As far as music is concerned, 2013 was kind of a weird one for me. Mainly because it was a year filled with one great month of new releases, while the other eleven months paled in comparison. Because looking at my list as it is, all but one of the albums in my top five came out in May of last year. But for now, how about we take a look at the other spots on my list before this devolves into a loving tribute to the magnificent month of May 2013.
Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
The Men – New Moon
Kanye West – Yeezus
Mikal Cronin – MCII
Much like Sean, I found “Coast To Coast” to be one of the more irresistable songs of the year. Unlike Sean, I thought the rest of this album was also something to be treasured. There were a lot of young bands this year that kept trying to revive ’90s slackerdom, but Cerulean Salt somehow managed to sound pretty ’90s, yet also had an intimacy to it that made it an unmistakeable product of the “I want you to know everything about me all the time” 2010’s.
I can’t remember the first time I heard most of the albums on this list. Yet, I can easily remember the cold Saturday night in February when I sat glued to my computer downloading a zip file, right after hearing the mindblowing news that My Bloody Valentine had just on a whim decided to release their first album in 22 years. This was of course the quiet beginning to a year that saw lots of artists trying to top each other in finding new unconventional ways to release albums, which was capped off by Beyonce releasing that album that I probably won’t listen to. Oh, you want me to actually talk about the music on this album? Well, no one sounds like My Bloody Valentine like My Bloody Valentine, therefore m b v = good. That’s all I got.
Speaking of ’90s bands that still sound really good today, Superchunk released another awesome late-career effort with I Hate Music. Looking at my iTunes, there wasn’t a single song from 2013 that got more plays than “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo”. Which isn’t that surprising, considering it’s short, punchy, nostalgic, and joyous as hell. The rest of the album also sees Superchunk rocking their way down memory lane as well as through the melancholy of middle-age, which is a sound that suits this band surprisingly well. Also, I suppose it’s fitting that one of my favorite albums of 2013 would feature Philly Boy Roy on drums (RIP The Best Show).
Contrary to what pop-country radio might want you to believe, country at its best tends to be some of the most thoroughly depressing music you could imagine. Caitlin Rose gets this. But I think she also gets her more mainstream peers’ belief that there’s nothing wrong with adding some pop hooks to songs about heartbreak and loneliness. Which all made The Stand-In a really easy album for me to turn to time and time again, like an old drinking buddy who’s more than happy to get you through the wee hours of the morning. Also, if you haven’t heard this album and don’t plan to, at least check out “Everywhere I Go”. It’s really pretty.
I’m sure I do this every year, but I might as well take this moment to complain about how there weren’t enough albums this year that “rocked”. And by “rock”, I don’t mean like the emo-revival bands that have started to pop up on the indie circuit (I still have as hard a time not hating that shit as I did back in ’04). By “rock”, I also don’t mean I want to hear a guy mouth-defecate over a My Bloody Valentine speed metal cover band (Sunbather by Deafheaven). Fortunately, I was able to depend on Josh Homme to bring the rock, while also bringing something new to the table. I quite like this darker, more lurching sound from QOTSA, which finds Homme in a more thoughtful and meticulous headspace, rather than focusing his energy on beating Jack White’s record for most side projects that no one cares about.
Of all the artists to delve into the sneaky marketing experiments of 2013, I don’t think anyone came out on top quite as successfully as Daft Punk. Not only did Random Access Memories provide us with one of the great top 40 jams of 2013 (“Get Lucky”), but also one of the great underrated jams of 2013 (“Doin’ It Right”). And it also finally provided us with a worthy follow-up to Discovery (let’s just pretend Human After All never happened after all). Hell, I even fell so head-over-heels for this album’s pristine 70s-infused production, that it compelled me to listen to five Steely Dan albums. That’s a lot of jazz-rock.
I really like The National, like a lot. In fact, it’s pretty much safe to say that more than any other band, their music has more or less been the soundtrack to my early 20’s. And why wouldn’t it be? I’m a semi-depressive white male who doesn’t do well when exposed to sunlight. So unsurprisingly, much like every other National album, Trouble Will Find Me has slowly but surely started to fit like a glove, while “Sea Of Love” and “Graceless” provided me with a rabble-rousing return to The National’s more frustrated and angsty side. Just because their music now qualifies as “dad-rock”, doesn’t mean they can’t get a little pissed about it every once in a while.
How can you not love the girls of Haim? They just seem to be having so much god damn fun! And their songs, which are an infectious cornucopia of all things pop — past and present — are just as likely to make you feel just a little bit better about the state of the world. I’m not sure that any artist has ever caused me to declare “Yes! Awesome! This is just like Wilson-Phillips!”, including Wilson-Phillips, but somehow Haim did the first time I heard “Falling”. This album is also filled with a bunch of other amazing “You go girl!” anthems, and quite frankly has the power to reduce me to a gushing 13-year-old girl within seconds.
The girls in Savages don’t seem like they’re having nearly as much fun as the girls in Haim, and that’s what’s kind of amazing about them. They have a purpose, and that purpose is to make you shut up and listen to them rock your fucking brains out. Which of course is great for me, since you might remember me previously mentioning how much I like it when things rock. Also, it’s just really nice to hear a debut album that finds a band so fully-formed, and so completely in control of their ability to tear shit up that I really can’t wait to hear what they do next.
I don’t think I can make it any more simple (or lame-sounding) than by declaring that this band (and album) just gets me. Much like the academia-infused first Vampire Weekend album fittingly came to me in my first year of college, Modern Vampires Of The City came to me as I found myself striking out on my own this year. It’s hard to think of an album that does a better job of staring down the banality of old age, and doing it with a light and poppy touch that makes it incredibly easy to listen to over and over again, even with all it’s profundity and grandeur. And I’m not sure there was a single line this year that this unemployed millenial connected with more than “You better spare your face the razor / because no one’s gonna spare the time for you”. Luckily, I had this album to spare me all the time I could possibly need.