Top Five Listens of 2013 Thus Far, Mono Edition

Posted: June 27, 2013 by mwerntz in Music Reviews

In pure bullet-point style, with commentary. NO PICTURES. We’re going minimalist, son.

The older I get, the less I find that I have time to pay attention to the breadth of music. My CD collection is a wasteland of genres, of various themes and phases that represent a period of time in my life when I was gobbling up everything I could get my hands on. These days, I honestly find it more difficult to care as much. Case in point: I’m going to the Austin City Limits festival in September, and I’m glad that I have over two months to get to know the bands, as there’s lots of stuff (which I’m sure will be good, and which I’m sure I should get to know). But my inclination is to just to wait around for the Wilco set and nod at the rest.

WITH THAT CAVEAT, my 5 recommended listens of 2013 thus far. It’s a hodge-podge of old and new. Okay–curmudgeon-mode disengaged.

1) Kings of Convenience–Declarations of Dependence

This one popped up on my Spotify radio one day, and I couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s beautiful, lush guitar duets by two Swedes that sound like they’re California beach bums. Best paired with early morning, coffee, and paper grading. Think of what would happen if Simon and Garfunkel had a little Xanax and sat on the beach instead of moping around the grey streets of NYC. This album’s actually from 2009, but is new to me. It’s my list.

2) Josh Ritter–The Beast at the Door

My wife turned me on to Josh Ritter a few years ago with his Animal Years album, which I can’t say enough about. His recent novel, Bright’s Passage is just okay, but don’t hold that against him, because even evil geniuses can’t hit home runs every time. His new offering was written in the wake of his recent divorce, which means for the first time, his songs are semi-autobiographical. They still carry his signature lyrical precision and imagery, but have a much more raw feel to them.

3) The National–Trouble Will Find Me

The National continues to be one of my low-fi favorites. Their sound has really hit a groove in the last two albums, mixing ethereal imagery with straightforward rhythm guitar and drum schemes. No fancy guitar solos, no break-out drum solos–just well-written moody lyrics hung over driving music. This latest one, as others have observed, has a more melancholy feel than their first albums, which had the sense of them about to take over the world. Best paired with a late-afternoon work day or an evening drive.

4) Frightened Rabbit–Pedestrian Verse

I don’t care what Kanye has done; I don’t care what the critics say: this is the album of the year. With every album, this Glasgow-based band adds depth and verve to their sound, which is somewhere between late 90s glam punk and late 90s Radiohead. Go listen to the words of “State Hospital”, and you’ll buy this in a second. Best paired with days ending in “y”.

5) Daft Punk–Random Access Memories

I picked up their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy on a whim, and couldn’t put it down. This is a much different kind of album–less pure electronica and more old-school soul, featuring cameos from Pharrell (which–where has this guy been???) and a host of other soul-bending artists. Pure fun, great early morning music when I want to overcome late morning slumps and remind myself that the day has much more awesome to be sifted out of it.

  1. Kiki Malone says:

    There are not enough happy pills to get me into The National. That stuff is sadness personified. The National’s sound is like a transgendered Mazzy Star with a kitchen faucet constant whiskey drip. No thanks.

    Funny you should mention the new Daft Punk: I was listening to it this morning thinking that I needed to send you a link to “Fragments of Time” with some reference to the Squeeze / Hall and Oates improving throwback sound. Track #3 is worth the entire price of admission. This album probably would have made my list except that I bought the record Monday and wrote my list Wednesday. That’s not enough time to justify placement.

    Are you going to see Lionel Richie at ACL?

  2. mwerntz says:

    I cannot wait to see Lionel Ritchie. I’ll be dancing on the ceiling in anticipation.

  3. kmriad says:

    Sharif likes Daft Punk. He had me pre-order their new album on iTunes, which we never do. And then he kept playing it. And a disagreement ensued. He liked it, I thought it could substitute for the XANADU soundtrack.

    Anything that sounds like Radiohead catches my attention so I’ll have to check that out. I envy you for ACL; I believe Kings of Leon will be there.

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