Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nominees: 2013 Album of the Year

I'm working today, so I'll keep it short and sweet.

Here are the nominees for the 2013 Album of the Year (in iTunes alphabetical order, as usual):



I'm starting to embrace pop more in my old age; or maybe pop has suddenly become all indie and cool again?

Doesn't matter. I did a lot of dancing on the way to work this year, and Chvrches -- one of two Scottish bands to earn a nomination in 2013 -- had a lot to do with it.

"Recover" ranks among my songs of the year; I've had it since their EP was released and it's been the soundtrack, in part, to some pretty hard times. A few of the other tracks on the album proper -- like "Tether" and "We Sink" -- had I had them sooner, might have provided a similar function. And they still may.

Synth pop about battling depression/obsession/addiction and relationship turmoil? That gets me on the dance floor.

Play it at your weddings.



Did I mention I danced a lot this year?

"Get Lucky" was arguably the song of the summer (I called it, Amelia!) but the song that stole my heart (and got me to buy this album the day of its release) is "Doin' It Right", which features Panda Bear from two-time Album of the Year winners Animal Collective.

I think it was Amelia who quipped that I like songs that repeat the same thing over and over and over and over again -- although if it wasn't her, my work colleague Jeff has heard me singing enough made-up songs to know that it's sometimes my jam -- and I'm pretty sure she was referencing this song when she said it.

Maybe it's only robotic Kraftwerk-like voices or members of AC who can get away with it.

And me. At least until Jeff strangles me at my desk.



Kanye West finished second in the Album of the Year race a few years back, and he'll finish high in the rankings again this time around.

I'm gonna say the same thing I always say: Kanye West is a douchebag. But you shouldn't like his music despite that fact; you have to, at least in part, like it because of it.

"I Am a God (feat. God)" is perhaps the perfect example; Kanye is brazen enough to call himself a God, but also self-conscious and smart enough to undercut his message with the sounds of screaming and panting as he runs away from his own demons.

Is Yeezus as good as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? Probably not. But when a song like "Blood on the Leaves" is playing, I find it hard to believe there is a better hip-hop album out there, period.



There are miles between Kanye West and Laura Veirs. But they live together harmoniously in my music collection, and for that I am thankful.

In fact, it was Veirs who beat out Kanye for Album of the Year with her previous release, July Flame, which remains one of my favorite albums of all time. I didn't expect her to top it, but apart from a track or two, this is as satisfying a follow-up as I could have hoped for.

There are songs on this album that sweep me away. "Sun Song" is a Vitamin D pill. "Ten Bridges" is the first light at the end of a wicked storm, the smell of ozone still in the air. And "White Cherry" is a world of its own, with a line I've employed as a musical mantra for months:

"Even in the lean times, I take pleasure in the wind chimes."



Mogwai's soundtrack for a French TV show I've never seen has followed me around all year long.

None of the music here contains the climax that "Death is the Road to Awe" has on the soundtrack to The Fountain, but the subtle beauty of each song seems to suit the subject matter of the TV show -- a small, Twin Peaks-like town where the dead come back to life.

But these dead aren't zombies; they're regular, everyday people who never realized they'd died. It's a less morbid, less blood-splattered, less edge-of-your-seat sort of drama. Or at least it is based on Mogwai's soundtrack, which ranges between hazy despair and comforting, if not revelatory, beauty.

If the show's anywhere as good as its soundtrack, may it come to Netflix asap. In the meantime, this has been one of the most-spun soundtracks to my 2013:

A confounding mix of loss and a prayer for renewal.



I can't remember the last time a single guitar riff was enough to earn a record an Album of the Year nomination.

But it happened with Savages.

Pop open your Spotify (or just watch the video below) and blast "She Will" at near-maximum volume. Man, what a song.

Of course, I'm exaggerating a little. "City's Full" and "Shut Up" and "No Face" and "I Am Here" are among my other favorites in this PJ Harvey/Patti Smith-style rock debut that just crackles out of your speakers.

I've never seen them live, but I just had to copy this from Wikipedia: "The New Musical Express described their performances as 'frottage-inducingly intense affairs.'"

I can definitely believe it.



Yo La Tengo is old favorite band that I thought had dropped out of my consciousness, especially after I escaped Hoboken. (Even now, their music brings back bad memories.)

But this album is as fresh as if it was YLT's debut, and still as familiar as an old, well-worn baseball glove. "I'll Be Around" is my love song of the year, hands down. "Ohm" is Yo La Tengo's mission statement, expressed anew. "Is That Enough" and "The Point of It" are everything that's always been so lovable about this band.

Fade is as great an album as you'll ever hear from an act that's set to celebrate its 30th birthday next year.

What more could you ask for?



Also in iTunes alphabetical order:

Atoms for Peace -- Amok

Bill Callahan -- Dream River

Bonnie "Prince" Billy & Dawn McCarthy -- What The Brothers Sang

Bookhouse -- Ghostwood

Caveman -- Caveman

David Bowie -- The Next Day

Karl Blau -- Shading Stump

My Bloody Valentine -- m b v

Rogue Wave -- Nightingale Floors

Shearwater -- Fellow Travelers

Various -- Son of Rogues Gallery (Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys)