Boxx couldn’t let the year end without taking a look back at music’s high notes. From our favorite albums and music videos to the breakthroughs and comebacks we didn’t see coming, our critics have assembled a yearbook of Top 10 lists. Today, we begin with the Top 10 Concerts of 2013 (in no particular order). Stay tuned in the days ahead for more coverage, culminating in our 2014 preview.
How to Destroy Angels – Although Nine Inch Nails had one of the more enviable comebacks of the year (read our review of their set at Lollapalooza), the side project of Trent Reznor and his wife, former West Indian Girl Mariqueen Maandig, was no less captivating live. The duo, joined by frequent collaborators Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan, were edifying towers pitted against cascading waterfall screens and dramatic backlighting. All the marks of Reznor’s technology were quelled by Maandig’s impressive vocals, though, which were less produced and more pronounced in concert making her an equal, opportune partner.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – This Montreal group began as an art project, so it’s only appropriate their live show traipses through experimental expressionism. Part kabuki, part native warrior, part anime, the makeup and moves are just as rich as the sonic palette the band produces, a mixture of industrial grit, abstract noise art, steel neck metal and sanguine J-pop. While expansive, the influences are all carefully braided with beautiful symmetry that reinterprets the paradigm of musical theater.
Beyoncé – She was caught lip synching at Obama’s inauguration, orchestrated an impromptu performance with Destiny’s Child at the Superbowl, went vegan, chopped off her trademark locks and released a secret album that nearly shut down the Internet, yet the real buzz over Queen B this year was her unprecedented Mrs. Carter World Tour, which possessed her for much of the year. Dazzling sets, countless costume changes, slick dance moves and those harrowing high notes have made her the Dream Girl we always knew she was, even when she gets her hair stuck in a fan.
Savages – Let’s just say it was hot as Hades at the Pitchfork Music Fest in July but this unassuming English post punk band, clad in varying layers of black, had the crowd on ice for much of the afternoon. A mix of Siouxsie Sioux, Ian Curtis, Chrissie Hynde and Dolores O’Riordan, singer Jehnny Beth was a magnetic Madonna, basking in the sanctified glow of the immortal instrumentalists behind her. Their combined talent might have led one to believe they were of a super human species but nimble moves made them too oiled to be machines; case in point, just try to take your eyes off drummer Fay Milton. There is no band that can do revivalist this well and no band likely to be able to copy them.
Noveller – Never let simple be understated. Noveller may just look like a girl with a guitar, but wait until you see what she can do with it. On her recordings and in her live element, Sarah Lipstate (formerly of Parts & Labor and Cold Cave) uses an arsenal of pedals and wispy violin bows to manipulate her electric guitar into a melting pot of prismatic noise rock. Paired with looping, obscure video work, Noveller is nothing short of transcendental, which she proved when she linked up with Swedish chanteuse Anna von Hausswolff this fall.
The Breeders – We had an anniversary to celebrate in 2013, the 20th birthday of alt rock staple Last Splash, which birthed the generation-defying hum of “Cannonball.” The gift, though, was for the rest of us as Kim Deal bid adieu to The Pixies and reunited with her ’93 era band mates—sister Kelley, Jim Machperson and Josephine Wiggs—to rehash the material in full, made even sweeter when they dusted off debut Pod for a number of dates. There are a few choice words for a show like this—but one that comes to mind: epic.
Chelsea Wolfe – Not only did this shepherding she-Wolfe have one of the best albums of the year (the enigmatic Pain is Beauty), but the spirited performer also provided one of the most atmospheric concerts of the past 12 months, turning art house venues into visceral emporiums by mixing torrid art folk and slow metal with hints of Dario Argento horror, American Gothic folklore and modern séances. It didn’t hurt that her talented chum, True Widow’s Nicole Estill, rounded out the bill.
London Grammar – This moody British electro pop group has barely made a dent in its passport, but they’ve already left a tantalizing crumb trail for U.S. audiences with the few shows played since they released EP Metal & Dust and debut album If You Wait earlier this year. Frontwoman Hannah Reid volleys her operatic intonation with songbird styles of Florence Welch and Trixie Whitley and the trip hop style of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. Look for a fully-fledged tour to kick off in January and run through the spring.
Royal Thunder – Superbowl Sunday was the first time I saw this crushing Georgia band, and no man, woman or child wanted to join me. Big regret. With the swagger of Led Zeppelin and the crushing licks of ‘70s-inspired psych rock the southern rock by way of heavy blues and doom band blurs the lines of modern metal and creates a layered backdrop for singer/bassist Mlny Parsonz’s dark, smoldering vocals. Since then, Boxx has caught this trio at SXSW, Roadburn, opening for Dillinger Escape Plan and Monster Magnet, and one thing’s for certain—you can never get enough of them.
Angel Haze– She almost didn’t show up for Lollapalooza. Almost. And that would have been a damn shame. But something as minute as a flight delay couldn’t keep this natural born performer away from the stage. With an amazing aptitude for quick step freestyle and the hip-hop prowess of Aaliyah, we almost needed a fainting couch after seeing this on-the-rise rap star who was packing more heat than the midday sun.
Savages photo by Richard Dumas
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