Saturday, June 01, 2013

Albums of 2013 (So Far)

Here are some I like quite a bit:

1.The Flaming Lips – The Terror (This is an important album, reimagining sound and structure in challenging but always interesting ways – The songs aren’t always as successful as they might have been in a more conventional setting, but the landscape The Flaming Lips have ventured out into here is largely unexplored.)

2.The National – Trouble Will Find Me – Seriously, these guys just do what they do better than anyone else.  Wonderfully listenable, musically as well as lyrically. 

3. Son Volt – Honky Tonk – Reinterpreting the classic Bakersfield sound into a more Indie, 2013 sensibility.  Basically, it's Farrar doing what Farrar does best.

4. She & Him – Volume 3 – I was surprised at how much I’ve liked this album, as I’ve not paid much attention to volumes 1 and 2.  Going back, I still don’t love those albums, but this one strikes me.  It’s that classic 60s girl-group sensibility, but it’s smarter, and more clever. 

5. Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record – Though I don’t like it quite as much as her first album, Last Summer, I still like this one quite a bit.  Friedberger (half of The Fiery Furnaces), has a way of making it seem she’s just talking, recollecting, in her casual, (mostly) low-key songs. 

6. Atoms for Peace – AMOK – It’s not as good as most things Thom Yorke has been a part of over the last 20 years.  I can’t tell if I like it because it’s actually good, or if it’s because I’ve been a Radiohead/Yorke fan for so long.  Maybe someday I’ll know. 

7. Eluvium – Nightmare Ending – There should be room in everyone’s album collection for (mostly) instrumental music such as this and the next album, Peals’s Walking Field.  I’m thinking of John Cage’s conversation about how music must be able to fit into its time, and these two albums fit seamlessly into going about my day. 

8. Peals – Walking Field

9. Junip – Junip – Not as strong as their first album, but, like their first album, it’s a different take on contemporary indie music.  Prog elements lightly through an acoustic veil, or something like that.  I like them a lot. 

10. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We The Common – Thao Nguyen has one of the best voices in indie music.  She has a dry delivery that’s both playful and highly controlled.  And the songs set it well. 

11. Phosphorescent – Muchacho – I don’t why this album wasn’t in the top five.  Maybe it’s me?  Looking at it, they’re playing to that Phosphorescent strength.  And they do it well. 

12. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines – Tweegasm!  Everyone must have a twee album or two in their collection.  Camera Obscura is a great choice. 

13.Brass Bed – The Secret Will Keep You – Maybe this is a bad way to praise this album, but this is the album Wilco should have made instead of what they’ve been doing over the last decade. 

14. The Reflections – Limerence – They do the retro-contemporary mash up very well.  Parts ELO and Gerry Rafferty but not in a bad way.  In a good way.  It’s as if the 80s had something to teach us.  And, although I don’t like descriptions like this, I like this album a lot. 

15. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City – I’ve never liked Vampire Weekend, and so I’m quite surprised I like this album.  Of course, I hate several things about this album, but I love several other things about this album.  Color me conflicted. 


Other albums of interest


Jarret/Peacock/DeJohnette – Somewhere – Excellent three-piece run through and messing around with pop and jazz classics.  If you like your jazz laid back and cool, this is a must. 

Nigel Kennedy – Recital – Unclassifiable mix of old jazz and classical played on the violin.  I thought I was going to hate it and I didn’t. 

Pat Metheny – Tap – Metheny plays Zorn.  It’s OK.  If you like either one, you should probably like it. 

Rodrigo Amado Trio – The Flame Alphabet – If you like free jazz, you should really like this.  It got on my nerves pretty quickly. 

The Great Gatsby – While you’re skipping the movie, please also skip the soundtrack. 

David Bowie – The Next Day – It’s his best album in ten years. 

Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida – I was hoping to like this a lot more than I did. 

Eels – Wonderful, Glorious – Again, I was hoping to like this a lot more than I did. 

Iggy & The Stooges – Ready To Die – Who knew?  They can still bring it.  Worth a listen. 

Iron & Wine – Ghost on Ghost – Wow, how much I no longer really like Iron & Wine. 

Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle – If you can get past how much she sounds like Joni Mitchell filtered through Nick Drake, it’s a good album. 

Local Natives – Hummingbird – If you like your indie music fairly light and wispy, Local Natives . . .

Yellowbirds – Songs from the Vanished Frontier – . . . and Yellowbirds . . .

Villagers – {Awayland} –  . . . and Villagers . . .

Night Beds – Country Sleep – . . . and Night Beds do it quite well.  Worth a listen. 

Natalie Maines – Mother – Turns out she’s an excellent singer.  These are mostly covers, including a strong take on Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” but she brings a lot of energy.  A standout is “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.”  It’s a must-hear. 

Scout Niblett – It’s Up to Emma – It got on my nerves after a while, but in small doses, it’s good. 

Yo La Tengo – Fade – I keep thinking I really like Yo La Tengo, and then it turns out, they’re just OK. 


Remasters/Re-releases Of Note


1.The Breeders – Last Splash – What a great album.  Just what a great album that was.  LSXX, they’re calling this, and it’s WELL WORTH the time.  Live versions, alternate versions, extra songs.  All good to great. 

2.Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America – This was just about the last time Paul McCartney was good.  It’s a much better way to remember him than most everything he’s done since. 

3.David Bowie – Aladdin Sane – Too bad this came out right after The Next Day.  It reminded me just how much better Bowie was 40 years ago. 

4.The Flaming Lips – Zaireeka – OK, well, mostly this is for the vinyl lovers, but it’s out again.  Still, if you haven’t heard it, you should try sometime.  I have the MP3s, and made my own stereo mixes using Audacity.  Worked pretty well, though I had to mess with some of the tracks a bit and delete a few.  It doesn’t translate to stereo as well as it translates to a large listening party. 

5.Four Tet – Rounds – If you missed it last time (ten years ago) it’s OK to keep missing it.  But if you remember it, then it might be fun to take a listen to the anniversary edition. 

6.John Coltrane – Sun Ship – Just about my least favorite Coltrane album, and now with alternate versions and studio chatter.  If you like Coltrane’s late period, go for it.