In the interest of seeing if this thing still works, let's get a blog post out. But baby-steps, something small. What about music? I used to write about music here. Gave it up for being a chore, at least how I'd originally conceived of what I was doing on the blog.
Ok. Here, then, is a list of albums released in 2013 that I can say with some confidence that I liked. Just because. In alphabetical order by artist, no ranking. Maybe with some remarks.
Barn Owl, V — gorgeous guitar and electronic drones.
Beyoncé, Beyoncé — I've liked some of her earlier songs ("Naughty Girl" is a favorite), but this record is a monster.
David Bowie, The Next Day — I had a huge Bowie phase in 2012, finally got to really know his great 70s run of albums; this came out right on the heels of that, as I was also trying out his "later" albums. I can't say I've really spent a lot time with this one, but I've liked it when I've listened to it.
Bill Callahan, Dream River — Of course, as previously blogged (here and, sort of, here), I'm a huge fan. I think this is his best overall album under his own name, which makes it his best since Smog's A River Ain't Too Much To Love.
Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You — this is growing on me; I don't know if she'll ever be able to replace Fox Confessor Brings The Flood in my affections, but she doesn't have to if it's as good as this.
Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait: (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 — oh boy: this came out right smack in the middle of my (still ongoing) full-blown Dylan obsession, which began in the first week of July and pretty much occupied the rest of the year. In fact, I listened to Dylan exclusively for about half that time, which is one reason why the remarks for some of the other records here are fairly perfunctory. Perhaps I'll write some more about that in a later post. As for this, it came as a surprise to most of us - two cds of outtakes and alternate mixes from one of Dylan's most maligned periods? In the event, it's an often lovely collection. Personal favorites are "Pretty Saro", the alternate version of "Spanish Is the Loving Tongue", the stripped-down "Copper Kettle", and the demo recording of "When I Paint My Masterpiece".
Kevin Gates, The Luca Brasi Story — I started downloading the occasional mixtape in the last year or so, mainly based on recommendations from reviewer friends who know something about rap. This one came to my attention first via old blog-friend Brandon Soderberg, but it was really David Ford's enthusiasm for it that sold me. And it's quite good. (I also downloaded that Migos tape, but though I seem to recall liking it the handful of times I played it, my memory's really hazy about it, so in the interest of honesty, I'm leaving it off.)
Gorguts, Colored Sands — This is metal - I guess death metal? Dunno, I never can keep that stuff straight. Regardless, hah, it's pretty great.
Glenn Jones, My Garden State — these are very nice Fahey-style solo acoustic guitar pieces; in fact, I think every time a song has come up on shuffle from this album, my first thought has been that it is Fahey, before the super-clean modern production clears that right up.
Le1f, Fly Zone and Tree House — I really dig Le1f's unusual style of rapping, and the music on his mixtapes, from a variety of producers, including himself and Nguzunguzu (see below), is consistently interesting and idiosyncratic.
Kelela, Cut 4 Me - another mixtape, this one R&B, again with producer credits for Nguzunguzu. I think Ethan told me about this one, plus Tom Breihan named it Stereogum's Mixtape of the Week back in October... (oh yeah, now that I think about it, The Luca Brasi Story was also mixtape of the week earlier in the year).
Kvelertak, Meir — another metal album, this one I listened to a lot in the late Spring... it reminds me a bit of Bon Scott-era AC/DC.
Janelle Monáe, Electric Lady — I was very excited about this one when it came out, and I like it a lot, but I ended up not spending as much time with it as I expected, because Dylan. Though a few of the tunes, such as "Primetime", her lovely duet with Miguel, have made their way onto frequently played playlists.
The Necks, Open — surely we all know what this band is by now, right? Jazz isn't quite right, ambient isn't either, though both words perhaps gesture towards an idea of the thing. Consistently beautiful, at any rate. This one's no less lovely than some of their others, though perhaps a mite less absorbing.
Nguzunguzu, Skycell — only just got this one, so haven't spent as much time with it as I would like yet, but it's typically good. Time will tell if I like it quite as much as Timesup.
Pere Ubu, Lady From Shanghai — My favorite Ubu album in a great long while, which is meant as no disrespect to any of the others, but it's just that good. Finally got to see them play in September, in DC with BDR, and it was a wonderful concert.
Throwing Muses, Purgatory/Paradise — unlikely as it may seem, this - their first album since the last reunion ten years ago - may actually be the best Throwing Muses album, which is definitely saying something. Whether it is or not, it's simply great, a real gift.
Yo La Tengo, Fade — this is not by any means the best Yo La Tengo album, but it is my favorite of theirs since probably 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
Yeah, this exercise more than ever reminded me why I don't write about music much anymore. Cliches and boring adjectives and superlatives abound, with little to say about the actual music itself, whether how it sounds or what it means to me. Still, some good records; check 'em out, if you haven't already.