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Some Thoughts On 2013 So Far

My thoughts on some of 2013's releases so far. Thanks to Kronzo for the list inspiration.
1Mariam the Believer
Blood Donation

An astounding and unique record. Blood Donation is almost Bjork-esque, and is made up of dark, avant-garde 'pop' songs. Mariam's voice is incredible and she pulls off everything she goes for, and the other instrumentation is excellent as well. Hole Patterns is too short, though, and a couple of the other tracks don't stack up against the rest. Still, this is a superb record and one of the best of the year. Check it out. 4.5
2Coheed and Cambria
The Afterman: Descension

Overrated and dull, The Afterman: Descension is both a pretty bad listen and a disappointment. "Number City" is excellent, and "Gravity's" has good moments, but besides that there's not much here. The second half in particular is boring as hell, with only the catchy parts of "Dark Side of Me" leaving any sort of impact. Furthermore, the spacey spoken word stuff feels tacked on this time around (as opposed to Ascension, where it worked), and there's an irritating air of sappiness for much of the album (especially the aforementioned second half). A 2.3, but I'll round it up to a 2.5.
3 Shai Hulud
Reach Beyond the Sun

Reach Beyond the Sun contains fantastic instrumentation, interesting songs and song structures, a lot of energy, and remarkable consistency. Though not perfect- the second half isn't quite as strong as the first- it's undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year. 4.4
4And So I Watch You From Afar
All Hail Bright Futures

It's a bit one-dimensional and not as good as Gangs, but All Hail Bright Futures is nonetheless worth hearing because it is a well-performed, well-produced, and above all, fun, record. The quirkiness is almost annoying at times, though, so fair warning. 3.0
5Authority Zero
The Tipping Point

There are nice touches throughout this record, such as the acoustic guitar and awesomely heavy outro on "Shakedown in Juarez," the horns in "Today We Heard the News," and the cool ska track "Struggle." The great vocal and bass (yes, you can hear it!) performances from Jason DeVore and Mike Spero, respectively, are also pluses. Ultimately though, The Tipping Point is a pretty generic record that doesn't live up to the band's previous work. However, it isn't unlistenable and has some good songs- such as those aforementioned- as well as "Undivided." Around a 2.7 or 2.8.
6Alkaline Trio
My Shame is True

The first two tracks are good, but the album gets, for the most part, pretty generic and boring after that. Tim Mcllrath's cameo was a cool addition, though.
7This Routine Is Hell

A lot of this album just doesn't hit hard enough for me, but there are enough good riffs and sections (particularly in the second half) to warrant a mild recommendation. The vocal performance is pretty good too, but again, some more aggression would be welcome. 3.3
8The Ocean

There are some nice riffs and performances on Pelagial, but it never really takes off for me. I just feel a lack of energy here, and as a result there is very little replay value, and the record falls kind of flat. There are still enough good parts/tracks/performances for me to recommend this (mildly) but it doesn't reach the heights that it should. 2.9
9Colin Stetson
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light

I have mixed feelings about Justin Vernon's vocals on here- they don't always fit and they, overall, aren't as impressive as Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden's work on Vol. 2. However, he does have his moments, and luckily Colin Stetson's playing on here is just as amazing as ever. Indeed, Hunted is an instrumental and one of the best songs on the record- it wouldn't have felt out of place on Vol. 2- and the title track is a fifteen-minute, epic journey. All in all, this record is not as good as Vol. 2- due partly to the aforementioned vocals, and also to a few less interesting numbers- but it's still worth hearing. 3.7
10Amber Damned
Echoes - EP

Pretty generic, but listenable, EP. The title track in particular has some nice moments, and "Half Life" is well-written (not to mention I love that title!)
Sol Austan, Mani Vestan

A good dark ambient record from Burzum. Some of the songs go on for too long and they aren't all particularly interesting, but it hits more than it misses.
12The Maine
Forever Halloween

Catchy, but at the same time pretty dark and brooding, Forever Halloween is quickly becoming one of my favourite records of the year.
13Scale the Summit
The Migration

On par with The Collective; I can't decide which I like more. One thing's for sure, though: "The Traveler" is a better closer than "Drifting Figures" is. Besides that, this record has the same incredibly tight, colourful playing that Scale the Summit always puts out, and some fantastic songs as well. My only real negatives with the album are that "Sabrosa" is too short and placed somewhat oddly in the track listing, and that a little more variation, stylistically, would be welcome. Regardless, this is another superb record from a superb band.

What a superb record. Some of the most colourful black metal I've ever heard, if that even makes sense. Great flow, and excellent instrumental and vocal work all the way through. My only gripe with the album is that "Vertigo" is a little too long, but that is a really minor complaint. All in all this is one of, if not the, best record of the year (so far), and you should check it out immediately.
Newborn Sun

Some great instrumental work, however a lot of the songs on here feel a little empty, due partly to the lack of vocals. The interlude tracks are a bit disappointing as well, being too short to leave much of an impact. I would still recommend Newborn Sun, due mainly to the aforementioned instrumental prowess on it, but it isn't the best thing you'll hear all year. 3.3
16Jimmy Eat World

Awfully dull and uneventful, and the vocals are too quiet for much of the record. An album like this really relies on its lyrics, and when you have to struggle to hear them, that's a huge problem.
17Arsonists Get All the Girls
Listen to the Color

I can appreciate some of the humour on this record ("Balloon Battle" in particular is hilariously awesome), but overall Listen to the Color comes off as unfocused and most of the heavy parts (which make up the majority of the album) blur together. Also, I don't like the second vocalist. He sounds like a somewhat better version of the guy from Longshot, but in this case 'somewhat better' still means 'somewhat annoying.' 1.7
Messe I.X-VI.X

"Glamour box (ostinati)" is absolutely amazing. The rest of the album is strong as well; very dark and atmospheric. If you liked Shadows of the Sun and Wars of the Roses you'll like this too: it's stronger than the latter, and at least on par with the former. My one complaint is that I wish Garm had more vocals throughout, as he only appears on a couple of the tracks here.
Colored Sands

Great instrumental performances and many excellent riffs, but I wouldn't call "Colored Sands" the AOTY contender many would. A lot of these songs go on for too long, and as a result the record gets kind of boring, especially in the latter half. The vocals are too quiet in the mix as well, though admittedly other than that the production is fantastic. Lastly, "The Battle of Chamdo" is a nice track on its own, but is out of place in the context of the album.
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