Jorna’s Totally Kick-Ass Top 10 of 2013
10 – The Avett Brothers – The Magpie & The Dandelion
I didn’t truly appreciate these hickster brothers from North Carolina until I saw them perform on New Year’s Eve. They are like country hipster muppets on speed, flying around the stage while they play everything at double the original pace. I am a pretty serious fan of modern bluegrass, and The Avetts have found a decent mix of twang with rock. Sometimes I feel like they get a little repetitious, churning out albums at full speed, but frankly that’s okay. This one had some good tracks – I like “Open Ended Life” and “Morning Song”, which is quite reminiscent of The Carpenter’s “Life” for me.
9 – Rhye – Woman
This must have been the year of luscious sounding ladies. Like classier slow jamz for women. A bit breathy, “Open” is the perfect track to set off this great collection from Rhye. A little synth, a little bass, a lot of love. Think of this as a great album to play during the dinner you made for that special someone when you hope it ends with breakfast the next morning.
8 – Phosphorescent – Muchacho
I went on a first (and only) date with a guy this summer, and prior to our meeting I had mentioned I really liked “Song for Zulu”. He showed up with the entire Phosphorescent collection burned onto CD for me. Which turned out to be great, as Muchacho spent weeks in my car player. I’m sorry he wasn’t nearly as interesting. The album reminds me of Gotye’s Making Mirrors in which the most popular track is a good stand alone but introduces the listener to a whole new sound. “Song for Zulu” is amazing. But “Muchacho’s Tune” is probably my 2nd fave.
7 – Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return
The closest I’ll get to an EDM pick of the year. More chill than the 2a set at an old school Milwaukee rave, yet more upbeat than The Weeknd. Great getting ready to go out on a Saturday night music. I like this one on repeat as pleasant noise as I do other things… like work. No need to get too involved, just enjoy it. Go straight to “Say That” for a good sample of the album.
6 – Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
This album came baby, baby, baby right on time! There’s nothing wrong with Vampire Weekend, they are easy to listen to, fun and perfect for a summer party backdrop. They aren’t super deep, despite the self-proclaimed themes of faith and mortality, or maybe that’s just because the lyrics are set against bouncy guitar rhythms and male valley-girl voices. I got hooked by “Diane Young” but “Unbelievers” take a close second spot.
5 – Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love
I want to be friends with the band members and take selfies of us having a great time doing mundane things like “eating at Denny’s – LOL!” or “taking the train!” They just seem fun. And so is Beta Love. Like previous releases, the happy-go-lucky feel of this album makes me want to dance and be 21 again. But only for maybe a long afternoon J Anyway, “Dance With Me” and the title track, “Beta Love” are good places to start your own friendship with Ra Ra Riot.
4 – The Head & The Heart – Let’s Be Still
Nearly two years later, I still have their debut album on my go-to playlist, so I had pretty high hopes for Let’s Be Still. The Head & The Heart are probably my favorite hipsters – they seem to be in awe of their success and grateful for the chance to play cool music that people like. This album moves at a slower pace than their previous one, but shows a maturity to their sound, a greater depth. I guess everyone has to grow up a little sometime. I’m a fan of “Homecoming Heroes”, “My Friends” and of course, “Shake”.
3 – Lorde – Pure Heroine
She’s barely legal to drive a car so what does she know about Maybachs and Cristal? But I don’t care, I’m caught up in a love affair. Lorde blew me away. I first heard “Royals” while shakin’ my ass at La Cage and figured it was some random pop star mix I had missed because I don’t listen to Kiss FM. The next morning I googled the lyrics I could remember and found Pure Gold, I mean, Heroine. Her voice is less powerful than Adele’s yet she still manages to lure you in with low sexy crooning, adding a side of pop to the show. Her age shows at times, like taking down to the “Tennis Courts” and talking it up like ‘yeah’, and I assume she has one of those crystal encrusted cell phone covers. Doesn’t matter – this album is so fabulous. “Royals” was my Fall jam, but I’m partial to “Team”.
2 – The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I’ve put it in second. I feel like a traitor to the most amazing group of artists of my time. I mean, I think these guys are pure genius. There is never a moment when I am not in the mood for dark, brooding, emotional release through their music. After playing “Sorrow” for hours on end as part of an installation at MoMA it was still a part of their live set this summer. Okay, all gushing aside, Trouble Will Find Me is a little slow to grab you but once it does it won’t let go. The first few singles off the album are alright, but once you get in to tracks like “Humiliation”, “This Is the Last Time” and “Pink Rabbits” you realize just how powerful it is. Many thought they couldn’t live up to their High Violet fame. Instead The National dug deeper, continuing to explore their own growth as parents and partners and now famous rock stars. So even in second, they will always be my number one.
1 – Walker Lukens – Devoted
I was on a 3 hour drive in late Spring and was passing time with All Songs Considered when they played this weirdly catchy song called “Lover” by this guy I’d never heard of named Luke Walken? Luke Skywalker? Walker Lukens. Got home and popped the album up on Spotify, and after a nonstop listening session for about 48 hours I recall emailing a friend saying, “you HAVE to download this guy immediately!” Lukens explores love and love lost, yearning and desire, being let down but not letting it break you. Sounds sappy, I get ya, but trust me on this one. Maybe it was the time in my life that this album came around, or maybe he really is the breakout star of the year. Either way, this folksy at times, pop-y at times, and definitely experimental debut is a great first step for an artist to watch. Listen to the whole thing, again and again, but if you don’t do that, at least check out “Dear Someone” and “Brunch People”.
Shows of the Year:
The National – Milwaukee, WI & Richmond, VA
The Head & The Heart – Richmond, VA
Chatham County Line – Ashland, VA
Songs of the Year:
Avicii - Wake Me Up (yeah, the video was f'd up, but the track is awesome)
Miley Cyrus - We Can't Stop (say what you will, but you know you liked it. And it is pure poetic genius, Shakespearean really - "we run things, things don't run we...")
Lorde - Royals
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Man on Fire
Washed Out - All I Know
Stephen Colbert dancing to Get Lucky