Favorites of 2013

I listened to a bunch of music in 2013. Here are 15 of my favorites (when starting this list, I had about 30 albums listed), in alphabetical order because, while there was a clear #1 favorite (Speedy Ortiz), the rest are all a close 2nd.

All Dogs – 7” – Sounds like so many of the off-the-radar female-fronted acts I used to listen to and see at Stache’s and Bernie’s in the mid-90s. The Alive cover story (bringing to mind the Stephen Slaybaugh-era of the paper where local bands make regular cover appearances) turned me onto this trio and a gig opening for Speedy Ortiz earlier this month introduced me to their live performances. Still need to find their sea legs in a live setting but really hoping for great things from All Dogs in 2014.

Black Sabbath – 13 – It’s SABBATH, maaaaaan. And don’t go crying that it’s NOT Sabbath because Bill Ward doesn’t play on the album. This could have been a cash grab with a corporate-sponsored reunion tour but thankfully Rick Rubin asked the band to go back to their blues roots so it’s not packed with radio-friendly hard rock hits. Might have been the first “new” album I bought since buying a record player and worth it alone for the sick Iommi riffs in “Loner”. If Rubin employed some studio trickery to make Ozzy sound better (and I suspect he did), I DON’T CARE, that’s fine by me.

Cheatahs – Extended Plays – This album that is really a compilation of two EPs released in 2012. Cheatahs reminds me of a ton of guitar-heavy bands (Swervedriver, Smashing Pumpkins, Hum, Triple Fast Action) that I listened to on the reg on my 5-disc changer some time around 1995.

Duquette Johnston – Rabbit Runs a Destiny – Released in May yet I somehow didn’t discover it until November. Been a fan of Duquette’s since his days of playing bass in Verbena and am glad he found his own voice as a solo artist. Storytelling music in the vein of greats like Neil Young and Robbie Robertson.

Lydia Loveless – Boy Crazy (EP) – Is she or ain’t she a country singer? My kids – who don’t understand anything about musical genres – might say so but this EP, which I’m assuming is a preview to what we’ll hear on the next full length coming in February, finds Lydia rocking out more than we’ve heard in the past. As a fan, it’s great to hear Lydia (and band) expanding her sound without completely reinventing herself, it’s a natural progression that she wears well. Just waiting for 2015’s Ke$ha-inspired pop album.

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks – Trent went back to the early days of NIN and made an album that will sound very familiar to all of us who were introduced to industrial music via ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ and ‘The Downward Spiral’. I’m okay with Reznor exploring his “soundtrack vibe” on occasion but hope he continues to dumb it down for people like me who are looking for an excuse to wallow in self-pity.

Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) – Only knowing “Cars”, I have no idea if Numan influenced Trent Reznor or if Reznor influenced Numan, but Numan’s latest is commercialized industrial music that reminds me not only of Nine Inch Nails but also the generation of post-NIN bands like Stabbing Westward.

Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu – Metal Rob said “Glad to hear you like black metal” when I sent him a Soundcloud link to these guys and told him “Christ man, I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s heavy. It’s evil. It scares me but in a good way.” It’s the sound of nightmares which makes it a questionable album to listen to when going to sleep (which I’ve done more times that I can count in the last few months).

Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana – Discovered this band after reading a review in Rolling Stone (!?!?!?). Singer Sadie Dupuis said in an interview recently that she is tiring of the Liz Phair comparisons though that’s what turned me onto this band (I also hear Madder Rose, Pavement, Chavez and Helium). Hands down, my favorite release of 2013 and so glad I got to see them play a one-off show on an off night from The Breeders tour in a very small and intimate venue that was packed to the gills.

St. Lucia – When the Night – Synth-and-keyboard-driven danceable pop, the kind that we would have roller skated to or heard when playing Ms. Pac Man at the local arcade in 1983. It’s insanely catchy, it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old again and don’t have a care in the world other than making sure that the VCR is set up to record Friday Night Videos.

Todd May – Rickenbacker Girls – I wrote a review of this album in which I said it was as Americana as a mesh trucker hat and flannel shirt. I love Son Volt and bought their new album the day it came out (something I rarely do these days) but found myself reaching for Todd’s CD way more often this year when looking to scratch my Americana itch.

Two Cow Garage – The Death of the Self Preservation Society – I honestly think that social media made me a bigger fan of TCG than I previously was. This album is the soundtrack to all the experiences Micah, Shane and David shared on Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, Friendster, etc. in the last few years that I’ve been “friends” and “following” them and helps tie everything together.

Van Dale – Van Dale – Tim emailed me some MP3s, said “Want you to check out a new project I’m working on with Joe from This is My Suitcase.” Holy crap, if you haven’t already caught on by now, I’m a sucker for nostalgic music and the demos (and later, the album) sound like Weezer covering Nirvana. Or Nirvana covering Weezer. Or something like that. Saw Van Dale’s first (or second?) show, opening for Parquet Courts and it was sloppy and short and perfect. And, yes, I enjoyed them way more than the buzzed about/blogged about headliners that night.

Voodoo Circle – More Than One Way Home – The best Whitesnake album of 2013.

Winter Makes Sailors – Moving On – Sucks that we don’t live in a perfect world because, if we did, the world would know what a great songwriter/performer Sean Gardner is. I didn’t make it out to very many local shows this year but the WMS album release show was definitely the best and, seriously, covering my favorite Wilco song – “Impossible Germany” – that night???? AMAZING!

I love 1983. I think I might love St. Lucia.

Years ago, my wife made me a I Love 1983 t-shirt for my birthday. I think that particular year was a good one in terms of nostalgia however when I really think about it, 1983 was probably one of the more difficult years of my childhood as it’s the year that we moved from my childhood home – a place where I had grown up, made lots of friends, started to form a personality – and uprooted to a new state due to divorce. And it was my last year of being a kid … I turned 13 in 1984 and began that awkward stage of life.

But in terms of pop culture, 1983 was an amazing year. Mental Floss identified 30 great pop culture things about 1983, some of my favorite being the introduction of Chicken McNuggets at McDonald’s, Swatch watches, Michael Jackson’s debut of the Moonwalk, movies (Return of the Jedi, War Games, Risky Business, A Christmas Story), the first episode of A-Team (which I distinctly remember watching in my mom’s bedroom following the Super Bowl) and the music … oh sweet lord … the music that was released in 1983.

There are so many albums released 30 years ago that are still in my collection (although the cassettes were replaced with CD versions which were then converted to MP3s which now either sit on a hard drive or on my iPod). Def Leppard’s Pyromania, Journey’s Frontiers, Styx’s Kilroy Was Here, U2’s War, Thin Lizzy’s Thunder and Lightning, Quiet Riot’s Metal Health, ZZ Top’s Eliminator, Men at Work’s Cargo, Weird Al’s self-titled debut, Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, Dio’s Holy Diver, The Kinks’ State of Confusion, Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, Madonna’s self-titled debut, Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man, Huey Lewis and The News’ Sports, Kiss’s Lick it Up, Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers, Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell, Yes’s 90125, Duran Duran’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Night Ranger’s Midnight Madness, Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon and, maybe my favorite album of all time, The Police’s Synchronicity. Seriously, if you run a DNA test on my musical interests, you’ll find all of these releases.

So, I’m on an email list and receive regular press release updates about St. Lucia but, as the name is unfamiliar to me, I haven’t spent much time (okay, I haven’t spent ANY time) investigating this band that has apparently sold out shows in January 2014. Last night, my friend Lisa posted a video on Facebook of St. Lucia performing on Jimmy Kimmel’s show with the comment “So many 80’s noises reincarnated!”. Naturally, I was intrigued and what I discovered is that St. Lucia sounds like 1983. Synth-and-keyboard-driven danceable pop, the kind that we would have roller skated to or heard when playing Ms. Pac Man at the local arcade. It’s insanely catchy, it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old again and don’t have a care in the world other than making sure that the VCR is set up to record Friday Night Videos on NBC because, in 1983, cable television had not reached the town that I grew up in and therefore I only read about MTV in magazines.

I’ll have to play this for my kids who are all right around the same age that I was in 1983 to see how it stacks up against current music. It would be pretty funny (and cool) if they are as into it as I am, the influences of 1983 still being relevant in 2013.