Missy Pence and Erick Coleman: Our Top Albums of 2013

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This is the fourth in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors. Check out all of this year's lists at this link.

Erick Coleman and I are in a band together, The D-Rays. Erick and I are married. We work together at Stewart-MacDonald in Athens, Ohio.

Only seems appropriate that we compile this list together. Appropriate, and perhaps obnoxious.  

Regardless, it's a family affair including our kid, Declan, who is also a big contributor to our musical experience in 2013.

Here are our collective, overlapping and significant favorites of 2013. Some are new. Some are old. All are great.

The Rats, In a Desperate Red: Released in 1983, this recording is a neat glimpse into the early music of Dead Moon's Fred and Toody Cole. Alternative pop/rock at its best. So good that it's hard to believe this band didn't catch the attention of a major label. Songs like "It's Still You" and "My Tragedy Behind" would easily stand up to any Replacements or Hüsker Dü tune from the same era. "Broken Wire Telephone" should have been an 80‘s MTV hit. True vinyl geeks will pay big bucks for original pressings of this gem.

Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You: Neko's done it again. And word just arrived that this album is now "grammy-nominated." This was easily the most-played album in Missy's car this year. Favorite songs on the album include "Night Still Comes," "Bracing for Sunday" and "Local Girls." And as far as love songs go, "Calling Cards" is it–a sentimental love letter to her bandmates. As a bonus track, Neko covers Robyn Hitchcock's "Madonna of the Wasps" with M. Ward, more than doing it justice. Occasionally funny, occasionally dark, always sing-along-even-though-you-are-no-Neko-Case songs. The fantastic album artwork deserves a loud mention too. A complete package. NPR's Tiny Desk concert has three of the songs mentioned. Neko performs in a gorilla costume.

The Zero Boys, Vicious Circle: Another great release from the '80s. This one is in constant rotation in our house. Released in 1982, Vicious Circle blasts through tight, catchy tunes dealing with social topics that still strike a nerve more than 30 years later. "Civilization's Dying" addresses the topic of the gun violence involving the Pope, President Reagan and John Lennon. "Amphetamine Addiction" is about just that. "Down The Drain" is straight from the head of a tormented teen, which vocalist turned famed producer/engineer Paul Mahern was at the time he made this record in Indianapolis. The D-Rays take quite a few cues from this band; we even play a surfed-up version of "Down the Drain." Vicious Circle delivers 16 tunes in under 30 minutes and provides further proof that the best in early punk music comes from the Midwest.

Supernobody, Checkered Pastures: Mike Elliott, one of Athens' best songwriters, assembled a great group of musicians to play on this album, making it a shoo-in for a top list. He’s crafty that way. His melodies linger with you; it's great to have a Mike Elliott tune on repeat in your head. The album is nostalgic and bits of it conjure notions of Athens back when, including memories of living on the low side of Grosvenor Street, as Missy once did too, in "Holding Up This Room." Mike Elliott is man of leisure whose music should take over the world.

Skeletonwitch, Forever Abomination and Serpents Unleashed: The last two albums from local/regional band Skeletonwitch. We've spent a lot of time listening to Forever Abomination since it was released and feel it stands up to some of the greatest metal records of all time. For instance, "Of Ash And Torment" is destined to be an all-time classic, a perfectly crafted piece. What's great about these guys is they don't mess around with the all-too-common alternative tunings that are prevalent in the genre. And their tunes rarely break the three-to-four minute mark. They make their statement and move on. We're just getting to know their latest release, Serpents Unleashed, which came out around Halloween of this year. Standout tracks include the title track, "Born Of The Light That Does Not Shine" and the brutal "Blade on the Flesh, Blood on My Hands." They are the real deal and they call Athens their home base.

Man or Astro-man? Defcon 5…4…3…2…1: The first full-length from this Alabama based sci-fi instrumental rock group in 13 years. What's cool about this new record is that key songwriter/lead guitarist/vocalist Brian Causey doesn't really pick up where he left off with 2000's A Spectrum of Finite Scale. Instead, he takes the band to a more interesting sonic platform. The tune "Antimatter Man" is driven by bizarre guitar modulation and topped off with new wave-ish vocals. In fact, many songs on Defcon feature vocals, which break up the record nicely. Fans of the traditional MOAM sound will also be satisfied, as songs like "Defcon 5" display the sound the band is known for: Reverb-drenched guitars playing the music of the new space age. After a long hiatus, the band has been playing the occasional live show, even touring the East Coast earlier this year. With any luck, one of their upcoming stops will be Athens!

Hex Net, Future Holds: Another one of our local favorites. We've played a good number of shows with these guys over the last couple of years, including a few on the road. So we've gotten the opportunity to hear as much of this album live as on vinyl. You can’t lose with either version. Future Holds captures the first lineup of the band featuring mainstays Seth Riddlebarger on lead vocals/guitar and Tim Peacock on bass. This vinyl release is built around the band’s ever-progressing live sound, which continues to evolve to this day. Leadoff tune "Vice Church Blues"  has a deep psych-rock vibe carried by Danny McVicker's organ and Seth's guitar. "Pay No Mind" evokes faint visions of Norman Greenbaum in the best way. Live favorite "Last Night" displays a unique Damned-meets-the-Dolls style that hooks you in from the first line. We are looking forward to the next release from these guys!

Nirvana, entire catalog: Our 13-year-old son discovered Nirvana in his guitar class at Athens Middle School. So over the last year, we've been subjected to pretty much every single song the band recorded during their far too-short career. Some of these songs we've heard over and over (and over) again while he learns them on the guitar. And you know, they totally stand the test of time and then some. Re-familiarize yourself with this music, you won’t regret it.

Missy Pence plays bass for The D-Rays and works at Stewart-MacDonald as operations director. Erick Coleman plays guitar for The D-Rays and is the technical advisor at Stewart-MacDonald. Their band's debut full-length was released earlier this year.