In fact, I ended up letting my friend borrow my van that day, but my point is this: When my friend asked me how I find the music that I find, I answered, “I just listen.”
This was the truth. I just listen. I listen all of the time.
In the old days, I had complicated theories about what kind of music I liked and about what kind of music was worth listening to. I do not have these theories anymore.
Now I just listen.
I will listen to an album and if I keep listening to it, over and over and over again, then I generally assume this means that I like that album.
There are lots of good and even great albums that I never ever feel like listening to at all – albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Frank Ocean’s Channel ORANGE and any album by Phillip Glass. Those albums will not be among my top ten albums of the year.
In 2013, these are the albums I listened to. Some of them are albums that you might enjoy listening to, too.
10. Aki Onda – Cassette Memories Vol. 3: South of the Border
Aki Onda is a Japanese guy who does field recordings. He records random sounds on an old school cassette recorder and then mixes the sounds together later on. Like on this album, he recorded birds and pipes and a storm and a street band in Mexico, and then he mixed them together in a way that makes strange images form in my head. Making strange images form in my head is a surefire way to end up in my top ten albums of the year.
9. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
Push the Sky Away is a grow-er, not a show-er. It took me eight months to decide I liked it. I spent most of that time trying to locate the melodies and getting past the clunker opening lyrics to “Mermaids.” Warren Ellis’ loops and atmospheres are fantastic this time out, though, and it’s the most consistent and immersive album the Bad Seeds have done in decades.
8. Roly Porter – Life Cycle of a Massive Star
Talk about truth in advertising. Roly Porter’s cinematic new album is his sonic take on a star being born, burning, and dying, only it takes thirty-five minutes instead of a few billion years. At times, it sounds like Eighties-era Eno ambience or a Peter Gabriel soundtrack, but still, it reaches out and sinks its solar flares into my brain every time I put it on.
7. Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Gonna Eat That?
Are You Gonna Eat That? is a fun hip hop album. Fun hip hop albums do not make it into my top ten albums of the year. In fact, I sort of pride myself on that. But from the moment I heard Aesop Rock brag about being “voted most likely to be snowed in at a desolate hotel writing a novel,” I realized my usual rule might have to be waived. Nine months later, it’s been waived.
6. Stranger by Starlight – Chalk White Nights
This album is full of smoky little stories that are whispered, growled, and moaned by Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson over music played by Stray Ghost’s Anthony Staggers. I do not know anything about Oxbow and I do not know anything about Stray Ghost. I do not want to. These are late night mood pieces best experienced without the benefit of any context.
5. Amen Dunes – Through Donkey Jaw
If Marc Bolan had survived, forgotten the English language, and then recorded an album with Brian Eno in 1980, it would have sounded like this. That’s probably not much help to you, but it is accurate.
4. The Uncluded – Hokey Fright
This collaboration between Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson is my guilty pleasure of the year. It has some dark and profound beauties like “TV on 10” and “Bats.” It also has some embarrassing clunkers like “Organs” and “Tits Up,” songs I would never want anyone to know I listen to voluntarily and repeatedly. The problem is that Aesop Rock is just about my favorite right now, so even when he goes into cute mode, he can do no wrong.
3. Giles Corey – Deconstructionist
Oh, Dan Barrett, my dear, you had me at “hour-and-a-half long, lyric-less e.p. designed to summon spirits and hallucinations.” I cannot even believe this recording exists. It is exactly the sort of magic thing I dreamed of someday finding when I stopped listening to top 40 radio. In fact, how is this only number three for the year?
2. Kissed Her Little Sister – Sailor
In the year 2028, your kids are going to ask you if you listened to Kissed Her Little Sister’s Sailor back in 2013. In the year 2035, music critics are going to lie and pretend they hailed this one back when it came out. Sailor is wonderful and brilliant, it is more than the sum of its parts, and it is the best damn lo-fi album so far this decade.
1. The Drones – I See Seaweed
2011 was the first year in which my favorite album was metal. 2012 was the first year in which my favorite album was hip hop. 2013 is the first year in which my favorite album is… just pop-rock, with no overarching concept or pretentious ambitions. I guess I See Seaweed is what would happen if Roger Waters wrote Jeff Buckley songs for a non-shlocky version of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Or maybe it is a late-Seventies Graham Parker fronting a mid-Nineties Swans. Either way, it is acerbic, dramatic, and completely addictive. It is my favorite album of 2013, and it is also the best. Objectively the best, I mean. Period.
What did you listen to this year?
My tastes in music differ from yours in ways that you might probably suspect, considering my background. But, even though I have never heard any of these artists, because you're rating them, top 10, I'm curious to do a little more research and give them a listen.ReplyDelete
Because like you, I've found that just listening has opened me up to a lot of different types of music that I really didn't think I would have had any interest in. I find I'd rather listen to what makes me feel good, as opposed to what album sales statistics say I should be listening to.
The fewer preconceptions I have about an album these days, the better. The good part is that I still have tons of genres and and eras of music to get through in my lifetime.
I'll never make it, but that's okay!
The Drones and Nick Cave are the only ones I'm already down with. I'll check the others out- they must be good if Katy sez so.ReplyDelete
For me of late: Aranda, 40 Below Summer and The Weeknd have been getting some airplay in my casa. Tom Waits, Dean Martin, Blind Willie, Texas Alexander and Miles Davis are recent rediscoveries.
Modern pop country is mostly terrible and although I love a lot of Texas country it often all sounds the same.
As for all time favorites be prepared to be unimpressed-------- BUSH and Chevelle. I can't help it.
Tom Waits is a constant rediscovery for me. About once a year, I pull out "Swordfishtrombones" and think, "Why the hell haven't I been listening to this more?"Delete
I only know The Weeknd from his work with other artists.
I can be slow at finding good stuff sometimes. But it's like Tom Waits says about music, "Music isn't produce. It doesn't go bad if you leave it on the shelf for a while."
Mad, mad props for Nick Cave.ReplyDelete
I'm going to have to find Roly Porter and Amen Dunes - because my own philosophy is that no one can ever have too much ambient/electronica in their lives.
I've loved Kimya Dawson's music since before the 'Juno' soundtrack made her cool. Another one I'll have to find.
That's one of many reasons why I like you, Katy - you are among a handful of people who genuinely make me think, and expand my own horizons.
Happy new year!
Hi, Will. I might have to use your flattering quote sometime.Delete
I think you might dig Roly Porter's stuff. I've been hearing textures a lot more in recent years than I used to. My ears have changed, I guess, and it sort of opens things up in different directions. So I can appreciate the colors in ambient music in ways I couldn't when I was 16.
2014 is going to be fun...
You "just listen"? That's not true in my experience. I have to actively seek out new music. If I hear a snippet somewhere, like on the light rail bleeding from someone's earbuds, I'll tackle that person, "What's that? DAMN YOU, EXPOSE YOUR AUDITORY SECRETS TO ME!" Then I have to find the time to actually look for the artist and then, even worse, find time to listen. Ugh. Music is such a chore.ReplyDelete
On the other hand, I love it when someone hands me new music, such as yourself. I love Hail Mary Mallon and downloaded it promptly. And the Kiss Her Little Sister album is free! Why not download it!?!
This year, Steel Tipped Dove had out a great (free) album out and Dragoon also had out a good (spotty, but excellent particular tracks) album. And of course, Deltron 3030 came out with the Event II, which, if you're a fan of late 90's/early oughts hip hop, it's at least worth a listen.
Hell yes: Kissed Her Little Sister (like Steel Tipped Dove) is on bandcamp, which is the greatest invention ever. Granted, you can find a lot of full albums on youtube, too, but bandcamp is its own little world.Delete
I'm listening to the Deltron 3030 album right now and trying to figure out if this is a sample of Air's "Virgin Suicides" soundtrack they're using, so now I have to run upstairs and grab my Air CD...
I don't listen to "new" music much - only when my daughter recommends something...ReplyDelete
When I am "relaxing", I listen to pre-disco music, mostly Rock and Roll - the puppies like howling with Neil Young and dancing with the rolling Stones
here is my Facebook play list (some surprizes) - http://tinyurl.com/goodstuff-playlist
There's some Neil Young and Rolling Stones on my playlist normally, too. A lot of Neil Young, actually, but only the "Exile on Main Street" album by the Stones.Delete
It should probably be pointed out that i was born in 1985, though, so that might have a lot to do with it...
Anyway, I will check out your playlist!
Hey Katy Kid - I have added this blog and photo to my playlistDelete
exploring a couple of new blogging concepts...
Yay! Thanks, as always!Delete
Oh - and mad props for the Gibson SG in the photo, too....ReplyDelete
Thanks. I wish I was better at it, but I've never put in the time.Delete
Until I do, though, it's very well color-coordinated to the rest of the stuff in my room, as you can tell in the pic!
I'm so torn between feeling ashamed for not knowing a single album mentioned above and feeling giddy with delightful anticipation that I'm about to hear something that will most likely turn into a favorite.ReplyDelete
Woohoo! I hope so, actually.Delete
But that's sort of how I feel when other people talk about popular music. My co-workers were talking about Lourdes' "Royals" song the other day and were shocked when I said I'd never heard it. Sometimes I watch VH1's Top 20 show just so I can say I've heard the popular songs once.
I've heard of a couple of these! I'm sooo in the loop! (ha). But seriously, my daughter like Kimya Dawson, so I am familiar with her. And one of my exes is a Nick Cave fan, which pretty much ruins it for me. :(ReplyDelete
I'm like you, I just listen.
Kids and exes are not good places to be introduced to music...Delete
It's funny you say that about Nick Cave, because I introduced my ex to his music, and then she got into him more than I did. I even ran into her at the Nick cave concert in Dallas in March, and that's almost ruined his music for me. It's like the car and the house: We can't BOTH get him in the breakup, you know?
Apparently we were channeling you when we were blogging yesterday. Yay for Nick Cave. Also ditto on the guilty pleasure of The Uncluded. Not in my top ten, but still damn enjoyable.ReplyDelete
One of my new favorites of the year is one man band/violinist Kishi Bashi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab495dKtU98
Also, your definition of pop rock is far different from mine. I was expecting something like Maroon 5.
Cool... I am collecting plenty of listening ideas from the comments on this post.Delete
This is good.
The people who comment on my page these days are now acceptable.
I LOVE the way you described these albums... Hilarious! You should write excerpts for novels and albums for a living... Hehehe... I swear I would read more books and listen to more pop rock... :DReplyDelete
I might be good at that. Since reading and listening to music is almost all i do these days, it seems like I ought to be good at it... And I'm told I can be funny, but most of the time, it's by accident...Delete
Accidental hilarity... you should patent that shit. :)Delete
I Haha... I will, in a matter of speaking. I send all of my writing (and these comments) to myself in the mail and then don't open it. It's called "poor man's trademark," and someday I'm going to sue the hell out of someone because of it.Delete
(OK, maybe the "accidental hilarity" concept can't be trademarked, but maybe!)
Your list is strange, dear Katy, I've not heard a one. Me, it's been Haim, the new Kurt Vile, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, and Typhoon's White Lighter... and of course old T. Rex and Eno which makes me have to give those Amen Dunes another chance based on your desc.ReplyDelete
I've heard some stuff off of the Kurt Vile, but not the others. I almost got the Vile this year, actually, but I'm trying to buy fewer albums so I can focus more on the ones I do get.Delete
I'm a bit of a music snob, and I tend to be dismissive of anyone who "loves" a band or artist that makes my skin crawl. For example, I was once invited over to an "album party" back when vinyl was the thing (ask your older peeps about black and white television and wooden shoes, they'll fill you in on the details) and the couple in question had acquired Electric Light Orchestra's latest offering, featuring "Don't Let me Down". They played it twice, flipping it over three times, in total. I wanted to puke with each cut.ReplyDelete
But being a dismissive snob doesn't keep me from listening to (and falling in love with) new sounds all the time. I admire your eclectic pap smear across genre lines, believe you'd be a curious soul wandering around our cave looking at everything from Windham Hill to Bach to Nickel Creek to CSNY and some really really vintage blues. I've never understood how folks can lock into one genre (classic rock, gag me with a crap covered spoon) and refuse to even consider other music (from this century... gasp!). I'm like the guy grabbing earbuds (earlier comment) and demanding names for future reference. My theory is the next new thing I hear might be my all time favorite band. Every song we love was once a "first listen", so you never know?
Your story made me think of Randy Newman's "Story of a Rock 'N Roll Band" by randy newman, in which he makes fun of ELO for an entire song.Delete
The irony to that is that Jeff Lynn had his revenge years later, when he produced the mediocre Randy Newman album, "Land of Dreams."
"....and any album by Phillip Glass."ReplyDelete
(makes sad face)
But the rest of this post is great, and I'm really intrigued by Aki Onda.
By the way, I feel it's important for you to know that I listened to two or three tracks off of every album from your top ten of 2012 post. I think I'm going to do the same with this list. Call it a new holiday tradition.
Also...seriously, it's been a year?? Sigh.
I am honored to maybe be an Alex tradition!Delete
By the way, I love Phillip Glass' "Music with Changing Parts,' and the one he did with Allen Ginsberg, and this thing called "Songs from the Trilogy" that is the best parts of his fist three big operas. But when I am standing in front of my CD rack looking for something to listen to, I never go for his stuff. Ever.
Hello Katy, I am seriously liking the sound of that Japanese guy at no 10. Definitely gonna check that out. And now I am going to attempt to have some sort of catch up read...however in the UK it is after midnight and I have the flu and a rather fat joint. I suspect I may either fall asleep or become sidetracked aong the way :)ReplyDelete
Both my blog posts AND the music I recommended are probably best appreciated late at night, with the flu and fat joint.Delete
Nice photo of you on the guitar... it's blueszyReplyDelete
Haha... I wonder if you'd say that if it were in black and white. My clothes and personal property definitely IS color coordinated, and probably in a way Robert Johnson's bedroom never was...Delete
Oh, and Merry Christmas and all that good stuff, Rob.
Have a Merry Christmas Katy.Delete
Mad, mad mad props for knowing Philip Glass' music.ReplyDelete
My old minimalism joke was that Phillip Glass used 3 notes, Steve Reich used 2 notes, Terry Riley used one note, and John cage used none.Delete
When I was 10, a relative dragged me to this wine and cheese event Philip Glass had somewhere in Houston. I had him sign a copy of this Buddhist magazine I had (he served on their editorial board at the time, as did Ginsberg).
This is my first blog activity with my new iPad.ReplyDelete
It is pretty much the same as my laptop.
Tell me what Santa Claus brings you!
I give up. I wanted to put together a top 10 metal albums this year. So far I have five.ReplyDelete
If I told you how much time I spend trying to compile my Top Ten list every year (throughout the year!), you'd be embarrassed for me.Delete