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Best Music of 2013

January 1, 2014

I haven’t written a blog post all year!

Every year I do my wrap-up of the best music of the year. Due to my cash-strapped condition, I don’t have the money to buy all the new CDs that come out in the year, so this is a list of the best music that I have listened to this year, not the best music that came out this year. This was an interesting year for my music listening. I didn’t get to listen to as much music as I wanted to (of course, I never do). This year’s list of best albums contains two hip-hop offers and a punk classic, while the list of best songs ranges from a Beatles cover to a blend of classical and rock. Enjoy!

[Note: Some of these songs/albums contain profanity, etc. For those of you who are offended by such stuff, use your own good discretion when listening to these things.]

The Ten Best CDs Albums of the Year

A picture of the Smiths

  1. The Smith’s Best…vol. 1 by the Smiths: I know that it’s not cool to like greatest hits compilations, but let’s face it: sometimes it’s nice to get a CD with all of the major songs by an artist. This collection introduced me to the melancholy British band with the cult fandom (they were J.K. Rowling’s favorite band in high school.” Morrisey’s eccentric, sad lyrics form the perfect counterpoint to  Johnny Marr’s hovering guitar. This album brought me back to high school, in the best possible way.
  2. Boxer by The National: The first album by a newer band that I’ve bought on vinyl. Matt Berninger has more testosterone than the entire indie music scene, and with his voice, he could make the phone book sound like a heartbreaking love story. Fortunately, he’s a great lyricist as well, tending to minimalist, koan-like songs about the lives of quiet desperation that young city dwellers live. The rest of the band does beautifully as well. It will make you depressed–but in a good way.
  3. Bon Iver by Bon Iver: I listened to this record all the way through for the first time this year. I used to be skeptical of Justin Vernon, simply because he was so popular. This album won me over. It has its weak spots–the auto-tune on “Beth/Rest” sounds unbearably pretentious. But the majesty of compositions like “Perth” and “Holocene” is enough to justify buying the album.
  4. Trouble Will Find Me by The National: The newest album from The National. Though it is not quite as consistent as Boxer, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable album by The National. It’s much more muted and slow, and drags in the later half. Still, it’s worth it for gems like “I Should Live in Salt” and “Sea of Love.”
  5. The Animal Years by Josh Ritter: I’ve had this album for a while, but I never got around to listening to it until this summer. Josh Ritter is a true successor to Bob Dylan, nasally voice and all. I kept this album on heavy rotation as I drove the streets of Texarkana in my Ford Explorer this summer.
  6. The College Dropout by Kanye West: There are many things to hate about Kanye West: He’s pretentious, he’s married to Kim Kardashian, and the way he refers to women in his songs is often disgusting and wrong. But make no mistake: the guy is talented. Before he was dating reality stars or interrupting Taylor Swift, he made this album, a record focused more on storytelling than boasting. I usually only listen to hip-hop one day out of the month–I could listen to this record any day.
  7. Never Mind The B****cks, Here’s The Sex Pistols by The Sex Pistols: I can’t recommend this band or this record. The Sex Pistols were boorish, vulgar, and nihilistic. But their influence on rock and roll can’t be denied. This was probably the fastest, loudest, most punk thing to happen in 1977. Anthems like “God Save The Queen” propelled the music world to new heights of aggression. Love them or hate them, the world would be very different without the Sex Pistols.
  8. Youth by Matisyahu: Matisyahu is a Hasidic Jew who performs hip-hop/reggae music about its faith. That may make him seem like a novelty act, but he has the skills to keep himself relevant. His songs are great chill tunes. Another CD that I enjoyed very much during this summer.
  9. All The Times We Had by Ivan and Alyosha: Ever since hearing their song “Glorify,” I have become hooked on Ivan and Alyosha. They have all the ingredients of a good folk band: tight harmonies, catchy songs, and meaningful lyrics. Their music has a spiritual tone to it, no doubt due to the influence of The Brothers Karamazov (From where the band takes its name). The first album that I paid for on Noisetrade.
  10. Two Men With The Blues by Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis: Two American music legends, together again for the first time. It’s impossible to have a bad Willie Album. Pairing him with one of the foremost jazz musicians of our time is a match made in heaven. The album grooves, in a very 1930s way.

Eleven Best Songs of the Year

Another picture of the Smiths. Morissey will be flying down to Arkansas soon to pick up his awards.

  1. “Girlfriend In A Coma” by The Smiths: I tried not to have any overlap between the best songs and best albums, but it would be criminal for me not to give this song the number one slot. A heartbreaking ballad that captures the tension felt by the narrator, an overbearing and possibly abusive boyfriend who is conflicted by his girlfriend being in a coma. The chorus has one of the most beautiful string parts in all of pop music.
  2. “Keeper” by Shovels and Rope: One of the most passionate performances you’ll ever hear, from the husband-and-wife alt-country duo who mix redneck and hipster tastes into one of the most delicious sounds out there.
  3. “Don’t Let Me Down” by Mason Jar Music: This is kind of cheating, since I listened to this song yesterday. A Beatles cover that does the unexpected–improves upon the original. Instead of the simmering, barely contained rock-and-roll of the original, Mason Jar Music gives this song a slinky R&B-meets-indie vibe.
  4. “Virginia” by The Deep Dark Woods: A haunting folk song about a girl and being lonely. Of course, that’s what 50% of folk songs are about, but this one is really, really good.
  5. “Heavy Bells” by J. Roddy Walston and The Business: This song doesn’t sound anything like the rest of of J. Roddy’s catalogue, which is straight-up boogie-woogie classic rock revival. Instead, this punkish tune is the fiercest song of the year, with Mr. Roddy wailing and hollering unintelligible lyrics over The Business’ crushing guitars. Rock and Roll!
  6. “Horses” by Sean Rowe. A really weird and dark song by the deep-voiced troubadour Sean Rowe. If Clint Eastwood had ever starred in a surrealist spaghetti western, this would have been the title track.
  7. “Stay Young” by Okkervil River: The best 80s song that didn’t come out in the 80s, right down to the cheesy synths and saxophones. Anyone over the age of 40 should be disappointed that this song wasn’t played at their senior prom.
  8. “Two Hearts” by Paper Route: The pop song–three-and-a-half minutes, simple chords, catchy melodies–has fallen on hard times as of late. It’s hard to think that the same form that gave us, say, “Let It Be,” has now given us such forgettable piffle as “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” and “Applause” (More Miley Cyrus-bashing below). This cut may not quite redeem the pop song, but it’s slick and well-polished without being smarmy or dumbed-down.
  9. “Idol” by Smith Westerns: The Chicago band has a talent for shimmery, Beatles-esque songs driven by falsetto vocals. This is one of their best.
  10. “Trophy Sixty-One” by England in 1819: The Sigur Ros of the flyover states. The Louisiana band, made up of two brothers and their dad, plays music with the reverb-heavy layered sound that has become quite popular recently. Post-Rock-and-Roll!
  11. “Vale” by Midlake: Although I wasn’t particularly impressed by Midlake’s newest album, this track shows their blend of classical and rock at its best. Both styles are blended without either one overshadowing the other.

Best Concert: The Avett Brothers: This was a very good year for concert-going, and I went to some fun shows: blink-182, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Derek Webb, Veil of Maya. However, the best concert of the year goes to The Avett Brothers. A show by the Avett Brothers is filled with a wide musical variety–they can rock out on one song, and croon bluegrass on the next. Everything that you love from their albums you will find at their concerts. Plus they just have a lot of good songs.

Scott has an epic beard

Obligatory Lorde Award: Following in the footsteps of Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men, Lorde has appealed to both the alternative and mainstream music worlds. Few non-hip-hop artists are able to have top 40 hits and make the best-of lists of alternative music websites. It seemed like every music best-of this year gave an award to Lorde’s Pure Heroine album. There’s plenty not to like about Lorde: Her young age seems like a gimmick, her album is repetitive, and that “Royals” song gets on my nerves. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Lorde occasionally comes up with some of the most effective parodies of hip-hop culture. Her song “Team” is flat-out awesome. And while she may not be the best role model for young girls, at least she’s not dirty dancing with Robin Thicke at the VMAs.

“Hey! I’m a kid! I write my own songs! Give me an award already!”

Most Interesting New Artist of the Year: Bars of Gold. Five dads from Detroit playing foot-stomping, floor-punching rock-and-roll. Guys with day jobs aren’t supposed to sound this good.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Concerned REader permalink
    January 2, 2014 12:03 am

    HEY!!! I rlly liek ur page , but I hav 1 concern!! Were iz the album GREATISH HITS by The JOEY & TYLER PRJCT???!!1!

    PLZ add tht + reuplaod

    THX

    Urs truly
    – CONCERNED READER

    • January 2, 2014 6:48 pm

      Dear Concerned Reader,
      I didn’t put Greatish Hits on the list because it is not one of the best albums of the year. It is The Greatest Album of All Time! Even better than Dark Side of the Moon. If you listen to it enough times, a magical genie will appear and give you the choice of either a Porsche 911 or a Unicorn/Pegasus crossbreed.
      Thanks,
      P.S. I think you misspelled a word or two.

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