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Best Albums From the First Half of 2013


Andy Whitman
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All Music Guide has weighed in a little early on their mid-year musical roundup. Here's a less systematic take on the same.

It's been a particularly superb year for lo-fi, garage rock types. Kurt Vile, Mikal Cronin, Milk Music, Parquet Courts and Thee Oh Sees have all released wonderful albums. Mikal Cronin's album, in fact, is pretty close to perfect. Genre of the Year so far.

Except for the bracing skronk of Colin Stetson, the nouveau Big Band of Darcy James Argue, the jaw-dropping guitar stylings of Marc Ribot, and yet another beautiful release from the ever-reliable Wayne Shorter, I haven't heard too much in the jazz world that thrills me. But stay tuned.

The alt-country stalwarts have represented well, thanks to a fine duets album from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, and noteworthy efforts from Jason Isbell and Son Volt.

From the amorphous, impossible-to-define world of indie rock I offer you the latest selections from Frightened Rabbit and British Sea Power. That's it. In truth, much of indie rock bores me to tears these days.

Charles Bradley and James Hunter have released fine retro soul albums.

In the indie-folk category, hats off to The Milk Carton Kids, Laura Marling (surely in the running for Album of the Year), and Patty Griffin.

Low, Camera Obscura, and Besnard Lakes have released lovely dream pop albums.

These New Puritans made another weird, paranoid, claustrophobic electronic album. I love it. If you like Radiohead and "Kid A," I bet you'd love it too.

And from the Old Farts Who Can Do No Wrong category, let's give it up for Richard Thompson, whose album "Electric" is one of his best from a long and distinguished career.

Daft Punk will undoubtedly end up at or near the top of all the end-of-year lists, and I like the new album. It's still disco, so I don't love it. But there's a ton of interesting, creative music there, something I thought I would never write about a disco album, and I do like it.

Albums That Everybody Else Loves That I Don't: The National, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, any albums where energetic folkies chant and count.

And Kanye West released a new album. So that happened.

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Thanks, Andy. I'm dying to hear These New Puritans.

I posted my halftime list a little early too, over in this thread. I couldn't wait: This is turning out to be the most exciting year in music, to my ears, in a long, long time. For the "record" (sorry), here it is again:

-

Okay, we're not exactly halfway through, but close enough for me to post a tentative, rough version of a top ten list for the year so far.

  1. Sam Phillips - Push Any Button

    I finally have permission to say this... and I really don't like to be predictable... but...

    Sam Phillips' Push Any Button is easily the most enjoyable, addicting, imaginative record I've heard all year.

    Feel free to shrug and say, "There he goes again." But when you hear the record, I suspect many of you will agree with me.

    And if you think I'm just fanboy-gushing, go back and listen to All Songs Considered from two weeks ago, and listen to the superlatives that both of the hosts (who rarely agree on their "favorite" artists) are heaping on Sam.

    Push Any Button is a real change of pace for her, because it is, at times, positively giddy with hope, joy, and, yes, happiness. She sounds as if she has climbed out of a dark valley in which she sojourned for a long time, and she sees a glorious new view before her. All of this, and it's only 28 minutes long.

    Pre-order it here: http://samphillips.com/ And did you watch that video I posted earlier with all of the handmade vinyl record covers? You'll see the one I have at 1:30.
  2. The Mavericks - In Time
    The best Mexican love stories I've never seen on the big screen.
  3. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell - Love Has Come For You.
    Because banjo. And Brickell.
  4. David Bowie - The Next Day
  5. Baallake Sissoko - At Peace
  6. The Milk Carton Kids - The Ash & Clay
  7. Atoms for Peace - Amok
  8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away
  9. Richard Thompson - Electric
  10. The Lone Bellow - The Lone Bellow


    And another ten...
  11. Laura Marling - When I Was an Eagle
  12. Ashley Cleveland - Beauty in the Curve
  13. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra - The Jazz Age
  14. Jon Hopkins - Immunity
  15. Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon
  16. The Haxan Cloak - Excavation
  17. Buke and Gase - General Dome
  18. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Specter at the Feast
  19. Jim James - Regions Of Light And Sound Of God
  20. They Might Be Giants - Nanobots
  21. Cloud Cult - Love

Honorable mention:

Goat - World Music (Technically, a 2012 release.)

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I'm always way behind on hearing new releases. This year, I don't find myself much caring about catching up. That's an alarming realization that I've shared elsewhere.

That's why I'm so happy with the new Mavis Staples record, One True Vine (which doesn't officially release until next Tuesday, right?). It's the only recording I've heard this year that has moved me, although again, I've pretty much stopped seeking out new music. I hope my love of new music, whatever delays might be experienced in hearing it, will return soon. My reaction to One True Vine gives me hope.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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One True Vine is a great record. I haven't heard it enough yet to know where to put it on my list, Christian, but I suspect it will land in the top 10 at year's end. I'm also currently fond of the new album by Foxygen, and starting to warm to Parquet Courts.

Very surprised, Andy, that you didn't include Nick Cave or The Mavericks. Unimpressed? Or you just haven't heard them?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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One True Vine is a great record. I haven't heard it enough yet to know where to put it on my list, Christian, but I suspect it will land in the top 10 at year's end. I'm also currently fond of the new album by Foxygen, and starting to warm to Parquet Courts.

Very surprised, Andy, that you didn't include Nick Cave or The Mavericks. Unimpressed? Or you just haven't heard them?

Unimpressed by Nick Cave (I usually like him, but "Push the Sky Away" didn't do much for me). I haven't heard the latest Mavericks album. I love their early albums, but haven't really kept up. And I look forward to hearing the new Mavis album. I'm in love with that woman even when she doesn't sing, and she sings very well.

Edited by Andy Whitman
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My ten favorites so far:

  1. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
  2. Sam Phillips, Push Any Button
  3. Darcy James Argue, Brooklyn Babylon
  4. Queens of the Stone Age, ... Like Clockwork
  5. Hugh Laurie, Didn't It Rain
  6. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Old Yellow Moon
  7. KT Tunstall, Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon
  8. Pistol Annies, Annie Up
  9. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
  10. John Smith, Great Lakes

Edited by Josh Hurst

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

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fwiw

1. Edie Brickell and Steve Martin - Love Has Come For You

2. Jacco Gardner - Cabinet of Curiosities

3. Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse

4. Deerhunter - Monomania

5. Hospital Ships - Destruction in Yr Soul

6. Mikal Cronin - MCIII

7. Low - The Invisible Way

8. Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors

9. Mother Falcon - You Knew

10. BRMC - Specter at the Feast

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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The two I've listened to the most this year:

Child Ballads (Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hammer)-a performance of 100+ year old songs.

Random Access Memories (Daft Punk)-a number great songs in an album that never feels cohesive.

Nothing else has grabbed me so far, but I've not listened to a whole lot from this year. Will check out some albums from these lists.

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Thanks for all the recommendations. I would have never considered re-visiting the Mavericks, but really like the new albums thanks to Overstreet's suggestion. I bought a Mavs album more than 15 years ago because I thought it would fit in with the Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown albums I was devouring then and it didn't stick. I was seeking something else then. The new one sounds pretty perfect.

Favorites re-hashed from above are Isbell, Richard Thompson and Milk Carton Kids.

Of the artists not mentioned above, in 2013 I've been listening to new ones from Villagers, Mark Lanegan and Dug Pinnick.

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Thanks for all the recommendations. I would have never considered re-visiting the Mavericks, but really like the new albums thanks to Overstreet's suggestion. I bought a Mavs album more than 15 years ago because I thought it would fit in with the Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown albums I was devouring then and it didn't stick. I was seeking something else then. The new one sounds pretty perfect.

I didn't even know they had a new album since I saw this thread. I still spin Trampoline and Raul Malo's Christmas album from time to time, but haven't really checked them out in years. Like you, I'm really liking the new one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Has anyone heard Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant, former lead singer of The Czars? Good heavens. It's weird, unsettling, and occasionally hilarious. The must-hear track is "GMF" (listener discretion strongly advised due to an f-bomb chorus). Wow. Funniest and catchiest song I've heard this year, with the most beautiful harmonies as well.

Sinead O'Connor sings backup.

It's probably in my '13 top ten, with a big fat warning sticker.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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A little early because it just started streaming today, but I think I am gonna have to add Andrew Cedermark's solo 'Home Life.' to my list. A big, loud, folksy album full of beauty. Tinges of Springsteen, Dinosaur Jr., Crazy Horse, etc.

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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Here are a bunch of albums I like a lot, so far:

Junip - Junip

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Alpoko Don - The Ol' Soul EP

Josh Ritter - The Beast in its Tracks

Ballake Sissoko - At Peace

Baths - Obsidian

Bonobo - The North Borders

Rhye - Woman

Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg (My guilty pleasure. I suspect the pleasure will diminish with time but I like this candy right now.)

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

Olafur Arnalds - For Now I am Winter

Want/need to listen more: The Uncluded, Parquet Courts, Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, My Bloody Valentine, Torres, Jon Hopkins, Laura Marling, Olafur Arnalds, Glenn Jones, Laura Mvula, Hiss Golden Messenger, Colin Stetson, Frightened Rabbit, Phosphorescent, Jason Isbell, Mikal Cronin, Sam Amidon, Shigeto, These New Puritans, Cayucas,

Looking forward to: Damien Jurado, Arcade Fire, Ebony Bones, Volcano Choir, Lowland Hum, The Dodos, Bill Callahan,

Edited by yank_eh
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It's been a particularly superb year for lo-fi, garage rock types. Kurt Vile, Mikal Cronin, Milk Music, Parquet Courts and Thee Oh Sees have all released wonderful albums. Mikal Cronin's album, in fact, is pretty close to perfect. Genre of the Year so far.

Some might argue Electronic Music (insofar as it is a genre) could compete for that title.

Baths

Bibio

Boards of Canada

Bonobo

Disclosure

DJ Koze

James Blake

Jon Hopkins

Atoms for Peace

Daft Punk

That's a really good batch of albums.

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It's been a particularly superb year for lo-fi, garage rock types. Kurt Vile, Mikal Cronin, Milk Music, Parquet Courts and Thee Oh Sees have all released wonderful albums. Mikal Cronin's album, in fact, is pretty close to perfect. Genre of the Year so far.

Some might argue Electronic Music (insofar as it is a genre) could compete for that title.

Baths

Bibio

Boards of Canada

Bonobo

Disclosure

DJ Koze

James Blake

Jon Hopkins

Atoms for Peace

Daft Punk

That's a really good batch of albums.

If one were fonder of electronic music, one might indeed argue that. dogrun.gif

Edited by Andy Whitman
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I rarely buy new music. I think the only 2013 releases I've got are Carlo Aonzo & Rene Izquierdo's disc of Paganini duets (muy bueno), and the new Daniel Amos, which needs a little more time to sink in.

Recent acquisitions I'm really enjoying:

Pine Leaf Boys - La Musique

Bob Neuwirth - Back to the Front

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Some of my favorites I've heard so far:

Richard Thompson - Electric

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society - Brooklyn Babylon

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Daniel Amos - Dig Here, Said the Angel

Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors

Caveman - Caveman

Laura Marie - The Season

Seabird - Troubled Days

Edited by Crow
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