Lord knows what we need are more “Top Whatever…” lists. So here you go!
One thing I love about the current state of the music industry: if I hate all the mainstream stuff that’s popular I can just find unpopular marginstream (horrible, horrible made up word? Yes!) music that I do indeed love. And vice versa. We all have this luxury, Praise Be To Her. Or Him. Or Shim. Or….
Moving on. I’ve heard plenty of folks say “I can never find any music that I like” or grunt out that old-fart adage “Music was better when I was your age.” It’s all as useless to me as reading Facebook posts about how bored someone is. I’d rather look at pictures of food people make. And I’d certainly rather take whatever amount of time it cost me to hear someone complain and spend it listening to music. As long as music exists, we never have a reason to be bored. As long as it exists, we really don’t have much to piss and moan about. It is always there for us.
Before my writing starts to further represent that of Rob Bell, I’m gonna just plow ahead and give to you my own list of favorite albums from 2013. I look forward to hearing/reading yours. In no way do my favorites represent anything more than music that I like a lot. That’s what is so great about the times we live in: there are no more generalities or universals. You like what you like, by gum. Be proud of this. I’ve thought out my favorites, and came to six that really stuck out. To find out more about the bands/singers then just click on their monikers. Here we go.
1. Chain of Lakes: Softer Sticks
It may seem biased for me to choose this one, since COL frontman Kyle Rasche is a dear friend of mine. Also, if he had offered to pay me anywhere over $10 to put him in my highly-coveted # 1 spot then I would have taken his dough without even a second thought. Then farted, just to prove I have no shame. Sorry, Kyle. You know all these things would have happened. But he didn’t offer me a dime. No, out of all the albums I heard in 2013 THIS one was simply my favorite. It gave me an immediate sense of enjoyment that has not gone away since I first heard it. The whole album stirs up in me such feelings of nostalgia and this weird desire to be a kid again (especially on the standout track “With Time.) It’s so odd that the album has this feel because Kyle wrote it while awaiting the birth of his first kid. Or maybe it makes perfect sense that an album made under these circumstances would make you want to go back to the past. I don’t know. Whatever it’s source, this is an album that doesn’t have one unenjoyable millisecond on it. This is detailed, lofty stuff crafted to perfection in the best sense of the word. He takes the final rite of passage from being a kid to becoming an adult and makes glorious music out of it, which just may be the least rock n’ roll thing I can think of but, fuckin’ A, he does it. Good job. If your next record has a lot of diaper metaphors then I may be less enthusiastic but, well, you never know do you? Love is a festering stack of poppy diapers.
Favorite Line: “Tryin’ just means tryin’ times, and nothin’ else.” (from “Cards”)
Favorite Song: “With Time”
2. Jason Isbell: Southeastern
Wow! A whited bearded kid who wears flannel shirts and likes folk music likes this album. Big surprise! To take it up a notch, this album was on basically every “Best of/Favorites of 2013” list put out this year. There’s a reason for this: It was one of the best albums of 2013. It’s hard for me to look at this objectively, either. I don’t know how anyone could dislike this album. Mr. Isbell did incredible work with Drive By Truckers (the chorus of their sort-of hit “Outfit” gets me every time still). His solo stuff before Southeastern was always good, but not great. Southeastern on the other hand is a great album. It’s proof that alcohol and self-induced misery doesn’t always make the best music. In this case, great music was made after one of the most gifted contemporary songwriters out there simply got his shit together. Thank God for that. Or, to quote Isbell on the stellar song “New South Wales”:
God bless the busted boat that brings us back.
Favorite Line: “The sand that they call cocaine costs you half as much as gold. You’d be better off to drink your coffee black.” (from “New South Wales“)
Favorite Song: “New South Wales”
3. Sam Kenny: World War I
This is one of the weirdest albums I’ve heard in my life. I’m used to Sam singing fairly traditional folk songs. Then he put out this. Sure, the folk’s still there. But added to it is this sort of 70’s science fiction film meets 80s horror movies meets ghost stories around a campfire meets fever dream meets, well, Sam Kenny! This album took him quite a while to make, which is not the norm as of late. But the wait is absolutely worth it in this case. What we have is an album as careful as it is chaotic, at times heartbreaking, and at other times a little bit spooky. As a total package, it’s damned near perfect.
Favorite Line: “The earth won’t quake when I lose the last of my mind.” (from “Mexico)
Favorite Song: “Mexico.”
4. Charles Bradley: Victim of Love
I feel that if Charles Bradley had never eventually been discovered, if he had spent the rest of his life just taking care of his mother and not having his music heard, if he had never won the considerable fame he has now then society as a whole would be shittier. The world would just wallow in it’s own squalor until its universe home expanded into flames. Religions would have to call it quits because we could only conclude that there is no God, or at least not one that likes us very much. But Charles Bradley has made it.
The thing about soul music is that, at it’s best, it sounds better than anything could ever sound. For an example, listen to this:
For another example, watch this:
And for Pete’s sake, this:
There. Thank you, Mr. Bradley. You give us hope.
Favorite Line: In this case it’s the simple, flawless chorus: “I got the love, strictly reserved.” Yes, you do. (from “Strictly Reserved”)
Favorite Song: “Love Bug Blues”
Special Prize: “The Smoothest Dance Moves Made By The Classiest Dresser of 2013″ award goes to….Charles Bradley, everyone.
5. Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt
Pearl Jam is my favorite band that has inspired my least favorite bands. And truth be told, I’ve lost interest in most of their output between, say, 2001ish and now. But the thing I loved about Lighting Bolt is it’s just a bare-bones rock album that’s fun to drive around to. Not to mention the fact that Eddie Vedder’s voice packs as much punch and confidence as it did when we first heard him on the radio sing about crazy kids biting boobies and shooting people.
Favorite Line: “Science says we’re making love like the lizards.” Not sure exactly what that’s supposed to mean but…still sounds good. (from “Getaway”)
Favorite Song: “Getaway”
-Sidenote!!!! The track “Getaway” is exactly what an opening track needs to be: fast, furious, fist-pumping rock n’ roll. I really am fine with the fact that MP3 singles do better than albums. That’s life. But I do miss when 75% of the effort for making an album was put into the opening track. This song makes me want to challenge people to a drag race, do lines off a hooker, and then punch someone in the face.
6. Minor Alps: Get There
Juliana Hatfield has too often been remembered as just some grunge-rock sweetheart who made a lot of money in the 90s and dated Evan Dando. This is unfortunate, as she has put out over 20 albums. Each and every damn one of them is solid. She’s even written a memoir, the excellent 2009 “When I Grow Up” (highly recommended.) Then there’s Matthew Caws, frontman of the underrated, phenomenal band Nada Surf. Put these two together and you get the duo Minor Alps, who in turn put out the sugary, sweet and sophisticated pop gem Get There. I’m not sure there is a more pure and perfect label than simply “Pop Music.” This album is proof of this. So buy Get There and listen to it a hundred billion times.
Favorite Line: “The room is a spaceship, and you’re an undiscovered planet.” (from “I Don’t Know…”_
Favorite Song: “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands”