New Years Resolution: blog more! also, 2013 favorites

I blame Facebook, which makes it far too easy to post a quick blurb about an emerging artist or great new song, but Facebook doesn’t give me nearly the Google-reach on those rare occasions when I’m among the first to discover someone or something. Hence the resolution.

To kick off the new year, here’s my 5 favorite releases from the past year, 2013:

1. Lorde – Pure Heroine

At this point, the world is very familiar with the now 17 year old Ella Yelich-O’Connor, but when I first heard “Royals” in March (on the also stellar “The Love Club EP”) she was little known outside her native New Zealand (I pronounced it “LOR-day” till a few weeks ago, lol). It’s fitting that she claims the bulk of her influence from Lana Del Rey, still a favorite despite a lack of mainstream love in the US. Pure Heroine proves that “Royals” was no one-off, with even better tracks (IMHO) like “Team” and “Tennis Court”. Buy the CD or download HERE. Here’s the LP-closer “A World Alone”, my pick for the next Lorde hit.


2. Haim – Days Are Gone

Pronounced more like “HIGH-um” than the oft-referenced “time”, Haim has provoked a backlash almost equal to the praise, with their authenticity and musicianship being called into question. For my money, this is the one 2013 LP I can listen to on repeat, beginning to end, over and over. To be fair, some of the songs had been released as singles in 2012, but the razor-sharp production of September-released LP brings those tracks (“Forever,” “Don’t Save Me,” “Falling”) new life. Do they overdo the “hiccup” vocal effect live? Maybe overplay the hair tosses? Whatev. They’re young and bound to pick up some great chops on the road, headlining a global tour after supporting Phoenix in Europe till a couple of weeks ago. But the CD or download HERE.  Here’s my pick for the slow-burn creeper of the LP, “Running If You Call My Name”

3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

If a band ever deserved credit for merely surviving their own buzz, it’s Brooklyn’s Vampire Weekend. Supposedly an attempt to distance themselves from the vibe of the first two LPs, I find it hard to believe that anyone that didn’t like them before now does (or vice-versa). Perhaps they just finally wore you down. “Diane Young” has all the frenetic energy of “A-Punk” or “Holiday,” and “Step” and “Ya Hey” lend enough tempo variety to warrant listening to the whole thing.  Buy the CD or download HERE. Here’s a (so far) sleeper track, “Don’t Lie”

4. Arctic Monkeys – AM

I go back a long time with Arctic Monkeys, having read in 2006 that they decided to be a band before they even had instruments, which they promptly bought and learned how to play (isn’t that every kid’s fantasy, even middle-aged “kids”??) Derided early despite the fasting selling debut album in UK chart history, they have continued to score hits and sell music and fill arenas (though you can still catch them in relatively small venues for such a well known group). AM, their fifth studio LP, has much to recommend it, including “R U Mine?”, “Do I Wanna Know?” and “One for the Road” (which features background vocals from QOTSA’s Josh Homme, returning the favour (!) by Alex Turner who backed up Josh on a track on this year’s …Like Clockwork). Buy the CD or download HERE, and here’s a Black Sabbath-influenced track yet to get much play, “Arabella”

5. Obits – Beds & Bugs

“Finally!”, you say, “a release that’s NOT on everyone ELSE’s best list!” Brooklyn’s Obits are still enough under the radar that Googling them is more likely to get you to death notices, but they’re worth the effort. I hear Nirvana in their DNA, and Sub Pop likely heard it too, signing them and giving them nearly a year to record their debut back in 2009. Beds & Bugs, their third, is a fine way to get acquainted with them. Buy the CD or download HERE. Since you’re likely not familiar, here’s a few tastes.

Honorable mention: Bastille – Bad Blood, Birdy – Fire Within, Zola Jesus – Versions, M.I.A. – Matangi



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