By Robert Nevel
This being my first year writing for Tropicult, I felt there would be no better way to formally introduce myself and my musical taste than to shove one of these things down your eye-holes. Maybe it’ll distract you from all the sickening merriment sweeping the nation.
Since music is such a big thing here at the ‘cult, why don’t we do a little top ten albums of 2013 (local AND national, mixed) countdown? I know the whole mix thing is a little strange and new to you, but this is the truth. I’m from Miami, I love the Miami music scene, and I don’t separate it from the rest of the world. Local (hopefully soon-to-be national) artists stand-up right beside established artists like the Flaming Lips and RJD2.
Ah, the top-whatever list at the end of the year. A silly, subjective thing but the kids seem to love it so here we go.
10. Moirae, Eternitarian
Indeed I am friends with these fellows, but the fact is I’d be a fan even if founder/guitarist Aric Meerbott told me directly “I hate you and I want to eat your eyes.” Just keep the music coming. This five-piece Miami band uses their own style of heaviness to create something beyond metal or hardcore. The songs are just flat-out good. This debut full-length could satisfy fans of everything from Killswitch Engage to Isis.
9. Tomahawk, Oddfellows
Led by former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison and vocal genius Mike Patton, Tomahawk always takes their style of rock music to new places. The songwriting is out of left field in the best way possible and on this album, the unique hooks play a serious role throughout – much like their self titled debut and it’s followup, Mit Gas. While still different in many ways, Oddfellows is far more similar to those than the more experimental Anonymous which explored the band’s take on traditional Native American songs.
8. Big Business, Battlefields Forever
Lumbering metal from Los Angeles never sounded so good. This is their first full length with guitarist Scott Martin, and the songwriting is some of the best yet. It sounds like it’s heading in a creative direction and coming along quite well. It gets stuck in your head. Tracks like “Heavy Shoes” and “Lonely Lyle” bring the level of song crafting to ingenious heights. Plus the warmth of the recording is a great presentation for these songs.
7. RJD2, More Is Than Isn’t
The Philly-based DJ extraordinaire recently graced Bardot with his turntable and drum machine wizardry; all on display in his latest release. Slightly less nostalgic than his earlier work, it takes listeners on no less of a journey. Stand out tracks like “Behold, Numbers!” and “Winter Isn’t Coming” sees Ramble John “RJ” Krohn still at the top of his game. He is a master sampler, scratcher, and overall producer. The songs he creates here are on the artistic side of danceable and catchy.
6. Deltron 3030, Event II
Like the first Deltron 3030 album, this collaboration between Del tha Funkee Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator is an inspiring piece of hip hop. The collection both looks to and sounds like the future. It’s a concept album that continues where the first left off, and it’s full of guest spots from the likes of Mike Patton, Damon Albarn, and comedian David Cross. It’s like watching a science fiction movie with an awesome soundtrack.
5. Shangri-La, Self-Titled
Even though it’s not officially released, most of Shangri-La’s upcoming album is available on their Soundcloud page. The Miami dance-pop three piece has put together a collection of songs so catchy it’s no surprise they’ve been playing at some of the sweetest venues in South Florida. Synthesizers provide lush soundscapes while shimmering guitars and Mango Sterling’s distinctive voice shape it all into perfectly crafted songs. There’s absolutely no filler and each song reveals itself more and more upon repeated listens.
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4. Bosnian Rainbows, Self-Titled
The prolific Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s new band with Le Butcherettes vocalist Teri Gender Bender is weird in the most enticing way. This debut is both experimental and full of hooks which has been a specialty of both in the pair. The drumming of Deantoni Parks complements each song with perfect chemistry. Much like a bulk of Rodriguez Lopez’s other work, this debut features his rough, angular, swirling guitar passages – now with what sounds like a post-punk style chorus on it. In fact much of the album evokes that aesthetic. One could imagine that if it were an earlier time, they would have gotten their start at clubs like CBGB.
3. Emiliana Torrini, Tookah
Emiliana Torrini produces music of such quality that if it were a fine wine it would not be on the shelf, and would only be available from a safe in a cordoned off back room, upon special request. One of the great crimes of the industry is that while mediocrity dominates the charts, so few know who Torrini is. Her sound changes on every album, but her voice and songwriting chops keep her identity intact. On this one she goes into understated territory, leaving an opened door for the listener to pass through and engage the delicate melodies that are so rewarding. It seeps into one’s mind, hypnotizing them until the end.
2. The Flaming Lips, The Terror
Somehow the Flaming Lips keep getting weirder with each consecutive release. You don’t think they can go any farther down that path and then voila! A whole new freaked out masterpiece once again. I suspect that this one is so beautiful and forward-thinking that it of course didn’t make waves the way their other releases have. Nothing truly beautiful or forward-thinking ever really does until years later, if at all. The album is a seemingly endless stream of shapeless psychedelia and melodic epiphanies. It melts into itself. This is easily one of my personal favorites from the Lips.
1. Sigur Ros, Kveikur
There’s really not that much I can say about this album, but I’ll try. The Icelandic newly-turned three piece Sigur Ros never disappoints. They are the embodiment of musical beauty, and on this album they flirt with some pretty heavy and dark textures. They do it as gracefully as anyone could ever ask for, and it’s crushing. Simply crushing.