Well somehow I managed to get an invite to vote in this year’s Pazz & Jop, so here’s my ballot (points in parentheses) plus a couple of other lists I kept. 2013 was a great year mostly all the way around, except the R&B resurgence of 2011-12 is either taking a breather or winding down. Also, as the mighty Ann Powers noted, a great year for women, although the six in my album top 10 are different then the 10 in her Slate top 10. Which pretty much proves her point.
1) Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt (20) With this album, Katie Crutchfield officially moves from indie rock comer to major artist, articulate, tuneful, determined, and worldly beyond her boho-chic subsistence. And she’s assembled like-minded bandmates to sell you on her notion of remaining centered in spite of (choose your poison) social media chaos, a nomad’s lot, real life.
2) The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band: Hey Hey It’s… (15) I swung and missed on this one the first time through, because how is it that the least well-paid musician from the 60s (I just made that up, so what) kicks so much ass in 2013? Because he’s writing about right now, case in point being the best TV song ever. Jeffrey Lewis gets billed first for leading the rocket brigade that plucks, shouts, swings, and bashes it’s way through the ballpoint pen-adorned slab o’polycarbonate I got from Lewis’s website.
3) Ashley Monroe: Like A Rose (10) Never afraid to embrace (and overdo) a trend, Nashville made this the year of the young lass. Only, how much did Nashville really have to do with Kacey Musgraves, or 12 Stories, or this shout out that brings to mind beloved Nashville outsider Marshall Chapman? It’s a tough job to improve on Monroe’s mp3-only, forgotten Satisfied, but she proved herself equal to her Pistol Annie-mate Miranda Lambert with this sharp smart shocking tableau of running in and out of Ryman Auditorium, firecrackers in hand.
4) Young Fathers: Tape Two (10) EP-length, but this belongs in the big leagues, like all the rest of the darkly psychedelic African-Scottish hip hop I listen to.
5) The Julie Ruin: Run Fast (10) A resurrection of sorts, a timely one too. Like when Bob Mould ditched Husker Du for Sugar, this is Kathleen Hanna’s chance to hear her big sound undiluted. The title track is an impossibly precise, loving elegy for her former self that’s as big as I can imagine either Bikini Kill or Nirvana sounding in 2013.
6) Swearin’: Surfing Strange (10) Fuck you Pixies, this is how we do it in 2013.
7) Kelly Willis and Bruce Robeson: Cheater’s Game (10) I guess folks just gave up on Kelly Willis, especially when Elizabeth Cook stole her spunk. And maybe those that didn’t wondered how Bruce Robeson’s plain-guy vocals would compensate. Only, they didn’t and shouldn’t. Spunkless, bitter, bereft, but still with a Bonnie-and-Clyde sense of humor, Willis works that magic where we believe in her one more time, only this time she’s bringing us along in the sidecar. Dolly Parton meets ? and the Mysterians on the song of the year.
8) Sleigh Bells: Bitter Rivals (5) If my kids could ever perfect the racket that they make around the house, it would sound like this. I hope Lester Bangs approves.
9) Bombino: Nomad (5) Let’s just bask in the awe of music born in spite of war, exile, and murder. Because, fuck those things.
10) Wire: Change Becomes Us (5) Old farts. Also, the only original punks left. Only they never really left and never ever stopped being punk. Their story makes surviving on their own terms equivalent to continuously regrouping, and with cranky Bruce Gilbert gone now probably forever, this is Wire minus the crank, the sand in the joints. Lamentable. This is also Wire without the inevitable Drill-chugga-chugga-Drill, which shall only be missed in spirit. And this is Wire with their tunes and their bravado and their cocksure attitude not only intact, but renascent. Our hill we dare you to come up here and knock us off, they say.
In the running:
Superchunk: I Hate Music
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Slippery Rock
Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven
The Uncluded: Hokey Fright
Latyrx: The Second Album
Rachid Taha: Zoom
Gogol Bordello: Pura Vida Conspiracy
Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap
Jon Hopkins: Immunity
I mostly pay attention to songs-as-individual documents when no one else seems to notice them. Alicia Keys did the best Dylan cover ever to accompany the best music documentary of 2013, Katie Crutchfield pulled one out of her big heart when her band got caught in weather, and Kate Nash gave everyone the finger.
1) Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison: 9,999,999 Tears
2) Alicia Keys: Pressing On
3) Waxahatchee: Catfish (2013-02-08 Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY)
4) Superchunk: Faith
5) Tribalistas: Joga Arroz
6) Pussy Riot: Like A Red Prison
7) Kate Nash: Under-Estimate the Girl
8) Brad Paisley: Southern Comfort Zone
9) Jackie Mayhem: Video Nasty
10) Femi Kuti: No Work No Job No Money
I’ve written or will write about most of these, but let’s give it up for Britney Spears, who managed to release an Immaculate compilation that got pulled from the racks almost immediately—doesn’t anyone have lawyers these days? All you grown-boy bands, you ex-Disney teens, suck on this. Throw down, Taylor Swift.
1) The Essential Britney Spears
2) Bing Crosby Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook
3) ZZ Top: The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990
4) I Heard the Angels Singing: Electrifying Black Gospel From the Nashboro Label, 1951-1983
5) Nile Rogers Presents The Chic Organization: Up All Night
6) Le Grand Kalle: His Life and Music
7) George Jones: The Complete United Artists Solo Singles
8) Just Desserts: The Complete Waitresses
9) Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective
10) Dues Paid: The BluesTime Story
In the running:
William Onyeabor: Who Is William Onyeabor?
Fleetwood Mac: Boston
The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat (Live Disc)
In a separate universe:
Bob Dylan; The Complete Album Collection Vol. 1
The Clash: Sound System
Before there were CDs, folks made records that lasted as long as they had the talent or money to fill up. 7”, 12”, 45-rpm, 33-rpm, whatever it took. That all ended when the idea that filling up 120 mm with maximal digital info was a necessity, an end in itself. (rant rant rant rant rant) After far too long, the world turns. Also, the primacy of the CD as the ultimate destination for music is being challenged: of the recordings below, I own three as CDs, four purely digital, two as cassettes and two on vinyl. I also bought one newly issued eight-track this year, Michael Hurley’s Blue Navigator (on Mississippi Records, which I need to get down with), and since Hurley also issued a 78-rpm for Record Store Day this year, maybe I need to add a Gramophone to my musical hardware.
1) Great Thunder: Strange Kicks
2) Perfect Pussy: I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling
3) Hot Lil’ Hands
4) The Cannanes: Small Batch
5) Nails: Abandon All Life
6) Parquet Courts: Tally All the Things That You Broke
7) K.I.T.T.Y.: Daisy Rage
8) Skrillex: Leaving
9) Chica Libre: Cuatro Tigres
10) Best Coast: Fade Away
11) Salinas Records Guided By Voices Tribute (yes, this list goes up to 11)