Best Music of the Year 2013
Admittedly, 2013 is an unluckily numbered year and didn't give us an abundance of great music. But it did give us a few exceptional albums and few more that had several great songs.
Best Singer-Songwriter Albums
By my reckoning, the best album of 2013. The album is full of gorgeous and compelling songs—songs that come to us in Case's ringing bell voice, one of the best voices in any contemporary genre of music. What's always astounding about Neko Case is how someone gifted with such a tremendous voice should also have turned herself into such an exceptional songwriter / lyricist. Even the songs on The Worse Things Get... that are unconventional experiments in song craft (Afraid) resonate in startling and satisfying ways. It's also very much worth noting how consistently great Neko Case has been over the course of six albums.
Points of Reference: Patsy Cline
Standout tracks: City Swan, Man, Afraid
Best Pop Albums
An album overflowing with dazzling, careening, buoyant pop songs. Beneath all the whir and speed of these songs you find real wit and loveliness.
Point of reference: Paul Simon
Standout Tracks: Diane Young, Step, Ya Hey
Forgive me, but I much prefer Volcano Choir's Repave (with prominent band member Justin Vernon /Bon Iver) to the second Bon Iver album (2011). The songs on Repave are more sweeping and dynamic, and they brought me back to the intimacy of Bon Iver's excellent first album (For Emma..).
Points of reference: Peter Gabriel
Standout Tracks: Byegone, Alaskans, Tiderays
I still can't articulate that special somethingness that makes some retro-music lame and other retro music revelatory. But the best songs on Foxygen's second album have that somethingness. They feel like perfect 5-minute encapsulations of 60's-era psychedelic rock history. They're also infused with real wit and imagination.
Points of reference: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones
Standout Tracks: On Blue Mountain, Oh Yeah