When I started to put together the Best releases from Richmond bands this year, I quickly realized this was going to be a daunting task. I usually try to keep it a Top 10, but that went right out the window when I named off a hundred or so albums in under a few minutes. After attempts at a Top 25 also failed, I understood that I couldn’t limit the list to a certain number because there were so many incredible releases from RVA that came out in 2013. Some released full albums, others a small number of songs and some even just one song that had so much play that it would be a crime to not list it. After days of agonizing over the list, I was able to get the Top 50 RVA releases (and I’m sure I missed some of them) that made my 2013. They are IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
Fun Size – Since We Last Spoke
After its demise 15 years ago, pop punk group Fun Size got back together and released a new album, which was probably my favorite of 2013. It’s full of fun, upbeat, riotous pop punk songs that you just want to sing along to.
Goldrush – Greatest Hits
Goldrush’s debut full-length album “Greatest Hits” has the best name ever. What makes this different from the band’s other releases is that it’s very well-polished and put together without diminishing what makes Goldrush great – unpredictable, ridiculously fun pop rock music.
Stephen Frost – The Paris Metro Project
Stephen Frost started out 2013 with a resolution to record and release out a new song for free every few weeks. He posted a number of tracks throughout the year that ranged from punk rock to electro-pop, along with behind the scenes videos about the songs. While the “Paris Metro Project” was more of a collection of songs than an album, each release was still incredible. Plus, he also introduced the world to the pop hit “Fire & Ice,” which guest stars RVA music nut and local celebrity Jessi Coble.
Nick Coward and the Last Battle – Thieves
While Nick Coward and the Last Battle called it quits this year, the band managed to release what I think is the best work of its career. “Theives” is a nonstop amazing record that will be cherished by those who will miss these guys greatly.
Mayfair was a new pop punk group that featured members of Race the Sun and Love & Reverie and damn did they make a phenomenal album. Songs like “In My Head” were on constant repeat this year and I made sure everyone I knew listened to this album.
Clair Morgan – No Notes
One of my new favorite artists on the RVA scene this year was singer/songwriter Clair Morgan, who I first got to see open for The Last Bison at the Camel and was blown away. His album “No Notes” quickly became a favorite to listen to.
No BS Brass Band – RVA All Day
Nothing says Richmond like its favorite brass heroes No BS Brass Band and “RVA All Day” quickly became the city’s motto this year. There was no denying how big No BS was getting and this album easily showed how proud they are to call RVA home.
Canary Oh Canary – Sleep
Canary Oh Canary’s post wave, shoe gaze music has mesmerized Richmond for years, leading the group to develop a reputation as a must-see live band. On its first full-length album, “Sleep,” the group manages to take their incredible live show and put it on a record.
Local rock and roll band Vexine’s self-titled debut album is a straight up rock and roll album that isn’t afraid to be itself. The band doesn’t try hard to make a good album. They just do what they do and the great album simply happens. It’s full of hard guitar riffs and high energy songs and singer Sarah Gleason’s explosive vocals and the songs’ simple yet intense lyrics make this an album I’ve been listening to on repeat.
My Darling Fury – Licking Wounds
The music from “Licking Wounds” reminds me a lot of acts like Andrew Bird and Fleet Foxes with a bit of Rufus Wainwright. The sheer amount of talent on this record is mind-boggling. And it’s simply a great collection that shows off that talent.
Cosby – In Flight
After years of playing separately, brothers Chris and Chip Cosby joined to combine their talents with a new group simply called Cosby. Being fans of both Cosby brothers in their various music projects, I was equally excited to hear what they could do together. I was pleasantly surprised at how this album seemed to come out of nowhere, but I was still in love with it.
Positive No – Via Florum
You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing something about this band making waves. “Via Florum” is nothing less than a phenomenal album and if you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favor and get on this.
Dumb Waiter – Is This Chocolate?
The instrumental/avante-garde/pop noise band’s first album “Is This Chocolate?” is full of spastic drumming, syncopated bass riffs, saxophone and guitar craziness. And it all works perfectly.
Jonathan Vassar – Mercy for the Undeserving
Jonathan Vassar’s new eight song solo record returns to his stark narrative songwriting. Along with it is an unreleased album from 2003 with eight additional of songs in the same vein. Vassar is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever gotten the chance to know and his simple, yet elegant songs a treasure that Richmond is lucky to have.
Shy, Low – Binary Opposition
While there are only two songs on the post-rockers’ release, the tracks “Presence” and “Absence” working off each other in an atmospheric and emotive piece of work that you want to keep playing.
Radio B – Whole Foods
Radio B’s new album is a standout collection of hip hop that appeals to fans (and even non-fans) of hip hop. Very solid work.
Sundials – Always, Whatever
I had heard the name Sundials for years, but never fully listened to them until I got this album. I now realize what I have been missing out on. This punk group has so much power behind each of their tracks, my face melts just from listening.
The Moonbees – Money Grows on Trees
On its new album, the Moonbees keep traditional folk rock alive but keeps it fresh and updated Money may not grow on trees, but talent sure grows on the Moonbees.
Against Grace – This is Your Story
These pop rockers started the year off with a bang with “This Is Your Story,” which threw the guys into to the synth rock world and gained them a lot of radio play.
Those Manic Seas – Headache/Heartache
There are no words to explain how much love I had for Those Manic Seas this year. To see these guys develop their music from the very beginning has been a joy to witness. “Headache/Heartache” took the shoegaze they had begun to craft and added poppy layers and some catchy hooks to make this release an incredible listen.
Broadside – Storyteller
This was a relatively new favorite track from this year. My love for bands like New Found Glory, Finch and MxPx was reignited when I heard Broadside’s fast-paced pop punk antics.
Mason Brothers – Falling Together
The Mason Brothers took their indie folk rock full of sweet mandolins and edgy guitar riffs and made this well-crafted song, which I hope turns into a full blown album soon.
Hoax Hunters / Snowy Owls “split”
I had been waiting for Hoax Hunters and the Snowy Owls to release some new music this year. Both bands delivered new tracks on a split 7″ in honor of Record Store Day that were available in a “bronze smoke” square lathe cut record. While it’s only two songs, the record is a breath of fresh air for the two noise rockers. And I got the last copy when it came out, so there’s that.
24. Brian Cruse and the J. Smith Trio – con legno
Bass player Brian Cruse (Marionette, Luray, quux collective, Fado Nosso, Larri Branch Agenda, etc.) isn’t in enough bands, so he began working with guitarist Justin Smith and drummer CJ Wolfe under the name Brian Cruse and the J.Smith Trio. The Trio released its new album of original compositions that features tight knit jazz with a wide variety of sounds and textures.
The Green Boys – Oh Delia
The four-piece Americana band centers on the Green brothers’ songwriting with simple songs that have a lot of steel guitar and straightforward heart breaking, evident on its first full length, “Oh Delia.”
Victor Haskins – The Truth
The incredibly talented trumpet player Victor Haskins released his new album “The Truth” and I was floored with how talented this young man is. Every time I heard him play, it was nothing short of phenomenal.
Sports Bar – Tyler Perry’s Sports Bar
Local rockers Sports Bar have a damn impressive album. These guys know what they’re doing and I have been listening to this on repeat all year.
League of Space Pirates – Book & Record
Marking a return to the classic illustrated book & record sets of the 1970s and 1980s, “Book & Record” features two original songs on a 45rpm vinyl record and a 16-page book of illustrated interpretations of the songs by local artists. It’s a fun, intereactive way to listen to music and it reminds me of the books on tape I used to as a kid.
Lobo Marino – Fields
This album took me by complete surprise. “Fields” was recorded using a field recording device that collected the sounds and songs during the travels of Lobo Marino. Half of the songs incorporate sound samples that were used during the song writing process. The other half were spontaneous improvisations inspired by the bands surroundings. The band calls the album a “journey” and it’s exactly that.
Prabir Mehta – Breakfast Menu
Along with a new Goldrush release, madman musician Prabir Mehta released a solo project called “Breakfast Menu” where he discusses important topics such as getting brunch with Trillions manager Brandon Crowe, whether CDs are still being used, insects, science and Eddie Vedder. Prabir admits that’s it’s weird and silly – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Last Astronaut
This release came at the very end of the year and there will be a more detailed post on these guys later, but I couldn’t exclude them from the list because this is simply a well-crafted album that deserves to be listened to.
Ohbliv – Ritual Swing
You cannot mention hip hop in Richmond without Ohbliv. He’s carved out his own unique sound here and it’s best that you pay attention.
Todd Matthews – Uh, Oh, Here Come the Pig Mammoths
Local bassist Todd Matthews used one bass to compose and record a multitrack, 10 song storytelling album that tells the story of an imaginative young man’s adventures to rescue his brother. It’s a musical masterpiece.
Negative Gemini – Forget Your Future
The darkwave solo project of Lindsey French is full of distinct influences from vintage new wave to shoegaze and dreampop and It’s so damn catchy, I haven’t been able to stop listening.
The Low Branches – One Hundred Years Old
The haunting music of the Low Branches lingers well after you finish playing and “One Hundred Years Old” never left my thoughts this year.
Todd Herrington – Things
“Things” got so much praise this year and it’s pretty evident why. Besides being catchy as hell, the album also features a who’s who of RVA musicians, making it even better.
HYPERCOLOR – Urz & Magda
The sounds of of HYPERCOLOR are hauntingly beautiful from its experimental folk and lush pop moments to its full out garage rock. These guys are a group to watch.
HOPE Church – Fight For Us
The worship team at HOPE Church features local musicians Tyler Crowley (Anousheh, Louisiana Territory), Paige Butcher, Mark Brown, Drew Daniels and others. The music is strictly faith-based but they allow their own talents to come through for a truly spiritual album that’s refreshingly honest.
Iron Reagan – Worse Than Dead
Iron Reagan, the new band featuring Tony Foresta and Phil “Landphil” Hall of Municipal Waste and Paul Burnette and Ryan Parish, both formerly of Darkest Hour, released an album full of 80s hardcore influenced thrash that’s drawn comparisons to Leeway, The Cro-Mags, and Nuclear Assault.
Hex Machine – Fixator
For years, Hex Machine has been a vibrant rock force in the city and after “Fixator,” the rest of the country is finally taking notice. What we have here is a stellar album that’s dying to be played at full volume.
The Honorable Sleaze – Vanity
The Honorable Sleaze has been behind some of the best hip hop to Richmond. He’s had his hands in other projects, but his own work is nothing to dismiss. “Vanity” was by far, one of my favorite hip hop releases this year.
Oab Jenkins – Different Personalladies
Oab Jenkins created “Different Personalladies” to focus on one subject: The ladies. The different types of women he encountered formed all his influences on this well done record.
The Blue and the Grey
The folk group’s self-titled EP easily captures what the band is capable of. They’ve been playing around town for a while and all that energy in their love shows shows up here.
Sleepy Brother – Attachments
The two piece singer/songwriter band consisting of the musical stylings of Heather Wiederholt and Nathan Burns, released “Attachments” thanks to a Kickstarter project launched last year. It’s a lovely collection of soft and sweet folk songs that drifts you off to somber paradise and tugs at your heartstrings at the same time.
Paulo Franco & Shane Cooley – The Green Porch Sessions
Songwriters Paulo Franco and Shane Cooley co-wrote songs together on Paulo’s porch in Woodland Heights and the result was a collection of song full of history and love.
Trouvére – Wandering EP
On “Wandering,” Trouvère blends a nice mix of folk and country flavors that its own unique sound.
Glows in the Dark – Research and Development
One of the most fun jazz groups in the city put out this collection and I may be guilty of desk dancing to this album.
Night Idea – Paths
The post-rock songs of “Paths” has been on constant play throughout the year. I love this record more and more when I hear it.
Underwater Seacreatures – Women
Desire, resentment and vulnerability are just some of the themes that take place in this journey through 80′s new wave, disco, house and R&B. This is a totally underrated album that deserves to be heard.