Steve’s Best Songs of 2013 (part 3)

Part 3 sees us transitioning out of the contemplative mood and back into a dance-inspired, world-music spirit.  I was very tempted to choose a song from the latest Vampire Weekend album, Modern Vampires of the City, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, but when I played “Unbelievers” or “Finger Back” against Foals “My Number” I found I kept going back to the angular grooves of Foals.  If this was all about the album, and not the song, I might’ve chosen Vampire Weekend.  Foals just have that hypnotic sound that you can get lost in, like if Franz Ferdinand discovered Haircut 100.  That might describe some people’s nightmare, but for me, that sounds like peanut butter and chocolate.

Found this cool live version from some French TV show (trying to be like Later with Jools Holland).

11. Foals – My Number (Holy Fire)

and to hear what I didn’t choose (but still like a lot)….

12.  Bombino – Amidinine (Nomad)

I don’t have a lot of world music artists on this year’s list, which is unfortunate, but I didn’t get a chance to listen to a lot of it.  One artist I did get to spend some aural time with is Bombino.  Being a huge fan of Malian music, and the Saharan blues sound in particular, with artists like Tinariwen and Ali Farka Toure, it makes sense that I would love Bombino.  “Amidinine” is the opening track and the one you may have heard if you listen to college or satellite radio. Since the new album was produced by the Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach, Bambino’s latest, “Nomad,” is getting some well-deserved airplay.  I can hear a bit of Black Keys in this song, less so on the rest of the album.  Or maybe it’s Black Keys borrowing the sound of Bambino on their records.  Either way, it’s all good.  Me likey.

And if you like that, check out this cool stripped down tiny desk concert from earlier this year.

13.  Foxygen – No Destruction (We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic)

In 2013 we lost many musical icons, but none more influencial, IMO, than Lou Reed.  More bands have taken the sound that Lou and his Velvet Underground cohorts created in the late 60’s and taken it to new and exciting places, than anyone else.  And that includes the Beatles.  Foxygen is one of those bands, and this song “No Destruction” perfectly encapsulates the folky/psychedelic sound of the 60’s and wraps it up in a blanket of 90’s ironic alternativity (see: Pavement).  I normally don’t like overly affected vocals.  You know, fake accents, mumbliness, whisper/talking.  But here the exaggerated stylings are meant as a clear nod to their classic rock influences.  The rest of the album is excellent and touches on greatness at times.  It can be a game of name-that-influence, but I like to play games, and being an old fart, I can appreciate when the young kids can steal the keys from our pockets and still bring the car back with a full tank when they get home.

14. Of Montreal – Belle Glade Missionaries (Lousy with Sylvianbriar)

One of the most musically and lyrically inventive bands to have ever graced the planet, Of Montreal have returned with arguably their most inspired album yet.   Usually each of their albums can be described as “the disco one” or “the psychedelic one” or “the acoustic one” though in truth, each of their albums is really a hodgepodge of multiple styles and genres.  Lousy With Sylvianbriar is no different, but to me, it definitely has a 60’s hippie vibe to it.  It is more laid-back than most of their albums, which can be so dense and complex that listening to them is like reading Faulkner — you know it’s brilliant but it is a chore to get through and fills you up with a couple bites.  This one is spare yet rich, lyrically obtuse (sample line: The blade missionaries are here to steal your cocaine/You better send your malaria to puncture their brains/Send them back to where they came from/Send them back to the souvenirs of disease) and reveals hidden layers upon repeated listenings.  I guess I would compare this album to a poppier version of an early Pink Floyd album.

After watching the below review of the album, I realize I should not quit my day job to review albums.  He goes on way too long, but just being able to riff rhapsodic for ten minutes is pretty impressive.

15.  Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving (Light Up Gold)

To include Parquet Courts on this list is sort of cheating, as I had included them on my 2012 best of list, since Light Up Gold did get released in December of 2012.  But the year this album reached the attention of the masses was 2013, and I do love this album so so much, that any chance I get to hype it up some more, I will take.   Parquet Courts, to me, are like the perfect blend of the stoned jamming and stream-of-conscience lyrics of Pavement, the sardonic, straightforward propulsion of Modern Lovers, and the experimental, expressive, guitar-focused vibe of Television.  Basically, Parquet Courts emulate the music of my favorite era, late 70’s early 80’s pre-punk.   And they write about getting stoned a lot, which I don’t do anymore, but love the music I listened to when I did.  Stoned and starving is a state I remember all too well.

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2 thoughts on “Steve’s Best Songs of 2013 (part 3)

  1. I agree with you Fuzzy Wuzzy. I should hate Foxygen. They rip off everyone I love, Beatles, Velvets, Kinks, Stones, Elvis, etc. The vocals are affected to the point of ridiculousness. Why don’t I hate this? Because it’s so freaking good that’s why.

    Same with Parquet Courts. They sound like the bands you mentioned above. Bands we both love dearly. But they do it so well; and without any pretentious bullshit. They nail the 20 something slacker mindset that Pavement tapped into, but they bring that brilliance into the 21st century. Guitar slightly out of tune; a little too loud in the mix, hit a few bad notes, a little too much feedback. A little too much dissonance. Vocals delivered like Jonathon Richman’s younger, disengaged, stoner brother. Even the album cover is perfect. This is my kind of punk rock.

  2. I prefer Bombino’s previous records that he did for the Sublime Frequencies label. The new one is a little too over-produced for my lo-fi, mono over stereo sensibilities. That being said, Bombino is an amazing guitar player and performer; and it’s good to see him finally reaching a wider audience, through the popularity of Black Keys producer Dan Auerbach. If you haven’t already check out the two earlier Group Bombino records, Guitars from Agadez Vol 1 & 2. Also, if you are like me and like good things, you need to check out African Scream Contest on the Analog Africa label. That record changed my life. Funky James Brown-style African Soul Music that will make you shake a tail feather.

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