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Songs Of Myself

December 30, 2013

With another year coming to an end we who love the pop
We who love the unexpected chord change
We who love the move from major to minor
We who love the blue guitar
We for whom music is a reason to keep on keepin’ on and for whom every new record is a potential love affair
A kiss with possibility
We are compelled to make a list of best albums and check it 256 times to make sure it is just right.
So here is mine…
Are these the best records of 2013? I have no idea. I am not a professional critic and I don’t get paid to think deep thoughts.
These are just the tunes that kept spinning in my car CD player on the way to work. These are the songs that magically came out of my laptop while occupied with other things. These sounds drifted sometimes rocketed out of my phone at home while doing the dishes.
These are the records that stubbornly kept coming back from any medium available.
So in no specific order-

If you told me a black metal album would wind up as one of my favorite records of the year I’d say “get behind me Satan” but this is so much more than “black metal”.
With elements of shoegaze and noise rock and no wave this is another beast entirely. Call it “metal-gaze” or “black noise”. Give it a name. I call it brilliant.

My Bloody Valentine –MBV
Some say this record just sounds like ‘Loveless pt. deux’. Ok so how is that a problem again? Still if you think that about the entire record you probably didn’t bother sitting through the whole thing. Something happens around ‘in another way’ and culminates in ‘wonder 2’ that starts to transcend the shoegaze they helped create and become the nascent creation of a whole other beast.
I look forward to hearing what that beast becomes 22 years from now.

The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Some also claim that The National always sound the same but that’s the same as saying all Cezanne Still Life’s look the same.
Matt and the gang are refining and reworking the same ideas over and over till they achieve a kind of impossible perfection. The last record was a musical chipping away and adding. This time out the reworking is lyrical.
Matt has become the poet of missing the mark and romantic failure. Life may not be a bowl of cherries but any old bowl of fruit just won’t do either.
Now my only question is when Matt sings ‘If you want to see me cry play Let It be or Nevermind’, does he mean ‘Let It be’ by the Beatles or the Replacements?

Bill Callahan – Dream River
Speaking of great lyricists- All I gotta say is “The only words I said today were ‘beer’ and ‘thank you’. ‘Beer’ and ‘thank you’”.
If I need to write more then I’ll never make my point.

Kurt Vile-Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze
I don’t know what everyone else was listening to last summer but this record owned my car all through the hot shimmery months down south.

Phosphorescent – Muchacho
I was driving home one day in the terror twilight and ‘Quotidian Beast’ came on and the world outside seemed like a very real movie passing by my windshield filled with lights and highway lines and finally the air became tumescent with some weird purpose. This lasted all the way to my driveway.
‘Song for Zula’ is not too bad either

Lorde – Pure Heroine
I was reading some blog some time ago and it mentioned the term ‘poptimist’. So I looked it up.
I’m glad I’m not a professional critic. Christ, the shear amount of mental gesticulating you seem to be required to make to just enjoy something has got to be exhausting.
Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor is wise beyond her years and can write a pretty good lyric. ‘Royals’ is a more eloquent anti-consumerist screed than any Ralph Nader speech. Plus I can dance to it.
The ‘Lover’s Spit’ reference in another song is just the cherry.

Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
The greatest voice in rock just wrote a collection of songs worthy of it.

Julia Holter – Loud City Song
Speaking of great voices this one landed from another planet and another time on my ears. I haven’t heard a record this original since the last time Joanna Newsom came out with a record. The opening of ‘World’ still gets me every time.

Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
There was a time when an unasked for anxiousness descended on me like a vulture and the talons of fear and self-doubt were dug deep into my back.
Then I put Nepenthe on and kept driving into the horizon.

Throwing Muses – Purgatory/Paradise
One of the many awesome come backs of 2013. I guess we don’t need that Speedy Ortiz record now.

Superchunk – I Hate Music
How do you deal with loss? How do you get old? How do you mend a broken heart?
With chunky power pop riffs of course.

Flaming Lips – The Terror
The Lips will mend your heart with experimentation and more darkness piled on darkness. How could you not see this coming after Embryonic? It’s not supposed to be easy listening.
These are not the weird cute Okie hipsters you are looking for.
Do You Realize? Umm, No.

Nick Cave – Push The Sky Away
I’d say another great comeback but Nick never went away, he only got topical. All while maintaining the same level of skill.
Who knew he would predict some former Disney child star’s appropriation of an African American dance? ‘Hannah Montana does the African Savannah’.
Or how about this instant classic line?-
She was a catch, we were a match
I was the match that would fire up her snatch
There was a catch
I was no match
I was fired from her crotch

That’s the muse firing on all cylinders people.
And seriously, was there any better statement of artistic purpose than the title song?

Chvrches – the Bones of What You Believe
What’s wrong with studying every John Hughes movie soundtrack?
The 80’s sound a hell of a lot better the second time around

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

If you want your 80’s pop with a bit less shine and some more 90’s scuzzy blur then this is for you.
This is the Kim Wilde greatest hits record you may not have known you were waiting for.
And for the record ‘24 hrs.’ and ‘I Will’ come pretty close to approaching the genius of ‘Everything is Embarrassing’ that made me notice her to begin with.

Drake – Nothing Was The Same
If you want just a straight up well written R&B record then look no further. No ground breaking or genre pushing just good tunes.
And in ‘Hold On, We’re Coming Home’ the best Bar Mitzvah dance floor anthem for the foreseeable future.

Kanye West – Yeezus
However if you do want some envelop (and button) pushing in your hip hop then this was the record to hear. Yeah the minimalist industrial sound was already being done on Death Grips albums but do they have the ability to get into every middle American kid’s earhole the way Kanye does?
This record is unlistenable and super catchy and contradictory. Usually within the same verse. But how many albums this year had me coming back to recheck my opinion and then had me coming away with a new one each time?
Sometimes I loved it. Sometimes I hated it. It was my great musical dysfunctional relationship. It was the riddle I could never unravel. This record makes my best of, worst of, and overrated of the year.
I don’t think I could say that for many other albums of any year.
Either way it got me feeling and rethinking my feelings and isn’t that what great art is supposed to do?

Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Katie Crutchfield along with Kristin Hersh has the most honest raw voice in music today. Plus she’s got a novelist eye to detail that make each of these tunes like some short story collection about Appalachian angst.

Best Coast – Fade Away
I’m a sucker for reverb and 60’s girl group harmonies. Where the last Best Coast record was over produced and lost some of its garage rock charm, kind of like Guided By Voices Do the Collapse , this one is a return to form.
Plus Beth is becoming a pretty good songwriter. Don’t be deceived by the simple lyrics.

Iceage – You’re Nothing
Some would say punk died somewhere in the deep South in 1978 but don’t tell these guys that.
It’s alive and well in Denmark.

Burial – Rival Dealer
I’m glad I waited to the bitter end to compile this list for myself so I could include this surprise EP that slipped in just before the finish line.
The final tune here is pure quiet transcendence without any hype or fanfare. A graduation death march to self-acceptance.
Thank you Burial.


Well that’s it and that’s all. You don’t have to agree with me and I’m not paid to make big musical choices so you can’t feel special arguing them. This list is more for me than you (the ‘you’ here most likely a dead digital abyss of more 0’s than 0’s and 1’s) and I love the pop. It’s disposable and eternal and can soundtrack your days and be the ambient sound in your thoughts. Its art and trash but most of all it’s the great common denominator. You can be raised on Sonic Youth and John Cage and then a Taylor Swift song will invade your ears and you find yourself nodding away despite your better angels of good musical taste (whatever the hell that is).
That’s the terrible beauty of pop music. The great equalizer.
Anyway this was a pretty good year for music. May next year be just as good.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Morris permalink
    December 30, 2013 12:35 am

    Needless to say, you are going to crack up when you see mine on wednesday. But know that it’s been in the can for over a week and bears a striking resemblance to, um, yours. Shocking.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. December 30, 2013 12:57 am

    well-played. seems we have pretty much the same record collection. and do the same things with it…….

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