Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Music of 2013


The 13 Best Albums of 2013

(in no particular order)


Chastity Belt--No Regerts (Help Yourself Records)


Wickedly funny, raunchy songs from an all-female quartet from Walla Walla, Washington. Boasting amazing vocals and chiming, driving guitars, No Regerts is one of those albums you need to listen to at least once a day for months on end.  

Bombino--Nomad (Nonesuch)

Desert rock filtered through American trance blues with incendiary guitar work from Tuareg artist Bombino from Agadez, Niger.  

Savages—Silence Yourself (Matador Records)

A ferocious debut from London-based quartet.  It’s great to see a buzz band that lives up to its buzz—especially when the overall message of said buzz band is telling you to tune out all the hype, noise and distractions. 

Arcade Fire—Reflektor (Merge)


Arcade Fire’s most enigmatic album. During the first couple of listens, I found myself admiring its ambition, but hating its pretension; finding the songs derivative, then inventive; diffuse but too solipsistic. But every listen gave me more to admire. Reflektor is one of those albums that rewards patience and getting past preconceptions.

The National--Trouble Will Find Me (4AD Records)


Personally, I think Matt Berninger goes looking for trouble ‘cause it’s so much fun to sing about.  No new ground broken here, but the National make angst and self-doubt so musically inviting.


Low--The Invisible Way (Sub Pop)


Gorgeous songs of faith, longing and reconciliation, ably produced by Jeff Tweedy.


Superchunk--I Hate Music (Merge Records)


Somehow Superchunk manages to write a summer road song (“Me & You & Jackie Mittoo”) that also ponders time, loss and mortality.  Maybe music “can’t bring anyone back to this earth” but it’s the best we got.  And on this album, it’s fine compensation.

Mavis Staples—One True Vine (ANTI-Records)

The second album of Mavis Staples produced by Jeff Tweedy is a low-key gem. Her version of Low’s “Holy Ghost” is a spine tingler.

Neko Case--The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (ANTI- Records)


After falling into a depression after a number of deaths in her family, Neko Case creates one of her most personal and arresting albums.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds--Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd)


Nick Cave eases up on the pedal-to-the-metal assault of the two Grinderman albums and Dig, Lazarus, Dig, but these are no lullabies.  The musical restraint creates its own tension, and the lyrics, with mermaids hung by their hair from the streetlights and a fetus on a leash, add to the unease. 


My Bloody Valentine—MBV (self-released)

22 years after Loveless, My Bloody Valentine releases an album that builds on that classic and expands the sound.


Rhye—Woman (Republic Records)

Is your Al Green CD in the car? Does your Barry White album skip?  No problem, Rhye's Woman will set the mood.


Valerie June--Pushin' Against a Stone (Sunday Best) 


With a voice that sounds like it's coming from a John Lomax field recording instead of a contemporary album, Valerie June transports the listener.