As has been the case over the last few years, we've been quite underwhelmed by the world of pop culture in general, so once again this wrap up is an abridged and personalized version of what we would normally put together at this point of the year. Basically, just a bunch of faves from the past 12 months. So, with that in mind, dig in and enjoy!
Minor Alps Get There [Barsuk]
Released on the last week of October, it showed up late but surely made up for it: the debut album from Minor Alps (aka soft-singing superduo Juliana Hatfield and Nada Surf's Matthew Caws) is a textbook singer/songwriter album for the 21st century: rooted in classic songwriting but imbued with the breezy irreverence of a new era. More please.
David Bowie The Next Day [Columbia]
Took him for granted, eh? The Next Day reminded us all why we should never do such a thing. Quite possibly the best thing to come out all year. (Hated the album cover, tho. Ugh.)
My Bloody Valentine mbv [self-released]
Definitely not worth a 22 year wait, but probably not worth a 2 year wait, either.
Todd Rundgren State [Esoteric]
In what can only be described as an effort to further destroy his recording career by seemingly rescuing the remnants of a discarded
electronica record circa 1989, Rundgren confirms he has lost the plot. And the bitter irony of a legendary producer making
records that sound like cheesy demos is almost too much to bear.
Nataly Dawn "How I Met Her" [Nonesuch]
Unfortunately, for the most part, Dawn's engaging voice, well-crafted songs, and
wistful Americana lack the
necessary pull to drag themselves up from their frequent preciousness
and occasional forced quirkiness, which is her solo debut album's biggest hindrance.
Oh, but that title track is nothing short of wonderful and arguably, the best constructed piece of pop music released in 2013. Stellar.
FAVORITE NEW MUSIC (from new artists)
Bipolar Sunshine "Fire" from the Aesthetics EP [Polydor]
Chance the Rapper "Juice" from the album Acid Rap [self-released]
Coasts "Oceans" from the Paradise EP [Tidal]
Lapland -self-titled- [Hundred Pockets]
Wolf Alice "Fluffy" [Dirty Hit]
LEAST FAVORITE OBJECT OF HYPE
Three 20-something L.A. sisters grow up playing playing street fairs in a band with Mom and Dad. As teenagers 2 of the 3 are in an all-girl band that
signs with a major label. When that runs its course, they incorporate their
youngest sibling, established/famous people see them play (Julian
Casablancas, Jenny Lewis), sign with Jay-Z, potty
mouth/filter-lacking older sister makes for good copy ("Bass face"),
That "origin story" is a whole lot more interesting than Haim's music, which resembles somewhat plastic late '80s/early 90s radio-friendly R&B, but has been repeatedly compared to Fleetwood Mac
(!!!) by a plethora of so-called music journalists. (Who, btw, are the people Frank Zappa was referring to in his legendary quote: "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." Amen.)
Haim : Music :: Girls (HBO show) : TV
In Utero: 20th Anniversay Edition [DGC]
The main criteria from the fan
P.O.V. remains the same for In Utero as any other reissue: Do you love this album
enough to repurchase it, along with the extras included in an expanded version?
Nirvana’s studio epitaph probably doesn't need an invitation to your collection, one way or another, but the 2013 Albini mixes alone could
be reason enough to re-evaluate the album, or at least judge it in a slightly
FAVORITE CONCERT MOVIE
Jane's Addiction Live in NYC [UMe]
The album version of Live in NYC [Universal] can reasonably hold the listener's attention on its own, but the DVD of the proceedings is as close to a rock and roll circus as we've seen in ages. Or at least, one big awesome party.
STRANGEST BULLSHIT MUSIC BUSINESS DOUBLE STANDARD
Nataly Dawn dissed for not staying on the cheeseball route
Dawn is best known as half of YouTube sensation Pomplamoose--along with fellow multi-instrumentalist Jack Conte--whose claim to fame is funny, classic pop covers of Top 40 hits. Yet her solo debut, How I Met Her [Nonesuch] is a lush collection of singer/songwriter Americana which earned mixed reviews and a Spin
magazine "Worst New Music" designation, despite fitting the profile of
the type of album that passes for a critical favorite these days. Of
course, critical faves tend to be measured by the music and/or the
artist's relationship with a certain degree of authenticity and Dawn's
viral past hinders that authenticity in the eyes and ears of quite a few
reviewers. The same flip-flopping folks who deem it "rockist" to
evaluate popular music artists by this standard, mind you.
Something was definitely fishy here. We asked ourselves why the folks at Spin and other
like-minded critics weren't eating up Dawn's record? We thought about it for a minute and shortly thereafter arrived at a 'Eureka!' moment.
It seems as if fellow critics' main beef with Dawn and her album is that
instead of following her band's cute Lady GaGa and Beyonce covers and
Carmin route--gimmicky covers on YouTube leading to a trashy Black Eyed
Peas/Top 40-type career--Dawn decided to cash in her viral chips as an
singer/songwriter instead of the abominable cheesy musical theatre geeks
fascinated with lowest common denominator hip hop and auto tuned
bullshit that is Carmin.
Truth is, if this album had been made by
someone plucked out of obscurity and without the stigma of internet
inauthenticity, Spin and Pitchfork would be all over it.
But they want their viral sensations to stay in their place and continue
being their pet monkeys; never attempt to rise above anything
Bieber-esque. It's like a perverse variation on the indie rock elitism
of not liking an artist as soon as they become popular. And it stinks.
UNFORTUNATE MUSIC BUSINESS TREND
Digital sales are down 2.4% and sales at both chain stores and independents have suffered a 17% drop, as well.
FAVORITE DEVELOPMENT TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014
Jack White announced the release of a new Raconteurs album.
The Divinyls' Christina Amphlett; Soft Machine’s Kevin Ayers; original Yes guitarist
Peter Banks; singer Bobby “Blue” Bland; Trevor Bolder,
bassist for Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash and David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars; former
Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr; Benjamin Curtis, original guitarist for The Secret Machines; jazz great Donald Byrd; singer/songwriter JJ Cale; Chi Cheng, Deftones bassist; Joey
Covington, drummer for Jefferson Airplane; jazz keyboardist and Frank Zappa sideman George Duke; Slayer
guitarist Jeff Hanneman; singer/songwriter Richie Havens; original Let's Active bassist Faye Hunter; producer/engineer
Andy Johns; country legend George Jones; Blue Oyster Cult founding
guitarist/keyboardist Allen Lanier; Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee; producer and
Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek; Devo drummer Alan Myers; The Troggs’ vocalist Reg Presley; producer Phil
Ramone; the one and only Lou Reed; Tonight Show drummer Ed Shaughnessy;
singer/guitarist Tony Sheridan, who gave The Beatles their start as his backing
band; Stan Tracey, “godfather of British jazz”.