2013 IN REVIEW: The Blurt Top 75 Albums

Nic Cave by John Boydston

But, in a relatively lackluster year, were there actually that many GREAT albums released?

 BY THE BLURT EDITORS

 It was the best of years, it was the worst of years, it was…. somewhere in between, actually. Last year in this space we were so giddy with post-release fever that we couldn’t stop at just a Top 10, or a Top 25, or even a Top 50—we went to 75. 2011 was very nearly as great, too, so crammed with memorable new releases and stellar archival titles that it seemed to be nothing less than a music geek’s paradise.

 2013, while not quite the polar opposite of the preceding two years, was a letdown, however. Lots of good, very interesting, kinda cool albums, but only a handful that seemed destined to be adjudged “classic” in, say, a couple of decades, and it ultimately was tough to even come up with 75 of ‘em again. Our list therefore might be most accurately described as a Top 20 with 55 honorable mentions; put more positively, though, think of it simply as 75 recommendations to you, the ever-hungry music fans. If this roster of releases prompts you to seek out a title or two that you didn’t hear first go-round this year, then we call that a win-win.

 Our Artist Of The Year, Jason Isbell, certainly delivered the goods with his masterful Southeastern, which more than hinted at a future ranking alongside such greats as Earle, Petty and even Springsteen. (Go here to read our recent interview with Isbell, who also appears on the cover of the most recent issue, #14, of BLURT.) And some of the albums dotting the rest of our Top 10 and Top 20 just may have the right kind of staying power, too. Only time will tell. But overall, it seems like this year was, for musicians, a time for retrenchment, regrouping and rethinking of one’s own artistry and career strategy.

 Still, even though it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, we still like it, and in truth, we’ve become accustomed to the peaks and valleys that the music biz presents in the larger picture; it’s just that 2012 and 2011 spoiled us. So as we noted last year in this space: please feel free to slap that person standing next to you who is griping about not hearing anything good this year. Then ask us sometime about trying to pare down a list of some 200-odd worthy new releases (and that 200 was trimmed from the more than 3,000 CDs and LPs received at the office – we don’t count digital files), to something manageable and coherent as represented by the 75-strong list below.

Also as noted last year: we’ve tried to factor in the fave raves of our many contributing writers (go here to view their individual lists, aka the 2013 Revenge Of The Writers), the peculiar biases of the Editor—trust us, they are indeed peculiar—plus sundry less-quantifiable measures that our highly skilled team of office interns employed in order to arrive at that golden Top 60, like which artists had the cutest boyfriends or girlfriends, or which labels put them on the guest list when their artists came to town. But in the end, we don’t take it all that seriously. List-making is supposed to be fun, not an obligation. Bottom line: no excess navel gazing here; no what everything means, maaan… from your friendly neighborhood BLURT. Here’s our list – let’s do this.

Also check out our 2012 coverage:

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012

Jason Isbell live 1 by Erika Goldring

1. ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Jason IsbellSoutheastern (Southeastern, released 6/11)WE SAID: “If you have a pulse, it’ll bring you to your knees. Considering how 2011’s Here We Rest compared to Springsteen circa Darkness On the Edge Of Town, the new Southeastern is Isbell’s The River. Like Springsteen, he’s now turned the lens decisively inward in order to move beyond merely whiffing life’s elusive truths and gain a primal understanding of the ties that bind.” (Photo by Erika Goldring)

2. Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd., 2/19)

WE SAID: “This ain’t yer mama’s Bad Seeds. Push The Sky Away plays like an extended, brooding, stream-of-consciousness meditation upon sex, sin, salvation and – most important – transcendence. There’s an uncommon restraint here which, coupled with a newfound gift for rich, lustrous melodicism, offers the listener a lingering, afterglow-like catharsis rather than a series of blinding, ejaculatory shocks.” (Photo, top of page, by John Boydston for BLURT.)

Besnard Lakes by Susan Moll 2

3. Besnard LakesUntil in Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar, 4/2)

WE SAID: “Unlike many so-called shoegaze acts, Besnard Lakes really understand quick and catchy, even if they’re somewhat tricky in their sparing use of hooking the listener sooner than later. The vocalists lead you along a gauzy, melodic breeze for a couple of minutes before dramatically introducing soaring guitars that would feel at home on a Mogwai album, providing a climactic and rewarding pay-off.” (Photo by Susan Moll for BLURT)

Neko Case

4. Neko CaseThe Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-, 9/3)

WE SAID: “You may be lulled by the dreamy, cosmic Americana, energized by the perky, anthemic power pop, or seduced by the thrumming, electro-tinged rockabilly, all bringing Case’s trademark brand of stream-of-consciousness confessional lyrics. But with each successive spin you’ll also find your skin turning tingly and heart rendered all a-flutter by those luscious Case pipes. She makes the hurt feel good.”

Those Darlins hi res color 2

5. Those DarlinsBlur The Line (Oh Wow Dang, 9/30)

WE SAID: “5 out of 5 stars. The transformation is complete. In the final estimation, Those Darlins are neither the quaint Americana mistresses nor the latterday garage queens we might’ve pegged ‘em as. Somewhere along the line, this became an amazing band, and songwriting/arranging this masterful elevates Blur The Line to modern-classic status.”

Daft Punk

6. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories (Columbia, 5/21)

WE SAID: “A dazzling album, steeped in soul and brimming with an uncommon musicality, all rhythmic urgency and compelling melodies and anthemic choruses. Traditional disco tropes abound, from vocoder-drenched vocals to handclaps-as-percussion to sleeky-silky fretboard flourishes. It’s also the gayest album you’ll hear all year. But there’s no winking irony at play. It’s emotionally profound, with a subtle elegance, and sonically serendipitous.”

Savages by Michael Passman

7. Savages Silence Yourself (Matador/Pop Noire, 5/7)

WE SAID: “Savages, an all female act from the UK, plays it loud and with perfectly channeled ‘80s goth postpunk angst… the buzz has been steadily building all year for the band, and Silence Yourself, with its furious whirl of Slits-meet-Sonic Youth, fully delivers.” (Photo by Michael Passman for BLURT)

Charles Bradley by Susan Moll

8. Charles BradleyVictim Of Love (Dunham/Daptone, 4/2)

WE SAID: “On his second album, Bradley branches out with his sound, wrapping his raspy, growly, velvet-rubbed-the-wrong-way voice around classic Stax horn ballads, Barry White-esque hormonal croons, and Farfisa-infused, slapped-and-popped funk a la James Brown. The whole thing, in fact, is like God talking to you over a James Brown vamp, and you don’t know whether to drop down on your knees or dance. Hard to do both, but maybe now’s the time to try.” (Photo of Charles Bradley by Susan Moll for BLURT)

National by Merrick Marquie

9. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me (4AD, 5/27)

WE SAID: “Sad, sardonic, mid-tempo, self-reflective, Trouble In Mind is another soundtrack for all of our laughably medium-sized American problems. I used to bristle when people called the National “dad rock,” but how else can you tag guitar-driven music about minor male mid-life crises? Maybe we should stop seeing it as a negative. Done this well, even dad rock has its charms.” (Photo of The National by Merrick Marquie for BLURT)

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10. Superchunk I Hate Music (Merge, 8/20)

WE SAID: “Although the scorching guitars and sonic extremes have been scaled back from the absolute manic frenzy that characterized their initial output, they still maintain their reckless abandon. They direct their efforts with a determined forward thrust that spills over the melodic parameters with a celebratory display of rock ‘n’ roll revelry.” (Photo of Mac from Superchunk by Greg Jacobs for BLURT)

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11. Cut CopyFree Your Mind (Loma Vista, 11/5)

WE SAID: “The feel-good album of the year, and not just for the EDM scene. Cue this up in virtually any context—dance club, coffee shop, record store, street fair, whatever—and watch the smiles unfurl and the asses start twitching.”

12. Primal ScreamMore Light (Ignition, 6/18)

WE SAID: “The logical heir to 1991’s epochal Screamadelica. Here, striking stylistic shifts never overwhelm the overriding ambiance, which is to revel in sensuality of synapse-stroking while riding the pure physicality of a full-on dance/rock record. As lead singer Bobby Gillespie smacks his lips and cheekily proclaims near the record’s end, ‘Ooh-la-la!’”

 

13. Disclosure Settle (Interscope, 6/11)

WE SAID: “Wildly popular album, brimming with EDM nuggets… Disclosure brings a breath of fresh air to the electronic music scene, taking elements of DJing and elements of live playing and combining them into one perfect blend.”

14. Arcade FireReflektor (Merge, 10/29)

WE SAID: “Although BLURT’s repeated requests for review materials and interview time were rebuffed by the band we still faithfully purchased the album upon its release and were not disappointed. Downtown NYC postpunk circa 1982 meets future-shock disco as filtered through Win Butler’s uniquely populist vision of dystopia and utopia combined.”

15. Matthew Sweet & Susanna HoffsUnder the Covers Vol. 3 (Shout! Factory, 11/11)

WE SAID: “Under the Covers Vol. 3 returns the element of innocent coolness to these New Wave nuggets originally done by R.E.M., Echo & The Bunnymen, Roxy Music, Bongos, dB’s, etc. It’s my new favorite Saturday night record, and if you are of a certain age, I trust it will soon be yours, too.”

16. Queens of the Stone Age  …Like Clockwork (Matador, 6/4)

WE SAID: “The album’s called Like Clockwork, and you can bet that it hasn’t arrived on quite that time-ticking notion – but any day a Queens of the Stone Age record turns up is a good day, eh?”

17. Paul McCartneyNew (Hear Music, 10/15)

WE SAID: “’New’ is right—when you consider Macca’s spotty output over the past decade, during which he solidified his touring rep perhaps at the expense of his studio craft, this album amounts to a comeback and a reaffirmation all at the same time. With nary a duff track here, and brimming with memorable melodies and meaty rhythms, New serves notice that everybody’s fave Beatle hasn’t surrendered a whit of his artistry to the ravages of time.”

18. Frankie RoseHerein Wild (Fat Possum, 9/24)

WE SAID: “La Rose’s transformation from garage rock grrrl (with Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, etc.) to dream-pop dreamboat is hereby complete. Brimming with sonic serendipity and even the occasional left-field cover (here, a stunning cover of the Damned’s “Street of Dreams”), Herein Wild is truth-in-titling.”

19. Johnny MarrThe Messenger (New Voodoo, 2/26)

WE SAID: “The Messenger is the best album in the Smiths-onian tradition since Morrissey’s 2004 You Are the Quarry, boasting an urgency that seems to stem from the rediscovery of what one song title calls the singer-guitarist’s “European Me.” The 49-year-old Marr recaptures the frustration of a teenage guitar-slinger trapped in a north-of-Britain nowheresville.”

20. Darkside Psychic (Matador, 10/8)

WE SAID: “Their music is consistently patient with huge payoffs, from the cagey falsetto of “Golden Arrow” and “Heart” and into the sonorous low pitch of “Paper Trails,” all with the steady climb in energy and intricately-laced, vigorous arrangements.”

21. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More (Merge Records, 9/3)

WE SAID: “Welcome back KK&TS in all their over-the-top glory: picture an alternate universe in which Nuggets had been equally populated by snotty teens and soul revue fiends and you just might get an inkling as to how high the entertainment quotient reaches on these dozen tunes.”

22. Deltron 3030The Event II (Bulk Recordings, 9/30)

WE SAID: “They come across as a thinking man’s hip-hop group – Del has crafted an entire lexicon of words and phrases to describe the futuristic society that they embody, while Dan The Automator’s production is so vividly complex that it requires a great deal of attention.”

23. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day (Rhymes of an Hour, 9/3)

WE SAID: “You can take 17 years off between albums if you happen to Mazzy Star and your return is the even hazier, dreamier, more sun-bleached and twilit Seasons Of Your Day. It’s the return of an old best friend.”

24. SuunsImages du Futur (Secretly Canadian, 3/5)

WE SAID: “A shared aesthetic of jittery, robot-funky beats, murmured vocals, and repetitive keyboard riffs collides with hard-edged dreampop, phased-psych freeform freakouts and trancey Krautrock supreme… Neu! lives!”

25. William TylerImpossible Truth (Merge, 3/19)

WE SAID: William Tyler is, maybe, the best young fingerpicker left since Jack Rose died, effortlessly balancing the feathery complexities of blur -peed picking with the trapdoor-to-the-eternal mysticism of thrumming sustained drones. Most of these songs have multiple movements, distinct changes in style and mood that demonstrate how easily Tyler moves between blues, folk, jazz, baroque classical and psychedelic modes.”

26. 7 Days of Funk (aka Snoopzilla and Dam Funk) – 7 Days of Funk (Stones Throw, 12/10)

WE SAID: “Snoop and the great Dâm deliver an exciting homage to George Clinton’s Computer Games—the Rosetta Stone of G-funk—with eight jams of pure bounce that sum up the last two decades of West Coast rap history in a hair under 40 minutes.”

27. Tommy KeeneExcitement At Your Feet (Second Motion, 9/17)

WE SAID: “I’m in love with rock’n’roll and I’ll be out all night: Keene doesn’t perform Jonathan Richman’s classic “Roadrunner” on this covers collection, but its spirit informs the project. Keene knows the rush of turning on the stereo and hearing that perfect incarnation of free spirited, thrilling rides into the great unknown.” (Full disclosure: album released by BLURT’s sister business Second Motion Records)

28. Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium (ATO, 9/3)

WE SAID: “The seventh Okkervil record all take place back in 1986, in Will Sheff’s hometown of Meriden, NH. But it more than eulogizes that time and space; it brings everything back to life. Rather than swimming in retrospective nostalgia, these songs merge the past with the present.”

29. Two Cow Garage – Death of the Self-Preservation Society (Last Chance, 9/10)

WE SAID: “While The Lumineers are getting Grammy nods by chanting a two-word chorus ad nauseum, Two Cow Garage channel Dinosaur Jr one moment and Johnny Cash the next, mining the best of rock and country and putting it through their own bar room filter. With Micah Schnabel’s stunning shot-and-a-beer poetry, delivered via his trademark strained vocals, the album also boasts some of his best lyrics.”

30. Jim JamesRegions of Light & Sound of God (ATO, 2/5)

WE SAID: “Inspired by an 80 year old novel, My Morning Jacket’s James turns soul-searcher and philosopher. The set eschews songs in any traditional sense, opting instead for murky soundscapes characterized by minimal piano and acoustic guitar, suspended strings and a dense overlay of synths and drums.”

31. Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsLive From KCRW (Bad Seed Ltd., 11/29)

WE SAID: “Recorded live on the Push The Sky Away tour, with an intimate, stripped-down in-studio performance in front of just 180 lucky fans. Push material is ably represented, and there’s a startling mini-trawl through Cave’s back pages, too.”

32. Tony Joe White – Hoodoo (Yep Roc, 9/17)

WE SAID: “It maintains his same swampy m.o. through a series of dark, dense ruminations that find him in a solid groove. His music still retains its roots in the Louisiana bayou, and the fact that Hoodoo finds him as devoted to his muse now as he was when he was tagged “The Swamp Fox” back in the day, demonstrates a decided singularity of purpose.”

33. JC Brooks & the Uptown SoundHowl (Bloodshot, 5/21)

WE SAID: “Loosening the ’60s fetishism and letting soul music be more about feel than form, Brooks and company concentrate on writing strong songs and letting them dictate the grooves. With relaxed conceptual standards but a stronger sense of songwriting purpose, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound finally make their artistic breakthrough.”

34. Wooden ShjipsBack To Land (Thrill Jockey, 10/15)

WE SAID: “They will take you back to heavy psych’s glory days with the steady, drone-like repetition of such classic minimalist composers as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, creating an exciting new level of West Coast psych-rock that should help rattle the establishment for the next generation.”

35. Flaming LipsThe Terror (Warner Bros., 4/16)

WE SAID: “Put simply, it’s the Lips finally fulfilling their dream to become the American Pink Floyd—and that’s no snarky statement. This is trippy, terrifying and timeless.”

36. Howe GelbThe Coincidentalist (New West, 11/5)

WE SAID: “By turns both seductive and sonorous, it’s the kind of album that demands repeated listens, if for no other reason than to try to make sense of Gelb’s tangled pastiche. Though occasionally confounding, it inevitably turns out to be time well spent.”

37. Gov’t MuleShout! (Blue Note, 9/24)

WE SAID: “A unique take on a body of work, one that allows for both a Gov’t Mule recording while also allowing them to pay homage to some of their favorite singers, both heroes and contemporaries. Shout features two discs, one of Mule in the studio performing new songs, and another of the same songs with different vocalists.”

38. Kenny RobyMemories & Birds (MRI, 4/2)

WE SAID: “Six String Drag frontman Roby’s sense of literary precision makes this a grand tableau, well worthy of the sweeping comparisons he’s garnered to Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner and other authors who share his southern sensibilities.”

39. Wesley StaceWesley Stace (Yep Roc, 9/17)

WE SAID: “Rather than flaunt his many skills, Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding) generally maintains low-lit appeal, drifting subtly and softly with an exceedingly smooth croon… An intimate portrait of an artist flush with inspiration, looking through a rearview mirror and gazing in amazement as the distance falls away.”

40. Kurt VileWakin On a Pretty Daze (Matador, 4/9)

WE SAID: “Vile spins out entrancing and trance-like songs based on simple chord progressions and finger-picked themes (think John Fahey). For all their repetition and length, Vile’s casually poetic tales for anomic burnouts are perfectly set within the strum and drone of his musical settings. His melodies meander respecting meter, but always seem to fall into place.”

41. Chris StameyLovesick Blues (Yep Roc, 2/5)

WE SAID: “In all his guises, from his work with The dB’s to his solo undertakings to his 5-star collaborations over the years (raise your hands, Golden Palominos fans) to his impeccable production work, Stamey’s output has consistently been top-notch. With his latest album, he also ups the ante as a songwriter, penning tunes that, true to the title, chronicle a life spent in pursuit of that elusive romantic spark, and he translates that quest via elegant, gorgeous musical arrangements.”

 

42. Amanda Shires – Down Fell The Doves (Lightning Rod, 8/6)

WE SAID: Down Fell the Doves is as imposing as it is intriguing, a provocative set of songs that lean heavily on ambience and atmosphere. And considering the fact she recently wed fellow provocateur Jason Isbell, these shadowy intents seem to speak to more than a musical makeover than any kind of melancholy mindset.”

43. ObliviansDesperation (In The Red, 5/28)

WE SAID: “Whattaya get? Why, some lo-fi, early ‘90s-inspired garage/punk crud, of course! The band totes lust and distortion and a load of Stones riffs all the way down to the bayou then floats ‘em back upriver totally swamped out; this is one serious nonstop party suitable for, as one song suggests, ‘tearing the whole place down.’”

44. JJ Grey & MofroThis River (Alligator, 4/16)

WE SAID: “What they do is ply their trade with heaping dollops of Muscle Shoals soul, fiercely funky grooves and southern rock swagger, all doled out in substantial doses on This River, that hang heavy with the humidity of Grey’s Florida homeland.”

45. Monster MagnetLast Patrol (Napalm, 10/15)

WE SAID: “The New Jersey heavy rock icon’s tenth album finds leader Dave Wyndorf’s Marvel Comics-and-sci-fi visions swirl to full effect here. Wyndorf and his cohorts sound enthusiastic and engaged, thrilled to be performing a set of songs as good as these. Last Patrol is easily Monster Magnet’s strongest LP in years.”

46. Steve EarleThe Low Highway (New West, 4/16)

WE SAID: “Always a brilliant first-person storyteller, you can imagine just about any of the characters that populate this record – from meth addicts and petty thieves to those down on their luck and thinking of torching the local Wal-Mart. And the best tracks come when Earle focuses on just simply rockin’, as in, ‘fuck ‘em, I’m just gonna have fun’.”

47. BombinoNomad (Nonesuch, 4/2)

WE SAID: “On tour this year as Robert Plant’s opening act, the North African group really showed American crowds what so-called “trance music” was all about. No less so than on this major label release, a mesmerizing collection of moods and grooves.”

48. Waxahatachee Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni, 3/5)

WE SAID: “If Cat Power had been a neurotic Americana artist instead of a neurotic indie-rocker, you might have Waxahatchee, the starkly poetic lass with the unpolished, liquor-and-honey-powered pipes. Her lo-fi previous album was no preparation for this new vision, however, abetted by a three-piece band.” 

49. Temperance League Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams (Like Wow, 10/1)

WE SAID: “Once upon a time we would have called this “heartland rock,” a milieu populated by the Springsteens, the Mellencamps, the Segers and the Pettys, although nowadays that term is probably used pejoratively by the hipsters and ironists who make up the core concertgoing audience. But for those of us who value songcraft over style, and lyrical depth over catchphrase-slinging, we still get it.”

50. Jake BuggJake Bugg (Mercury, 4/9)

WE SAID: “Only 18, Jake Bugg sounds like he’s been around longer on his debut – not in the clichéd sense of being an old soul in a young body, but in being timeless. Rooted in Woody Guthrie/Johnny Cash folkabilly, soaked in both singer/songwriter confession and punk rock defiance, Bugg stands up to the 21st century with only his guitar and a rhythm section.”

51. Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold (What’s Your Rupture?, 1/15)

WE SAID: “Rabid energy mixed with some crazed exuberance and quirkiness… One outstanding aspect to their songwriting is the catchy, repetitive beats and riffs they incorporate regularly, and with mucho gusto, into their songs.”

 

52. Calexico – Spiritoso (Anti-, 4/26)

WE SAID: “This live symphonic recording reconfigures some of the Tucson band’s best material without sacrificing any of the original magic. Sometimes re-cutting tunes with an orchestra drains the mojo right out of ‘em, but not in this instance. It also makes you wonder why nobody ever thought of pairing up Mariachi horn players with symphony musicians before.”

53. Frank TurnerTape Deck Heart (Interscope, 4/23)

WE SAID: “He’s known best for his injection of wit and humility into songs about growing up, growing old and politics, and even with an acoustic guitar, you still can’t hide the punk kid inside.”

54. Julia HolterLoud City Song (Domino, 8/20)

WE SAID: “Once a bedroom musician, now a conceptual artist, Holter has delivered a mysterious masterpiece that will pull you into its rabbit hole of sonic wonders—and keep you there, fully willing.”

 

55. David BowieThe Next Day (Columbia, 3/12)

WE SAID: “Ten years is a long time between drinks. But The Next Day is complex, pissed off and crafty. It goes for the jugular, finding blood, violent mythology, vile bodies, infanticide and gruesome death.”

56. Valerie June Pushin’ Against a Stone (Concord, 8/13)

WE SAID: “She can handle the genre-meld all on her own—flavors of country blues, gospel, bluegrass and soul swirl together and mingle harmoniously to form a singular, all-encompassing American music when she’s by herself. But with added production and guest musicians, a fully-fleshed out vision of her songs emerges.”

57. Brianna Lea Pruett – Gypsy Bell (Canyon, 10/1)

WE SAID: “Forget nu-folk, old folk, alt folk, trad folk, or all those other labels pinned on acoustic music these days. Brianna Lea Pruett is the real deal, a dewy eyed folkie who sings of dreamy desire surrounded by ethereal trappings.”

58. Mikal CroninMCII (Merge, 5/7)

WE SAID: “Cronin’s second album filters the lyrical melancholy of confessional pop through a joyfully dissonant, dirt-crusted lens, winding fuzz-frayed guitar lines through sunny miasmas of overtone, threading triumphant melodies through hedge-rows of strident strumming.”

 

59. Willie NileAmerican Ride (Loud & Proud, 6/5)

WE SAID: “With American Ride, Willie Nile ascends to the uppermost tier of the most revered American musicians and esteemed populist pundits, an elite and exclusive circle of venerable troubadours whose numbers include Springsteen, Dylan, Fogerty, Petty and Mellencamp.”

 

60. Mavis StaplesOne True Vine (Anti-, 6/25)

WE SAID: “For her second collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, the overall mood is thoughtful and somber: unlike You Are Not Alone, this is a contemplative late-night album rather than a celebratory Sunday morning one. It’s wonderful.”

61. Ezra Furman – Day of the Dog (Bar/None, 10/8)

WE SAID: “Ezra Furman turns existential angst into roadhouse bravado on this second solo LP, framing burnt black lyrics with vamping sax, rollicking piano and double-time romps. He may be “broken, wide-open, bleeding everywhere” (per “The Mall”), but he’s still thrashing around in protest. The protest, in this case, takes the form of rousing, blustery, forget-yourself-in-rock-and-roll arrangements that recall everyone from electric Dylan to classic gospel to Bo Diddley.”

62. Barton CarrollAvery County, I’m Bound to You (Skybucket, 10/15)

WE SAID: “Carroll comes across more like a weathered traditional troubadour than a musician with boundary-breaking ambitions. With a rugged vocal and a stirring set of narratives, he bears a musical kinship to the likes of Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, pundits and purists of the populist variety.”

 

63. Hiss Golden MessengerHaw (Paradise of Bachelors, 4/2)

WE SAID: “M.C. Taylor and his musical partner Scott Hirsch — along with frequent drumming ally Terry Lonergan — create a mercurial folk-rock atmosphere, populating it with sounds that visit by way of other genres and marking it with the sense of simultaneous doubt and triumph that’s conjured by Taylor’s spiritually charged lyrics.”

64. Ty SegallSleeper (Drag City, 8/20)

WE SAID: “Segall mixes Marc Bolan’s fey plaints and fractured imagery, Peter Perrett’s doomed and dour vocalizations, the wasted romanticism of Neil Young’s basement burn outs and Big Star’s Third’s fragmenting psyches. His guitar changes tend toward Duchampian formalism (borrowed Neil and Bert Jansch motives) -found expressions of emotions dark and light.”

65. Fuck ButtonsSlow Focus (ATP, 7/23)

WE SAID: “Fuck Buttons is defined by a set of guidelines that comprise a kind of ideology. Because both Power and Hung started as visual artists, they often interpret the songs in pictorial terms, as large-scale landscapes. As they finish the tracks, they talk about these images and sometimes reflect them in the titles. Yet the band’s music has a very spiritual quality, and a certain amount of intellectual heft.”

66. Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest (Warp, 6/18)

WE SAID: “It is chock-a-block with everything you have ever loved about the Boards over the last 15-some-odd years and will continue to do so as long as they don’t fancy themselves singer-songwriters like so many of their IDM peers have done in recent years.”

67. Anders Osborne – Peace (Alligator, 10/8)

WE SAID: “The Swedish-born, New Orleans-based bluesman’s most diversified effort yet, one that takes unexpected twists and turns while venturing into realms wholly unexpected, including furtive funk and psychedelic swirl.”

68. Oneohtrix Point NeverR Plus Seven (Warp, 10/1)

WE SAID: “Layered and luminous, yet at the same time loony and languor-inducing, OPN remains one of the electronica scene’s most inscrutable yet compelling act on the planet.”

69. PolvoSiberia (Merge, 9/30)

WE SAID: “Polvo’s sixth full-length stays the masked prog course, working more melody and harmonies into its layers of guitar. Ambitious and inviting, Siberia puts Polvo in a more accessible place while remaining faithful to its artistic vision.”

70. DirtbombsOoey Gooey Chewy Kablooey(In the Red)

WE SAID: “Anybody who listens closely to Dirtbombs records knows there’s actual craft going on under the red levels, and on Ooey Gooey Chewy Kablooey Mick Collins lets it show. Allegedly a bubblegum record, in reality this is Collins’ take on psychedelic pop, with twinkling keyboards, polite guitars and a heretofore unimagined Collins croon that could charm the panties off a lesbian punk rocker.”

71. Bardo PondPeace on Venus (Fire)

WE SAID: “Don’t look for minimalism here. These tracks roar, sprawl and obliterate, in a hypnotic, heavy-booted march to enlightenment. Wall-sized guitar tones fray and blister into dissonance, drums pound in monolithic, relentless forward motion, and Isobel Sollenger’s voice floats over the roil and racket like a dream you had once as a child.”

72. My Bloody ValentineMBV (MBV, 3/19)

WE SAID: “Peculiarly patterned as a “before, during, after” triptych of sorts, it sounds like the band wanted to (a) resume work on Loveless; (b) expand upon what Loveless established; and (c) then just fuck around and have fun. It’s all very fascinating and inscrutable, just like we love ‘em.”

73. Laura MarlingOnce I Was an Eagle (Ribbon, 5/28)

WE SAID: Eagle combines the dark drama of British folk balladry, North African rhythmic propulsions and sheer performance intensity in ways that evoke acoustic Led Zeppelin more than Marling’s previously familiar Joni Mitchell moves. The songs’ emotion spills out over the conventional boundaries of singer-songwriter’s mannerly idioms.”

 

74. BarbezBella Ciao (Tzadik, 8/27)

WE SAID: “Barbez is hard to classify, but let’s give it a shot. They are a large ensemble, ethnically curious, jazz-experimental, proggily complex outfit with a tendency to explore beautifully obscure corners not just of the music world, but also of literature. This album performs musical alchemy with Roman Jewish liturgical song, taking ancient, archetypical melodies and embellishing them with complex swathes of stringed instruments, clarinet, Theremin, malleted percussion, guitar, bass and drums.”

75. Parson Red HeadsOrb Reader (Fiesta Red, 10/1)

WE SAID: “They channel their inner Byrds, what with the billowy harmonies, spiraling riffing and celestial trappings. Traces of other ‘70s harmony bands of can be detected as well — Poco, Pure Prairie League, Firefall and, on the reverent ballad “Time,” CSN themselves.”

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