Best of 2013
According to my ears it was pretty darn good year for music. Even spanning two cds it was tough to edit and leave some tunes aside. When in doubt I favored new artists over old standbys. There is no particular order, just an attempt to make it all flow together. But in the end, these songs stand alone and bring a smile to my face whenever I hear them pop up.
Track 1: “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams) Daft Punk from Random Access Memories
I don’t listen to much lamestream radio but this was the song of the summer. I’ve often thought Daft Punk was a little gimmicky but Pharrell Williams’ pop sensibility pulls this song off. Stephen Colbert did a great parody after the band stood him up on his show.
Track 2: “Unbelievers” Vampire Weekend from Modern Vampires of the City
I almost included Arcade Fire’s great song Reflector in this spot but left it out because its length limited how many songs I could include. Vampire Weekend is kind of the 21st century Talking Heads with its merging of prep school pop and African juju music.
Track 3: “Royals” Lorde from the Love Club EP
Like Laura Marling, Lorde is a young woman who sounds much wiser than her years. A sagely Gothic take on the hip-hop fantasy lifestyle with great minimalist hooks.
Track 4: “Can You Get to That” Mavis Staples from One True Vine
Speaking of sagely, you got to love what Mavis Staples has been doing the last few years. She and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) have a great working relationship, and while this is a cover of a Funkadelic song, it could easily have been done by the Staple Singers.
Track 5: “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl” Boz Scaggs from Memphis
Boz headed off to Memphis to channel his inner Al Green and wound up covering a couple great Mink DeVille songs in the process. After hearing this I went back and bought a Mink DeVille greatest hits collections. Also love Willy DeVille’s New Orleans recordings.
Track 6: “Back Seat Lover” Mayer Hawthorne from Where Does this Door Go?
A nice throwback to sixties R&B from neo-soul crooner Hawthorne. A man with excellent taste and a massive record collection.
Track 7: “Oh, Pretty Woman” Gary Clark Jr. from itunes Session
I didn’t know what the hype was about on last year’s album where he played down his guitar slinger rep. This is from an itunes session which features his great guitar work.
Track 8: “Somewhere” Jimi Hendrix from People, Hell and Angels
Just when you think the vaults are empty, out comes a nugget from the past. Jimi Hendrix still sounds ahead of our time.
Track 9: “Search and Destroy” The Rides from Can’t Get Enough
Hendrix’s old buddy Stephen Stills joined up with blues ace Kenny Wayne Shepard and The Electric Flag’s Barry Goldberg to make this rocker. “Look out honey, I’m using technology”, indeed.
Track 10: “Bad Without You” Escondido from The Ghosts of Escondido
This Nashville duo has a spaghetti western sound like Calexico without the horns. One of David (Twin Peaks) Lynch’s favorite bands.
Track 11: “(It Was) Lust Not Love” Mark Carroll from Stone Beads and Silver
Irish Dylan clone Carroll often writes and sings with just too many words. This tidy ditty has a title that says it all.
Track 12 “Out of My League” Fitz & the Tantrums from More Than Just a Dream
The Eighties were the last great decade for handclaps in pop music and this song makes you want to get a Flock of Seagulls haircut.
Track 13: “Driving Toward the Sun” Susan James from Driving Toward the Sun
Its hard to put a label on this music, but it haunts and rocks at the same time. Great guitar at the end.
Track 14: “Swimming In the Sea” Bob Schneider from Burden of Proof
Austin singer-songwriter Schneider has been around for years and is known for his sharp wit. This is a little different sound from what I’ve heard before.
Track 15: “Shuggie” Foxygen from We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Music
An album of neo-pyschedelic mashups of every rock genre from the last 50 years. This song’s title suggests a homage to Shuggie Otis, and there is a bit of a Inspiration Information feel. Totally unique.
Track 16: “Things Will Change” Treetop Flyers from The Mountain Moves
This London band recorded their album in Malibu and it sounds like 1972 in Topanga Canyon.
Track 17: “The Ceiling” The Wild Feathers from the Wild Feathers
What starts as a gently country frolic soars into epic harmonies then floats softly back to earth. Deceptively awesome.
Track 18: “Nothing Arrived” The Villagers from Awayland
This Irish folk-rock band combines uplifting melodies with bleak lyrics.
Track 19: “Someone Will” Dawes from Stories Don’t End
While not as strong as their previous album, Dawes still delivers well crafted songs with unambiguous lyrics that recall Jackson Browne and other vintage LA singer-songwriters.
Track 20: “Crazy For You” The Dirtbombs from Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!
Like the album title suggests this is modern bubblegum music, but more like NRBQ than the Archies.
Track 21: “Like This, Like That” The California Honeydrops from Like You Mean It
New Orleans inspired jam band that doesn’t really jam, just a tight retro rockin’ R&B flavor.
Track 1: “Wildfire” John Mayer from Paradise Valley
I used to think John Mayer was a little too cute, but his performance on the Levon Helm tribute video convinced me to give him another look.
Track 2: “Little Too Late” by Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers from Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers
I first heard Nicki in the country band Brokedown In Bakersfield singing with her husband Tim Bluhm from Motherhips. This sounds a little like Grace Potter via San Francisco. Fun You Tube videos of the band singing in the van.
Track 3: “Everybody In This Town” Chicago Farmer from Backenforth, IL
Although a lot of the music I listen to comes from California or the South, every now and then something great comes out of the Midwest. Chicago Farmer is a singer-songwriter who sounds like the heartland.
Track 4: “Shotgun” The Band of Heathens from Sunday Morning Record
Another great band from Austin, they have been called “the missing link between the Black Crowes and the Eagles”.
Track 5: “Favorite Shirt” Rich Mahan from Blame Bobby Bare
Known for his humorous country songs (“Rehab’s For Quitters”), this is Mahan’s attempt to “have a song that appeals to the ladies and helps all the guys get laid”.
Track 6: “Joy to You Baby” Josh Ritter from The Beast In Its Tracks
A young Leonard Cohen for the new millennium. A well crafted album of breakup songs.
Track 7: “I Was An Eagle” Laura Marling from Once I Was an Eagle
A young Joni Mitchell for the new millennium. You don’t want to be the guy in her songs.
Track 8: “Stockholm” Jason Isbell from Southeastern
Out of rehab and recently married to violinist Amanda Shires, this is a quieter Jason Isbell than from his days with the Drive By Truckers or his band The 400 Unit. The songwriting is outstanding.
Track 9: “Blowing Smoke” Kacey Musgraves from Same Trailer Different Park
Kacey is kind of a country Katy Perry (they co-write together). Her pro-gay “Follow Your Arrow” ruffled a few feathers in Nashville.
Track 10: “Just Another Beautiful Girl” Andrew Duhon from The Moorings
Tearjerker song with a voice to match.
Take 11: “The Highway” Holly Williams from The Highway
Hank’s granddaughter proves it’s in the genes even if it does skip a generation.
Track 12: “Cecil Taylor” Jonathan Wilson from Fanfare
Accomplished producer and engaging performer, on this cut he sounds like a spiritual David Crosby.
Track 13: “Terror in the Canyons” Phosporescent from Muchacho
Described on itunes as “Ryan Adams backed by My Morning Jacket”, which sounds pretty good to me.
Track 14: “Peace of Mind” Mikal Cronin from MCII
For a guy associated with garage thrasher Ty Segall this is a great collection of pop songs with serious themes.
Track 15: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” Bobby Bare from Darker Than Light
Bobby pulls a Johnny Cash/Glen Campbell tactic and reinterprets a U2 classic.
Track 16: “Mystic Highway” John Fogerty from Wrote A Song for Everyone
While mostly a collection of classic Creedence songs played with contemporary artists, this new song shows the bayou bard still knows how to write ‘em.
Track 17: “The Revival” Jamestown Revival from Bands Under the Radar Vol.7
Texas duo makes you want to wade in the water and get baptized once again.
Track 18: “Praise You” The Slide Brothers from Robert Randolph Presents the Slide Brothers
If I’m headed to church I might as well hear some sacred steel.
Solid Gone 2013 “I Aint Dead, I’m Just Gone” Jim Dickinson
Bobby “Blue” Bland