Damned Ubiquity! Or, Another Music Writer’s Top Picks of 2013
5. Washed Out – Paracosm
A dreamy and dependable “go-to” – this is like something brand new that you also seem to have had in your library for decades. This is music as blood pressure medication.
4. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
Speaking of decades, SO worth the 20-year wait. My Bloody Valentine creates an artistic experience that goes way beyond listening. It is a whole way of feeling.
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Much has been made of the maturity VW displays here, but they never did feel to me like they weren’t grown up. This year’s record mixes their signature intelligence, cleverness, and mischief with a sense of depth and gravity. Great. Great. Great.
2. No Joy – Wait to Pleasure and Pastel and Pass Out
The beautiful noise is right here. No Joy constructs sonic walls that feature muscular, rhythmic bricks held together with a sweet mortar of swirling fuzz. They create a super trippy, super fresh sound that is appealing because of its variety. Paying respect to the most brilliant shoegaze artists, they cannily switch gears from song to song, and often even within songs. When they are not sending open chords through chain saw effects, No Joy can display soft, sunny, and breezy beach sounds. This year’s output will provide many years of pleasure and great joy. (More on this band in the most recent post below headed: “Great Joy”.)
1. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us
Magical. Sometimes being just exactly who you are is an act of defiance. It is not easy for everyone, and the simple act of your own expression is courageous. Tales of Us is made up of ten songs, each a distinctive journey of self expression. The song titles are names, (Jo, Annabel, Drew, Simone, Clay, etc.,) and in each song, Alison Goldfrapp either presents us with, or bravely inhabits, a different persona. All of them (quietly, defiantly, courageously) being exactly who they are.
Fantastic and liberating, deeply private and still somehow seductively inclusive, the record plays both ends against the middle. Simple acoustic guitar songs trade time with hugely wrought symphonic pieces, slow jazz, and tripped out electronica. The binding element of the piece is her exquisite voice. Breathily playing out through the dreamy range of the songs, she draws me in absolutely.
More lovely with every year she is now 47, and along with the other two greatest song interpreters of her generation, Beth Gibbons (48, Portishead) and Elizabeth Fraser (50, Cocteau Twins), Alison Goldfrapp does not merely sing, she occupies her songs, and she transports her listeners. The beauty, the elegance of her, the certainty – she makes me lightheaded. She is delivering her art from a castle on a cloud, and I want to be where she is.
Watch the video for Drew: http://bit.ly/1eTPlNy
Plus 13 of note – (alpha by artist)
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
This is not introductory BoC: For fans only and definitely worth the wait.
Bryan Ferry (The Bryan Ferry Orchestra) – The Jazz Age
Ferry works his genius by reimagining his own solo work and Roxy Music songs as 20s-era jazz. It works so well The Jazz Age transports me to a time I never experienced. Listening to this wonderful piece with eyes closed, you can easily imagine the ice-cold feel of a martini glass stem between your fingers. You can almost smell the room filled with perfume and tobacco smoke. You can sense the cool metal cufflink at your wrist and the swish of dancing silk and lace on your partner’s straight-line evening dress. You can feel the 20s roaring right around you.
Destroyer – Five Spanish Songs
If you see Dan Bejar, please give him a hug. Tell him to keep doing what he does. There is nobody like him. This EP is homage – he covers the songs of Spanish songwriter Antonio Luque – and it’s a wonderful way to spend 20 minutes. ¡Viva Destroyer!
Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, T Rex: All are conjured here and this swaggering record is serious fun, seriously funky. Rocking.
Frankie Rose – Herein Wild
I loved her last release, Interstellar, and Frankie Rose’s newest record is really similar. She’s your indie girlfriend so don’t fight it. Just put this in the rotation and love her.
Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister
Do you sometimes just want to rock? This Welsh band does too. Get involved. They tear it up.
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
When you were a little kid, you occasionally had dreams where you were running. And your running became almost like flight. Remember? You ran, picking up speed, and after a number of paces your body was so solid and light that the lengths of your steps widened almost impossibly. You just barely touched your foot down before propelling your churning body back up, springing forward from the ground. Floating forward.
If you want to have the waking musical equivalent of your old running dream, check out the record’s best tune: Open Eye Signal. It is eight minutes of wonderfully entrancing music and the whole of Immunity is strong.
Kanye West – Yeezus
Electrifying. How is something so shocking still even possible.
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
This band energetically propels the traditions of American punk. This a terrific bunch of short, raw, powerful songs with a sense of humor.
Savages – Silence Yourself
These London women channel Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Crazy dark. Could have been in the top five.
Wax Idols – Discipline and Desire
This Bay Area outfit transports me back in time to the rich and dark early-1980s. Led by a tornadic creative force, Hether Fortune, they openly draw on the influences of my beloved Siouxsie (and the Banshees) and Daniel Ash (Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets, Bauhaus.)
Fortune is the architect of this remarkable release on the Slumberland Records label. She and her band blaze, and they deserve your attention. The sound is brand new and also somehow like something from your heavy rotation between 1981 and 1986. I can’t get enough of it.
Weekend – Jinx
Thank goodness for Weekend: After all, Violens and DIIV can’t be expected to release material every year. Weekend have crept into the same mental space for me as those excellent acts. Also crazy dark.
Yo La Tengo – Fade
What have you ever done to deserve Yo La Tengo? Time after time they invite you over, provide an excellent meal, and you sit down to eat. Always tasty and always reliable, the company’s a treat and the dishes are often remarkable. They have it and still glow. Thanks.
Here are some I want to spend more time with:
Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
Oneohetrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Here is a single that I LOVE from 2013. Check out this weird video and beatiful song from TV on the Radio – Million Miles: http://bit.ly/1cZQn93
Wanted to love:
Here are a couple that got on my radar, (or I otherwise wanted to love this year,) but never made it in the rotation:
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories I did not believe the hype.
Deerhunter – Monomania This is a bummer – Bradford Cox is a favorite artist in large part BECAUSE his approach is often willfully provocative and difficult. This record seemed to double back on that difficulty and provocation and fell flat.