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Mid Year Best of 2013: The Year’s Top Albums from Jan to June

1970s Schwinn Varsity Project

Today (June 6) is FensePost’s seventh birthday, and since I didn’t post anything this morning I kept my head down, powered through and wrapped by mid-year best of 2013 list, covering my top 10 LPs from January to June. Before jumping into the list, let’s go over a few of the more highly anticipated albums of the second half of 2013. Just a list of bands for you: Camera Obscura, Daughn Gibson, The Moondoggies, Pure Bathing Culture, Ty Segall, Typhoon… I’ll leave it at that.

The above photo was shot earlier this week. It’s a ’70s Schwinn Varsity I picked up and will be rebuilding in the near future.

Thee Oh Sees

Honorable Mention #2: Moon Sick by Thee Oh Sees

I was both surprised and honored to be the one to snag the only copy of Moon Sick in Skagit County on Record Store Day this year. And since it’s my favorite EP of the year so far (and since I have yet to digest Floating Coffin as a copy is awaiting my arrival at The Business in Anacortes), I’m giving Thee Oh Sees an honorable mention. B-side tracks “Humans Be Swayed” and “Candy Clocks” are the strong recommends here.

The Knife

Honorable Mention #1: Shaking the Habitual by The Knife

EVERYONE is talking about The Knife, and when that happens I tend to put off giving it my full attention. Shaking the Habitual has received a few listens, but it has failed to garner the wow-factor in its entirety that I experienced with Silent Shout. Gems here and there, but overall, it’s an album I need to let sink in a bit more before I can give it my hype-nod-of-approval beyond “A Tooth for an Eye”.

Parquet Courts

#10. Light Up Gold by Parquet Courts (What’s Your Rupture?)

There are some pretty awkward band names out there, and while Parquet Courts is far from topping that list, it may be one of the most uncomfortable ones to say out lout. The syllables don’t want to remain proper; you want to say, phonetically, Parkay Cores. It’s just weird, angular even. This angularity is something the band brings into their music much more successfully than their band name. Lots of great tunes on this one. Released back in January on What’s Your Rupture?, Light Up Gold is actually reissue (it was originally, originally release last year).


#9. These Factory Days by Tartufi (Southern)

I love the direction Tartufi has taken over the years and their latest, These Factory Days, is easily my favorite yet. Somewhat shoegaze, somewhat post-rock, over seven songs Tartufi blends a variety of styles through a handful of songs. The result, quite surprisingly, is an album that is both highly diverse and entirely cohesive. Even when they drop in the very nonconformist “Glass Eyes” in the middle.

Marnie Stern

#8. The Chronicles of Marnia by Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)

The best brief description I can come up with for Marnie Stern and her latest LP The Chronicles of Marnia is this: controlled insanity. The guitar, her vocals, and especially the percussion; they’re all ferocious. You get it all in opener “Year of the Glad” and it continues in full force until the last note of “Hell Yes”. Just as nuts, Stern offered herself up on her record release day with a promotion that gave one lucky guy a hell of a date for that night.

Lost Animal

#7. Ex Tropical by Lost Animal (Sub Pop)

I am excited for Ex Tropical to make this list. After all, I came very close to including it on my best of 2012 list after discovering it in November before realizing it didn’t officially release in the US until January. In my review of their album, I called Lost Animal “mysterious tropical (pseudo) hip hop cleverly composed by a very chill, nearing-middle-aged white guy.” Listen and I think you’ll understand.

The Mantles

#6. Long Enough to Leave by The Mantles (Slumberland)

The Mantles is a new one for me, as I just got it last week. The album releases late this month and is among my most anticipated LPs of the year. Their 2009 self-titled debut remains my #1 album of that year. Long Enough to Leave goes in a slightly different direction. It’s more psychedelic, a little less gritty and forceful. But it’s just as catchy, just as good, and has just as many great tracks.

Psychic Ills

#5. One Track Mind by Psychic Ills (Sacred Bones)

I never really loved Psychic Ills until One Track Mind. I only liked them. This album has grown on me significantly over the past few months and, along with another artist on this list, led me into a deep obsession with Sacred Bones. Highlight tracks: “One More Time”, “See You There” and, my favorite, the super chill “FBI”.


#4. Perfect Trip by Darlings (Famous Class)

Simple slacker poppists Darlings returned early this year with their full-length follow up to debut LP Yeah I Know. The album is called Perfect Trip and despite the debut’s greatness (an easy top ten record for 2009), it’s their best work yet. Leadoff single “Nothing I Don’t Care For” sets the tone with sleepy, catchy garage pop. Another easy five-out-of-five star album.

Club 8

#3. Above the City by Club 8 (Labrador)

Shocked and pleased, I discovered the other weekend that my fiance absolutely loves Above the City by Club 8. We ventured down toward Seattle for some shopping over Memorial Day weekend and must have listened to the album six or seven times. This catapulted it into the top three for me; I may like it even more than their last album, The People’s Record, which I thought would never happen. No surprise, the lead single “Stop Taking My Time” is the pinnacle here.

The Men

#2. New Moon by The Men (Sacred Bones)

Perhaps the most important word in the English language is presentation. How we present ourselves, how something is presented to us; it all lends to the subjectively persuasive nature of our very being. It is presentation that causes us to experience a song in a particular manner, and in presentation, The Men delivers. “Without a Face” is prime fodder here: I saw a man without a face / I think about him every day. Stated so nonchalantly, so matter-of-factly, makes it borderline shocking; The Men follow this statement with a pounding, driving rock that will sear you to the bone.

Rose Windows

#1. Sun Dogs by Rose Windows (Sub Pop)

I’m going out on a limb here because my favorite song of 2013 so far is “Without A Face” by The Men. But Rose Windows is a “new” artist and The Men are riding the coattails of their stellar album for last year, Open Your Heart. Sun Dogs is out later this month (still within the first half of 2013) on Sub Pop and I’ve become completely obsessed with songs far beyond single “Native Dreams” — songs like “Walkin’ With a Woman”, “Wartime Lovers” and “Indian Summer”. They create great psych-pop with plenty of stellar hooks, loud wild guitar solos and soft/subtle tunes that make you feel something… usually good. A truly great summer album, but one that translates well year round.

Here’s my original feature on Rose Windows, written after spending a few hours with the album while doing yard work.

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