Thursday, January 2, 2014

Best Albums of 2013

I don't think there's such thing as a "bad year for music" anymore. There is so much good stuff out there waiting to be found. Of the albums I got a chance to listen to, here are my favorites of 2013.

16) Jason Boland and the Stragglers - Dark and Dirty Mile
 Veteran Oklahoma band keeps the country music coming, with great lyrics and a hell of a lead singer in Boland.

15) Mandolin Orange - This Side of Jordan
This Carrboro, North Carolina duo has stellar harmonies and a great country-folk sound. 

14) Hog Bucket - Old Mustard
An album of great American music with a sense of humor a mile long and a few resonant moments along the way. (My full review HERE.)

13) Steve Martin and Edie Brickell - Love Has Come For You
Martin's sturdy, non-showy banjo picking and Brickell's strong, unique vocals make for one of the most downright pleasurable listens of the year. Hopefully the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

 12) The Proctors - Everlasting Light
Somehow I stumbled on this album and it took me by complete surprise. The absolute definition of beautiful, jangly guitar pop.

11) Steep Canyon Rangers - Tell the Ones I Love
 Top notch picking, singing, and songwriting from one of the best bands in bluegrass, not to mention hooks and melodies galore.

 10) The Avett Brothers - Magpie and the Dandelion
Despite one or two missteps, the Brothers deliver some of their finest songs in years. (My full [kind of] review HERE.)

9) Widower - Fool Moon 
One of the most lyrically rich albums of the year. A pleasure to listen to. (My full review HERE.)

8) Rhye - Woman
Mixes elements of R & B and electronic-pop to deliver hands down the sexiest album of the year. (Sorry, Matt Berninger, I know that's what you were going for.)

7) Guy Clark - My Favorite Picture of You
This album made me view Clark in the same vein as John Prine. They both make songwriting look easy; it is not. I can't wait to go back and listen through Clark's back catalog.

6) The National - Trouble Will Find Me
The album that made me a fan of The National. Great vocals, great musicianship, great songs. Amazing drumming.

 5) Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
It's still baffling that an album released on a major country label sounds this vital and good. With artists like this getting airplay, maybe in the near future country radio will start having something worthwhile to say again. (My full review HERE.)

 4) Ashley Monroe - Like A Rose
Unapologetic traditional country music. There's fun, heartbreak, weed, and vocal appearances by co-producer Vince Gill and the boy 'round here himself, Blake Shelton (it's worth mentioning that the Shelton duet is nothing like what he shells out to the masses).

3) Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (part one)
This seventy-minute epic finds Timberlake experimenting with different styles and getting a little bit old school. Each song is about seven minutes long, each one changing into something different about halfway through. I love it all, from the opening funk-soul of "Pusher Love Girl" to the song about a romantic getaway in a spaceship ("Spaceship Coupe").

2) Daniel Romano - Come Cry With Me
By just looking at the album cover, you don't know whether Romano wants to be taken seriously. However, one listen of the album makes it clear that he does. Exquisitely produced with an old school touch and with songs that sound like they were written in another era, this is the best country album of the year and one of my favorite new discoveries. And Romano's album cover get-up is pretty stellar.

1) Futurebirds - Baba Yaga
Having seen this album on only one "best of" list, I will go on record as calling it the most underrated album of 2013. Truly an album for any season, any mood, and any medium, from headphones to open windows. It's psychedelic indie country-rock with an exorbitant amount of pedal steel, which every could use a little more of if you ask me. It's an exciting and wonderful album to get lost in. (My full review HERE.)

Other albums I thoroughly enjoyed but that didn't make the list for one reason or another, most likely because I didn't get a chance to listen to them as much.

Jason Isbell - Southeastern

Holly Williams - The Highway

Alan Jackson - The Bluegrass Album

Jars of Clay - Inland

John Moreland - In the Throes

The Black Lillies - Runaway Freeway Blues

Over the Rhine - Meet Me At the Edge of the World

The Steeldrivers - Hammer Down

Phosphorescent - Muchacho

The Tillers - Hand on the Plow

Pilots & Errors - Annex

Red Tail Ring - The Heart's Swift Foot

Zane Williams - Overnight Success

Dawes - Stories Don't End

Other year end lists to check out:

Best Songs of 2013
Best Country Singles of 2013
Worst Country Singles of 2013
Best Albums of 2012
Best Songs of 2012
Best Country Singles of 2012
Best Song of 2011

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