This year’s End of the Year list will look a little different from previous lists. For 2013, I’ve asked a few folks to contribute their lists, including Billboard Magazine’s Bill Werde and music technology pundit Jason Herskowitz. Included on this list are some close friends of mine including Mike Caroleo and Andrew Bodenbach.
In No Particular Order
These are in no particular order, with the exception of #1, which is listed last.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
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I didnʼt catch on to this release until later in the year, but wow, it is solid. Ezra Koenig has many interesting things to say about God and religion here, and the music does a notably fantastic job of enhancing his lyrics. Excellent release that should not be looked over.
Haim – Days Are Gone
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These three sisters from California have written an album that wouldʼve made Fleetwood Mac proud. Itʼs fun, infectious, refreshing indie pop. Iʼve tried turning this album off before, but it never really works because it never stops playing in my head. Haim will deﬁnitely be one to watch develop over the next few years.
Twenty One Pilots – Vessel
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As someone that was so utterly blown away by the single, “Holding On To You,” I was at first extremely disappointed by the full LP. After later seeing Tyler Joseph & Josh Dun perform these songs live however, my disappointment turned to toleration, and eventually, enthusiasm. With time, Iʼve come to really, really like this album, even if that single still overshadows it.
The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
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This Brooklyn-based three-pieceʼs debut is overﬂowing and exploding with raw talent. Iʼm going to carry a copy with me everywhere I go in 2014, just in case someone asks me to deﬁne the term “good music.” Seriously, if you donʼt know what Iʼm talking about, you need to stop what youʼre doing and listen.
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
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Iʼve been a big fan of these Scotts since The Midnight Organ Fight, and theyʼve outdone themselves with this one. Being a Christian, it hurts to listen to the strong current of anti-Christianity that runs through this album, but Scott Hutchisonʼs genuine honesty and the bandʼs musical prowess remind me I donʼt need to agree with the subject to appreciate the art.
The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
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Listen, ever since I “grew up” and got married, I havenʼt paid much attention to “the scene” that The Wonder Years represent. That said, I couldnʼt ignore this album. Itʼs an emotional monster, from the ﬁrst song to the ﬁnale. The ﬁnale, by the way, is one of my favorite songs of the year because….well youʼll just have to listen for yourself. (Tip: Listen to album straight through for full effect)
The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk
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Started listening to these guys when I saw they were opening for Manchester Orchestra. You wonʼt ﬁnd any grand production or fancy marketing surrounding the bandʼs two members, but you will ﬁnd some unique, raw songwriting on an album that pleasantly surprised me from ﬁrst listen.
Lorde – Pure Heroine
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Everyoneʼs heard her smash-hit single, “Royals.” Not as many have taken the time to listen to what is one of my favorite mainstream pop albums of the last 5 years. An album of this quality should never be written by someone so young. Itʼs not fair to everyone else.
The Get Togethers – Home As In Houston
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Though theyʼve ﬂown under the radar, The Get Togethers have gotten together 12 songs (one for each month) that really stand strong. And letʼs face it, not many girls that are in bands with their husband can come away with comparisons to Death Cab For Cutie after writing an album about the lesbian teacher-student affair they had in high school, am I right?
The 1975 – The 1975
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Iʼll say it: If I had to pick an album of the year, this is it. Iʼm not gonna lie to you and tell you I know what each songʼs about, or that I can even understand every word Matthew Healy sings, but wow. Every song is different from the next, while all still managing to entertain and provide a fresh combination of pop, R&B, 80ʼs rock, and nu gaze. Iʼve literally had to take this album out of my car so that I can listen to something else, but somehow it always ﬁnds its way back to my ears. Top to bottom, I absolutely love it.
Listen to Mike’s Favorite Songs of 2013 here.
Despicable Me 2
The Bling Ring
Because it’s beautifully shot (not to mention Emma Watson) and nails the moral and social depravity of this generation.
The Place Beyond The Pines
Because for the first 2/3 it was what the perfect movie would look like.
Because it’s a great look at the anxiety of millenials and it’s very enjoyable to boot.
Much Ado About Nothing
Because it’s Joss Whedon and Co. doing Shakespeare. What else do you need?
Because it’s absurd and transcendent at once. And has the most unforgettable scene I’ve ever seen. (it’s not this one)
All Is Lost
Because it’s Gravity, but on the ocean and it’s better.
Because I’m still in awe. It’s beyond comprehension. And also, Clooney’s voice.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Because there is no one who is better at their craft than the Coen Brothers. And this might have been them at their best.
Fast & Furious 6
Because how can it not be? But seriously, all the talk about movie in the films actually made you feel like you were a part of the family. Which makes the loss of Paul Walker feel like the loss of a real brother.
If you’re looking for a boost today, may I recommend this selection of songs for you? Some of my new favorite upbeat songs to keep you tapping your foot all day.
Low Weather is the personification of Michael Trieb’s newest music endeavor, in which he takes a huge leap forward in evolving his musical sound. “I guess somewhere along the way, the whole ‘singer-songwriter’ aesthetic just didn’t work for my music anymore,” Trieb says. “It wasn’t an accurate identifier. My songs began to get weirder and I started to have less and less songs I was able to pull off by myself on stage.”
Now with the new project in full swing, Low Weather is planning to release a full length album in March, with half of the record already recorded and ready to be heard. The lead single, Underneath, certainly tips its hat to the musical influences of Death Cab for Cutie and Pedro the Lion. Trieb and his comrades lay down an eerily catchy bass line with a plinking guitar that seep into your subconscious and leave you wanting to hit play after the song ends. Some of his other songs draw from his love of classics like John Lennon and Paul McCartney as well as cult favorites Pavement and American Football.
From a lyrical standpoint, Trieb says these songs come from a very personal place for him. “When writing, I think I’ve been learning that any situation you might find yourself in is not always unique to just you. Everybody deals with similar stuff, we just kind of view it through different lenses. So this album is simply my own perspective on things.”
With half of the album recorded, Low Weather is anxious to begin recording the remainder of the album. They are currently running a Kickstarter project to raise $2,000 to record and complete the remainder of their full length album. Be sure to check out the links below on how to stay up to date with Low Weather.
The Avett Brothers – Magpie and the Dandelion
RIYL: Trampled by Turtles, Old Crow Medicine Show, Langhorne Slim
Must-Hear Songs: Open-Ended Life, Another is Waiting, Vanity
Formed in 2000, brothers Seth and Scott Avett formed their alt-country/bluegrass band and have wasted no time releasing 12 full length records and EPs over the last 13 years. In fact, the release between 2012′s Carpenter is separated by a mere 13 months from their newest album Magpie and the Dandelion. The quick turnaround does not lose any quality, with the brothers putting out quite possibly their best record to date. Magpie and the Dandelion does a great job of showcasing the Avett Brothers’ ability to go from upbeat banjo-filled songs like “Another is Waiting” to piano ballads like “Good To You” and everything in between. If you were a fan of banjos before it was cool, you’ll love this record. If you just recently discovered how awesome bluegrass music can be, this highly accessible record can certainly provide a foothold into a magical genre of music.
The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still
RIYL: The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Dawes
Must-Hear Songs: Homecoming Heroes, Shake
The acoustic guitar/piano/three part harmonies sound is one the staple of today’s indie folk scene, and The Head and the Heart did it with great success in their eponymous debut released in 2011. However, the band felt that the new release required some growth sonically. With Let’s Be Still, it seems they tried a little too much on some of the songs, especially songs like “Summertime” and “Fire/Fear.” These two attempt to really change your perspective on their sound, but leave you scratching your head wondering what went wrong. Overall, the record is worth a listen, but it gets a little stale after the lead single “Shake.” As terrific as the debut record was, it looks like they built up the anticipation a bit too much for another stellar release.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
RIYL: Arcade Fire, Haim, Passion Pit
Must-Hear Songs: Unbelievers, Diane Young, Hannah Hunt
It’s hard to deny how catchy Vampire Weekend’s hits were from previous records. Songs like A-Punk, M79, and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa are beyond catchy, but it’s understandable that you want a record full of songs this catchy. Luckily, their latest release provides you with that wish. Song after song is better than the next, truly elevating their sound to become more than just the darlings of indie music. With the release of this record, Vampire Weekend has solidified their place in the top ranks of the best indie rock bands of this decade. Ranging from dance songs like Diane Young to somber introspective songs like Hannah Hunt and everything in between, this album is chocked full of fantastic songs that show off their remarkable growth in songwriting. This one is sure to make a lot of end of year lists.
St. Lucia – When The Night
Release Date – October 8th, 2013
Recommended if you like: Peter Gabriel, Ghost Beach, Charli XCX
Some songs have a way of sticking with you in an indescribable way. The first time you listen to the opening of St. Lucia’s single “Elevate,” odds are you had that feeling, too. Was it the opening synth riff? Was it the incredible bass line peaking its head out during the verses? Was it the huge gang vocals singing the chorus at the end of the song? Whatever it was for you, the catchiness of this lead single was unbelievable. After hearing this song and a handful of others on previous EPs, excitement exuded about the full release coming out.
What tends to happen when an EP precedes a full release is that the previously released tracks are the best ones on the album. While this is certainly not a new thing to do to artists releasing their major label debut, it’s an unfortunate one for previous fans.
This review should not be read as a disappointment towards St. Lucia, but comes as somewhat of a warning to returning fans expecting an album full of brand new songs. While the old songs like “Closer Than This” and “We Got It Wrong” continue to sound terrific, unfortunately the new songs have a harder time sticking their landing.
It would not be surprising to hear some of these songs take off on Top 40 radio, especially with the backing of a major label as strong as Columbia. With someone as talented as Jean-Philip Grobler, he certainly deserves all the attention he can garner. While this debut release has its hits and misses, the hits are most certainly grand slams.
Today approximately one in 88 children are identified as on the autism spectrum. But in 1990, autism was just a blip on the radar. You didn’t hear about support groups, special training for educators, clinical studies. All that a small autistic child had was his family.
I was born the last of four children. My mother had two children from a previous marriage, so my only full brother is Michael, who is just 22 months older than me. The summer before I was born, my parents noticed that Michael was not developing at the same pace as most children. At 18 months, he was not talking, still using a bottle, and extraordinarily fussy. When he was two years old, his fussiness turned into outbursts. Unable to communicate what he was thinking, Michael threw temper tantrums and his behavior was extremely erratic. My mother, a registered nurse, knew that something had to be going on, but could not understand what all of these incidents meant.
Not only was my family clueless about what was causing Michael’s behavior, but there was nowhere to go to try and find answers. We lived in a town of 200 in rural southeastern Illinois, went to a consolidated public county school, and drove more than 30 miles just to reach the nearest Walmart. Cutting edge health research was at least a day’s drive away, and Michael could hardly sit in a car long enough to make it to school every day. At the age of three, Michael was diagnosed with autism after a nurse at a preschool screening said that he had “autistic-like tendencies.”
It feels like a miracle that my parents are still together. They always struggled over how best to discipline Michael. While my mother would try to be gentle and lenient, my father saw Michael’s misbehavior as orneriness and tried to enforce strict rules. The result was chaos between the three of them and I was stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure out where I fit in. I felt pressured to be the son that kept the family together.
Read more. [Image: DBduo Photography/Flickr]
In case you missed it, I had an article published by The Atlantic. Would love for you to read it here.
Campfire OK - When You Have Arrived
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
Recommended if you like: Deep Sea Diver, Rogue Valley, Bombadil
When a relatively unknown band goes on tour with a very recognizable act, there are essentially two routes the band can take. The first way is to feel overwhelmed by the headliner and just do your best to put on a good show. The second is to put all your cards on the table, play the best show of your life every night, and let people walk away wondering which band was the opener and which was the closer. When Campfire OK toured with Anberlin this summer, crowds raved about their live show and were ecstatic to hear the new songs recorded. For first time listeners of Campfire OK, you’ll find it difficult to put your finger on what exactly to call their music. Whether you call it indie folk, bluegrass, or indie pop, there is no doubt that this is some of the most creative and well crafted music to come out this year.
Over a year ago, the band released a music video for their song “Wishing You The Best” and put it on YouTube. It’s modest view count does give the incredibly well crafted video the justice it deserves. The song showcases Andrew Eckes’ rolling banjo that is prevalent on most of the record as well as lead singer Mychal Cohen’s unique baritone voice. The hypnotic bass drum complements the lyrics in a way to bring them to the front row of the song as Cohen sings out “And I’m sorry if I was overbearing, but I didn’t mean it. But you’re so pretty, I couldn’t hold back, I couldn’t help it.”
Song after song provides a slightly different sound on the indie rock spectrum, offering up plenty for new fans to love. The song “New Tradition” takes a step back from the banjo and brings in some Wilco-esque electric guitar as Cohen and background vocalist Zarni DeWet sing the majority of the song together in stunning harmony.
The lyrics on each song are just as magnificent as the instrumentation. The title track is near the end of the record, but certainly does not lack in content. The title “When You Have Arrived” is in reference to meeting the expectations of other people, especially from their personal standpoint of being an independent musician. In the chorus, he asks, “Do you know who I am? Do you know what I want? Tell me what it’s like to rise. Tell me how it feels to be admired, and tell me how you know when you’ve arrived.” He puts things into perspective with the second verse as he honestly says, “Oh, gentle sir, don’t you know how our lives are mirrors where we see clearer. I am the man selling roses on your street corner for two small dollars, and I am the man pouring coffee at 6 A.M. for your high school daughters.” The earnest lyrics leave you thinking twice about the work and dedication independent artists like Campfire OK put into their art in order to make a living doing what they love.
Switchfoot – The Beautiful Letdown
Today marks my 24th birthday. As most of you probably know, Switchfoot has long been one of my favorite bands. I’ve had the privilege and honor of meeting the members, seeing them live numerous times, and even being able to work with them during my final AgapeFest. This song has really been on my mind a lot over the last week or two as I’ve been thinking about what it really means to turn twenty-four years old. Life has certainly been interesting for me over the last twenty-four years, and I’m blessed to be able to share this day with some really wonderful people. Writing has been a terrific outlet for me, and I’m truly blessed to have had the opportunities to write for some really great publications. Thanks for reading along and supporting my side project. Here’s to another 24 years.
The Neighbourhood – I Love You.
The California based band The Neighbourhood is on the rise thanks to the release of their Columbia Records backed debut I Love You. While the album is certainly loaded with catchy songs, the standout single is certainly “Sweater Weather.”
The song showcases singer Jesse Rutherford’s superb ability to jump quickly from pseudo-rapping the verses into his full singing voice on the chorus with definite nods to the rap and hip-hop scene in their California homeland. Rutherford and company have had enormous success with both this single and the record as a whole. I Love You. reached number 39 on the Billboard Top 200 and number 9 on the Rock Charts while the single “Sweater Weather” reached number one on the Billboard’s Alternative Songs charts.
You can download the song for FREE below.
(To download song, right click link and select “Save Link As…”)