2013 is hours away from ending (well, it was when I started writing this) and no one will be happier to see it in the rearview mirror because this year sucked out loud for me; it did no such thing where music was concerned and for that I am thankful. Music continues to be the constant refuge for my mind and soul and many albums from 2013 will remain companions in 2014 and the years to come.
There are many great albums I spent a lot of time listening to that didn't make my Top 10 but that's the fascist thing about a Top 10 list- you can't call it that if you have more than 10 records on it. Who knew? With that said, here are my Top 10 Albums of 2013, better late than never:
- The National - Trouble Will Find Me: A very dear friend held my hand and patiently, expertly edited my review of a record that holds more personal significance than I'm comfortable admitting. I've spent more time listening to this record than any other this year. It is a textured, tortuous record and astonishing in its brilliance. My favorite song on it frequently changes and I continue to identify with and learn from it. It won't ever be a feel good album but it will always be important. Matt Berninger has become one of my favorite lyricists and The National are doing it better than anyone on the scene today.
- David Bowie - The Next Day: The world is a better place because The Thin White Duke pulled the ultimate stealth mode and surprised us with an album of sheer genius. There are so many great aspects to this record and there may not be anything better than the title track.
- The Lone Bellow The Lone Bellow: I am forever indebted to a dear friend and fellow BBS writer for introducing me to the magic that is The Lone Bellow. Only TWFM got more spins than the self-titled debut from this amazing Brooklyn trio. The depth of emotion in the words, music, and performances continues to catch me off guard each time I listen. They also have that special capacity to translate that emotion from the stage; The National at The Ryman and The Lone Bellow at Workplay were two of the best nights of an otherwise heinous year. Get this album immediately and join me in anticipation of the follow-up.
- Jason Isbell - Southeastern: "Elephant" is still my Song Of The Year. It is storytelling at its finest and most poignant and it is but one of the many treasures on Isbell's best record to date. He is writing better than ever and he and his band are among the tightest outfits you'll ever hear live. Add their homecoming show in Florence to the musical highlights of the past year. This is his most fully realized work to date and I have a sense there is more where that came from.
- Johnny Marr - The Messenger: Johnny. Fucking. Marr. Do I really need to say any more than that? This godlike genius issued is "solo debut" this year and I spent a stupid amount of time listening to and marveling at what a powerful, potent talent he is. I will kick myself repeatedly for missing his Nashville show and hope a follow-up is in the works and a second chance to see him is on its way. "New Town Velocity" continues to melt my head.
- Toad The Wet Sprocket - New Constellation: It was well worth the 16-year wait for new music from Toad The Wet Sprocket. New Constellation is exactly what I hoped it would be. Glen, Todd, Dean, and Randy wrote and recorded a bevy of new songs that remind me why I never stopped listening to them even when they took time away. The magic of what made them special during their inital run is evident on each track yet they don't sound like four guys going through the motions or imitating themselves. This is a magical set of songs and one I often rediscover and am always glad I did.
- Lurrie Bell - Blues In My Soul: National Treasure Lurrie Bell... again... need I say more? One of the great bluesmen made one of his finest records- maybe his best yet. Yes, kids, it's that good. God bless you, Lurrie, and thank you for bringing this record to us.
- Dawes - Stories Don't End: This is the year I discovered Dawes and, by extension, Shovels & Rope. All right... this was another great night for me at historic Ryman Auditorium. I spent a lot of time with this record and can't get enough of "Beneath The Surface," "From A Window Seat," and "Some People." I've bought their back catalog and am now firmly and completely onboard with this fantastic band.
- Eric Bibb - Jericho Road: I'm a better person because of the music of Eric Bibb. He writes and performs with such passion and conviction. He inspires me and makes me think. Jericho Road is the latest in the ongoing conversation he's been having with his audience and he once again has vital questions to ask and wisdom to share.
- Luscious Jackson - Magic Hour: Here is another band I never stopped listening to even when they took time away to start families and pursue other projects and once again, the absence made the heart grow fonder. This is a sweet record with great beats and better hooks- all the things we always loved about Luscious Jackson. I'm eager to hear 2014 tour plans so I can cross off my list another of the "Bucket List Bands."
Some of you may regard this as cheating but there are some re-issues that came out this year and they merit mention but I chose not to consider them 2013 entrants. Here are three more records I love and endorse:
- Patty Griffin - Silver Bell: Jimmy Iovine needs to be slapped for not releasing this when Patty delivered it to him in the first place. This is a fantastic record with obvious merit. Better late than never.
- The Walking Papers - The Walking Papers: The album was initially released through drummer Barrett Martin's independent label but Martin, Duff McKagan, Jeff Angell, and Ben Anderson have now teamed up with an indie label who re-released the set. They've been on the road, primarily in Europe, and getting raves from the audiences who've heard them. The self-titled debut is a hard-hitting record of heavy rock, great rhythms, and thoughtful lyrics. It can hit you like a heavyweight's fist and can also slow it down and take you an unexpected direction. It's a record many are now discovering and you should do the same.
- Nirvana - In Utero (20th Anniversary Edition): This was my favorite re-issue of 2013 until Christmas when the next entry edged it but this is a great, great way to experience a brutal and brilliant record from the mind and imagination of Kurt Cobain. The combination of alternate mixes and the band's New Year's Eve show for MTV in '93 along with a few recently discovered outtakes give a thrilling reminder of what made this record special, which makes it all the more sad they would never make another.
- Miles Davis - The Original Mono Recordings: Some of Miles most essential work -- 'Round About Midnight, Miles Ahead, Milestones, Jazz Track, Porgy And Bess, Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain, Someday My Prince Will Come, Miles And Monk At Newport -- has been assembled, remastered from the original mono masters and they sound stunning. I didn't own all these recordings, coming late to the jazz universe, but the ones I owned in previous incarnations sound significantly superior in this set and it's been a joy discovering these other albums from one of the true icons of the 20th century.