My Top 10 Albums for 2013

In no particular order.  Don’t ask me to order these by preference, that’s just mean…

  • YuckGlow and Behold – I love the sound of this band, and maybe that’s because it’s so evocative of the heyday of alternative music from my college years.  For some reason I always think of Buffalo Tom’s “Taillights Fade” when I first start listening to a Yuck record.  If you’re a fan of that late 80s early 90s alternative, pre-grunge sound, check these guys out, they will not disappoint.
  • Jarwar MaHowlin – These guys hail from Australia and have a bit of that Cut Copy punk dance sound to them.  They also evoke some of that trip hop drama that Alt-J has in their mix.  When I first heard this record, I felt like the bands on a similar trajectory to Alt-J.  I don’t think they’ll catapult as high, but still deserve the same attention.
  • M.I.A.Matangi – at first listen this felt like a more aggressive departure than MAYA, but on further listens there is a ton of accessible stuff here.  I really want to see her live…Hip hop, dance, punk.  FU!!!  She’s a badass and she knows it, lives it, owns it and makes it sound amazing and fun.
  • Arcade FireReflektor – not my favorite record of theirs and I don’t think they fully utilized the talents of James Murphy.  They could have been much more daring in their electronic exploration.  That said, these guys don’t make bad records and there are plenty of super fun and gripping tracks here, as usual.
  • DeerhunterMonomania – you can find more about this band I cherish and this album in my Bumbershoot 2013 post, but I think if pressed, I’d put this at the top of my list this year.  This just hits so many of my buttons – moody lyrics delivery, psychedelic leanings, puck aesthetic, I could go on and on.  Love these guys and not sure they will release a bad record from here on out.
  • Daft PunkRandom Access Memories – what can I say that hasn’t already been said?  Or experienced over and over because it’s so fucking joyful.  My humble opinion is that I’m glad they went a different direction.  It’s an amazing, creative and daring record, whether it sounds like a Daft Punk record or not.  Whatever that means.
  • Rogue WaveNightingale Floors – maybe not the most daring record on this list, but great ear candy.  Think Death Cab for Cutie with a few more surprises.  They put on a great show and Everyone Wants to Be You is one of the great psychedelic explorations of the year.  Built to Spill-esque guitar work on that track…More on them here.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubSpecter at the Feast – great solid record from BRMC.  These guys are just super consistent.  Just now, typing this I felt I had to put on a BRMC record.  Didn’t do that for any of the other above.  No knock on the other records here, but these guys just strike this badass cord every time that makes you feel cooler than you might be.  I need that…
  • The Joy FormidableWolf’s Law – feel like these are all the tracks on the cutting room floor from their first record – The Big Roar.  Some bands just have that much good material built up when they release a record that it’ll spread between two.  I think that’s what happened here, given how closely the two were released.  Means it might not vary much from the first record, but great stuff.  Curious to see what they do next.
  • The NationalTrouble Will Find Me – can’t say anything sufficiently intelligent about this band to justify anything I would write here.  I’m humbled by this band, they are truly artistic and interesting in a way that is cheapened by words and should just be experienced.

My Top 10 Albums of 2011

In no particular order:

1. Adele – “21”
2. My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
3. Girls – “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”
4. We Were Promised Jetpacks – “In the Pit of the Stomach”
5. Elbow – “Build a Rocket Boys”
6. Cut Copy – “Zonoscope”
7. M83 – “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”
8. The Joy Formidable – “The Big Roar”
9. The Black Lips – “Arabia Mountain”
10. Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Horrors – “Skying”
  • Death Cab for Cutie – “Codes and Keys”
  • The Black Keys – “El Camino”
  • Yuck – “Yuck”
  • Tapes n’ Tapes – “Outside”
  • Little Dragon – “Ritual Union”
  • Youth Lagoon – “The Year of Hibernation”
  • The Chain Gang of 1974 – “Wayward Fire”
  • Wilco – “The Whole Love”
  • Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. – “It’s a Corporate World”
  • The Cold War Kids – “Mine Is Yours”
  • Beirut – “The Rip Tide”
  • TV on the Radio – “Nine Types of Light”
  • The Rapture – “In the Grace of Your Love”
  • Washed Out – “Within and Without”

As you can see, hard to get down to 10, even harder to try to put them in order.  Great year for new music…much thanks to Nate V from Dropbox for maintaining an excellent folder of new music this year.

Pains of Being Pure w/ a Broken Heart – Adele’s “21”

Adele - 21 Album ReviewEven though Adele has been marketed in the crowded pop space, there was something deeper about her that struck me immediately upon hearing “Rolling in the Deep”, the huge single from the album.  My wife and I checked out the rest of the album in passing a while back, and a few tracks had clear potential.  My wife wanted the album, so last week I gladly used some Zune credits I had and got it for her.  Gave it a few listens for myself, and wow.  A great record.

There are a few female acts that for me have been continuously releasing strong material – Aimee Mann, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple – and Adele is quickly right up there with the rest of them.  The album is a great mix of upbeat toe tappers and more melancholy crooners, all of which are crafted and performed straight from the heart.  I like to think that the common element across the variety of music I like is a commitment the artists put into the music.  And Adele clearly commits to each song and each performance.  She leaves it all on the ones and zeros.

A lot has been written about the breakups that led to the development of each of Adele’s records, so I wont go into it here, but it’s clear that she’s putting a lot of feeling into it.  Haven’t heard “19” (her first record) yet, but I’ll need to check it out and expect the same level of emotion.

This is a well crafted album from start to finish, just the right mix of slower and speedier tracks, all of which work together.  Deeper album standouts are “He Won’t Go”, “I’ll be Waiting” and the Cure cover “Lovesong”.  There are shades of an edgier Fiona Apple at times, I hear some of the type of passion you’d expect from a Lauren Hill record and her voice is at times reminiscent of Janis Joplin.  The band behind her is tight and provides a worthy soundtrack that compliments but doesn’t overshadow what is clearly the focus here – Adele’s vocals.  The music is a nice coctail of blues and upbeat jazz that somehow never feels as old as the roots of those genres.

If you only know Adele from the radio and you like what you’ve heard, check this record out, it will not disappoint.