ALARM's 51 Favorite Albums of 2013

ALARM’s 51 Favorite Albums of 2013

Saving the best for last, we’ve chosen our 51 favorite albums of 2013, pulled from the acclaimed and the unsung — some of the best as well as most boundary-pushing releases from rock and beyond.

Q&A: Gotye on weird samples, dream collaborations, and performing a mega-hit

Gotye: Making MirrorsGotye: Making Mirrors (Universal Republic, 1/31/12)

In early 2012, Australian singer/songwriter Wally De Backer — a.k.a. Gotye — exploded across American media thanks to the pop wonderment of “Somebody That I Used to Know.” For the better part of the year, the song was impossible to miss, and for good reason. But the causeway of hooks, timbres, and samples on Making Mirrors proved that there’s more to Gotye than one hit — even if that hit always gets the crowd going.

Other than the metal fence on “Eyes Wide Open,” what’s the weirdest thing that you’ve sampled?

I sampled some antique slab spoons on a mobile that I found in an antique shop. I sampled a music box on [“Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You”] — sampled the sound of winding it up and letting it spin down with the different notes, and kind of made a manual vibrato on it by opening and closing the lid as it was playing into the microphone.

Segway out of Hell: Soundgarden stars in Dave Grohl-directed absurdity, “By Crooked Steps”

Soundgarden: King AnimalSoundgarden: King Animal (Universal, 11/13/12)

Soundgarden’s King Animal, its first album in 16 years, is both a welcome return to form and an exercise in creative experimentation. Now the band has teamed with renaissance man Dave Grohl in a video for heavy rocker “By Crooked Steps.” And with Dave behind the lens, the serious tone of the music doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little bit of lighthearted fun.

ALARM's 50 Favorite Songs of 2012

ALARM’s 50 (+5) Favorite Songs of 2012

Last month ALARM presented its 50 favorite albums of 2012, an eclectic, rock-heavy selection of discs that were in steady rotation in our downtown-Chicago premises. Now, to give some love to tunes that were left out, we have our 50 (+5) favorite songs of last year — singles, B-sides, EP standouts, soundtrack cuts, and more.

ALARM's 50 Favorite Albums of 2012

ALARM’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2012

Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. As always, we encountered way too much amazing music, from Meshuggah to The Mars Volta, Converge, Killer Mike, P.O.S, and many more.

50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals who caught our ears with some serious jams.


Record Review: Soundgarden’s Live on I-5

Soundgarden: Live on I-5Soundgarden: Live on I-5 (Universal / A&M, 3/22/11)

In an interview conducted on A&M Records’ Hollywood lot around the release of Soundgarden‘s pivotal 1991 album, Badmotorfinger, bandleader Chris Cornell summed up the iconic Seattle quartet’s approach to working in the studio: “We’ve always been looking to capture what we sound like live on tape. I think that’s what most rock bands try for — and that’s probably most rock bands’ biggest problem when it comes to recording a record.”

It was a curious statement considering that, if anything, Soundgarden had the opposite problem. Known for its signature brand of heaving, de-tuned muscularity, Soundgarden also played a counterbalancing sense of agility to supreme advantage on record. In concert, however, the band routinely stumbled, more weighed down than liberated by its own bulk, to say nothing of the fact that Cornell had trouble matching the piercing wail of his studio vocals.

Fortunately, Soundgarden’s onstage flaws recede to the background on this newly assembled live album. Comprised of recordings from a string of West Coast dates in November and December of 1996, Live on I-5 reveals that Soundgarden, captured here just months before breaking up, was a surprisingly limber and inventive unit. Unbeknownst to the band members themselves — or to recording engineer Adam Kasper, who also manned the boards for Soundgarden’s final studio album, Down on the Upside — these performances would be Soundgarden’s last in the continental USA.

Moses Supposes

Moses Supposes: BS chart of the weak

Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at

Boy, it pains me to have to agree with Bob Lefsetz, but his take on this “Chart of the Day” business is on the money.  The chart is pure nonsense. And no, my use of the pun “weak” in the banner is not one of my common misspellings.

For those catching up, a chart on Silicon Alley Insider of unspecific authorship titled “The Death of the Music Industry” has gone viral.  Most of the sites re-posting and re-Tweeting it as “fact,” no surprise, are those that cater to the technology industry. If you’re a reader of mine, you’ll be able to see the flaws in its logic at first glance.  As the tech industry loses its grip on its insidious campaign to devalue music, biased stories of the “dying music biz” become more and more transparent.

In essence, the chart shows the decline in CD shipments and how digital sales have not made up the difference.  Duh. Everyone knows that, but how is a decline in CD unit shipments equal the “death” of an industry that still brings in $10 billion per year domestically, and has been growing in revenue consistently over the past five years (albeit slowly) while everything else in the Western world is falling apart?

ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC all have posted record-breaking revenue year after year, and though it’s true that EMI is headed for the auction block, Universal and Sony don’t seem to be selling their corporate jets anytime soon.

The chart bases its logic by showing a decline in units shipped as reported by the RIAA.  It’s no secret to my readers that not only does RIAA shipping data not demonstrate the entire music-revenue picture, it doesn’t even give you enough pieces of the puzzle to render the outline.  Why?

You want the charts? Here are the charts. (See my chart of the week.)

Killing Joke

Killing Joke: Honoring the Fire

Reunited with its original lineup for the first time since 1982, Killing Joke is back with more than just muscular riffs and soaring melodies — instead offering a homeopathic cure for the decline of Western society.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.