Well, the year is quickly coming to it’s inevitable end (or perhaps it has already ended – in fact that is most likely the case, as there are only 6 hours left on the year, and I am slow at putting these pages together), and so is my epic, four-part breakdown of what I feel are some of the best songs of 2013. Of course, you should agree with me and form your tastes and pleasures around what I think, but on the off chance that you feel differently, I welcome you to reveal your favorite musical ditties of 2013, perhaps here in the comments section! That would be oh so lovely. If I get no comments, I will assume you all have the exact same opinions as me.
16. Wire – Adore Your Island (Change Becomes Us)
Keeping the vibe of the last part going, I choose the legendary band, Wire to start things off. So many of the iconic art-punk bands of the 70’s-80’s have left a lot to be desired on their “reunion” releases of recent years. Wire is not one of these bands. Since reforming in the early 2000’s Wire has put out several excellent albums that not only match up well with their early catalog, but even surpass them in many ways. Their 2013 release, “Change Becomes Us”, is perfectly titled, as Wire has taken their short/sharp/shocked (sorry had to go there) sound and blended it with a big dollop of prog. Adore Your Island is a perfect example of a song that starts off pretty mid-tempo, with some big chord riffs and swirling keys, followed by some layered vocals that might even be confused with John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson). Then 30 seconds in, it speeds up and the vocals go from smooth and easy to harsh and screaming. And as the vocals go, so do the guitars. This may be the best punk/prog song ever recorded.
I’m posting the studio version of this as well as the live version on the Soundcheck program. It’s interesting to hear the difference – it’s even more raw and frenetic live (as you would expect).
17. Grant Hart – Letting Me Out (The Argument)
OK, readers, I am asking you to tell me what this song sounds like to you. It sounds a lot like a song I grew up hearing, something that probably came out in the 60’s or 70’s, as that is the era most songs that trigger my deja vu reflex came from. There is a little bit of Billy Joel in this, a little David Bowie and a little, I dunno, Jerry Lee Lewis perhaps? I might be stretching a bit there. For those of you not well versed in the 80’s pop-punk song book, Grant Hart is the Paul McCartney half of the Husker Du (Bob Mould is the John Lennon) songwriting duo. After a decade of singing/drumming for one of the most influential punk bands in history, Grant spent most of the next two decades trying to stay alive and beat a serious heroin addiction. A few decent solo projects were released in that time, but nothing of note, until now. Grant put out The Argument earlier this year and it’s a sprawling, epic 20-song journey that is apparently loosely based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Not everything works here, but it is very clear that Hart is energized and is getting it all out.
18. Mikal Cronin – Shout it Out (MCII)
This is the perfect song to follow Grant Hart, as Mikal Cronin is the illegitimate monster child of the Husker legends. His long hair and melodic vocal style resembles Grant Hart in his heyday, and his wall of guitars sound clearly is influenced by Bob Mould’s amazing axe-work. Known for being a bass player in Ty Segall’s band for several years, Mikal as a solo artist brings a sweet, melancholic, almost tender approach to a lively, energetic sound. If I were 19 years old again, this would be my favorite album and I would be dancing wildly in my room, air guitaring and whipping my greasy hair around. At 47, I dance within reason, air drum and shake my bald head around.
19. Queens of the Stone Age – I Sat By the Ocean (…Like Clockwork)
Josh Homme reminds me of one of my stoner friends growing up, when I was a hard rock/heavy metal loving teen. When I decorated my pee-chee folders with the names of my favorite bands, like Rush, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. I would sit, bored in my Algebra class, and sketch out the VH of Van Halen’s logo with the extended horizontal lines shooting out the sides of the V and the H. Using my red bic pen to make the lines seem like they were fire.
Most of my friends who grew up as heshers like me, have since expanded their musical horizons beyond the hard rock/heavy metal bands of the 70’s and 80’s, though I know some of my classmates did not move much further, musically. Josh Homme is one of those guys from high school who is still a lot like the guy I remember from 30 years ago. I am guessing of course, and this imagining is a bit exaggerated, because Josh and Queens of the Stone Age create music that expands beyond stoner rock riffs.
I Sat By the Ocean feels like a song that I grew up listening to. It makes me want to ditch fifth period English class and meet my buddies at the Winchell’s Donuts. It feels like a long lost hit from 1979, but with a more minimal alt-rock approach. Like if Richie Blackmore era Rainbow mixed it up with Britt Daniel from Spoon and they had a musical baby.
and a nice acoustic version….
20. Waking On A Pretty Day – Kurt Vile (Waking On A Pretty Daze)
Kurt Vile makes me think of Neil Young. Neil Young’s quieter, acoustic stuff mixed with his more recent ten minute epics. And if you take out the nasal vocals. It sounds like that would be stripping away the personality, but with Kurt Vile, it’s not. Like Mikal Cronin, Kurt wears his emotions on his sleeve. Kurt though, keeps his sleeves rolled down, so the emotions are more hidden, more expressed indirectly. And a lot of that emotion is expressed in his guitar playing. This 9-plus minute song opens the album which is extremely rare in today’s “hits first” song-tracking. But it totally works. It sucks the listener in and keeps them in the album’s grasp. This is a lazy Sunday record. This is an album to put on if you want to mellow out after a tough day. I know it’s called “Waking On A Pretty Day” but to me, I’d want to crawl right back into bed if I put it on first thing.
Thanks for checking out my top 20 songs blog! I hope you enjoyed your stay and will come back soon.