Holy Cow! It’s Tommy’s Favorite Albums and Movies of 2013

Well, if my clocks are correct and Ryan Seacrest and Carson Daly did not lie to me a couple of nights ago, 2014 has officially begun.  So allow me to get my jollys by bombarding you all with some last second year-end, best-of lists.  To be fair, I’m repeating myself here, having already spewed opinion and favoritism all over my blog page, so in the spirit of brevity, I’m limiting myself to my top 5 albums of 2013 and my top 5 films of 2013 (for the full lists, go here and here).  Without further ado, let’s get to the ranking and filing…

 

Top 5 Albums

deafheaven 1.  Deafheaven – Sunbather

Hands down, my favorite album of the year is this post-rock-meets-black-metal opus from Bay Area duo Deafheaven.  The band’s untraditional take on black metal bleakness and fuzz gets almost cinematic in scope, pairing that sound with the grandiose sweeping guitar layers most associated with post rock acts like Sigur Ros and Mogwai.  From the immediate and blistering caterwaul of “Dreamhouse” all the way through the closing wail of “The Pecan Tree,” the record screams and soars, weaving full-on blasts of sonic anxiety and mayhem with sprawling and moving layers of mood and sound.  At its peaks (of which there are many), the album feels like a desperate plea, a small speck railing against the heavens.  Nothing else like it came out this year.

On a more personal note, I lost a good friend to cancer earlier this year, right before Sunbather came out, and the tragic sounds and melodies from the record defined my emotions in a way my thoughts and words never could.  Moments on this album sound like grief, and thus helped me cope…even if it was unintended.  But that’s what makes a good album great.

Highlight: “Vertigo”

mbv2.  My Bloody Valentine – m b v

The long awaited return (22 years) of shoegazing legends My Bloody Valentine was such an awesome way to start 2013.  After the promise of a follow up to 1991’s iconic Loveless began to feel more and more unlikely, I told myself I wouldn’t believe it until I held the thing in my own grubby, little hands.  It’s in my hands now, and it’s magnificent.  The album progresses along linearly from the band’s previous two outings (1988’s Isn’t Anything and the aforementioned Loveless), feeling like the completion of some reverby trilogy.  The pop hooks are still there.  The droning echo is still there.  The ringing in my ears is still there.  And while the record does not surpass Loveless (nothing was ever going to), Kevin Shields and crew still pull off quite the impressive return with an instant classic of an album.

Highlight: “Only Follow”

troller3.  Troller – Troller

Not known for any kind of Gothic synth-pop scene, Austin band Troller remedies that situation with their debut, self-titled long player.  The album (which was originally released on cassette in 2012, and then vinyl in 2013) is a dark and depressed beast, albeit a beast with beautiful, effected vocals that haunt the piece throughout.  It’s a cold and bleak black hole and infinitely catching.

Highlight: “Tiger”

 

 

theknife

4.  The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

Of all the “difficult” records I listened to last year, the latest from Swedish duo The Knife was the most challenging…and the most rewarding.  Shaking the Habitual is a long, densely layered effort from this experimental electronic act, running through a spectrum of different sounds and styles, drone and tribal beats playing off a post-everything template.  It’s not for the casual listener.  Like recent releases from Swans and Scott Walker, The Knife’s new opus is dark and ominous, towering and foreboding, and ultimately worthy of repeat listens.

Highlight: “Full of Fire”

daftpunk5.  Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

There were a lot of albums I considered making number five on my list, but the funky and eclectic disco-goodness of Daft Punk’s 2013 return just won out in the long run.  It’s just too fun to go unappreciated.  The masked French duo paired their efforts with a plethora of guest players hailing from the old school (Paul Williams, Nile Rogers, Georgio Moroder) and the new (Panda Bear, Pharrell, Julian Casablancas) to create a booty shaking epic for the oncoming decade.  Disco hasn’t sounded this good in a long, long time.

Highlight: “Contact”

 

Top 5 Movies*

yourenext1.  You’re Next

Oh Adam Wingard, how you and your fellow horror-junkie cronies and filmmakers continue to refresh and reinvent the genre with new ideas while retaining what makes us all love horror movies in the first place never ceases to put a smile on my face and hands over my eyes.  You’re Next took a little while to get a wide release after wowing viewers on the festival circuit in 2012, but this home invasion thriller was worth the wait.  Honest scares, action, gore, and comedy made this my favorite film of the year.

 

upstreamcolor2.  Upstream Color

In this second feature from director Shane Carruth, a meditation on love and loss, the action plays out on screen like some Philip K. Dick drug-rattled fever dream as interpreted by Terrence Malick.  Two people put together their wrecked lives while unknowingly being affected by a parasite with a 3-stage life cycle.  It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and as intoxicating work of art as any ever made.

 

evildead3.  Evil Dead

Remakes are normally a big bag of bleh, with some notable exceptions; none more so than Fede Alvarez’s take on Sam Raimi’s classic 80’s horror flick.  Oh the gore, the gore, the wonderful gore.  It’s a challenge to name what the grossest scene in the film is.  And that’s awesome.  I’ve always had a soft spot in my cold, black heart for bloody, gory, exploitative movies, and Evil Dead made me about as happy as I could be this year.

 

onlygodforgivesmovie4.  Only God Forgives

The latest film from director Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling is an ugly little tale of revenge and the utter pointlessness of it all.  The movie is a slow burner with occasional splashes of hyper violence confined to a neon color palette that adds an ugly and otherworldly glow to the proceedings.  And while the film is low on dialog, it makes up for it with style and mood.  You’ll probably want to watch this one more than once to take it all in.  My second viewing yielded much more reward than the first.

 

thisistheend5.  This Is The End

I’ve said it a thousand times since this movie came out over the summer, but it was way funnier than it had any right to be.  What could have been a horrible display of Hollywood narcissism and laziness actually comes together as a fun and creative indictment of that entire culture.  The actors in the film make fun of themselves in a human and endearing way, and I laughed my ass off throughout.

 

 

So, I showed you mine.  Show me yours…

 

*I missed so many movies this year that I am probably leaving off too many to count, an egregious error I know, but unavoidable when one has an infant at home.

 

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.

3 Responses to Holy Cow! It’s Tommy’s Favorite Albums and Movies of 2013
  1. Sameer Reply

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  2. Cindy Reply

    Did you see Frances Ha?

  3. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    GREAT LIST! okay, let me go straight to the movies first – you know, I CAN NOT figure out why so many people hate the Evil Dead. Taken right from Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s (not to mention director Fede Alvarez’s) mouths it isn’t a remake but “another door that the Necronomicon opens”. I mean, for Christ’s sake the car from the first movies is even still shown as being at the cabin at the start of the movie (thanks Ray, for pointing that out). I LOVED it.
    I too missed SO MANY movies that I have been afraid to even try to do a list. One thing’s for certain though, E.D. and Upstream Color would both be on that. I still have to see the other three on your list (told you I missed a lot) but based on your taste – which is impeccable sir – I’m definitely going to remedy that!
    Music wise I have to get this Troller record. And Sunbather – every time I try to listen to it I get interrupted or am preoccupied. I’ve tried to stage a listen as I do with most records I’m intrigued by or anxiously awaiting but this one is just going to have to happen.
    The MBV was grand though, right?

    As usual, a great read sir!!!

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