One time many years ago an American sage once wrote, ".....if dreams came true oh would'nt that be nice." Unfortunately for this wonderful country the dream somehow has died. Politically and culturally we are in a complete funk. The divisions in this country are so awful that it is embarrassing. Culturally we are on the brink of the abyss. I will not even mention all of the incredible moments that passed for reality in our culture. It is as close to the music playing while Rome burned.
Luckily for us the music is once again fabulous, if in fact you ignore the mainstream pap which passes for radio ready music for the people. Needless to say I have not listened to anything but public radio for years. Thank goodness for KCRW, WFUV and WDET.
This year my musical loves were influenced by alt country singer songwriters, neo folk and neo soul, pop genius musicians who channeled the Beatles and the Beach Boys and of course singer songwriters of all stripes. Electronic music and old school rockers were also favorites in a year that produced so many great albums it was at times hard to keep up. But I persevered and below are 75 of my favorite albums of 2013.
75. MAZZY STAR-SEASONS OF YOUR DAY
74. JIM JAMES-REGIONS OF LIGHT AND SONGS
73. PAPA-TENDER MADNESS
72. LOW-THE INVISIBLE KEY
71. POKEY LAFARGE-POKEY LAFARGE
70. LITTLE COMETS-LIFE IS ELSEWHERE
69. DUCKTAILS-FLOWER LANE
68. THE MOONDOGGIES- ADIOS I'M A GHOST
67. SIGUR ROS-KVEIKUR
66. THE MAVERICKS-IN TIME
65. MAVIS STAPLES-ONE TRUE VINE
64. THE LONE BELLOW-THE LONE BELLOW
63. JULIANNA BARWICK-NEPENTHE
62. OLA PODRIA-GHOSTS GO BLIND
61. THE CIVIL WARS-THE CIVIL WARS
60. LUKE WINSLOW KING-THE COMING TIME
59. KURT VILE-WALKIN ON PRETTY DAZE
58. BEACHWOOD SPARKS-DESERT SKIES
57. MOUNT KIMBIE-COLD SPRINK FAULT LESS YOUTH
56. JOSE JAMES-NO BEGINNING NO END
55. BOZ SCAGGS-MEMPHIS
54. YO LA TENGO-FADE
53. JANELLE MONAE-THE ELECTRIC LADY
52. DEPTFORD GOTH-LIFE AFTER DEPO
50. CAITLIN ROSE-THE STAND IN
One of the great young Americana voices
49. BILLIE JO AND NORAH-FOREVERLY
Who would have thunk it. Norah Jones and Billie Jo Armstrong from Green Day doing the Everly Brothers with passion.
48. SHE AND HIM-VOLUME THREE
It seems every album that Zoey Deschanel and M Ward make are beautiful and so California
47. TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND-MADE UP MY MIND
There is not a singer alive that channels Bonnie Raitt as well as Susan Tedeschi, and that is a stone cold compliment. Butch Trucks can play the guitar as well as any of the Allmans...
46. LAURA MARLING-ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE
Compared by many to Joni Mitchell this young English folkie has a soothing and beautiful voice
45. ASHLEY MONROE-LIKE A ROSE
This 25 year old country singer and member of the Pistol Annies, captures many of the great country themes and kills it with "Weed Instead of Roses."
44. VOLCANO CHOIR-REPAVE
The "side project" for Justin Vernon/Bon Iver and his mates from Wisconsin. This is their second album since 2007 and it reflects well on Vernon and his roots
43. BLOOD ORANGE-CUPID DELUXE
Dev Hynes who goes by the name Blood Orange, made one of the tastiest and soulful records of 2013, with many references to life on the streets of NYC. Netherland is the standout cut.
42. WILLIAM TYLER-THE IMPOSSIBLE TRUTH
One of the great guitar virtuosos in the tradition of John Fahey.
41. PAUL MCCARTNEY-NEW
Sir Paul back and rocking like he did back in the day and not sounding much older than Liverpool.
40. JASON ISBELL-SOUTHEASTERN
The former Drive By Trucker and newly sober American singer songwriter from Green Hill Alabama made one of the more touching records of the year.
39. DALE EARNHARDT JR JR-THE SPEED OF THINGS
Another fine effort from the best Motor City popsters with a sunny offering.
38. OKKERVIL RIVER-THE SILVER GYMNASIUM
Frontman Will Sheff has made a beautiful record based on his childhood hometown in New Hampshire
37. JOHN FOGERTY-WROTE A SONG FOR EVERYONE
How can an album of vintage Fogerty songs done with guests like Bob Seger, Kid Rock and Miranda Lambert not make you smile from ear to ear. A stunner.
36. FOXYGEN-WE ARE THE 21ST CENTURY AMBASSADORS OF PEACE AND MAGIC
Sam France and Jonathan Rado, two 22 year old wizards from Los Angeles, who are influenced by the Kinks, Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground made a charming Richard Swift produced nugget.
35. BILL CALLAHAN-DREAM RIVER
This is an album which captures all of the beauty of a sunny day outside, with birds chirping and a river flowing. A nice slow easy walk in the park.
34. JAMES HUNTER SIX-MINUTE BY MINUTE
This blue eyed soul man from England has yet to catch on with an American audience and hopefully this will change all of that.
33. DAWES-STORIES DON'T END
Taylor Goldsmith and crew have made another California inspired folk rock record inspired once again by the great Laurel Canyon folks of the seventies.
32. DAVID BOWIE-THE NEXT DAY
It is almost as if Bowie never stopped recording and the first single Where Are We Now is an instant Bowie classic
31. CASS MCCOMBS-BIG WHEEL LAND OTHERS
Another American singer songwriter who has been overlooked as far as commercial success goes. The double record is just plain pleasant and the song Brighter with the late great actress Karen Black is transcendent.
Jose Gonzalez has such a soft mellow voice and this Swedish based group showcases his vocals and sweet sounds.
29. NEKO CASE-THE WORSE THINGS GET THE HARDER I FIGHT THE HARDER I FIGHT THE MORE I LOVE YOU
The former lead singer of the New Pornographers has one of the great rock n roll voices of the 21st centuries and her songs are visual treasures.
28. PISTOL ANNIES-ANNIE UP
Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe are a bona fide supergroup. I Feel A Sin Comin On and Hush Hush are the best two opening songs of 2013. Girl power in the 21st.......
27. VALERIE JUNE-PUSHIN AGAINST A STONE
With one of the most distinctive voices of 2013 Valerie June combines folk, blues and traditional Appalachian sounds (ala Victoria Williams) and the first cut Workin Woman Blues excels, as does the entire album produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
26. LOCAL NATIVES-HUMMINGBIRD
The sophomore album from one of my favorite Los Angelino bands, is much more refined American pop. Silver Lake hipster rock n roll.
25. KASEY MUSGRAVES-SAME TRAILER DIFFERENT PARK
"Mommas hooked on Mary Kay, brothers hooked on MaryJane and fathers hooked on Mary two doors down......" The song Merry Go Round is one of the gems on this debut album from this East Texas star in the making.
24. ROKIA TRAORE-BEAUTIFUL AFRICA
Every few years I am taken by a brilliant African sound. The Indestructible Sounds of Soweto is my baseline, and Rokia Traore is the Malian answer.
23. FRIGHTENED RABBIT-PEDESTRIAN VERSE
The Scottish rockers have made their best album so far, with a little bit more of an anthemic tone, actually a little reminiscent of early Arcade Fire.
22. THE HEAD AND THE HEART-LETS BE STILL
Part of the neo-folk movement as they were dubbed by the music press, these Seattle based folkies made a real easy to listen to record and the title cut Lets Be Still is one of those songs which stays in your head. Beautiful harmonies.
21. PHOSPHORESCENT-MUCHACHO DE LUJO
To classify Matthew Houck as anything but brilliant would be to understate the obvious, to me anyway. This is his sixth release and while still unknown to most commercially he continues to make beautiful records. And that is how I would describe this, a beauty.
20. TERRY ALLEN-BOTTOM OF THE WORLD
Not to be out done by the more famous 70 year olds on this list, outlaw music man from Lubbock Texas, Terry Allen's name is spoken in the same breath as Joe Ely, Guy Clark and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. The songs on this album are more like paintings and even though I am not a dog lover, the song Queenies Song almost brought me to tears.
19. ARCADE FIRE-REFLEKTOR
One of the brightest indie rockers from Montreal, Arcade Fire turned to James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to turn their double record into a jambalaya of anthem rock, disco and Haitian voodoo music. The title cut is one of the best songs of the year and very emblematic of the new path they have taken.
18. WILLIE NILE-AMERICAN RIDE
One of the under appreciated rockers of NYC, and friend of Bruce, Willie Nile makes old fashioned rock n roll with a nod to the streets of NYC along with influences from Bruce to Patti Smith and the Ramones. A gritty and wonderful pure rocker.
17. JAKE BUGG/SHANGRI LA-JAKE BUGG
Two albums released in America, one at the beginnning of the year and one at the end....pretty good for a Brit whose first song Lightning Bolt sounds like he is Bob Dylans grandson. The second album is produced by the great Rick Rubin and Jake Bugg has a bright future. " I drink to remember, I smoke to forget."
16. IRON AND WINE-GHOST ON GHOST
Sam Beam started his musical career with an almost whisper of a voice as a lo-fi artisan. He has grown to a full fledged band leader, yet still writing sweet and solemn songs, as is evident with Caught In The Briars on this fine and under appreciated release, which mixes in a bit of jazz plus Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan) and his great bass.
15. JONATHON WILSON-FANFARE
With a nod back again to the Laurel Canyon sound of the seventies, Jonathon Wilson even enlisted David Crosby, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne to assist. The result is something of a classic that indeed could have recorded back in the day when Wilson was just a tyke. Brilliant.
14. GARLAND JEFFREYS-TRUTH SERUM
There is a special place in my soundtrack of life for Garland always. His is a soulful mix of rock n roll, blues and reggae and on this release the assistance of Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan and Levon Helm) made this one of the most soulful collections of his career. Ship of Fools, Truth Serum, Its What I Am and Colorblind Love are welcome additions to the expanding catalogue of greatness from Mr Jeffreys.
13. WESLEY STACE-SELF TITLED
You may or may not remember him as John Wesley harding, not the Bob Dylan album, but the name he recorded under from 1991 throught 2011. Unfortunately, once again, he was not a commercial success. So he released this album in 2013 under his real name......cynical as a good Brit can be, this brought to mid early Elvis Costello, without the heavy backbeat.
12. DR DOG-B ROOM
The pride of Philly indie rock n roll, Dr Dog is another great American band that has never found a large audience, but rather a very dedicated following of small but devoted fans. With a nod to the Philly Stax sound, the good Dr made probably the best album of their career. The Truth, yes!
11. JAMES BLAKE-OVERGROWN
James Blake is a London based producer with the voice of an angel and is a 25 year old genius who makes electronic music drenched with dub step and atmospheric beats. From the title cut Overgown to the first single Retrograde, his voice makes this one pleasant listen.
For a debut album, the Yudin twins, Zach and Ben teamed up with my favorite producer of the year Richard Swift and made what has been described as surf pop for the 21st century. With riffs reminiscent of all the greats, this band was the biggest new band for 2013 in my opinion. Pure pop!
9. CHARLES BRADLEY-VICTIM OF LOVE
Once again Charles Bradley, on his second album for Daptone Records has made the most soulful record of the year, bar none. With equal parts James Brown, Wilson Pickett, David Ruffin and Otis Redding (do I have your attention) and backed by the extraordinary Menahem Street Band from Brooklyn......Charles Bradley represents.
8. STEVE MARTIN AND EDIE BRICKELL-LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU
Yes that Steve Martin and yes Mrs Paul Simon the past leader of the New Bohemians. Martin can sure as hell banjo on par with the nest and Edie Brickell is a top notch song writer. The combination is one of the most pleasing and listenable albums of the year. Its not often that a song, Yes She Did, which is about a suicide is so easy to listen to.
7. ELTON JOHN-THE DIVING BOARD
I remember fondly listening to Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water. Your Song was me sitting upon a roof in college looking at the stars and pondering the future. Elton John, with of course Bernie Taupin writing and T Bone Burnett producing, has recreated that moment in time on this wonderful and again under appreciated album. Spare and beautiful.
6. SAM BAKER-SAY GRACE
I confess I own all four of Sam Bakers albums and the next is more wonderful than the one before. Sam is another of the great American storytellers who struggles to find an audience. His songs are so touching and so pure that it is almost a travesty he is not a household name. His words and his phrasings are magic. His voice is familiar. Go buy this record if you love John Prine or any other great American singer in that vein. Say Grace, Button By Button and Ditch are classics. "My wife god bless her and for what is worth, think she and Taylor Swift were twins at birth, separated at birth, earth to wife, wife to earth."
5. THE NATIONAL-TROUBLE WILL FIND ME
I would say they are the quintessential American indie band that may have finally found the audience they so richly deserve. Their fifth album once again finds lead singer Matt Berninger brooding and the brothers Dessner and Devendorf providing the musical accompaniment which makes this band so enchanting. Surely not pop, these Cincinnati natives by way of Brooklyn rock hard.
4. MAYER HAWTHORNE-WHERE DOES THIS DOOR GO
Andrew Mayer Cohen from Ann Arbor Michigan and music aficionado and one time DJ released his fourth full length album which was a slight departure from his Motown soulful records of the past. The boy can sing and he has a wonderful groove. Here with the help of Pharrel, he does his best blue eyed soul, with a nod to Boz Scaggs, Hall and Oates and Steely Dan. From Back Seat Lover to the heart felt Reach Out Richard, Mayer Hawthorne made an ode to blue eyed soul.
This album blew me away when it was released in early 2013. I could not stop playing it, nor could I get over the fact that it was not Sade......Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal are men. This is the sexiest album released in 2013. Why have you never heard of these guys? Sweet R&B with such a beautiful arrangement of sounds.....If Open and The Fall do not sell you on this....I have failed.
2. BRANDY CLARK-12 STORIES
A songwriter in Nashville. Never released an album till this year. Wrote hits for Miranda Lambert, LeAnn Rimes and Reba McIntire. Some genius somewhere figured out she should be performing as a solo artist. Every single "story" is such a fine embodiment of the average or not so average Southerner, written from a womans astute perspective. You will smile and you will be sad when you listen. You will, however, not be disappointed. "Cause I hate stripes and orange aint my color....." Come on, she decided not to shoot her cheating boyfriend because "there aint no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion." The best Americana album of the year.
1. VAMPIRE WEEKEND-MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY
Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Chris Tomson and Rostam Batmaglij have released their third album to a country that finally got them. Influenced by Paul Simon and African rhythms on their first two albums, on Vampires they took it up a notch or two. The songs will keep you interested in the rhythms and the layers of sound that in some weird way are reminiscent of Phil Spector or not. Not a song to be disregarded not a word to be missed. Mature and polished far beyond their years. Hannah Hunt starts out so sweet and soft and near the end explodes. Obvious Bicycle opens the album and segues into Unbelievers, into Step and then the riveting Diane Young (or Dying Young). Ya Hey, Hudson and Young Lion finish the album as strong as it started. "....spinning Isrealites into 19th Nervous Breakdown....." Intelligent rock n roll and an American masterpiece.
TOP 25 TRACKS
1. VAMPIRE WEEKEND-STEP
2. ELTON JOHN-OCEANS AWAY
4. DAVID BOWIE-WHERE ARE WE NOW
5. JAKE BUGG-LIGHTNING BOLT
6. KASEY MUSGRAVES-MERRY GO ROUND
7. PHOSPHORESCENT-SONG FOR ZULA
8. BRANDY CLARK-STRIPES
9. MAYER HAWTHORNE-BACK STREET LOVER
10. RHYE-THE FALL
11. KING KRULE-EASY EASY
12. THE HEAD AND THE HEART-LETS BE STILL
13. STEVE MARTIN AND EDIE BRICKELL-WHEN YOU GET TO ASHEVILLE
14. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN-DREAM BABY DREAM
15. SAM BAKER-SAY GRACE
16. CASS MCCOMBS-BRIGHTER
17. JONATHON WILSON-CECIL TAYLOR
18. LOCAL NATIVES-YOU AND I
19. PAPA-I AM THE LION KING
20. WILLIE NILE-AMERICAN RIDE
21. JOHN FOGERTY-BORN ON THE BAYOU
22. NEKO CASE-MAN
23. WESLEY STACE-THE DEALERS DAUGHTER
24. GARLAND JEFFREYS-TRUTH SERUM
25. TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND-MADE UP MIND