Here is my favorite music from 2013*! It comes with a Spotify playlist**. Enjoy!
*: The end of the year music-rush as tastemakers share their own lists and I listen listen listen always has a slightly sad-sex quality, appetite dulling taste; there’s lots of music I’m loving now that I’ve only learned about in the last two weeks and hence can’t get far enough from to see how long I’ll keep loving it. Sorry, Perfect Pussy and Earl Sweatshirt! Look for another music post in a few months.
ALBUMS: “losing the fight”
Dur-Dur Band, Volume 5. A cassette from Mogadishu’s premier pre-Civil War dance group, put out by the blog Awesome Tapes from Africa, who shares rips of its found cassettes free until their owners come forward. Then, ATFA prints physical copies and splits licensing to bring the music back into print. I know diddly else about horn-of-Africa music, but the feel here is hard funk with the effortless glissando and odd scales I associate with Zanzibar’s big band pop.
Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic.
Lovers without Borders, Detective (International Pop Underground #142) and “Stuck inside Port Townsend” b/w “Man Vacation.” As a sideman, Karl Blau has anchored stellar records by Earth, Your Heart Breaks, and the Microphones, and live, he’s wooly, daddish, and way fun, but I’ve never loved his solo recordings: Zebra felt overhoned and deoxygenated, and Shell Collection and the KLAPS self-bootleg series too kitchen-sinky for me to play again. But this single and little EP (made with Jessica Bonin and Alex Parrish) might be my very favorite pieces of indie spirit I’ve heard all year. I don’t know who writes what, but Blau’s warm flexible voice is perfect for the hooks and the music is so fun I want to run out and have them over for soup. I can’t stop playing these.
Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle.
Nacho Picasso, High & Mighty. “Syrup in my limeade / Cheer up, child, crime pays.” His kingdom extends from his recliner down Rainier Avenue: drama without anxiety: punchlines with gravity.
Retribution Gospel Choir, 3. Two side-long songs. “Can’t Walk Out” is a big slow-slashing pounding monster, but “Seven” is even better, like watching a stormcloud break up into sunlight. My favorite new soulshake since Mount Eerie’s Ocean Roar.
Rhye, Woman. Mike Milosh, the angelic countertenor who fronts Rhye, starts the record with “I’m a foooooool for that shake in your thighs,” and goes on to float, all patience and reverie and restrained desire, over this album’s clean pulse. The record is sexy without Milosh’s appeals and dreams reading macho; he makes me think of Sade. I filed Woman as background makeout and work music until I played it for the tenth time for just me.
Super Mama Djombo, Festival reissue. I’ve wondered for years if I’d find music from Portuguese-occupied Africa with just this sort of flowing melancholy sensuous energy. An ex-Boy Scout troupe ensemble from Guinea-Bissau– a country almost destroyed by the spite of its ex-colonial masters and the murder of its leader-to-be, Marxist intellectual Amilcar Cabral– sing (what I’m told are) anti-imperialist reflections and lover’s yearnings over music that I’d say reminds me of fado, if that didn’t get the line of influence backward.
Wishbeard, It’s All Gonna Break EP.
SONGS: “Wrapped up in my space lover cocoon”
A$AP Rocky, “Fuckin’ Problems” (feat. 2 Chainz, Drake, Kendrick Lamar). Face it, I told myself, this record is bursting with charm, obscene self-assurance, and invention. This tune tore the floor up at Lick last month.
Autre Ne Veut, “Play by Play.” This like last year’s “Constant Conversations” makes me wonder if agony what white dance-raised tinkerers will mainly bring to their 90′s R&B remakes: as a white tinkerer myself I can relate.
Neko Case, “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.”
Cassie, “Sound of Love” (ft. Jeremih). The bedroom song of the year. Not on Spotify.
Bob Dylan, the demo of “Went to See the Gypsy” on Another Self Portrait.
Grouper, “Cover the Long Way.” From a collection of guitar-and-singing as opposed to loops-and-whispering recorded in 2008.
Haim, “The Wire.”
Low, “Just Make It Stop.” Like the Mekons and unlike, say, Galaxie 500, they’re living solders instead of dead legends. This year’s Invisible Way, like most of their records, is great in places. This one, featuring Mimi, is my favorite.
M.I.A., “Bring the Noize.” Rapping her ass off.
Janelle Monae, “Dance Apocalyptic.” My sweetie’s line is that she links everything about Janelle Monae– funk, futurism, virtuoso-everything– except the whole thing. I agree: her records can feel overworked for me, too heavy for flight. But with exceptions, such as this morning babyjam.
Mountains, “Propeller.” The emotional force of this buzzy bright landscape increases by the square of the volume: turn it up.
Phosphorescent, “Song for Zula.”
Robert Pollard, “Airs.”
Nathan Salsburg, “First Field Path.” The world of solo guitar is so dominated by disciples of John Fahey— chilly, Bartokish tunes and Mississippi-style slide played three-over-two— that Nathan Salsburg’s record, grounded in Anglo-American ballad-style playing, was a breath of fresh air, restrained and graceful and full of stories. The opener is my favorite. Not on Spotify.
Marnie Stern, “Year of the Glad.” Listen to those first five seconds: what’s guitar, what’s voice?
Laura Stevenson, “Runner.”
Justin Timberlake, “Spaceship Coupe.” When we drop the needle and JT sings, “There’s only room for two,” my housemate Alex asks, “–Wait, who are you bringing?” before JT replies, “Me and you.”
Tricky, “Is That Your Life” (feat. Francesca Belmonte). Either I or KEXP’s afternoon programming has changed and I’m bored with it more often, but “Is That Your Life,” which popped up as I crossed Georgetown one hot-ass 2 p.m., killed me, the way the bottom falls out of the groove for a fraction of a second, the way Francesca Belmonte’s sweet, threatening vocal line closes in.
Kurt Vile, “Wakin on a Pretty Day.” An ordinary miracle of a song. This summer, my music life-partner Andy sent me a mix starting with this one and I was pleased by the first four minutes, totally disarmed and moved when it went amblingly on for another five.
**: I was looking forward to hating Spotify until our house bought an account and I found it impossible to resist. They pay artists pennies a month, but if I buy more music because of it (and I do, shit-tons more), my conscience abides it. What do you think?