Saturday, December 14, 2013

Listening Habits 11-12.13

The top of our last "Listening Habits" album list for 2013 is shared by Arcade Fire and Throwing Muses, the world renowned alternative rock superstars hand in hand with the revered indie rock survivors who never got the commercial success they deserved.

Nevertheless, Throwing Muses have managed to make their comeback a full decade since their last record, with the impressive book/cd "Purgatory / Paradise", an album recorded with the help of Strange Angels, the band’s dedicated fans who financed the recordings. In a year with several great comebacks (we’ll get back on this subject very soon), "Purgatory / Paradise" certainly stands out with its 32 "fractured" songs, "imperfect in its imperfection" as was the band’s catchphrase during its making. The brief songs are often divided in parts, but each of these song "fragments" never sound unfinished, instead they complement each other and become the building blocks of a whole that is greater than its parts. Some of these parts, though, certainly shine brighter than others and tracks like "Sunray Venus" or "Slippershell" are testaments to Kristin Hersh’s unique songwriting craft. Some 30 years down the line, her muse never fails to inspire and amaze!

In the ten years between the last two Throwing Muses albums, Arcade Fire have risen to fame thanks to their infectiously anthemic songs. With "Reflektor", the Canadians' fourth effort, the band has teamed up with James Murphy to try a more rhythmic, dance floor-friendly sound, without straying too much from their rock roots. The experiment is a successful one, producing a solid double album that balances the band’s new dance-rock influences, showcased by the recent singles "Reflektor" and "Afterlife" (indebted not only to the LCD Soundsystem man, but to the '80s sound of Talking Heads and New Order as well), with their tried and tested sound which is improved upon by tracks like "Normal Person" and "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)".

The music of 2013 is not marked only by the many notable comebacks, but by the strength of certain sophomore records as well. Anna Calvi, Cults and Polica started the current decade with impressive debuts and with their recent, equally strong second albums are providing us with proof that they can live up to their high promise. Pay no mind to certain reviewers who seem to think that it’s mandatory to make a radically different second record in order to give praise to an artist. More often than not, in order to grow you’ve got to fully explore the possibilities of your current sound first and this is exactly what these three are doing with their sophomore works.

Among the rest of our recommendations for November - December '13, a special mention is necessary for Courtney Barnett’s amazing debut "The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas", a record that collects the first two EPs of the Australian singer-songwriter. A listen to "Avant Gardener", "History Eraser" or "Lance Jr." will be enough to convince you of Barnett’s musical talent and story-telling prowess. Looking forward for her proper debut LP sometime in 2014.

Check out below our 15 favorite albums and tracks of the last couple of months of 2013 and take them for a spin in our spotify playlist:

Top 15 Albums

1.   Reflektor - ARCADE FIRE
2.   Purgatory / Paradise - THROWING MUSES
3.   One Breath - ANNA CALVI
4.   Static - CULTS
5.   Shulamith - POLICA
6.   The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas - COURTNEY BARNETT 
7.   Dream River - BILL CALLAHAN
8.   Defend Yourself - SEBADOH
9.   Last Night On Earth - LEE RANALDO AND THE DUST
10. Back To Land - WOODEN SHJIPS
11. Nature Noir - CRYSTAL STILTS
12. Herein Wild - FRANKIE ROSE
13. Fade Away - BEST COAST
14. Girls Like Us - PINS
15. The Bones Of What You Believe - CHVRCHES

Top 15 Tracks

1.   Sunray Venus - THROWING MUSES
2.   Avant Gardener - COURTNEY BARNETT
3.   Eliza - ANNA CALVI
4.   High Road - CULTS
5.   Chain My Name - POLICA
6.   Reflektor - ARCADE FIRE
7.   Javelin Unlanding - BILL CALLAHAN
8.   I Will - SEBADOH
9.   Sticks & Stones - CRYSTAL STILTS
10. Sorrow - FRANKIE ROSE
11. Back To Land - WOODEN SHJIPS
13. Get With Me - PINS
14. Who Have I Become - BEST COAST
15. Lies - CHVRCHES

Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardener

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