Once a year, the Ca Va Cool writing team packs their favourite records from the past twelve months into the trunk of the car and journeys to an unassuming silo somewhere in the Ontario countryside to duke it out.* Today, we emerge from this lost weekend with a consensus: our twenty best albums of 2013. With 10 writers contributing to the list, the bottom half is as eclectic as ever; from rap veterans to young folk songstresses, noisy British debuts to even noisier British follow-ups 20 years in the making, Ca Va Cool heroes of studio and stage developing their sound to breakout bands to look out for, and yes, even Danny Brown. Listening to the entire album is always ideal, but we’ve included links to our top tracks to enjoy as you read. Check back later this week for the conclusion of our list.
*It’s 2013, people; we just argued in a Facebook thread.
20. Run the Jewels
Considering it only took a year for El-P and Killer Mike to release another collaboration following the latter’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music, it’s hard to be surprised by the potency of this free 33 minute digital release. Really, all they needed to solidify their newfound friendship and undeniable chemistry was a name – Run the Jewels. It’s the mutual respect and admiration these two have for one another that has them consistently delivering such fluid and often staggering jabs. Mike bluntly declares how highly he thinks of El-P on second track “Banana Clipper”: “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the beat of the year. I said El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outta here.” Despite the unmistakeable fury that can be found on any release by either artist, the pleasure they tuck in with that cynicism has never been more evident than when the two share rap duties. With both underground veterans’ wit on display throughout, boosted by some extra playful brutality, Run the Jewels is an album that both Company Flow and early Killer Mike fanatics and new fans can enjoy. — Jay Winer
These days it’s seemingly impossible to distance one’s self from the gripping distraction that is technology. With handheld devices that do a million things and the internet just a click away, we’ve become enslaved by it. It’s ironic because technology, under our control, is designed to simplify our lives, and yet we’ve become dependent on it to the point where it controls us. Our daily routines are dictated by our phones and computers, our actions sparked by the looming desire to share a photo or update one’s status. In this world of technological diversions and piercing stimuli, Savages are grasping for something organic, something raw. And if their concert signs (or the album name, for that matter) aren’t obvious enough, the music they make drives the point home. Savages want your attention and that alone. No videos, no flash photography, nothing. Just music.
But don’t misinterpret their back-to-basics philosophy as an act of simplicity. On Silence Yourself, the all-female quartet’s brand of gothic post punk is equal parts chaotic and composed, and showcases a knack for musical diversity. From harsh punk (“Hit Me”) to sprawling, atmospheric compositions (“Waiting for a Sign”, “Marshal Dear”), Savages are able to cover a lot of ground. Much of the credit goes to the band’s playing abilities. Jehnny Beth’s voice is energetic yet sorrowful, and her banshee-like wails on songs like “I Am Here” are spine-chilling. Ayse Hassan’s throbbing bass and Fay Milton’s powerful drumming form a menacing rhythm section. But guitarist Gemma Thompson steals the spotlight. Her dynamic style transitions from shimmering melodies to distorted power chords to noisy waves of feedback, albeit with such poise and certainty. Together, these four women burn through song after song with relentless stamina and passion.
Musically, Silence Yourself is a turbulent mix of gloom, fright, and angst, and the lyrics only amplify those feelings. Album opener “Shut Up” is a bold statement about the distractions of today’s world and how they rob us of our identities. “No Face” follows in a similar vein, but delves into desperate pretension and mimicry as a means of defining one’s personality. And “She Will” is a tale of lust, sexuality, and the consequences that may ensue upon the embodiment of such traits.