From Black Skinheads to Pissed Jeans: We honor the most notable music of 2013 (so far)

From Black Skinheads to Pissed Jeans: We honor the most notable music of 2013 (so far)



We’re only about halfway into 2013, but this year already feels more musically exciting than 2012. With albums on the horizon from Lady Gaga, The Dismemberment Plan, and Arcade Fire—and great LPs already out from Kanye West, Deafheaven, My Bloody Valentine, Vampire Weekend, Daft Punk, and David Bowie—the race for December’s best-of music list is heating up. 2013 has seen a lot of great records and songs from more than just the usual singing suspects, though, and The A.V. Club has an opinion on most of them. Below, we bestow superlatives on what we’ve enjoyed so far.

Best song to punch/get punched to: Pissed Jeans, “Bathroom Laughter” 
There’s no better soundtrack to a bar fight this year than the opener of Pissed Jeans’ Honeys. Delivering one side of a couple’s argument at a house party, frontman Matt Korvette snarls at his crying date, “You’re in the hallway screaming, people try to get by, but you’re screaming,” before demonstrating what that sounds like. It’s a glorious slice of punishing madness. [BB]

Best single no one wants to admit they fucking love: Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines” 
Though Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is certainly not without its problems—gross and degrading lyrics about women being just one of many—it’s also a really fucking good song. That’s problematic, of course, but for those who are able to just turn off and tune in, the Pharrell-produced summer jam is an absolute joy. #THICKE. [ME]

Best industrial-rap single: Kanye West, “Black Skinhead” 
Like “Blurred Lines,” Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” has ridden through the summer of 2013 on a wave of controversy, buoyed even more by the lyrical quibbles sparked by Yeezus. While West’s words on “Black Skinhead” aren’t all that objectionable, the actual beat is damn near revolutionary, bringing Nine Inch Nails-style clangs and clomps to mainstream rap, turning a whole genre on its production ear. West might not actually care if Yeezus succeeds, but with “Black Skinhead,” at least, he’s challenged the whole hip-hop community to step up. [ME]

Best compilation that’s not even out yet: Divided & United 
ATO Records’ new Civil War-inspired double LP Divided & United isn’t out until October, but the four tracks that are out already have sparked anticipation. Loretta Lynn picks and drawls through “Take Your Guns,” and Dolly Parton duets with Stuart Duncan on “Listen To The Mockingbird,” a sweet little front-porch ditty about Hallie who “sleeps” in the valley. Throw in tracks from Old Crow Medicine Show and A.A. Bondy and the promise of even more cuts from Jamey Johnson, Ralph Stanley, Chris Thile, Sam Amidon, Noam Pikelny, Cowboy Jack Clement, T. Bone Burnett, Taj Mahal, Lee Ann Womack, Del McCoury, Steve Earle, Shovels & Rope, and more, and our interests are definitely piqued. [ME]

Best cover spawned from a network drama: Lennon & Maisy, “Ho Hey” 
While ABC’s Nashville might be a cheesy primetime soap opera with a skewed view of life in the music industry, it’s still chock full of great songs courtesy of just-departed music supervisor T. Bone Burnett. While the show’s main divas—Rayna James and Juliette Barnes—have gotten tons of original hit singles to belt out, James’ on-screen daughters, Maddie and Daphne, have just broken into the industry with a cover of something old and a little tired. Still, as Maddie and Daphne, singers Lennon and Maisy Stella do The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” all the justice in the world, turning the ho-hum radio hit into something sharp and so, so charming. [ME]

Best new badasses: Savages 
London-based post-punk quartet Savages might be a buzz band, but they’re not likely to be a one-and-done act. The all-girl crew absolutely rips live, and while that energy isn’t exactly captured on the group’s debut, Silence Yourself, it’s still a darn good record, and one that’s likely to make a lot of year-end best-of lists. Savages deserves every bit of the attention the band is receiving and are absolutely worth seeing right this very second. [ME]

Best bastardization of black metal: Deafheaven, Sunbather 
It’s a sign of strange, strange times when the metal band of the year sounds like Swervedriver covering Slowdive, but that doesn’t stop Deafheaven’s Sunbather from being the best crossover record in ages. Vicious vocals and gorgeous guitars push metal onto foreign soil worthy of the album’s pink artwork, and it’s every bit as profound as it is ostentatious. [AL]

Best punk album that doesn’t sound like a punk album: Laura Stevenson, Wheel 
Laura Stevenson may not favor power chords or Nausea back patches, but this former member of the punk collective Bomb The Music Industry! keeps her pedigree alive on her latest. On the surface, Wheel may sound like a folk album, but when Stevenson’s gorgeous pipes soar over syncopated rockers like “Runner” or the half-time dirge “Telluride,” it’s clear that there’s more power behind the LP than is found in most circle pits. [JB]

Best death metal resurrection: Sorcery, Arrival At Six 
With albums from death metal heavyweights Carcass and Gorguts still forthcoming, this category could be up for grabs come year-end. But Sorcery was the first to shake off hibernation this year with the release of Arrival At Six in January, more than two decades after its only previous studio album. These Swedes haven’t lost a bit of their brutality; the album is full of abrasive riffs, and Ola Malmström’s gravelly bellow obliterates any worry of a sophomore slump. His growl of “I’ve been reborn through my hate!” asserts that Sorcery hasn’t skipped a (blast) beat. [CL]

Best noise-rock ripper: Roomrunner, Ideal Cities 
From vets like Pissed Jeans to newcomers like Metz, tons of bands have been bringing the scuzzy, skronky noise-rock lately. But Ideal Cities, the debut from Roomrunner, is hands-down the most fuel-injected. Not only has the Baltimore outfit toured with the abovementioned groups, it in many ways outshines them—by splicing the filthiest and the brainiest ends of the ’90s noise-rock spectrum, namely The Jesus Lizard and Drive Like Jehu, while infusing the whole spastic mess with a wiry songcraft. [JH]

Best 12-minute-plus song: Nymph, “Beyond” 
The millennium is no longer new, but that’s partly why Nymph’s New Millennium Prayer is so compelling. Like a temporal vortex of psychedelic jazz-rock—or transmissions from a parallel universe where ’70s fusion never strayed from its avant-garde roots—the album’s crown jewel is “Beyond,” a song that weds the group’s pulsing, majestic quest for celestial chaos with the Yoko Ono-meets-Damo Suzuki chants of vocalist Eri Shoji. Clocking in at more than 12 minutes, it’s still too short. [JH]

Best reissue (1970s): Bobby Whitlock, Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 
Memphis session musician Bobby Whitlock hit the jackpot when he was tapped to join the Eric Clapton vehicle Derek & The Dominoes in the early ’70s. At that point, he was already a veteran of Delaney & Bonnie, which also featured Clapton, as well as a Stax sideman who’d played on many of the label’s R&B classics. But his first two soulful solo albums—Bobby Whitlock and Raw Velvet, both from 1972—have been given the deluxe reissue treatment they’ve long deserved in Where There’s A Will There’s A Way. [JH]

Best reissue (2000s): The Postal Service, Give Up 
When Give Up came out in 2003, it was kind of a sleeper. The record by Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello grew in popularity gradually, ultimately going platinum in 2012. With a million copies of the record already in circulation, making even more CDs and LPs might have seemed counterintuitive, but Sub Pop’s 2013 reissue of Give Up actually turned out to be really lovely. Packaged with a deluxe booklet and commemorative postcards, the reissue’s three LPs were pressed onto red, white, and clear vinyl, and, for a mere $33, make for a lovely little record shelf keepsake, even for those who might have already bought the original. [ME]

Best singer-songwriter album: Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt 
Katie Crutchfield proved her mettle in the pop-punk band P.S. Eliot, a joyously wistful outfit that prepared no one for how commanding her solo songs would be. Cerulean Salt is her sophomore album under the name Waxahatchee, and it’s a straight shot of bittersweet confessionals, barbed hooks, and just enough punk austerity to keep things gritty. Crutchfield’s songs grip and linger, but it’s her voice—piercing, aching, and pure—that refuses to let go. [JH]

Best overdue debut album: The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Whenever, For Ever 
Three years after the band’s debut single, The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die at last released its debut album, Whenever, For Ever, in June. It was worth the wait. Roping in the orchestral post-rock of Explosions In The Sky while keeping one foot planted in the intricate melody of ’90s emo acts like American Football, Whenever takes its sweet time building melodic monuments to triumph and loss. [JH]

Best unexpected tribute to Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman: The Besnard Lakes, “Spill The Blood” 
When Slayer guitarist-songwriter Jeff Hanneman died in May, metal bands lined up to pay tribute to their fallen hero. And then there’s The Besnard Lakes. The arty Canadian indie-rock group covered Slayer’s 1988 classic “Spill The Blood” in concert on June 29 and created a reverential version that’s as unexpected as it is haunting. By all that’s unholy, here’s hoping the band eventually lays it down in the studio. [JH]

Best reappearance by a musical hermit, part I: David Bowie, The Next Day 
David Bowie ended his unofficial retirement in a big way: On his 66th birthday, he unexpectedly announced that he had secretly recorded a new studio album. Amazingly enough, The Next Day lives up to the crushing hype that ensued, mainly because it sticks to his strengths: keyboard-frosted guitar rock touching on prog, cabaret, blues, funk, post-punk, jazz-punk, and whatever else he fancies. The element of surprise has always served Bowie well; The Next Day is no exception. [AZ]

Best reappearance by a musical hermit, part II: My Bloody Valentine, mbv 
Kevin Shields, the Axl Rose of shoegaze, finally made good on his promise to deliver a new full-length album, more than two decades after My Bloody Valentine’s last LP. While lacking the eardrum-destroying sonic punishment that marked the group’s formative output, mbv is still unsettling; “Wonder 2” has grating electro-metal pulses; “Nothing Is” contains disorienting abrasive stomps; and “In Another Way” is fragmented noise-pop. The record balances out this cacophony with warped guitar shimmers brushed by ambient and psychedelic touches, creating a pristine counterpoint that’s full of classic MBV tranquility. [AZ]

Best album with an Elton John cameo: Queens Of The Stone Age, Like Clockwork 
Sir Elton John closes out Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock & Roll on a sensitive note, singing with Patrick Stump on the album’s title track. But on the smoldering new Queens Of The Stone Age LP, Like Clockwork, John’s piano adds super-bitchy glamminess to the Mark Lanegan co-written “Fairweather Friends.” His vocal cameo on the same tune isn’t quite as sassy—but that’s only because Trent Reznor, Nick Oliveri, and Lanegan also sing on the Bowie-esque snarl. Still, John’s contributions set a seedy, moody classic-rock vibe that permeates the rest of Like Clockwork. [AZ]

Best electro record for people who aren’t electro fans: Disclosure, Settle 
Half of Disclosure can’t even drink legally yet in the U.S., although the U.K. duo (brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence) sounds like a couple of old souls on Settle. The album’s sleek techno, minimal electro, and U.K. garage feels both retro and modern, courtesy of percolating beats and vocal star power; for example, Jessie Ware and Eliza Doolittle play the role of house divas on separate songs. But thanks to strong songwriting, Settle stands apart because its songs work just as well off the dance floor as they do on it. [AZ]

Best record screenprinted with the band’s blood: From Hell, Heresy 
From Hell’s debut album, Heresy, didn’t need much help standing out. It’s as well crafted a chaotic hardcore album as those by the heavyweights of the genre like Converge and The Hope Conspiracy. But the Michigan band did go the extra mile to personalize it: They screen-printed copies of the record with a mixture of ink and their own blood. That simple DNA addition upgrades the LP from cool to creepily essential. [DO]

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Best reggae Jawbreaker covers EP: Jahbreaker, Bad Weed, Dealer’s Fault 
If you dig the music of Blake Schwarzenbach and his seminal ’90s band Jawbreaker but wish it was a bit more irie, try Jahbreaker on for size, mon. The group’s new EP, Bad Weed, Dealer’s Fault, includes Rastafarized versions of classic Jawbreaker jams like “Kiss The Bongload” and ”Hotbox Car.” So grab a Red Stripe, and enjoy it while getting nice and baked. Sorry, “blaked.” [DO]

Best hip-hop album that had every right to be phoned in, but absolutely slays: Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels 
El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music were two of the best hip-hop albums of last year, and featured some of the best work either had ever done. So when the two announced that they were working on a collaborative album with El producing and both sharing vocal duties, it was easy (and fairly justified) to assume that the result would be an entertaining, if unremarkable, victory lap of a record detailing the merits of weed and more weed. Instead, the duo put out some of the most vicious work of their careers, dropping their usual sociopolitical fury for 10 tracks of ferocious trash-talking and buzzing, anxious beats. [EF]

Best 2013 album of 1978: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories 
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have always been ahead of the dance-music curve, even when moving backward to keep their distance from the pack. While EDM fat cats like Skrillex and Deadmaus are ensconced in the hyperactive, tech-savvy sounds of the present, Daft Punk pulled off this summer’s dance-rock blockbuster by reverting back to the tasteful sounds of late-’70s disco, funk, and soul. With the help of a murderers’ row of collaborators including Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Pharrell Williams, and Julian Casablancas, the duo turned dance music on its ear by humanizing the genre with a live sound. [RB]

Best 2013 album of 1984: Tegan And Sara, Heartthrob 
The Quin sisters have always had a soft spot for keyboards, but it was still a pleasant surprise when Heartthrob found them fully immersed in fizzy synth-pop. The album feels like a cozy soundtrack to a new wave sleepover; references abound to Kate Bush’s gauzy daydreams, Prince’s romantic R&B, and even Cyndi Lauper’s unstoppable girl power. Best of all, Heartthrob has some of the most nuanced songwriting of Tegan And Sara’s career, driven by Dear Diary lyrical scrawls and folded-note confessions of love and lust. [AZ]

Most forgivable play on a Guns N’ Roses title: Milk Music, Cruise Your Illusion 
Don’t let the title fool you: Cruise Your Illusion, the full-length debut from Olympia, Washington grunge rats Milk Music, doesn’t endear itself to ballads about cold November rain, nor does it care much whether you cry tonight. Instead, the band celebrates its burly, lo-fi punk roots with rugged nods to J. Mascis, Neil Young, and scores of other ugly guitar juggernauts that inspired them. The songs are short, crudely crafted, and devoid of pretense, making for one of the leanest, purest punk offerings of the year thus far. Just don’t take these boys home to Axl. [RB]

Best middle-aged breakup album: Chelsea Light Moving, Chelsea Light Moving 
After more than 30 years together as spouses and bandmates, the breakup of indie-rock golden couple Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon last year blindsided legions of Sonic Youth loyalists. No one took it more on the chin than Moore, who channeled his inner turmoil into the self-titled debut of his new act, Chelsea Light Moving. The record is a recharged return to cranky art-rock form, which is saying something considering Moore’s love of squealing guitar noise has never really waned over the years. But with the stain of broken love on his side, the art-guitar giant has rarely sounded so raucously alive. [RB]

Best argument for not fixing what ain’t broke: The National, Trouble Will Find Me 
Trouble Will Find Me isn’t a carbon copy of Boxer and High Violet—The National continues to deepen its reverb-drenched production and complicate its time signatures—but the band’s sound has changed very little since 2005’s Alligator. With songs this good, it doesn’t matter. [DB]

Second-best argument for not fixing what ain’t broke: Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse 
Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit’s full-length debut for Atlantic Records, is the Scottish quintet’s most accessible yet. That wasn’t a big shift: The band has always excelled at intimate, likable rock, albeit a kind laced with dark wit and pathos. Pedestrian Verse, especially on tracks like the jumpy, Arcade Fire-like “Late March, Death March,” is no exception. [DB]

Best mixtape for coping with Lil Wayne’s creative decline: Young Thug, 1017 Thug 
Based on his early mixtapes, plenty of listeners dismissed Atlanta’s Young Thug as a Lil Wayne copycat, and with good reason—the rapper borrowed not only many of Wayne’s flows and tics, but also some of his signature catchphrases. On his first mixtape since joining the misfits and oddballs on Gucci Mane’s Brick Squad roster, though, Young Thug comes into his own with a syrup-guzzling spree that’s weirder, wilder, and more entertaining than anything Weezy’s done in nearly half a decade. Like Wayne in his prime, Young Thug bottles the thrill of never knowing what a rapper will say next or how bizarrely they’ll say it. [ER]

Best denouncing of everything a rapper has hitherto stood for: Waka Flocka Flame, DuFlocka Rant: Halftime Show 
Is Atlanta’s loudest goon a secret backpacker? Waka Flocka Flame has always prided himself as a non-lyrical rapper, but on his overlooked latest mixtape he gives the whole lyricism thing a go anyway, breaking from his usual gunplay in favor of Little Brother-style boom-bap revivalism. Who knew Flocka had any interest in this stuff, or that he’d sound so good doing it? Sometimes the most rewarding mixtapes are the ones that let rappers experiment with styles they’d never try on their proper albums. [ER]

Best album you originally downloaded a bootleg copy of in 2004: Rival Schools, Found 
Post-hardcore supergroup Rival Schools didn’t realize they were creating a time capsule when, in 2003, they recorded demos for a follow-up to their 2001 debut, United By Fate. But after the NYC collective—made up of dudes from Quicksand, CIV, and Youth Of Today—disintegrated that year, their “lost album” leaked onto dial-up Internet and became a digital white whale among certain circle pits. Now remastered by the reunited outfit and officially Found, its angularity and millennial urgency instantly rekindles decade-old hurts we thought we’d already dealt with and moved past in therapy. [TK]

Best mixtape that appeals to people who don’t normally pay attention to hip-hop: Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap 
Chicago MC Chancelor Bennett, a.k.a. Chance The Rapper, has all the charm and pluck of your best friend’s kid brother, which is partly why it’s so easy to feel a deep connection with the dude on his recent Acid Rap. Throughout the mixtape, he shares his childhood memories, self-doubts, hopes, moments of weakness, victories, dreams, and fears with an intimacy most people reserve for close friends, and he does it all with spectacularly sharp lyrics and a fluid, playful flow. Bennett approaches hip-hop with the eye of an experimental pop artist—“Good Ass Intro,” for example, merges soul and a Chicago-bred underground dance subgenre called juke, and he raps over the instrumental with verve, speeding up his flow at certain points until it sounds like he’s scatting. While Acid Rap is a mixtape through and through, its sound blends so well with a variety of other pop genres that it’s easily hooked folks who generally don’t care too much about hearing the latest and greatest hip-hop tracks. [LG]

Best album that creates an air of romance even if nothing remotely romantic is happening: Rhye, Woman
The guys in slinky R&B project Rhye obsess over love, and on Woman they conjure up all the intoxicating and heart-palpitating feelings that define such an amorous state. The duo’s tender, airy songs are filled with the kind of ethereal strings, melancholic keys, and stark contemporary percussion that echo in every candle-lit bedroom decorated with rose petals and satin sheets, and Mike Milosh’s delicate, silky voice coaxes listeners to find romantic settings as quickly as possible. Album standouts “The Fall,” “3 Days,” and “Open” are so mesmerizing and powerful that even a slight wordless whisper from Milosh can ignite the kind of queasy sensations that come with being engrossed by the shape of someone else’s belly or yearning for another person so much it’s hard to string together a coherent sentence. Woman exudes an air of romance that’s difficult to deny—throw this on in a depressing dive that reeks of piss and you’ll be driven to find someone to hold. [LG]

Most slept-on return to form by a band that had exhausted too much goodwill: The Flaming Lips, The Terror 
Over the past few years, Wayne Coyne’s tendency to be known for antics rather than music has reached its unfortunate apex. From releasing new music in candy replicas of body parts and making movies on iPhones, many fans and critics have had ample reason to jump ship. It’s a shame they did though, because the band’s 2013 release, The Terror, is both musically thrilling and actually terrifying, finding the band in its most fertile and productive creative space in years. Tracks like the album’s centerpiece epic “You Lust” just might convince jaded fans that all of the obsurdities were worth it, if they can just put Coyne’s mostly abrasive personality to one side. [ET]

Most boring attempt at shock-rap: Tyler, The Creator, Wolf 
Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator has been the driving force behind the group’s strategy of offending everything that moves. That tactic admittedly did a lot for Odd Future in its earlier days, garnering the crew outsized attention for shenanigans like literally causing a riot. But on his third album, Wolf, Tyler’s bag of tricks appears to be empty. Some of the beats and rhymes fitfully recall the immediacy of debut Bastard (especially maddeningly short snippet “Bimmer”), but for the most part the record finds Tyler drifting into “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” self-parody. Wolf hasn’t even succeeded in raising the ire of the easily offended—Tyler needs a racist talking goat for that now. [ET]

Most random appearance by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan: James Blake featuring RZA, “Take A Fall For Me”
James Blake’s sophomore album Overgrown moves away from the post-dubstep minimalism of his self-titled debut in favor of a lusher, more instrumental sound. That shift in Blake’s attention makes the appearance from Wu-Tang Clan general RZA on “Take A Fall For Me” all the more surprising. Though conceptually jarring and a bit bizarre, the track is reasonably well executed, playing to the strengths of RZA’s normally clumsy flow by turning it into something more like spoken word poetry surrounded by Blake’s beat and vocal backing. It’s not the best track on Overgrown, but “Take A Fall For Me” is strong evidence that Blake’s versatility, likely longevity, and ability to adapt are making his dubstep origins is a distant, wubby memory. [ET]

Most effervescent meditation on mortality: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City 
Modern Vampires Of The City is the album on which Vampire Weekend looks beyond the trappings of wealth and Ivy League social politics to grapple with something universal and therefore far more stirring: the headstone standing right in front of you and everyone you know. Lyrically, Modern Vampires Of The Weekend is brutally honest (“Age is a gift / It’s still not the truth,” oof) and clever without stooping to precociousness. Sonically, it’s a sparkling triumph of songwriting savvy and studio trickery. Never has our imminent demise sounded so lively. [CD]

Most exhilarating single on an otherwise drowsy record: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Sacrilege” 
Mosquito is mostly a downer, but you wouldn’t know it from the exultant, gospel-tinged leadoff track, an instant classic with an iconic video to match. “Sacrilege” is the demon spawn of “Like A Virgin” and “Sympathy For The Devil,” weaned on Pixies records (check the Black Francis inflection of “In our bed!” and those Joey Santiago string-bend squalls) but flushed with gauche, diving-in-crotch-first confidence that could only be Karen O. [CD]

Best obligatory EDM crossover: A$AP Rocky, “Wild For The Night” feat. Skrillex & Birdy Nam Nam 
Fuck being polite: Rapping over electronic dance music is irredeemably corny. Think Flo Rida. Think Real McCoy. Think C+C Music Factory. At the moment, though, every performer attempting to pop wheelies on the zeitgeist needs to engage with EDM to some extent. “Wild For The Night,” a lean-sloshed compendium of tectonic bass bounce and keyed-up air-raid sirens twerking in heat, might sound desperately tacky when this moment has passed. But for the time being, with assistance from Sonny Moore and some French dudes, A$AP Rocky made garish gurgling womps sound downright suave. [CD]

Best marketing campaign of the Year: Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail 
Kanye West, Daft Punk, David Bowie, and My Bloody Valentine have all favored keep-’em-guessing marketing techniques and/or short-notice release dates for new albums this year, but that gang’s combined promotional efforts can’t touch the hype machine driving Magna Carta Holy Grail. After unexpectedly announcing the record via a Samsung-sponsored, cinema vérité-style commercial during an NBA Finals game, Jay Z went on to sell a million copies before its initial July 4 release (thanks to Samsung snapping them up to hand off to Galaxy users), reverse an RIAA rule that forced albums to wait 30 days before receiving gold and platinum certification, and debut Magna Carta’s cover art in an English cathedral—right next to a copy of the actual Magna Carta. All this happened alongside the requisite social media push and careful release of track info. This was a blitz built on ingenuity, resources, and relentlessness alike. [RA]

Best song written about a professional wrestler: Night Birds, “Maimed For The Masses” 
The fact that the title track of Night Birds’ Maimed For The Masses EP is a tribute to professional wrestler Mick Foley might not set in until the chorus of, “It’s all in a hard day’s work for Mrs. Foley’s baby boy,” but the line about jumping off a cage “just like Superfly” should have been a dead giveaway. The Adolescents/Dead Kennedys-inspired cut is about as unpolished as the hardcore legend’s in-ring style, but the cavalier sound is as hard to turn away from as the former champ rolling around in thumbtacks and barbed wire. The song might also actually be more about what it means to give everything, even at the risk of self-destruction. [BJ]

Best record by a bunch of factory workers (non-Springsteen division): Cloakroom, ∞ 
Northwest Indiana’s Cloakroom boasts that it’s made up of “three factory workers from the Region,” and it’s fitting just how much the area’s steel mills inform the band’s sound. Long, laboring instrumental passages build toward a cathartic release that pours out over the course of ’s five tracks. By adorning its heaviness with delicate trappings, Cloakroom takes as much from Pedro The Lion and Jesu as the area that bred it, reflecting a dreary environment instead of becoming stuck in it. [DA]