Looking back on a solid year of releases, and after much internal debate, narrowing down my top 10 personal favorites led to this short stack of albums by mostly garage and female-fronted acts.
10. Butter Knife by Audacity (Suicide Squeeze Records)
Audacity's sunshine-drenched pop is best when it's upbeat, as heard on cuts like the riff-heavy "Watered Down," and sing-along anthem "Hole in the Sky." These songs should make you smile as these guys would rather have fun than make pompous attempts at being deep and psychedelic.
9. Deliverance by Shit-Box Jimmy (self-released cassette)
This list's surprise entry comes from the unfortunately named Midwestern outfit Shit-Box Jimmy, who followed up its stellar 2012 debut, Alive at the Door, with an instant blues-punk keeper. It may sound like an extreme comparison, but imagine Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound fronting Dead Moon while paying homage to his two favorite Traveling Wilburys: Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.
February: Dennis Palmer, RIP (Feb. 15)
March: McIntosh County Shouters at Kopleff Recital Hall (GSU) ... Bob Stagner, Roger Ruzow, Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, the Edgewood Saxophone Quartet at First Existentialist Church ... Mercury Orkestar, 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra, Yale Women's Slavic Chorus at the Earl ... Michelle Malone Banned at Eddie's Attic.
April: Joy Kills Sorrow, Daniel Hope and Friends (Schubert octet and Beethoven septet), David Grisman Folk-Jazz Trio, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Marcus Roberts Trio at Savannah Music Festival ... Kat Lea & the Volcanauts (aka Tongo Hiti) at Trader Vic's.
May: Metropolis (1927) with live score by Martin Matalon played by Sonic Generator at Woodruff Arts Center ... Bubbapalooza (multiple artists) at Star Bar (in memory of Gregory Dean Smalley and Earl Maddox) ... Duet for Theremin & Lap Steel, Collaborations album release concert at 529.
Sometimes people buy albums just because the cover is really cool to look at. However, the risk of taking home an album that isn't exactly pleasing to the ears is high. These seven albums from 2013 pass both the good on the eyes and the good ears tests with flying colors.
7. Phosphorescent, Muchacho: This is one of the two photograph album covers included on this year's list. The somewhat sepia mood creates a relaxing tone (at least when I look at it). The album is a dreamy jam that went through a set of samplers, giving the record itself something of a sepia tone.
6. Trinidad Jame$, Don't be S.A.F.E: Is it just me or is anyone else getting a '70s funk album vibe from this cover (reissued via Def Jam in January)? I feel like I'm looking at a post-modern James Brown album or something. Of course, I don't think the king himself would wear as much gold and thick rimmed glasses, but you get the idea. All he needs now is another album with him sitting out in the scenic wilderness.
5. Mood Rings, VPI Harmony: Surrealism in album covers is becoming a trend again. Maybe it's because of the spreading legalization of marijuana. Regardless of mental state, this one is really nice to look at. Mood Rings look like they took a tesselation and added to their album cover. It really helps set the tone for the listener when they press play on their album.
Here are 10 Americana (for lack of a better term) albums (in alphabetical order) that I fully enjoyed this year.
Guy Clark, My Favorite Picture of You
Guy lost his wife and lifelong companion/collaborator Susanna in 2012, and this album is a fine tribute to a wonderful person. Getting on in years himself, Clark has never shied away from dealing with the reality of life's challenging moments, and does so with his usual grace and honesty.
Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait
While the material here is from a three-year stretch (1968-71) when Dylan was going through one of his transformative stages, it stands as a more cogent and listenable collection than the original Self Portrait album. The stripped down demos with David Bromberg are amazing, and the peek into how certain songs mutated over time is fascinating.
Contrary to what you may be hearing on much of terrestrial radio, 2013 was an amazing year for music - especially soul music. Seriously. There was such an abundance of great music, in fact, that narrowing down the best soul sounds released in the past 12 months for my annual list was no easy feat. That said, here's a look at my 13 favorite albums (arranged in no particular order) and my reasons for picking them in 140 characters or less.
Omar, The Man: The legendary vocalist dropped an album that's true to his trademarked classic-soul-meets-the-future style and an evolution of his sound.
great band good style LOUD.!
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It's probably just Halfsheimers.
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My bad, Chad.
Dang oldtimers' disease.
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