Christmas Came Early: A 2013 Year End Review.
Any of you that know me well enough to call me a friend or have been invited into my home to witness the staggering wall of Compact Discs and Vinyl I’ve amassed over the years, it would be fairly easy to jump to the conclusion that I have a maniacal passion for music; Perhaps venturing into the dangerous realms of obsession (or hoarding). Music is my largest library; though I do hold onto a fair amount of literature in addition to all of the plastic, vinyl, and digital troves of listening pleasure. The collected sounds run the gamut from popular to obscure to extremely obscure to collectible to noise and back around the long and winding road to “Dammit, I’m running out of storage room here.” Now that we have a mobile terror division (aka Bria Vivian Bell aka Zuul the Destroyer), there was a fair amount of forethought and fear that went into the attempts at baby-proofing my adult life’s master work. The kid still got into an Elvis record the other day. At least she has decent taste this early in the process.
I was lucky enough to have a wealth of music available to me in my formative years of blood-boiling teenage angst. I moved the record player/cassette deck/8-track player as well as my parents long abandoned record collection into my room and locked the door for years on end. I spun each new record as a brand new cerebral experience; watching the needle carve through the smooth grooves, pouring over liner notes and art. The smell of old paper and cardboard still brings back sweet nostalgia; instantly transforming me back to those moments of new-to-me-music-exploration and fresh bleeding edge exposure. In my long dark hours of teenage DJing I learned about The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Bob Dylan, Three Dog Night, Simon and Garfunkle, Santana, Pink Flyod, Boston, The Allman Brothers, Neil Young, and many many many many many many more. Had I not had these wonderful recordings available for exploration at my ready disposal, I may have never been able to find my own taste and distaste for those bands and artists that pull from history for their inspiration. The recordings are burned into your brain forever. Even today I hear chords and sequences in which I can pull from the archives and knowingly state, “oh, they pulled that from Buffalo Springfield,” for example.
Every passing year, I purchase and collect a vast amount of music. Some of them are new exposures and some of them are follow up albums from bands or artists that I have previously enjoyed and followed with an appreciation that few find in this modern day and age. I scour the internet for mixtapes and collections that gather tracks from bands that are pushing their new album or tour as well as the occasional payment of homage to those that have paved the way before them. I look forward to the new additions to artists’ discography. I spend a lot of money on things that I know I will enjoy and can share with those that I believe can equally appreciate the sonic reverie that comes with experiencing new music for the first time. One day I hope to share all of this collective madness with my children. I dream of days of future’s past when Bria and I can lay on the rug in the living room and soak in a music history lesson.
For now, I will settle for sharing with my friends that may or may not be interested in the same kind of sounds. I do hope that you do however give it a listen so that perhaps you may find or be exposed to a new group that you in turn enjoy. Music is a unique creation. I whole heartedly support musicians. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving away musicians’ work for free just for the sake of doing it. Most of these tracks can be found on the internet, given for free from websites and compilations, or purchases that I’ve made and carefully selected for your listening pleasure. The .zip file of my Best of 2013 is a curated selection of musicians and tracks that I have found to be personally enjoyable. They may not coincide with popular music magazines or music sites that depend on popularity contests for survival. There is no Kanye. I certainly didn’t put a lot of rap in there, because there’s very few rap artists that I enjoy… I feel the same way about Death Metal, Reggae, and Country. So before I hand off my year’s worth of tracks to share with you (which will take quite a while to download), here are a few personal favorites from the selections this year.
Cayucas, Bigfoot – They made the best Vampire Weekend album this year, despite Vampire Weekend actually releasing an album this year.
Blitzen Trapper, VII – Holy Crap. I really like these guys. Album after album they are really solid. It has a lot of southern twang to it. Solid album as a whole.
The Cults, Static – Dreamy. Fuzzy. Jangly. This entire album is like swimming through a drunken gospel haze of being in love at the tender ebb and swell of 17.
White Lies, Big TV – If you like The Killer’s first album Hot Fuss then go pick up this album right now. It’s the missing sound that The Killers should have been chasing instead of going all bombastic Bruce Springsteen on us.
Elvis Costello and The Roots, Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs – I don’t have to say anything else. It’s Elvis Costello and The Roots.
Midlake, Antiphon – Swimmy. Sweet. It’s a nice mix of chill wave and indie guitar.
Caitlin Rose, The Stand-In – Jazzy, plucky, and a fun bourbon infused ride.
Best Coast, Fade Away EP – So far the best break-up album of the year. Bethany Cosentino had two great releases this year. This one is by far better than her first.
Polica, Shulamith – Echoes and Autotune. It’s creepy and whimsical all at the same time.
White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade – I had no idea this group existed until this year. This is a great little southern rock album. Lots of fuzzy power guitars.
Diana Gameros, Eterno Retorno – I helped crowd fund this album on KickStarter. I met Diana while she was playing in a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco (with quite possibly the best tamales I’ve ever eaten). She is incredibly talented and this album showcases that skill and aura without fault.
Haim, Days Are Gone – Amazing album throughout. Solid and fun. I find myself rocking back and forth to the grooves despite myself. Lots of familiar 80s tricks and call outs.
Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull – These guys won me over 2 albums ago. Their last 3 installments have been fantastic albums through and through. It probably helps that they’re also from the south.
Okkervil River, The Silver Gymnasium – I liken this group to Blitzen Trapper. If you like one, you’ll probably like the other. Okkervil River continues to deliver and impress.
Glasvegas, Later When the Television Turns to Static… – If you like depressing Scottish shoe-gazing, then this is the album for you, Bevan…
Arctic Monkeys, AM – The boys best outing yet. Though this album and The Foals newest release are sounding quite a bit similar.
Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – I am in love with Neko Case. There, I said it.
Washed Out, Paracosm – This album is pretty much what it feels like to be high on California Weed.
Valerie June, Pushin’ Against A Stone – Memphis girl make quite possibly the best album that has come out of Memphis in 5 years.
Surfer Blood, Pythons – Raucous, Driving and Powerful, yet somehow light a Friday night in Spring… at the beach, of course.
Savages, Silence Yourself – I love this album. It’s like a more metal Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Black Angles, Indigo Meadow – LSD, Motocycles, and Knife Fights. Have a leather jacket handy.
Foxygen, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic – This is what happens when The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones have a baby.
My Bloody Valentine – I’ve been waiting for 20 years for this album. They deliver.
So these are just a few of note. This year was an AMAZING year for music. New Bands, new releases, bands coming back from the pitch black 1990s realm of obscurity, and floods of great new stuff (including some really original covers and lost recordings). I hope that this playlist will help you find some fantastic new sounds that will be a cause for celebration, movement, and bombastic thrashing about you room. It’s going to take a while to download (the .zip is 1.3G worth of sweet sweet goodness). It’s a ton of new music. It’s a mixture of MP3 format and .m4a audio formats. The playlist and tracks work best in iTunes, as that’s what I’m using and that’s what I’ve created the playlist/mix in.
So, import the XML list and File>Add to Library the tracks. The rest should be computer magic.
I have found that if you transcode the .m4a format to .mp3 it will strip all of the album and artist information out of it… but maybe you don’t care about all that. I do. It’s important to keep things tracked and organized. There is a .xml and .m3u file to load into itunes so that the mix will play the way it was intended. (There may be an amended addition before the end of the year as I’m still waiting on a couple of albums to release this December).