Music/Popular Culture

The Best CDs of 2013: the end of a tradition

CATEGORY: MusicFor a very long time I have ended the year with my annual best CDs list. I listen to a lot of music and have always enjoyed being able to pimp the great stuff to my readers.

The tradition ends here, though. Over the course of the last couple of years I have worked to unclutter my life, to clear out the things that aren’t paying dividends (in one way or another) so that I might focus on what does matter. Sadly, the past few series have felt like more and more work with fewer and fewer people giving a happy damn. Looking at the stats for the Best of 2013 series was just gut-wrenching. Never have so many people cared so little about a guy with so much to say about so many incredible artists.

This is an incredible bummer – seriously, I wish I had a huge audience, because I certainly have a lot of great CDs that I’d love to tell everyone about.

I will continue being a rabid fan of talented musicians everywhere, and you can expect me to write the occasional article about a new disc, or a new artist discovery, or a new insight I’ve had about the place of popular music in our culture. But the labor of love that has been the annual list … I guess you’d say that the labor:love ratio tilted too far in the wrong direction.

That said, I’m not leaving those who care with nothing. I have been compiling, throughout the year, a playlist of stuff I like, and if you have a Spotify account you can click to hear it in its entirety.

And I’d take a second to especially call out these for particular attention:

  • Aline, Regarde Le Ciel
  • Black Sabbath, 13
  • Dead Soul, In the Darkness
  • Doco, The Freeway Camping Life
  • Editors, The Weight of Your Love
  • Eels, Wonderful, Glorious
  • Fish, Feast of Consequences
  • Fitz & the Tantrums, More Than Just a Dream
  • Matthew Grimm, Songs in the Key of Your Face
  • Mayer Hawthorne, Where Does This Door Go
  • Hey Marseilles, Lines We Trace
  • Hot Nun, Hot Nun
  • Adam Marsland, The Owl and the Full Moon
  • Jason Isbell, Southeastern
  • London Grammar, If You Wait
  • The Lost Patrol, Driven
  • Frankie Rose, Herein Wild
  • Veronica Falls, Waiting for Something to Happen

Happy New Year, and may your 2014 be full of music.

Categories: Music/Popular Culture

9 replies »

  1. I know exactly what you mean Sam….what mp3 and other downloadable formats have done is they have not only led to the shutdown of excellent brick and mortar music stores but also led to the diffusion of music lovers of all genres. I guess the vinyl lovers have one over on the rest of us as they continue to bask in the “warmer” sound of vinyl. Needless to say I can no longer care for vinyl like I did some decades ago. Hey I have a massive cassette and CD collection and used to have an entire wall shelf (7′ x 8′) filled with CDs for the most part and quite a few DVDs, to say nothing of the music CDs I stored in my basement. But for the past 4-5 years I hardly play any of them because I have ripped all the music from about 90% of my CD collection and it is all on hard drives.

    Your post makes me feel nostalgic for the time when one looked forward to the Tuesday releases of my favorite artiste/band. Alas even though this is still the case I just download the music from Amazon or wherever else it is available. The music store culture has pretty much evaporated in my opinion. I guess we moved from a post-industrial universe to the (post?) information age where everything is a stripped down interpretation of what used to be cover art, album covers etc.

    Even though we are surrounded by all the gadgets that are supposed to make more time for us to lead a better quality of life, what in fact has happened many or even most of us have surrendered to their tyranny. I guess McLuhan was right when he said “The Medium Is the Message”, I am not sure whether or not he meant it to apply to the kinds of “toys” we now have but it is still devastatingly true.

    Great post and thanks for the list. I will definitely be checking out a lot of the bands/artistes on your list.



    • It’s mind-numbing thinking about how much the music landscape has changed since I was a teenager. Some of the changes are good – greater access for marginal artists, new ways of end-running the big labels, etc. But I’m not sure that the net effect isn’t negative. All that diffusion you’re talking about leads to a leveling, and it makes it harder for the truly great talents to break through and earn the level of attention they deserve.

  2. Well I, for one, am bummed. I love your lists and have bought a few CDs from artists you’ve promoted. I have a few more still sitting in my wishlist. I’ll check out your Spotify list when I get a chance.

  3. I understand the choice – but I also hate to see the tradition end. If you haven’t heard it, try Doco’s THE FREEWAY CAMPING LIFE. Let me know if you need a copy….