Monday, December 16, 2013


Here is my list of "Best Albums of 2013", for what it's worth.  Those who know me won't be surprised by any of these picks.  There was a lot of good stuff put out in 2013, and my list just represents a small sampling of it.  But these were my favorites.  This is a revised list, and I think it's probably the final version.  :-)

1. Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze - Simply superb.  All kinds of wonderful sounds in here.  This is my review:

2. The National - Trouble Will Find Me - I think this might be my favorite album of theirs, and I'm a big fan.  "I Need My Girl" and "Slipped" are a couple of the more eloquent readings of personal devastation I've heard on record in a long time.  Matt Berninger's lyrics and vocals are in the forefront, but don't forget the rest of the band...  they provide muscle, orchestration, and mood upon mood.  Intricate and detailed, but also straight from the gut, this album may be their masterpiece.  "I Need My Girl" is here:

3. Midlake - Antiphon - Wonderful folk- and prog-influenced album of mythical rock sounds.  I hear some Moody Blues in it at times, and some of the drumming echoes early King Crimson.  Very good stuff.  Here is "The Old And The Young":

4. Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold - Late entry for me, but wow...  they capture all the energy of the early Eighties punk and CBGB scenes and marry it to some of the slacker stuff from the Nineties like Pavement... and enough of the home-recorded Guided By Voices ethos to make you shake your head and think "Huh?" as you giggle out loud and snort your beer. This is full of wide-eyed wonder and garage-band primitivism.  It is definitely NOT for every taste, but I love it.  The highlight of the album is "Stoned And Starving".  Video of that one here:

5. Arcade Fire - Reflektor - Favorite tracks are "You Already Know" and "Joan Of Arc".  Both are awesome, and the rest of it is all pretty danged good!  If you don't like disco, don't be put off by the first track (the title cut).  Most reviews focus on that song, and I find it one of the lesser achievements on the record.  Arcade Fire delves into some Haitian rhythms, some glam rock and some Motown via New Wave in my album highlight, "You Already Know".  I review the album here:

6. Phosphorescent - Muchacho - Matthew Houck is Phosphorescent.  He's been compared to Leonard Cohen and Elliott Smith, with orchestration that some people compare to Philip Glass.  But he is entirely his own animal.  Soft tones, cool melodies, interesting lyrics.  Video for the exquisite "Song For Zula" here:

7. The Purrs - The Boy With Astronaut Eyes - A Seattle band that I believe deserves wide recognition.  Makes me wish I lived there so I could go hear them play live! This is the leadoff track from the album, "The Promises We Made".  Enjoy:

8. Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 - Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) - Nothing much needs to be said, especially if you like this somewhat overlooked period of Dylan's career as much as I do.  This is an amazing collection of rarities, outtakes, different looks at familiar favorites, and just plain good music.

9. Shpongle - Museum Of Consciousness - More electronic-based psychedelia that is guaranteed to tickle your amygdala!   Simon Posford is the guy behind this wonderful electronica.  The music is hard to describe, but it's designed for the mind.  Here is a good video for the track "Further Adventures In Shpongleland":

10. Gary Numan - Splinter - I never realized until recently that he was still recording, and that his stuff was so good.  I review this one here:


11. John Scofield - Uberjam Deux - A fusion jazz guitar master leads a highly-capable band through a series of delightful groove jams.  No vocals necessary.  Great music in here.  Audio tracks for "Endless Summer" and "Al Green Song" are here:

12. Yo La Tengo - Fade - I usually like about half the songs on a YLT album.  This time, I like all of them!  This is one of their best.

13. Queens Of The Stone Age - Like Clockwork - Lots of glam swagger and theatrics in this one from Josh Homme.  I love it!  Heavy, dirty, and dangerous.  Party time!

15. Todd Rundgren - State - Very nice stuff from a wizard...  he IS a true star!!  He never ceases to amaze me.  Lots of electronic sounds this time, some of it sounds like me might be using some analog stuff (or at least he's making it sound like he is...  hard to tell, but nothing surprises me with Todd because he can do anything!)

16. They Might Be Giants - Nanobots - Typically well-crafted, and typically full of off-the-wall humor...  but I think it surpasses some of their other recent efforts.  Lots of fun, and a great listen!

17. Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing - Very nice effort from the Porcupine Tree front man.  Full of atmosphere, excellent musicianship, and heartfelt lyrics.

18. Guided By Voices - English Little League - Not as good as the three albums they released in 2012, but still pretty good if you like fun rock and roll with a low-fi feel.

19. Blue Cartoon - Are You Getting On? -  Nice melodic stuff that is not hard on the ears and has a bit of prog in it in places.  I hope they gain recognition and put out a lot more albums.

20. CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe - It's synth pop and sounds like it would have been at home in the Eighties, but it's more than that.  This has lots more muscle and mathy synths to go with the excellent vocals.  Check out "Lies" here:

21. Disclosure - Settle - What sounds like a lot of house music and pop vocals at first turns out to be lots more than just that.  Check out the electronic treatments and moods this British duo creates, and you'll realize it's full of all kinds of musical headtrips.

22. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II - Nice psychedelia from New Zealander Ruban Nielson (who has relocated to Portland).  He does most of the playing himself, and it's very trippy in places.  There is some nice pop music too, as in the tracks "Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)" and "So Good At Being In Trouble".   Audio for "Swim And Sleep" here:

23. Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest - A nice return from hiatus by this Scottish electronica duo.  Sleepy, dreamy textures and meditative moments abound.

24. The Besnard Lakes - Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO - A very odd title, and rather surreal music that is deep, beautiful and orchestral.  Great vocals that make me think of what it might have sounded like if the Beach Boys had gotten into some really heavy drugs.  This is a band worth noticing!

25. Minus The Bear - Acoustics II - A mathy modern rock band goes all wooden on this one in a very pleasant way.  Relaxing, nice production, and good songs.  I love the singer's voice.

26. Deerhunter - Monomania - This is a good album, but I was hoping for something more like their last one, "Halcyon Digest".  This one is garage-ier than that, but still has some good moments, like "Back To The Middle".

27. Guy Clark - My Favorite Picture Of You - Very nice and relaxing.  A great, untrained older voice winds its way through mellow tunes that will touch the heart strings.

28. The Boxer Rebellion - Promises - Pretty modern/alternative pop-rock music.  Great vocals, atmospheric guitars, sometimes with ethereal arrangements.

29. The Prog Collective - The Prog Collective - Billy Sherwood has put together an excellent record on which prog rock legends such as Alan Parsons, Steve Hillage, Gary Green of Gentle Giant, Jerry Goodman of Mahavishnu Orchestra, and others.  Good tunes, great playing, and a mentally stimulating listen.

30. Johnny Marr - The Messenger - Overall a pretty impressive production, and I think Marr is a very good vocalist as well as a great guitarist.  I guess that one of these days I will just have to get over the fact that The Smiths are no more!

I like these, but was hoping for a bit more:

31. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - "The record gets stuck" more than a few times on this one, but it's fun and it's VERY dance-worthy!  Kick back, put your mind on cruise control, and have fun with this one.

32. Atoms For Peace - Amok - More outerstellar and sterile than some of the most out-there Radiohead.  I happen to like that kind of music, but didn't like this as much as I like Radiohead.  Flea is billed as playing bass but I don't hear him in here too much.

33. Sigur Ros - Kveikur - This one didn't seem to have as much emotion as some of their others.

34. The Foals - Holy Fire - As far as I'm concerned, simply not as good as "Total Life Forever" and "Antidotes".   Some good dance tunes on this one, but not as "mathy" as their earlier albums.

Jim Marquis for turning me on to the albums by Steven Wilson, Johnny Marr, The Purrs, Queens Of The Stone Age, Todd Rundgren, Blue Cartoon, Besnard Lakes and Prog Collective...  and maybe the one by They Might Be Giants too...  I forgot!
David Downing for turning me on to the albums by Bob Dylan, Yo La Tengo and Guy Clark!  I would have put "Sueno De La Maquina" by Kinky on here too, but it's from 2012 (and it's a good one!)
Rank Knapp for turning me on to Shpongle, and for getting me to a real-live String Cheese Incident at Horning's Hideout, where I got to hear John Scofield play the Uberjam Deux album live in its entirety!
Katie Evans for turning me on to Phosphorescent!
LoRee McCollum for reminding me that Gary Numan is still alive and making great records!

All right, I confess, I haven't heard any of these yet and I am curious about them:

Bill Callahan - Dream River - I don't get what the big deal is about this guy.  Do you?  If so, help me out a bit here!  LOL

Neko Case - The Worse Things Get... - Neko is always pretty good.

My Bloody Valentine - m b v - I have been curious about this one, since I love the stuff they did years ago.

Haim - Days Are Gone

Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

Phoenix - Bankrupt

Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

David Bowie - The Next Day

Lorde - Pure Heroine

Paul McCartney - New

Local Natives - Hummingbird

Mikal Cronin - MCII - lots of good review of this one.

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City


Blogger jim marquis said...

I probably need to give the Arcade Fire album some more listens. A little more disco than I generally like.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Interesting mix. Gary Numan is still alive and recording? Who knew?

Same with John Scofield; I didn't know he was still recording. I saw him live about 30 years ago. Great player. No matter how intricate or "outside" his solos are, his music always has a bluesy gritty feel to it.

8:16 PM  
Blogger jim marquis said...

I love that picture of Gary Numan. He's like Trent Reznor's older, creepier brother.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

If you Googled images for "bleak", I think that picture might come up...

I do think Reznor owes a bit to Numan. I think lots of artists do!

11:17 PM  

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