Honorable Mentions (In no particular order)
1. Ondatropica: Ondatropica (Soundway, 2012). Brazilian/world here.
2. Eric Boeren Quartet: Song for Tracy the Turtle (Clean Feed, 2010) Free jazz here. 3. Bettye Lavette: Thankful ‘n Thoughtful (Anti-, 2012) Classic r&b review here. 4. How to Dress Well: Total Loss (Acephale, 2012). Indie electronic review here.
5. Skyzoo: A Dream Deferred (The Faculty/Duck Down Music, 2012). NYC hip hop here.
6. Philippe Petite: Eugenie (Alrealon Music, 2012). Ambient/Classical here.
7. Isaiah Toothtaker: Illuminati Thug Mafia Thug hop here.
8. Hollis Brown: Ride on the Train (Alive Naturalsound, 2013) Blue eyed r&b here.
9. Har Mar Superstar: Bye Bye 17 (Cult Records, 2013) Retro-funk soul here.
10. Safe Haven: Sermon for No One (Self-release, 2013) Roots rock here.
11. Sidsel Endresen & Stan Westerhuis: Didymoi Dreams (Rune Grammophone, 2012) Free jazz/rock here.
12. Della Mae: The World Oft Can Be (Rounder, 2013) Bluegrass here.
13. Maurizio Minardi: The Cook The Clown The Monk and the Accordionist (Belfagor Label, 2013) Straight jazz here.
14. Afrolicious: California Dreamin (Afrolicious Music, 2013) Funk/Afrobeat here.
15. Orchestra Super Mazembe: Mazembe @ 45RPM Volume 1 (Sterns, 2013) African here.
16. Nick Waterhouse: Time’s All Gone (Innovative Leisure, 2012). Retro-soul here.
17. Holly Williams: The Highway (Georgiana Records, 2013) Sparse country here.
18. Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants: All Hat and No Cattle (Side One Dummy, 2013) Alt-country here.
19. Melt Yourself Down: Melt Yourself Down (The Leaf Label, 2013) Free improv/world here.
20. Ethernet: Opus 2 (Kranky, 2013) Ambient electronic here.
21. Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood: Black Pudding (Ipecac, 2013) Indie country here.
Best of 2013
#22 A Tribe Called Red: Nation II Nation (Tribal Spirit Music, 2013) A very moving record that combines ecstatic Native American singing, hand drums and pretty minimal electronic/club elements. Wickedness.
#21 Tal National: Kaani (Fat Cat, 2013). This African record by a party band from Niger is almost dizzying. A lot of African music records can have a very manicured and micromanaged sound to themand while Kaani is very tight sounding record, there’s a wildness to how much and how hard they push on the listener.
#20 Carcass: Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast, 2013). A crushing blend of thrash, shred, and classic metal on this record. To call the band muscular would be an understatement and this record is just ri-donk-u-lous.
#19 Omar Suleyman: Wenu Wenu (Ribbon Music, 2013). A blistering combination of dance beats and playing that is as relentless as it is pulse raising. Most of the tunes have a kick drum anchoring the mix, but there are plenty of hand drums on top of the kick and whoever shreds the shit out of the synthesizer on this record steals the record from Suleyman, who does a fine job singing the tunes.
#18 Jeri-Jeri: 800% Ndagga (Ndagga, 2013). A unique and hypnotic African record that combines a wicked kit drummer with hand drums and a fat, almost sub-bass sound.
#17 Modern Life is War: Fever Hunting (Deathwish, 2013) Strong players at all positions — great driving drummer, excellent guitar player and singer. Shades of Fugazi in that they’re trying to say something and play with a sense of urgency.
#16 Cyanide Pills: Still Bored (Damaged Goods, 2013) A hymn to erectile dysfunction Can’t Get It Up is a great album opener. Sarcastic, energetic and pretty rockin’. The singer has a bit of Johnny Rotte, the guitar player has more than above average chops for such a mostly punk rock outfit and the rhythm section, well you don’t listen to punk rock for the rhythm section. dig the funny lyrics, I like the guitar player and the songs are catchy as fuck.
#15 Serengeti: Kenny Dennis LP (Anticon, 2013). A satirical celebration of old school hip hop centered around the relationship between a younger rapper coming up now and an aging rapper named Kenny Dennis. First tune, Bang ’em, straight up outstanding. Very creative with great beats.
#14 Patterson Hood: Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance (ATO, 2012). A country rock/FM soft rock record by an understated singer with a focus on poetic lyrics supported by one of the best drum sounds I’ve heard on a rock record in a long time.
#13 Bob Gluck Trio: Returning (FMR, 2011). This is a piano, bass, and drums record, a classic trio format. Gluck plays a loose piano and he’s neither based in blues piano jazz nor is he a Cecil Taylor piano basher. His playing is semi-lyrical, and semi-sweet and really interesting to listen to. The connection between the musicians is strong and enhances the listening experience.
#12 Matt Davis’ Aerial Photographs: Ways and Means (Van Dolah, 2009) What this record shares with Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain is a downtempo, sparse melodic atmosphere. Sketches of Spain does not contain interview snippets of homeless people in Philadelphia — I originally found these small vocal excerpts to be annoying, but I think they deepen the intent of the work by grounding it the lives of real and struggling people.
#11 Graveola: Eu Preciso De Um Liquidificador (Mais Um Discos, 2013) Extremely musical and creative Latin Rock record out of Brazil. Excellent singing and excellent musicianship with sophisticated arrangements. The vibe is upbeat but not mindless and there is a distinct lack of cheese found on so many American records.
#10 Bessakou Kouyate: Jama Ko (Out Here, 2013). The singers are very good, the record is rhythmically strong, but the electric ngoni sound and Kouyate’s playing takes this from an above average record to a great record. There are passages that are very ecstatic (in the religious sense), moments of quiet, other sections that remind you of the origin of the blues.
#9 Baptists: Bushcraft (Southern Lord, 2013). In short, a vibrant blend of metal and Minor Threat style punk out of this Vancouver band. The drummer fucks shit up in a very interesting way.
#8 Nico Muhly: Drones & Piano (Bedroom Community, 2012) A modern classical recording of, you guessed it, drones and piano. Very engaging piano composition/playing. To my ear is sounds like the drones are all acoustic violin sounds. I kinda wish there had been some electronically generated drone sounds, but I’m greedy.
#7 Galoshins: EP1/EP2 (Aremellodie, 2013). Quirky rock with some punk edge in the XTC tradition with a hair of Devo and maybe the Minutemen and Elvis Costello thrown in just to keep you on your toes.
#6 Fly Agaric: In Search of Soma (F-Ire Recorded Music, 2012) It’s mostly straight jazz, but there’s a uniqueness to the record that I dig. The drums sound different than most straight jazz records — they sound less swinging (and cliche) and more percussive and in your face. The sax is really well recorded — not flat and tinny. There’s a raucousness to this record that I rarely hear on straight jazz sessions. Finally, a straight jazz record I can recommend. (Added February 24, 2013)
#5 Paul Giallorenzo Trio Featuring Ingebrigt Haker Flat (Not Two, 2012). I really like the way Mr. Giallorenzo plays piano. I’m not entirely sure why I dig his playing so much, but ultimately who gives a shit? If I dig it, I dig it, and I dig it a lot. The tunes are varied and they work an inside/outside vibe very naturally. The rhythm section does a really good job both of supporting and interacting with the piano. This is the first jazz record of 2013 that I’m recommending to listeners.
#4 Jesper Løvdal & Günter Baby Sommer (ILK, 2012). Found this sax player via a Jazzloft email and this record was on MOG. A duo horns and drums record with excellent variety and spaciousness. The sax player has a great tone — warm with some wail and skronk. And the drummer is not too shabby himself.
#3 Wadada Leo Smith & Luis Moholo: Ancestors (Tum Records, 2012). This record is my second Wadada Leo Smith recording to make the best of list in the last 4 months. It’s a duo record, trumpet and drums and like the rest of Smith’s music, it’s serious. Open and unrushed as well. It’s a really nice recording so this Youtube clip doesn’t do the interplay between the two musicians justice.
#2 Bio Ritmo: La Verdad (Electric Cowbell Records, 2011). Slinky and pretty street like a classic Fania jam but with other more modern elements that make it more than a re-do of classic Latin salsa records.
#1 Pantha Du Prince: Elements of Light (Rough Trade, 2013). The contrast between the metallic percussion and the club beats underneath is pretty sophisticated. There’s an ethereal vibe from the bells breaking up the four on the floor beats(most of the metal percussion sounds like bells) that elevates a normally pretty mundane musical formula. You don’t have to be high to listen to this electronic music. (Added 1/28/13)
A link for Anjali Grant.