Ben Potrykus plays in the Boston-based pop band BENT SHAPES (formerly Girlfriends) and writes and draws for his zine CAKE TIME.
*Photo Credit: Christopher Moriarty
Eleven Songs You May Have Overlooked in 2013
Deerhunter – Dream Captain
I’ve never been a giant Deerhunter fan, but this song off Monomania really grabbed me this year. It’s probably unfair that I still associate the band with their bleak and plodding debut more than any other release, but sometimes you need a good pop tune with some swing to kick the chair you’re leaning on out from under you and force you to revisit a band’s discography. If so, “Dream Captain” will be it.
Warm Soda – Someone for You
I always heard Bare Wires were great. Then they broke up. But one of the dudes started this band and put out a pretty solid pop record. The band calls it “‘pop,'” because I guess pop is supposed to be an embarrassing term or something. Whatever. This is the stuff you want blasting from the crappy sky-blue boombox sitting on the sand dune behind you every summer. In fact, it’s recorded to sound like it’s coming from a crappy sky-blue boombox buried in a sand dune, so you can probably up your speaker game and still vibe pretty hard. The whole album is on sale for $6.66 on Bandcamp, which is an amusing joke about the devil \m/ \m/
Cate le Bon – Duke
You might have heard “Are You With Me Now,” or seen the video for it, but “Duke” might be my favorite song off of Cate le Bon’s fantastic Mug Museum album from 2013. Velvet Underground-via-Television guitars, real fuzzy around the edges, soaring-but-self-assured vocals, and driving organ push and pull the song so it has a noticeable warp and weft. There’s very few cymbal hits throughout the majority of the song, and I’ve always thought the coolest bands were the ones with fewest cymbal hits, so that is exciting to me. Cate le Bon’s also Welsh, which means her accent is difficult to parse and makes you feel like you’re listening to something singular and special from some other time and place..
La Femme – Amour dans le motu
I’m pretty sure I read that this band started in 2010 and that the album this song is from (Psycho Tropical Berlin) is their debut. You can see why it took three years to get the record out from this song alone. Multiple layers of haunting mellotron-like keys and synth flute, and spacey, reverb-laden guitars that seem to have the distinctive surfer spring reverb couched in even more room or plate ‘verb carry the melody over pummeling drums. I don’t know what this song is about, because I do not speak French, but I bet it’s something totally spooky. My friend works for a medical software company and once his whole department was trying to figure out why a dead patient’s medicine order kept popping out of the printer every night at 1 AM for a week. I bet this song’s about that. Anyway, listen to this if you think Serge Gainsbourg should have tried his hand at surf garage and had Margo Guryan sing on it..
Pretty & Nice – Mummy Jets
There’s this weird thing where bands that are “angular” and have jerky guitars sometimes utilize a lot of noisy distortion or lo-fi production values to add to their brash aesthetic. On the other hand, poppy bands tend to seek glossy production. My favorite is when bands go for the opposite technique. Pretty & Nice’s new record (like all the stuff I’ve heard from them) is impeccably produced, and yet they are completely spazzing out through most of their catchiest expertly-engineered tunes. Pretty & Nice clearly continue to carry a torch for bands like Brainiac in the best of ways, but avoid mathy trappings, managing to tap into primal pop hooks on songs like “Mummy Jets”.
John Vanderslice – How the West Was Won
JV has been steadily putting out quality introspective pop and indie rock gems under his own name for over a decade, and this year he released not one, but two records: a reinterpretation of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs in a limited pressing, and a full-length of originals called Dagger Beach. This is one of the most immediately accessible tracks on Dagger Beach, and one of the most sonically satisfying. Crunchy acoustic strums over intricate, but somehow understated drums intro a song full of twinkling vibraphone, wavering electric leads, and various analog ephemera, with lilting vocals that manage to be both hauntingly melancholy and infinitely hummable.
Thee Oh Sees – Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster
You probably didn’t overlook this, as Thee Oh Sees just went on hiatus BUT I’m giving it a shout anyway, because it’s the first thing of theirs that I’d listened to in a while, and it’s a lot of fun (and because “hiatus” is usually code for “breaking up” :*[). I respect a band that is so embedded in the groove that they can slow it down, roll off the volume knob here and there, and let a song attack you like a molasses flood.
Enrique Iglesias – Heart Attack
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to name yr hit single “Heart Attack” when you’re an artist on the verge of entering his 40s, but Mr. Iglesias looks like he’s in fantastic shape, so I’m not too worried. I caught this jam just an hour before 2014 on a NYE special hosted by Jenny McCarthy. Somehow I managed to maintain a good first impression of it despite Jenny making out with Donny Wahlberg directly after it was performed. There’s some great guitar stuff that kind of reminds me of Merchandise as the song starts, and I wish the producers revisited it, but between the “Wrecking Ball”-meets-“Trouble” chorus drops and the twitchy vocal effects (a la Butthole Surfers’ Gibbytronix or mid-period Talking Heads), I guess it’s cool that they held back.
Parquet Courts – He’s Seeing Paths
Everyone wants to talk about Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold LP, which apparently didn’t exist until 2013 for many journalists at other publications because it was initially self-released on frontman Andrew Savage’s own label. Jeez. Parquet Courts DID actually release something this year, though: the Tally All the Things That You Broke EP. It’s not gonna give Light Up Gold a run for its money, but it’s pretty good. This is my favorite song because it sounds a LOT like Beck. There’s like, rapping, and agogo bells, and late-90s cell phone ringtones, and maybe some of the same vocal effects as Enrique, and it goes on for over 7 minutes. This lady yelled at me for talking on my phone at the laundromat last night because she was trying to watch a Pixar movie on the mini-TV and at first I was kinda miffed but then I put on “He’s Seeing Paths” and just folded my clothes like a champ. PS – Sam, I found your Bezoar shirt.
Emily Reo – Car
Emily Reo’s 2013 album Olive Juice got some well-deserved nods this year, and it’s full of great songs, but I feel like it bears repeating that she has just given us possibly the best Built To Spill cover of all time. Classically speaking, the most successful covers strive to retain what listeners loved about the original, present those listeners with something new and exciting, and highlight elements that may not have been at the forefront the first time around (and do all this while making that transformation seem effortless). On this version of “Car,” noodly synths with intense glissando bring us in, and carry on throughout the tune, while Emily’s signature vocals (thick with digitized harmonies that emulate Laurie Anderson a bit) circle back to themselves, eventually ending up in a sort of round over the blissed-out organ and understated drum machine beat.
Hatebreed – Own Your World
These New England metalcore heros are almost as old as Enrique, but you wouldn’t know it from their “all pit, no shit” 2013 album. Hatebreed kinda shot themselves in the foot by releasing an album in late January of last year, but I think they did it just to be like “check this out, man, I just shot myself in the foot and I D even GAF”. The lyrics throughout this album are super uplifting, but this song is my favorite overall. It’s got plenty of double-bass-drum-pedal attack, a couple breakdowns, and call-and-response gang vocals. Owning your world was really tough in 2013. I bet everyone could benefit from having Jamey Jasta shout positive affirmations directly into their cochlea at some point this year.