Best of 2013 (So Far): Thor's Picks

10. The Front Bottoms  - Talon Of The Hawk

This is something I was shocked I liked, usually the ingredients of rambled lyrics, pop punk guitars (especially acoustic ones) and horns in an indie context and a fan base with an extreme amount of 13 year olds would make me cringe, but something about the likability of this New Jersey rock and roll band has me coming back for more. Their live shows will soon be infamous for their energy, and their lyrics speak to the 13 year old in us we didn’t know still existed.


9. Toro Y Moi - Anything In Return

Toro Y Moi has slowly but surely been finding his niche in the music world. As one of the forerunners of the genre known as “chillwave” he has gracefully moved on from the buzzed genre to becoming a solid electronic pop artist that understands the importance and smoothness of ‘80s artists like Hall and Oates  and comes out the end with a more and more refined sound.


8. The Men - New Moon

The Men have been shifting and morphing ever since they started on 2011’s Leaving Home. Starting out as a noise ridden punk band the Brooklyn rock band has evolved to something much more mature and on their latest they retain the energy of their live shows but crash land in Neil Young/Crazy Horse mode. They didn’t sell out and go soft, they just went somewhere else, and I can’t wait to see how this bands discography looks in five years from now.


7. Kavinsky - OutRun

People might know Kavinsky from the early single “Nightcall” that was featured heavily in the Ryan Gosling movie Drive, but his first proper full length exists somewhere flashier and harder than anything Glass Candy has created and more intensely video game-y than Justice’s last release. OutRun is a concept album about someone who gets turned into a car and the music is the soundtrack to the video game for that story. The over the top video game noise meets ‘80s indebted electronic might turn some off, but I dare you to fly down the highway at 90MPH at midnight while blasting this album and not feel like you’re in the videogame yourself.


6. Wavves - Afraid Of Heights

Aside from Best Coast, Wavves are the most visible “I just want to get stoned and make rock music” bands that seemed to be exploding around the time of their indie breakthrough King Of The Beach, but all eyes were on them for their behemoth interpretation of grunge ‘90s radio Afraid Of Heights that after recording sessions that were paid for completely by front-man Nathan Williams, found a home on Warner Brothers. The self deprecation and anxiety that dominate the lyrical content of the album mixed with the head banging catchy choruses puts Wavves smack dab in the middle of sounding like Weezer’s Pinkerton and Nirvana’s Nevermind, don’t believe me? Just listen to the title track.


5.  Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic

Foxygen exist in some weird warped bubble of the world where they never got exposed to anything that happened after the late ‘70s, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Their debut full length was a smorgasbord of every great signature move from acts like the Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Small Faces and more. Many have tried to shame them for being as derivative as they are, but the fact of that matter is that the two masterminds behind Foxygen, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, are studio wizards and ace songwriters. The big melodies that come out on this record in songs like “On Blue Mountain” and “San Francisco” put the band a step ahead of the rest.


4. Speedy Ortiz - Major Arcana

About a year ago, a Bandcamp single titled “Taylor Swift” came out by a sarcastic noise-rock band from Massachusetts that was breaking their teeth touring the DIY house party scene. Fast forward a year and Speedy Ortiz seems to be on every music publication’s radar as “the next big thing” I’m sure if you sat down with the hilarious four-piece band and talked to witty front-woman Sadie Dupuis they’d be just as shocked as anyone as to how fast their debut album has caught on with journalists and fans alike. With razor sharp guitars with interesting arrangements, the type of self deprecating rapid fire word vomit that puts you exactly in Sadie’s shoes, and five or six different hooks per song, it’s not hard to see why everyone can’t stop talking about them.


3. Kurt Vile - Walkin On  A Pretty Daze

Watching Kurt Vile’s progression from 2008’s Constant Hitmaker to this year’s release has been like watching an oddball classic rock guitar-god songwriter come a step and step closer to their true destiny. Some people prefer the more ambient and intimate acoustic guitar approach of some of his earlier work, but every step he takes towards turning up the volume with his go to backup band the Violators brings him one step closer to the type of FM rock anthems we all know he will soon be capable of if songs like “Never Run Away” don’t already prove it to us.


2. Mikal Cronin - MCII

For those that have followed Mikal Cronin since his collaborative album with Ty Segall Reverse Shark Attack in 2009 have always known there was something special behind Mikal, who has spent the last few years as Ty Segall’s bassist. It seems that the lo-fi recording of his 2011 self titled debut didn’t truly capture the vision of pure fuzzed out pop perfection that exists in his head. While his debut was great, it didn’t quite capture what you felt he was capable of, every song felt like a lo-fi symphony that was sometimes hard to distinguish what exactly was hiding behind his catchy as all hell melodies. Somehow he got signed to one of the premiere indie labels Merge upped the production value and finally showed the world the sounds he heard in his head. It’s a pop-rock masterpiece, every song taps into the insecurity that plagues every young person at heart, and somehow manages to rock out like no other in the process of that.


1.  Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety

Autre Ne Veut is the bedroom electronic experiment of New Yorker Arthur Ashin. While most bedroom electronic pop projects are centered on big and bouncy synths that carry big melodies and make everyone dance during the summer, Anxiety is just the opposite. A record that at times feels uncomfortable without ever escaping the earworm melodies. This sounds like maximalist ‘90s R&B that hides such a sinister personality behind its attention to detail heavy production. This record is eye opening, perhaps even ground breaking. Absolutely nothing in the electronic pop market sounds this dangerous or insightful, it’s never quite clear what this group of songs are about, they could be about anything. In the shadow of the ‘90s R&B obsession that is happening in current music with indie bands, Autre Ne Veut feels refreshing because he doesn’t just reiterate the genre, he reinvents it.