Agitated Atmosphere: Favorite Albums of 2013

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries across the globe.

It’s that time of year, as everyone begins to cart out their lists of album you MUST listen to. This is not so forceful. If you’re reading this, you’re likely an adventurous listener already so why apply a tone of such urgency?

As AA does every year, there will be a separate column pertaining to favorite cassettes of 2013, but for now let’s focus on favorite non-tape albums of 2013. Notice the use of the word “favorite” rather than “best,” since music’s a communal experience and better left to inclusion rather than force fed listens with Alex and the droogs.

If you require a lengthier list, you can find it slowly unveiling itself via Twitter. For now, the top of my favorites in no particular order, broken into two simple categories:

Those Covered within Agitated Atmosphere

These albums are no secrets, having been discussed and dissected on these very pages. Released at the beginning of the year, very few albums had the visceral power and allure of Thee Open Sex’s self-titled full-length.

Bathetic was label of the year in AA land as both Earn and Lee Noble released stunners on the limitless imprint.

AA would be remised not to mention Haley Fohr. As Circuit Des Yeux, Fohr continues to brave new territory in musical truths; Overdue being her most splayed and earnest release yet.

Those Not Covered within Agitated Atmosphere

1990s refugees such as Mark Lanegan (with Duke Garwood), My Bloody Valentine, and Medicine, and Mazzy Star all created albums worth gushing about, let’s reserve most of our praise for some other strangeness.

Pan American’s Cloud Room, Glass Room was an aural delight; a meditation on embracing the hum of the city and recognizing it as a living, breathing form of music. Instruments replacing harried cars and commuters but the effect still as jarring and soothing. Can I Go Home Now from Belgium’s Ignatz is his most rustic work. It’s oddly Americana with its rural back porch appropriation and yet, there’s a sense of worldly wise to its content that is missing in Western folk. Ex-Yellow Swan Gabriel Salomon dropped a late year surprise in Soldier’s Requiem, an album as militant and heart wrenching as its title implicates. But this is not mid-2000s hard rock grab at a USO tour but a brilliant soundtrack to the hardships and truths of the soldier’s life—wherever they may be and whatever war (real or imaginary) they must fight.

This year AA was introduced to Lucrecia Dalt via two slightly different but equally engaging albums: Commotus and Syzygy. Sarah Lipstate, AKA Noveller, further honed her droned-based compositions throughout No Dreams, which expands with each listen.

As always, when your friends, neighbors, or the local curmudgeon speaks about no good music in [fill in the year], kick them in the shin and direct them to the nearest non-chain record store. Tell them to read [fill in the blog] and listen without prejudice. 2013 was a great year and AA was challenged to narrow down a length list into a few artists and albums worth highlighting.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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