Like many of the kids are doing, I listened to some music this year, some of it I liked and am writing about below. Some of it I did not like and I'm not going to get into the low hanging fruit. It's too easy, and in some cases, I already had something to say about it..
Strypes - Teenage Irish kids trying to channel the early days of the Yardbirds and Rolling Stones, for the most part it works. They remind me of a non lo-fi version of the Orwells. Quite polished, having Elton John's management behind you would do that. The drummer needs some work, the singer needs more presence, but what were you doing when you were seventeen that did not involve masturbating?
Joseph Arthur: He's not for everyone, some of it (gutted inner child, really?) comes across as overwrought slam work, but it hits me - and he did appear at the Green Mill this year. He put out two records this year, The Ballad of Boogie Christ Parts 1&2 that are a solid return to form from his burst on the indie scene a decade ago. This is the record that says 2013 for me.
Janelle Monae: She's not explosive and dramatic, but a dynamo who gets it done without major publicity. Anyone who sings they're going to get their spacesuit, pack up their shit and go to the moon has my undivided attention.
R.M. Hubbert: Very interesting Scottish singer songwriter. Became depressed a few years back after some tragedies in his life and resolved to learn flamenco guitar playing. Released a very critically acclaimed record in 2012, and this is the follow up.
Frightened Rabbit - Had a feeling this one would grow on me, and it has. There's a lot of depth in this Pedestrian Verse and I'm glad to have finally seen this live this year. Very interested to see what happens to this band once Scott Hutchinson's rumored move to L.A. is finalized.
Edwin Collins - His first full length after his stroke. It’s rather remarkable that he is healthy enough to get the job done, and write some fine songs as well.
Daft Punk - Not because of that song, but because of the drumming on some of the other songs. Monster work by John R. Robinson and Omar Hakim.
Kid Creosote - Kenny Anderson writes songs while brushing his teeth and records the rest of the album after dinner. Quite the prolific writer.
Camera Obscura: A very pleasant effort by this group who fought through a lot of personal challenges while making this record, and that was before Traceyanne was pregnant. I like this song because it reminds me a lot of the early work by the next band.
10,000 Maniacs - Thirteen years and a few personnel changes later, the post Natalie Merchant core of the band returns with good work. They've been together over thirty years and my familiarity and surprise of how good they can be helps life suck less.
David Bowie - The big shock was early in the spring when a video of a new song came out of nowhere. Then the record a few weeks later. There was no interview blitz, no tour, no mass marketing blitz aside from a couple of videos. The Next Day was simply, a new record, and a very good one at that.
Arctic Monkeys - This band may have finally won me over a little bit now that they have figured out how to play their instruments better. I think we might be friends someday, but not close enough to buy each other drinks.
Pastels - My wife is more of a fan than me. I'm still not fond of Stephen's voice, but more than a few songs on this record charmed the heck out of me. The Pastels know Scottish weather, from the rain to the fall and all seasons in between.
Civil Wars - They stopped talking to each other just before the record dropped. Gave no interviews, but said it's all in the songs. This one is chock full of relationship disappointment. Up there with Blood on the Tracks and Shoot Out the Lights, and there's a decent Smashing Pumpkins cover.
Little Green Cars - Irish kids still trying to figure it out, but have some killer harmonies while they work on their skills.
Pandafan - Earnest kids from Long Island doing a very cool job at marketing themselves while attending college and high school. It’s been a pleasure hearing this band evolve as they discover their own voices.
Sam Phillips - Push Any Button. Every time I keep thinking she's painted herself into a corner, she builds more levels and layers in her music. She adds depth. I love her process, craft, and think the world of her.
Palma Violets - These guys flat out rock. Hope they will continue to do so.
Savages - Anger is good. Anger with guitars used the right way is better. This record is a true assault on your senses.