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Reflections on my favorite music of 2013 / by Ethan M. Long

2013 was a messed up year for me mainly because of the Boston marathon bombing, and the month that followed where I almost gave up five years of school to drop out but finally finished in the last moment possible, only to be laid off from my job a month later. This year sucked just as much as it ruled. Here are some albums that got me through the year.

10. Kal Marks - Life is Murder

Best album Carl has released so far. Gone are the bright dancey guitar riffs of 2011’s Goodbye Horses, replaced by sludgy bass and an amazing new drummer with Nick. Smart songwriting and slick lyrics dominate this record.

9. Double Dagger - 333

I haven’t seen the documentary that goes along with this relatively short EP, but I’m really fucking happy I came upon this because I hadn’t heard of them until after I had already become familiar with Roomrunner. To make it short: Double Dagger (was :[ ) fucking awesome. Shit, I wish I could’ve seen them live -- this reminds me of hanging out in parking lot outside of a Knights of Columbus (any form of gang vocals usually reminds me of that.)

8. Arvid Noe - Islington
Just listen to it. The album named after the street Problem House was on is completely different from their Dear Lee album. Zach was one of the best drummers I ever had the chance to see live and it sucks that we as a community lost him to the right coast. Thankfully, Luke and Alec are as busy as ever with their current post-Arvid Noe endeavors. Rolling fills split between counts provide rhythmic guides for noisy guitars which are sometimes staccato and mathy pickings and a lot of times furious minor-key chord-jarring. Shit, I miss this.

7. Pissed Jeans - Honeys
I don’t know what I dig more, the constant momentum of the band or Korvette’s antagonistic, aggressive tone to dreary, first-world lyrics. “You’re Different (In Person)” gives the listener inner-dialogue of the human behind the avatar. “Cafeteria Food” criticizes aspects of society such as microwaves being safe and anxiety when receiving e-mail. This album will hold a special place for me because Pissed Jeans came through town to support it on tour the night before the marathon bombing. I was fortunate enough to have such a great night.

6. Palberta - My Pal Berta
This is the album I found through Facebook this year. I forget who it was who shared it during the first week of November, but I’m pretty sure it was Omeed Godzari. Anyways, I love this album. Bent chords and layered vocals add an uneasy sense of uncertainty, with strange tones, fuzzy bass, and everlasting frustration constantly worked through. Every listen will allow you to hear something you may not have caught last time. True diy-production that jumps around in a world where the average human attention span is now less than a goldfish.

5. Porches. - Slow Dance in the Cosmos
I saw Porches. for the first time at the Exploding-In-Sound CMJ extravaganja and I haven’t been able to keep away from Frankie (Greta Kline) and Ronnie (Aaron Maine) since! The first time I listened to the album itself, my roommates turned it off. The second time I listened to it turned into the third time, and now my roommates have to put up with me blasting it more and more. Yes, this is some awesome pop songwriting. The songs are beautiful and somewhat voyeuristic, with the listener allowed into this crazy romance which feels like a journey at parts and lack of self-confidence at others, but since this is in the cosmos those confidence problems shouldn’t really matter.

4. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
I have yet to find someone who hates this album which is weird because usually something feels off if people don’t hate something that is popular, even out of blind stubbornness, but I really haven’t found anyone cynical enough to hate this other than my buddy Devin maybe. (But honestly, he has a pretty valid reason not to like “Robot Rock” because it was a rip off.) BUT THERE AREN’T REALLY SAMPLES IN THIS ALBUM. That’s what makes it so great. I didn’t expect there to be AWESOME fucking drum solos on this album but listen, especially on the last track! These “real humans” playing “real instruments” in a band known for it’s synthesized sound may not be anything innovative, but it’s a solid album with some cool things going for it. There’s even an entire history lesson BEFORE the first single.

3. Guerilla Toss - Gay Disco
Gtoss’ has finally made a record with structure that is now getting a good amount of press, so that Orientation Leader from Suffolk who asked me if a live Gtoss video I on in front of a bunch of 17 year olds during their college orientation was “even music?” can go fuck themself. From the ashes of the Gay Gardens comes an album that makes you want to get physical and dance. Richard Simmons has already announced that Sweatin’ to the Oldies has been scrapped and that he will be producing a new line of Guerilla Toss exercise tapes. I can see how untrained ears think it’s just “so crazy” and that “mindless college kids” like it “because others like it because it’s so crazy” but in its “so craziness” it’s actually a composition full of sub-compositions which, through their individual journeys, compliment each other in subtle, when broken down, simple call and answer rhythms pulled off in a way where timing is hidden to the listener, counted only by those playing. Every member of the band is an amazing musician. Have you heard Simon’s Tredici Bacci? Maybe you should spend a rainy afternoon listening to Kassie’s folk album if you can find it. (It’s somewhere here: but if you’re to be trusted with this link you should give a couple new-to-you things a listen as well.)

2. Fat History Month - Bad History Month
I think I may have put the demos for this album as #1 on my list last year but that was for myself and never published. Listen, this is my favorite band and it’s a lot of my friends’ favorite band too. You may not like it, sure, but I fucking love it and this is my list. We live in a world that is represented perfectly through Sean’s cynical yet realist lyrics. The irony of a society that has dreams about being able to dream again one day. At this point, Fucking Despair is embedded in my brain, and Bad History is no different. This is what true original songwriting is, this is something both different but familiar in its relatability. (I’m bad at any sort of romantic relationship with a woman but I like cats more than I care about relationships at this point in my life.)  My favorite moment of 2013 was the first Fat History Month show back (Great Scott) after the marathon bombings. I was crying in the corner in front of the bathrooms while texting one of the most important people in my life. Yes, I was bawling my eyes out because just a few weeks before I was convinced that I was going to die as the second bomb hit the bar I was in and I thought I would never be able to see Sean and Mark play again, but I was wrong.

1. Ovlov - am
For some reason this album sounds totally different on record than it does through my computer and I’m not sure where I’m fucking up there but either way this album is siiiiiickkkkkkkk. Steve’s a crazy dude who writes distorted beautiful ballads supplemented with overbearing bass and tight drum fills which usually lead to insane guitar work. Sadie’s (does anyone in that band still have their original names?) voice adds a nice contrast throughout the album. During the EIS CMJ show they played “There’s My Dini!” and I remember Sadie running up to the front and SCREAMING louder than ever before and that was the best performance of the year. Ovlov is easily the best band to come out of Connecticut since Pencilgrass, who were in turn the best band since the Flaming Tsunamis who in turn were the best band since Mighty Purple. There. I’m from Connecticut. A Connecticut band gets my no. 1 spot. Go figure.

Complain about it to me or something. Sorry for not sticking to a genre. Sorry to Pusha-T and Earl for not including you guys. Huge apology to Kanye and the Arcade Fire. If this was 2007 you would have made it on the list. Honestly I think I listened to WJIB more than anything this year -- Boston’s best independent station. The Phoenix is gone now, every newspaper now has an Internet radio station, and I can’t find a job but I refuse to give up on Boston. You all should have been at Hassle Fest, that was awesome and people should do everything they can to help Dan and co get a legal performance space. I can’t believe we beat city hall for DIY Fest this year, and I’m really excited that we had such a strong show of radical groups and discussions this year that I hope we can expand that next summer. I hear Marty Walsh is going to make things easier for all of us through a reworking of the permitting process. I saw a tweet the other day from a BU kid talking about how it would be a shame if Allston was gentrified and laughed out loud because it was a middle-class student talking about gentrification in their neighborhood and not realizing they’re a part of it. I guess that was me a few years ago. Makes me think about how much more money I’m probably going to give to Dunkin Donuts in 2014.

Ethan Long was dumped on Boston's shores five years ago from New Haven, CT. He truly believes that JFK was killed in a government conspiracy and that the oil companies hold all the power. When not digging in archives he can be found at the Hess Station off North Harvard Street, where he serves as mayor.

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