All the Best: Our Favourite Things From 2013

By Hazlitt

We here at Hazlitt take our year-end list-making very seriously. In the interest of showing you just how the consensus-sausage is made, we present our staff’s complete, unedited ballots.

JORDAN GINSBERG, SENIOR EDITOR:

Albums of the Year, Most Listened-To Division

Touché Amoré, Is Survived By
Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
Deafheaven, Sunbather
Kanye West, Yeezus
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle, Perils From the Sea
Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels
Coliseum, Sister Faith
Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus
Superchunk, I Hate Music
Mark Kozelek & Desertshore, Mark Kozelek & Desertshore
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Bells≥, Solutions, Silence, or Affirmation
Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
Tim Hecker, Virgins

Touché Amoré didn’t put out the best album of 2013—that’s a leather crown for Kanye and Deafheaven to fight over in the basement of Castle Black. But I’d be surprised if I listened to any album more this year, front to back, without getting even a little sick of it, than Is Survived By. It’s heavy without being any sort of assault—At the Drive-In and Deftones-reminiscent riffs more designed to wash over than penetrate, funny and chatty lyrics pleasantly and steadily screamed (the album starts: “I was once asked how I’d like to be remembered / And I simply smiled and said I’d rather stay forever / It was possibly my loudest cliché / But felt better than just walking away”). I don’t need music to be uplifting; usually, the most I ask of it in terms of utility is to help me get my weight up enough to go grocery shopping after work without cursing at too many dawdling grandmothers. Every song here is a minor victory, words from a guy who may have shit to overcome but isn’t so self-obsessed as to insist that we all think super hard about his problems. This is small-scale, manageable catharsis, half an hour that’ll resonate long after the #emorevival is forgotten in the pocket of a too-tight pair of Dickies.

Other than that, Major Arcana mines the nineties with perfect results and has the best, smartest lyrics of the year; Chvrches just writes flawless pop songs; Sister Faith has the doubled guitars of Jawbox (no coincidence, given that J. Robbins produced it), the tempo of Motörhead, and vocals that split the difference; the worst song on Run the Jewels is still the best/only good song anyone has written about a drug trip in at least 30 years; and between the two albums he was part of this year, Mark Kozelek sang, among other songs, one eight-minute dirge called “Baby in Death Can I Rest Next to Your Grave,” and another in which he clowns repeatedly on Eric Clapton and Nels Cline. A man for all seasons. Koz 4 Prez.

*

Album of the Year, I Am Easily Charmed and Possibly Unreliable Division

Mount Eerie, Pre-Human Ideas

Yes, this is an album of auto-tuned GarageBand demos. Yes, I find Phil Elverum delightful. (Wad Lord!) Yes, I have probably listened to this album more than literally anyone else on Earth, Elverum included.

*

Album of the Year, Sentimental Dope Division

Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt

When people ask me what my favorite band is—happens all the time in hardware stores and salons across this great nation—my default answer is still, for whatever reason, Pearl Jam, despite the fact that this hasn’t actually been true for a decade or so. Nobody is impressed by this. They are, in fact, universally disappointed. I get it. The only thing worse than Pearl Jam is a guy who likes Pearl Jam in public. And yet, this is the band I grew up with; I’m still invested, despite what seems to be a concerted effort to discourage me from such behaviors. Armed with a, let’s say, enthusiastic social media team, and subject to a press cycle that included, at one point, Eddie Vedder discussing fatherhood with the Huffington Post (brb keyboard just barfed), Pearl Jam spent this year giving its long-standing, hardcore fans an unexpected gift: permission to stop caring.

Pearl Jam - Getaway

This didn’t happen overnight, though. Starting in earnest a couple years ago, ahead of its twentieth anniversary and the accompanying two-day PJ20 festival in Wisconsin, the band that once established its cred by rebelling against Ticketmaster and refusing to make music videos has been increasingly happy to dine out on its own mythology, selling thousand-dollar vacation packages for a celebration of its impenetrable integrity. It’s nonsense, totally transparent, and that’s the point: if you’re still on board as a Pearl Jam die-hard, it’s your own fault. Nobody’s fooling you into thinking this is the same band anymore. They’re going to keep filling stadiums, with or without you; if you’d like to pare your commitment down to the mild hope that they’ll put out a listenable album every few years, they’ve made it easy on you. And Lightning Bolt is fine. It starts off with eight good to surprisingly good rock songs before a stretch of tracks that are among the least essential the band has ever recorded. But hey: eight good songs! I used to go on eBay and blow hundreds of dollars of my bar mitzvah haul on rare bootlegs and audience-shot concert videos of these guys, hungry for every bit of idiot ephemera I could find. Now? Eight songs and I’m good. That’s progress. That’s growth. Couldn’t have done it without them.

*

Concerts of the Year, Homebody Division

Baroness, The Mod Club (Toronto)
Bosnian Rainbows, The Mod Club (Toronto)
Queens of the Stone Age, Air Canada Centre (Toronto)
Pearl Jam, Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh)

I barely left my apartment this year, thanks to a dog that, in addition to being a source for nigh unlimited poopy, was also afflicted with moderate separation anxiety that really kicked in after being left alone for longer than the average workday. My girlfriend and I had to go have fun in shifts for much of the year, so we had to choose our spots wisely.

Baroness perform “March to the Sea” at House of Vans +1

Baroness was, for me, the only non-negotiable show to roll through Toronto this year. In July of 2012, they put out Yellow and Green, my favorite album of the year, and then proceeded to almost die in a horrific bus accident less than a month later when their tour bus fell 30 feet off a viaduct in England. Singer John Baizley broke an arm and a leg; bassist Matt Maggioni and drummer Allen Blickle suffered fractured vertebrae and ended up quitting the band. Nobody blamed them. But less than a year later, Baizley, guitarist Peter Adams, and some new recruits were back on the road, playing shows. Baizley had a limited range of motion in his wrist and hand, but it was enough to play guitar, and it was enough to lift that guitar over his head, rock god-style, in a move that I’m conditioned to never abide, but which just about brought me to tears after seeing it in the flesh.

I spent much of my teenage years chaperoning my youngest brother to metal shows our parents refused to go to. There were standouts—Opeth was gorgeous; Strapping Young Lad peeled the fucking paint off the walls—but few committed themselves to memory. Baroness played like they couldn’t believe they were alive to a crowd that was never shy about showing its gratitude for that marvel of luck and nature. One year to the day of the accident, Baizley wrote a note of thanks on the band’s website, closing on the line, “Till the wheels fall off.” Once you cheat death, you earn the right to tease it.

Baroness - Tour Recap [December 2013]

*

TV Shows of the Year, Monoculture Division

Breaking Bad
Justified
Top of the Lake
Game of Thrones
The Americans
Eastbound and Down
Orange is the New Black
Parks and Recreation
Rectify
Hannibal

I watched the same TV shows as everybody else. They were all very good. Except for Homeland, which I will keep watching anyway, because I hate myself.

*

Films of the Year, Homebody Division

Upstream Color
Drinking Buddies
Spring Breakers
Pacific Rim
Gravity

Same as the concert/dog dilemma: these are the best new movies I saw this year by virtue of them being the only new movies I saw this year. The screening of Upstream Color I caught was followed by an in-theater Skype conversation with writer/director/star Shane Carruth, who was subjecting himself to frequent remote Q&As as part of an admirable self-distribution effort. The problem was that Upstream Color, despite being beautifully made, is open to interpretation in a way few major films are—not just in terms of grad-school thematic discussions, but with regards to the very biology of actual events in the film itself. A man and a woman, played by Carruth and Amy Seimetz, meet after being infected by a thief with the same organism, one that inspires a sort of DMT-like respect for and communion with nature (or at least provides a blank canvas for the Earth to interact with), and fall into a kind of love that neither of them can quite understand or articulate; also, their brains and emotions are somehow linked to a group of pigs on a rural farm. It makes more sense when you see it, but people in the audience, given the rare opportunity, wanted to ask Carruth the one question he really didn’t want to answer: So, seriously, what the hell just happened?

He skirted it, saying instead that what led him to make the film was his fascination with how we form our worldviews, and how a person would remake herself if stripped of all those acquired traits and behaviors, and the difficulty (or impossibility) of breaking the sorts of cycles that bring us to such points in the first place. Are we shaped by the way we think the world sees us, he asked, or do we shape the world in our own image?

Sure, people said, but what about the pigs?

I don’t know Carruth—he seems fun—but he appeared to be dangerously close to losing his temper. It was a weird moment—an ostensibly Twitter- or Reddit-inspired experiment that probably sounded good on paper but was impossibly awkward in practice. Carruth made a movie inspired by his thoughts on the perils of falling into a conversation loop in which everybody just recites talking points at each other; on his press tour, people declined the chance to have a deeper discussion in favour of asking him to hold their hands and walk them through what they just saw. I’d be bummed, too.

*

SCAACHI KOUL, ASSISTANT EDITOR:

Four Die Hards I Would Have Rather Watched Than A Good Day to Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard
Die Hard 2 (DIE HARDER)
Die Hard
Die Hard: With A Vengeance (feat. Skinny Jeremy Irons)

10 Responses To My 63-Year-Old Father’s Attempt To Understand Miley Cyrus

“She’s trying to liberate herself from the Disney machine.”
“It’s just about attention, don’t feed into it.”
“I don’t care if you heard Piers Morgan talking about her, you need to pay attention to other things.”
“I think it’s about feminism? I don’t know, Papa, let’s just say it’s feminism.”
“She thinks she’s black. I don’t think she knows what it’s actually like to be black.”
“She’s the daughter of that guy who sang the only country song you’ve ever heard.”
“If you had that much money and a public platform, you’d probably grind a teddy bear on live television, too.”
“Oh, but you don’t have a problem with Robin Thicke and his pinky rings??”
“Look, it’s some crazy white lady, don’t worry about it.”
“Just go read a book.”


Top 10 Numbers Used In Top 10 Lists

5
7
2
1
9
3
8
6
10
4

Seven Things Childish Gambino Felt This Year

Moody
Hungry
Generally devastated
Empty
“Inspired”
Bleak
Out of breath (he was jogging)

Top Five Dads Episodes

Go fuck yourself.

Five Literary Names I Considered For My New Cat

Chris Cat-field
Paw-mas Pynchon
Kate Cat-kinson
Eleanor Cat-ton
A Cat, By Dave Eggers

Three Questions My Mom Had About Her New iPhone

“How do I make a smiley face?”
“Does the bracket go this way or this way?”
“Why does your smiley face look different?”

Seven Ways We’ll Hate Jennifer Lawrence In 2014

I’ve thought about it and I think I hate her haircut.
She talks about poop too much. Does she think we’re all her internist?
Sometimes I think she tries to hard to be our friend. Like, you’re not here to make friends, okay?
She’s sort of pudgy. I mean, not fat fat, but Hollywood fat, for sure.
I never even saw Silver Linings Playbook. No way it was better than Snow White and the Huntsman.
She laughs like Beavis.
I just think it’s time that we be horrible to a young woman who’s doing well for herself.

Four Resolutions I Didn’t Keep In 2013

Quit smoking
Lose weight
Floss more
Get around to hiding that body

Times I Enjoyed Justin Timberlake’s Music This Year

0 times

Five Things That Might Cheer Drake Up So He’ll Stop Being Such a Fucking Bummer

Hot soup
A rosy cocktail that comes with a little plastic sword through a piece of fruit
A Dad sweater, maybe with your dad’s face on it
Expensive soaps
A wife

Holidays You Forgot To Celebrate This Year

Parent’s Day
Stepfamily Day
Citizenship Day
Flag Day
Your wife’s birthday (“JANET, I SAID I WAS SORRY.”)

*

ANNA FITZPATRICK, EDITORIAL INTERN:

Five Angsty Books for Teenagers

1. Rainbow Rowell came out of nowhere (OK, Nebraska) to dominate the New York Times bestseller list with Eleanor and Park. Hormones go a-raging in this story of a high school romance expressed through mixtapes and comic books (is there any other kind?).

2. Every YA novel with a teen boy on the verge of a mental breakdown gets dubbed “The next Catcher in the Rye.” Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not that, but it’s one of the strongest contenders in recent years, following its titular protagonist around on his eighteenth birthday as he plans to commit suicide.

3. On a maybe lighter note, there’s Firecracker, a fast-paced comedy by David Iserson, TV writer for New Girl and Saturday Night Live. Astrid Krieger, a near-sociopathic teen girl on a vengeance mission, cracks witticisms as she learns to grow up.

4. Sure, there was a fantasy element to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves (sequel to last year’s The Raven Boys), but the heart of the story lay in the oh-so-sweet bromance between the book’s four male heros.

5. For nonfiction, there was Rookie: Yearbook Two edited by Tavi Gevinson, an anthology of content from the website’s second year, complete with contributions by the patron saints of adolescents, Molly Ringwald and Judy Blume.

The Eight Best Groan-Inducing Toronto Sun Puns about Fordgate

8. “Global Stuporstar” (November 6th)
7. “Foul Meowth” (November 15th)
6. “Stuporman Loses His Powers” (November 16th)
5. “Wire, Wire, Pants on Fire.” (December 5)
4. “The Mayor’s Office Rocker” (November 2nd)
3. “Stuporing to New Lows?” (November 14th)
2. “ICraq War!” (November 19th)
1. “Nightmayor on Ford Street” (October 31)

*

ANSHUMAN IDDAMSETTY, PODCAST PRODUCER:

Top 10 Threats Hazlitt Assistant Editor Scaachi Koul Has Made to Me

10. Have you heard of garbage people?
9. I am going to buy A SOUUUP.
7. I will cough on you.
6. Smell this scarf.
5. No, smell it. With your nose.
4. [Scaachi advancing towards me with her scarf]
3. I bought a new scarf.
2. I’m going to kill you.
1. I am going to buy a hat, Anshuman.

*

Top 5 Moments of 2013 That Felt Poignant Or At The Very Least A Strong 7.5/10

5. After trying molly for the first time having my dad phone in the middle of the come-down to inform me there was blood in his urine.
4. Being told my sitting down sound was the same as my getting up sound.
3. Scott Storch
2. Distinctly remembering the mouth part of my face after moving in with my girlfriend. (Smiling. I was smiling.)
1. Every time I saw “Brown Man With Turban” emoji in the wild.

Happy holidays, everyone. Thanks for reading.

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