Saturday, December 14, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2013

Another year down and time for another list of the best albums I found this year.

When I was 12, I found a pressure value that allowed for a release of emotion that momentarily calmed down from the constant bouncing of my foot or tapping of my pencil long enough for me to be reflective and introspective on my life. I was a pensive, hyperactive kid who never fully accepted what adults were trying to tell him and I felt their agendas more than most kids my age. I was a natural fit for journal writing as a kid and kept them until my early 30's. I couldn't play a note of music but lyrics became a passion of mine and the love of lyrics kept me searching for great music every year.

Now writing was something I have never been particularly good at (even today) but it was the profession of my uncle. I basically thought my mother's brother was the Michael Jordan of life during my teenage years so with his encouragement, I decided the exercise of putting words to paper to express myself would be something good to do. As an adult, journals became an important part of my ability to stay away from New England for 12 years while I was working in radio but the benefits of using them have been with me for a long time.  

Journals and the Top 10 music lists started one December day in 1989 when I took a notepad out and starting to list things that were on my mind and in my life. I listed the places I went, the cities I hoped to go the next year, girls I liked, the best things that had happened in the world that year, the music I was listening to was scribbled down in list form. I've always been able to offer up an opinion on nearly anything so ranking things from 1 to 10 was just natural for me even at 12.  I wrote my rankings all in one of those black notebooks that we all used for school and kept it under my bed for security.  

The writing wasn't very deep but it did help me look back on what I had in my life and what I should have been thankful for. I have never done much reflecting at Thanksgiving, like most people. There isn't a great reason for that except that New Year's seemed like a more natural time for reflection since it felt like something was ending and there was soon to be a new beginning. I have always hated endings, probably because my parents split, but the act of writing each December allowed me close to book, per say, on some of the things in my life that were bothering me. My parents got divorced that year and my mom would be getting married again within the next few years. It was therapeutic for a pissed off kid.

I eventually stopped writing about my life at the end of every year and focused more on the day-to-day but I didn't stop listing my favorite albums for the year every December.

I'm reminded of the calming influence of words on days like today, when I wish that manslaughter was legal in Massachusetts as our parade of horrible drivers snake their way through crowded intersections while texting away with their infant child in the backseat. One day, I'll write about my friendship with anger and how I have used it over the years for fuel, but today is about the end of the 2013 year and the music that I found over the last 12 months.... 

So many things happened to me this year, marriage, baby on the way etc ... that I really didn't do a good job of finding new artists like I normally do. This list won't be filled with bands that nobody has heard of and you might even find it a touch boring. However, I'm big on tradition and I have a lot of fun doing these lists ... so, thanks for reading. 

10. Former Lives - Ben Gibbard

My wife and I have an ongoing joke going about the lead singer of The Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie. She thinks Ben is a castrated male who has never gotten a girl in his life. I quickly point out that he has dated the likes of Zooey Deschanel, who I think is hot but that only pisses her off more. But because she is my wife, she understands my love of this kind of music. Ben went solo for the first time in 2013 and the results were mixed by the critics. I didn't fall head over heals for the record but it's solid and worth owning if you like Death Cab's earlier work.

Aimee Mann is on my MT Rushmore for female singers ... so I had to pick this track for the list since she guest sings on it.

9. Give Up  - The Postal Service 10-year anniversary release 

In 2003, the before-mentioned Ben Gibbard was in a band called The Postal Service in Seattle. It never got huge outside of indi-rock fans but it had a loyal following that grew after Death Cab became a big act a few years ago. I came across them in 2007 and loved the album and was pissed to learn they had split up. So, of course, when I heard that a 10-year anniversary album was coming out, a double-album at that, I had to have it. Because my wife is my wife and I love her dearly, she surprised me with the album one afternoon right after it was released even though she hates it. The album is as good in 2013 as it was 10 years ago.


8. Night Visions - Imagine Dragons 

Rock music is dead. Can we all agree that if one of the best album that we can deliver in the genre is this release, that the genre is dead and might be gone for good? I don't mean that to destroy this band because the album is on my list for a reason, I like a lot, but like I mentioned in my favorite 10 songs of the year, this band will be forgotten in a year. We will see this band on VH1 in 10 years when they look back at the music of 2013 and you will say 'yeah, that was a good record. What happened to them?'. Thank goodness for Arcard Fire.

7. Our Version of Events - Emeli Sande'

This album was bought on a whim as my wife and I were driving to breakfast one Sunday afternoon this summer. I love Brit music and we were listening to an acoustic performance of this song on NPR and we bought it on the ride there via my iPhone. It blew us away and Emile's voice is legit throughout the record. I don't normally like this type of music but it's a really fun album if you give it time to grow on you. It's not a homerun, first play kind of record but worth your time.

6. Indicud - Kid Cudi 

Ok, so this album is so fucking confusing that it's borderline genius. Kid is tripping on several tracks ... high on all of them and I'm not really sure he knew what he was doing but it's like listening to a musical version of throwing shit at the wall to see what works. I don't know if I love this album or I hate it. For that reason, it gets high marks for making me listen to try to figure out what the hell Kid was trying to do with this.

5. Reflektor - Arcade Fire

Some people think this is the best album of the year and I wouldn't argue if that's your opinion. I like it a lot but I find it lacking some of the memorable songs as their previous release "The Suburbs" had. I think this is the future of rock music as this is the best rock album of the year.

4. Self-Titled - The Civil Wars 

I picked two songs from this album for my favorite 10 of the year. So, it would be the logical thought that this would be my favorite album of the year right? Wrong. The first 9 tracks are fucking unreal. I love ... I mean LOVE them....and then we get to the last 3 tracks of the album and it falls apart. It's like the having the greatest dinner ever and cake being burnt to a black crisp. Whoever had the idea to cover "Disarm" by the Smashing Pumpkins should have their head checked cause it is a disaster. Because of the last 3 tracks, I couldn't pick it as my favorite album and had to drop it down a bunch.

3. Let's Be Still - The Head and the Heart 

I've written a lot about this band and their second album did not disappoint. It's more melancholy than their first album and doesn't have a major radio hit on it but it's very strong from start to finish. I was pretty mad that I missed them in Boston this time around.

2. Marshall Mathers LP2 - Eminem 

What am I going to say here that you don't already know about this album? It's a huge record and has multiple number 1 hits on it. Em can't do what he did in the 1990's .... he can't shock us anymore and that's actually a great thing because he goes on attack mode on the album without worrying about the FCC and anyone else for that matter. His use of sports name and references in his raps is truly awesome. I love this song ... maybe it's cause it speaks to me a little lol. Great rap album.

1. Magpie and the Dandelion - The Avett Brothers

This was hard. Everyone always wants to know what your favorite album is but to be honest, any of the top 4 could be in this slot. It was a great year for albums and a lot of fun to listen to them. This album was the one I was the most excited to listen to and I have loved it for months. For that reason, I give it props in the top spot for delivering on the anticipation.

Thanks for reading this for another year!!! Feel free to let me know your thoughts and share your favorites too!!

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