By: Friends at Gravity Records
Let us preface this by saying these are not the best albums of 2013, as the term “best” is very subjective. But the following three releases just so happen to be our personal favorites of the year. All as different as the locations they were recorded, from the highest end studios on the planet in Paris and Los Angeles, to an attic studio in Virginia, to a bar in North Carolina, the one thing all of the albums have in common: They are all incredible pieces of art from extremely different songwriters. That being said, we at Gravity Records present a sonic year-in review.
On Gross Ghost’s second release, we hear a newfound complexity to the ‘60s garage pop arrangements that made us fall in love with the group the first time we laid ears on them. With lyrics more illusionary than on their previous effort “Brer Rabbit,” lead singer and songwriter Mike Dillon (the clown prince of the N.C. music scene) doesn’t hit us over the head with his words, but leaves us with a little more room for interpretation.
Recorded at The Pinhook (a music venue/ bar in Durham, NC), “Public Housing” shows immense growth as a band and Dillon blossoming as a force to be reckoned with as a songwriter. We highly recommend it if you like drinking until 4 a.m., sleeping past noon, not doing laundry, making the best of a broken heart, and waking up next to somebody you don’t know.
“Red Face Boy b/w Pillows”
Many of you may already know Ivan Howard from his long and profound career with the darling indie-rock band The Rosebuds. Howard Ivans is a moniker that Howard chose to use for his new musical project, which may very well be our absolute favorite release of 2013. The project is the love (unlimited) child of Howard and the Spacebomb house band, (from Virginia’s Spacebomb Records), a group of musicians that play on every release. The A-side “Red Face Boy” flawlessly orchestrates and nods to Minneapolis funk and ‘70s Motown. Think Prince, Michael Jackson, etc.—you get the idea. The Bside
“Pillows” is a timeless satin-lined R&B joint. The release brings to mind the songwriting team of Holland/Dozier/Holland and the Funk Bros in Motown’s prime. While a nod to the days of yore, Howard seems to have the Delorean generating the necessary 1.21 gigawatts to be able to straddle the past and future effortlessly. These songs sound familiar but new and most certainly not dated.
As smooth as Howard’s crooning is, the real deal-sealer comes from the musicians. Without a doubt, this crew contains some of the tightest, most proficient musicians working today. They are every bit as proficient as they are groovy and tasteful. With a full-length release on the horizon in 2014, we are salivating at the musical prospects from Howard Ivans in the new year.
The Love Language
Recorded, shelved and re-recorded by former band member B.J. Burton (a permanent staple at Justin Vernon’s April Base studios) over a period of two-plus years, “Ruby Red” finds The Love Language’s only constant, Stuart McLamb, finally settling into his sound. At once both comfortable and confident, these songs offer radio- ready hooks, Spector-esque orchestral strings, garage-rock guitars, ‘60s girl group melodies and McLamb’s own brand of rock ‘n’ roll. This time around, though, McLamb has introduced some ‘80s elements and darker vibes that mesh well with his familiar signature sound.
As with the second release from the band, McLamb once again let loose his white-knuckled grip on the reins of the recording process that was present in the band’s first release; he has let outsiders into the fold with marvelous results. The band is finally hitting its stride and showing the world that McLamb is one of the best songwriters out there today. It may have been a long wait for the release but it just marinated and got that much better before it was brought to our (turn)tables.