I HATE YEAR-END LISTS. I really, really do. You meticulously rate your favorite records with more thought than you'd give to planning your own wedding (I say from experience), but inevitably, once your perfected selection is shared with the public, it hits you... YOU FORGOT A GODDAMN RECORD. Or song, or artist, or macaroni and cheese recipe, or whatever. The whole list is ruined! You will never forgive yourself! I just can't deal with that amount of pressure.
Listening to music has always been a very emotionally-driven act. The reason I love so much of the music I do at the moment I love it, is because it does more for me than sound good, it feels good, too. Music is my mood ring—it's often a clue of something that's happening deeper within my brain. Because of that, I generally don't partake in the journalist's race to get the best year-end list on the internet before December's even over. If you look at my favorite records, you're pretty much looking at my mess of a brain, not a time capsule that represents the music industry as a whole, so I never really saw the point in making it public. But what good is blogging about music if you’re not embracing every opportunity to be completely self-serving?
So with that, in no particular order and for no reason other than I just want to publicly celebrate these wonderful records one more time, here's a list of 2013-released albums that were perfect for me at some point in the last year. No, the Kanye record isn't on it—I wanted to like that album, I like things he's done in the past, but Yeezus never stuck with me. I do love croissants, though.
Gin Blossom references! Guest vocals from Erica Freas of RVIVR! Restless and melodic pop-punk songs about making the most of your life despite the fact you're kind of a fuck up sometimes! This Iron Chic record is filled with the kind of restless energy I've loved since I was a prepubescent pop-punk fan, but this time around the songs aren't littered with dick jokes and lines about how girls are the enemy. Hooray!
Speaking of RVIVR. When I first heard The Beauty Between I threw my hands up in the air and admitted defeat. That's it! It's over! I can never love another record the way I love this record! I was convinced my favorite albums of 2013 would just be The Beauty Between listed over and over. RVIVR's music has always been filled with conviction—the band delivers fiery punk-rock anthems like they're the live soundtrack at a protest, but The Beauty Between, at times, feels more worn down than past efforts, which makes it even more relatable than their usual "Let's get through this together" attitude. We all get worn down, but RVIVR reminds us to keep fighting. Plus, the marching band vibe at the end of "Party Queen" makes my heart fly out of my chest and explode into millions of pieces of glitter.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of interviewing singer Ali Koehler and I had a hard time thinking of any question beyond “Can I be in your band?” I mean, Ali Koehler! Patty Schemel! Together in a pop-punk band that makes Jawbreaker references and has a promo photo featuring a dog wearing sunglasses! (The dog's name is Maddie, by the way, which is the best.) They may as well shine a Megan-shaped spotlight into the air. I have picked up your signal, Upset! I will be right there!
The public has a strange, maddening relationship with Beyoncé—they never seem to think she's capable of doing any of the things she does. She lip-synced at the inauguration! She was faking her pregnancy! Gawd, Beyoncé, can't you do anything?! With a surprise release of a totally fierce and nearly flawless "visual album," though, it's like Beyoncé is saying "Let me make this easy for you, fuckers—I'm not gonna give you the opportunity to doubt my potential. Boom. Here's my record. Kiss my ass." (For further reason why Beyoncé is great, read Danielle Henderson’s words here.)
Kathleen Hanna is back! Yes! The whole Julie Ruin record is great, but there are two songs that I can't stop listening to—"Ha Ha Ha" and "Run Fast." Of course they're strong enough to stand on their own, but they become even more powerful when paired up and listened to over and over, together. “Ha Ha Ha” is the now—it’s the electric, bullshit-calling anthem that literally, fearlessly, laughs in the face of a fraud. Following it up with “Run Fast” only intensifies its magic—“Run Fast” remembers the adversity that came before “Ha Ha Ha”’s confidence. Starry guitar and new wave synth paint dreamy recollections of hiding your thighs and fearing that you’ll be awkward or, worse, insignificant forever. You can’t appreciate the “Ha Ha Ha” part of life without surviving the “Run Fast” moments and you can’t truly appreciate the “Run Fast” without getting to the “Ha Ha Ha,” and rinse and repeat for infinity.
Adding Up the Wasted Hours is a strong, hook-filled culmination of everything the Lonely Forest has been through since I was first introduced to them several years ago. They've self-recorded and self-released records, proving they have the skills to create guitar-drive pop perfection on their own, but for their last album, Arrows, the band teamed up with Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, to add some delicate nuance to their storm. Their first attempt with Walla was a bit more downplayed than I expected from the band (a good record, just lacking in some of my favorite noisy Lonely Forest moments), but Adding Up the Wasted Hours shows the band is gaining confidence and grabbing hold of their own direction. I fucking love it.
Oof. This record. Wheel would make this list simply for the Go-Go's-reminiscent "Runner," but the rest of the album is still an effortless, emotional listen. (See: the first verse of "The Move.") Stevenson's songs are gorgeous documentations of life's messier moments and while I'd love to get more in-depth about it, I can't continue without recalling my own messy moments and I'm not emotionally prepared to delve into that right now so all I'll say is that if you're feeling reflective or overwhelmed, go listen to this record and find some comfort.
Technically, Masked Intruder was released in 2012, but I am going to include it here because a) IT'S SO GREAT and b) Fat Wreck Chords re-released it earlier this year. Everything I love about Masked Intruder is summed up in the piece I wrote back in July: "On their self-titled full-length, the band gives a fresh perspective on the testosterone-soaked genre, showing that it's not always cool when dudes obsess over women. They mock pop-punk while also successfully participating in it." <3 YOU FOR THAT FOREVER, MASKED INTRUDER.
Sandrider's album was a late contender in the game, having been released mid-November, but I feel confident that it belongs here as Godhead is a fucking fantastic album to blast if your stress levels have you making fists in your sleep. The band, while carrying every pound of heaviness they've held in the past, have also embraced a very slight (but very great) playful side that'll appeal to fans of Mclusky (like me!).
Whoa, Megan! You rule-breaker! This record was released in 2012 but you put it on this list anyway? FUCK YES I DID. I didn't actually listen to Get Disowned until this year, so I will count it because it was also the record I listened to the most throughout 2013. So, let’s talk about feelings. No, #FEELINGS. I don’t experience too many premenstrual symptoms, but I can always tell when the blood is about to flow by how quickly I burst into happy tears during the chorus of “Young and Happy.” So many emotions! When singer Frances Quinlan cries out “WITH YOOOU I GOT TO BE YOUNG AND HAPPPPYYY!” Pow! Hits me right in the chest. Her voice, on the brink of breaking, wistfully cries out a thank you to whoever’s responsible for her best days. The song verges on cacophonic, with fuzzy guitars, steel drums, and layers of sounds mashing together into a delightful orchestra. And as lush as the song is, at the root of their sound, Hop Along also flirt with my more simplified, poppy punk sensibilities. My heart leaps several times throughout Get Disowned. "Tibetan Pop Stars," "Laments"—there's at least one moment in every song that makes me pause to appreciate it. I am in love. So in love. With this record, with Frances's voice, with steel drums, with you.
(Woo! You made it all the way to the end! Thanks for reading the longest blog post in the world! What records did you love in 2013? It's not too late to claim some favorites!)