Going off the path here, but indulge me. I love music. I’m sure you love music. Since it’s the end of the year, and soon every media outlet will provide you with their “Top List of _____ for 2013”, I’ll share my top 2013 albums that I’ve enjoyed this year. In no particular order, my favorite albums of this year are:
Arcade Fire – Reflecktor
I’m sure this album will make many a top 10 list this year. And for good reason. It’s brilliant. Immediately engrossing upon pushing “play”, but like all great albums, it has depth that rewards exploration many listens over. I list this album first because I am partial to bands who take the effort to create albums – a comprehensive whole with a vision or theme. Arcade Fire pull it off on Reflektor, both in subject matter and in musical style.
Before the album came out, Arcade Fire streamed the first song off the album, Reflektor. I recall being at work with my headphones on and being captivated by the first choppy organ intro and 10 seconds in the staccato pulsing of drums. But not just drums – lots of percussive sounds. And some dance beats. What’s this? You really must listen to this song with headphones at first – or if you have a great sound system turn it up!
“I thought, I found the connector….” Here we are in 2013, with so many forms of interactive social media that somehow connects us all, and yet one could argue we’re more detached. Walk into a public space and notice how many groups of people hang out together but stare into their smartphones. Click the photo below to watch/hear Arcade Fire’s Reflektor:
While the whole album is great, if you want to sample two other songs, I’d suggest Joan of Arc and Afterlife. Push play, below, to stream Afterlife.
Lissie – Back to Forever
I forgot how I first heard Lissie, but it was in late 2009. I’ve always enjoyed listening to her voice – it’s powerful, raw, and earnest. I like how many of her songs are simple – they just build up over the course of the song. Like the second track off Back to Forever, Further Away (Romance Police):
And the third track, Shameless, is more rock/pop and in your face:
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires
Full disclosure: I wouldn’t know this band if it weren’t for my wife. Thankfully, she turned me onto this band. Their songs are more on the “poppy” upbeat side that are buoyed or adorned with touches of musical styles from across the globe. Here’s a live rendition of Unbelievers:
When I listen to Everlasting Arms, I feel it’s a B-side from Paul Simon’s Graceland album. I would love to hear the Graceland B-side collection, if such a thing exists!
Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers – Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers
It’s great to see how far Nicki Bluhm & Co. have come over the past couple of years. With the assistance of her husband, Tim Bluhm (of the Mother Hips… see the next album pick below), Nicki Bluhm’s singing prowess and chops have steadily improved. It’s really noticeable live. Thanks to the band’s Van Sessions, their exposure is growing, as evidenced by their recent performance on Conan O’Brien. Here they perform “Little Too Late” live in Boulder, CO:
For the Stevie Nicks fans out there, you have to listen to the 3rd song, Ravenous:
The Mother Hips – Behind Beyond
Last, and most assuredly not least in the Natespin playlist (just ask my wife), we come to the Mother Hips and their album, Behind Beyond. They’re only my favorite band, so naturally they make my 2013 top album list. And it’s merited. There’s a maturity to this album lyrically and musically – which is natural when you consider the band members are 40 years old or so now.
Back in the day, they really fought being pigeon-holed into a certain genre. They’ve had country-rock albums, pop rock albums, and jam-band-hippy albums. In Behind Beyond, they infuse it with all of their styles and aren’t afraid of the references or comparisons to other bands. It’s fun to see them stretch out the songs on this album – something that’s always made their live sound better than their records.
You can stream their entire album here. I highly recommend track #2, #3, #5, #7, & #9:
While not from this album, here’s a great song and video (Are You Free) from their previous album, Pacific Dust:
I forgot to mention The National’s album, Trouble Will Find Me. A slew of strong slow burners here from this great group. Hard to pick from the lot, but give Heavenfaced a listen. At the 2:30 mark, there’s a surprising (particularly surprising if you’re familiar with The National’s lead singer’s voice and delivery) shift in octave of Matt Berninger’s baritone voice. It gives a certain poignancy and immediacy to the song. Bono and U2 would be proud to call this song their’s. Another great slow burner is Humiliation near the end of the album. Terrific moodiness.