I set a goal to listen to more than 300 albums in 2013, and though I lost track, I have a feeling I at least came pretty close. A lot of those were by local musicians, and a lot of those were excellent. Here are my 10 favorite albums by San Diego artists this year:
10. Kodiak, Kodiak (self-released): It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a furiously intense punk or hardcore record, and that's precisely what Kodiak delivered on their raw, unrelenting new self-titled album. It's fast, it's loud and it'll kick your ass.
9. Monochromacy, Cement Cathedrals (Stay Strange): The inaugural release on the Stay Strange label, Esteban Flores' new EP as Monochromacy is a blend of atmospheric darkness, shoegaze-like density and hypnotic experimentation. It's gorgeous, slow-moving and often-unsettling stuff—and proof that our coastal burg can still produce eerily affecting music.
8. Gayle Skidmore, Sleeping Bear (self-released): San Diego produces an alarmingly high number of singer-songwriters, so it takes a lot to make a sound that rises above the others. Gayle Skidmore has the songwriting chops and instrumental talent to pull it off; however, her new album, Sleeping Bear , is a marvel of gorgeously produced chamber pop.
7. The Heavy Guilt, The Heavy Guilt (self-released): I'm pretty wary of a lot of blues-influenced rock music; very little of it stands out from the flock. Such isn't the case with The Heavy Guilt, who not only continue to be one of the best live bands in town, but also released a killer third album this year. The band knows its way around a riff, a groove and a melody and puts a lot of sweat and muscle into showing that off. That's what rock music's all about, Charlie Brown.
6. Retox, YPLL (Epitaph): Any band that features both Justin Pearson and Gabe Serbian is guaranteed to rip, and Retox keep making that case on new album YPLL . Even more direct than members' previous bands, such as The Locust or All Leather, YPLL is a streamlined set of no-nonsense hardcore that seethes, snarls and compels the body to jerk in ecstasy.
5. Odessa Kane, Cuetes & Balisongs (self-released): OK, technically, this seven-track EP was released at the end of 2012. But a late-December release might as well be folded into the next year, and, as such, dynamo MC Odessa Kane's newest seven-track EP is a powerful entry for local hip-hop. Produced by Odessa's brother, Infinity Gauntlet, Cuetes is a dark and intense set of political hip-hop that hits hard and goes for the jugular.
4. Gloomsday, Paradise Tossed (self-released): I'm not sure there's a band in San Diego right now that's as much fun as doom-pop duo Gloomsday. Justin Cota and Lori Sokolowski carve up heavy, hip-shaking rhythms with plenty of meat on their bones in spite of the stripped-down set up. I doubt they're the first band to recall Black Sabbath and The B-52s simultaneously, but they certainly show how genius that is.
3. Barbarian, City of Women (self-released): At any given moment throughout this six-song EP, Barbarian can evoke a late-summer melancholy, an ethereal dreaminess or disorienting hallucination—all with some great hooks to back it all up. And they've got more on the way in 2014.
2. Tropical Popsicle, Dawn of Delight (Volar): The first full-length showcase for Tim Hines' trippy songwriting, Tropical Popsicle's debut displays staggering versatility. They nimbly leap from paisley jangle-pop on "The Age of Attraction" to hypnotic new wave on "Ghost Beacons." Though the group has clearly done its '80s homework, they catalyze it into exciting new sounds.
1. Author & Punisher, Women and Children (Seventh Rule): In a year full of great music, one record that I inevitably kept coming back to is the third album by doom-metal artist / engineer Tristan Shone. Shone manages to keep finding new, richly textured spaces to crawl into, slowly and with an impending sense of danger and terror. Yet, Women and Children is also quite beautiful in parts, despite how crushing and violent it gets. This is what the future of metal sounds like.