This is the year I became a dad, voted for Jill Stein, learned to drive, fell in love with Wall of Sound Records, rode my bike crosswise across the city three days a week for work, discovered old-timers like Lefty Frizzell, Carroll Thompson, Coleman Hawkins, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Soul Stirrers, and the Clean, and listened to new music ardently, locally, and indulgently. Here’s my musical story, A to Z, January to December.
Albums: Sweat through your cardigan
Jherek Bischoff, Composed. The jam of our house’s cloudy June. Grand and unfussy and moving. Full of great singers singing words secondary to their timbres against the timbres of violin and rolling drum.
Mark Eitzel, Don’t Be a Stranger. I sometimes forget about singer-songwriter music! His close-mic’d, cracked voice against the gentle production is bliss, throwing into relief lyrics like “I did not mean to scare your sad little brat” and “I control my arms and my legs and my hands and my hair and my face, like I’m holding a gun in a video game.”
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon/Ocean Roar.
Nas, Life Is Good. Lots of smart people have called “Accident Murderers,” “NASTY,” and “The Don” returns to form and I agree; still, I replay it most often not for the singles but for the deliberate throwback Eric B/New Jack ease of the album tracks. Plenty of MCs have sounded great on this kind of spry, jazzy stuff, but Guru couldn’t rap like this; hell, even Rakim couldn’t rap like this.
Swans, The Seer. Odin’s housecleaning music. At first listen I resisted the macho gigantism– the moments I like least feel like the charge on Helm’s Deep— but I’m now crazy about the ambition, the thunder-and-light-speed. Plus Karen O’s Gira impression.
THEESatisfaction, awE naturalE. Some critics hated on this record because they couldn’t understand why two poets would make a groove album instead of a voice album. But those critics are idiots!
Voices from the Lake, Voices from the Lake. A pure midnight half-submerged live humid stir and hum. Wish it never ended. My spell of the year.
Your Heart Breaks, Harsh Tokes and Bong Jokes. Songs fans have heard Clyde play for years given a show-up-tune-up-and-roll-tape recording.
Songs: Imagination is more important than knowledge
Paul Baribeau, “Eight Letters.”
Big Boi, “Lines (feat. A$AP Rocky and Phantogram),” “Thom Pettie (feat. Killer Mike and Little Dragon)”: I concede, this record’s joy and sex and weirdness did not stir me up quite like Sir Lucious, so what?
Chairlift, “I Belong in Your Arms.”
Clams Casino, from Instrumental Mixtape Vol. 2: I love all the beats he made for A$AP Rocky with Rocky’s (sorry) atrocious rapping removed.
Mac DeMarco, “Ode to Viceroy.”
Mark Eitzel, “I Love You but You’re Dead.”
Earth, “A Multiplicity of Doors“: Saw the release show for this record two weeks before Finn was born; Jupiter and Venus came out together every night, our camellia bloomed, and everything seemed to lean enormously toward life.
Fabulous Diamonds, “Lothario“: Spent a dollar on this song for its circling-the-sun-drain sort of vitality and endlessness.
Four Tet, “Pyramid“: That’s a Jennifer Lopez sample!
Nils Frahm, “Keep“: A dream: the only song off Felt you don’t need headphones and solitude for.
Fresh Espresso, “Hush.”
Guided by Voices, “Class Clown Spots a UFO,” “God Loves Us,” “Keep It in Motion,” “The Challenge Is Much More,” “Waving at Airplanes,” “Waking Up the Stars“: Didn’t hear their middle reunion record, didn’t think much of the first, enjoyed most of the last, happy with these as the gold-plated keepers.
Damien Jurado, “Museum of Flight“: Heard this one during layoff week. Instantly fell in love in my drafty cube.
Killer Mike, “Untitled (feat. Scar)”: Mike’s ‘big beast’ voice and El-P’s square-edged digital beats made this record too much for me to throw on, except for this one. Word to the ladies.
Lapalux, “Moments (ft. Py).”
Lone, “Lying in the Reeds.”
Lower Dens, “Propagation.” Swans and Jana Hunter probably get their organic produce at the same haunted-forest farmer’s market.
Mount Eerie, “House Shape” and “Pale Lights.” Flattened by the latter sitting on the dirty church floor at Unknown, two chords that seemed like they’d never stop, through an actual smoke machine and a storm sunset blood-purple and bubbling out the high windows! The center songs of their respective records.
of Montreal, “Dour Percentage“: The only keeper off a record I felt let down by, too much mannered ugliness in the music, not enough fun Batailley lamprey-unicorn sex…
Amanda Palmer & Grand Theft Orchestra, “Want It Back“: The stickiest one off of this exploding autoerotic cannibal of a record.
Jai Paul, “Jasmine“: This song feels like someone blowing incense smoke on you.
Shed, “Day After.”
Unnatural Helpers, “Hate Your Teachers.” My three favorite chords.
Usher, “Climax“: You know this one, right?
Your Heart Breaks, “Blood Brothers”: Up the wolf dykes!
With a shoutout to all the presumably great records I didn’t get a chance to listen to this year because I’m too busy or because my baby hated them or because everyone who uses the library got to them ahead of me or because I was too broke to buy them: Converge’s All We Love…, Sun Araw’s collaboration with the Congos, Bat For Lashes’ Haunted Man and Corin Tucker’s Kill My Blues. See you in 2013!