Top 10 Albums of 2013

The time of year has come again for me to make a list of the tunes that have dominated my speakers over the past year. Often my favorite albums correlate with the live shows I’ve seen, since I always try to intimately get to know a new album before I see a band perform it. Inevitably, there are two or three albums that dominate my waking hours and keep me from getting out there and listening to new stuff. This year, Rhye’s Woman, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories became the subjects of my obsession.

I’m getting ready to take a big, long vacation and it couldn’t come at a better time. For one, it’s freezing out and I’m escaping winter. Secondly, as my favorite sources of music news and reviews start to release their top 10 / 25 / 50 / 100 albums of the year, the list of albums I’ve somehow overlooked over the past year is growing and I get to refresh my iPod with tons of new music. So far on my list: Tennis, Grizzly Bear, Childish Gambino, M.I.A., Burial, Crystal Antlers, Volcano Choir and Juana Molina; these are the artists that will keep me company on planes, trains and beaches.

I was looking back on my favorite albums of 2012 and I realize that I’m still listening to those albums. My favorite albums of 2013 will no doubt remain on rotation, because a favorite album is one that you never tire of. Albums where after each play, you change your mind on which is your favorite track and each new listen has you noticing a different riff, new lyrics and new layers – these are worthy of being favorites.

Once again, in no particular order (because that is just a migraine waiting to happen), my top 10 albums of 2013:

2013 top 10

  1. Rhye – Woman
  2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  3. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  4. Tegan & Sara – Hearthrob
  5. Arctic Monkeys – AM
  6. Haim – Days Are Gone
  7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
  8. Austra – Olympia
  9. Local Natives – Hummingbird
  10. Kid Cudi – Indicud

Music to Warm Your Heart

At the Of Monsters and Men show at the Koolhaus last week I realized something – a good majority of my favourite bands have a few very specific things in common: (1) a female band member, (2) at least one of the trumpet, accordion, mandolin or the violin (the more the merrier); (3) an epic, foot-stomping kind of sound that sounds every bit as good acoustic as it does plugged in; and (4)  a palpable love of their art and appreciation of their fans that makes them a genuine pleasure to watch on stage.  Thursday’s Monsters show was one of two sold out back to back shows in Toronto.  The band played a solid handful of songs with the kind of energy and intensity that could have made it their last of the night.

Of Monsters & Men

When it actually was the end of the night, instead of giving the audience a nod and shuffling off stage, the entire band linked arms and took a bow.  It reminded me of seeing Arcade Fire play at Bonaroo 2011 and watching on the big screens as they looked out over the enormous crowd with even greater awe than we looked back at them.

Arcade Fire

These are bands that truly seem to love what they do, who still, after numerous awards, accolades and sold out shows, still seem genuinely shocked at the sea of people before them when they walk out on stage.  Before I get all misty eyed and start weeping on my computer, mourning the passing of the festival season, I’d like to share a few examples.  Picking videos was impossible, because rather then selecting my favourite tune, the latest single, or the best quality shoot, I wanted a video that really captures that special something that made these moments so magical for me.

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La Blogothèque: Pure Musical Magic

I recently discovered La Blogothèque, a blog/website that films bands and musicians performing live in candid and unusual settings.  This site has already been around for six years and has been featured by the New York Times, MTV and CNN.  This might suggest that it’s not exactly prime blog material, but it’s new to me, I think it’s awesome, and I’m 50% in charge here.  The site itself claims to “change the way people experience music”, bringing viewers “beautiful, rare and intimate sessions with your favourite artists, and the ones you are soon to fall in love with.”  Never before has an online advertisement rung so true.  Arcade Fire crammed into a freight elevator, complete with strings, singing Neon Bible and Wake up; Yeasayer singing a capella on a crowded subway; Beirut wandering the streets of Paris, playing in alleyways and banging on garbage cans… Needless to say I fell deeply, deeply in love with bands I thought were already some of my favourites and can’t wait to watch every video featured on the site.