2013 is a quarter of the way done and may I say, what a start! Musically, things have been pretty tasty. Moody and mellow for the most part, but some real rocking has been represented as well. Here's some breakdowns on some favs:
Yo La Tengo - Fade - The stalwart Hoboken trio soldiers on with another album of pure Tengo bliss. They are settled in and feeling mellow. A short record with no guitar sprawlers to make your ears bleed, this is a subdued and calming affair. The best tracks here sound like lost cuts off of Fakebook. "Is That Enough" is a beautiful little song that bounces along with grace. "Stupid Things" is one of Ira's most beautiful guitar songs in a while with a fantastic build of energy and melodic splendor. It's Yo La Tengo in a stride of good songs that please the ear and ease the mind. It's not an album that will stun you at first, but the more you listen, the more the songs show you the way.
Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic - The Kinks by way of California by way of Brooklyn, Foxygen has crafted an beguiling record for their full length debut. The production is gorgeous, the songs are catchy and if you like classic rock there are plenty of references and homages to be had. The Loaded era VU/Dylanesque hybrid "No Destruction" is one of the best nuggets from the album. "San Francisco" drips of pop nectar. Infectious and catchy. The album goes all over the place like on the Link Wray guitar riff "Bowling Trophies" and the Supertramp by way of Moody Blues love song "Shuggie" make for a strange trip. This is an awfully ambitious debut and hopefully leads to some even more coherent songs in the future.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II - If this album wasn't so lo-fi and strange, these guitar licks would be scrutinized by every guitar nerd and enthusiast out there. Personally, I enjoy the production, but it sometimes gets in the way of soaring guitar anthems to be had. "From the Sun" is an opener for the ages with a beautiful acoustic guitar opening that leads into a funky ass groove. It ends with an Eddie Hazel guitar solo that you wouldn't see coming a mile down the pike if you didn't expect it. The best song on the album, "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" is a dreamy pop song for the ages. "Faded in the Morning" is pulled from the Blackmore playbook and is the best track of a second half of the album that has some clunkier songs. Overall a good album, especially if you like intriguing guitar licks.
David Bowie - The Next Day -Christ, here he goes on with the Bowie. "Can't Even finish a list before getting distracted." GET OFF OF MY BACK 4 PEOPLE READING THIS, SHEEIIT. Honestly though, I could go on in insane length about The Next Day which I've drug through the dirt, much like the titular song sings about many times. It's by and far one of my favorite David Bowie albums without much doubt. From the dark Berlin thrasher "The Next Day" to the Man Who Sold The World graveyard trip "How Does The Grass Grow?", there are nuggets and touches of every part of the Thin White Dukes career to feast on. There are only a few moments I generally don't love, like the strange and almost Marc Bolan-inspired "Dancing Out In Space", but the dull moments are still better than most songs he's done in 20 years. Definitely a must own record.
Atoms For Peace - Amok - A super group for the ages, Atoms for Peace throw together an altogether glitchy, spacey and hypnotizing affair. The album art shows what you are getting yourself into. A trance. Yorke, Godrich, Flea, Waronker and Mauro Refosco concoct a batch of songs to put you into a groove. "Before Your Very Eyes..." and "Stuck Together Pieces" are the best total band effort moments. Flea's bass on both tracks is very integral and the percussion is a barrage of delicate but punctuated sounds. The songs like "Default" and "Ingenue" are Yorke and Godrich's bread and butter of crazy loops and spacey grooves. Much like King of Limbs, Yorke is making music that will set your mood. There are no big hooks to be had here, but this is very intense music.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away - An unsurprisingly mellow album, the Seeds, stripped down to only Cave from the original members, is almost reborn into music more along the lines of what Cave has been doing with his partner in crime Warren Ellis. Heavy on the loops, the strings and brooding, yet gorgeous melodies. "We Know Who U R" is a slow burning opener that drips into the love song "Wide Lovely Eyes." The standout "Jubilee Street" is a song that will take you places. Cave croons toward it's ultimate crescendo, "I'm transforming, I'm vibrating, I'm glowing, I'm flying... look at me now!" You are joining him on this journey. It's a Quaalude of an album.
The Strokes - Comedown Machine - Easily the best offering of 2013, amid a lot of great music, is The Strokes. Hard to believe as both Angles and First Impressions of Earth are sub-par at best, but there is something refreshing about the vibe this album gives off immediately. "Tap Out" is a handful of tight guitar riffs with Julian Casablancas giving his best drunken slur performance. There are moments of Strokes nostalgia like "All The Time" and "50/50", and then there are new directions like the synth pop assault of "One Way Trigger" or the guitar disco of "Welcome to Japan." Each song is eclectic yet but ultimately have those Strokes-isms you gotta love. "Slow Animals" is definitely the apex of the album and easily one of the best songs of 2013.
New additions to the list to soak in:
Just listened to Besnard Lakes - Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO once through. Aside from the wacky ass album title, HOLY CRAP. Prog Rock is BACK.
Local Natives, Jim James and Waaves are in my sights for more rotations.
Been a good year so far. Can't wait to see what the second quarter brings us.