It needs to be stated outright that when it comes to music, I follow my whims and don't try too hard to be "up on shit." I like the lag that occurs when the newest album of a beloved band finds me instead of the other way around, when music makes its way to me right when I need it. I find the emotional connection is much stronger this way than when I seek out the latest releases. I have my own procedures for finding music.
Of course, this sort of precludes me from making any "top albums of 2013" since I am obviously undereducated about such things. I know of the albums that came out this year that I like, but only because I like them. The fact that they were released this year is almost a byline.
I want to write about what new music I've been listening to this year, regardless of release date; I need to record this undercurrent of music that has been interacting with and oftentimes affecting my life directly. Music pushes and pulls me, it feels alive to me. I am not joking when I say that music makes its way to me - I find that the more I surround myself with music, the more that coincidence falls out of the picture. It becomes hard to refute.
So these, this small selection, represent some of the songs that have driven my car for me, worked through my paperwork for me, calmed my nerves on the way to open mic, set the mood for making out. I love these songs for the encapsulation of those memories, moments that won't appear in these songs for you but are etched indelibly for me. In no particular order:
1. Mac Demarco
I heard this song for the first time in April at a record store afternoon show. It may have been 4:20. I may have immediately written down some of the lyrics in my notebook as I was being antisocial and scribbly.
I honestly don't remember at all where I found this song or how. All I know is how in love with this band and the singer, Monica Martin, I am. Her voice is gold and their sound is sweet and indie-flavored. Lots of cat-eye glasses and whatnot.
3. Electric Wire Hustle
I'm pretty sure Corey introduced me to these guys with their song "They Don't Want." These guys, from Australia, are so smooth and delightfully chill with so much soul. I listened to these songs over and over again trying to sing along and capture that perfect bit of controlled emotion.
I'm actually pretty bummed that these guys were in town a few nights ago and I missed them checking out another amazing band. Side note: whoever says there's nothing to do in Jacksonville is either full of it or boring. There's TOO much awesome shit.
Anyway. I've been hanging around people lately who are really in to jam and funk festivals, and Papadosio is a great example of my favorite kind of white people funk. This song peaces me out, putting me back in that love-and-accept-all mindset. "All that I knew... all that I knew was love."
I first heard of this English group much earlier in the year with their song "Fitzpleasure" but I didn't really latch on to them until summer. "Breezeblocks" kills me with the Maurice Sendak reference and "Something Good" is one of those songs I turn to when I'm in a mixed mood but trying to come out of it. It's a little melancholic yet uplifting at the same time.
6. Monster Rally
Honestly I don't know anything about Monster Rally. Single person? Group? No clue. I heard this song in Bold Bean and was hooked immediately. It's great writing music, something to take my brain away without taking the focus with it. In looking them up just now I discovered there is a new album that was just released at the end of October that seems to be equally awesome. Their sound is like chill-hop meets bossa nova, just beats for days and days.
7. Earl Sweatshirt
This song describes pretty well how I feel about splitting my time up between focusing on art and relationships. I'm pretty absentminded when it comes to maintaining friendships and connections with more distant relatives, but I don't mean any harm by it... I'm just trying to delve into my mental spaces where the expression and creativity are.
I know it don't seem difficult to hit you up
But you not passionate about half the shit that you into, and I ain't havin' it
And we both know that I don't mean to offend you, I'm just focused today
And I don't know why it's difficult to admit that I miss you
And I don't know why we argue, and I just hope that you listen
And if I hurt you I'm sorry, the music makes me dismissive
When I'm awake I'm just driftin', I'm not complainin'
It's just to say that I stay pretty busy, lately
I just remember listening to this album on a particularly brain-fogged morning after a night of revelry and merriment. This song in particular stuck out to me as being anthemic for the feeling of coming out of the fog enough to feel human again.
9. King Krule
This guy. Whew, this guy. There's something about this kid's lackadaisically raspy voice that enraptures me. I found him with "Easy Easy" and then songs of his kept creeping into my life and staying for a while. "Octopus" has the most enchanting change of tempo I have heard this year, sneaking into my normal moments and making my head bob even in silence. The dreamy quality of the vocal effects makes a soundscape that echoes throughout me. "You Took Your Time" with Mount Kimbie (another musical love of mine) got a lot of airtime with me and my friends, listening to this in car rides downtown to whatever mayhem we were getting in to over the summer.
10. Kid Cudi
I'd never really paid much attention to Kid Cudi before. I still haven't delved into more of his discography past a handful of songs. This song, though, this song got a TON of airtime with me this year. It started when a friend gave me control of his PC and told me to make a playlist for our chill session. Now, there's next to nothing I love more than being given control of someone else's music collection. It gives me such a great sense of what they like and I am pretty much guaranteed to pick a playlist they will love. I was bluffing this particular night, telling them I loved Kid Cudi when really I've only minorly heard his music. The bluff paid off though, with this song coming on after I'd already forgot I picked it, and now this song is engraved with the peaceful images of that night and those friends.
"And now for something completely different..."
I have a soft spot in my heart for alt-country, for real country, for blue collar guys all greasy and ladies in daisy dukes. Miller Lite and wife beaters. You know, all that jazz. This song eases my heart when it hurts, plain and simple.
12. Drive By Truckers
I have been in love with Drive By Truckers and their singer, Jason Isbell, for many years now.
That being said, this is the song I play when I hate myself. It's good music for self loathing.
13. J Cole
Hey, this one came out this year!
Ok. J Cole. I saw J Cole at Bonnaroo in 2011 before he really blew up and I had no idea who he was. I didn't give him a chance and I wasn't going to... I can be picky about artists depending on how I hear about them. Thankfully I have a friend who played "Forbidden Fruit" in my car one day and I was instantly hooked by the A Tribe Called Quest sample (technically it's a Mystic Brew sample, but I think we can all agree that Cole is going for the Tribe vibe). I still didn't latch on to Cole for a while after that, being periodically sucked back in by a different song on a few separate occasions.
I haven't decided though about Cole. I love the way he samples, and I hate it. "Land of Snakes" is such a solid song top to bottom, but I don't like just HOW similar the sample is to its Outkast origins. The same principle applies to most of Cole's samples but honestly I enjoy the finished effect so much it almost negates my ethical dilemmas, and no matter how ethically torn I am I have been playing this shit nonstop so I guess I have decided after all.
One thing I really love about this album is the song "Let Nas Down" and the resulting Nas verse that came from it. I get chills listening to Nas addressing Cole, an elder to a child. "I aint mad at you young king, this unsung song is haunting" is maybe one of my favorite lines this year, and the whole exchange gives me so much more respect for both artists. The idea that your love for music can get sucked away by record labels and used against you is terrifying but the idea that artists are stronger than that is inspiring. It makes me feel like I'm not the only one out there just trying to find sincerity, there are people out there talking with their own words about their own hearts and not just spewing drivel in order to sell.