2013 Albums of the Year
As predicted, 2013 was a lackluster music year following the astounding 2012. (N.B. I reckon WD’s generous detour through historical/biographical tunes in 2013 is a clear indication of this) I don’t have much to say about it (sigh) other than I’ve found myself dreading this list. Well, I should say I’ve found myself dreading the reduction/non-nonsensical hierarchy which creating a list like this requires. Indeed, I considered an unranked list of WD’s ten favorite albums (and the same with songs) of 2013. But then this started to seem like a cop out. (N.B. Probably to no one other than me, but nonetheless.)
OK, I’m not half-assing through any honorable-mentions or expanded lists or other nonsense I’ve used as crutches in years past. This week 10 albums, and next week 16 songs, and then you’ll be done with me for a bit. WD is taking a not-at-all-deserved vacation.
10. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk – Nothing on either of these lists the next two weeks surprises me as much as this. Shocked is more accurate. But this tour through music history brought to me by the two helmeted guys who I don’t think play any instruments has stuck with me (both head-bobbing-ly and train-wreck-dancing-ly) since I first heard it.
You were warned.
Standouts: Get Lucky and Instant Crush
9. Regions of Light and Sound of God – Jim James – And thus is exposed my soft spot for all things Jim James/My Morning Jacket. This one is overrated. It’s my overrated album for the year just like Circuital was in 2010. Any amount of self respect as a SMC would have seen me put Parquet Courts here, or Kanye, or (gasp) Lightning Bolt (N.B. However, this fall I decided that PJ have reached that Springsteen/Waits status where their new work, no matter where it’s ranked, seems both too low and too high. (N.B. This is a compliment)). But let’s be honest, how long has it been since I’ve had self respect?
Standouts: A New Life and Know Til Now.
8. Trouble Will Find Me – The National – The Weapon once described Pabst Blue Ribbon (just as its hipster re-birth into something to ironically pour under your mustache during a fondue art show in the Paseo was cresting) as the “beerest smelling beer of all beers.”No one nails it like The Weapon.
Trouble Will Find Me is Nationalest sounding National album of all National albums which in turn makes it the indie rockest sounding indie rock album of all indie rock albums. I’ve read that Trouble may be the last great indie rock album given that the Internet has effectively killed the luster of what we once called “indie.” I’m not complaining, but The National have owned this forever resistant to definition genre for a decade. Finally they get the credit for it.
Standouts: Pink Rabbits, Graceless, and Don’t Swallow the Cap
7. Southeastern – Jason Isbell – Let’s not forget I spent an entire month this year documenting/lamenting the death of country music. Then once Drive by Trucker wunderkind, Jason Isbell drops this county masterpiece. It’s the best country music (pure, from the gut, no pretension country music) I’ve heard in a damn long time. It made me remember how much I loved it. Southeastern oozes the sincerity and song-craft I once thought only real rock could. Isbell put everything he had into Southeastern, and it shows. It’s prolly ranked too low given how much I enjoyed/appreciated it this year. A marvel of an album and a testament to all you jaded country kids that country music, real country music, can still bring it.
Standouts: Live Oak, Elephant, and Cover Me Up
6. Plastic Soldiers – Portugal. The Man – PTM are vaulting into the ranks of the bands I love but can get no one else to listen to division. (N.B. a/k/a the Drive By Truckers division (N.B. and yes, I managed two DBT references in the album of the year post for a year in which they released nothing). I haven’t decided how Plastic Soldiers matches up to PTM’s prior effort, the much beloved by WD, In the Mountain In the Cloud. Plastic Soldiers definitely has a different and more varied feel than the, at times monochromatic (N.B. not in a bad way. (N.B. monochromatic in the lacking in variety way and not the containing or using only one color way.)) ITMITC, with way more melody and catchy singles. But it’s an odd album. and one that I loved all year.
Standouts: Holy Roller [Hallelujah], Sea of Air, and Modern Jesus
5. Muchacho – Phosphorescent This was album of the year for quite some time. I still feel weird ranking it this low. But at this point and in this year, I feel weird about where I’ve ranked everything, like I haven’t thought about it enough, or haven’t ordered my thoughts with some semblance of intellect. An intellect similar to that Matthew Houck used during his heart-weary sabbatical that resulted in this jewel. There is nothing wrong with Muchacho. Unlike every album ranked ahead of it, Muchacho has no flaws. (N.B. Even the fucking album cover is great.) Unlike some albums that make these rankings year after year, I know that Muchacho will be in my permanent rotation. Its unique country/indie/techno broken hearted vibe will always resonate with me.
Standouts: Song for Zula, Ride On / Right On, and A Charm / A Blade
It’s really good.
3. We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Light – Foxygen – I feel like every year there’s a “vibe” album. Vibe: n. inf. a person’s emotional state or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to a felt by others As in I like the vibe an album puts out, and hearing will remind of that vibe. That vibe, as previously stated is great ass-holey/wierdly earnest Rolling Stones-ness that reminds you of
every most reasons you love the Stones and you can be happy that someone can knock them off so perfectly that it sounds like they discovered that…vibe.
Standouts: No Destruction, San Francisco, and On Blue Mountain
2. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper – A definite tie with WAt21CAoP&L for the most unexpected fun I had listening to an album this year. Chance gets the nod because he’s 20 and he gave this album away. I have and will continue to give you guys tons of shit for not listening to the music I recommend. But this one, it’s free, come on. The most funky, psychedelic, funny (N.B. with my hair slicked back I look like Rick Pitino) but yet poignant (N.B. by a kid growing up on Chicago’s south-side: everybody’s dying in the summer so pray to god for a little more spring / down here it’s easier to find a gun that it is to find fucking parking spot) hip hop you’ll hear this year (or maybe any year).
Standouts: Everybody’s Something, Favorite Song, and Chain Smoker
1. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend – Keith Law (@keithlaw), a Harvard educated baseball/pop-culture/food writer I adore for his surly pompousness and generally brilliant takes on everything, stated this after he learned that Rolling Stone Magazine also awarded MVotC album of the year: “Rolling Stone names Vampire Weekend’s latest the best album of the year thus filling me with confirmation bias.” I did some research about what confirmation bias is, and I think he and I are simpatico on this subject.
Is MVotC the best album of 2013? Surely, probably, well maybe. It’s the best VW album, and they’ve release two other pretty damn good ones. Will publications like Rolling Stone et cet lead me to believe my decision was correct? Absolutely. But for WD there is also another bias at play, concert bias. As in, I saw VW in concert in 2013, and they played all of my favorite songs not only off this album, but that they’ve ever done. Even followed by an unfortunate head injury (N.B. “Just like L.A.”) it was a fantastic concert and it made my love for them grow exponentially.
So I know all that is clouding and will continue to cloud my judgment. But that’s surely OK, it’s probably OK, well maybe it’s OK. But this is the 2013 Album of the Year.
See you next week.