Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Favorite Music of 2013

 LISTS. Blah. Who likes making them? But I love reading them, and I love sharing my favorite stuff, so here.

I will preface this by saying there are about 86 albums on my computer desktop that I have yet to even listen to, and so many more that I don't even own that I never got to this year. I am forgetting so many albums that probably should be on this list, but a person only has so much time, between work and fun and, you know, life, to listen to all this new music. Especially when there's so much great OLD music, too! Alas, let's get this show on the road.

Oh, and I scattered some favorite photos I took this year, too. Just because.

1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor – Virgin EMI

Between this album and Daft Punk, I may have listened to more dance music this year than in any year before. (Although, let's not forget about how much I listened to LCD Soundsystem...) Anyway, many may shun Arcade Fire for putting out some pretentious, feeling-less album. Go take your pretentious brains somewhere else. This is hands down the most fun, unique, just straight let's-groove-to it pile of in-your-face but subtle pile of emotions I've heard all year. I couldn't get over the title track for like 3 months. Forget that. It still makes my insides move. And then it just gets better. I will admit, there are still a few songs here that I think are forgettable, but the pure genius of so many of the others outweighs them. I think I'll be listening and dancing to this for many, many years to come.

2. Mikal Cronin – MCII – Merge

I'm really angry that I can't put anything Mac DeMarco on this list (ugh, I found out a year too late how wonderful he was). But I digress. I had two Mac DeMarco albums and this Mikal Cronin album in my car CD player rotation for a solid 5 months or something. And I NEVER, EVER, EVEN ONCE got sick of any of them. I mean, I told myself it was time to move on, but I was forcing rules on myself at that point because there's a line between obsession and Danielle I'm getting worried about you. So, why? Mikal Cronin is making the pure, sweet pop perfection that is so incredibly hard to come by. These songs are not too complex. They're not weighty. They are just songs that I can't imagine any person not enjoying. If you don't enjoy Mikal Cronin, you need your frontal cortex examined. It's spritely, cute, relatable, beautiful, and constructed to go in one ear and dance around in the middle of your brain for a while before smoothly sliding out the other ear. If you listen to one album on this list, and you are a human being with emotions, go for this one.

3. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze – Matador 

This is an album I like to describe as bliss. Acoustic guitar washes over your face and body. You are sitting in a room of clouds surrounded by all of your favorite people, and everyone is a murky haze of bliss. I can sit here and tune out and just listen and just not feel. That's a lie. I feel so much with this music. I feel that thing in my gut that is maybe a symptom of being too much of a music lover, where I just can't help but feel like a kid on Christmas (not sure what that feels like, but I'm imagining it feels like this), and I just can't kick my excitement. I have to tell people about it. I have to rave and rant and hope I can find someone who will understand. Kurt Vile is a brilliant songwriter and an excellent performer (count his set at the Grog Shop my favorite show of the year), and plus, this album is on cerulean-colored vinyl.

4. The National – Trouble Will Find Me – 4AD 

Oh my gosh, how I love this album. The National can do no wrong in my mind. Another band that just gets so much crap from people for being boring or something, but I just. don't. get. it. Nobody, and I mean almost nobody making music these days overthinks every note and nuance of an album more than The National. Every detail is perfect and real. The lyrics break my heart a thousand times and they're so clever, and the one-liners are just... ugh. I should dedicate a whole post to my favorite lines from this album. So many times, listening to this, I just couldn't believe the couplets. You can find my whole review on this blog somewhere, but I'm just writing from emotion and instinct right now. "Humiliation" makes me want to cry, it's so good. I used to sit there, and get to the bridge (4:04 into the song) and play it over and over again. It somehow hits the very pleasure center of my brain.

5. Washed Out - Paracosm – Sub Pop

This is one of those albums that I kind of went through a binge for a while, and stopped listening to it. But like Kurt Vile's version of bliss, this is my favorite kind of island, chill out until you're sitting on clouds music. "It All Feels Right" came closer than any other song this year to complete escapism for me. Maybe, as I age, I look to music that let's me step out of my life completely for a few minutes. I mean, don't get me wrong, life is good. But being an "adult," I just like to have a few minutes here and there to just forget. And this album is just such a cure for adult life. 

6. The Dodos – Carrier - Polyvinyl

I wrote a thing here that pretty much sums up my feelings. Nobody does complex webbing of music better than the Dodos these days. "The Current" is the best example, beginning with two concurrent guitar lines that make absolutely no sense together but meld together in such a way that your brain is instantly mesmerized. It's beauty, it's brains, it's everything I'm looking for in music.

7. Jagwar Ma – Howlin – Marathon Artists

Wow! This one really snuck up on me! I listened to about ten albums on my drive to and from Louisville this December, and this stands out as the favorite. A few dance/trance songs I don't really care for, but there are so many 60's-ish pop songs that have to be a few of the best of the year. Jagwar Ma isn't afraid to get weird all over the place, and the opening track is just plain wacko, in a good way. I like the Brill Building sound of "That Loneliness" so much that this song alone could get this album on my top ten list. But then, they hit me with a one-two punch, following it with "Come Save Me," and somebody deserves an award for that sequencing. They are perfect together. God. I'm so happy listening to this. I'm JUST SO HAPPY.
8. The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still – Sub Pop

I had no idea I'd feel the same about this album as I did about their debut. The sophomore slump is a real thing, guys. But this group (I've met them, and they're just the nicest people) skipped to senior status with this one. I hate to be cliche and say they write really heartfelt music, but I'm gonna be cliche. It is just sweet and endearing, and the gorgeous strings and keys take it to a different level. "Summertime" is proof that Charity Rose Thielen is a vocal goddess.

9. Local Natives – Hummingbird – French Kiss

 I haven't listened to this enough, but I know when I do, it will be a consistent grower. I didn't get them when Gorilla Manor came out, but I soon realized my mistake. The scattered percussion and harmonies are spot on.

10. Boardwalk - S/T - Stones Throw

If I thought Jagwar Ma was late in the game to win me over, this takes the cake. I first heard it this week. It has already won me over completely. Sure, it might sound like a ripoff of Beach House, but I have no issues with that. One song is more soothingly beautiful than the next. It's catchy but never screams "enjoy my hook!" A trend on my list this year appears to be music I can sleep to. Lots of dancing and lots of sleeping this year. I think that's a happy medium for me. 

11. Atoms for Peace – Amok – XL 
12. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic - Jagjaguwar
13. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God – ATO
14. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City – XL
15. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories – Columbia
16. Tim Kasher – Adult Film – Saddle Creek Records
17. Cults – Static – Columbia
18. Ty Segall – Sleeper – Drag City
19. Deerhunter - Monomania - 4AD
20. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks - HALO

Honorable Mentions

Daughn Gibson – Me Moan – Sub Pop
Foals – Holy Fire – Warner Bros.
Arctic Monkeys – AM – Domino
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Fly By Wire – Polyvinyl
Phoenix – Bankrupt! – Glass Note/Loyaute
Midlake – Antiphon – ATO 

That time Low and Jody Rosen both favorited me in a row.

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