So, when I started off this blog the intention was to literally to write about what I was listening to. At some point, though, that became a bit of a challenge. I guess it was always somewhat ambitious given how much I listen to in a day. Especially when I was listening to one album over and over. Naturally I stopped writing about what I was listening to … until recently, that is.
Anyhoo, 2013 has been a pretty smashin’ year in terms of music. I’ve rediscovered some old favourites, went from being a huge supporter of the physical format to being an absolute enthusiast of vinyl. There’s also been new records from some of my absolute favourite artists – some truly remarkable records, too.
… and being a sucker for lists, here’s what I consider to be the best new albums of 2013.
1. Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – Black Pudding
I can’t get away from this one, though it was ran close (real close) by the number 2. The long awaited Lanegan / Garwood collaboration is as stark, haunting and utterly remarkable as Lanegan’s finest pre-Mark Lanegan Band releases (that’ll be Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, Scraps at Midnight and Field Songs). It’s tremendous.
2. Danny & The Champions of the World – Stay True
Danny Wilson’s finest moment, this. He and The Champs deliver something quite wonderful, with (Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket the track of the year. Timeless. With notes of Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan, Sam Cooke and Springsteen. Along with my number one album this year, Stay True has been a constant on the record player since I picked it up in November. It’ll be a favourite for a number of years, too.
3. Richard Buckner – Surrounded
A really rather awesome release from Mr. Buckner and somewhat more organic sounding that Our Blood (despite the use of some new toys on here, too). The songs are unbelievably good – Mood being one of the best in his catalogue – and firmly places this one alongside 2006’s Meadow. That said, someone recently pointed out that they’d have loved to have heard the songs fleshed out with a band in tow. I expect that would have elevated this to first place!
4. Queens of the Stone Age – … Like Clockwork
The return of Homme & Co. I was a bit of a champion of Era Vulgaris, but this is a true return to form. I’ve often called Songs for the Deaf a bit of an anomaly when it comes to assessing the QotSA catalogue, but this one kicks off where that release left off – a perfect blend of the dust and power of that one and the robot rock of the first two releases. Hurrah!
5. Craig Hughes – Losers and Bastards
There’s no ignoring this one – Hughes hits us with his finest release yet … all diverse n’ shit, like a wonderful musical pic ‘n’ mix with his signature slide, acoustified and electrified, foot stomping, some flamenco, and some boom-chicka-boom. Oh, and the best salute to ZZ Top you’re likely to hear in Dressed in Rags.
6. Jason Isbell – Southeastern
Although I was never the biggest fan of Drive-By Truckers, I was a big fan of Here We Rest and expected another fine release from Jason Isbell. However, what I didn’t expect was a collection of songs like this. The man Isbell went and turned it up a notch with this one, creating a record that rivals old bandmate Patterson Hood’s 2012 release Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance in terms of song craft. Current favourite is Elephant. You’ll hear why. Excellent stuff.
7. Mark Lanegan – Imitations
It’ll be no surprise to many that Lanegan’s Imitations features in my top 10. This is Lanegan’s second covers record, and while it may not be as inspiring or quite as consistent a collection as 1999’s I’ll Take Care of You, it’s nice to hear Lanegan in this setting; with lush arrangements and no doubt with pipe in hand. There’s a couple of non-essential tracks here (a rather lifeless reading of Mack the Knife and the compressed and out of place Elégie Funèbre), but it’s a pretty splendid companion to I’ll Take Care of You all the same.
8. Stephen Simmons – Hearsay
Recommended by Meester Mainy over at It’s a XXXX Thing, Stephen Simmons has been one of my favourite artists this year. He’s got quite the catalogue, and I’ve only scratched the surface. It just so happens that his latest album, Hearsay, is one of those I picked up (how could I not when there’s a track titled The Boobie Bungalow Gentlemen’s Club). Turns out it’s a wonderful, witty, charming and understated record full o’ great songs. Emily’s Eyes is a beauty, too. An incredible song.
9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
It’s not quite as lengthy as Fiona Apple’s incredulous When the Pawn … , but the title is wordy and one that caught my imagination right away. For all it’s wonder, I didn’t fall in love with 2009’s Middle Cyclone, but this! This! This is Neko Case at her finest. Twisted melodies, beautifully crafted and heartbreaking. And slightly weird.
10. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National are a strange one. They’ve often occupied the same space as The Walkmen, but with a more accessible and, I dare say, infectious sound. Trouble Will Find Me sees them shake off that pedestrian thing they had going on with High Violet and find that spark that made Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, Alligator and The Boxer so utterly compelling. Better still, it looks and sounds like The bloody National.