Monday, December 23, 2013

BEST ALBUMS OF 2013

Hey!  I have a blog! I'm doing the same thing I do every year.  I'm making a list of my favorite music, and realizing I'm maybe not qualified to make my list of favorite music, because I haven't listened to everything I want to listen to this year.  Except this year, I just don't feel like I'm going to be able to cram like I ordinarily do.  Or maybe I just don't feel like it.  At any rate, here's the blog:

BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR:


Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City. 

I liked this album the first time I listened to it.  I like it now that it's the end of the year.  I want to listen to it right now, instead of this Moonface album that I am trying to get through (I actually really like this Moonface album).  MNotC is good for a lot of reasons, but my favorite parts are all the little moments.  Like where all the music drops out in  "Finger Back" and there's that little spoken word part about the girl at the falafel shop.  And the part in Hannah Hannah hunt - well pretty much the whole Hannah Hunt song is this way - but the part at the end where he just kind of screams out the refrain of the song again for good measure.  It's a careful nerdy album from a band that I always kind of only halfway liked because I thought they were too cool for that kind of thing.




ALBUM THAT WAS TOO LONG FOR ME TO EVALUATE PROPERLY:


Arcade Fire - Reflektor

There are too many songs here.  And I think they knew it when they made it.  This seems like it should have been a 10 song album, with "Reflektor" and "Joan of Arc" anchoring both sides.  The extra songs aren't bad; they're just indiscernible.

ALBUM THAT HELPED ME EFFECTIVELY CLOSE THE BOOK ON A PARTICULAR ARTIST:


Bill Callahan - Dream River

Of all the things I don't understand about indie rock, Bill Callahan may be the most frustrating.  I used to enjoy Smog records.  Then he switched to mopey mumble music.  I have tried and tried.  I'm saying goodbye now.

ALBUM THAT MADE ME REOPEN MY BOOK ON A PARTICULAR ARTIST


Cold War Kids - Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

This is mostly on the strength of the first track.  I put this album on, figuring I'd listen to it once or twice and put it away, but "Miracle Mile" is a really good song.  Not breaking any ground, but it's good.  The drawback here is that my favorite line in that song was "Little cold lie, where does it lead to?"  I really liked that phrasing.  However I just looked it up and it's actually "Miracle Mile, what does it lead to?"  So not only have I misinterpreted my favorite part of the song, but I somehow failed to recognize the name of the song within the song's lyrics.  Which probably makes me look a little dumb.



ALBUMS THAT SOUNDED JUST LIKE OTHER BANDS:


Virgins - Strike Gently - Sounded like Elvis Costello at one point - although listening to this again, I have no idea how I got that idea.  Hmmm.

Savages - Silence Yourself - Sounds like Geddy Lee, if Geddy Lee sang New Order songs

White Denim - Corsica Lemonade - Sounds like Black Keys

Brass Bed - The Secret Will Keep You - Sounds like summerteerth-era Wilco

I Monster - People Soup - Sounds like The Pipettes

ALBUM THAT GREW ON ME THE MOST: 


Camera Obscura - Desire Lines

I went from thinking this was a boner of an album, to putting it in my top ten - I think, I haven't made my top ten yet.  The songs came on kind of slow, but once I could take in the lyrics, I came around to what was going on here.  I like the way that her songs hit on that "I like you, but I'd rather stay home and watch reruns" motif.



SOLID EFFORT ALBUMS FOR BANDS WHO DIDN'T TRY ANYTHING NEW IN 2013:


The National - Trouble Will Find Me

I love The National.  One of my favorite things about The National is that I can put their last three albums on shuffle, and the songs all go together effortlessly.  But there's also a progression if you listen close.  Growing old, to having kids, to losing your sense of worth.  Happy stuff.  I bet this was my second favorite album of the year, but there's nothing new going on.

Cults - Static 

I like it when bands don't try new things.  You have to be careful about that.  You don't want to end up like Belle and Sebastian. The Cults just made a record just like their last one, without the hit single.  Unless you count "Keep Your Head Up", which maybe you should.  I don't know.  It's certainly no "Go Outside". Good for you Cults.  I'm okay with that.


Dr. Dog - B-Room

I haven't actually listened to this.  I'm just assuming.

Sleigh Bells - Bitter Rivals

I like how Sleigh Bells just keeps making the same album, but louder.  Keep doing that Sleigh Bells.  The title track of this album was stuck in my head for like two weeks after it came out.



Yo La Tengo - Fade

What a perfect Yo La Tengo album.  Their best since "I'm Not Afraid of You, and I Will Beat Your Ass." This seems to pick up right where something like "I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One" left off.  Great music to have on while you are doing something else.  Like making cookies.  Or doing a crossword puzzle. Which is what they do best in my opinion.


ALBUMS I DIDN'T GET TO LISTEN TO PROPERLY:

Yuck - Glow & Behold - the fact that they lost their lead singer made me not want to listen.
Widowspeak - The Swamps - Got it too late
Volcano Choir - Repave - I thought I would like this.  I did not like it.
Summer Aviation - Elevator - Got it too late
Surfer Blood - Pythons - I just couldn't bring myself to the idea that this band had more than one album in them.
Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond - kept forgetting that I had it.
Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple - just saw this for the first time today.  No idea what it is.
Moonface - Julia with Blue Jeans - You just have to kind of set aside some time to listen to Moonface, and I haven't set that time aside yet.
Mikal Cronin - MCII - never grabbed my attention
Lucius - Wildewoman - got it too late
Local Natives - Hummingbird - See: Surfer Blood
Jackson Scott - Melbourne - got it too late
Houndtooth - The Hills Below the City - I like Houndtooth for the name of a band.  But I think I listened to this once.
Front Bottoms - Talon of the Hawk - Listened to it once, and probably won't listen to it again.  It's cute.
Fidlar - Fidlar - I'm probably not going to listen to this.  Why do I have this?
Eleanor Friedburger - Personal Record - I like her albums, but I got this with a bunch of other stuff.


ALBUMS LOVED BY OTHERS AND NOT LOVED BY ME:


Bill Callahan - Dream River - (See Above)

Daft Punk  - Random Access Memories 

The way I could tell if songs from this album were coming up on my ipod was whenever I would hear a song and walk over to see what the hell it was - and then skip it.  Daft Punk is not for me.  I know that.

Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe

I own this, but I've yet to see or read anything about it that makes me want to put it on.  Tried listening to it once, and front-to-back is certainly not the correct entry point for me.  I need a back door or something.

Haim - Days Are Gone

Days Are Gone - Chuck said something about the Vampire Weekend being an average album that is elevated by a crappy year in music.  I think feel that way about Haim, except I think the world wants there to be an indie rock act that has more mass appeal than something like Best Coast.  So they like the fact that Haim kind of fills that role. I think Haim is lousy.  Sorry Haim.

Kanye West - Yeezus 

I actually like this album, but it's too raunchy for me.  Which may mean I'm getting too old.  Or lame.  Or all of the above.  But I think I've always been prudish about that kind of stuff.

Neko Case - The Worse Things Get....

Again, not that I don't like it, but those people saying this is her finest album are out of their minds.  Fox Confessor is the best Neko Case album, and that is final.  This album is a little on the boring side at times, and the a capella moments just don't seem as inspired as they are supposed to be.

Rhye - Woman

I just don't like this kind of music.


ALBUM THAT I AM EMBARRASSED TO LIKE:


Yellow Red Sparks - Yellow Red Sparks 

This is lame-o Of Monsters and Men style music.  But I like it.  And there's nothing I can do about it.


ALBUMS THAT I LIKED BECAUSE SOMETIMES I LIKE TO ACT LIKE I'M 21:



Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister & The World is  Beautiful Place, and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Whenever, If Ever

These are two lo-fi albums that won me over on enthusiasm and curse words.  I liked them both about the same.  I haven't looked this up, but it seems like each of these bands have like 10 people in them.  So I like to imagine that they are a big group of friends who like to make music together.  Like a more talented version of my friends from college.

  

ALBUMS FROM BANDS THAT I USED TO LIKE:



Flaming Lips - The Terror / Peace Sword EP

Peace Sword provided some hope that the Flaming Lips will eventually emerge from their newest acid rock phase.  That's good.  I'm so sick of the acid rock stuff. I wish I would have known about the acid rock phase in advance, so that I could have those minutes and hours back.

Iron & Wine - Ghost on Ghost 

I haven't really liked this band since he decided to fill out his sound.  So there's no surprise here.  I barely listened to it.  He did do a nice "Fairytale of New York" cover this year though. It's not on this album.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito / Strokes - Comedown Machine

I am still prepared to like these bands, but not until they get some new ideas. Yeah Yeah Yeahs seem the less lost of the two, both of them seem like they are going through the motions until some inspiration surfaces. I don't think The Strokes will ever find it again.  They seem to have one gear that they can make really good music in, and they refuse to use that gear anymore.

ALBUM THAT WAS ONLY GOOD FOR HALF THE TIME IT WAS ON:


MGMT - MGMT

The first 4-5 songs of this were actually pretty great!  Then they go off the rails.  MGMT seem like they are going out of their way to not make a solid album. Like they would view that as a form of selling out, now that they are on a major label.  I can't help them with that.  All I can say is that songs like "Alien Days" show that they could easily make another  Oracle Spectacular anytime they wanted - if they wanted.


ALBUMS THAT I LIKED PRETTY GOOD:


Phosphorescent - Muchacho

For those of you who are actually reading this whole thing, you will note that Brent sometimes needs a different entry to an album than the front door.  Such was the case with this album and its slow, chanty opener. Ugh.  But once I started skipping that one, I found a really terrific album about hurt and loss and what fills in when your heard breaks.  My favorite song of the year is Song for Zula.



Jason Isbell - Southeastern

I think this is the guy from the Drive By Truckers.  I'm not sure.  But I liked most of the songs on this album. Alt-country winners!  Good, not great!

Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium

This is one of my favorite bands, and a concept album about growing up in the early 80's seemed like something I would like more than I did.  But it was still pretty good.  The production seemed to be referencing the pop of the early 80's, and I don't care how well you do that, Brent Koster is not going to love it.  And I really loved their last album, so this didn't quite measure up.

Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

I think I just realized for the first time what the name of this album was, and I'm rethinking everything about it.  I just really liked the effortless way this album sounds.  It seems like they have a million good ideas, and they don't really care about getting them right.

CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

Electronic pop.  Really good hooks.  Haven't really taken in the lyrics, but "The Mother We Share" is one of the few songs I think I could play for just about anyone, and they'd like it.



The Blow - The Blow 

This could maybe fit into the "Bands who didn't try anything new" category, but it's been so long since their last album, and the personnel seems to have changed so there you go .  I've always liked the way The Blow never quite made catchy poppy songs.  And they kept that going on this album.  Good work.  They always have such herky jerky beats.

Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt 

I listened to this nonstop when it first came out, then I decided it was good, and moved on.  Haven't listened to it in months, but from what I remember, she's made an album that Brent likes.  Dense, weird lyrics.  Straightforward production. Sad songs.




Best Coast - Fade Away EP

I just seem to get more out of Best Coast than I used to.  There's not much going on here.  But whatever it is, it seems like it's better than it was about three years ago.  I think seeing them live this year helped me appreciate their whole thing.


LIST:
1) Vampire Weekend
2) The National
3) Camera Obscura
4) Phosphorescent
5) Yellow Red Sparks
6) Foxygen
7) Waxahatchee
8) The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am Not Afraid to Die
9) Cults
10) MGMT 











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