Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Favorite CDs of 2013

With my fiftieth year as a pop music consumer just completed and access to my blog regained, I shall henceforth set about naming my ten favorite albums of 2013 forthwith.

But first, a brief review.

Albums continued their sales decline, as our attention and time-challenged societies made singles their preferred mode of consumption. Retrospectives and archival live albums aimed at baby boomers continued to constitute an increasing percentage of album-length releases.

Ditto the box set, which at times seemed to endlessly recycle period albums into multi-disc extravaganzas costing hundreds of dollars.

But not all box sets were wanton cash grabs.

My favorite was Fisherman’s Box, a six-disc chronicle of the protracted recording sessions which yielded the Waterboy’s 1988 LP Fisherman’s Blues. The band moves effortlessly from folk to blues to the sixties-inspired pop that Karl Wallinger specialized in after he left to form World Party.

A reviewer on Amazon called this the ‘Irish Basement Tapes’ and he wasn’t far off.

Given the magnificence of this music, you could be forgiven for wondering why the remainder of the Waterboy’s oeuvre isn’t more familiar. The vagaries of public taste, radio play and record company politics are the likely culprits (at least here in the U.S.), but whatever the Waterboy’s unfulfilled potential, Fisherman’s Box captures—however briefly—promise wildly and exuberantly fulfilled.

A tip of the hat goes to the re-imagined edition of Bob Dylan's Self-Portrait, which shows this period to have been far-richer than some combination of Dylan and Columbia let on.

Robin Trower enjoyed a stellar solo career after leaving Procol Harum, plying Hendrix-inspired epics to rock audiences eager to continue that six-stringed ride.

State to State: Live Across America 1974 – 1980 offers an appealing cross section of live performances, including an exceptional 1974 show in Philadelphia. The inclusion of a fiery 1975 London show would make this just about perfect, but I’m not complaining.

And neither will you. It's the archival live album of the year.

In an era given to hip hop, rockified country and featherweight pop, rock refuses to die.

The following list reflects rock in all its current variants, along with examples of the rhythm and blues (admittedly of the blue-eyed variety) and country and western which flavored it along the way.

Time constraints forbid me from offering the capsule descriptions seen in years past. But I promise that all are worthy of your time and attention.

1. Big Scary – Not Art

2. White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

3. Richard Thompson – Electric

4. Mogwai – Les Revenants Original Soundtrack

5. The Bamboos – Fever in the Road

6. Los Lobos – Disconnected in New York City

7. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

8. The Veils – Time Stays, We Go

9. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon

10. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Honorable Mention:

My Darling Clementine - The Reconciliation?