The holiday season is here, so that means it’s time to tell you about my favorite ten albums of 2013. Notice I said “favorite” and not “best”. These are the one’s that got the most of my ear time. With that noted, and in no particular order:
I have no idea how I stumbled upon Mop Mop, a six piece group of jazz percussionists and assorted friends who record in Germany. This is a must for fans of marimba, vibes and swirling rhythmic human beats and who won’t have a problem with a couple of totally cool raps. I must have played “Isle of Magic” several times a day for a solid month this summer.
UK’s Wire never cease to amaze me. The core band hails all the way back to the punk years of the late 70’s yet they keep on going with new ideas and updated approaches to their overall signature sound. Several guitarists and music styles later, the band members who are now approaching their 60s, continue to remain on the cutting age with this one.
Guitarist Eddie Angel and Los Straightjackets (the band that performs wearing lucha libre wrestling masks) successfully mine 60’s surf music and hipster tv theme songs on this deliciously low-fi, and fabulously cheesy set of original instrumentals.
EMMYLOU HARRIS & RODNEY CROWELL – Old Yellow Moon
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell came to Santa Cruz early in November and floored the audience with a classy almost 2 and half hour set with songs from their equally classy “Old Yellow Moon” album.
Hard to believe Sir Paul’s 71 now but he hit one out of the park this year with “New”, his first album of original material in umpteen years. He dumps all the cutesy- wootsie and goes absolutely modern thanks to four hotshot young producers. McCartney’s still got it.
More track samples from the album and my October review here.
Valerie June - Pushin’ Against a Stone
Straight out’a Memphis comes Valerie June with her debut album “Pushin’ Against a Stone.” June’s rural-ish Tennessee folk background combined with big city blues and gospel along with her distinctive voice make an all over the place recording. Big things are ahead for this songwriter and guitarist. With quite a following in Europe, June will finally be making her west coast debut in late March 2014.
Listen to more racks from the album and my review here.
NY/Cape Cod boys Vampire Weekend grew up, moved off campus so to speak and delivered their smartest pop album yet. I dare you to get “Hannah Hunt” out of your head.
You can hear that and a few other songs from the album plus my review can be found here.
DAVID BOWIE – The Next Day
After ten years of silence, David Bowie came roaring back earlier this year with the stunning “The Next Day”. The original “deluxe” regular version of “The Next Day
released last Spring has three additional bonus tracks well worth getting. If that’s not enough, in early November, Bowie released 5 more new ones plus groove remixes of “Love Is Lost” and “I’d Rather Be High” compiled on a new EP “The Next Day Extra”. Busy man.
For more album tracks and my review go here.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – Like Clockwise
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s favorite alt rock band from the deserts of SoCal rises again with the help of several old friends and a rehashing of familiar sounds which somehow makes QSA more relevant then ever and impossible not to like all over again.
Canada’s Arcade Fire’s married head honchos took some time off from the Suburbs and visited parts of the Caribbean and South America, and came back recharged with new ideas and new Latin based sounds with “Reflektor”. This two part two cd set is going to blast the band to stadium levels, so good luck getting tickets. Is there another Grammy in the works for these guys?
Like I said, these are the albums, out of the zillion out there I didn’t get around to, that I actually sat down and listened to many times over . -Eric Berg
Also Ear Worthy:
James Hunter – The James Hunter 6 – Knockout blue eyed soul from the U.K. recorded in the U.S. His most solid yet.
Jimi Hendrix – People, Angels & Hell - More superbly Eddie Kramer remastered takes from the seemingly bottomless Hendrix tape vaults. Worth it just for two revealing groovy soul tracks with horns, guest vocals and a nod to Albert King.
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – “Black Pudding” – Alt rock singer/songwriter, Lanegan, he of the whiskey gritty voice, hooks up with multi instrumentalist Garwood whose classical guitar inspired title song leads to a very good pairing. Lanegan is at his finest with the eerie “Mescalito”. Lanegan also makes an appearance on Queens of the Stone Age’s new album “Like Clockwise.
The Cash Box Kings - Black Toppin’ - Familiar but solid fresh sounding real deal Chicago Blues brought to you by the same windy city gang who produce and perform with J.D.McPherson and Los Moroccos. Satisfying.
Kim Lenz – Follow Me – LA’s rockabilly queen returns with her with another killer. Her first since the passing of guitarist Nick Curran.