Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best of 2013

I promise to get "Best of 2012" out at some point. but I never narrowed the list down so it's half written up and runs over three hours of music.  Not a bad thing, you say, but not playing by the rules.  I can say there was so much good music in 2012 that it was the back-bone of 2013 listening.  In the mean time, I did manage to get 2013 done.

Also, Maddy put together her list as well which I will try to get her to publish.  But this year marked a break through for us.  First of all, she is now listening to good music which I define as music I want to listen to and am not embarrassed to recommend to other people.  Secondly, she admitted that I had good taste in music.  So that's two wins for me.  But I will give her all the credit. 

On to my list:

Late Cuts

Closer to you - Michael Franti - pure pop-reggae but I always smile and tap my feet when I hear these guys.


Different Days/Stockholm - Jason Isbell - Showing consistent growth since leaving the DBT's but while i lvoe the album, it's tough for me to tell the songs apart.

Here's to the losers - Drag the River - great alt-country band from Florida.

Anything from Rush - 2012 Album of the year, but just a three disk live effort this year.  Probably better than Best of, but not "new."

Yeah yeah - Wily Moon - The apple ad pick of the year.  good combination of blues and modern dance music.  One of the young ones out of the UK.

Supremacy - Muse - Maddy's favorite band and her first real concert this year.  All of my favorite bands in one (Rush, Prince, U2, Rage, Spinal Tap and more) - old school arena rock (watch the intro from the Boston show if you don't believe me).  But not technically a 2013 release.

The whole show if interested (different stage):

Come to my party - Black Joe Lewis - My 2012 album of year for 2012 (or at least top three).  They should call it instant party.  Pick a song at random and you are ready to go.  Maddy says the intro here is from the Hunger Games.

Lori Mckenna - Better with time - Not only is the album title Massachusetts, it's one of those albums about real life:  family, relationships, getting through life.  [Editor's Note:  Mark Erelli, in the video below, happens to be from Reading, MA.]

The flip side of country music:

The final cut:

Hurry Hurry - Air Traffic Controller - This song was playing one day when the alarm went off.  A local band, turned out the whole album was good and a lot more diverse than the song.  Good musicians, good songs.  And a damn catchy song. I'm also amazed they have an official video (of them running around Watertown).  And it makes me laugh.

The List:

Best of 2013 Spotify list (if you want a cd, let me know and I can rip one)

R U Mine - Arctic Monkeys - A band that made best of 2006/2007 (remember "you look good on the dance floor") then faded away.  Now they have re-emerged with a more muscular, rocking songs.  Song of the year?  Maybe.  A huge favorite of Maddy's.

Inhaler - Foals - One of the first songs I got in 2013,  I love the way it combines dance/emd beats with solid musicianship and progessive rock song writing.  The song builds and builds until it breaks like a wave.  The whole album is solid but not as catchy as the first single.

I don't know what to do with my hands - Minor Alps - Julianna Hatfield and the dude from Nada Surf. Juliana is one of our favorites from the 1990's but recent output has failed to leave a lasting impression.  Mathew Caws (the dude from Nada Surf, which has a decade of consistent work) provides the perfect balance, improving on both of their separate backgrounds:  a more rocking Nada Surf or Juliana with better hooks.  I also love the quirky lyric which is classic Julianna, both honest and funny.

Pompeii - Bastille  - Maddy deserves a 100% of the credit for this one.  Great musicians, great songs.  Sort of a more mainstream Frightened Rabbit.

City Swan - Neko Case - For those who don't know, I worship at this woman's feet and believe everyone else should, too.  The hooks and harmonies are just amazing.  She's definitely on my "list."  I've never seen her live and am almost scared to, as I worry it would disappoint and ruin this wonderful thing.  A lot of people think this is her best album yet, but I disagree:  it's not nearly as strong as previous outings.  It feels like more focus on song writing and structure, rather than letting it just pour out of Neko.  That probably understates the work she puts in on previous albums, but it doesn't feel as pure to me.  But a sub-par Neko album is still in the top 1% of the rest of the world.

Most People - Dawes - I've never embraced Dawes as much as other people (Tim) have.  But even  as those people were disappointed by this album, I found it easy to listen, particularly this track which I think is great.  Full disclosure:  every time I listen to this album, I'm thinking "1970's Jackson Browne" who I despise, but I still love this album (great musicianship, good melodies, lyrics that are relevant and but don't overwhelm-tight band).

3:59 am - John Moreland - Obscure alt - country, tangentially related to Lucero, this year's Cory Brannon.  Good songs, no fluff.  The more you like Americana, the more you will like this.

Eavesdrop - The Civil Wars -  While they may be no more (or maybe not we hope).  Not a bad song on the album and choosing one is tough.  The songs tend to be a bit sadder than the previous album and intense, but that seems to reflect where they were at.  The melodies and combinations are just about perfect.

Lovecrimes - Afghan Whigs - A one off single of them doing another great cover (of Frank Ocean) as they always do.  Not new ground but solid ground.  Frank Ocean never clicked with me, but this cover it right in my wheelhouse.

Come a little closer - Cage the Elephant - Another one of my favorite songs this year.  Something about it is so catchy; the hook in the chorus kills it.  But the whole album is worth listening too.  Not a "great" album as it is a all over the place and varies in quality, but one of those albums where they try differenct things with different degrees of success.  These guys made the list a few years back and it's good to see them still slugging it out, trying to getting better.

I would for you - Nine Inch Nails - I blogged about these guys earlier and it still holds up. More new wavy than previous outings, but still built on a solid foundation of beats and emotion.  This is my favorite song: a slow burner of a NIN love song, or as close as Trent can get.  Also file under, nothing wrong with growing up.

Black Skinhead - Kanye - As many of you know, I've got a thing for Kanye.  I remember watching the video of this after the SNL performance and thinking "wtf."  But you have to think of this as more industrial  and less rap, and I don't mean in the alternative lifting way of most rappers, I mean 1980's club, like when Ministry got guitars.  I would put this as album of the year for the chances it takes, even though it is a bit uneven.  I'm also pretending the Kardashians don't exist.  But Kanye deserves a spot on this list for the first 20 bars of this song alone.

Wishing Well - Wild cub - Solid techno (or is it all EMD now) new-comers.  They actually write songs and have a decent pop hooks.

Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke - I was on the Daft Punk band wagon at the beginning.  God knows I love Nile Rogers' guitar (doesn't everyone).  But after hearing it thousands of times, I realized it was about 20 seconds of music on endless loop.  So I listened to the album and that made it worse.  Disco died for a reason and the album falls into all the same traps:  repetitive, over long and not that interesting over repeated listens.  Now back to Blurred Lines.  When I heard this song, it clicked:  a fun, summer song.  As far as the controversy, too much thought and energy has been put into this song.  It is a stupid pop song, and should be enjoyed as such.  I'm pretty sure it is not perpetuating (or hoping to) the problems of the world.  Damn catchy too.

Little Numbers - Boy - One of the benefits of living in Boston is we still have college radio.  That is a thing of various quality, but at least they play different music (Less Variety on Radio).  That is where this came from:  I dare you to listen without tapping your toes.

You already know - Arcade Fire -  I have the visceral dislike of Arcade Fire and I have no reason why; maybe its the hype, maybe it how serious they take themselves.  I listened to the first album and it made no impact.  But I liked Neon bible and The Suburbs even more.  Now they have this one, which is more of the same with Caribbean rhythms.  I still expect not to like it, but liked it right out of the box (or off the interwebs or from the ether or whatever the right expression is).  I read one review that said you had to think of Arcade Fire like David Bowie:  they are both really serious, but every once in a while have to do something to cut loose and lighten up.  So this album is thier equivalent of "Young Americans" or "Let's Dance."  It's still serious and I am drawn to the songs that sound like the Smiths (a la "Ready to Start").  I'm going to call this my album of the year.  There were four or five albums I listened to on repeat this year and loved (Kanye, Johnny Marr, NIN, Civil Wars, Queens of the Stone Age and this), but all the others sound like a different time, more or less.  I mean I get the NIN and Civil Wars albums, but I don't expect Maddy to, at least not yet.  Arcade Fire sounds like NOW, a modern album or at least my twisted view of what it should sound like (or a less twisted version than Kanye).

New Town Velocity (live) - Johnny Marr -   Another one from early in the year.  His first "solo" album it stakes out ground evenly between the Smiths and Electronic.  After listening to this, we now know what parts of Electronic he wrote and we already know what he did in the Smiths.  While every song is good on the album, it is firmly rooted in 1980s, more New Wave than new romantic or Smiths.  His guitar playing is so rich and his vocals (which have been a distraction in the past) complement the songs quite well.  I picked this live version because (1) sound quality is do good although a little feed back/off key at the end (2) the guitar sound is so rich.

 Queens of the Stone Age - I sat by the Ocean - This is really an album in that it sounds better if you listen from beginning to end.  It's heavy and it rocks.  While I recommend you listen to the album because it was tough to pick the "best" song.  But this is Maddy's choice.

Lightening Bolt - Jake Bugg -  Maddy thinks this song shouldn't be allowed, but I love it.  I didn't really love Jake Bugg (hype again) but then I saw him playing this song live (see next song) and was instantly converted.  It's that classic British/blues hybrid, and good to see there still some youngsters who want to play guitar.

Cut me some slack - Surviving Nirvana with Paul McCartney - Sir Paul put out some good music this year and this tune topped those for obvious reasons.  But it also reflects the only trend I see out there (as far as trends, I am Danny Glover to EDM's Mel Gibson): the rise of the rock documentary.  These things seem to be multiplying like some kind of bug, but its been building for a while.  Rush launched their comeback with one and I suppose Keith Richard's book falls int his category as well.  It's partly driven by the death of MTV as anything remotely relevant, but also the rise of Palladia and NPR as media outlets and I think a desire to put things in context other than a hit single.  Bottom line is there are plethora of good ones out there on Netflix and other places (The Other f word, It Might Get Loud, anything on any given night on Palladia).  This song is from Sound City, both a documentary (streaming on Amazon Prime) and a album of new music.  The documentary follows the history of a recording studio, but also the artists and how they made the music.  Then Dave Grohl (who bought the studio and made the documentary) sits down, writes and records a song or two with the various historical figures from Stevie Nicks to Rick Springfield to Trent Reznor and even amazingly, almost all of them are good!  But I like this one with the Beatle and the boys from Seattle.

Sneak Peak of 2014

My Jam. Starring Chekov and Kate Mara.  Not the BeeGees..