Sunday, April 06, 2014

Fat Contradiction on HEAVY TUNES: Seven Sounds of 2013, Year of the Plummeting Guillotine Blade

Ed Note: This was supposed to run over at Up the Pucks, but it's been four months, so I gather that they are no longer interested, if indeed they ever were. Ah well.

Chris Collision Fat Contradiction on HEAVY TUNES: Seven Sounds of 2013, Year of the Plummeting Guillotine Blade

In 2013, I was mostly not listening to music from 2013; it is, after all, Never Not the Seventies, and I was occupied most of the year with looking back, looking in, and looking angrily at the stupid garbage circumstances given and transmitted from the past, circumstances weighing like a nightmare on my brain (and everything else). But still these are revolutionary times, and a few new creations did attract my attention. Please enjoy these brief, anxious flares of the new, so bright against the darkness of the walls ever closing in.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control
This is metal that is frequently inspired-by, but is never merely referential. Uncle Acid mines the past without spinning its wheels...in a rut. (I could go on like this for a while.)

Future of the Left, How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
The world's funniest angry post-punk band, their best-sounding album, and, in moments, one of their catchiest. Get behind the punch-stomp of "future child embarrassment matrix", then slip into the hooky screeching of "the male gaze", and remember that all the world's vile powers can be remade into something better for us all.

Lord Dying, "Greed Is Your Horse"
The rest of the record hasn't really sunk in yet, but this song was one of 2013's most savage beatings. Perfect music for raving against the agonies of existence.

Snailface, Snailface IV
For the lighter side of HEAVY TUNES, here's a dad-metal concept album about...camping. I came back to this record incessantly: great for bike rides, drinking alone, and other situations where you need something like a campfire singalong but don't have a fire or friends.

Carton/Alpha Cop, Fingertips/The Low Flags Split 7"
Full Disclosure: I first heard this because I help out with copy for the label that put out this single. I would have loved it anyway: Carton is joyous post-grunge with loud guitars and Alpha Cop wrote the song of the year.

Power Trip, Manifest Decimation
Best thrash album I've heard in years. Best breakdowns I've heard in years. Missed them when they opened up for Fucked Up because life is fundamentally a barely-leavened lurch from atrocity here to indignity there and I don't deserve good things. But this album is intensely good.

Russian Circles, Memorial
Another soothing balm against the flensing knives deployed by civilization's onrushing self-destruction: drone-grooves. Honestly, I spend most of my time listening to stuff like this anymore, always chasing the next Red Sparowes (RIP) or trying to find a Pelican with a drummer who can...drum. This is like that and it makes me as less-unhappy as anything else.


Bio:
Chris Collision Fat Contradiction writes about sports, sometimes, for The Classical and The Classical Magazine, podcasts about other things, and rabble-rouses about hockey, coffee, mescal, bikes and justice on Twitter.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

GET THEM: Matt Maxwell's Tug on the Ribbon and Other Stories

"My Spirit Animal Is a Cassette Tape"

My introduction to art and death came through the cassette tape. Christmas of 1984: my first four tapes, and a Radio Shack player/recorder; music; art. Within a year: an everpresent Walkman in my jean jacket's pocket; tapes eaten; death. The fragile ribbon of magnetic tape delivered the music I needed to live a life worth living, and took it away at frequent, irregular intervals. The garbled crunch-then-squeal in my headphones was an everpresent possibility—the presence of loss looming over every time I hit PLAY.

I hit PLAY a lot. I was in the suburbs then. It was unwalkable, but I didn't know that, so I walked everywhere. The public transit system sucked, but I didn't know that either, so I spent a lot of time on the bus, guitars in my ears and a need for literally everything other than what I had in my heart. Eventually I got hip to the power of fleeing, and I began to spend even more time on the bus, out on the prairie between cities, staring out the window, playing tapes, playing tapes, playing tapes.

I've told this story before, or parts of it, anyway. But the experience of the tape, fragile and linear and impossibly valuable, made me who I am, and I'm still always looking for a way to port some art into where I am, what I'm doing.

oOo

I don't remember exactly when Matt Maxwell invaded my consciousness. Likely some confluence of Twitter interests blew him out of the desert and onto my screens like a low-key prophet bringing the sandstorm. Quick poking about established him as, at the very least, a Deeply Kindred Spirit to this Reviewieran Axis—Contradiction, Tinzeroes, Erroneous, et al.—nowhere more clearly laid out than in his "influence map" for his in-progress book Blue Highway, which could no joke serve as a fairly comprehensive introduction to Reviewieran aesthetics:

  • The movies The Road Warrior and Mad Max and Blade Runner and Escape from New York and—and this is deeply odd, because Tinzeroes and I thought literally nobody but us ever liked this one—Streets of Fire
  • The weird pencil-and-paper board game slash role-playing game Car Wars
  • William Gibson's great novel Neuromancer
(Not Tom Waits, tho: Reviewiera is and was and ever shall be a place for Captain Beefheart and Roky Erickson, and no, not ever bad actors and shtickmeisters like Tom Waits.)

The deal was sealed when he tweeted a link to the matchless HEAVY TUNES of Shooting Guns. I had to buy something to say "Thanks!". (Note: by all that is good, I tell you three times that capitalism is gross.) He's got a bunch, but there was no way I wasn't starting with the one with a cassette tape cover.

Tug on the Ribbon's four stories cover considerable ground, as did I, reading them on BART trains over the last week or so. Each draws from and advances on the ecosystem of influences blooming in the influence map we saw earlier. Perhaps more Bruce Sterling than William Gibson, Maxwell likes big-idea backgrounds: several stories are set in a world that feels complex and alien and recognizably the product of our own one unwon world, evolved in some specific way. Maxwell also echoes Sterling's insistence on incorporating non-Anglo/American sets and settings for his stories, as in "Luna Sangre"'s genetically engineered and fully networked gang/religious war nightmare in Tenochitlan and "Tug on the Ribbon"'s desert outside the city:

Wind shearing through the fingers of the creosote and the Manzanita and the stubby paws of the prickly pears. It was laden with trash. Bits of paper or shiny foil that glinted like fake treasure in the half-light. Pieces of plastic so small that they weren't worth cleaning to melt down.

"Coming Soon"'s desert reminded me most of the atom-bomb test site in the strangely effective and emotional Cold War SF movie The Amazing Colossal Man, with a little bit of hot-rod culture dashed in like the sudden memory-blast that Steve McQueen was in early Technicolor monster movie The Blob. This story is a romp, with a revelation I liked so much I won't say more, except to link it to an early William Gibson oddity/fave, "The Gernsback Continuum". (Reviewiera: Never Not Bringing Up Stories from Mirrorshades.)

"Crunch Time"'s world is one where everything is collapsing, the world is fucked, and insane idiots with the exact wrong priorities are in charge. It is unclear what this piece of journalism is doing in a collection of short stories. This mean-spirited slice of doom might have been my favorite in the moment, pulling audible giggles from me and making me want to watch Dawn of the Dead and Office Space simultaneously.

Of them all, "Tug on the Ribbon" is so far staying with me the most—as you'd expect of a dream-hazy story with some drugs, a broken, lying authority feeding on the poor, cassette tapes, and a Greyhound trip.

oOo

Death is coming for us all. We're surrounded by poison because we've proved incapable of governing rationality with moral wisdom; we're governed by imbeciles because we've proved uninterested in introducing rationality into structures of power. What passes for "culture" is a systematic fraud, lies designed to alienate us from each other and even ourselves, providing endless spurious satisfactions and pernicious canalizations and redirections of all worthwhile and productive impulses. It's not clear we have 200 years left. This is admittedly a bummer. And yet I claim there's room for hope.

One reason for hope is that there are still those among us who are trying—who look at all the readymade options and say "Fuck it, I'd rather roll my own.". It's hard goddamned work, though, and it deserves your support. Buy this book. Let it help you think better thoughts. Go forth and be and do better.

—Fat, kicking against the pricks

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Ash, Trembling Aspen, and Lime; or F, G, and Cantus Firmus

Lars von Trier's latest narrative proves that he's continually succeeded in refining his vision and remains a voice to be heard. Piracy of downloads, torrents, and screeners is fucking bullshit. This whole obsession with watching the newest releases before they are released is senseless. It just pisses me off a little that a film worthy of a theatrical screening like von Trier's latest is subject to a bunch of fanboys and dilettantes watching it on their laptops and dismissing it as lackluster while it screens in theatres across the world.


Nymphomaniac (2013, Lars von Trier) opens with a nearly artificial mechanically-precise choreographed set piece in a dark corner of a European neighborhood where Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lays prostrate eating wet cobblestone, by chance to be discovered by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) on his way to the corner market for a few groceries. The sound design begins as silence combines with subtle natural ambience to evoke a tranquil vacuum until inexplicably non-diegetic Scandanavian Heavy Metal ruptures the calm surface.

The narrative is told in eight chapters.

Joe is the titular nymphomaniac who recounts her life to the mild-mannered Selig. Joe's father took her for walks as a girl and taught her about trees. Selig's an elderly eccentric whose body of knowledge draws from the Fibonacci numbers, Bach, and fly fishing. The lives of these characters are fully realized and provide the foundation of this fictional world.

It's the women whose performances are the pith. Stacy Martin is the twentysomething ingenue who takes the foreground and follows in the footsteps of Emily Watson, Björk, Nicole Kidman, Kirstin Dunst, and Gainsbourg. Martin as the nymph provocateur is exquisitely and classically radiant with a timeless beauty--large pock marks above her right eyebrow distinguish her youthful moneymaker mug. And kewpie doll Mia Goth cunningly demures her own wiles. But Charlotte Gainsbourg is back for her three-peat and once again masters a tough task. Father Time has caught up with plastic surgery-faced Uma Thurman, but as Mrs. H she rightly steals her chapter. "Would it be alright if I showed the children the whoring bed, they have a stake in this too?" might be this season's "Chaos Reigns."

While on the other hand, Kenny Rogers level plastic surgery-deformed Christian Slater somehow manages to perform underwhelmingly in his chapter, "Delirium." You call that dementia? But I'm being too harsh. The "Delirium" chapter feels like 60s Bergman, and the composition from between Joe's legs at the moment she reveals: "I lubricated," is the stuff int'l arthouse fare is best known for.

Shia's good. His mock British accent and formalites are rare form for von Trier--humor. Shia LeBeouf's turn as Jerôme daringly meets its commitment of living up to the type of role that will show audiences he isn't just Sam Witwicky. The business with the cake fork and the rugelach is rich. The moment when Jerôme reproaches Joe and commands for her to submit to "a do-over" is knee-slappingly hysterical.

The narrative is full of invention. Von Trier is back. The on screen text is so novel I'm jealous. Like the red lining of "wh" prefixed words in the railcar for example:

Wh-at time is it?
Wh-ere do you come from?
Wh-o knows how to get to the lavatory?
Comparing jailbait sluts with bait and fishing topography in the reading of the river scene floored me. The "fuck me now clothes" and the lures broke new ground. And while nowhere near as clever, the penis montage is fresh. (As a sidenote, the establishing emergency room exterior shot of sliding doors which precedes the penis montage is taken from the Danish television miniseries The Kingdom (1994-'97, Lars von Trier and Morten Arnfred).)

And another instance of von Trier's self referencing which finds him at his most mischievous is the Antichrist baby on a ledge lark cued with Handel's "Lascia ch'io pianga" aria. It was weird that I laughed so hard at this in the theater because the people around me didn't seem to get the reference and I felt like they might think I was laughing at an infant meeting an Eric Clapton fatality--not funny.

The amount of inserts in Nymphomaniac is staggering. This is von Trier writing with film. ("Film" is what I call HD video, in case anyone is too young to know what film is.) But Nymphomaniac also feels to me the closest von Trier has come to the structure of the novels of say, Marquis de Sade or Marcel Proust. Joe drops allusions to novels and films, which is meta but not postmodern. Von Trier's form is classical. And this is practically a linear narrative, told through flashbacks.

The whallup of an ending surprised me. Von Trier is saying that no matter how much guys pretend to study sexuality or be interested in sexuality, they're really thinking about fucking and kidding themselves. And according to the laws of nature, if you treat the wrong creature as a sex object, be prepared for the consequences.

There are many tough sequences in this film. Bondage is just weird to me. I should be more open minded. I really wanted to empathize with Joe, but I can't. Nor do I have to. This film is about seeing things through Joe's eyes.

And I thought the ski-masked bikini girls in Spring Breakers were smutty? The image of naked Charlotte Gainsbourg between two fully erect black penises went all Mapplethorpe and shit and the spoils should go to von Trier.

--Dregs




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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Folks Lookin' for Trouble Tend to Find More Than They're After

What do attack dog pitbulls, cottonmouth rattlesnakes, lowlife degenerate drunks, and an ex-con with a rapsheet full of violence arrests all have in common? You'd be best to keep mindful and watch your step around them. But also, that there are some folks who have no choice but to learn how to live with them.
Joe (2013, David Gordon Green) is a rural tragedy about a fortysomething loner that finds himself taking account of what really matters after a long life of learning to survive in a tough Southern backwoods populated by crooks, swindlers, drunks, and the remaining souls trying to find a decent plight in the midst of all of this.

Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage) makes his living running his own business with a crew of laborers he organizes to chop through forests poisoning the timber to clear the land so that contractors can replace the forests with better trees. In the small Texas town where he lives everyone knows him and his reputation. Joe's honest. Joe's a good guy to have a whiskey with. And he keeps to himself. But he can only be pushed so far before you'll eventually find his dark violent streak, and his buttons are not hard to find.

Fighting against total submission to his savage instincts, Joe seeks to love.

If Joe were pitched at Warners in the early Thirties it could have been described as: A wild brute wants to settle down after a hell of a life but has to buy his redemption at the cost of saving a troubled youth.

David Green delivers some heavy brooding spot on storytelling thanks to this simple, honest, masculine milieu. There are two threads to the narrative. First, Gary Jones (Tye Sheridan) is the central character in the story of Joe's redemption. Secondly, there's the story of Joe trying to be alone; because, the dame, and the independence that comes from owning his own business are stabs at domesticity.

Now that all the boring formal description is out of the way, Joe's got teeth. The boy Joe must save has a garish nightmare of a dysfunctional homelife. His mom and dad are whitetrash alcoholic hillbillies who are dumpsterdining and squatting in a condemned sinkhole of a shack when we meet them. The dad, Wade Jones (Ozzy Poulter) is relentlessly cruel and himself a depiction of one of the basest of all depraved monsters. Wade beats his family and worse, although it hurts to even imagine. Wade drinks for a living while oppressing his hangers on kin with what is most remarkably his own twisted ideals of love.

If Joe is a pitbull, Wade is rattlesnake. There's a parallel when Joe first picks up the rattlesnake before he meets Gary: Joe releases the snake unharmed, telling the other workers not to harm it because it's his "friend." And finally at the end of the movie when Joe confronts Wade, in a strikingly tender surrender he pleads with Joe and asks him: "Are you my friend?" the theme coalesces.

Joe is worth digging into.

Wingo's score is sparse, dark, low, brooding and foreboding and fits the tragic tone of this tale. Tim Orr's eye finds the compositions he's best known for again in the rural Texas wilderness against rainy mudsoaked vistas.

Wingo and Tim blend their talents perfectly in the opening scene when we cut from Gary and Wade on the traintracks seamlessly with the soundbridge into Joe smoking a cigarette, emerging from his pickup truck to be tracked into the magnificent rainy canvas populated by soaked workers and pines along the mid and background.

Cage is dynamite and Tye is forceful.

Brenda Isaacs Booth is disturbing and beautiful as Mother Jones. The way she says "that's good babies" when she's just talking to Gary is a running David Gordon Green touch--pluralizing a noun that should be singular.

David Green finds himself getting the best moments out of the cast setting up the everyday workings that most filmmakers mistake as background. The general store clerk, whorehouse couch potatoes, barflys, and his pals at Blind George's poker games to name a few. But Green has discovered some gems of character actors. Namely the leader of his forest-clearing crew Junior. Junior is played by Brian Mays, owner of Sam's BBQ in Austin, TX and a man who's never acted before. Mays's growling drawling gold-tooth filled colorful speeches are not too far from how he talks in real life.

And Ozzy Poulter, who plays Wade Jones had also never had any prior experience acting either. Ozzy's charisma in real life will always transcend any possible readings I could have into this character. He was a good friend to me. The inscription on the denim varsity jacket that Wade wears in the film comes from Ozzy's email address. David one day liked gdaawg@hotmail.com and the next thing you know, that character now has an awesome jacket that says G-Daawg on the back. Ozzy loved to breakdance and charm everyone he met, especially the ladies. You might not know it watching him in the movie, but he was one of the kindest and joyful people you'd ever meet.

The pitbull and the rattlesnake will survive the only way that they know--violence. And it takes a dark telling to truly appreciate the brightness in Green's sensibilities on family and friendship here.

--Dregs

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Based on actual events


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Monday, January 06, 2014

Dregs's Top 10 Movies 2013

1.   Blue Jasmine (2013, Woody Allen)
2.   The Canyons (2013, Paul Schrader)
3.   Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)
4.   Spring Breakers (2012, Harmony Korine)
5.   Prince Avalanche (2012, David Gordon Green)
6.   Behind the Candelabra (2013, Steven Soderbergh)
7.   Pain & Gain (2013, Michael Bay)
8.   Wadjda (2012, Haifaa al-Mansour)
9.   The Lords of Salem (2012, Rob Zombie)
10. 12 Years a Slave (2013, Steve McQueen)

--Dregs

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Friday, January 03, 2014

rad bands on Bandcamp

Further to yesterday's post of my HEAVY TUNES OF 2013, I thought I might dump a bunch of good Bandcamp links out there, stuff I mostly like but haven't really given a full listen to just yet.

Credit where it's due: a lot of these came straight from the dome of Mr. Chris D., in an interview he was gracious enough to do with me for No Headline AudioZine. If you want to read a list unmediated by me, that's more pure full-on Chris D., you can do do at the Negative Fun Records tumblr. Dude's got good taste; he should start a label or some shit.

From Chris D.

From other sources:

Happy hearing!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Fat's Best HEAVY TUNES of 2013

0. TL;DR List + Links Only

the low flags - Alpha Cop, split 7" with Carton
arming Eritrea - Future of the Left, Travels with Myself and Another
future child embarrassment matrix / the male gaze - Future of the Left, How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident
stand and encounter - Gowns
gopher guts - Aesop Rock, Skelethon
pendulum swing - Blank Realm, Go Easy
my time - Golden Dawn, Power Plant
the waist and the knees - Game Theory, Lolita Nation
Ragnaraak - Verma, EXU
the Catholic Channel - Carton, Sunburst EP
Today Might Be Our Day - Wormburner
Mt. Abraxas + Follow the Leader - Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Winter Prevails / Moose on Rice / Winter Prevails II - Snailface
Workshop of the Telescopes - Blue Öyster Cult
St. Cecilia - Stalk-Forrest Group
Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind - Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
7" - The Whip (alternate link)
greed is your horse - Lord Dying, Summon the Faithless
Manifest Decimation - Power Trip, Manifest Decimation
Banana Clipper - Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels
Motherfuckers Never Learn - Shooting Guns, Brotherhood of the Ram

I. Meandering Introductionalizing

Good year this year! For music, anyway; the rest of consensus reality continued its momentum-gaining slide into nightmares of inhumanity and inevitable environmental collapse into catastrophe. This year, I did a better year than in a couple other recent years of hearing and enjoying new music, rather than just exploring the depths of my archives. Much of this newness came from the endlessly shit-spewing sewer hose that is Twitter, and a lot of it is available on Bandcamp, which bids fair to absolutely revolutionize my relationship with music—or at least with new bands.

If nothing else, Bandcamp is making it much harder for me to want to go the record store. This is a bad thing, in my estimation, and I am currently trying to figure out how balance my desperation for convenience (read: laziness) with the necessity that I contribute to the small business economy of the place I live. The answer might be as simple as something Pink Eyes said from the stage of a Fucked Up show a couple months ago:

Buy one record a month at your local record store.
It's a thought: we'll see if I can make it happen.

Anyway. The year in music was more than just angst and the internet, though. Most of the best new stuff I heard was this year came from the old ways—my friends told me about them. Also a cool thing about this year in music is that I got to write about music for some other venues. Two of the things I wrote could be considered companion pieces to this list:

II. The Long Version

the low flags - Alpha Cop, split 7" with Carton
I also got to write some catalog copy for Negative Fun Records—but it wasn't payola that made a Negative Fun release my favorite song of the year. It was just that the song scratched itches I didn't know I had. As I said on the podcast, the song is a wide-screen epic, one that moves from part to part to part, loudly, like a storm surging over a montage of, well...all of human history. Or anyway, everything that feels like it can go into a life feels like it has a home somewhere in this song.

arming Eritrea - Future of the Left, Travels with Myself and Another
suddenly it's a folk song / land of my formers - Future of the Left, Curses
future child embarrassment matrix / the male gaze - Future of the Left, How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident
As promised in last year's list, Future of Left spent a lot of time in my ears this year. These were my favorite of their songs, spread out over a pair of albums and another pair of EPs that I bought, and the copy of Travels with Myself and Another that my buddy gave me. "arming Eritrea" is maybe their best song overall, with harsh barks lasting a long time and eventually not yielding to, but being subsumed by, overwhelming melodies. The hooks in this one are irresistible, and the elliptical lyrics are just elliptical enough to keep the whole thing mysterious and captivating. "suddenly it's a folk song" and "land of my formers" are two more scrape-pop numbers that kept my blood frothy and my neighbors awake. Off the excellent debut record Curses. "future child embarrassment matrix" and "the male gaze" were the best-sounding things I've heard from the band, so perfect in sequence that it makes the songs that follow them on the album sound like deliberate experiments—as though having added jaw-smashing brickbat stomps to the usual repertoire of brilliantly abrasive anthems, they felt the need to focus entirely on other new tricks. Less perfect, but still great, with different context on the EPs. (Worth noting that XtraMile completely fucked up the metadata on the .mp3 files for the Man vs. Melody EP, making it kind of a less worthwhile purchase.)

stand and encounter - Gowns
Speaking of brilliantly abrasive, I've had this lying around for a few years, and I pull it out regularly, usually when I need a good aural scouring to flense away the cruft, self-pity and fatigue that...life gives me. This one's free to download, and will wring you out, leave you stripped of a lot of the daily toxins. It's the Neurosis effect, in other words. I haven't heard anything from EMA—half of Gowns, gone solo, evidently—that I have liked nearly as well, alas.

gopher guts - Aesop Rock, Skelethon
Not the first song that grabbed me off the album—Skelethon, which may have spent more time in rotation than any other in 2013—but the one that might mean the most to me, after my two hundredth listen. "gopher guts" has the best-executed devastating closing verse on an album that's full of them*, and boasts a perfect downer of a chorus-closing hook:
...and then I let him go
...oh.
*To wit, the following, which is almost chanted:
I have been completely unable to maintain any semblance of relationship on any level
I have been a bastard to the people who have actively attempted to deliver me from peril
I have been acutely undeserving of the ear that listened or the lips that kissed me on the temple
I have been accustomed to a stubborn disposition that admits it wishes its history disassembled
I have been a hypocrite in semonizing tolerance while skimming for a ministry to pretzel
I have been unfairly resentful of those I wish had acted different when the bidding was essential
I have been a terrible communicator, prone to isolation over sympathy for devils
I have been my own worst enemy since the very genesis of rebels

The other world-class closing verse came from "cycles to Gehenna". I talked about this on the podcast a little bit, but not particularly well, and I honestly have yet to articulate successfully to myself just why the phrase pins me so, but I flinch, and think about my life a little bit, every time I hear:

this is the product of a D.I.Y. inadequate home

From @holy_mountain came the following rad HEAVY TUNES:

pendulum swing - Blank Realm, Go Easy
miles from nowhere - The Only Ones, Even Serpents Shine
my time - Golden Dawn, Power Plant
Blank Realm's best song is near-perfect drone-groove action with a long lope and enough room to roam to get spacy, but enough tightness to avoid getting old in a hurry. The Only Ones are like the Kinks, but worth listening to. And Golden Dawn sounds almost offensively like Roky Erickson, but apparently came by it honestly, as actual, factual contemporaries of the 13th Floor Elevators who got not just overshadowed, but seemingly actually suppressed, if the Wikipedia is to be believed. And anyway, sounding incredibly like the 13th Floor Elevators is a good thing to do, if you can pull it off. Psychedelia from the garage: nothing wrong with that. Thanks, @Holy_Mountain! I owe you some much better tweets that I have so far sent your way.

the waist and the knees - Game Theory, Lolita Nation
More white pop came to the fore when Scott Miller died and I reacquainted myself with an ancient favorite, the insane double album Lolita Nation. This album was probably the richest influence on my taste for highly arranged studio melodies. I have no idea how I came to buy this tape, somewhen in high school, but it always stood another play, and my only regret with respect to it is that Scott Miller had to die to get me to revisit it. "the waist and the knees" stands in for pretty much the whole album, even the weirdo noise-collage of side 3, which only makes the sweet pop go down even more satisfyingly and interestingly. And it's a nearly perfect song and it mentions the only Beach Boys song I will ever love.

Ragnaraak - Verma, EXU
Can't remember where I found this good krauty drone-metal. Probably somebody on Twitter. Probably somebody on Twitter who's into HEAVY TUNES and lives in Chicago. In the back half of 2013, whenever I couldn't decide what to listen to, I defaulted to this. Equally suited for soothing at sleep time, propelling-but-not-distracting at writing time, and inspiring pushups at pushup time. I don't know one song from another on this album: but as an album it's dense, solid, and rewarding all the way through. One of these days I've got to check out what else they've put out.

the Catholic Channel - Carton, Sunburst EP
(runner-ups: on that hill, fingertips)
The entire EP shreds and skips in a scything way that I originally thought was kind of post-grunge, but on the 30th of December, listening to it on my bike, I realized that "the Catholic channel" has a very best-song-by-Squirrel-Bait sound and feel. So maybe it's less post-grunge and more...good-band. Whatever label it earns, it's some of the best back-to-basics guitar rock I've heard in forever—sort of what I wish Milk Music had been able to provide. Honorable mentions go to another great tune on that great EP and to the other side of the Alpha Cop's "the low flags".

Today Might Be Our Day - Wormburner
Even more back-to-basics, this is just a great song. As somebody who uses music like a drug, it's intensely welcome to find something that has as a side effect the creation of...hope.

Mt. Abraxas + Follow the Leader - Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
A band that had been recommended to me a lot, Uncle Acid took me a while to warm up to. I think it's mainly because this is not a headphones record—this a loud-ass-speakers record. And a damn good one. In 2013, no songs better blended familiar approaches and influences without resorting to outright appropriations and imitations.

Winter Prevails / Moose on Rice / Winter Prevails II - Snailface
Similarly old-and-new, the lifer-rock side project Snailface brought the year's best—and best-natured—record-collector-band music, with Snailface IV, a concept album about...camping. Treading roughly, and treading roughly over the same ground as Into Thin Air and Grizzly Man, I think, the album blends an awful lot of classic-rock-radio moves into a very satisfying and infinitely listenable landslide. Humor never gets its due artistically, and certainly doesn't in the realm of heavy music, but this record managed to be funny and tongue-in-cheek without ever being half-assed. And in "Winter Prevails", things even got emotional, with big stomping beats under sad strings and a story about fleeing civilization (and dying alone).

Workshop of the Telescopes - Blue Öyster Cult
I'm writing a book about Blue Öyster Cult, and part of my preparation (research?) for the book is listening to BÖC records in order. I'm still digging into the early stuff, and finding hooks everywhere, revelatory little moments that light up the overall project. And then there's this, off the first record, which is thus far entirely impenetrable: over unsettled chiming chords, Eric Bloom chirps:
My silverfish imperatrix, and incorrupted eye
and shit just actually starts making less sense from there. Maybe I should just start off with a live version.

St. Cecilia - Stalk-Forrest Group
Another part of the work I'm doing for the book is listening to the band BÖC were before they were BÖC. The Stalk-Forrest Group is as explicitly an attempt to be New York City's Grateful Dead as BÖC was to be the American Black Sabbath; oddly, I adore it. Moodly jangle-rock with quiet harmonies all over the place and long, long, noodly guitar solos, this was my go-to chill-out record for much of the year.

Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind - Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Because I love guitar squalls over rock-solid drone-grooves, as provided by Blank Realm, above, I love this song and have been listening to it several times a day for the past month or so. A great combination of energy-inducing and mood-settling. The rest of the record doesn't do much for me until the chill closer, "the Story of Yo La Tengo"* brings its nearly 12 minutes of heartening swells and quiet crashes.

*Or, if you believe the shitty metadata that Matador provides, "the Story of Yo La Tango".

7" - The Whip
Can't say enough about this record. I avoided it for years—in a story I told briefly on the podcast—because it reeked of death to me, as the definitive record that came out in a grief-clotted summer a decade ago. But an object is not exhaustively defined by its context, only informed by it, and this is a boiling, thrashing record absolutely screaming with life. Buy the fucking thing; I don't want to hear any bullshit about this.

greed is your horse - Lord Dying, Summon the Faithless
From @nocoastoffense, my pal in HEAVY TUNES, came this, possibly the year's best song of riff. I'm not fully sold on the band, nor fully checked out on the rest of the record, but this will bear looking into in the coming year.

Manifest Decimation - Power Trip, Manifest Decimation
Similarly, Power Trip blew me away whenever I listened to them this year, even if I didn't listen to them nearly, nearly enough. This incredible assemblage of riffs and energy will probably fuel the bulk of my pushups and sour, impacted bike rides to work in the coming year. Speaking of work, I wasn't able to see Power Trip open up for Fucked Up in October because of work. Fucked up, right?

Banana Clipper - Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels
Took me forever to get around to loving this, but my dudes Abe (of the podcast) and @teen_archer finally wore me down enough to give it a shot, and the excellence of the record did the rest. Huge fun, and a never-ending source of amazing one-liners. This song stands in for the record mainly for the following line, but "I fuck in my church shoes" is maybe even better:
I sent they mom a little cash and a sympathy letter
Told her she raised a bunch of fuckboys—next time do better
...BITCH.
Best record to wash dishes to of the year.

Motherfuckers Never Learn - Shooting Guns, Brotherhood of the Ram
A very late arrival, this space-metal outfit from Canada (!) absolutely owned my late December. Brotherhood of the Ram is flaw-free entirely, and "Motherfuckers Never Learn" is there (only [not only]) because (a) I structure these lists mainly song by song, and (b) it's an unquestionably perfect song title. Their demo—which is free, by the way—might even be a couple percentage points better than Brotherhood of the Ram. It's called Born to Deal in Magic, and it is exceptionally good. Who are these guys? I don't know. But they make excellent HEAVY TUNES. And they are so good that they can do what apparently is impossible, according to the now-unfollowed whining imbeciles on my Twitter: release an album in December that ends up on a best-of-the-year list.

UPDATE:
So, it seems I got most of the facts wrong about Shooting Guns. They're from Saskatchewan, not Calgary. Their album came out in October, not December. And their demo is no longer available for free. I regret the errors! However, I got the important part(s) right: they are a superb band with two magnificent releases, and you should buy them and listen to them without delay.

—Fat, rocking out & keeping his ears open