We’ve dillied, dallied, procrastinated over, and provided only too many prolix eulogies in our 2013 rundown already, all of which can be found at the profoundest depths of this very page. Thus without any further soggy waffling, Dots & Dashes’ five finest Records of 2013 are as follows:
Whether producing Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt or composing some of Swearin’s more slack pearlers, Kyle Gilbride has been a real omnipresent, if still unsung hero of 2013. And the same can be said, to an even more vociferous extent, of Sam Cook-Parrott, whose understatedly spectacular latest Radiator Hospital full-length, Something Wild, was itself abetted by none other than Gilbride. He, and I quote, ‘recorded all the good sounding songs’, as well as providing the buzz saw guitar solo that slices clean through instant standout Your Boyfriend, but whether more polished or self-professedly ‘hissy’, Something Wild pertained to a strict cohesion start through finish. From the scrappy, Allison Crutchfield-featuring Are You Feeling Me? to the jangly introspection of the proceeding Lose Sight Of You, contrasts proved stark, these two relative antitheses juxtaposed, yet never jarring. “I wanna be the poster boy hanging on your wall” Cook-Parrott once sang of Dead As Dreams from 2012 four-track, Some Distant Moon, and at long last he’s the music to match such astral ambition.
Bradford Cox’ Deerhunter have, with the benefit of hindsight, grown increasingly convincing as their back catalogue has expanded over the course of these past eight or nine years. And while comparisons paralleling ’05 début Turn It Up Faggot and May’s Monomania may be few and far between, a statement true of their every record is that each becomes that bit more delectable with repeat exposure. And so although the impact of, say, The Missing might have been instant as it was exciting, much of Monomania took a little time to settle. The dizzying, glittery T.H.M., for instance. Hence our hasty rewarding the recording three dotty blots now looking rather foolhardy, for this one is and was what some may refer to as ‘a grower’, and it’s only getting better with age.
All the more immediately impressive, by way of comparison, was Fuck Buttons’ Slow Focus – the sound of a duo so finely attuned to one another’s wavelengths that they were able to hurdle supposedly insurmountable genre boundaries with flippant proficiency. In The Red Wing, they took to throwback hip hop like Ugly Duckling to West Coast waters; in Prince’s Prize, they eased into Gang Gang Dancey arpeggi with effortless grace; and in Brainfreeze they opted for obliterative vanguardism reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle caught on an opaque pop hook. Nonetheless, Benjamin John Power and Andrew Hung were at their inimitable best when erecting vast electronic meshes such as Hidden XS, Slow Focus’ monolithic climax scaffolded by celestial synth lines and niggling static as Fuck Buttons’ third and finest yet towered high and mighty over every other 2013 release of its indefinable kind.
“My mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew”, or so Sadie Dupuis insisted during the uneasy lurch of Tiger Tank – one of the more zippy pieces from Northampton, Massachusetts four-piece Speedy Ortiz’ sophomore recording, Major Arcana. And although vitriolic right through to the final sludgy strum of MKVI, Dupuis then sneering: “A mark so sick”, her every word not only proved direct, but so too readily intoxicating. From telling of Fun’s “criminally twisted, puny little villain” to succumbing to the dirty words of Hitch, Sadie certainly sounds as though she’s studied etymology as rigorously as she has the albums of Chavez, Dinosaur Jr., Helium and so on ad infinitum. For beyond the bratty, scratched veneer of Major Arcana, an unprecedentedly educated, even erudite listen can be expected, and is indeed prescribed.
Of course, it’s completely logical for a record made with one-off instruments to sound quite unlike anything else out there – now, or indeed ever. But if Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez’ 2010 Buke and Gase début, Riposte, was an album worthy of intense praise, then January’s General Dome blows the bloody doors off by contrast. Widely disregarded, if indeed noticed at all, whether due to its wild, recondite nature or the fact that it was released so early on in the year, General Dome appears to have been omitted from many, if not every alternative end-of-year overview. But that’s not to suggest we’ve ranked it thusly out of some subversive perversion, for whether fuelling a pickled stumble back through London, providing the basis for a truly breathtaking show at The Lexington last spring or essentially soundtracking any which pursuit embarked upon across these past ten months or so since its release, I’ve more or less lived underneath General Dome this year. And if initially twitchy, a rare comfort lies in wait within – one we couldn’t advocate vigorously enough.