Guitar World Staff Picks: Brad Tolinski's Top 10 Albums of 2013
They say Christmas and New Year's are the worst times for people grappling with depression.
I know thinking about the state of music in 2013 certainly hasn’t helped my state of mind. Bad pop is so pervasive in our culture that even if you want to avoid cornball showbiz garbage like Miley Cyrus, The Voice, Imagine Dragons and the preposterously pitch-corrected mewlings of Katy Perry, it’s damn near impossible.
Despite the Orwellian take down of our culture (Actually, I think Big Brother would have better taste), there was interesting music being made.
Here are a few things I liked — but don’t expect to see any of it on the MTV Music Awards soon.
02. HUMBLE PIE, Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore—The Comlete Recordings — A phenomenal re-issue. No editing or re-sequencing—just four sets of Steve Marriott singing his balls off in 1971, while a very young Peter Frampton plays his weird hybrid of jazzy heavy metal. There is much here to recommend for connoisseurs of fine guitar tones.
03. DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, One of Us Is the Killer — One of the best and most imaginative metal bands working today. They are aggressive, surprising, dissonant and surprisingly melodic in all the right ways. Great arrangements that are impeccably recorded make this a breakthrough album.
04. ARCTIC MONKEYS, AM — OK, OK, I know these guys have at least one big toe dipped in some very commercial waters, but “Do I Wanna Know?” is my favorite guitar riff of the year and AM is one of best-engineered rock albums I’ve heard in while. The sounds are huge, but there’s a sense of space and dimension that reminds me—improbably— of both Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Elvis’ Sun Sessions.
05. JOHNNY WINTER, The Essential Johnny Winter — One of the rare “quicky” repackages that actually gets it right. By focusing on some of Johnny’s better live performances, this double-CD set captures what makes tone of our most important and exciting American bluesmen. In the spirit of full disclosure, I wrote the liner notes. But it was because I really, really, really wanted to.
06. MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD, From His Head to His Heart to His Hands — Poor Mikey. In the mid-Sixties he rivaled Clapton and Hendrix as one of the most important young blues/rock guitarists in the world. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as sexy as Jimi or savvy as Eric, and he died way too soon. This box set by Sony Legacy, complete with DVD documentary, is a great introduction to a fascinating, talented and tragic figure.
01. SAVAGES, Silence Yourself — This is probably my favorite album of the year. Like an evil wind, guitarist Gemma Thompson’s noisy, jagged clatter seems like the only thing furious enough to blow away all the airbrushed, over-produced bullshit I get exposed to on a daily basis. Great live band as well.
07. PROTEST THE HERO, Volition — It may sound knee-jerk and unfair to compare this great progressive Canadian metal band to that other great Canadian progressive band, Rush, but there’s no denying the similarities between the wail of Hero’s singer Rody Walker and Geddy Lee. And like Rush, Protest is challenging, quirky and flat-out mofos on their instruments. The album gets a boost from drummer Chris Adler from Lamb of God, who adds urgency and is incredible throughout.
08. THE ARISTOCRATS, Culture Clash — Lots of guitarists can play the spots off their instruments these days, but can they engage and entertain? What makes Culture Clash special is that Guthrie Govan’s trio works hard to keep you guessing. This album is like eating a box of very good assorted chocolates.
10. BLACK SABBATH, 13 — The grizzled architects of heavy metal created an album that is 13 times better than anyone expected. Tony Iommi might be battling cancer, but he doesn’t slack for second, constructing riffs more solid, durable and monumental than Stonehenge itself.
09. DAVID BYRNE, How Music Works — This is not album, but a really terrific book. Byrne, a fine songwriter and guitarist, ponders the mysteries of music from a number of technical and philosophical angles. Whether you play classical music or death metal, you will find ideas that will make you a better artist.