A 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!
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
2. 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.
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
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
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)
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
7. 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
8. 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
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.
10. 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!