35 Albums in 35 Years: 2013

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.


deafheaven2013: Deafheaven’s Sunbather

I have too many death albums.

When I first began conceiving and writing this column back in January, I knew I would eventually write about Deafheaven’s 2013 breakout LP Sunbather. I felt that my essay would be about how an album can be drenched in the loss of a loved one (in this case, a good friend of mine who lost her battle with cancer early last year), and how it can serve as a coping aid. And then for my 2009 entry, I wrote about a different death album altogether. So, it seems I should approach this record from a different angle entirely, despite the emotional impact it had on me. Sunbather was easily my favorite album that came out last year, and I know there are a lot of other folks out there who feel the same way. “Dreamhouse” is a slice of crossover magic that got me excited about the future prospects of heavy metal, and it sounds like a manic version of Explosions in the Sky as fronted by some screaming maniac and a double bass pedal. “Vertigo” is a 15-minute sonic equivalent of all the stages of grief playing out simultaneously. Then there’s the ebb and flow of the interludes, and then “The Pecan Tree” and its glorious finale. The whole thing is amazing. The record feels like anguish personified and it just hit me at the right time in my life. That being said, I have also come across a whole horde of people who hate the album, hate the band, and spew vitriol and bile all over them like the band members are responsible for some grievous wrongdoing. Utter contempt.

It could be based on jealousy, the group achieving this modicum of success that others feel is unwarranted, or that they feel that some other party or they themselves are more deserving of. Some probably view the band as posers, taking their beloved black metal and making it, for lack of a better term, marketable to a wider audience, and in the process devaluing it. I’m sure there are genre purists out there that don’t like the incorporation of other styles and sounds, in this instance shoegaze, post-rock, and pop. Or maybe it’s the lack of burning churches and homicide, the old tenets of the anti-music, anti-everything European black metal of 20+ years ago.

Maybe it’s because they’re popular. Or, at least as popular as a band like this is ever really going to get.

Whatever the reason, it’s pointless to try to understand why. We are all different beings with different tastes and different preferences and different opinions. You’ll either agree with someone’s recommendation, or you won’t. I’m sure half the people who take a glance at my articles or read my blog think I’m full of shit. I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to critique anything necessarily, just enthuse. Essentially, I am a cheerleader. I would never consider myself a music journalist or, God forbid a critic. So much of what is written about music can be reduced to simple sensationalism, hyperbolic certitudes written in black and white with no opening for discussion or refute. Saying that a group is “the biggest band in the world,” or “the only band that matters” is just empty rhetoric manufactured by promoters trying to make money off of someone else’s art, or by lazy, self-important writers who won’t budge from their preexisting notions of what music is supposed to sound like. It’s all kind of laughable.

I’ll get off of my soapbox now.

Some people honestly just don’t like the music, and that’s okay.

I don’t mean to indict any music writers or non-fans in general for having their own opinions. They are certainly entitled to them. It really just comes down to feeling defensive about something that one has emotional ties to. Sunbather moved me, helped me grieve. It got me excited about music all over again. And all of that makes it more difficult for me to accept that it might not be another person’s thing. All of the albums I’ve written about, or have even thought of writing about for this column cling tightly to my heart, either as reminders of who I used to be, old loves, old lives, and old friends, or as harbingers of where I’m going, and of the loves, lives, and friends to come. They are audio snapshots of so many memories, nostalgia in stereo. Man I fucking love music. If I’ve been able to turn even one person on to any of these albums I hold so dear over the last nine months, then I have succeeded.

And if you don’t agree with me, then you obviously have terrible taste.*

- Favorite song: “Vertigo”
– Runner up: “The Pecan Tree”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories; My Bloody Valentine’s m b v; Kylesa’s Ultraviolet; Troller’s Troller; Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time; Lustmord’s The Word as Power.

*Hooray sarcasm!


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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