Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Year in Music: 2013 Part 2 (or how I learned to stop worrying about variety and re-love Pop-Punk)

Here ya go! My top 25 albums of 2013!! I wrote a lot of it either drunk or hungover so I hope it makes sense! (If you missed part 1 here's a link.

25. The Flatliners: Dead Language

I had never listed to the Flatliners before Dead Language was released but I feel like I;ve been missing out on some real good stuff. The albums second half isn't as strong as the first but wow, the first half is fantastic!

24. Monster Magnet: Last Patrol

Psychedelic stoner metal is not usually my genre of choice but Monster Magnet rock so hard and are weirdly intriguing enough that I found myself listening to Last Patrol a whole lot more than I would have ever imagined. 

23. Alkaline Trio: My Shame is True

My Shame is True is Alkaline Trio's best album since 2003's Good Mourning. Clever lyrics, sing along melodies and a dark streak have been the bands repertoire since they started but it's been a while since they all came together in this enjoyable of a fashion.  

22. North Mississippi All Stars: World Boogie is Coming
The Dickinson brothers have been making great southern boogie for a long time and World Boogie is Coming may be their best offering yet. Featuring a lot of delta blues legends and with no stabs at contemporary sound, NMAS have made a great southern roots rock album. 

21. The Suburbs: Si Sauvage

The other legendary Twin Cities band to release new music for the first time in over a decade, did so with a fine output of danceable adult pop. Si Sauvage lacks a lot of the weird jittery new wave that made The Suburbs 80's albums so memorable but when it comes to aging gracefully, these guys have done it very well.

20. Gov't Mule: Shout!

Gov't Mule have been making rock solid hard rock for almost 20 years and Shout!  is as good of an album as you'll find from them. Warren Hayes' voice and guitar are both in fine form throughout and his songwriting is an equal match. The bonus guest star portion of the album is interesting but doesn't hold up as well as the original. High quality stuff.  

19. Jetty Boys: Let 'Er Rip!

Let 'Er Rip sees the Jetty Boys continue to develop their brand of pop-punk while mixing in some stabs at hardcore. It's hard to label an album that features songs like "Wasted in the Basement" and "Forever Dumb" as mature but Let 'Er Rip is a step forward for the band.

18. Steve Earle & the Dukes (& Duchesses): The Low Highway

A new Steve Earle album is always a welcome addition to my collection and The Low Highway does not disappoint. Mixing in straight forward rock ("Calico County," "21st Century Blues") folk (Burnin' it Down") New Orleans inspired jazz ("Pocket Full of Rain") and country ("Love's Gonna Go My Way"), Earle navigates us through life in troubles times but leaves the door open for a bright future.

17. Portugal, the Man: Evil Friends

Although it's a bit uneven, the high points of Evil Friends are awesome. "Creep in a T-Shirt," "Modern Jesus," "Hip Hop Kids" and "Holy Roller (Hallelujah)" are all among my favorite songs of the year. Danger Mouse's production does wonders for most of the tracks making this one of the great indie rock albums of the year. 

16. Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold

If you mixed up the Velvet Underground, early Pavement and the Strokes, you'd get something resembling Light Up Gold. That's not to say that Parquet Courts are just the sum of their influences. "Master of My Craft," "Stoned and Starving" and "Borrowed Time" would all stand up well beside the best of those bands work. This is an excellent album of high energy indie punk.

15 (tie). Broncho: Can't Get Past the Lips

This is technically a couple years old but got a nice wider release this year and without that I would have never heard it. It's a short collection of uptempo punk and well done indie pop. It's also completely addictive.  

Masked Intruder: Masked Intruder

This came out in 2012 and while I heard it then, I certainly did not appreciate it. A year later and while some of the issues I had with Masked Intruder (gimmicky, too soft) are still there, the albums hooks and energy won me over. The band is also a lot smarter than I had originally given them credit for. Some people say this is the best pop-punk band putting out music right now and while I don't agree, they're pretty damn good.

14. Grant Hart: The Argument

Loosely based on John Milton's Paradise Lost, Grant Hart's double album The Argument is easily the most ambitious solo work the former Hüsker Dü member has put forth to date. It's the least easily accessible album on this list but the rewards are very high as well. There are still plenty of straight forward pop songs ("Far From Heaven," "Morningstar," "Letting Me Out," "(It Was a) Most Disturbing Dream") for the casual listen but The Argument works best when taken as a whole over multiple listens.

13. Off With Their Heads: Home

Off With Their Heads 3rd full length album of dark, melodic hardcore is the bands most accessible yet in terms of pop songwriting but the lyrics are as downcast as ever. The result is a surprisingly uplifting affair. If singer/songwriter Ryan Young's life sucks so bad maybe mine doesn't. (JOKES!!)

12. The James Hunter Six: Minute by Minute

The latest superb soulful rock album by Hunter expands the bands name to give credit to all the members of the backing band. It's a well deserved act but this is still James' show. His Sam Cooke like vocals have become deeper but still convey emotion as well anyone's. The title track is masterful.

11. Civil War Rust: The Fun & the Lonely

I have no clue why these guys aren't a bigger deal in the national punk scene (maybe they are, I'm too old to know any better) but they damn well should be. The Fun & the Lonely is a fantastic pop-punk album, full of hooks, energy and passion. Try listening to "Whipping Star," "Seven Down" or "Walking Down Ward" and not singing along at the top of your lungs. It's virtually impossible.

10. Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt

Lightning Bolt continues Pearl Jam's streak of fantastic albums (starting with their S/T 2006 album). It isn't quite as strong as the last few due to being a bit long but their mix of punk fury ("Mind Your Manners," "Getaway" ) beautiful ballads ("Sirens" "Sleeping By Myself") and everything in between ("Infallible," "Swallowed Whole" "Let the Records Play") still works and Eddie Vedder still sings with tons of passion. There isn't a better straight forward hard rock record that was released this year.

9. David Bowie: The Next Day

BOWIE!!! The Next Day's cover art makes it look it will be an album reminiscent of his experimental late 70's work but in reality it's a excellent modern sounding alt-rock album. Between "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," "Valentine's Day" "How Does the Grass Gow?" and the title track there's uptempo rock aplenty and Bowie's voice carries the ballads ("Where Are We Now?," "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die") to just as great of heights. The Next Day is Bowie's best album in a long, long time. 

8. Dan Vapid & the Cheats: Two

Dan Vapid has been in so many pop-punk bands over the years it's nearly impossible to list them all. The Cheats are the first one to list his name in the title and their second album is every bit the equal to last years debut and holds up with the best of his catalog. "I'm A Contrarian" "Live It Down," "I Wanna Go to Machu Picchu Before I Die" and "Invader" are great uptempo punk while ""Miracle Drug" and "Cold and Rainy Days" are pop gems. The closing "A Long Way" is a successful ballad and leaves the listener wanting more. I would have no complain if Vapid kept up his one album a year pace.  

7. John Paul Keith: Memphis Circa 3AM

If you like roots rock and you're not familiar with John Paul Keith, you are doing it wrong, Memphis Circa 3AM is another outstanding collection of sun records influenced rock ("You Really Outta Be With Me" "Baby We're A Bad Idea" "True Hard Money"), smokey bar room shuffle ("We Got All Night," "Walking Along the Lane"), weeping honky tonk ("Ninety Proof Kiss") and pure pop bliss ("Everything's Different Now," "If You Catch Me Staring"). When it comes to creating simple pleasures in music, very few people are doing it as well as John.

6. Less Than Jake: See the Light

Less Than Jake has been struggling to make great music for the last decade but See The Light finds them re-hitting all the sweet spots that made them one of my favorite bands in the ska heyday. It's a great mix of punk, ska and reggae with varying tempos and hooks galore. I don't know if being back on Fat Wreck has re-energized them or if they just got their groove back but no matter what, seeing the light has paid off ina big way.   

5. Kurt Baker: Brand New Beat

You want to hear some great power-pop? Then here ya go! Brand New Beat is a nearly perfect collection of guitar based pop. You'll be singing along in no time to uptempo rock like "Partied Out," "Hit the Ground," and "Weekend Girls." While the jangle of "She Can Do It All" is timeless. Throw in few winning ballads ("How Many Times," She's Not Sorry") and Kurt Baker has made one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. It might not be deep but it's a helluva good time. 

4. Superchunk: I Hate Music

I Hate Music finds Superchunk branching out into darker and more varied territory than on their previous album Majesty Shredding but the results do not suffer in the least. "Overflows," "Void," "Trees of Barcelona" and "FOH" are all vintage indie-pop punk and with the glorious "Me and You and Jackie Mitoo" Superchunk have given us the best song of the year. It's impossible to hate this music.

3. Bad Religion: True North

I thought the days of awesome Bad Religion albums had passed but then they go and record True North, AND TOTALLY REDEEM THEMSELVES!!! "True North", "Past is Dead," "Robin Hood in Reverse,"  and "Nothing To Dismay" are vintage Bad Religion. "Dharma and the Bomb" is one of their best mid-tempo tracks in recent memory and "Fuck You" is definitely the best Bad Religion song of the last decade. This didn't get great reviews but for the life of me I can't see why.

2. Queens of the Stone Age: ....Like Clockwork

It took me a while to fully embrace this album then just ....Like Clockwork (don't worry, there won't be any more of these) it all hit me and I fell in love. "I Sat By The Ocean," and "If I Had A Tail are the kind of slinky rock QOTSA excel at. While "My God is the Sun" is a balls out rocker. Josh Homme uses his falsetto to with great results on a large number of tracks. It's not an immediately accessible album but ....Like Clockwork is well worth putting in the required effort. 

1. Jason Isbell: Southeastern

Ever since Isbell released Southeastern in June it was pretty obvious that it would be my number 1 album of the year. He's been releasing amazing music both solo and with the Drive By Truckers for well over a decade but nothing else he's done has been this personal and emotional. It's those qualities (along with Isbell's voice and guitar obviously) that give country/folk tracks like "Cover Me Up." "Traveling Alone" "Elephant" and "Relatively Easy" their weight. "Flying Over Water" and "Super 8" are fine rockers that help give the album balance. This is music that is meant to be really listened too and the rewards are outstanding. It might not always bring a smile but it's incredibly moving and enjoyable. I can't say enough good things about it.

For anyone interested here's a link to a Spotify playlist with many of my favorite songs from the year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My year in music: 2013 (part 1) THE EXCITING LIST PORTION OF THE RECAP!!!

Usually I do a top 50 list every year. I generally go into detail on all 50 but frankly I don't have the time and I didn't obsess over music like I have in the past. Must be growing up I guess. Anyway here's a bunch of albums I heard once or twice on Spotify that seemed good but I didn't give much time to.

Snuff: 5-4-3-2-1... Perhaps?
Jim James: Regions of Light and Sound
The Bronx: The Bronx (IV)
Eric Clapton: Old Sock
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Specter at the Feast
Mudhoney: Vanishing Point
The National: Trouble Will Find Me
Mavis Staples: One True Vine
Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks
Okkerville River: The Silver Gymnasium
King Khan & the Shrines: Idle No More
Two Car Garage: The Death of the Self-Preservation Society
Paul McCartney: New
Mark Lanegan: Imitations
Nobunny: Secret Songs: Reflections From the Ear Mirror
Deltron 3030: Event II
Get Dead: Bad News
Polar Bear Club: Death Chorus
Reggie and the Full Effect: No Country for Old Musicians
My Bloody Valentine: MBV

If I was gonna make a detailed top 50 these would be albums 26-50. I present them in arbitrary list form.

50. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
49. Iggy and the Stooges: Ready to Die
48. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
47. Robert Randolph & the Family Band: Lickety Split
46. Deer Tick: Negativity
45. Blitzen Trapper: VII
44. Son Volt: Honky Tonk
43. Dawes: Stories Don't End
42. Old Man Markley: Down Side Up
41. Mike Cooley: The Fool on Every Corner
40. Frank Turner: Tape Deck Heart
39. Billy Bragg: Tooth and Nail
38. Dr. Dog: B-Room
37. Tedeschi Trucks Band: Made Up Mind
36. Streetlight Manifesto: The Hands That Thieve
35. Swingin' Utters: Poorly Formed
34. Motorhead: Aftershock
33. Elvis Costelo & the Roots: Wise Up Ghost
32. Camper Van Beethoven: La Costa Perdida
31. The So So Glos: Blowout
30. Night Marchers: Allez Allez
29. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: Unvarnished
28. The Shouting Matches: Grownass Man
27. Black Joe Lewis: Electric Slave
26. Meat Puppets: Rat Farm

Just so I don't do an entire post without pictures here are three great compilations and my top 5 E.P.'s of the year.


Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) The Bootleg Series Vol. 10

The 10th volume in Dylan's long running bootleg series is a great look at the creative process Bob was going through when making such oddball choices as his first self-titled album and the underrated New Morning. Like all Bootleg albums, this is for the hardcore and converted fan but it's a very rewarding listen for those of us that qualify.

Songs For Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight: A Benefit Compilation For Slim Dunlap

When Twin Cities rock and roll mainstay and former Replacement Slim Dunlap suffered a massive brain stroke it was only natural that the TC music community would step up to help with the costs of long term medical care. What was surprising was the level of national recording artists that stepped up and contributed to the cause. Not to mention it being the impetus for the long awaited Replacements reunion. The songs included here all consist of Dunlap covers and are all of a very high quality. This is one of the biggest must own albums of the year due to the music and where the profits are going.

Fat Wreck Chords: The Songs of Tony Sly - A Tribute 

Another example of a great cause and some great music going hand in hand. When Tony Sly died last year he left behind a wife and daughter. Tony wrote great songs and this tribute collects a lot of amazing artists to cover them with the proceeds going to help support the family Tony left behind. Any fan of punk rock should have already picked this up.


3. Motel Mirrors: Motel Mirrors

John Paul Keith is a personal favorite under the radar musician of mine and his side project team up with Amy LaVere is a great little collection of country based duets.

2. Lucero: Texas & Tennessee

 The continued evolution of Lucero from rock band to soul outfit may have reached it's peak on these 4 tracks. Ben Nichols' voice is well suited for these stripped down songs of lost and breathless love. I'm very excited to see what direction the band goes in next.

1. The Replacements: Songs For Slim

The Replacements releasing new music and reuniting for live shows was easily the most exciting musical news I heard all year. While I was unable to attend any of their Riot Fest appearances and anxiously await a full tour, this 5 track E.P. is a great addition to their catalog. It's mostly just sloppy covers but the spirit of the Replacements has been as important as the actual music (if not more so) and in that regard, it's a smashing success.