In prior years, the months prior to December 31 were often spent putting together long lists and reviewing every album twice to check to see whether the band was naughty or nice. This year I decided to change that. I am not sure that I can sit here and post an “End of Year” list that I would ever feel right with. Names did not necessarily cement themselves in stone as the best album. Instead, as trends go, I find myself becoming more transfixed into lo-fi music.
Even as the clock is ticking down to midnight, I find myself still listening to new music, (as I am presently writing this) a sideproject of Ty Segall’s by the name of ‘Fuzz’ that has more in relation to Black Sabbath. Unlike his singular solo effort for 2014 which was more acoustic and slightly on the depressing side, his music still seemed to play a pivotal role for me in my overall music listening for 2013, even though I seemed to overlook this album until the final 12 hours of the year.
Such is the hunting for new music and it would seem that you can overlook things of even of the music you appreciate most.
The debates for streaming music continued as well as more artists got into the fray either defending or criticizing sites such as Spotify which has changed the landscape of music-listening. I found myself supporting the streaming crowd finding the old days of listening to music on CD, LP or Cassette more about listeners clinging to their romanticized past and I find the complaints of artists, especially established ones barking up the wrong tree and should instead focus their efforts on their record companies who seem to think that they are offering something worthwhile.
There were still several established acts that got me interested in music. Wire continues to put out solid records, and “Change Becomes Us” both takes from the past and the present as the band took some material that was initially written to be a follow-up to 154 and took some of those tracks and rewrote them.
Yo La Tengo’s ‘Fade’ continued along their subtle movements in psychadelic rock. The opening track, ‘Ohm’ was, in my opinion, one of their best tracks in years.
The most anticipated record would have had to be My Bloody Valentine’s “MBV”, their first release in over 20 years. If anything the album felt to me like where “Loveless” left off and captured 20 years of My Bloody Valentine up to present day 2013. In the case of Kevin Shield’s, we would hope that any follow-up would take less than 2 decades to complete.
Thom Yorke’s sideproject, Atoms For Peace, came out with “Amok” and my thoughts seemed to be that there was not much different between this and the most recent Radiohead release King of Limbs.
As much as I was in love with Foxygen’s EP ‘Take the Kids Off Broadway”, I felt that “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” to borrow to many different clique’s of the 60s as if it was attempting to emulate the best of the 60s. On the surface, the album is filled with hooks a plenty but for a combination of my preference to their earlier work as well as getting tired of their publicity stunts/immaturity, this album was a disappointment considering I had lofty expectations going in.
There were other bands that disappointed me. I felt that Arcade Fire’s newest album “Reflektor” had too few amazing tracks for a double album. Their title track was amazing and the video that followed but I am finding that bands that set up these marketing machines to promote a record before it was released become fairly exhaustive vs. the choices of artists like Beyonce who just released an album without any promotion as well as My Bloody Valentine that did something similar with MBV.
Deerhunter’s “Monomania” was also a slight disappointment although the title track was probably one of my favorite tracks of the year.
2013 was not necessarily an eye-opening year for music or should I say there was not a ton to get excited about. In fact, I think that there is not even an “Album of the Year”. At the very least I see myself delaying this until I have something to announce. There were several good records but nothing great.
Most of my time seemed to be centered around Ty Segall/White Fence who both released some good albums this year. Segall came out with Sleeper, which the majority is an acoustic affair that focuses some on the death of his adopted father from a long battle with cancer as well as a falling out with his mother. It’s a solid and emotionally intense affair and again shows the dexterity of Segall’s material.
There were a couple of White Fence affairs of note. Cyclops Reap which, I thought was one of their most consistent releases as well as a live show from San Francisco which provides a bit more insurgency to their material. Having been introduced to both artists (White Fence, Segall) work separately in 2012 as well as a collaborative effort, ‘Hair’, I knew that going in that 2013 would be a year full of both new releases as well as a more concentrated effort on their earlier material.
I found myself going back and listening to quite a bit of Velvet Underground (even before the passing of Lou Reed) and as mentioned before made a more constant effort to explore the world of Guided by Voices and the prolific Robert Pollard.
For me, it could be that lo-fi focuses so much more on something that feels real as compared to electronic music while still trying to avoid music written for the Civil War. I think there is a certain energy that exists that I have been attracted to. At the end of the day, this music fan that likes putting together a list just couldn’t do it but rather reflect on the direction that I am headed for 2014.