So last year, I reviewed my Top 12 albums of 2012. If you’ll remember it was my preferential form to disregard the release dates and aim for what moved me during that year, regardless of origin. What I ended up with was a collection of albums to which I first listened within that calendar year, and which defined that year for me. I’d like to keep that idea for this year but bolster the list to 10 albums, because I think I have a killer ten. Most choices this year are recent, perhaps even within ’13, but one is a bit of an outside throwback and another three (yes 3!) belong to one band. Although they are listed this way, there is no particular order to the albums. However, I do note my Album of The Year, as well as my Group of The Year (and again, for the Group nomination they may not have released anything this year).
2013 has been great for me musically for many reason that will come to fruition soon. I’d like to think these artists had a hand in influencing me. So without adieu, my Top Albums of 2013.
The 1975 – The 1975 (2013) – A balcony on the 17th floor overlooking the near north of Chicago in the late summer is the first time I heard “The City.” Brother Brian was hooked already, and was pushing his discovery on me. It worked. I was sold pretty quickly, so much so that The 1975 has become my album of the year. A full review as well as my own personal perception of this band’s recent overnight phenomenon can be read here.
But looking for a quick skim? Then listen to the aforementioned “The City,” their four-part harmonies on the singles “Chocolate,” “She Way Out,” or “Talk!” with it’s Peter Gabriel influenced vocals.
For the mere age of 23, Matt Healy is a smart writer performing unique vocals. Adam Hann is my guitarist of the year with his Fano Guitar, Hiwatt amp and monster pedal board.
Are they a bit of throw back to ‘83? Yep, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. “If you want to find love…you know where the city is.”
The Swell Season – Strict Joy (2009) – I have no idea what took me so long to find this duo of Irishman Glen Hansard and Czech Markéta Irglová. Bumming around after work one evening in Pai, Thailand, I caught up with some American pop culture watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother.” Ted (Josh Radnor) was going through yet ANOTHER break-up and the beginning of “Low Rising” cued and played out. My thought immediately: sounds like Van Morrison. A quick search to find out who was responsible (remember it was re-runs) brought me to The Swell Season. Check that, Academy Award winners The Swell Season.
Ok let’s sample a few more songs: “High Horses” and “The Verb.” Sold. Let’s grab this from iTunes Store.
Forewarning: this album is terrific, but at times can drag. Personally I am fine with that because the songwriting is so clever. However, I can see how some might tire, what with the longer ballads near the tail end of the album. Strict Joy is worth it for the three songs I mentioned alone but you’ll want to listen to “Love That Conquers” and “Feeling The Pull” as well. Hats off.
Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979) – I’m surprised how often Joe Jackson is overlooked. I mean this man plays numerous instruments (piano [and anything keyboard related], saxophone, harmonica), has five Grammy Award Nominations, and 2 top 10 hits in the UK including the fourth cut off the album “It’s Different for Girls.” Is it New Wave? Is it Punk? Is it rockabilly? Who cares. It’s good. Jackson has this way of spinning words and changing the key JUST at the right time to give that nice twist. Much in the vein of Elvis Costello, but so distinctly Joe Jackson. Other notable tracks: “On Your Radio,” “Don’t Wanna Be Like That,” and title track “I’m The Man.” And yes, he is.
SIDE NOTE: I bought this on vinyl at Reckless Records in Chicago for a mere $3.
Ok, so I know this is a bit skewed towards one band…and they are my band of the year. And again I have no idea why it took me so long to find this group but yes, oh yes, they are THAT GOOD that I have all three of their recent releases listed. So let’s start with the album my co-editor played me in his bitchin’ Camaro upon my return from the far east. It is The Budos Band.
The Budos Band – I (2005) – On our way to Venice Beach in early June, Shawn C. Baker popped this disc in and immediately my ears sprung up. He had done it again. He ALWAYS has something up my ally…like my music pharmacist. He was actually surprised I’d not heard of them before, what with my obsession for Afro-Beat grandfathers Fela Kuti, Mulatuu Astake and midwesterns Nomo. “Up From the South” set the tone as we cruised north on the 110. The bass, the drums, the organ, the guitar and then – the horns. Money, Money, Money. It has this sound, this movie soundtrack sound. Now follow the album through the day like we did and you’ll find plenty of knock out tracks. “Budos Theme,” Eastbound” and the “Volcano Song” just to name a few. Terrific highs and lows, mixture of tempos and original arrangement. But wait, there are another TWO albums…oh yes.
The Budos Band – II (2007) – So upon arriving back to Chi-town for a cousin’s wedding, I decided to stay for a bit. One of the first things I did was pick up all the albums. And boom first track on II is “Chicago Falcon.” Yep. The band from Brooklyn leads off another album with a quality track. Where is this sound coming from? I mean it sounds like they recorded it in ’72! Well…look no further than Daptone Records – an absolutely sick throw back studio. Read about here. Reel-to-reel tapes, max of eight tracks, quality microphones and not much to fix in the mix. Genius. Pure Genius. You’ll here it in tracks like: “Ride or Die,” “Mas O Menos,” and “The Proposition”
The Budos Band – III (2010) – I thought at first that putting all three albums on this list was overkill. Nope. Not even close. “Rite of the Ancients” picks up right where II left off. Now granted I have listened to all three albums in one setting (multiple times actually) and The Budos Band motivates me. I either want to dance, write, or just BS and discuss something cool like movies or comics. It’s great music to play at a party and I have eliciting a very positive response even though most don’t know the group (yet, unfortunately) . Guitarist Thomas Brenneck, organist Mike Deller and drummer Brian Profilio solidify the group but most of the 10-piece group are still together with their original members.
Outstanding cuts on this album (there are no bad ones): “Unbroken, Unshaven,” “Budos Dirge,” and “Reppirt Yad.”
Now I can understand if you need some time to take it all in. But overdosing on The Budos Band is understandable and perfectly acceptable. Maybe a fourth album soon? Yes, please, please, please.
Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013) – Is the only album to appear on both my and Bakes’ list. Rightfully so. Read his review here. What I have to say: it’s classic Josh Hommes, and he has aged like a fine Bourbon. The album opens with the low-down “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” and goes on a trip through the dark murky mind for the next 45 minutes. Just as I take it: with one small ice cube please. For my money, this is rock ‘n roll. No, questions ask, hands down. Look no further then: “I Sat By The Ocean,” “My God is the Sun,” and the down tempo “I Appear Missing.” You know what?…make that a double please.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013) – I reviewed the album for Joup earlier this year. You can read it here. In a nutshell, it’s apropo for me. It seems like life now in the 21st Century has come to idea of accessing thoughts and memories through music. I know I am not the only person to do this, and I know that it probably has happened well before my discovery. But really, a list of albums not all released in the same year? Talk about scatter-brained, almost like a hard-drive not storing info subquential order, yet somehow accessing it at the right time. This album does this for me somehow. The French Duo sont bien dans mon livre. Tracks you should listen to : “Give Life Back to Music,” “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Loose Yourself to Dance” and of course the single “Get Lucky.” No I’m not sick of it…stop listening to the radio and start programming your own memories.
Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington AKA Darkside – Psychic (2013) – My good Lithuanian friend Dawn Devi, turned me onto to Nicolas Jaar through her Pandora channel. Yes Pandora is still cool, and yes this channel is awesome. Create it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. You as well as I will have her to thank. You’ll find artists like I Monster, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra and Miguel Migs to name just a few. This is just one of the reasons Nicolas Jaar makes the list but the real reason is his album collaboration with guitarist Dave Harrington. Somewhere washed up on a land of desolate cities and wanting futures is “Psychic.” Picked right from the brains of Syd Barret, Roger Water, John Lee Hooker (on “Paper Trails”), Clapton (During Cream), 3D and Daddy G, and Simon Green. You want to go somewhere, I have a place for you, and it’s Physic. Other notable tracks: “Freak, Go Home,” “Heart” and “Metatron.”
Um yeah. Let’s push things forward.
Jack White (w The Buzzards and The Peacocks) – Blunderbuss (2012) – My brush w rock star Jack White came early. Well, I met Meg White at the merch booth at The Empty Bottle when the White Stripes played with Philly act Delta 72 a mere nine months before “Fell in Love with a Girl” hit. Me, Bakes, Mr. Brown and Sonny V. were at that show, and I’m sure they’ll agree that is it in their top 10 of all time. I’ve long appreciated Jack White. So this summer my other buddy Brad A had me over to watch Jack White at Austin City Limits with the Buzzards (his all male band) and the Peacocks (his all female band). F*%$ man. Smokin’ I’ll give it to Mr. White, love’em or hate’em, he is a confident SOB. And his bands usually rock…hard. Bass, drums, organ, violin, mandolin, lap guitar, steel guitar, piano and of course Jack on acoustic guitar and piano. Thrown in terrific accompany vocals by Ruby Amanfu amongst all the girls in the Peacocks, yep right out of the park.
I find it fascinating he split the album amongst the two acts interchanging the songs. While live of course it’s more conducive to start with one group and finish with the other.
Tracks to peak the interest: “Love Interruption,” “Sixteen Saltines,” “Trash Tongue Talker, ” and “Hypocritical Kiss.”
The top 10 of 2013. What a great year in music for me. Hopefully it was for you as well. Here’s to more to come.
Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is an artist developer focusing online on front end development and keeping up with new techonolgies. Photography has been his most recent and strongest passion. He’s shot thousands of photos throughout the years only recently display a larger portion of his library here on Joup.