Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Warmer Music's 30 Favorite Songs Of 2013 (20-11)

Yup, you guessed it, more songs. But first, a quick recap:

30. Lake Michigan Wind - Jones Street Station

29. Nothing Is Gold - Bare Mutants
28. New You - My Bloody Valentine
27.  Wendy 'N Becky (feat. Chance The Rapper) - Joey Bada$$
26. Lookin -bgvvgfc The Dismemberment Plan
25. Uptown Boys - Netherfriends
24. Come Walk With Me
23. Dreaming Of Giants - Radar Eyes
22. Nightwater Girlfriend - Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
21. White Girls (Student of the Blues) - Diarrhea Planet

20. Joy To You Baby - Josh Ritter  Buy The Beast In Its Tracks

I've long had a soft spot for Josh Ritter, which is good, because the guy doesn't have a hard bone in his body. Sure, he's studied his Prine and Dylan and Van Zandt, but Ritter has more easy good-humor and empathy in his songs than those three combined. Thus, leave it to him to write an easy-going breakup album. I can't say I could get into it much, mostly because, when I want breakup music, I want anger and desolation, not reasonable and mature well-wishes to your past. But even I couldn't curmudgeon myself away from the simple-strummin' charms of "Joy To You Baby". Taking off with a feathery organ and bosomy bass, the song lifts you above anger, worry and care as Ritter sings about "the lion of evening" and makes the world feel alright for a few minutes.
19. Husbands - Savages  Buy Silence Yourself
Although they released their first music in spring of 2012, I didn't come around on Savages until downloading their full-length debut, Silence Yourself this year. It was the kind of record that I had to love, in spite of its own buzz. Savages clearly push just the right buttons (four girls, sounds like Wire, pseudo manifesto) for certain critics in a way that made some want to turn them into more than they were. Although I didn't think that Silence Yourself was the knockout debut that some saw, there were moments of brilliance scattered throughout. "Husbands" is easily my favorite as the prickly guitar, bruising bass and Jehnny Beth's tortured vocals cohere into an explosion of righteous fury that every punk purist lives for like a a junkie does methadone.
18. Coming Through (feat. Cat Power) - Willis Earl Beal  Buy Nobody Knows
Although I loved moments of Willis Earl Beal's "debut" Acoustmastic Sorcery, I could never quite shake the feeling that, while they were good demos, I wasn't actually listening to songs, I was functionally just listening to demos. But in 2013, with XL contract in hand, Beal upped his game with a full band and proper studio for his second record and the results were far more satisfying. Besides snagging Chan Marshall for it, "Coming Through" was my go-to song for this album (and artist) because it has the bounce and confidence of an old R&B/soul classic without sounding the least bit dusty. The truth IS coming through and anyone who argues with Beal or this groove is just asking to get run over.

17. I Saw Her Face - The Men  Buy New Moon
After proving themselves to be more than just exhilirating-but-abrasive noise rockers with last year's Open Your Heart. Without missing a beat, they got even more eclectic and tuneful on this year's New MoonI wasn't the only one to think "Tom Petty fronting Crazy Horse" the first time I heard "I Saw Her Face" and it's fair to say that the song lets down the legacy of neither. On a record full of cryptic lyrics about lost women, "I Saw Her Face" fits right in as the singers voice struggles to emerge from the fizzling guitar haze created by riff-upon-riff. It's a shimmery, old-fashioned guitar jam of the the type that, when done well, never goes out of style.
16. Coast To Coast - Waxahatachee  Buy Cerulean Salt
Cerulean Salt is your classic not-coming-of-age album. In it we watch Katie Crutchfield wanders through her post-high school years, not quite finding happiness in love, her job or even the search for herself. It can be a weighty listening experience until a song like "Coast To Coast" comes on with a couple of crunchy guitar chords and an Elliott Smith reference and reminds you how, even amidst the heaviness of, you know, adult (however we define that) life, there's still romance. Even driving around the country, nervously playing shows and not falling in love can sound pretty good over less than two minutes of bouncy distortion.

15. Only A Clown - Caitlin Rose  Buy The Stand-In
I don't know why someone didn't tell me about Caitlin Rose before this year because her Linda Ronstadt, country-meets-new-wave sounds and Replacements-level misanthropy are about all you need to get this guy on-board. The Stand-In was in heavy rotation this spring and early summer and I had more than a few singalongs with "Only A Clown". The fact that they were solo only further lends to the song's self-effacing appeal. There's something deeply meaningful in finding out that self-doubt, loneliness, painful awkwardness and other such emotions are, despite what your high school self suspected, universal emotions. "Only A Clown" distills those particular feelings in a way instantly recognizable to losers of all ages, adds some rollicking guitar and calls it a night. Sold.

14. Unbelievers - Vampire Weekend  Buy Modern Vampires Of The City
Modern Vampires Of The City is almost certain to be the album of 2013 that I will keep going back to for a while, if for no other reason than to try to understand its capital-I "Important" reputation with music critics. I've always loved me some V-Weekend but mostly as not-quite-guilty summertime lit-pop, nothing deeper. I'm not so blind as to miss the band's attempt to get lyrically "deeper" on MVOTC, I guess I just missed the moment when the music got the gravitas to be much more than just smarty-pants sunshine pop. Anywho, "Unbelievers" is yet another VW song that I'll be able to instantly sing along to in ten years because it's just the right mix of smart and infectious. Even if I don't think it was on an album of the year, that's still a pretty damn good endorsement.
13. Get Back In Love - Carrie Rodriguez  Buy Give Me All You Got
Carrie Rodriguez's Give Me All You Got wasn't a front-to-back great album but it had more than its fair share of moments that I absolutely fell in love with. After giving strong consideration to "Cut Me Now""Brooklyn" and "I Don't Mind Waiting" I finally went with "Get Back In Love" as the record's standout. Washed in luscious lap steel and featuring an achingly lovely slow-build, it's the kind of song that sticks to your ribs on a cold winter day, offering warmth hours later. That succor also flows from the lyrics which are eternally hopeful but in that hard-won manner that makes them feel wise rather than saccharine. Be it in love or life, I'm always well-served by being reminded that it only takes an old jukebox song to get back in love.
12. Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi) - Run The Jewels  Download Run The Jewels
To be honest, this pick is another tossup with more than a few other off the album. After their jointly valedictory run through 2012, Killer Mike and El-P decided to turn their unofficial collaboration into a full-on "thing" and the result, Run The Jewels is just about as much fun as you'll find in hip-hop these days. After a couple of albums as dense and heavy as R.A.P. Music and Cancer 4 Cure, it was refreshing to see Mike and El-P just goofing off, talking shit and making fun, funny-ass diss tracks that constitute their joint release. "Banana Clipper" is my personal favorite outing not just because it begins with Mike claiming "I have the elegance of an African elephant" but also becuase it brings his old ATL mentor Big Boi into the proceedings, just in case you weren't enjoying yourself enough.
11. It Can't Be You - Basia Bulat   Buy Tall Tall Shadow
Basia Bulat's Tall Tall Shadow was a record haunted by a lost love that stalked this singer like a cold breeze on a autumn evening. The album's centerpiece, "It Can't Be You" perfectly captures that emotional tenor. It starts with the deftly-picked guitar which seems to almost be chasing the user across the mix, at once enchanting and also oddly prickly. But it's Bulat's wailing vocals that steal the show, dragging every ounce of emotion out of her words. If nothing else, don't deny yourself the exquisitely elongated rendition of the word "you" found on this song, it will send chills down your spine.

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