2013: The Pro Picks

What are the holidays without friends to share the good times, and more importantly, the BEER with? I decided to do another ‘best of’ list for 2013, but rather than just have my biased choices for beer, I asked some of my beer-and-record-loving writer friends to assist.

What is one beer and one record you loved in 2013?

Adam Spektor– BFF/host of “The Spektrum” on WRUW Cleveland

Record Of The Year: Thee Oh Sees – “Floating Coffin”

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When a band is as prolific as Thee Oh Sees, a band that’s released seven albums in six years, plus a handful of EPs and a few singles collections, quantity may prevail over quality. But the San Franciscan psych rockers defy that totem and get better with age. It’s evident from the start of the record, with “I Come From the Mountain” storming out of the gate as the band unfolds hook after hook over its driving four and a half minutes. For a band that has always a knack for writing melodies that should have been written 30 years ago, there’s no lack of them here: just pop on “Tunnel Time” or “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” for reference. But it’s “No Spell” that truly sets this record apart from not just everything Thee Oh Sees had accomplished prior, but everything else that came out this year. I’m not synaesthetic, but this song is as colorful as they come. Opening in an enormous major chord wash before settling into a placid kraut groove, the song presents a majestic, insistent energy, with its chorus of falsetto voices intoning over gorgeous jazzy guitar figures. The energy builds to a tee, as singer John Dwyer lets out his signature whoop. Elsewhere, it’s usually another vocal decoration; here, it’s a victory cry, the tipping point, the cathartic release. The skies open up and the band explodes into one of the most triumphant psychedelic rock riffs out there. It’s a great song. And yeah, the rest of the record isn’t a slouch either. Note the languid, cello-driven album closer “Minotaur” or “Strawberries 1 and 2” which ends songs with a marvelously sludgy coda, continuing a tradition marked by Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” and Grinderman’s “When My Baby Comes.” In a beautiful modern era where there’s no shortage of great psychedelic garage rock, Thee Oh Sees continue to set the bar for the thousands of other bands that have followed in their wake.

Beer of the year: Genesee Cream Ale, Genesee Brewing Co., Rochester, NY

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Ha ha ha, look at this asshole hipster with his O.C.s and his shitty beer. Well, listen, when you’re trying to scrimp and save whatever you can to, I dunno, save up to press vinyl or put some kid through $100,000-a-semester college someday or replace more shit in case your house gets broken into again, you gotta sacrifice some things. Genny Cream has been there ubiquitously, in a variety of forms, whenever I needed it. Be it in 40 oz bottle, 12 oz can, 16 oz can, or, perhaps most providentially, in $2 draft form at my favorite bar/venue/place of employment, The Happy Dog, Genny is there for me. And honestly, call me crazy, but I actually enjoy the taste. Stockholm syndrome or not, I find a noticeable difference between the relatively full-bodied Genny Cream and its horrible water-and-wheat-piss-flavored lite peers. And don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy craft beers, but those are like buying dessert at a restaurant. You can do it every once in a while, it’s indulgent and nice, but wholly unnecessary and habitually expensive. Genny Cream is the cheap, but filling main course, comfortably within I can afford. Don’t think you’re too good for it. You’re not.

Bram Teitelman– my metal spirit animal/editor of MetalInsider.com

Record Of The Year: Beastmilk “Climax” (Magic Bullet)

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Wow, this record crept up on me. This record is much more rooted in ‘80s post-punk than metal, despite the fact that vocalist Mat “Kvohst” McNerney has a black metal pedigree. Hwoever, the band knows their way around a hook, and I like this even more than I like some of the bands (Joy Division, Bauhaus, Christian Death) that influenced them. The fact that it snuck on to my year end favorites list even though it was just released a few weeks ago speaks to how catchy it is.

Beer Of The Year: Southern Tier Warlock

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For years, Southern Tier’s Pumking has been my favorite beer. Splitting the difference between delicious pumpkin beer and liver annihilating alcohol, it’s sweet, but has a bite. This year, they threw something new into the mix. Warlock, an American Double / Imperial Stout that was a darker, even more delicious version of Pumking. It’s like a sequel to an already perfect movie, the Godfather II of brews.

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I also checked in with Matt Zaniboni of WKKL whose top picks were Shipyard Pumpkinhead, always a tasty fall beer, and Death Angel’s latest The Dream Calls for Blood (Nuclear Blast) which I definitely agree was a tasty record from 2013.

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You can check out my top records here, but for my top beer I have to agree with Bram on the Warlock. Southern Tier topped my favorite fall beer, Pumking, with something that’s even more delicious.

Cheers to another year of awesome beers and awesome records!

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