Friday, December 20, 2013

Rock Albums XIII: Favorite Albums 2013

This is my 3rd Annual Year End Favorite Albums list. I haven't posted in this blog for a while as I have been crazy busy... but this year end list is one I enjoy doing. It's a time capsule of sorts for me.

As with previous years my primary taste in music is alt-rock, experimental rock and modern rock. To be sure, though this list also includes some jazz, country, industrial, electro-gaze, sophisiti-pop, indie pop/dream pop and blues.

A few of these albums were released in 2012, though I did not purchase them until late in 2012 or some time in 2013 and were influential to me in 2013.

In case you wish to see my previous lists here are the links:

Without further interruption it is with pleasure I present my 15 Favorite Albums of 2013

15. Ultramarine by Young Galaxy
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Label: Paper Bag Records
Producer: Dan Lissvick
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: 75 out of 100
Notes: Young Galaxy is a Canadian band formed in 2005. Their sound is often categorized as indie pop or dream pop. "Ultramarine" is their 4th studio album. With "Ultramarine" Young Galaxy digs further into an atmospheric slow burning sophisticated pop which they developed with their previous album "Shapeshifting." Lead singer, Catherine McCandless' warm voice is enveloped with adrenalized synthesizer moods.

Young Galaxy - Pretty Boy

                                              14. Ride by Wayne Hancock

Release Date: February 25, 2013
Label: Bloodshot Records
Producer: Lloyd Maines
Chart Positions: #68 US Country Music charts
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: Not Rated
Notes: Wayne Hancock comes as close to Hank Williams as anyone can, even Hank's grandson Hank Williams III agrees. With "Ride" Hancock once again shines with his brand of traditional rootsy honky tonk bluegrass sounds. Hancock is a rebel in a business that is cut-throat. Though he's been on the music scene since 1995 he's yet to make it into the mainstream. Hancock however will manage to be remembered for his contribution to country music and he's has caught the attention of many in the industry - yet he continues to release his music on the independent Chicago label Bloodshot Records avoiding the glare of the big-time. "Ride" is Hancock's first album to chart on any Billboard chart reaching #68 on the country chart.

 Wayne Hancock - Ride

 13. The Jazz Age by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra

Release Date: November 26, 2012
Label: BMG Rights Management
Producer: Bryan Ferry, Rhett Davies
Chart Positions: #1 (US Jazz Albums), #35 (US Top Independent Albums), #50 (UK)
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: 73 out of 100
Notes: Ferry says he went back to the music he liked when he was a young pre-teen. I have always been a Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry fan and this album came out as a complete surprise. At first I skipped over it and then around January of 2013 I realized I must purchase it as I have everything else Ferry has recorded. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the jazz stylings on this album - I'm a huge fan of jazz music - primarily hard bop, fusion and free jazz. This album is more along the lines of a traditional big band jazz style and is oh so tasty. Ferry's Orchestra covers songs recorded by Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry (solo). Ferry does not sing nor does he play any instruments on this album. He is credited as a co-producer and director. Many of the same musicians that worked on Ferry's 1999 album "As Time Goes By." My favorite track is "Love Is The Drug," on this album which is full of highlight after highlight. "Love Is The Drug" is featured on the 2013 soundtrack for the film "The Great Gatsby."

Bryan Ferry Orchestra - Love Is The Drug 

12. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Label: PIAS
Producer: Jacquire King
Chart Positions: #1 (Belgium & Netherlands), #4 (Germany & Switzerland), #6 (UK), #7 (Greece), #9 (Ireland & Italy), #10 (Austria & Portugal) and also many other countries outside of the Top Ten. #17 (US Top Heatseekers)
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: 55 out of 100
Notes: Upon first listen I felt this album was a bit of a step down from their previous album "In This Light on This Evening," though with subsequent plays I came to really enjoy this album. It is a slight change in direction for Editors. The sound is crisp and tight as usual with a heavy synthesizer base. Most prominently Editors have put Justin Lockey's guitar work front and center enveloping lead singer, Tom Smith's rich and deep baritone. These songs have a nice underlying bass rhythm which I find to be very appealing.

Editors - A Ton Of Love

11. The Sun, The Cold and My Underwater Fear by X Marks The Pedwalk

Release Date: August 14, 2012
Label: Metropolis
Producer: Sevren Ni-Arb
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: no rating
Notes: This album continues X Marks The Pedwalk's digging into some personal discoveries. The music is dark and trance-like with some outstanding beats and rhythms enveloped in an eerie sort of warmth. XMTP once again tops themselves. With each successive album tthe lyrics become more introspective and the musical arrangements are diversely complex. XMTP represents the best in electro-industrial genre.

 X Marks The Pedwalk - The Side Of Wrong

10. Synethesia by Hands 

Release Date: April 30, 2013
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Producer: Hands
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: 59 out of 100
Notes: Synesthesia is a great and infectious pop album with a synth groove to it. From Los Angeles, CA Hands is a quartet formed in 2010 and released their debut album in 2013. Their music is filled with rhythmic guitar work, big drums, fat bass and electronic rhythms. Their music is highly influenced by Hot Chip, Phoenix and Depeche Mode.Hands is a band to watch.

Hands - Videolove

9. Equinox by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

Release Date: January 1, 2013
Label: Rodriguez Lopez Productions
Producer: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: No Rating
Notes: This album is the second release in a trio of albums Omar released between January 1 and January 2, 2013. This trio capitalizes on Omar's use of synthesizers, sequencers and muted vocals. He picks up where Pink Floyd left on in the experimentation of electronics. This album has been categorized as prog-rock and psychotic rock. What I enjoy most from this album is the huge leaps Omar takes in intervals while playing guitar. This method creates an otherworldly effect that just leaves me spellbound. Omar has been my favorite musician since 2008.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Lovely Rain

8. Uncanny Valley by Midnight Juggernauts

Release Date: June 14, 2013
Label: Ais/Siberia
Producer: Midnight Juggernauts
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: 57 out of 100
Notes: "Uncanny Valley" is decidedly more ambient and moody than their previous efforts. This may be due to the fact that the album was recorded in a church in French Loire Valley. This album is sonically amazing with effects and laser sharp sounds crossing back and forth meshing into pure ecstacy. The album overall is an assemblage of mellow moods that elevate to a restful place. My favorite song is "Ballad Of The War Machine," this song was released as a music video prior to the album. The video was released anonymously under the guise of an 80's Russian band. Before the album was released Midnight Juggernaut's identity was revealed as the true artists of the video.

Midnight Juggernauts - Ballad Of The war Machine

7. The Moon Is My Sun by (((s)))

Release Date: September 1, 2012
Label: AFMusic
Producer: Nils Lassen
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: No Rating
Notes: Producer Nils Lassen is the man behind this esoteric work which is an guitar heavy electronic throwback to 80's new wave. This album is totally delicious. It's a great listen from beginning to end. (((s))) is an ungoogable band from Germany which inspires notions of mystique and curiosity with it's unusual take on music. My favorite tracks are "Swimming In Lava" and "Lovething" but really the entire album is pure gold.

(((s))) - Swimming In Lava

6. Get Up! by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite

Release Date: January 29, 2013
Label: Stax
Producer: Chris Goldsmith / Ben Harper
Chart Positions: #27 (US), #13 (France)
Certifications: None
Metacritic Rating: 79 out of 100
Notes: Ben Harper temas up with bluesman Charlie Musselwhite and scores an indisputable winner. Harper playes one mean slide guitar while Musselwhite brings us some great harmonica work. This is blues-rock that is well worth a few listens. Even-though Charlie Musselwhite's contribution is huge on this album it is still Ben Harper's show and he manages to deliver without a hitch.

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite - I'm In, I'm Out and I'm Gone

5. Bankrupt! by Phoenix

Release Date: April 19, 2013
Label: Loyaute, Glassnote, Atlantic
Producer: Phoenix, Philippe Zdar
Chart Positions: #4 (US, Canada), #14 (UK), #3 (France), #5 (Australia), #10 (Ireland), #17 (Scotland) #18 (Germany), #20 (Japan), #21 (Belgium), #22 (Switzerland), #27 (New Zealand), #31 (Austria), #33 (Norway), #34 (Denmark), #48 (Spain), #57 (Holland), #94 (South Korea)
Certifications: NoneYet
Metacritic Rating: 72 out of 100
Notes: Bankrupt! is Phoenix's fifth studio album. I first noticed them with their 2009 "Wolfgang Amadeus" I considered purchasing that album but it just did not interest me enough to buy it. Right when I first saw "Bankrupt!" I knew I wanted to buy it. I listened to a few samples and my mind was made up. Phoenix is a band from France (silly me I always assumed they were from Arizona). "bankrupt!" offers everything I enjoy on a good modern rock album... great guitars, excellent percussive rhythms, hot synth beats and a hint of ambient sounds. What I like the best is the skillful wordplay in many of the lyrics.

Phoenix - Entertainment

4. Bright Black Heaven by Blaqk Audio

Release Date: September 11, 2012
Label: Superball Music
Producer: Blaqk Audio, Jade Puget
Chart Positions: #43 (US)
Certifications: NoneYet
Metacritic Rating: 59 out of 100
Notes: Blaqk Audio is a duo of former members from the group AFI. Critics have categorized them as goth-disco. Their sound is very reminiscent to early 80's electronic new wave ala Depeche Mode.

                                 Blaqk Audio - Cold War


3. Woman Gives Birth To Tomato by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

Release Date: January 1, 2013
Label: Rodriguez-Lopez Productions
Producer: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Chart Positions: None
Certifications: NoneYet
Metacritic Rating: No Rating
Notes: Omar goes above and beyond with his guitar and synthesizers and creates a free jazz sound unlike any other. With this album Rodriguez-Lopez joins the ranks of the great jazz artists and brings us a completely successful artful project that just crawls right into your brain and stays there for hours. My favorite tracks are "Long Beach, California" and "Pueblo Mexico" I can close my eyes and listen to these pieces and just imagine myself in each locale. Thank you Omar for such a great experience!

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Pueblo Mexico

2. My Head Is An Animal by Of Monsters And Men

Release Date: April 3, 2012
Label: Republic Records
Producer: Of Monsters And Men, Aron Arnarsson, Jacquire King
Chart Positions: #1 (Australia, Ireleand), #3 (UK), #4 (Canada, Germany, New Zealand), #5 (Holland), #6 (US), #14 (Belgium), #17 (Austria)
Certifications: 2x Platinum (Canada, Iceland), Platinum (Australia, New Zealnd), Gold (Germany, Ireland, US)
Metacritic Rating: 66 out of 100
Notes: Of Monsters And Men was formed in Iceland in 2010 (Bjork is no longer Iceland's only great export). Their debut album "My Head Is An Animal" is a huge hit worldwide having made it into the Top 40 in 14 countries. I was shopping at a Home Depot store when I heard the song "King and Lionheart", I could not make out the lyrics at first I thought singer, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, was singing "flying high" instead of lionheart and I kept running into dead-ends searching for the song. Finally (about a month later) I was able to stop and really listen to the song and realized she was saying "lionheart" and from there I was able to find the group and immediately fell in love with their sound.

Of Monsters And Men - King And Lionheart

1. Big TV by White Lies
White Lies - Big TV (click here for more)

Release Date: August 12, 2013
Label: Fiction (UK, Europe), Harvest (US), Universal Music Canada (Canada
Producer: Ed Buller
Chart Positions: #3 (Switzerland), #4 (UK), #10 (Denmark), #11 (Scotland), #14 (Belgium), #19 (Germany), #26 (Poland), #41 (Ireland), #56 (Sweden), #64 (Italy), #129 (France)
Certifications: None Yet
Metacritic Rating: 64 out of 100

Notes: St first I thought Of Monsters And Men's "My Head Is An Animal" was going to be my favorite album but once I gave it some thought and played some of the key tracks from each of these albums I realized that I really love "Big TV" and will love it for some time to come. The songs on this album are timeless and what I love most about the album is that each song sounds like I've known them for years eventhough they were all brand new to me. The album has a very 80's KROQ sort of Giorgio Moroder meets Echo and The Bunnymen meets Duran Duran meets Spandau ballet meets Depeche Mode sound that is refreshing. Again the album is guitar driven electronic music with great beats and rhythms.
White Lies - Big TV

This is it my "Best Of" list for 2013
There are others I loved this year which I will give worthy mention right now:
Billie Joe and Norah - Foreverly (this one may make my best of 2014 list)
Julieta Venegas - Los Momentos (one of my favorite Spanish language singers)
Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God (I love My Morning Jacket)
Atoms For Peace - Amok (I love Radiohead)

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