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Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2013 (1-10)

If you missed the first two installments of this list, here are a couple links: 11-20 and 21-30. The ten albums that are left are all albums that I grew to love over the course of 2013. At one point or another, each of these albums had me obsessed and listening to it repeatedly.

10) Josh Ritter - The Beast In Its Tracks

This is my favorite Josh Ritter album since his incredible 2006 album "The Animal Years." The album was written in the wake of his divorce to fellow singer/songwriter Dawn Landes (who has her own album coming out in February). Rather than writing a "woe is me," vindictive album, Ritter has managed to write an album that is introspective, honest, hopeful, and often times funny. "New Lover" hits all of these themes as he looks back on his past relationship while musing on a new one. Throughout the song, he wishes his ex well, hoping she's found someone new to treat her well. However, before the song ends he admits "if you're sad and you are lonesome and you've got nobody true, I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy too." Breakups are tough.

9) J. Roddy Walston and The Business - Essential Tremors

This list spans quite a few genres, but I tend to gravitate toward folk-y stuff a lot. However, if you're looking to rock, look no further than J. Roddy Walston and The Business. Essential Tremors is an album full of rockin' guitars, forceful drums, pounding piano, and Walston's howling and shrieking. This is a foot stomping album to be sure. This album was my first time hearing J Roddy Walston and The Business, but I imagine the band puts on an incredibly fun live show. One newpaper wrote that the band's live shows "make James Brown look lazy." I'm thinking I'll have to try to get to one of those in 2014.

8) John Moreland - In The Throes

John Moreland has written several other albums, but this was my first exposure to the Tulsa, Oklahoma native, and I am a full on convert now. In The Throes is an incredible folk/americana album with great songs from beginning to end. His lyrics are a big part of what makes the album great. Because of that, the album may take a few listens to sink in, but it's well worth it. Fortunately Moreland's talent seems to have been recognized somewhat in 2013 as the year saw him opening a small handful of shows for Jason Isbell and getting a couple of his songs ("Gospel" and "Your Spell") featured on the show Sons of Anarchy. In addition to those two songs, "Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore" and "Oh Julia" are two more favorites of mine. Here's to hoping John Moreland keeps making incredible music and being rightfully recognized for doing so.

7) Suburban Dirts - A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea

I've written about Suburban Dirts a few times on this blog and for good reason since they keep putting out excellent music. Last year, I ranked the band's debut album as my 10th favorite of the year. I had assumed they'd play a bunch of shows this year, maybe put out an EP, and get ready for another album in 2014 or 2015 like most bands would. Well it turns out they aren't like most bands because instead they released a second full length that I like even more than their impressive debut. You can read more of my review of the album here but the short story is that they mix folk, rock, blues, and country as well as just about anyone else around. A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea is an absolute treat of the album. If you enjoy what you hear from the preview below, please support them and buy their music so they can continue to do what they do so well.

6) The Postelles - ...And It Shook Me

The second album from the New York quartet features an album full of hook-heavy rock/pop songs that are a joy to sing along to. This album is a really fun road trip record with song after song of catchy choruses that can be belted out. In their review of the album, AllMusic sums up the album better than I could hope to, saying "what impresses isn't the hooks themselves but how The Postelles craft the riffs and melodies into songs, how they retain a brightness to their punch without ever seeming saccharine, how they seem to celebrate exuberance, not detachment." My favorite tracks are "Pretend It's Love," "Caught By Surprise," and "Running Red Lights."

5) Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze

This may be the antidote to the cheeriness on The Postelles record, but man is it good. Over half the songs on this record surpass the six minute mark, several going well past it. Vile's style has been referred to as "slacker rock" but that in no way does justice to the precision that somehow seems to underlie the rambling nature of the songs. The album opener, "Wakin On A Pretty Day" is probably the song I became most obsessed with this year. Somehow despite being almost 10 minutes long it always seemed too short. The lyrics, combined with Vile's delivery, have made me actually chuckle out loud at times with lines like "Rising at the crack of dawn, I gotta think about what wise crack I'm gonna drop along the way today" and "Phone ringing off the shelf, I guess somebody has something they really wanna prove to us today." Really though, my review won't be able to do justice to this song or this record. I recommend you find a way to listen to it on headphones while wandering through a city. Somehow that's when it always seemed most perfect to me.

4) Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

The Scottish indie rocker's Midnight Organ Fight is perhaps my favorite album ever and their follow up, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, was my second favorite album of 2010. That is to say that expectations from me are sky high whenever they put out new music. Fortunately, Frightened Rabbit are up to the task and have put out another incredible album of indie rock with excellent lyrics and Scott Hutchison's infectious Scottish accent. This is probably the band's most polished sounding record to date (and their first on a major label) and it shows that they are able to adapt while still retaining what makes them so good. The album closer "The Oil Slick" is my favorite song off the record. When I got to see the band live earlier this year, Hutchison told the crowd the song was sort of an apology for some of the things he'd said in other songs. How could anyone stay made at someone who can write lines like "How can I talk about life and warmth? I've got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm. All the dark words pouring from my throat sound like an oil slick coating the wings we've grown."

3) Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside - Untamed Beast

Over the past couple weeks, I think I've had each of these top three albums in the number one spot for a bit, so the order is pretty arbitrary since I'm sure it'd change in a week. 2013 was a bit of a mixed bag for fans of Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside. Back in  February, Untamed Beast was released, and it has remained in rotation for me all year. According to Last.fm the band is my most played artist over the past year. Ford's voice and attitude are absolutely incredible as she can belt out defiant songs (like "They Told Me" and "Bad Boys") or croon about love (like on "Paris" and "Roll Around") without either sounding out of place or insincere. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago the band announced they were going their separate ways in 2014. Everything is amicable, but it's sad to see after they put out such an incredible record (as well as a really, really good EP) this year. Sallie Ford has recently put together an all female band and plans to keep making music, so I'll certainly be following along with that.

2) Small Houses - Exactly Where You Wanted To Be

This may be the album I've listened to most this year and it certainly holds a special place for me. Small Houses (aka Jeremy Quentin) has put together a touching folk record that I couldn't help but listen to over and over again. I made my second road trip to Sasquatch Music Festival this summer and after each of the days jam-packed full of music, I found myself returning to my tent and listening to this album on repeat as I fell asleep. There's something comforting and soothing about the composition of these songs that makes me feel at home wherever I am. The only complaint I have about this album is that it comes in at a little under 30 minutes long, which is nowhere near as long as I wish it was. I guess that's why it just finds itself played on loop.














1) Typhoon - White Lighter

This is just an absolutely incredible album from the 14-piece Portland, Oregon band. There is so much to love on this album that I don't really know where to begin. Many of the lyrics are inspired by lead singer, Kyle Morton's battle with Lyme disease that caused several of his organs to fail and led to his dad giving him a kidney. Many of the songs muse on life and death in its many forms, including "Possible Deaths" sees Morton singing that "every star is a possible death." However, the lyrics are just icing on a delicious musical cake because I didn't know any of the back story when I had already fallen in love with this album. Instead it was the sounds that this 14-member band was putting together (again without me realizing they had that many members). They show all sorts of restraint, never forcing more into a song than belongs there but filling up your ears with enough to keep you discovering new things with each new listen. Several songs caught me off guard when I first listened, bucking the expectations my ears had grown to expect by employing different time signatures. It's rare to hear an album that simultaneously challenges you and satisfies you at the same time. This may all just be rambling at this point, but I highly recommend this album to anyone unfamiliar with it. Make sure you listen a few times and make sure you aren't too distracted while you do because there is just a ton to like.


So that's the list, my 30 favorite albums of 2013. I'd love to hear what other people enjoyed, either that I'm missing or that they agree with. I've made a Spotify playlist of all 30 albums if you want to listen to them. You can find that by clicking ---> here.

As with the last two posts, here are a few songs from albums 1-10 to get a taste of them. I think all of these are all best listened to from beginning to end though. At least one song ("Bad Boys" by Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside) is possibly "not safe for work", so bear that in mind.

And since I can't find Kurt Vile on Soundcloud...

There was a lot of music to love in 2013, and I'm already looking forward to several 2014 releases.

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