Best of 2013: New Music

So far this week, I’ve taken looks at my favorite album reissue/compilations; my favorite music-related DVDs; the best concerts of 2013; and three interview subjects who passed away this year. Today I wrap up the retrospective with a rundown of my five favorite new albums for 2013. Click on the titles for a full review (except as noted).

The Bye Bye Blackbirds – We Need the Rain
To label their music intelligent powerpop sells them short; there’s a lot more depth and nuance to the band as displayed on this album, available on vinyl (always a plus in my book).

E.Normus Trio – Love and Barbiturates
Easily the most challenging music on this list, it’s also among the most compelling. Avant jazz rooted in tunefulness, and – lucky me – they’re local, so I get an occasional chance to see them live onstage when they’re in town.

Jim Ruiz Set – Mount Curve Avenue
Not to take anything away from the uniformly excellent and delightful pop offerings from Bay area label Mystery Lawn Music, but this album – though a musical departure for MLM – is a real treat. Jazz-pop that smooth, catchy, quirky and clever. And fun.

Yuck – Glow & Behold
This one escaped my notice until mere days ago. When I heard it, Glow & Behold immediately jumped ahead of several other albums to make this my list. Nominally classified as shoegaze, but I don’t hear that so much. With a sound that variously recalls Aztec Camera, Teenage Fanclub and The Chills, it’s a winner. Not a weak track on the disc, but “How Does it Feel” is transcendent jangle-pop of the highest order. Look for a feature/interview with the band here on Musoscribe in February 2014.

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)
Oddly enough, the hands-down best album of 2013 for me was something I didn’t even get around to reviewing. (Though I’ve covered and interviewed Steven Wilson many times in the past). For anyone who thinks King Crimson, Genesis and their ilk were (at their peaks) among the best music had to offer, I’m here to tell you that the music on this album is every bit as good. And modern, somehow.

Honorable Mentions:

Secret Friend – Time Machine
Somehow – I guess owing to the large volume of worthy music that passes over my desk – this delightful album only managed a “capsule review.” But it’s catchy pop of the highest order, and deserves more prominent coverage. I did what I could; do what you can, and listen to it.

Black Sabbath – 13
Yeah, it’s not the world’s most original idea to list this one. But as a fan of the first four albums (and a decided non-fan of the post-Ozzy Osbourne-era material), I have to say that producer Rick Rubin really got a great performance out of the three band members he engaged. The tracks have the sound, the doomy/haunted feel of the band’s music of the early 70s, and somehow it’s no nostalgia trip. 13 stands up to their best. And while it would have been nice had they been able to secure Bill Ward‘s participation, Brad Wilk does a yeoman job. I didn’t review this album in depth, either. What I did do was buy it on vinyl.

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