth” (Indie-Rock)
It Hugs Back – “Big Sighs” (Indie-Rock)
Potty Mouth – “Black And Studs” (Grunge-Pop)
TV Ghost – “Elevator” (Post-Punk)
Twin Peaks – “Stand In The Sand” (Garage-Pop)
Vår – “Begin To Remember” (Post-Punk)
White Manna – “I’m Comin Home” (Psyche-Rock)
Wild Nothing – “Data World” (Dream-Pop)
Wolf Alice – “Bros” (Indie-Rock)
It Is Rain In My Face – “Raise Your Hands, Raise The Dead” (Singer-Songwriter)