Now that Christmas is over and the New Year is upon us, many music outlets are looking back at one more year in music and the many bands that inhabited that particular point in time. 2013 was a big year. We had releases from Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and much more. But I’ve never been one to look at year-end lists because I mostly don’t agree with the writers, or I get bored with them. So if you get bored reading this one, I completely understand and won’t fault you. Now, the idea of a year-end list is to boast the work created that year. I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m going to list the top five albums I listened to this year.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean these albums were made this year. Hell, a couple of them were made decades ago. But, in my humble perspective, I always urge people to delve into music of the past. My argument is that you can’t completely focus on the music of today without understanding how past music shaped that sound. IE: I recently heard an interview with Lorde (who is on this list) where she said that if the Beatles hadn’t done what they did, she wouldn’t have done what she did. You get the idea. So ... here’s my list! Enjoy or don’t enjoy. And remember ... there’s always next year.
Lorde - Pure Heroine
This album completely came out of nowhere. I remember hearing “Royals” on the radio and wondering who this pop princess was. Turns out she wasn’t a “princess” per se, but more of a weird little goth chick who made sparse electronic ditties. What won me over was the fact that she wrote her own songs, helped produce the album and she was only 16 when the album was finished. If that’s not an accomplishment, I don’t know what is. Oh, and the album is actually good. Songs like “400 Lux,” “Buzzcut Season,” and “White Teeth Teens” show her range and vivacity.
Lorde - “400 Lux”
Hank Williams - Wait For the Light to Shine
While I do believe in God, I’m not especially religious. So church hymns, gospel and good ol’ fashioned odes to Jesus via country music rhythms and rhymes always strike a music fancy to my eardrums. And Williams’ homage to the Lord is no exception. Tracks like “Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine” and the title track show Williams crooning over typical country ditties, but his voice presents a magic wash over the scratchy record I got at Charley’s for $1.99. My hands-down favorite track on the record is “Devil’s Train.” It’s the most scratchy, and maybe that’s why I like it.
Hank Williams - “Devil’s Train”
King Tuff - Was Dead
Apparently the original pressing of this record is impossible to find, but due to an overwhelming number of people attempting to get a copy in their sweaty hands, Burger Records reissued the album, making it available for people like me (who find out about bands very late in the game). This LP never left my record player for a good month. Whether I was cleaning, eating or pooping, it was always on in the background. Album opener “Dancing On You” immediately grabs you, and Tuff’s trippy (sometimes whiny) vocals just take over. My personal favorite is “Sun Medallion,” but “Freak When I’m Dead” and “Just Strut” are great songs as well. Actually, just listen to the whole thing. It’s a keeper.
King Tuff - “Sun Medallion”
Patti Smith - Horses
This record dominated 2013 for me. While I’m an artist, I had gone through a slump, so I started becoming more diligent by painting again. So one day while painting, I played Smith’s most famous album. I’d already been a fan of it, but for some reason, while blending colors and etching out pieces of cardboard with a needle, it just hit me. It’s brilliant. From her opening rendition of “Gloria” to “Land,” the album is genius. If you haven’t listened to it, there’s still time. So from then on, any time I sat down to paint, draw, sketch or take photographs of weird ornaments, it was always on in the background ... and still is. It’s the perfect “art” record.
Patti Smith - “Land”
Savages - Silence Yourself
I can’t remember the last time I got this excited about a band. While every music blog was riding the wave of salivating over this “post-punk” prodigy, I just couldn’t get over their stark single “I Am Here.” It was my obsession with that song that prompted me to buy the album (at Urban Outfitters no less). While it has a dark, menacing tone, the musicality at work is of the upmost cohesive. Each song blends into the next, but each track is a stand-alone gem. “Husbands” is quick and painful. “City’s Full” is fantastically dreadful. And album closer “Marshal Dear” ties it all together with some horns and piano. It’s a masterpiece, and it makes me brim with anticipation for what they’ll put out next.
Savages - “Husbands”
Those were my top five albums of the year. What were yours? Feel free to comment.
Since last week's Rooster Roundabout, we lost one of rock 'n' roll's truest gods … Mr. Lou Reed. I can't speak for others, but he had a profound effect on how I listen to music, and he showed the immense beauty that exists when poetry and rock meld together seamlessly. It's a practice few can master. And no one did it like Reed. You can read the obituary his wife, Laurie Anderson, wrote here. This one's for you, Lou.
The Velvet Underground - “Heroin”
According to the folks over at Pitchfork, Beck has signed with Capitol Records and will be releasing a new album (Morning Phase) in February 2014. This has been sort of a long time coming, as his last full-length release was back in 2008, and it wasn't one of his best. They also stated that a good amount of personnel on this new record worked with Beck on 2002's Sea Change, so this should be interesting.
Okay, I'm obviously playing favorites at this point, but I can't help it. Savages is still very much on my radar with their stellar release Silence Yourself. And now they've come out with a new video for album closer “Marshal Dear,” one of the best tracks on the album. Then again, all of the tracks on the album are fantastic. Okay, okay … I'll stop gushing. Just watch the animated, conceptually war-torn video.
Savages - “Marshal Dear”
Oh those relentless psych-garage rockers! First Ty Segall and now Thee Oh Sees. The latter band is coming out with a third Singles Collection that's scheduled to drop on Nov. 26. They've also made the track “What You Need” available, so get those boomboxes (assuming you still got one) prepared for this probably-pretty-good compilation.
James Blake has one of those magnetic voices that just needs to be heard. It operates on a wavelength that mixes beautiful tones with a soulful prowess rarely seen in male vocalists. Maybe that's why Blake won the 2013 Barclaycard Mercury Prize for his album Overgrown. For those who don't know, the Mercury Prize is given once a year for the best British or Irish album. Past winners include Primal Scream, PJ Harvey and Antony & The Johnsons.
James Blake - “Retrograde”
Dancing at numerous parties in Austin, Texas, it was natural to stumble upon Calle 13, a Puerto Rican outfit who've been steadily releasing albums for years to much acclaim. They've also garnered 19 Latin Grammies. Not bad, eh. Now the group has announced a new single that'll hit the streets on Nov. 13, and a new album that will come out in March, though they've stated that they plan on releasing it independently. So we'll see how that goes. You can hear their awesome track “Atrevete te te” below.
Calle 13 - “Atrevete te te”
Lady Gaga has unleashed another derivative disco pop-infused club track, titled “Venus,” to the masses. Can we not have a little time to digest the last one, Gaga? Sheesh. Either way … the track is now available for listening via the world wide web. Gaga's ARTPOP is slated for a Nov. 11 release, so keep that pocket change jingling.
Devendra Banhart came out with a substantial release this past year (Mala). It was a release that showed him recycling his worldly sentiments and regurgitating them in a sonically forward-moving motion. Now Banhart has released a music video for the track “Für Hildegard Von Bingen.” You can view that below.
Devendra Banhart - “Fur Hildegard Von Bingen”
A week ahead of the release of The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem has shared his collaborative track with Rihanna, titled “The Monster.” If the song isn't a groundbreaking attempt to boast marketable partnerships, it's at least an okay iteration of Eminem's prowess as a rapper. And at this point, can we hope for anything more? [Editors Note: By the time this was scheduled to go up, Eminem also made his collaboration with Kendrick Lamar available, so you can hear that as well.]
Now that TLC has a biopic coming out, starring Lil Mama (of “Lip Gloss” fame), they've also decided to come out with a greatest hits LP, which drops on Oct. 15. You can head over to Pitchfork for the tracklist, which includes “Waterfalls,” “Red Light Special” and “Creep.”
The dream of the '90s seems to be alive and kickin' as Veruca Salt have announced via Twitter that they're reuniting and recording with Brad Wood, who they worked with on their first record, American Thighs. Who knows what could become of this, but this is the most exciting news I've heard all week.
Veruca Salt - “Seether”
Just in case you were wondering what M.I.A.'s upcoming album, Matangi, looks like. You can view the tracklist and see the cover art over at Pitchfork. The album hits shelves on Nov. 5.
If you haven't listened to Mudhoney, you should definitely entertain the notion of listening to Mudhoney. They've been steadily releasing material in their 20+ years as a band, and their newest record, Vanishing Point, is currently available in stores or via online markets. They've just released a video of the track “The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain,” which you can check out now. Probably NSFW.
Mudhoney - “The Only Son Of The Widow From Nain”
Dr. Dog's newest album, B-Room, comes out next week, but thanks to the folks over at Rolling Stone, you can stream the whole thing. Oh, and you can read about the band's efforts in making the album.
Jennifer Hudson's voice mixed with Pharrell's production and a cameo by T.I.? Yes, please!
What is it with the Coen brothers and churning out movies that provide killer soundtracks? O Brother, Where Art Thou?, anyone? Their upcoming flick, Inside Llewyn Davis is another Coen film that is getting the star-powered soundtrack treatment, and you can hear Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac singing “Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)” from the film via Billboard.
Ever the chameleon, Madonna channels inspiration from the world around her. But then again, doesn't every other artist? Now, she's channeling inspiration in the fight for freedom of expression, and her latest mode of exacting said message is by covering Elliott Smith's “Between the Bars.” You can see the performance below and check out her Art for Freedom short film here.
Madonna covering Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars”
Don't act like you're not excited that the tracklist for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has been released. I'm actually surprised at some of the big and interesting names they were able to get for it, but then again, it's got Jennifer Lawrence, so... Some people on this venture include Christina Aguilera (have you heard this woman sing?), Sia, Antony & The Johnsons, Patti Smith and much more.
A couple weeks back, it was announced that Albert Hammond Jr. (most notable from his work with The Strokes) was going to release a solo EP, titled AHJ, on Oct. 8. Well now Mr. Hammond (Jr.) has shared the first single from said release. It's sort of like old-school Strokes with a more crisp, poppy tone to it. Appoved.
Savages, my latest obsession, have shared a video for the track “Husbands,” off their fantastic debut LP Silence Yourself. The black-and-white vid has footage of the band playing interspersed with footage of cells, maggots, rising smoke and white triangles. Sounds about right.
Peter Gabriel released an album of covers, titled Scratch My Back, in 2010. Now Gabriel has flipped the switch by having artists take a whack at his songs on a second album of covers, titled And I'll Scratch Yours. The album features the likes of St. Vincent, Bon Iver, Lou Reed, Regina Spektor and more. The album is available this week, but you can hear Feist's cover of Gabriel's “Don't Give Up,” featuring Timber Timbre.
MGMT are some weird dudes. While I was a fan of Oracular Spectacular, 2010's Congratulations just flew by without really sticking, and I don't regret that. But the third time's a charm? They have an upcoming self-titled album coming out on Sept. 17 via Columbia, and the band has shared a short film/trailer featuring some tracks from the soon-to-be-released record.
Sonic Youth-alum Kim Gordon has a new project to add to her wide array of artistic pursuits. Together with Bill Nace, they are Body/Head, and their new album, Coming Apart, gets released next week. But thanks to the folks over at Pitchfork, you can stream the album now.
If you've been following Pixies for the past few months, you may have already known that they're planning on releasing new material slowly but surely over the next year or so. For those who've been waiting, the wait is over. The band has released a 4-song EP, titled EP-1. It's available for purchase digitally and also as a limited edition 10” vinyl, which you can buy on their website. Sadly Kim Deal's not involved in these tracks, but you can hear new song “Indie Cindy” below:
“Indie Cindy” by Pixies
Apparently music blogs were iterating that Fiona Apple had another “meltdown” onstage at an event in Tokyo (remember Roseland?), in which she stormed off stage. But a friend of Apple's, ?uestlove of The Roots, received an email from the singer/songwriter, asking that he publish her statement because, you know, she likes to stay somewhat under the radar and all. But you can read the statement via Okayplayer.
I can admit when I've made a mistake. Or when I've mistakenly avoided a band. Savages is that band, and judging from their new video for the track “I Am Here,” that was definitely my bad. You can also read about the band's re-recording process while making the video via Pitchfork. Now I have to go buy Silence Yourself.
“I Am Here” by Savages
What the hell are Arcade Fire up to? Whatever it is, they're planning something for Sept. 9 at 9pm, and they've released a video trailer for whatever is expected to go down. It could be their title single, “Reflektor,” which supposedly gets out to the public on Monday. Oh, and their follow-up to 2010's The Surburbs hits the streets on Oct. 29. It's called Reflektor, obviously.
Reflektor trailer by Arcade Fire
I don't get Reddit. I'm just not tech-savvy enough to fully comprehend everything that Reddit has to offer, but I am a fan of their “AMA (Ask Me Anything” series where fans can post comments and receive answers to questions they've been dying to ask. And Big Boi is one of the latest artists to take part, wherein he talks about his work with Modest Mouse, sheds light on a possible Outkast reunion and new stuff he's working on.
Loretta Lynn's collaboration with Jack White, 2004's Van Lear Rose, was a masterpiece. I won't go into it again; I already have. But in an interview with Billboard, Lynn expressed her desire to work with White again. Though she's a busy woman; she says she's “got a Christmas album done, a religious album done, a CD of mountain songs with Shawn Camp,” so it'd be safe to assume we're going to be hearing some great stuff from one of country music's most loved and iconic performers. Also, White was recently named an honorary dean of Fermatta Music Academy in Mexico City.
Loretta Lynn and Jack White performing “Portland, Oregon” on David Letterman
If you haven't heard of Fred Stobaugh, it's okay. Even though he's 96, he's relatively new, having only written one song (a poetic ode to his wife of 72 years, who passed away in April). The song, titled “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” was entered in a songwriting contest by Green Shoe Studio, and it made such an impression that musician Jacob Colgan and Green Shoe Studio recorded the track and gave Stobaugh writing credit. And now Fred is the oldest artist to appear on Billboard's Hot 100. Not bad, Fred.
Short doc about Stobaugh and the writing of “Oh Sweet Lorraine”
Neko Case's latest album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, hit the music-sphere this week, and the singer/songwriter did an interview for A.V. Club's “Set List” where she talks about songs on the album, including her single, “Man,” and some of her noted previous work.
“Man” by Neko Case
I have mixed feelings about Coldplay. While I like A Rush of Blood to the Head, I’ve had a stagnant relationship with everything they’ve done after, minus “Speed of Sound.” But now Chris Martin and company have shared a new track, titled “Atlas,” which is going to be featured on the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which hits multiplexes on Nov. 22. Somewhere out there, some teenage girls just cried.