Top 50 Albums of 2013

albums banner 2013 procMaking our year-end list of Top Albums is never something we take lightly.  We realize that it’s rather arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, but we realize that our role is to at least toss out our opinion, however meaningless it may be. In the long run, we had to take the tastes of several people, and whittle it into a list of 50 great albums that we think are vital to your listening experience.  We know it’s a matter of personal tastes, but the records below are reflective of our tastes and our site, so don’t get mad, they’re just opinions. But, feel free to tell us where we went wrong, or what we might have missed.  If you click on the album titles, you can also read our full reviews of each album, save the ones that we didn’t get to in time. Sorry we don’t like Kanye.

50 – WampireCuriosity
49 – Dot DashHalf Remembered Dream
48 – Mantles  – Long Enough to Leave
47 – The Appleseed CastIllumination Ritual
46 – Bad SportsBras
45 – Part TimePDA
44 – Dick DiverCalendar Days
43 – Math and Physics ClubOur Hearts Beat Loud
42 – Veronica FallsWaiting for Something to Happen
41 – Eat Skull – III
40 – The Lonely WildThe Sun as It Comes
39 – The Love LanguageRuby Red
38 – Gun OutfitHard Coming Down
37 – Cate Le BonMug Museum
36 – Daughn GibsonMe Moan
35 – Andre ObinThe Arsonist
34 – ArpMore
33 – Gap DreamShine Your Light
32 – The Black WatchThe End of When
31 – Ty SegallSleeper
30 – The StevensA History of Hygeine
29 – Of MontrealLousy with Sylvianbriar
28 – Mirror TravelMexico
27 – Local NativesHummingbird
26 – Girls NamesThe New Life
25 – GRMLNEmpire
24 – Small BlackLimits of Desire
23 – AudacityButter Knife
22 – Mikal CroninMCII
21 – Chelsea WolfePain is Beauty
20 – FoalsHoly Fire
19 – Radical FaceFamily Tree: The Branches
18 – Youth LagoonWondrous Bughouse
17 – Terry MaltsNobody Realizes This is Nowhere
16 – Shout Out LoudsOptica
15 – Kurt VileWaking on a Pretty Daze
14 –  BraidsFlourish//Perish
13 – Crystal AntlersNothing is Real
12 – TyphoonWhite Lighter
11 – Ski LodgeBig Heart

10 – GamblesTrust

Admittedly, this album makes nods to folk troubadours of Christmas’ past, but what grabbed me from the moment I heard this record was the sincerity in what’s being created.  In leaving us with a stripped down listen of folk tunes and incredible poetry, we’re asked to look into the history of American songwriting tradition; it’s been awhile since it was executed so well.

9 – The GrowlersHung at Heart

I’d put this album on any list for one song alone, “Someday.”  But, it just so happens that the rest of the album maintains the sensation that’s established on the opening track.  I’ve heard it referenced as a surf-psych opus, but what’s been assured in my mine is what an incredible listen we’re all be treating to when we put Hung at Heart on our record players.

8 – Wax IdolsDiscipline & Desire

Hether Fortune seems to scare people.  Her work is in your face, never making an excuse for who she is or what she believes.  That attitude carries on into her music, allowing listeners to experience a musical world void of any pretense.  The songs on this album are angular, dark and abrasive; the vocals have Hether dominating the scene of modern lady rock warriors.  If you don’t dig it, she doesn’t care, but I do because this record rules.

7 – Parenthetical GirlsPrivilege

While many of the songs on this effort leaked out before under various EPs, the whole masterpiece exists in the way it was tied together as a complete work.  It’s operatic and grand at every corner, but it’s also undeniably a pop record.  The emphasis might revolve around the more artful spectrum of pop music, but this is an album you can play for everyone in your family, and they’ll all find themselves swept up in the wonderment of Privilege.

6 – The NationalTrouble Will Find Me

What else really needs to be said about The National.  They consistently make great albums that are lauded then often overlooked, but we didn’t want to do that to one of our favorite acts.  I mean, if they played 8 shows in 8 days, we’d be at every one, and the DJ set after party.  Their accolades and recognition are warranted, and it’s especially clear on this, their latest release.

5 – LegsPass the Ringo

When listening to Pass the Ringo, I thought of one thing: this is the sort of record that makes a small label, like Loglady Records, a household name. It’s spun around garage rock and psych rock structures, whilst still maintaining an accessibility that few people working in that genre achieve.  Some albums can play in the background of your house, and might be happy to do so, but Legs created something that made me stop and listen at every turn; I’m thankful for that.

4 – Warm SodaSomeone for You

Someone For You came our way in January.  On my record player, it hasn’t left since.  This is one of the most rewarding power-pop records I’ve gotten my hands on, and trust me, I’ve gotten my hands on a lot of great records. Each song is filled with innate hooks and garage rock grit, encouraging you to tap your toes for the entirety of the record.  You’d think after a full year our interest would have waned, but with time we’ve only grown to appreciate the record even more.

3 – Coma CinemaPosthumous Release

At the moment, there’s not too many people releasing music that’s the quality of Mathew Cothran and Coma Cinema. There are elements of the bizarre, similar to the work of early Elf Power, yet there’s this intimacy that artists like Eliott Smith were able to create with their listeners.  You wrap that up and put it in a package of pop sensibility, and you have an album that can’t be ignored.

2 – Bubblegum LemonadeSome Like it Pop

In today’s musical climate, we buy into the fact that artists have to be doing something strange, or something that’s vastly different from their peers.  But, in the grand scheme of things, we often forget what it’s like to take enjoyment out of the music.  This album was one of the many reminders that music, when it’s good, can be quite special.  Every song here is a single, and worth your time; it’s the best thing Laz has done, and I feel like he’s just really getting started.

1 – Magical CloudzImpersonator

This album is about Devon Welsh.  From the first instant I heard his voice, it took hold of me. Throughout the year, Impersonator, consistently played on my radio. His voice was mesmerizing, captivating audiences on several occasions in Austin, convincing us to be as quiet as a mouse, so as to hear every note.  The unique quality of the album will reward listeners for years to follow.  It made us believe in great music again.

 

Top Songs of 2013

best songs ath 2013We’ve put our pretty little heads together ladies and gentlemen to bring you our favorite songs from this past year.  It was a difficult task with our ever growing staff, but we feel like this list best represents the diverse taste of our staff.  Love it or hate it, it’s ours to call our own.  Hit play and put your head down or dance or shimmmy or drool or whatever works. Most of all we hope you hear something you missed, something you want to buy or something you want to see live.

Scroll past the playlist for full the run of the bestest songs ever this year.

Read more

ATH & SXSW: 3 to Watch Part 4.

sxsw-&-athSo close! Yet we’re so far away.  Okay, not really…SXSW is officially upon us, and shows are sprouting up all over the place.  Personally, I’m freaking out.  So many incredible bands that I want to see for the first time, and so many more that I would gladly see a hundred times over.  Here’s a list of a few acts that I haven’t actually caught yet, so I’ll be seeing them for the first time…SXSW is the first time to lose your band cherry. Read more

Parenthetical Girls – Privilege

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Rating: ★★★★½

It’s rare that one comes across an album that sounds entirely unique, especially in the realm of atypical pop records, but Parenthetical Girls seem to have accomplished such a feat.  There newest release, Privilege, sounds both familiar and yet entirely different from anything I’ve listened to in some time.  It’s brimming with experimentation, but honed in carefully creating a cohesive gem of a listen.

When “Evelyn McHale” first surfaced in an abridged version, it hit a lot harder than it’s counterpart, which appears on Privilege.  That being said, I think I’m quite partial to the extended version; the vocals have this swelling croon to them, and the strummed power of the guitar leaves you in a sense of audial bliss.  It’s immediately followed by “The Common Touch,” which begins with a vocal that resembles a less operatic Patrick Wolf.  What stands out to me is the musical accompaniment: there’s tinkering piano, accordion, strings and more!  The entrance of a female vocal near the midway point is an added touch of beauty.

One of the highlights from Parenthetical Girls has also been circling around for sometime, but you can’t escape the magnificence that is “The Pornographer.”  I’d gladly take the rising tones of the chorus ten times over, accompanied by a haunting male chorus in the background.  You’ll find the song treads its way patiently throughout, only erupting when necessary. Dammit! This song is so good.  Yet, despite such a stand out number, the bread and butter is the band’s ability to move in and out of various song structures.

You can skip around the entirety of this album, and you’ll be on trip that won’t let you down, no matter where you land.  For instance, start with the jittery “Note to Self,” that revolves around a catchy string strumming and pounding bit of percussion.  Then jump to the dark edges of bedroom electronic with “Careful Who You Dance With.”  It’s a solemn number built around synthesized beats, using the occasional sonic explosion.  Finally, end your path at the bittersweet “Weakness.” For me, the strings pulled at every emotion I could contain, creating a swelling that bubbled its way into a more playful direction as the song unfolded.  You’re not going to find three more different songs scattered about that tie together in such majesty.

Crafting quirky pop numbers might be what Parenthetical Girls have been doing all along, yet the central theme you’ll find is that none of that matters anymore.  Privilege leaves you with such an uplifted heart that you’ll find it difficult to put the album down; I’ve tried only to come back and press play all over again.  While some bands revel in pop delivery, others toil in obscure pop craftsmanship, but here you find it all blended together perfectly in one splendid listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/thepornographer.mp3]

Download: Parenthetical Girls – The Pornographer [MP3]

Show Preview: Perfume Genius @ Lamberts (3/27)

Date Tuesday, March 27th
Location Lamberts
Doors 930p
Tickets $12 from Frontgate

Mike Hadreas has quietly (that applies to his music too!) been making waves in the indie music community, crafting these beautiful mini-suites on his piano as Perfume Genius.  For me, it’s some of the more moving material that’s come out in the last several years, but that’s just personal opinion.  Luckily we can all (well, not all because Lamberts is tiny) witness him in his humble glory as he heads to Austin on Tuesday night; I have a feeling that it’s going to be a really special performance.  You’ll also get to enjoy Parenthetical Girls opening, so please get there early to support them!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/08-All-Waters.mp3]

Download:Perfume Genius – All Waters [MP3]

 

Show Preview: Los Campesinos! @ The Parish (2/17 & 2/18)

Date 2/17 & 2/18
Location The Parish
Doors 8pm
Tickets $15 @ Frontgate

Los Campesinos! are coming into Austin tomorrow night for a two night stint at The Parish downtown.  Having seen the band on multiple occasions, I can assure you that the cheap ticket price is worth your time and money.  Opening support on both nights will be provided by Parenthetical Girls.  Friday seems like a busy night in Austin so maybe we’ll see ya there on Saturday?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Kindle-A-Flame-In-Her-Heart-1.mp3]

Download: Los Campesinos! – Kindle A Flame In Her Heart [MP3]

New Track from Parenthetical Girls

You have to give it to the Parenthetical Girls for offering up something incredibly personal to their fans, giving them several 12″ EPs instead of just releasing their newest LP, Privilege.  The most recent part of the series is Privilege Pt. III, which should be out on the band’s own label, Slender Means Society, on March 22nd. The latest MP3 is really creeping up my playlist as of now.  It’s got this really dramatic feel to it, particularly the vocals, yet in the back you can hear all this squalling noise and haunting percussion.  This definitely makes for a great listen, and you’ll be coming back to listen again and again, just as I have.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/thepornographer.mp3]

Download: Parenthetical Girls – The Pornographer [MP3]

New Tunes from Parenthetical Girls

girlsNews began to circulate Friday that Parenthetical Girls will be releasing a five part series of 12″ starting on February 23rd.  Seems like a fairly large undertaking, which will eventually all fit together like a proper album, but regardless, the first song off the series is ridiculously good.  I had it on repeat for a better part of this weekend, so we wanted to bring it your way.  If you like it, it comes on the first installment of the series, On Death & Endearment.  Buen provecho.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Evelyn-McHale-1.mp3]

Download: Parenthetical Girls – Evelyn Mchale [MP3]