Friday, December 20, 2013

Serious Radio: The Best Music of 2013

Admittedly, I dropped off the radar with music last year in 2012. I didn't listen to new artists.... seemed to glaze over with the music selections on my XM dials.... and downloaded/bought the least amount of music in a long time. With 2013, I made a vow to reverse that trend and I'm glad I did. My favorites of the year listed below (with videos included) are a mixture of new talent and old stalwarts. Also, consider this the kick off to some great end of the year stuff that will culminate in mid January. Enjoy.

10. The Appleseed Cast "Illumination Ritual"

Alongside Explosions In the Sky, The Appleseed Cast are the best, grossly unknown post-rock band out there. Their latest album, "Illumination Ritual", came and went in the spring without any notice. A bit derivative of their previous stuff, yet their sound is still stately and epic.

9. Bill Callahan "Dream River"

I'm not trying to sound snobbish, but either one gets Bill Callahan or not. His slow, baritone voice either hits you where it hurts or bores you to tears. His latest album, full of small ballads and love lorn lyrics hits me where it hurts, again.

8. Zola Jesus "Versions"

The idea of a singer re-inventing and re-playing certain older songs mixed in with new ones, backed by a shrieking classical orchestra can be risky. Mysterious singer Zola Jesus did just that and it reached haunting proportions.

7. Pearl Jam "Lightning Bolt"

Even sub par Pearl Jam is better than most straightforward rock out there. Yes, I understand that doesn't feel like a resounding endorsement, but "Lightning Bolt" is ragged, linear rock and roll performed with soul by the boys.

6. Grizzly Bear "Shields Expanded and B sides"

Like Zola Jesus, this release is a variation on an earlier release (from last year), but one that deserves to be mentioned. It also boasts the best single song of the year with "Will Calls".

5. Fuck Buttons "Slow Focus"

As someone who admires but rarely buys into the trance techno scene, my adoration for the English duo known as Fuck Buttons is surprising. Just listening to this album- which I've done ALOT over the past three months while driving- and you feel the vibrance of something new and exciting.

4. Daft Punk "Random Access Memories"

Part house party, part top 40 FM dance music... but mostly just great Daft Punk. After this album and their moody contribution to the "Tron: Legacy" film a few years ago, Daft Punk shows no sign of lessening their grip on the electronica crown.

3. Phosphorescent "Muchacho"

Earlier in the year, I called this album dark, introspective and something close to great. Nothing's changed. Singer/songwriter Matthew Houck has fashioned a host of songs that touch on the modern recesses of life with wit and, at times, extreme sorrow.

2. The National "Trouble Will Find Me"

The indie rock scene kings scored again this year with "Trouble Will Find Me", an album that zig zags from the depressing to the uplifting with verve, all led by Matt Berninger's self reflexive lyrics. As a longtime fan of this band, not only am I glad they've finally hit it big, but hope their stardom never diminshes their energy.

1. Volcano Choir "Repave"

Back around the first of the year, I finally discovered Bon Iver and his many permutations. This band, yet another of his, released their second album after a very mysterious and offbeat debut one. "Repave" sounds a little more like classic Bon Iver, but it has a reputation all its own. Not only has this been the defining album for me this year, but one that seems to grow and evolve with each listen. If that's not the sign of timeless art, then I'm not sure what is.

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