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"House Shape" - Mount Eerie

Earlier this year, Phil Elverum released Live In Bloomington, Sept. 30th, 2011. By my recconning, it’s Elverum’s third live album, his first since 2004’s Live in Copenhagen, and his third live album overall (he also had 2004’s Live in Japan under The Microphones moniker). 

With a tracklist spanning numerous Mount Eerie albums, Live In Bloomington is full of recognizable favorites. Hearing them in this setting is the true treat, though. The space has an off-world intimacy, and the arrangements are run through the keyboards and auto-tuned vocals (Pre-Human Ideas precursor) of Nicholas Krgovich and Julia Chirka.

More importantly, they feel right in how they are listed and arranged here. It’s not a “best of.” When the insistent throb of “House Shape” turns to the Twin Peaks surrealism of “Between Two Mysteries,” it feels proper. The omnipotent, all-of-time “Ancient Questions” turns to the homey humanity of “Karl Blau, and that’s the way it should be.

Any number of tracks could be plucked out and propped up as the “best,” especially with the fantastic renditions of “Karl Blau,”  ”Ancient Questions,” and “The Place I Live" that are present here. It is "House Shape" that wrecks me once more, though, just as it first did in the run-up to last year’s Clear Moon. It is a song that, both in its original recorded form and this one, shakes me to my core upon every reacquaintance. It toys with my being as if I am nothing. It leaves me a gelatinous, trembling thing comprised of nothing but terror and deconstructed emotions. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"The Stairwells and Hallways of Your New Home" - Chris Cappello 

"Here’s the thing, we started out friends. It was cool, but most night’s I wanted the world to end. Sometimes it almost did."

That’s not quite how the Kelly Clarkson classic “Since U Been Gone" goes, but it’s close enough to hook this unabashed Kelly fan.

Chris Cappello is an 18 year old Connecticut resident who writes about good music over at Lewis And His Blog, and he already released a pretty excellent full-length album earlier this year called Could Be Bitter ForeverHe’s outdoing me in both creation of and blogging about music, but I can’t be bitter when he has correct opinions like this:

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He also follows my personal tumblr. That’s no mean task.

Cappello dropped his new EP, the three-song Wretches of the Frozen Crust, right around the time the clock struck Christmas on the east coast. The three songs are forlorn acoustic pieces that play well with tender guitar, a bit of vocal layering, and, in this song, a voicemail sample.

While he undoubtedly bears similarities to other lo-fi tumblr/bandcamp artists we cover, there’s definitely a good amount of personality to Cappello’s music. It feels honest (that word), not aped, and that’s much of the battle.

The EP is also free. Merry Christmas/Happy December 25, again. 

- Tyler Hanan

"Let It Go" - Idina Menzel

Merry Christmas, if you’re into that. Of all the songs I loved this year, this seemed the most appropriate to celebrate the day with. Frozen was a flawed film, but there were two truly fantastic scenes in it: the very end and this one. 

"Let It Go" blew away every other song in the film, and it wasn’t close. It’s perfect. Glen Weldon of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour described it as a drag anthem, a song that’s already in hundreds of drag show playlists around the country (heavily paraphrased). That only makes it more perfect.

Idina Menzel brings a certain sass, a little pizazz, that makes the song the superb, anthemic earworm it is. Demi Lovato couldn’t even conceive of matching it on her travesty of a single version. 

Now if we could get an X-Men title with Elsa as the lead, I’ll be content.

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"Partners In Crime" - Coma Cinema

My favorite track off Mat Cothran’s latest Coma Cinema record was its most unassuming. “Partners In Crime” is devoid of vocal effects, an eye-catching title, or overt hooks of any kind. What it does have is an elusive tenderness just about unmatched in 2013. A gentle guitar and a Cothran at his most melodious make a song that, though I’m unsure asto the true meaning of, weaves around each and every heartstring. It reaches some delicate, difficult-to-reach wavelength of unhindered and unheeding warmth that is irresistible. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"My Molly" - Sky Ferreira & Ariel Pink [Ariel Pink cover]

Sky Ferreira and Ariel Pink mess around in a new version of Pink’s “My Molly, with video by Grant Singer. Merry holiday or non-holiday. We’ll be flail-dancing in our old bedrooms.

- Tyler Hanan

"Mother We Share" - Chvrches

Though Chvrches’ The Bones of What You Believe was nowhere near my top ten for 2013, I’m not immune to the trio’s charms. I don’t want to be. Those sweeping, sugary sweet melodies are one of the many wonderful things that made this such a fantastic year for pop music (which I’ll be writing about for Cactus-Mouth at some point). To resist them is to embrace a life of less joy. 

The whole album didn’t hold up, but that hardly matters. When Chvrches is on point, they are a giant bowl of sugar-packed, icing-coated baked goodness. The musical sweet tooth can’t get enough of it. Those soaring choruses course right through your defenses and into your heart. You embrace the pitch perfect sheen unironically and cradle it close to your very soul. "The Mother We Share" and "Recover" inspire writing of the unapologetically cheesy gushfests you’ve ever committed to internet (which is quite fitting), and you don’t even care. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"The Chronicles of Marnia" - Marnie Stern

Tap tap tapping virtuoso Marnie Stern released her sunset-lit, grin-inducing new album way back in March, but the effect of the album with the impeccably punny title can still be felt as we near the dead of winter. 

For an album made most delightful by Stern’s fretwork, the album is awash with great pull quotes. “Don’t you wanna be somebody?” she howls on “Noonan.” “Nothing is easy!” she asserts on the song of the same name. 

It’s an album of frequent highs, each carried by a euphoric riff of wide-eyed glee. This freight train/track of the same name proves to be its blissed-out peak.

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"Port Dover" - Rika

Rika’s Count Your Lucky Stars-released How To Draw A River, Step By Step was a delightful surprise early in the year. Its gentle warmth was perfect for the last days of winter, when the thaw is coming but the ice and chill are still present.

"Port Dover" has a bit more of a step to it, the sound of driving down a sun-drenched endless highway. It hooks from the very first notes, and the consistent, alternating thrum of each instrument gives the choruses an extra bit of catharsis. 

- Tyler Hanan // NSB Songs of 2013

"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

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