And now it's to 2013- which as I write this is last year. Can you believe it?
In the prior december, I found a TON of new stuff that I wanted to keep listening to from the previous year. On New Years Day I bought King Tuff's self titled masterpiece, which carred me through a lot of the spring. New psychedelic / throwback rock from Spiritualized and Tame Impala were getting heavy play. Electronica from Chromatics, freak folk from Father John Misty. I was in music heaven. Mostly I want to talk about two albums though.
The first is Dan Deacon's "America". This pretty instantly gave Titus Andronicus a break in my "solo driving" list, and became a part of any strategic playlist that I listen to during races. It's electronic in nature, with some semi-intelligible vocals and a constantly shifting vibe, but it reaches absolute perfection with the final four tracks- America (parts I through IV). I have strategically timed race finishes to the final track on 3 occasions now, and the amount of adrenaline I'm able to muster during the final 3:25 track is I assume about as much as is possible.
You've been warned:
The other real winner to come out of those albums was one I probably would have gotten into anyway in the next year- Andrew Bird's semi double album Break It Yourself / Hands of Glory.
I think this album contains some of the most pleasant sounds ever recorded. He's a phenomenal violinist and songwriter, and his voice and whistling just all blend so nice together. We put this on at every single bbq we've had since we heard it for the first time. Here he is playing my favorite song of his in a cave.
Because the December listening project was a lot of work, however, I decided to take a little pressure off of myself and spread 2013's out over the whole year. Sort of like I wish I had done with this project...Essentially the goal was to listen to 4 new albums every week, and re-listen to two of those albums every week as well, ranking as I go. This is also online for your edification.
Great albums were spread out all over the year, but the ones I lived with the most are the ones that came out early. Yo La Tengo released their recent masterpiece "Fade", which is probably my favorite YLT album to date. It's perfectly mellow, except where it needs to not be. Like in the opening track, a good mantra for 2013:
Also in January, I fell in love with this song at first listen:
Which lead me to the rest of Torres's gripping first album. I got to see her live at Bunk Bar later in the year, and can't wait to see what she does next.
In Februrary, I was knocked off my feet by Unknown Mortal Orchestra's "II". I call it "psychedelic pop", I don't know if it can be classified really. It's got hooks, but it's noisy at times. Someone described it once as what aliens might create if you told them about pop music but they never heard it. I'll buy it.
Right around this release, Cody finally bought a new drumkit and got it set up in my garage so we could start playing music again. Kyle got his bass amp out of storage, and we tuned up and started shredding on weekend afternoons. It's not always consistent, or consistently good, but it's cathartic and we have a hell of a good time. Maybe we'll play a show one day.
In March, we had the opportunity to go to New York with Emily's parents over Spring Break. We had plans to go see Book of Mormon, and generally just New York it up. I sort of knew in my periphery that Sigur Ros was touring through there at the same time, and jokingly brought it up that we should go see them at Madison Square Garden (MSG if you're hip), but we figured that it was probably a little too expensive and that we should be hanging out with Emily's folks instead, and we were probably right.
But then the night of the show rolled around, and we didn't have any specific plans. And so we went.
Of COURSE we went. I can't believe we debated it- our favorite live band playing Madison Square Garden when we happened to be in NYC a few subway stops away? It boggles the mind to think we'd do anything differently. The previous album was kind of a mellow bust, but the new one they were preparing to release was a darker, heavier album, which leads to a darker, heavier show. And they did not dissapoint. It was an incredible experience, and I am so thankful that we got to have it.
I was working during the days from our hotel room, and spent most of my time listening to Strand of Oaks new E.P. "Darker Shores". It's a few songs from the 2012 album, with a new production focus and some added bells and whistles. The back story with the perspective of history is that that's what he wanted the whole original album to sound like, but was afraid to take the risk and kept it mostly acoustic. I'm on board, and maybe prefer these songs. I listened to this one over and over again.
I was super stressed out with work over most of the spring. (I'm sensing sort of a running trend here). Music helped. I found peace in repeition. Mostly this meant the new Flaming Lips, some guitar picking from William Tyler, and the bizarre saxophone playing of Colin Stetson. I can't even...you should watch this video:
My favorite two albums of the year were released in late spring. Kurt Vile's "Wakin on a Pretty Daze" is a sprawling, sometimes awkward collection of guitar mastery and self deprecation. I feel like he is able to express a lot of how I feel when I'm anxious or stressed out through music, and helps me work through it in the process. My favorite track is the meandering title track, "Waking on a pretty day". Favorite song of the year from my favorite album of the year.
My second favorite was one I never really would have expected, if somehow you had some way of finding out what I do or don't expect, and then tried to confirm that with me.
I'd never heard of Laura Marling before this year- she had a few other albums. She's pretty young, shes British, and she plays guitar. She also sounds like Joni Mitchell, if Joni Mitchell wrote songs I love. The album itself is an entire journey- the songs blend together, a single throughpiece connects them. The guitar playing is open and percussive, at times reminiscent of Richie Havens to me. The songwriting is stark and brilliant. Listen to this whole album one day if you can.
My favorite thing to do in 2013 and beyond, now that I have all of this music, is to put a new great album on in the car or at home and try and make Emily fall in love with it. Despite the selfish reward of being the cool guy who found the good music, it's really rewarding to watch someone hear something great for the first time. Emily is a safe testing ground, because we have a lot of shared tastes and experiences, so I feel like I know a lot of the time if something is going to hit. I've definitely been wrong before, but hopefully she forgets those as easy as I do.
Some things though, are just for me.
In June, me and the rest of everybody fell for Deafheaven's genre transcending "Sunbather". Call it black metal, call it post rock, just don't call me late to the party. Crescendos, screaming, uplifting dynamic music with dark emotive vocals. Kind of opened up the world of black metal to me, which is something I never thought I'd be saying.
The summer was almost too nuts to get into much. My two best friends in the world got married, and we had a ton of events and parties and things to plan. It was all the greatest, and there was probably some music involved, but it's such a blur that I prefer not to try and pick out some random musical thoughts for the sake of filling content.
Also, I have another Pickathon to write about.
Emily and I went solo this year. They raised prices a bit, and no one else really felt like forking over the extra money. We thought we'd see it out, and we were super glad we did. Brief highlight reel:
Kurt Vile was noisier than his albums but captivated me every bit as much. His performance of Tomboy was maybe my favorite.
King Tuff- what a bizarre and fun guy and time. His first set in the barn was waaaaay to loud to enjoy, but we enjoyed watching him from just outside and he shredded well on the main stage.
Lone Bellow- this was our favorite performance of the weekend. Fairly traditional folky bluegrass with an almost gospel feel to it. What I usually say when I talk about this show is that it was so palpable how good of a time they were having, which means so much and helps create such a special vibe. We are just outside of frame in this video.
Andrew Bird was fantastic as expected in the peaceful Woods Stage.
Marco Benevento- one of the real true surprises of the weekend. It was the last day, and we were looking to get away from the giant crowd waiting to see Feist, so we snuck over to a smaller stage and caught his bizarre piano party. I can't find any videos, which almost makes me feel better since I have a good memory and get to keep this one to myself.
Honorable Mention: Pure Bathing Culture, Yellowbirds
In the fall, we were in recovery mode from an insane summer. Emily started school again, I got back into a work groove after missing a lot of days for weddings and such. We saw a few more performances from bands we'd been checking out. Laura Marling was great live. Langhorne Slim played an inspired but poorly mixed set at the Wonder and broke our ears. I bought a lot of records, and listened to even more. And that's 2013, and my life so far. What's it to you?