My Top Ten Albums of 2013

2013-06-20 21.12.10A friend of mine always has a top ten album challenge on Facebook around this time of the year. My own rule for this challenge is that I had to have purchased the album for it to appear on my list. I tend not to rank the albums as I post them, but this year I went ahead and did that too. On the Facebook challenge, I am told that the best format is to countdown — Casey Kasem style. For this, however, I am leading off with the best. That way, I know if people get tired and lose interest halfway through, they at least get my absolute favorites. It has been a good year for music, and many of the albums below have shown up on this blog as I have gotten to know them. If you haven’t experienced some of these, I would truly endorse!

neko

1. Neko Case – The Worse things Get, the harder I fight, the harder I fight, the more I love you

It was a tough choice, but when it came down to making my choice for the number 1, I had to go with my girl, Neko. Like Southeastern, I love this album more every time I hear a song from it. This is one that I seek out videos of live performances because she and her band just appear to have so much delight in performing with each other – including a Tiny Desk Concert where they showed up to play in Halloween costumes. Almost half of the songs begin with her amazing voice and no musical intro. Her voice is a gift. She tells stories that have fantastical elements and heart.

Favorite song of the moment: Calling Cards

jason2.  Jason Isbell – Southeastern

This summer, the night before we left on our roadtrip, we went to see Jason Isbell at Crossroads in Kansas City. We didn’t get to as much music this year as I wanted to, but this one one where I needed to be. I fell in love with Jason Isbell a few years ago when we saw him – again playing solo – at Knuckleheads. I knew his voice from Drive By Truckers, but didn’t really know his solo work. Between those two concerts, the man changed his life. He quit drinking and he found Amanda. He is happy. Southeastern is an album that reflects the journey – heavier on the hard times than the good, but you can hear the regret move to hope. One of the more delightful people that I follow on Twitter and Instagram is Jason Isbell. I don’t know if he would appreciate this description, but he is so smitten with his wife it is darling.

Favorite song of the moment: Stockholm.

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3.  Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

I knew that this was going to be a good album when, on April 27, 2013, Sam posted this on his Facebook page: i didn’t think i could like vampire weekend but this is in early song of year running. Sam had not previously been a fan. He came on board for a reason.It is a pretty fantastic song, and the album keeps the pace with this one. Ezra Koenig, the band’s lyricist is smart and it shows in the songs he writes. There are more references than you can shake a stick at, but they tied into catchy beats and creative instrumentation.

Favorite song of the moment: Step

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4. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – Love Has Come for You

Steve Martin gets top billing on this album, but Edie owns it. As I have written before, her voice is the best. Combining that voice with Americana style is a winning combination.

Favorite song of the moment:  King of Boys

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5. Laura Viers – Warp and Weft

If you don’t know Laura Viers and you like a girl who can kill on guitar, you need to check her out. Many of Laura’s songs are quiet singer/ songwriter pieces, but she can bring on the noisy guitars every now and then. I enjoy both sides.

Favorite song: That Alice (a tribute to John Coltrane’s wife, Alice)

wax

6. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

I had to remind myself (ie I needed to look it up on the Internet) that cerulean is one of the crayon colors that you will find in the big box. While I was doing that research, I also “reminded myself” that Waxahatchee is the name of a creek in Alabama. Waxahatcee the music maker is Katie Crutchfield. Katie is a wonderful guitar player and songwriter, and this is a wonderful listen.

Favorite song of the moment: Tangled Envisioning

courtney7. Courtney Barnett – Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

I have written about Courtney Barnet recently. I am not entirely sure that  it is within the rules to include this one due to its format (double EP) and the fact that some of it was released a previous year. I don’t care. She is one of my favorite music finds this year and if I can get some more listeners for her by including her on my list, I will do so.

Favorite song of the moment: Avant Gardener

sallie8. Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside – Untamed Beast

Sallie and her band were the surprise find of the year when she opened for Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at the Record Bar this year. Girl put on an energy riot show. She kind of reminds me of one of my last year favorites, the Alabama Shakes.

Favorite song of the moment: Bad Boys

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9. Bombadil – Metrics of Affection

Again, I have written about my new found love of Bombadil before. If you just need one nice, kind of mushy song to share with someone you love, you would be hard pressed to find one better than:

Favorite Song of the moment: Thank You.

boy10. Boy – Mutual Friends

Only two of my top ten are male performances. While a person may think otherwise, this is not one of them. These two women write good songs and perform them well. I am glad to have found them this year!

Favorite song of the moment: Boris

I would love it if anyone reading this would just tell me one musical highlight of the year for you. I know I missed  many!

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Last Week’s Good Things

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The days were cool and crisp this week. The trees are really sporting their fall colors. For me, it was a very good week making for an easy post to put together. It starts out in an unusual way, but it certainly supports the theme of this blog.

An exceptional Obituary

I acknowledge that it is a weird habit. We continue to get the daily local newspaper and my day does not start out correctly unless I work through it. Admittedly, I do not read everything thoroughly, but I give it a good skim and read those items that interest me. One part of the paper that I always give a good skim is the obituary section. I have talked to others who also do this, so I know I am not alone. I do not necessarily look for people who I might know, but that has sadly happened. What my eyes gravitate to are the longer write-ups or a eye-catching photo. Last Sunday, I totally came across a gem. The picture showed a grandpa with a child on his knee. Cute photo; check. The write-up was lengthy; check. The content was the best ever. Of course, losing someone is a very sad thing. The best way that I find to work through that loss, however, is to keep the happy memories close. The Brown family reigns on this front. When an obituary starts out “Bill Brown finally stopped bugging everybody on October 15, 2013” and moves on hilariously from there, you know that you are witnessing a life well lived!

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House Celebration

don house-2This week marks twenty-five years of living in our dear house. I remember how exciting move-in day was. We rented a U-Haul. Friends helped us move the few pieces of furniture that we had. We paid them with thanks, beer, and pizza. Over the years, we have managed to acquire furniture enough to fill the rooms. What has been the biggest addition to our home over the years is regularly filling the rooms with people we love. Last night we happily celebrated the years with many old and new friends. Brisket and Macaroni and Cheese seemed like the perfect accompaniment to such a comfortable evening, and it proved to be a perfect choice. Because it was such a beautiful fall day, the patio held the homemade beer, firepit, and festive lights. Starting at 6 PM friends started arriving. Our last friend left before the clock struck 1 AM.

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It is hard to summarize such a night, but it did include arriving visitors being greeted by a cinnamon and clove scented jack-o-lantern designed and created by Ali and Jose, a beautiful martini bar created by Micaela where Kristin was introduced to her first “big-girl” martini, an adorable baby Elsie who charmed everyone and showed an inspired love for mac cheese, Kathie in a dirndl, a story from Scott about the maple trees of Baldwin, Kansas, Don’s beautiful pastel of our house, Melissa arriving proudly with a book that I had lent to her many years ago, a giant Corona bottle pinata inspired by Jose that was bashed with a golf club and offered treats of candy and mini tequilla bottles, a salted caramel snickerdoodle from Laura and almond cookies from Tracy that were mouthwatering, Jim demonstrating how to mix an old fashioned; a Tigers loss and a Cardinals win, and ending the night laughing at YouTube videos of talking dogs and make believe football teams. Once again, I feel particularly lucky.

 Visitors from the South DSCF7636

When we decided to have the house party, Ali said she would try to come. As the time got closer and she prepared to make her reservation, Ali and Jose were an item. Bravely, Jose made the trip from New Orleans to Kansas City to be initiated into Ryan world — super-sized. We broke him in, as any good Kansas City host would do. We fed him tons of food: Bryant’s for barbeque, Lidia’s for pasta; Anton’s for deliciousness. We engaged him in a heated Catchphrase battle. Finally, last night he got to experience Ryan party time. Report filed: Jose is a pro. Seeing Ali for an unanticipated weekend, and being able to meet and get to know Jose has been a treat. As I wrote a couple weeks ago when we visited Sam and Jean, as a parent the thing you want most is to see your children happy. There has been much laughter in the house this weekend.

CHIEFS!  IMG735

Obligatory Chiefs comment. The Kansas City Chiefs are the winningest team in football!  On Sunday, thanks to Ivan and Janet, we got to spend a beautiful autumn afternoon tailgating in the parking lot of Arrowhead and then watching the Chiefs beat the Houston Texans. We typically go to one game a year and I have a hard time remembering the last time that I saw the Chiefs win a game. It has been a long, hard, cold spell for Kansas City sports. This year, however, that has changed. We have a new quarterback and a new coach. The team is winning; the fans are believing. The stadium on Sunday was awash in red. As each member of the team emerged onto the field as they were being announced, they just looked so psyched. They felt the love. The win wasn’t as easy as was expected, but it was a win. The mood leaving the stadium was giddy jubilation.

Bombadil  bombadil

I haven’t bought in new music in a few weeks. This week I happened upon the new album by Bombadil and I am liking it very much. Bombadil is composed of four guys – three of whom went to school together at Duke. The songs on Metrics of Affection range from acoustic beauties, to accapella story songs, to down home foot tappers. Their voices are good. The flow of the album is solid, and it wanted me to look them up to see what else was going on with them. The album opens with a song called Angeline that has some funny rhymes and really holds together. There is a pretty, romantic song called You Can Have Me that is followed by a beautiful piano solo.

you can’t have everything you want

or even sometimes what need
even if you need it desperately

but, apple blossom, if i could, 
i’d carve a shuttle out wood,
and fly us out beyond the breeze.

all alone except for stars,
i would wonder how you are
the most beautiful of things

I have enjoyed this new music very much this week!

It was a wonderful week which left me with amazing memories! I hope that you made some good memories too!