Favorite Albums of 2013
Jetlag - Milosh: A-
Electronic ear valium. Seductive and chill with just enough pop smarts to keep one attached. Like floating off into an ethereal abyss.
Antiphon - Midlake: A
Think Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. Listen from start to finish – it makes for a really deep ride. Brilliant guitar work.
Closer To The Truth: Cher: A-
A guilty pleasure that’s cheesy, but catchy as hell and a lot of fun with not a bad track in the bunch. I have come to the conclusion that Cher is the female Elvis (who I never cared for); flashy, same vocal style, and an incredible charisma that creates super loyal fans. Here, the singer is fully engaged and sounding great.
Yes, a bit mopey and predictable (and Moby owes Massive Attack some royalties and a songwriting credit). It breaks no new ground, but it’s a very pleasant listen. You get exactly what you think you’re paying for.
Kiss Land - The Weeknd: A-
Best rap album of the year and one of the best rap albums ever. Such a tight fit between the grooves, beats, and words. Gives one hope for the genre.
The Silver Gymnasium - Okkervil River: A-
Okay, so not the revelation their previous effort, 2011’s ‘I Am Very Far’ was, but they remain one of my favorites. Lacks the cohesiveness of their previous effort. Light on riffs and hooks, too.
FF finally get it right. Tight, poppy, and shiny. Features one of the best singles of the year.
I Hate Music - Superchunk: A-
These vets come screaming out of the past with one of their most solid sets ever. Music that matches their non de plurme perfectly. Super chunky, indeed.
Push Any Button - Sam Phillips: A+
She has never resonated with me the way she does on this cd. Great songs, chops and sound. Shimmers, simmers and haunts.
Where Does This Door Go - Mayer Hawthorne: A-
Sophisticated pop smarts to spare. The lyrics get a bit trite from time to time, but when the hooks are this much fun, who cares. If Bobby Caldwell and Earth, Wind, and Fire had a baby, Mayer Hawthorne would be the result.
Ceremony - Anna Von Hausswolff: A-
Kate Bush with a giant organ – as in Wurlizter or Hammond. Everything has an epic build. A mountain worthy of a climb.
Soft Will - Smith Westerns: A-
This trio has a tendency to come of a bit fey at times, but their sound is sweet. The jangly guitars (which bring to mind ‘The Archies’ and ‘The Monkees’) buoy up a rather melancholy demeanor. Still, you can’t argue with the charm of their pop chops.
‘2013’ alone should get your ears to stand up, featuring some very Bowie like sax work. If not, try the meat and potatoes that is ‘It’s Alright, It’s Okay’. It’s fitting that the former begins the album and with the latter closing it; everything in between is absolutely everything in between.
Clarity - Zedd: A-
A bit homogenized, but still full of interesting bits, original perspectives, and enchanting hooks. The title track is this year’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’. In other words, one of the best singles of the year.
Mother - Natalie Maines: A
Wow. Stellar vocals, great interpretations. This one glows with a wisdom that has been hard won.
No gripes here. They deliver. If ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ (2009) was lift-off, these dudes are still in mid-flight with plenty of propulsion.
Ready to Die - Iggy & The Stooges: A-
Detractors wanted more. I was satisfied with what was offered. Not a bad coda to a brilliant snarl.
Monomania - Deerhunter: A-
Their ‘Halcyon Digest’ was one of my favorites of 2010. This self-described “nocturnal garage” music sounds like it was recorded underwater. Plenty of interest here; dig deep.
If Chris Rea and the Beach Boys had a love child, the result would be Samuel Beam. Sunny harmonies held in place by a melancholy bottom. I can’t recommend this one enough; one of the best of the year.
The Next Day - David Bowie: A
The thin white duke surprises the world by delivering a stellar set of songs that no one can argue with. He manages to be self-referential and daringly forward thinking at the same time. Contains two of my favorite songs of the year: ‘The Stars Are Out Tonight’ and ‘Where Are We Now’.
Waking On A Pretty Daze - Kurt Vile: A-
Gritty, hazy and weirdly dull. Featuring some great guitar work. This fell upon my ears like a dreaded voice; one I could not stop listening to.
Spawn of the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison. Frequently lush and lovely. Makes me want to take a stroll, hand in hand, with my baby.
The Jazz Age - The Bryan Ferry Orchestra: A
What a marvelous idea, and, of course – it’s Bryan Ferry, so it works. I simply pray there will be no sequel. He got it right this time, so why bother?
Electric - Richard Thompson: A
Haunting as ever. Will this artist ever get his due? Guitar work: epic.
Pure pop pleasure. As fascinating as it is unexpected. This one is all over the road with the kitchen sink thrown in; trust me – you’re in for a hell of ride.
The Lone Bellow - The Lone Bellow: A
Authentic. They mine the same vein as Mumford and Sons and The Civil Wars, but with much more success. These songs are as haunting as the near-tragedy that birthed them.
A tip of the hat to:
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
Arctic Monkeys – AM
Cage the Elephant - Melophobia
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Disclosure – Settle
Goldfrapp - Tales of Us
Haim - Days Are Gone