13 of my favorite music listening experiences of 2013. I can only assume that it is because I am older and grew up listening to vinyl albums and cassette tapes that I know what a great album is. A complete listening experience from start to finish. All the songs are good. Artists main focus was not a hit single but a great albums worth of songs. Not an album with a good song or two and then a bunch of garbage.
I normally don’t like bad mouthing other lists but I take serious doubt when blogs post albums of the year such as; Kanye West. Are you kidding me? His lyrics are so juvenile and embarrassing. Listen I loved My Bloody Valentine back in the day and I really was excited that they were releasing a new album this past year. The album started out great but you are nuts to say that is a good album. Half way through they go off the rails and it no longer is an enjoyable listen. Good songs yes, great album of the year, NO. Don’t even get my started with a double album. That takes some serious talent to pull off a great double album, sorry Arcade Fire. Oh, and I HATE HAIM!
Now these albums are great from start to finish:
1 Arctic Monkeys – AM
Arctic Monkeys have finally delivered their female back-up singer album. Those beautiful high pitched harmonies that could only come from…wait, that’s the drummer singing. WTF? This album is incredible and Arctic Monkeys continue to morph into so many cool things you just have to succumb to their powers and let them lead you. I am mesmerized and enamored with this band. They have sounded like a better modern version of the Strokes, Black Sabbath, and Hall & Oates in a short period of time. Arctic Monkeys is a band that keeps music interesting in 2013 to an old ska/new wave/soul/metal/punk like myself.
They pulled me in right away with their Myspace brilliance years back. It was chip shop rock and I wanted a double order. Here we are still talking about the new Monkeys and they now hit us with a OOH LA LA LA OOH. I was lucky enough to catch their first trip to the US when they stopped at the Metro here in Chicago. I have seen them several times since and just like with every album they grow and so does their live show.
Many bands choose to go with the self titled album for the rebirth. Arctic Monkeys went with AM. They are a band that does not stay with the template that got them millions of fans to begin with. No, this is a band that has fans that must like all types of music. The new album AM introduces a soul that we really had not been privy to previously. If you thought you looked good on the dance floor before wait to you see yourself now. AM is killer from beginning to end. Outside of the new groove is a connection with the underground. Velvet Underground. Velvet Underground VU = Arctic Monkeys AM. Doubt it? Then check out “Mad Sounds,” Alex Turner does a nice hip swaying Lou Reed.
2 Jake Bugg – Shangrila
I just really can’t say enough about this young man. His lyrics are so well written and worth reading. His voice will touch your soul and the guitar playing keeps you paying attention all the way through. Here he hooked up with super-producer Rick Rubin and added a few punk songs.
We all look at the goofballs of today’s top 40 and shake our heads wondering where all the good music and songwriters have gone. It is with young artists like Jake Bugg where you find that beautiful core is still alive and strikingly good. Please join me in celebrating this stunningly creative reflection on youth and young manhood.
3 Johnny Marr – The Messenger
Guitarist from The Smiths writes an album that he can sing about his home and growing up there. I saw Morrissey last year and he was incredible live. Sounding better than ever. On this album Johnny Marr shows he has incredible songs still in him. Imagine if these two got together.
4 Gary Numan – Splinter
One of the biggest, most pleasant surprises in recent time is the true return and evolution of Gary Numan. First, you might be thinking the guy that did the songs in Toy Story. No, that is Randy Newman. Then you might think the guy with the 80′s song “Cars,” and we are now on the right page. His new album shows so much maturity since those synth-pop days. A very enjoyable listen all the way through. The new album is called Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and it will blow your mind if you are even the least interested in electronic somewhat industrial music. He has embraced the fact that he might be on the Autism spectrum like most humans and writes some exciting music to tell you about it.
Gary has made a new friend while relocating to the West Coast of the U.S.A. His name isTrent Reznor and at times while listening to Splinter you might think you’re listening to the soundtrack for The Social Network, for which Trent won an Academy Award. It is similar sounding but with better vocals. That’s right I have never been a big NIN fan and I can easily say that it is because Trent is not a vocalist or lyricist that I care for. He has made some decent soundscapes but most of those owe A LOT to Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Gary Numan. Gary does borrow NIN guitarist Robin Finck to help match the sound.
5 TOY- Join the Dots
TOY = Neu! and that is a good thing. They also bring some of that Tame Impala fuzz along for the journey.
6 Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control
This is the album that you wish Black Sabbath would have released this year. If Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats wanted Bill Ward to drum on this he would have got in shape and signed the contract without hesitation. He however wasn’t needed.
7 Dark Horses – Black Music
This is deep dark and beautiful music. Black Music. They are a very visual band and when it comes to cool they do a very nice job. Great vocals.
8 Beady Eye – BE
You can not underestimate the power of a great front man. Liam Gallagher is still one of the great front men of all time. He truly is a classic. Up there will all the greats, many of whom have past on. Liam is still here and still providing enjoyable output.
BE didn’t seem concerned with a US release date and so fare Beady Eye are not too concerned with a US tour. You know what? They don’t need us. You think it is so cool to break through in the US until you see what it breaking through and then you just want to break stuff.
On BE (all songs written by Gallagher, Archer, and Bell) there is also some great production work from Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio). He adds some new layers to this band that could really help them grow. The first album wasn’t great but had some good rockers. It was fun to listen to a few times but as an avid music listener it was easy to see how this one trick pony could get put out to pasture after a few races. Dave Sitek added a new dimension that is both surprising to see suggested but maybe even more surprising the band accepted it.
Again Liam is one of the best front men but not known as a great song writer. But boy does he do just the right amount to get by and even occasionally impresses. He shows some depth into life’s questions and even into politics and “the man.” Sitek pokes a sharp stick full of psychedelic influences into this Beady Eye. A great way to direct a band with much inspiration from Lennon and The Beatles. Liam’s vocals are also featured out front in the mix and he is the large pupil in this Beady Eye. The more you let BE, BE, it grows on you.
9 Atoms for Peace – AMOK
Better than the last Radiohead release. Flea brings the funk and Thom shakes it out crazy style. When you have a great bass line there is not much you can do to mess it up.
10 Savages – Silence Yourself
Speaking of da’ bass. Savages slap a da’ bass and bring you right back to the great post-punk music of the late 70’s and 80’s. Vocals remind you of Siouxsie Sioux but with a little more anger.
11 Skinny Puppy – Weapon
I really like how on their newest album WEAPON has returned to the classic Skinny Puppy sound. They spent some time trying to evolve into more of a modern dance band in recent years but I think WEAPON is their best in a long time.
12 David Bowie – The Next Day
This was almost a disappointment. I loved the single when it came out of nowhere. It was so reflective and introspective. It however was the other songs that were not grabbing me, that was until recently. This is a grower and Bowie is better suited for the winter than the summer.
13 Agnes Obel – Aventine
Every year there seems to be a female artist like this. Agnes is special though and splits that line between classic, classical, and new. She brings in everything from Debussy to Del Rey. I also her PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi.
As always the purpose of my blog is to turn you on to music. I know top 10 lists can be silly but I do look at other blogs top lists and I have already found some really good stuff that I overlooked this past year. Please send me any of your favorites.
Photo at top of the post from nytimes.com