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. 



At 6/02/2013 7:32 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

A few years ago some of my cool students were talking about The Flaming Lips, so I checked them out. I was amused, particularly by "Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World," but my pleasure soon wore thin.

She & Him: isn't that twee too? Like it though.

Some of my favorite twee: Camera Obscura, The Shirelles and The Ronettes (speaking of 60s girl groups), The Mamas & the Papas, Todd Rundgren (early stuff like "We Gotta Get You a Woman," probably before he took drugs), Carole King. Oh, and The Carpenters, though sometimes afterwards I need to expiate my guilt with Alien Sex Fiend or something.

Bowie was so great 40 years ago. Perhaps my favorite is The Man Who Sold the World, that excellent Black Sabbathy sound. I've got that on the LP with the cowboy cover.

At 6/03/2013 7:03 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


All true things. I think of The Flaming Lips a little like Mott the Hoople (from the way way back machine). There will be really sincere elements, mixed with intentionally weird elements, mixed with really clever things and then flat put dumb things. This album is no exception, but it's, well, I don't know. I really like it.

Twee is a difficult category, kind of like the term "indie," it tends to mean whatever someone wants it to mean. I've also heard Vampire Weekend called twee . . . but Camera Obscura unarguably ARE. She & Him, I guess so, but I think of them more as retro-pop. Ha!

There are a few core bands out this year, but I tend not to like them much, so I'm not following them. But I am getting more into jazz again. Some good things. Even David Sanborn has a good album out this year, with Bob James, called Quartette Humaine that I just listened to. A lot more Post Be-Bob, and a lot less Smooth Jazz. That's a good thing. There is a level in Hell set aside just for Smooth Jazz.

At 6/03/2013 7:43 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I always enjoy these posts because, though I feel like we listen to a lt "indie", we are enjoying very different corners of it.

I have been listening to lots of older stuff recently, with The Shirelles on heavy rotation.

At 6/05/2013 8:27 AM, Blogger Delia Psyche said...

Lately I'm into Jimmy Smith's Hammond B-3. It reminds me of being 24 and drinking beer alone in a scruffy bar, looking around for women. I've been interested in Smith ever since I heard a public-radio thing about soul jazz, about how in the 60s big cities had all these dives where you could pay 25 cents and hear soul jazz all night. That scene is totally gone. I think of an interview (from Let's Get Lost?) in which Chet Baker complained that all the big-city jazz venues were evaporating.

Funny: one of my latest LP acquisitions is Mary Hopkin's Postcard, which might be twee if you're inclined to call it that. Produced by the once-great McCartney and with that Apple Record logo I see on my Badfinger LPs. And recently I learned that for a while she was Mary Visconti because she was married to Tony Visconti, who worked with Bowie on The Man Who Sold the World and other albums. I love these kind of coincidences.

But I've strayed far from 2013. Sorry.

At 6/06/2013 6:44 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Oh, the last record I picked up was Daniel Bachman's Oh Be Joyful. If you're into any of that Tacoma Park stuff (Fahey being the obvious one), you need to hear this kid. He's only 21!

My friend hosts a mountain show and there's rumor he may make an appearance.

At 6/14/2013 2:27 PM, Blogger Neil Kelly said...

John, I'm curious if you've seen the Riot Fest lineup for Denver?


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