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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Best of 2013: The Records

Yup, it’s that time of year for making lists and checking them twice. To see what records were my favorite this year. I’ll also be doing a list of the best beers I drank this year too, but that’s coming soon.

10. Motorhead- Aftershock- UDR

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Health issues can’t stop Lemmy. Motorhead’s 21st album shows that the band has absolutely no plans to stop rocking and melting faces off of a whole new generation of new fans.

9. Tegan and Sara- Heartthrob– Vapor/Warner Bros.

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I forget sometimes that Tegan and Sara have been a band since 1995. 2013’s Heartthrob is a fun record, great for dancing, and a new facet to the sound of the insanely prolific duo.

8. Big Star- Nothing Can Hurt Me- Omnivore

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The soundtrack to the documentary of the same name is a chronological trip through Big Star’s initial career, comeback, and aftermath of the death of Alex Chilton. It’s pretty cool to listen to in that way, even though most of the songs are ones people familiar with the band know well. I’m just glad I get to put a Big Star album on my year end list!

7. Clutch- Earth Rocker– Weathermaker Music

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Lead by one of my favorite beards in rock, Neil Fallon, Clutch’s follow up to 2009’s “Strange Cousins From The West” is a beast of a record, and their live show supporting it even moreso.

6. Skeletonwitch- Serpents Unleashed– Prosthetic

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The fifth studio album since their first in 2004, Skeletonwitch is quickly becoming one of the hardest-working bands in metal, and their records are becoming better and better with each one that comes out.

5. Frank Turner- Tape Deck Heart– Xtra Mile/Interscope

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Although Frank Turner’s records seem to continuously move away from his hardcore days in Million Dead, the man writes some killer melodies and great lyrics.

4. Ghost- Infestissumam– Loma Vista

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Ghost continues to impress me with everything they come out with. Channeling 70s-psych with well-placed organs, Papa Emeritus and his band of Nameless Ghouls do a great job of making an interesting, at times strange, second album.

3. Kvelertak- Meir– Roadrunner

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My new favorite Norwegians melted my face off with their self-titled debut record, so as soon as I heard they were recording a sophomore album, I was psyched. Meir doesn’t break any boundaries, but I would definitely say it’s just as fun listen as their first record.

2. Mark Mulcahy- Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You– Mezzotint/Fire

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One of New Haven’s finest. Mulcahy’s first record since 2005 is a wonderful pop album. There really isn’t a bad song on it in my opinion.

1. Neko Case- The Worst Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight The More I Love You– Anti

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I keep returning to this record since it came out. Neko Case continues to wow me with her songwriting, and I was also lucky enough to catch her performing songs from this live at Radio City Music Hall earlier this fall. The songwriting style is personal, but can be interpreted in many different ways, which is something that really drew me to this record.

Honorable Mentions:

Suicidal Tendencies- 13- Suicidal

Black Sabbath- 13- Vertigo/Universal

Janelle Monae- The Electric Lady- Wondaland/Bad Boy

Blood Ceremony- The Eldritch Dark- Metal Blade