With F.I.’s Favorite Albums of 2013 officially in the books, it’s now time to turn our attention to the music that could have been. Relying heavily on Sound Opinion’s Best Albums of 2013 Podcast and Album of the Year’s Best Albums Aggregator, I have assembled the following list. The review blurbs are from the music sites referenced in parentheses.
The list itself is fairly eclectic and references artists that at one time, or another, received heavy rotation on my iTunes music player. Mazzy Star, Deltron 3030, NIN and Nick Cave have long-held my high regard and it’s great to discover new music from such venerable acts. Of these artists, Mazzy Star’s new album excites me the most because it’s been almost 17 years since their last recording. Their wispy-daydream sound is enchanting and I cannot wait to rock baby boy to sleep as we listen to Hope Sandavol sing under pedal steel stars.
While not on the official list, Beck’s Song Reader deserves recognition. He is one of my favorite all-time artists and I totally dig the concept behind his latest album. Only released as sheet music, Beck has invited the world over to share their interpretations on his site, Songreader.net. It’s a brilliant mash-up of both old and new technologies. While the available amateur recordings are a blast, I cannot wait to checkout Beck’s own interpretations from his official Song Reader Celebration concert.
The other half of the list are albums by artists that managed to stay off my musical radar. It will take a lot for them to supplant 2012’s late year discovery, Gary Clark Jr. and his fantastic Blak and Blu album. With Spotify fired up, the early returns on these new acts sound promising. The Savages bring a mean punch and according to the guys at Sound Opinions, have a lead singer whose live presence is the biggest thrill since Kurt Cobain. John Grant is the best singer-song writter on this list and he has received high praise across the music publishing spectrum. Caitlin Rose and Parquet Courts were both shared by my brother, the infamous Uncle B. Rose’s work is in the alt-country vein and the Courts offer punky punch pleasure. Low has my interest peaked because their album was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and if the song Plastic Cup is any indication, they are an inventive band worthy of air play. Last but not least is Darkside. Their Psychic album is strictly for headphone land and I cannot wait to take in its sonic vapor. It promises to defy genres and should serve as a great mental-escape soundscape.
Mazzy Star: Seasons Of Your Day (TinyMixTapes) Seasons of Your Day is album music that is supposed to be played in sequence on a record player with a cup of tea and a good book. As ever, it’s rapturous makeout music. It’s music for unrepentant daydreamers. But the record’s dusty functionality should not be held against it, especially when the people involved have spent so many years carving out such a particular niche. Sandoval and her collaborators may never modify the melancholy torch that they bear, but they keep that fire masterfully for those of us who still have a yen for patient, no-frills sounds that happen to serve as a miracle balm.
Savages: Silence Yourself (PRETTY MUCH AMAZING) Savages’ smart reorganization and shuffling of punk, post-punk, krautrock, and noise music into something brutal, jarringly confrontational, and completely singular is a breath of fresh air and an unignorable statement of power and resistance.
John Grant: Pale Green Ghost (MusicOMH) On the strength of Pale Green Ghosts, John Grant should rightfully be entering his own. It’s a towering achievement, building on what has come before while expanding it in astonishing ways. This is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year and after so many thwarted attempts, the world is finally Grant’s for the taking.
Deltron 3030: Event II (HipHopDX) The album’s intro, narrated impeccably by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, informs us that Event II takes place 10 years after the events of the first album (i.e. in the year 3040). “Event II” is a true spiritual successor to the original Deltron 3030 project, and it’s everything fans could have asked for.
Low: The Invisible Way (A.V. Club) Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy produces Low for the first time here, and it can’t be a coincidence that there’s a marked, if stark, country-rock tint to Invisible. It’s as if Low has taken its tried-and-true songwriting formula—a slow buildup into a smoldering climax—and stretched it to the length of an entire album. And an entirely superb one.
Caitlin Rose: The Stand-In (MusicOMH) Those who were endeared by Rose’s debut may be surprised, hopefully pleasantly, by the change in tone and attitude shown on The Stand-In. Nevertheless, it is a delightful record – one that could well see her high-kicking herself into major success. It would be well deserved.
Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks (ALLMUSIC) Hesitation Marks makes it quite clear that Trent Reznor is no longer an angry young man but rather a restless, inventive artist who is at peace with himself, and the result is a record that provides real, lasting nourishment.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away (CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND) Richly arranged, masterfully sequenced, and full of brooding, Push the Sky Away combines the stately beauty of The Boatman’s Call and No More Shall We Part with the intensity of Grinderman/Lazarus-era Cave while managing to sound like neither.
Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold (The Fly) An album of urgent art-punk verve and rattling brevity, its 15 songs pass in 33 raucous and immediately re-listenable minutes. It’s a pitching and yawing listen, and it’s compelling and punchy in a way that’ll have you bouncing straight out of your chair.
Darkside: Psychic (Spin Magazine) The pair’s influences range from Dark Prince-era Miles Davis material to Portishead’s Dummy (see “Metatron”) to dark disco (“The Only Shrine I’ve Seen”) to even a few licks of Portuguese fado, all of it spare but sensuous — mood music for watching e-cig vapor curl.