Back to 2013 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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The early versions of these “back to” articles felt like I was looking at a distant past, a version of myself that was so far removed from who I am today, a version doing things I can only remember around the edges. More the shape of memory, less defined lines. This year we get to 2013, only a couple years from the end of this iteration of this project.1 I look at the staff’s 2013 best of list and the memories around these albums feel fresh in my mind. I remember the buzz around The National. I remember The Wonder Years destroying our web server with the most-streamed song premiere we ever did. To date, that song’s been streamed over a half a million times on Soundcloud. I remember the return of Fall Out Boy, the legal drama of A Day to Remember, the My Chemical Romance hiatus, and my utter obsession with this new band called The 1975.

For me, 2013 is a year of contrasts. I’m living in the city for the first time, moving in, finding my footing, and discovering this entirely new world. And it is invigorating and inspiring in wholly new ways. And yet work is extremely stressful. From trying to juggle the madness of the bureaucrats and traffic goals and resource allocation, to the beginning of us starting to peel back the sexism at the root of our music scene; I was beginning to feel extremely overwhelmed. And yet I’m also starting a new relationship while both of us are exploring significant changes in our lives2, and we’re spending more time on FaceTime than should be legally allowed.

This staff list, in particular, shows how tastes were starting to expand. We see albums from Kanye West, Drake, Justin Timberlake, alongside albums from The National, Arcade Fire, The World Is A Beautiful Place…, next to records from staples like Fall Out Boy, Paramore, and Jimmy Eat World. It’s the kind of collection of artists that I’ve only ever seen combined on AbsolutePunk and here on Chorus. Where Fall Out Boy, or Have Mercy, or The Wonder Years can be talked about and held with the reverence as the current critical darlings of the rest of the music world. It’s what I think makes us special.

Looking back at my list now, I think what’s most striking is my placement of albums. I did an awful job of putting albums in an order that would hold up to how I listened to them over the next few years. Fall Out Boy’s too low. Paramore only made the honorable mentions. The National is too low. Those Justin Timberlake albums haven’t aged very well for me, too long, too overstuffed. I think I was just excited to get new music from him. But my top ten still holds up relatively well, needing only a few tweaks for it be a group of ten albums that stand against any other year.

In hindsight, it’s impossible for me not to think of 2013 as the year of The 1975 and the return of Fall Out Boy. The first 1975 full-length was only the beginning of what would be an incredible run of music, massive popularity, and critical acclaim. And then there was everything surrounding the rumors, the speculation, and then Fall Out Boy returning with an album announcement, video, and tour dates all at once. A pitch-perfect return. As I’ve been spending the past week or so bringing back various historical memories from AbsolutePunk, these are the moments that are hard to recapture. I can bring back some reviews and interviews that were lost to time to help explain and tell the history of this music scene for future generations, but there’s much lost in the news articles from that era as well. And while I maintain that seeing much of that comment section forever buried in molten lava brings me peace, there’s a tiny part of me that would like to pull up the Fall Out Boy reunion news article or The 1975 review, and re-read through it. If only for a day to see who was right and who was dead wrong, on their predictions for those bands’ continued successes.3

So, let’s re-rank the list. The same arbitrary rules I’ve been using the past eight weeks apply here.

Best of 2013 (Re-Ranking)

  1. The 1975 – The 1975
  2. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
  3. A Wilhelm Scream – Party Crasher
  4. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
  5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
  6. Paramore – Paramore
  7. HAIM – Days Are Gone
  8. Deafheaven – Sunbather
  9. Jimmy Eat World – Damage
  10. Shad – Flying Colours
  11. Direct Hit – Brainless God
  12. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
  13. Hellogoodbye – Everything is Debatable
  14. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
  15. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
  16. Josh Ritter – The Beast in its Tracks
  17. Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter
  18. John Mayer – Paradise Valley
  19. Andrew Belle – Black Bear
  20. Kanye West – Yeezus
  21. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience (Part 1)
  22. Cartel – Collider
  23. Better Off – (I Think) I’m Leaving
  24. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
  25. Iron Chic – The Constant One
  26. Bad Religion – True North
  27. Balance and Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing
  28. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
  29. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  30. Dessa – Parts of Speech

One thing I’ve learned from doing these re-rankings is that while I may be one of the most well known “Fall Out Boy fans” in existence, I also consistently underrate them in their release year. I have consistently put them lower in my lists than what ends up playing out in replayability over the following years. Maybe at some point, I’ll stop doing that.

It’s impossible for me not to keep The 1975 at the top. While that album, in my opinion, continues to hold up quite well, it’s also the beginning of what can only be described as an era for the band on our website. It fit itself so perfectly into my life in 2013 and they have been the band that I’ve grown up with through my thirties. Teenage me had Blink-182, thirty-year-old Jason has The 1975. They’ve just become that band.

A Wilhelm Scream albums have also aged like fine wine. I find them consistently re-playable and at the top of these re-ranking lists. I will always remember walking around the city in the fall with Pedestrian Verse on repeat, and it’s hauntingly difficult for me to make it through that record today. Paramore sees a boost up the list, Justin Timberlake falls. Direct Hit! and Bad Religion join the list for the first time and a bunch of the other moves feel almost cosmetic. The list needed some tweaking, but it’s not that much of a holistic change. That top ten sure is something to reckon with though; I could listen to all of those albums, back-to-back, and enjoy every minute of it.

I think these next few weeks, as we move toward the final year of AbsolutePunk, 2015, are going to be an exciting walk down memory lane. These memories feel distant and yet clearer than ever before. It’s less talking about the pop-punk bands that ruled the world for a few years and remembering what happened to them and more looking at bands that still have a big place in our current musical world. The National were a big 2013 band, and Aaron Dessner just had a massive role on a Taylor Swift album. Many of these artists are not of our distant past, but of our lived present. The 1975 put out an album this year, that’ll feature highly on my end of the year list. It’s more of a glance backward in the rearview mirror at a road you just turned down. You can see where you came from even as it’s growing smaller behind you.

There’s also this underlying feeling of anxiety. These are the years where I began to feel the weight of the stress over the state of our music scene. The constant fighting. The constant drama. We’re moving toward the years of Front Porch Step on Warped Tour. Of tour managers lying to cover up sexual assault and facing the minimum of repercussions. Of a normalized scene rot that we still haven’t figured out how to work through. And this walk forward gets us ever closer to the 2016 election, and the subsequent four years that have put a low buzz of rage in the base of my neck at all times. I look upon these next few years fondly in places, messy in others, but it almost feels too close, too real, to have any actual perspective shaped by time. And yet, it was seven years ago. It’s the year I turned thirty and started to feel like an adult instead of just playing the part of one. Just far away enough to feel like the past, not far away enough to feel like history.

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  1. I have an idea of what I am going to do once we get to 2015.

  2. She was beginning her doctorate in Arizona.

  3. At least Twitter still exists for that. 👀