For my first year as a music blogger, there’s no getting around the fact that this is an incomplete list of the best of 2013. This year was finding my feet, working on contacts, and trying to catch up on the years I stayed away. There are volumes of great bands I heard that I simply couldn’t get to write about or couldn’t fit on this list– Foals, Daft Punk, The 1975, Parquet Courts, The National, Skaters, David Bowie’s “The Next Day.” I hope to bring you more comprehensive music news and reviews in 2014. Still, unlike that fruitcake you got in the mail, this music list won’t go stale in 2014. Here’s what rose to the top.
10. Dog Party: Lost Control– While their album has its ups and downs, the radio hit “Jet Pack” and “Go Flamingo” are good enough to overlook what are shortfalls. They can only get better.
9. Potty Mouth: Hell Bent — Old-school punk-rockers just came to my attention only recently, but they’ve had a growing buzz and deserve to be on this list. Potty Mouth dives right in — no time for long intros. They’re direct in their voice and biting at that. It’s easy to guess they would be a blast to see live.
8. Mount Kimbie: Cold Spring Fault Less Youth — This year I discovered dub-step, and learned to appreciate the artistry of techno, tonal disparities and mellow percussion. It’s mesmerizing.
7. Lorde: Pure Heroine. The teen who brought us “Royals” may likely be one of the youngest divas to burst onto the pop-music scene since Madonna. Her album takes risks, and is even abstract at times, and that takes guts at 16. She updates the idea of romantic love but with a dose of reality. Her record does no disappoint.
6. Mother Falcon: You Knew– This band of 18-20 musicians (yes, the number fluctuates) have put out some of the most original music to hit the scene in a long time. It marries classical and rock flawlessly. It flutters and shakes its way into your musical lexicon. Highly recommended if you want to broaden your musical horizons and simply listen.
5. Haim: Days Are Gone — 2013 was THE breakout year for this pop/alt chick-sister act. They are not afraid to channel Laura Branigan, but remain super catchy and bring the 80s squarely into the now. They proudly wear their heart on their sleeve. Get it, if only for the devilish “My Song 5.”
4. Deap Vally: Sistrionix– Two punk-rock vixens meet at a crochet class, decide to join forces, and destroy your vision of what the blues should be. Just listen here. My review of their EP Get Deap! is here.
3. Arcade Fire: Reflektor — While there are stretches of enjoyable music in Reflektor– Forgive me, top music websites— this album was not as impressive as the tidal wave of media and ads hyped it out to be. Yet it draws you in with deep-storied melodies and dramatic crescendos. Reflektor creates an aura of French romance and intrigue that only Arcade Fire consistently does so well.
2. Kanye West: Yeezus — There is no argument that outside the studio, the hip-hop king creates his own media firestorm, and that’s unfortunate. But the music is what should stand in the end if it’s good enough, and it is. The imagery he’s able to conjure is always vivid and engrossing and personal. Make up your own vision: West rocking a Wookie suit in “Guilt Trip” to being a newly risen pharoah in “Black Skinhead,” to being a guy so damn arrogant he’s barking for his damn croissants (that doesn’t need to be envisioned.) His ballsy interpretation of Nina Simone‘s “Blood on the Leaves” only misses the mark marginally. West raises the bar for the rest to follow, and blazes new paths as others are just getting a hint of what he’s doing. Each release is darker and more introspective than the last. “New Slaves” is a far cry from “Gold Digger,” but the downward journey is ever sweeter.
1. Laura Mvula: Sing To The Moon — Before the king goes the queen. Out of everything I’ve heard this year, she’s been a constant. It was my anthem at summer vacation on the Cape, and had a hand on my shoulder on many a dark drive home. The music at times is intensely personal and takes its time. Mvula also shows her strength— at one point singing, ‘Who made you the center of the universe/Who made you judge and jury over me?’. “Sing to the Moon” moves smoothly, anchored by her powerful vocals and piano ballads. Her style dances elegantly between classical and popular music. It’s done to perfection.
Thanks to all who read my blog and see you in 2014! ~ Emily