Song of the Moment: Angel Olsen - “Forgiven/Forgotten”

Because sometimes a day is just too long.

Artist: Angel Olsen
Song: “Forgiven/Forgotten”

After an album of dreamy acoustic folk, 2012’s Half Way Home, Angel Olsen kicks in the door with the first single from her follow-up, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. “Forgiven/Forgotten” is a self-deprecating lament of an unrequited love set to a tune of driving, aggressive West Coast garage. Angel’s voice may plead forgiveness, but her guitar attack bashes her head for being stupid enough to fall in love.


While I don’t mind ranking albums at year’s end, doing the same for songs just doesn’t sit right. Everything here is posted in playlist order, so no one should get worked up over who beat whom.

Go ahead and press play below, then read on. Or, if you don’t want to be subjected to the over-indulgent, meandering extended version of Beck’s “I Won’t Be Long” (the only version available on Spotify), individual songs are embedded with each synopsis.

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THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #1: Jon Hopkins - Immunity


Jon Hopkins
[Domino; 2013]

After a long CV comprised of collaborations with Coldplay, Imogen Heap and Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins seemed due to show the scope of what he alone is capable of, and to take full credit. Now, with his fourth proper solo release (sans film scores) he has made an indelible name for himself, not just in the electronic dance community, but the music world at-large. Immunity tells the tale of one epic, harrowing night in the city, full of street noise, clubs, drugs and, at last, rest. By loosening his grip on the glitchy EDM trappings of his earlier releases, Hopkins has learned to use steady, slowly evolving grooves to create this seamless story arc. The drama builds to its apex, feeling like a rave gone horribly wrong, with “Collider” – an endlessly swelling 9-and-a-half minutes built upon a single repeating bass note. And just when it seems too much to bear, “Abandon Window” breaks out of the maddening loop, to a clean air of pristine ambient piano. From the high of conquering the night, to the fear of just trying to survive it, Immunity finally brings the relief of knowing you made it through.

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #2: Moonface - Julia With Blue Jeans On


Julia With Blue Jeans On
[Jagjaguwar; 2013]

In the two years since Wolf Parade played its last show, most praise and attention has turned to guitarist Dan Boeckner’s latest project, Divine Fits. But, out on the periphery quietly sits Spencer Krug and his Moonface project, having already released three albums in these ensuing years. Krug is a frighteningly prolific songwriting savant, soft-spoken and aloof, only opening up to spit out a Tourette-like blaze of profound lyricism. His last few releases as Moonface have demonstrated an artist searching his inward and outward limits, from the 20-minute single-song composition Dreamland: Marimba and Shit-Drums, to his collaboration with the Finnish prog band Siinai, Heartbreaking Bravery. Julia With Blue Jeans On is Krug’s self-admitted love album, written and recorded over the span of an isolated winter in Helsinki. Here he is at his most bare and honest, stripped to just piano and a naked, plaintive voice. The Satie-like compositions and literary mumblings perform a delicate dance, with each taking the lead for lengthy stretches. This is Krug at his best, letting his hands run away along the keys while words that kindle the imagination clumsily fall from his mouth.

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #3: Tim Hecker - Virgins


Tim Hecker
[Kranky; 2013]

The photograph on the cover of Virgins, Tim Hecker’s seventh solo LP, may be the perfect visual representation of the music that lies within. The dimly lit cathedral image, simultaneously alluding to the crucifixion, and an all-too-famous snapshot from Abu Ghraib, warns of the maker’s penchant for tightrope-walking the sacred and the profane. Virgins quietly draws the listener in with an ethereal siren song, then pummels relentlessly with blasphemous walls of static and thunder. Hecker’s rogue waves of electronic noise, in defiance to any genre classicism, draw almost entirely from the live instrumentation of his friends – notably in the chest-shaking baritone sax of Colin Stetson. The origins of these sounds may be human, but the idea that any human could reproduce them is entirely implausible. Hecker has created a discomforting symphony to fill the most glorious churches, while making him worthy of ex-communication.

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #4: Deafheaven - Sunbather


[Deathwish; 2013]

It would be crass to say that Deafheaven are the saviors of extreme music, but for much of 2013 it nearly felt that way. The San Francisco duo’s sophomore LP, Sunbather, was not only a gorgeous, aching metal masterpiece; it was a huge crossover smash. It was even deemed the highest rated album of the year – a first for a metal album - by review aggregator Metacritic, beating out Kanye’s Yeezus (Thank Yeezus!). Clearly, it’s been said a million different ways by a million different journalists, but Deafheaven’s heart-wrenching blend of black metal and shoegaze defy both of those monikers to birth something unique and transcendent. Chief songwriter Kerry McCoy’s guitars swirl in a fiery vortex one moment, and chill to a watery reverberation the next, while vocalist George Clarke spews gut-wrenching angst. Behind those screams – if you’re able to parse a word – is a devastatingly lonely soul laid bare. If Sunbather is any indication of the new frontiers of metal, the fringes of the musical spectrum might soon become our mainstream.

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #5: Disclosure - Settle


[PMR; 2013]

To say Disclosure are wise beyond their years is an understatement. 19-, and 22-, year-old (respectively) brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence are so steeped in Chicago House and UK Garage that you’d think they were there for the movements - or at least alive at the time. In a year when Daft Punk traded their French Touch for live instruments and Disney-like cultural icon status, it’s a relief to see a duo so young breakout with a debut as infectiously danceable as Settle. The two keep their songs stripped to just the bare essentials: a brilliant groove and thoughtful guest-vocal contributions (AlunaGeorge, Jessie Ware). This seemingly foolproof technique yields one big body-moving opus after the next, letting up for only the occasional breath-catching interlude. Having already succeeded at such a grand undertaking, Disclosure have both the base, and the time, to grow a cult that rivals that of their robot forebears.

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #6: Rhye - Woman


[Innovative Leisure; 2013]

It’s no secret that Rhye frontman Mike Milosh has a fondness for his wife, and womankind in general, that borders on obsession. Woman, the album, is a celebration of this love that praises the fairer gender while sidestepping the trappings of misogyny. Milosh’s perpetual falsetto recalls Sade, breathy but sure, while the backing of multi-instrumentalist Robin Braun boasts some of the most seamless arrangement since Steely Dan. Together, the two coax an album that’s sexy without being sleazy, innocent without being naïve – like a sun-drenched afternoon of play on perfectly white sheets. 

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #7: Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God


Jim James
Regions of Light and Sound of God
[ATO; 2013]

Regions of Light and Sound of God is the first proper solo release from prolific My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. And, as his band has started to sound a bit tired in recent years, the album couldn’t have come at a better time. It serves as the perfect palate-cleanse, or a fresh introduction to Mr. James’ 14-year catalog. The songs range from the sweetheart folk of “A New Life,” to the dystopian grief of “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” but share an old-world classicism seen through a future lens. Far from steampunk, Light and Sound is what one might expect if The Flaming Lips took up blues and soul.

THE TOP 13 ALBUMS OF 2013 - #8: James Blake - Overgrown


James Blake
[Republic; 2013]

“I don’t want to be a star / but a stone on the shore / Long door, frame the wall / when everything’s overgrown.” That first hook from Overgrown’s title track, and album opener, makes it clear that James Blake is striving for some structure and consistency in his world. With the jet-set lifestyle of touring stardom wearing thin, his gaze is fixed on a single partner. This is bedroom music at its most intimate, with whispers of encouragement and beats that often sound more like rainfall than drum ‘n bass.

Unlike the haphazard collection of extremes that made up his eponymous debut, Blake creates his own musical consistency on Overgrown. The songs lull with a humid, sexual air, slowly morphing to a near-trance. Through it all, he repeats the same short, simple lyrical mantras, making slight alterations as he goes. Blake treats his own voice the way other IDM enthusiasts treat their ‘90’s R&B samples – the ghostly lover endlessly peeking through the groove to tug at your heartstrings.

Note: This album would have ranked higher on the list, had it not been for the egregiously out of touch rapping cameo from RZA on “Take a Fall for Me.”