With 2013 now in the books, I’d like to share some of my favorite albums of 2013. After Polica dropped their debut album digitally on December 20th, 2011, I’ve learned to wait until the year is over to share my favorite albums – don’t want to miss one!
These might not be the critic’s choices, but these are albums I like, and almost all of them I’ve bought on vinyl this year. In no particular order:
Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart – 89.3 The Current started spinning the second track from this album, The Way I Tend to Be, just a few months ago, and I fell in love. Giving the album a listen on Rdio, and then his back catalog, I realized how many of his songs I knew, without even knowing who the artist was. This is a fantastic album with catchy hooks and amazing lyrics. The only downside is the vinyl album didn’t come with an MP3 download card.
Free Energy - Love Signs – As a child and fan of everything 80s (well, maybe except the fashion), I love the 80s style power pop of this album. It started the year out with a bang and this albums knows exactly what it is – unapologetic pure fun.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me – I’ve always liked The National – and this album, along with their previous effort, really solidified for me how good they really are.
Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe In – This is arguably my favorite album of the year. I’m just kicking myself for not going to see them at First Avenue earlier this year. Chvrches brings back that 80s power synth sound and merges it with today’s indie movement. Fantastic debut album.
Dessa – Parts of Speech – Local singer / songwriter / poet and member of the Doomtree collective. Good songwriting combined with her and Aby Wolf’s vocals made this a great album. The lead single, Warsaw, was nothing like she’s done as a solo artist and hit me like a hammer the first time I heard it. The Current did a special with her live at the Fitzgerald Theater, Dessa Deconstructed, which combined a live interview with Dessa mixed with a live performance. It’s available on YouTube and my favorite part was where she broke down the making of Warsaw.
Mikal Cronin – MCII – I took a gamble on this album as I’m a fan of most artists on the Merge label, and it quickly became a favorite of mine. I was quite happy to see this make a bunch of “Best of 2013″ lists as it didn’t seem to have much buzz or airplay.
Superchunk – I Hate Music – When I started running again early this summer, this was my go to album. If you’re a Superchunk fan, there’s not a lot new here, but it’s a short album at 40 minutes, and fast paced with a good beat. I’ve always liked Superchunk and this album doesn’t disappoint.
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – Neko Case’s last album, Middle Cyclone, was the first vinyl album I bought when I got back into vinyl a few years ago, on clear vinyl on the second Record Store Day, no less. I’m a huge fan of the New Pornographers, of whom she is a member, and I’ve always enjoyed her solo work. It’s much more personal and raw, and this album is especially so as Ms. Case has talked about her struggles leading up to this album as she was depressed and grieving the loss of her grandmother.
Volcano Choir – Repave – Is there anything Justin Vernon of Bon Iver does that doesn’t turn into gold? The second album he was a part of in 2013 (the first being the blues rock Shouting Matches), Repave is the second release by Volcano Choir and one in which he didn’t write any of the songs, but still retains a very Bon Iver feel. There’s not a lot I can say about this that Barb Abney of 89.3 The Current hasn’t already said.
Har Mar Superstar – Bye Bye 17 – Six or seven years ago I was volunteering at MPR and they handed me a few CDs for helping out for an afternoon. One of them was of Har Mar Superstar, whom I hadn’t heard of at the time, but quickly learned to love. With the lead single, Lady, You Shot Me, Sean Tillman aka Har Mar Superstar takes us back to the old soul sound and it works.
Caroline Smith – Half About Being a Woman – Another local Minnesota artist, Ms. Smith ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for her latest album of which I participated in. When the vinyl reward ran late ran late, she sent all of her vinyl backers a copy of the CD, which was a great touch as we had already received access to the MP3 download. Like Har Mar Superstar above, her album is a tribute to the classic Motown soul sound and after a few listens, you will forget that it came out in 2013.
Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady – this soulful, funky concept album has received rave reviews and not enough airplay. This is unlike most music out there and if you haven’t listened to it yet, go do it now. It will make you dance.