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"Romeo Must Never Know" - KEN mode

It’s entirely possible I opted for the easiest pick when selecting a track off Entrench after being unable to pick between the more furious “Counter Culture Complex” and “Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick.” I’m okay with this. “Romeo Must Never Know” rips just as much as those two, if not more. 

I spoke on this song and video a month ago, but it bears reiterating. As great as they are at the fast and furious, KEN mode are equally up to the task of building longer, more patient pieces of brutality. It’s one of my favorite traits of a lazy comparison for this band: Converge. As easy as that comparison may be, though, it’s made honestly. Among the bands making ferocious noise, those two are at the top of the heap. 

Side note: Northern bellicosity done politely" is still the perfect description for these three noisy men from north of the border, even with the cell phone disdain. They’re only asking for their politeness to be reciprocated. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"Black Me Out" - Against Me!

This may be of interest to you. It’s another taste of the Transgender Dysphoria Blues, though one more traditionally named than the previous preview

Everything about Against Me! is fascinating. Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as transgendered is an obvious storyline, but I’m also intrigued by those who comment on the band for, for lack of a better phrase, ”selling out.” It’s not a thread I necessarily subscribe to, but there’s certainly an interesting narrative there for browsing. 

Regardless, this will be one of the most talked about, and therefore “most important,” punk releases of the coming year. The stature of the band and the size of the Grace story are a combination few other releases will be able to match. 

There’s also the music, I suppose. Both tracks so far have been solid doses of punk goodness. Transgender Dysphoria Blues will be out on January 21 via Total Treble, and I look forward to hearing it. 

- Tyler Hanan

"Primetime" - Janelle Monáe ft. Miguel

The closest person you’ll get to a new Prince, The Electric Lady, gave us the sexiest song of 2013 and the greatest duet of 2013. This song is surpassingly, undeniably brilliant, and that’s beside the fact that it has already led to the conception of thousands of babies worldwide. Listen to this song. Look at this video. When the internet says “I can’t,” it’s because of “Primetime.” Just kiss already, you two. Please. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"World" - Julia Holter

This year’s Loud City Song has been lauded by many as Holter’s best, most consistent effort yet, outdistancing the still excellent Tragedy and Ekstasis. It all started with “World,” the record’s first single and a song unlike any other Holter had yet recorded. 

Loud City Song was Holter’s first record in a studio, a fact that is most evident in the rich, open spaces of “World.” It’s a song that, though sparse, maximizes Holter’s best qualities: patience, precision, and her arrangements.

"World" has the first two in spades, stretching out the frequent silences into wide-eyed yearning for another word and blissful endorphine release when it would come. "Horns Surrounding Me" may be the epitome of anxiety and "In the Green Wild" her most fun song yet, but it is "World" that most showcased what Holter is capable of. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"Rory" - Foxing

"Just you wait for the Foxing record," my friend said. "You’re going to love it."

Multiple times my friend told me this, though it was usually either with no caps or all caps. She told me this multiple times mostly because she has a terrible memory, but also because she truly believed the Foxing record would be the next big emo record, one worthy of being loved the way Whenever, If Ever has been loved. 

A show at some Flint bar this summer - I think it was Flint - was the first time I got an inkling beyond her word that this could very well be the record she hyped it to be. The set wasn’t the most rapturous concert I’d ever attended, but the potential was there for something on that level. A different venue, a few more fans who knew all the words, and it could reach that level of rapture,

Months later, that album - The Albatross - was streamed on AbsolutePunk and released by Count Your Lucky Stars. It turned out that the record was, as my friend insisted, pretty fucking great. If you’re into twinkly guitars, subtle builds, sudden shouting, and a high percentage of spine-tingling, paradigm-shifting, out-of-body moments, it’s likely you already knew this to be true. 

What I find most interesting is the desaturated palette. Colorless isn’t the right word, but there’s a certain faded grayscale to everything - the music, the album cover, the video for first single “Rory.” Everything feels a little washed out and worn, but in the best way. It’s fascinating, and especially effective given the album’s subtlety. There’s nothing quite like it.

Speaking of that for “Rory,” which premiered on Washed Up Emo, it’s quite arresting. The visuals, a bit wan, as mentioned, make quite the impression. Both throughlines - the performers separated into their two differently lit rooms and the young, fox-masked boy being chased and captured by similarly pint-sized pursuers - feature images of unsettling, autumnal beauty. It also isn’t too showy, but sticks with viewers regardless. It feels like an extension of the album in every way, and it succeeds as a result.

- Tyler Hanan

"Full of Fire" - The Knife

Some may have cooled on The Knife’s adventurous but exhaustingly lengthy Shaking the Habitual, but the excellence of this song and the way it captivated listeners and press when it dropped shouldn’t be forgotten. 

A microcosm of the album - daring, evocative, and so damn long - “Full of Fire is a bizarre and disconcerting piece of music, the like of which doesn’t often reach the level of awareness a brand new Knife track would.

The collage of noises present here is unlike any other. It has the dank pulse of a club and the weird blips of a fever dream, and this is all before discussing The Knife’s strong stance on the fluidity of gender. It is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating songs of the year, and with one of the best final 15 seconds. 

Let’s talk about gender, baby. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"Feels Real" - R.L. Kelly 

I begin our end of the year coverage with what might be favorite song of 2013. “Feels Real” is the second track on Angeltown, a compilation of unreleased songs put out by Orchid Tapes.

In these last few months, a difficult few months, the Angeltown tape has been plugged into the tape player of my beat-to-hell ‘92 Buick Centruy more often than not. This song is the primary reason for that. “Feels Real” has the same melodious lo-fi aesthetic and heartworm (that’s a thing, right?) quality of older indie recordings that I love. There’s something in the guitar, in its friendly pluckiness.

The main difference, of course, is this song is on the other end of the happiness spectrum. It’s simple melody and lyrics, relatable on a most basic human level, are absolutely captivating. Also, unlike many other songs in this underground pop community, it’s a little longer. The extra minute or two functions spectacularly in digging the song’s hook in even deeper.

The best songs are often the simplest ones. "Feels Real" never fails to make the listener feel better. Everything’s going to be okay. Everything feels real. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"Pale Shelter" - Matthew Dear ft. Tegan and Sara (Tears for Fears cover)

When I think of Tears for Fears, I think of Pete Holmes’ “Pierce" bit. There’s no good reason for that, it’s merely a part of my being on this planet. 

Lately, though, artists have been forcing me to consider Tears for Fears as a band again. This is probably a good thing for my standing in any music community, but it’s also a little sad.

You see, Tears for Fears covers seem to keep popping up. Today, co-founder Matthew Dear and newly superfamous sister duo Tegan and Sara. Chris Deville also makes mention of a Tears for Fears cover by Animal Collective, and I’ve seen a few others recently by somewhat notable names. 

Anyways, the idea of Tegan and Sara covering 80’s pop songs is an instantly attractive one. It certainly worked out here. There should be albums full of these things, with the two collaborating with different producers and beat makers. Can they cover some Madonna? Is some Prince too much to ask? 

This idea is flawless. I’m off to brainstorm my favorite pairings; in the meantime, check out Dear and the duos’ quotes regarding the collab on Stereogum

- Tyler Hanan

"Satellites" - EMA

Erika M. Anderson, she of 2011’s surprise tastemaker favorite Past Life Martyred Saints and its fantastic album cover, released “Satellites” in the middle of last week.

Unveiled right in the middle of all this end of the year coverage, the imposing gothic tour de force is a giant flag planted in Mount 2014, a banner foretelling the coming of The Future’s Void in spring. 

This song is sonically vicious and unrelenting, full of ominous, overarching choruses, screeching feedback, and desensitizing percussion, among other wonderful, less-than-cheery elements. Would that the entirety of The Future’s Void holds to these unsettling, sub-dimensional standards.

- Tyler Hanan

Rival Dealer - Burial

The new Burial EP, Rival Dealer, is streaming. It’s gone up after just about every website has posted its end of the year music lists, thus invalidating all of them. 

Rival Dealer immediately drops you into a dank, throbbing, fast lane wormhole with the title track. Dive in. Let it take you wherever it leads.

The three-track, 28-minute EP is out December 16 on Hyperdub. Merry Christmas.

- Tyler Hanan