William’s “Top 13 of 2013”
As the year begins to wind down and we look ahead on the work we have for 2014, all of us at TheBlueIndian.com want to extend our sincere thanks to each of you who have supported us in what marks our fifth year as “Georgia’s Indie Music Hub.” Some of us are newer than others, and we’ve expanded to not only have a close focus on music in Georgia, but to also expose our readers across the globe to the incredible music scenes throughout the Southeast. We asked each of our staff and team of writers to compile a list of their personal favorite releases from 2013 for our year-end features. Since each of us have different preferences, we felt individual lists would be the best way to give maximum exposure to the bands we’ve grown to love. We hope you’ll take the time to listen to these artists and appreciate your feedback. Happy New Year! – TheBlueIndian.com
William Haun’s “Top 13 Albums of 2013″
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Mosquito
It’s been four long years since their “best of 2009” album It’s Blitz!. When I heard the title track and saw the album art for their latest record I had some serious doubts. I mean, that is probably the worst album cover I’ve seen in a long, long while. Nonetheless, when the LP was released it proved to be a great follow-up and addition to the YYYs discography. Even “Mosquito” grew on me over time. Plus, seeing Karon O and band perform live at Atlanta’s Music Midtown was a highlight of the year.
Standout Track: “Despair”
12. Daughter — If You Leave
It may qualify as the most depressing album of the year, but it is pity party I’m more than happy to join. The band released two EPs before settling on this new full-length record put out by label 4AD. I’m definitely looking forward to future releases from these newcomers.
Standout Track: “Youth”
11. Vieux Farka Touré — Mon Pays
Touré’s homeland of Mali in West Africa has been in turmoil for the past two years. Mon Pays (translated My Country) is the musician’s incredible homage to his nation and its rich musical heritage. What makes this album so spectacular is the collaboration with master kora player Sidiki Diabáte, son of famed Toumani Diabáte (who used to collaborate with Vieux Farka’s father Ali Farka). The album is a great introduction to West African music and is one that I listened to over and over throughout the year.
Standout Track: “Future”
10. Valerie June — Pushin’ Against a Stone
Last year, my discovery of Lianne La Havas’ beautiful, soulful voice was an incredible surprise. This year I stumbled across Valerie June whose voice is as ridiculously amazing as her dreads. She blends blues, soul, and Appalachian folk seamlessly on this debut produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Also, a strong contender for best album cover of the year – that hair again!
9. Boards of Canada — Tomorrow’s Harvest
If I had a first love in electronic music, it would be Boards of Canada. Their 1998 Music Has a Right to Children shaped my musical taste buds for years to come. The Scottish duo is known to be mysterious and they never follow the industry standards operating procedure for album releases. This latest was no exception with a crazy, cryptic Willy Wonka golden ticket-esque promo for their first album in eight frigin’ years. While the album is consistent to the classic BoC sound and format, it has a bit of a darker, introspective feel than their past work.
8. Max Richter — Recomposed: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
I never thought I’d be listing a classical music album on here, but here we are. Since his “best of 2008” album 24 Postcards in Full Colour, post-classical composer Max Richter has been busy churning out soundtracks for films. This year he made the gutsy decision to tackle the famed Vivaldi violin concertos The Four Seasons. He pulled it off by stay true to the original pieces, but breathing new life into them. I get goosebumps every time “Spring I” sweeps into my ears. Be sure to take the time to watch NPR’s live recording of Richter & an orchestra performing the piece at Le Poisson Rouge earlier this year.
7. Sam Amidon — Bright Sunny South
Having lived in Appalachia for several years, I have a soft spot for Americana and folk music. Not that hipster Mumford & Sons crap, but authentic, raw tunes that can sound rough at times but have lyrics that are always heartfelt. Amidon has been around a while but he only came across my radar when I first heard his “My Old Friend” track. Probably one of the best tracks of the year.
6. Washed Out — Paracosm
The evolution of Ernest Greene has been fascinating to watch/hear. He basically invented the “chillwave” genre on a laptop in his Perry, GA bedroom four years ago. After a year or two of dozens (hundreds?) of imitators, it became apparent that laptop pop was a short-lived fad. Greene, however, proved his true artistic talent by rising above the hype of his debut album and creating not one but two follow-ups that stand on their own. With Paracosm he expands his musical palate by leaps and bounds to create a musical fantasy world that I found myself returning to explore over and over this year.
5. Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory — Elements of Light
German techno minimalist Hendrik Weber teamed up with a group of Norwegian percussionists to create this ground-breaking record. Steel drums and live percussion have always had a strong presence in Pantha du Prince’s music, but this collaboration took his electronic music to a whole new level. The album came out in January and I have probably played it more than any other new music this year. Watch this short mini-doc about the collaboration to get a better idea of the brilliance of their live performances.
4. Atoms for Peace — AMOK
Atoms for Peace is basically Thom Yorke’s sophomore solo release. The band is comprised of his backing band from his Eraser album in 2006. When compared to the most recent Radiohead album, the glitchy dance pop of AMOK is a testimony to how influential Yorke is on the direction of the band. Some folks hate the new sound, others love it (best demonstrated with this BBC comedy sketch). I fall in the latter group and can’t get enough of Yorke’s falsetto overlaid on dance beats. Keep ’em coming, Yorkie!
Standout Track: “Default,” “Unless” and “Judge Jury and Executioner”
3. Jon Hopkins — Immunity
Hands-down, the best electronic album of the year. Hopkins requires some patience but a careful listen just reveals layer after layer of meticulously crafted subtleties. The beautifully paced record has a perfect balance of synthesized and organic sounds with the closing title track exemplifying it wonderfully. I had a magical experience one night driving in the fog with with this album blaring over my car speakers.
2. Volcano Choir — Repave
I’ll admit that I came to Volcano Choir (like everyone else) simply because it was billed (by the press, not the band themselves) as “the new Bon Iver project.” While Justin Vernon singing lead the album does cater to some degree to that expectation, the genius of the record is that it stands on its own. It isn’t a mere “side project” but a legit band can doesn’t need Vernon’s bona fides. One interesting thing is that like my #1 pick, this album takes the overused & abused Auto-Tune and puts it to beautiful use.
1. Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires of the City
They did it again. Just like their first two releases, Modern Vampires is a near-perfect album where every track is a keeper. We thought their sophomore release Contra could never live up to their mind-blowing debut. It did. With this third LP they’ve shown a maturity and ability to evolve with new sounds and deeper lyrics. That’s a trait that the greatest (and longest standing) bands. I can’t wait for Vampire Weekend albums 4-8.
Standout Track: The whole stinkin’ album. That’s why it’s number 1.