2013 Best-of Lists

This was either a particularly great year for metal, or just a continuation of my long slow slide back into metal as my favorite music. I guess either way it was a particularly great year for metal.

This year I’m posting a single top-20 list with locals and non-locals intermingled. It’s also in numeric order (!). There are additional lists below it, which kind of calls the whole notion of a top-20 into question, but whatever, it’s my list.

Fingers crossed that all of these multimedia embeds don’t break The Internet.

Top 20


West-coast supergroup of black & doom metallers dipping into their shared history with/fondness for hardcore & D-beat to make the most exuberant hardrock album of the year. This literally spent a solid 6 months in my car CD player with no breaks.

Vhol by VHOL

2. Goner – Faking the Wisdom

These Raleigh indie-rock lifers have been writing gripping character studies of aging townies in a college town for a decade now, but this album is where everything finally exploded fully into multiple dimensions.

Faking The Wisdom by Goner

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

If you’re not still obsessed with UK postpunk, I don’t know what to do with you. If you are, and you haven’t heard Savages, then … .

Listen/Buy at Matador Records

4. Scout Niblett – It’s Up to Emma

I never paid that much attention to Scout Niblett, but this one’s such a throat-grabber there was never any question of attention: She demands it from the first note of the first song.

She also put on the show of the year at Hopscotch.

5. Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw

This is the sort of gospel music I can fully embrace: slow Southern country gospel with a strong agnostic streak.

Haw by Hiss Golden Messenger

6. Gorguts – Colored Sands

Given that I never really got into death metal the first time around, it’s a little bit baffling even to me that I have two absurdly complex technical death metal albums in my top-20 this year. This is such astonishing music.

Colored Sands by Gorguts

7. Audubon Park – Crazy Crazy for Feeling

Audubon Park are scattered across at least three different states, and apparently no longer bother even practicing before recording. And yet their skewed 5-things-at-once indie-rock is better than ever on this album.

Crazy Crazy for Feeling by Audubon Park

8. Lorde – Pure Heroine

You can be cynical & call it electro-pop for middle aged white former rock critic dudes. Or you can be non-cynical & just enjoy her amazing voice.

I determined during her run at #1 that the last time I was unabashedly in love with a #1 single, it was “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which makes too-perfect sense.

9. Midnight Plus One – Midnight Plus One

Such urgently weird rock music, like all the best snippets of 80s/90s Kim-sung Sonic Youth songs distilled down to 2-minute bursts.

Midnight Plus One by Midnight Plus One

10. Desert Heat – Cat Mask at Huggie Temple

The more Steve Gunn & Cian Nugent collaborate, the closer the universe gets to achieving oneness. Another band whose Hopscotch show is solidly in my top-5 for the year.

Listen/Order at MIE

11. Inter Arma – Sky Burial

When I finally heard this album, I began endlessly kicking myself for all the times I missed these guys at Slim’s.

Sky Burial by Inter Arma

12. Sylvan Esso – Hey Mami

Just a tiny-but-perfect taste of what this duo has in store for us in 2014, I hope.

Hey Mami / Play It Right by Sylvan Esso

13. Schooner – Neighborhood Veins

All of Reid Johnson’s competing pop/non-pop instincts finally fuse into a fully cohesive & brilliantly realized whole.

Neighborhood Veins by Schooner

14. Arnold Dreyblatt & Megafaun – Appalachian Excitation

I don’t listen to that much experimental pulse/drone music, because when I do, I want it all to be this good, and it rarely is.

15. Inquisition – Obscure Verses for the Multiverse

The most distinctive & unholy black metal racket, all from just two dudes. Dagon’s crazy interstellar demon frog vocals & his utterly unique bend-heavy guitar style are like nothing else in the multiverse.

Obscure Verses for the Multiverse by Inquisition

16. Golden Gunn – Golden Gunn

I love living in a world where two heroes can dream up a goofy 70s boogie haze back-story *and* write & record an amazing album to go with it, all more or less on a lark.

Golden Gunn by Golden Gunn

17. Wormed – Exodromos

I only bought this album a few days ago, but it has blown my mind so thoroughly in that time that there’s really no question about its inclusion here. Outer-space tech death with unearthly overtone throat-singing vocals? YES.

Exodromos by Wormed

18. Bryan & the Haggards featuring Dr. Eugene Chadbourne – Merles Just Want to Have Fun

Eugene Chadbourne has been exploring the overlaps between jazz and country for well over thirty years now, but rarely before has he found such sympatico partners-in-crime as Bryan & the Haggards.

19. Airstrip – Willing

Proving definitively that all krautrock-influenced electropop needs to involve the services of a top-flight heavy metal drummer.

Willing by Airstrip

20. Janelle Monáe – Electric Lady

I like the first “suite” on this one better than the second one, and overall it could probably stand to be shorter, but the highlights here are so high that it hardly matters. There is NOBODY else on earth making weirdo futuristic soul music on this level.

Listen/buy at Janelle’s site

Five albums by 90s indie-rock titans that I’m kind of amazed didn’t make my top-20 list

The Kingsbury Manx – Bronze Age

Superchunk – I Hate Music

Yo La Tengo – Fade

Quasi – Mole City

Polvo – Siberia

Ten more local releases that I truly enjoyed playing on the radio, every time I did

D-Town Brass – Golden Belt

The Dead Tongues – Desert

Demon Eye – EP

Eros & the Eschaton – Home Address for Civil War

Felix Obelix – The Ringtone Album

Gross Ghost – Public Housing

Jonny Alright – Sings and Plays His Songs

Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple

Toddlers – Toddlers

Bo White – Adornment

I’ll probably make a list of memorable local shows I attended, but that’ll require some more thinking.

2013 Best-of Lists

2012 Best-of Lists

I posted this on the WXDU blog and I don’t remember if I posted it anywhere else. There’s no pithy commentary, which is weird for me.

Top 10 local releases (personal, not official):

Spider Bags – Shake My Head
des ark – Live at WXDU vol 3
Flesh Wounds – AAA
Some Army – EP
Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
Horseback – Half Blood
Flute Flies – Yes Means Maybe
Boykiller – Get Get
The Rosebuds – Love Deluxe
Gross Ghost – Brer Rabbit

Top 10 non-local releases:

Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
Swans – The Seer
Mark Eitzel – Don’t Be A Stranger 
Rodriguez – Searching for Sugarman OST
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms
Matthew E White – Big Inner
Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Lambchop – Mr. M
Bettye LaVette – Thankful n Thoughtful

Top live shows:
Elvis Costello at DPAC
Sunn 0))) (2x, at Hopscotch & in Atlanta the next night)
Pallbearer at Hopscotch Music Festival
Mark Eitzel at Kings Raleigh
Swans at the Lincoln
Work Clothes at Hopscotch
Guardian Alien 2x at Hopscotch
St Vincent at Cat’s Cradle
Janelle Monae at the ArtsCenter

2012 Best-of Lists

2011 Best-of Lists

The page this was on still exists, but I may take it down eventually. So.

One man’s opinions. I’m not even sure I had a scientific method this year. These lists certainly aren’t based on any objective measure of how often I listened to a given album, that’s for sure, although the titles near the top of each list definitely got more listens. But there are also some records in here that will get a lot more listens in weeks/months/years to come, and some that I’ll probably put away & never hear again. Too soon to tell.

There is one glaring omission: the des_ark “Live at WXDU Vol. 3” LP. I recorded the thing, so while I’m thrilled beyond words to finally have something I did cut into actual vinyl, I’m hardly in a position to top-20 list it.

In case you don’t know me, just so we’re clear: The separation into NC and non-NC lists is an artifact of my interests & my mental recordkeeping, and is *not* meant to connote two tiers of quality. If I integrated the two lists, there’d be plenty of NC releases in high positions.

Links are, wherever possible, to full album streams and/or sources for listening & immediate purchase/download. 2011 was definitely the year that Bandcamp became the dominant solution for unsigned artists to both stream & sell their work, and I’m endlessly grateful for that, because it Just Works. (Oh yeah: The Reigning Sound link is to a free download of the whole album, and it’s awesome, so Get It!)

Links in the live performances section are mostly to videos, many of which were shot by Karen Mann. Thanks, Karen!

I went ahead & made a movies list as well. I suppose, given the amount of TV we watched (via Netflix/Amazon), I should’ve made a TV list as well, but it would’ve basically just had Community, Parks & Rec & Luther on it.

OK, enough. – Ross Grady, 12/31/11

p.s. let’s discuss on Twitter: @rossgrady

p.p.s. If I break down later & add commentary to these, I’ll tweet about it.

Top 10 Non-local releases

Top 20 NC releases

Amusing Singles/Videos

Fave Reissues

Some Great Live Performances

16 Movies I Enjoyed

2011 Best-of Lists

2010 Best-of Lists

I had these somewhere else, but that somewhere else is essentially defunct. 

2010 Top-Whatever Lists

December 30 2010, 10:39am

The past couple of years it seemed like I was listening to as much or more non-local vs. local music, but 2010 was definitely dominated by local releases for daily listening. Go team!

These lists are unordered, and are presented without pithy commentary, apart from the titles themselves, I guess.

7 Nonlocal Contenders:

  • Janelle Monae – The Archandroid
  • Quasi – American Gong
  • Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
  • Moneybrother – Real Control
  • Solex Vs Cristina Martinez And Jon Spencer – Amsterdam Showdown, King Street Throwdown!
  • Gayngs – Relayted
  • Harvey Milk – A Small Turn of Human Kindness

Top 10 Local Releases:

  • US Christmas – Run Thick in the Night
  • Last Year’s Men – Sunny Down Snuff
  • Whatever Brains – Trim Jeans and/or Gross Urge + 10
  • Dirty Little Heaters – Champions of Imperfection
  • Tender Fruit – Flotsam & Krill
  • Double Negative – Daydreamnation
  • In the Year of the Pig – Jamon
  • Le Weekend – DBLSCRT
  • Honored Guests – Into Nostalgia
  • Black Congo NC – Live in Miami 1984

Plus 10 More Local Honorable Mentions:

  • Bustello – s/t
  • Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
  • Portastatic – Make it Sound in Tune
  • Shit Horse – They Shit Horses, Don’t They?
  • Spacelab – s/t
  • Love Language – Libraries
  • Felix Obelix – The Tick of the Clock, etc.
  • Veelee – The Future Sight
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
  • Filthybird – Songs for Other People

2010’s Memorable Live Shows:

  • Wigg Report – every time I saw them
  • Last Year’s Men – every time I saw them
  • Joanna Newsom – Carolina Theatre, Durham, March 25, 2010
  • tUnE-yArDs – Local 506, April 16, 2010
  • Quasi – Cat’s Cradle, April 26, 2010
  • Double Dagger – Floristree, Baltimore, April 30, 2010 & Hopscotch Music Festival, September 2010
  • Mount Moriah – Duke Gardens, June 9, 2010 & Troika Festival, November 6, 2010
  • Hopscotch (all of it) – Downtown Raleigh, September 2010
  • Megafaun & Friends – Sounds of the South, Hayti Heritage Center, September 17, 2010
  • The Babblers – Reynolds Industries Theatre, Duke University, December 4, 2010

3 Bands who put out records that weren’t quite as good as their last records but are still worth mentioning:

  • Girls
  • Bonnie Prince Billy
  • Capstan Shafts

Bands who should’ve released brilliant records in 2010 but got postponed to 2011, aka sneak preview of my 2011 list:

  • Mount Moriah – s/t
  • des_ark – Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker

Albums that showed up on everyone else’s lists, and which I also heard at least a few times, and which were probably even great, but which just didn’t sink in:

  • LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
  • Grinderman – Grinderman 2
  • Sharon Van Etten – Epic
  • Best Coast – Crazy For You

2010 Best-of Lists

2010 Annotated List

Again: Consolidating stuff from a variety of defunct previous sites/sources.

Annotated Top-10 Albums

December 30 2010, 1:15pm

My friend Glenn is running a ripoff of the Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll, so I actually whittled my list down to 10 and put them in order.

Then I tweeted the results, which I’m posting here for posterity:

#10: Champions of Imperfection by @dirtylittleheat [ers]. If you knew ‘em, you already knew they loved Sabbath & Deep Purple. This proved it

#9: Daydreamnation by Double Negative. If I didn’t do so much listening while sitting still, this likely would’ve placed a lot higher.

#8: Into Nostalgia by @honoredguests. It’s funny, because I’ve never paid much attention to Radiohead, Wilco etc, as these guys clearly have

#7: DBLSCRT by Le Weekend. This band is from outer space, or someplace where it’s normal to record every song in 2 vastly different versions

#6: Jamón, by In the Year of the Pig. Live, they pile on a groove ’til it collapses. On record, they pile on a groove ’til YOU collapse.

#5: American Gong by Quasi. No album got more in-car spins than this one; I’m not ashamed to admit it was an endless “Repulsion” singalong.

#4: Flotsam & Krill by The Tender Fruit. I try to avoid RIYLs, but if ½ the people loving @sharonvanetten heard this record …

#3: Live in Miami 1984 by Black Congo NC. Not Miami, not 1984 – but even less probably Charlotte 2010. Yang to the Dirty Projectors’ Yin.

#2: Sunny Down Snuff by @lastyearsmen. Would I still love this SO MUCH if I hadn’t seen ’em live? Probably, but thankfully ’tis moot.

#1: Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom. Before I heard it, maybe I thought: 3 CDs? Excessive. Now: Can’t imagine it being any shorter. Perfect.

2010 Annotated List

2008 Best-of List

I found this in an old text file. I don’t know if/where I may have posted it publicly.

* Midtown Dickens / Tooth double bill at Troika Festival, especially when J-Me Guptill, midway through Tooth’s brutal set, said “how bout Midtown Dickens?” and a massive roar went up from the crowd
* Noncanon – 5-song sampler
* Superchunk for Obama, and again for Cy (live set on CyTunes.org!)
* Double Negative – every time I saw them, plus live set from cytunes.org
* Portastatic – Some Small History, and their live set at Sarah P. Duke Gardens in the rain (as well as the rest of Duke Performances’ awesome “Music in the Garden” series this summer)
* Cantwell Gomez Jordan – Hot Licks and Rhetoric
* Motherfucking Polvo reunion!!!!!
* Yard Work (live at BCHQ, and their self-titled EP): http://www.flickr.com/photos/trianglerock/3105170542/
* Aimee / Evan / Noah version of des_ark
* Evil Wiener Xmas EP reissue
* Beloved Binge – Blender Theory, plus hitting the road for a year in an 80s-vintage VW Westfalia Vanagon
* Seth Kauffman – Research
* Megafaun: every time I saw them, but especially inside at BCHQ on August 2, and outside at the Obama rally at UNC
* Caltrop – World Class
* Wigg Report – Live on WXDU November 2nd, which turned out so well they released it as part of “Like Blammo Fast” a week later
* Dirty Little Heaters – Fatty Don’t Feel Good
* Dry Heathens – “Splendid Little War”, one of the few overtly political songs to come out around here, and a doozy
* Flat Duo Jets – Two Headed Cow soundtrack
* Krzysztof – Jajouka / Potpie – Plays the Classics – New Orleans ex-pat moves to Asheville and fucks shit up with serious noise
* Lud – V & the accompanying spate of live shows
* Wembley – “Moon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoEOuGlX0MQ&fmt=18
* Jenks Miller – Approaching the Invisible Mountain

2008 Best-of List