Lamplighter’s Top 5 Albums from 2013*
Okay, maybe we should preface the list with an explanation. It’s not so much a list of the top five albums from 2013 as it is a list of the top five albums from New Jersey artists of alternatives genres that we were made aware of, that we actually had the time to listen to, and that we already had conveniently linkable and promotable reviews of. But that title just doesn’t draw you in like “Lamplighter’s Top 5 Albums from 2013” does, so we slapped an asterisk on it and clicked “Publish.” Not that it really matters what we call this, because you’re too busy with your Facebook debate about Yeezus‘ position on Pitchfork’s year end list to actually read ours. For those of you who didn’t see that list, Yeezus was ranked #2, it deserved it, and here’s Lamplighter’s Top 5 Albums from 2013.
#5. Growing Pains – Trees Above Mandalay
February saw the long-awaited release of Rockaway pop-rockers Trees Above Mandalay’s six-song EP Growing Pains. However, this was soon followed by an announcement that the band would no longer be making music after their final show in August. Maybe we’re just clinging to their parting gift like that sweatshirt your ex-boyfriend left at your house three years ago. Or maybe it’s actually a solid pop-rock album full of the frenetic musical energy and sardonic lyrics that made us fall in love with Trees Above Mandalay in the first place. Probably a little bit of both, so don’t expect us to give this sweatshirt back.
#4. Empathy – Duo
It’s hard to find an honest emcee in the rap arena when every artist is singing their own praises on anything they record. Yeah, Drake may be honest about missing an ex-girlfriend or two, but you won’t catch him rapping about his own struggle with self-harm. In that way, Duo’s Empathy does honest rap, and then some. It functions as a two-part pseudo-concept album, on which each track is meant to convey a different piece of the emotional spectrum. The first half represents the negative emotions, while the latter speaks to more positive sentiments. The negative half is where Duo’s lyrical self-deprecation truly shines, and it’s this humility that makes Empathy a record too refreshing to be ignored.
#3. Relax Man… You’re Actually Just Energy Condensed to a Slow Vibration – All Sensory Void
As much as we didn’t want to be tasked with typing the album title out once again, All Sensory Void’s Relax Man… You’re Actually Just Energy Condensed to a Slow Vibration fought it’s way onto this list. The solo project of multi-instrumentalist Eric Goldberg, it was self-described as the love child of J. Mascis and Elliott Smith, and we had to agree. Goldberg channels the best of both of these influences for an album that is absorbing in its charisma. Really, All Sensory Void’s brand of reverb-soaked garage rock just makes dirty sound so clean.
#2. A Lifeblood Psalm – The Twenty Committee
When the first piano chords break through a cacophony of speaking voices on “Introduction,” the full cinematic scope of The Twenty Committee’s debut full-length begins to sink in. This isn’t the exclusive prog-rock of years before. It’s a brand that invites and welcomes across genre lines with a warm, larger-than-life sound that swells just as effectively as it subdues. A Lifeblood Psalm is equal parts talent and accessibility, and it is quite possibly the most well-polished record of the year.
#1. We’ll Grow Out of This – Modern Chemistry
We’ll Grow Out of This is the latest EP from New Brunswick’s own Modern Chemistry, and it’s a fantastic fusion of pop-punk and hard rock sounds. The best parts of The Dangerous Summer, The Foo Fighters, and Brand New can all be found in full force on this album. What’s more is that these six songs display a nearly matchless understanding of the delicate balance between and aggression and restraint, transitioning seamlessly from moments of loud tension into quiet releases of emotion. To sum it all up with the cheesiest of conclusions, We’ll Grow Out of This is a record we’ll not soon be growing out of.