Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Catching Up on the 1st Quarter of 2013

Over a quarter of this year of oh lawd 2013 is gone and to that quarter I say a hearty "good riddance!" Personal setbacks and the Winter that Would Not Die have drained me of my enthusiasm for most things, including this column. But it hasn't been all bad. There haven't been a ton of big new music releases this year, but what has come out has been pretty festive, including at least two bona fide masterpieces, as well as welcome returns from some old, old musical friends (actually, you'll have to forgive me if this entry reads like a who's who of the rock and roll geriatric ward). Besides, the minor family illnesses that have kept me tethered to the homestead have offered the opportunity to catch up on some of the big titles that I missed last year. So, in the interest of looking on the bright side of life, here is my best of the first quarter of 2013, along with some of my new favorites from 2012.

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (Jagjaguwar)

I've already written extensively on this crunchy deliciousness, so I'll just say that this rekkid remains one of the great achievements of nouveau-psychedelia and is thus far in a heated battle for Rekkid of the Year with...

2. Yo La Tengo Fade (Matador)

... about which I have also gushed in a prior entry. The most darling of indie-rock darlings have gifted us with their best album in over a decade.

3. Wire Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)

The grand old men of the art-punk industry return with a slate of new songs culled from and expanding upon instrumental fragments that were once part of their late-70s live show. By turns shimmeringly atmospheric and assertively charged, with lyrics both straightforward and deliberately obtuse, Change Becomes Us plays like both a brand new statement by a mature and seasoned collective, as well as an audio history of the band.

4. Atoms for Peace Amok (XL)

Thus far this has been a decade of all-star collaborations, and this is the latest example of the phenomenon. Amok finds Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, Mauro Refosco, and Flea getting together to assist in the gestation and birth of Thom Yorke's latest musical brain-child. The resulting jittery electronic rock laced with burbling funk provides an effective backdrop for Yorke's trademark desperate yelps and wails.

5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Inc.)

Nick Cave continues his recent run of fabulous albums with a departure from his more aggressive releases of late, returning to a darker, quieter sound which should please fans of his bleaker, more acoustic works of old (I happen to like him both ways).

6. David Bowie The Next Day (Columbia)

The Thin White Duke emerges from semi-retirement with his first release in a decade. It is a fine outing indeed, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't quite live up to the enormous hype that much of the press heaped upon it prior to its release. Some critics were lauding it as a return to form after Heathen and Reality, which struck me as odd, as I found both of those rekkids to be pretty huge. As I said, The Next Day is a fine album, and a must for any Bowie fan. I don't think it is quite as good as his last two, but it's growing on me, and it is always good to hear from one of the true icons of rock and roll.

7. Bettie Serveert Oh, Mayhem! (Palomine)

More indie-rock goodness from Holland's finest Velvets/Pretenders disciples. As much tasty fun now as they were two decades ago.

8. The Woggles The Big Beat (Wicked Cool)

Athens, Georgia's finest purveyors of old school garage rock maximum r&b have not lost a step after 25 years. Pure, condensed, party-rockin' fun!

9. Chelsea Light Moving s/t (Matador)

Thurston Moore fills the Sonic Youth vacuum left behind by his unfortunate split with Kim Gordon with his latest rockin' teenage combo.

10. Robyn Hitchcock Love from London (Yep Roc)

Another quality release from one of the true greats.

Also good...

Adam Ant Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter (Blueblack Hussar)
Eric Burdon 'Til Your River Runs Dry (Abkco)
Pere Ubu Lady from Shanghai (Fire)
The Strokes Comedown Machine (RCA)

A pair of rekkids that would likely have cracked my top 20 of 2012:

1. Melody's Echo Chamber s/t (Fat Possum)

French singer Melody Prochet's collaboration with Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker. Think Stereolab meets the new psych-rock. Sooooo delicious. Easily one of last year's best.

2. Dr. John Locked Down (Nonesuch)

Old Mac hooks up with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach on this Grammy-winning (don't hold that against it) return to his turn of the 70s Night Tripper roots.

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