2013 was definitely an eventful year in Music, if not a somewhat establishmentarian one. By this I mean a lot of attention was paid to new releases from a lot of established artists we have known for years. The much hyped releases by Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Eminem, MIA, Lady Gaga and Jay-Z come to mind, as does Beyonce who surprised everyone with a new album at the end of the year, and Miley Cyrus who finally completed her highly publicized transition to a sexually provocative pop-star. Additionally we saw new releases from such long runners, as Nine inch Nails, Queens of the Age, the Strokes and Pearl Jam, not to mention unexpected releases from David Bowie and My bloody Valentine (the latter being a follow up 22 years in the making).
While the world of pop dominated the music headlines, two imprisoned members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, who were released by the Russian government. The women had been held on vague charges of hooliganism, and I happy to here they are no longer being held as political prisoners. I am also impressed by the fact that both members of the group had the honesty to vocally dismissed their release as a public relations move, by the Putin administration (which is likely seeking to avoid criticism before the winter Olympics). The group’s activism, willingness to take personal risks, defiant attitude, and noisy sound, made them one of the most exciting musical/cultural phenomenons to come to my attention over the last few years, and I am glad to hear that their imprisonment has ended.
With that said, here is my list of the top 10 new albums I most enjoyed over the last year:
Clutch: Earth Rocker
David Bowie: The Next Day
My Bloody Valentine: MBV
The Uncluded: Hokey Fright
Savages: Silence Yourself
Skinny Puppy: Weapon
Iggy and the Stooges: Ready To Die
Deep Swell-Lore of the Angler
Goodie Mob Age: Against the Machine
Their are definitely numerous other releases I could that could have been included here, but these are the ones that ended up getting most of my attention. A lot of established artist here, but a few newer names as well. These include the debut of female led post-punk group savages, the abrasive hip-hop experiment Clipping, and the female Led clutch side project, Deep Swell. Additionally we have the debut of The Uncluded which is a project by folk singer Kimya Dawson and surrealist rapper Aesop Rock. Otherwise, we have a short, solid release from the Stooges, which while enjoyable, pales compared to their classic material, a surprisingly dance-groove oriented release from industrial pioneers skinny puppy, a hard rocking release from Clutch, the breathtaking follow up to My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 classic Loveless, and a solid new album from David Bowie. As I noted elsewhere, the Goodie Mob album, is something of a mixed bag, but where it is good it is quite good and quite fun.
Honorable mention goes to Ghost Face Killah, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Death Grips, Pearl Jam and Kayo Dot, who had excellent releases this year, but for did not get quite their fair share of attention from me for what ever reasons. I also spent a great deal of the year listening to older releases as well, by most of the artist mentioned here, as well as many others. This is especially the case following Lou Reed’s death in October. While I listen to his work with the Velvet Underground as well as his solo stuff often, I began revisiting his catalog within even greater zeal following his death. It is interesting how the loss of an important figure can greatly enhance our appreciation of that person’s work. Overall 2013 was an interesting and often fun year for music, though of course their was much sadness and loss.