Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Top 10 albums of 2013

Each year since taking on this gig in 2003 I've chosen my top albums of the year, which you'll find below. I always enjoy those year-end issues of "Rolling Stone" where musicians submit their own top albums alongside the magazine's music critics. Our lists are something my husband and I discuss throughout the year as in, "Oh, this will totally make my list" (yes, we're music nerds). He has one too, which he posts on the StonerRockLives.com message board he frequents. 

With that conversation in mind, this year I asked others to play the game. In looking back at the year that was 2013, this week I'll post Top 10 albums from Charlotte-based musicians, pro-athletes, concert promoters, photographers, and others that work in the arts and entertainment industry. 

Today I start with my own. One thing I noticed that many of the lists, including mine, have in common is many include North Carolina artists. You might expect that, but I'm not playing favorites here. I truly enjoyed Beach Fossils, Valient Thorr, and yes, Charlotte's Scowl Brow - the only local band to make the list - above much higher profile releases. North Carolina's rich musical history runs deep and today NC musicians are some of the best out there in any genre. That's reflected in our lists. 

I'll post a list of favorite local releases next week as well. Look out for lists from Michael Waltrip, Anthony Hamilton, WCCB's Wilson, and others as this week unfolds. Thanks to everyone who participated. Here's mine:

David Mayfield Parade “Good Man Down” - While he may be best known for his associations (sister Jessica Lea, former bluegrass band Cadillac Sky, and friends the Avetts - Seth appears on this record), this charismatic band leader proved his songwriting is just as meaningful and compelling as his live shows are intense and funny. Music fans are lucky to have him.

Beach Fossils “Clash the Truth” - Brooklyn-based Charlotte native Dustin Payseur’s second album garnered national attention for beautifully dark indie-rock reminiscent of late `70s post-punk and no wave, but with contemporary edge and critique on society, apathy, youth, and finding your place.

Chvrches “The Bones of What You Believe” - Take irresistibly catchy modern synth-pop and top it with a girlish voice reminiscent of the Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler and you’ve got this Scottish trio’s buzzed about debut, which delivers genuine emotion and storytelling - like the best electronic music - amid the tech.

Menomena “Moms” - The former trio streamlined its sound as a duo with Justin Harris and Danny Seim trading writing credits and vocals on indie-rock tracks that explored how families and mothers in particular inform our relationships, our choices, and apparently our music.

Valient Thorr “Our Own Masters” - The NC metal outfit ups its game with every record, but none more than this. The twin guitars, chugging classic metal, and wild-eyed frontman Valient Himself’s lyrical observations - you Motorhead/Thin Lizzy/AC/DC fans should pay attention.

Scowl Brow “Scowl Brow” - While leader Robby Hale may be Charlotte’s answer to Axl Rose with graphically unfiltered and stinging lyrics, this Charlotte trio’s snappy, punky songs worm their way into your head like a virus you can’t shake and really don’t want to. He’s also lyrically as hard on himself as he is on his subjects.

The National “Trouble Will Find Me” - I almost disqualified my favorite band because every one of their records since “Alligator” has made my annual Top 10, but this was the year the world began agreeing with me. The Brooklyn-based band recently received a Grammy nomination.

Janelle Monae “Electric Lady” - She’s unpredictable with genre-splicing, funky, playful dance workouts, but when she channels Prince and `80s R&B on the Miguel duet “Primetime” she proves she can let her quirkiness slide for pop perfection.

Kate Nash “Girl Talk” - While my beloved `90s British indie-rock (Sleeper, Echobelly, etc.) is long gone and Lily Allen, until recently, was busy having babies, Nash took up the slack with a clever, very British, girly-pop gem that’s feminist and feminine.

Mansions “Doom Loop” - Sometimes I wish the pop genius and vocals were clearer through this Seattle-by-way-of-Louisville duo’s fuzz, but I think something might be lost if the production were cleaner. There’s something about it that takes me back to how I felt about music in high school.