It’s that time of year again, when I arbitrarily sort through the list of songs I’ve been obsessed with over the past 12 months, and try to whittle it down to a semi-reasonable list of 100 favorites. A lot of these were released in 2013, and a few even in 2012, but as usual, I was late to the party.
Music videos and some live performances are embedded for most of the Top 30. I didn’t want to go too far beyond that, for fear of crashing your browser. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist that explores a number of these favorites, more or less chronologically in the order that I discovered them.
Artist: Pearl Jam Album: Lightning Bolt Year: 2013 Grade: B+
In Brief: A triumphant “return to form” that manages to not be a rehash of Ten or of their previous “return to form” on the self-titled album. Despite a few slow spots, Lightning Bolt has a surprising amount of instant likeability that doesn’t diminish as you get deeper into the album.
For the third and final entry in this long-winded look back at the music that mattered to me this year, I present the cream of the crop – the albums that provided me with the most satisfying listening experience from beginning to end, which is a much more difficult feat than simply hooking me with a catchy song or two, and arguably a feat many artists have given up on in the age of digital music that can just as easily be released for bite-sized consumption on a sporadic schedule, rather than thought through as a fully-formed artistic statement. These albums don’t have that much in common with one another, but taken all together, they represent the weird snowball of influences that make up my musical tastes these days, ranging from old favorites who have resurfaced after lying dormant for many years, to buzz-gathering indie artists who have begun to break out of the blogosphere and into some version of “the mainstream”, to those who have given up entirely on mainstream fame and are content to Kickstarter and Indiegogo their way into fans’ hearts with no traditional support structure whatsoever. It’s all a very weird mix, but it’s all quite delicious.
It’s time to kick off my yearly obsession with counting things that it really makes no sense to put in order. More detailed write-ups on the full lengths albums that captivated me this year are to follow, but for now, here’s a haphazard list I’ve compiled of 100 songs that moved me this year… some physically, some emotionally, some both.
The beginning of a new year, 2010, and a new third digit in our numbering system for years that indicates I’ll likely never see another year with “0” in that slot for the rest of my lifetime, means that for the first time, this relatively young music fan gets to look back at entire decade (these things being commonly delineated by that third digit even if the technical scientific approach says our decade isn’t over until the beginning of 2011) and try to sum it all up in terms of the music that was meaningful to me over the course of nearly a third of my life. That’s right, I’m just a smidgen over 30, which means that the 2000’s (or the “Ought Nots”, as I’ve decided to call a decade of learning what not to do in retrospect) were my first full decade of being a true music fan. I might have come of age and finished high school and college in the 90’s, and I have my fair share of nostalgic tunes to whisk me back to those days. But this most recent decade was when I truly opened up, with the advent of file sharing and social networking making it remarkably easy to burst the bubble of “Christian music only” that I started out with, to go beyond the basic pop/rock styles largely dominant on the radio, and to really dig deep and find my own musical personality, unburdened by rumors of danger beyond the comfortable fences I had previously built for myself.
The end of 2009 is upon us, friends. It was a year that many of us didn’t look forward to, already knowing to expect financial woes and potential job losses (if not already realized ones) going into it – a year where the unexpected road ahead seemed to promise more hardship than exciting new possibilities to explore. but a poor year for the world was a rich year for music – either because artists channelled their angst into some of the best songs they’d ever written, or because more and more of them were jumping ship on the big labels and finding freedom to go where their imaginations would take them even if the audiences weren’t as big as a result. Some found artful ways to downsize while others played it as over-the-top as they could in defiance of expectations. In the end, it was a more exciting year than I could have anticipated, one that has left me with a lot to look forward to.
When I look back on the final closing months of 2006, I remember feeling cold on the outside, but warm on the outside. That’s because the two cover images I chose for these mixes were from outdoor activities in the late autumn weather, in places that had both become meaningful to me many years before, but that I was now experiencing with a newer group of friends. 2006 was one of my favorite years all the way through to the end, and I felt a sense of peace about the holidays arriving that year, which isn’t a normal thing for me. The holidays weren’t without their moments of upheaval – my uncle Dean passed away just before Thanksgiving, and it took us over a month to coordinate with folks so that we could hold a memorial service. But there were also happy family memories, as Christine and I got to have her parents and my mom together for Thanksgiving for the first time, and we adopted our cat in early December, who Christine decided to name “Anberlin”, of all things.
In with the New:
Peter Bradley Adams (as a solo artist – appears previously with Eastmountainsouth)
Sean Watkins (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Nickel Creek and Fiction Family)
Out with the Old:
He Is Legend
The Violet Burning
It Was Worth a Try:
Chris Thile (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers)