Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ten Favorites from 2013

We were all sitting around the TV on Christmas Eve, watching The Polar Express. We were looking for a good stopping point. The Little One’s bedtime had clearly come and gone, and although she knew something was special about this evening, she was still a little too young to be stricken by the insomnia of anticipation that keeps children awake pending Santa’s arrival. She knew he was coming, but we were not sure she knew exactly what that meant.

We were looking at each other for confirmation that it was, indeed, bedtime. Right as we were about to put out the cookies and head for bed, a song about Christmas trees arose on the movie. The Little One listened intently. Suddenly, she leapt out of her grandmother’s lap and ran up to our tree. Uncharacteristically speechless, she pointed at it, then at us, then at the song playing on the TV. After a few moments in this rotation, the song was over and she smiled. We turned off the movie and she cheerfully headed off to bed.

She seemed to make a connection, as if she figured out that the stuff that she has been seeing and the stuff that we keep talking about are all part of this same “Christmas” thing. In truth, I’m not sure exactly what happened there. I am just incredibly thankful to have been there to see it, because it was a beautiful moment.

10. The Besnard Lakes – Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO: If The Beach Boys had joined Julee Cruise on Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic Twin Peaks soundtrack, it might end up sounding like the Besnard Lakes. Clearly, they belong in the dream pop genre, but I find them more believable than Beach House, if last year’s Bloom is any indication.

9. S U R V I V E – Imagine Depeche Mode reinventing themselves as an instrumental jam band and rewriting the Blade Runner soundtrack. Classic synth fans should look no further.

8. The Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan: This quirky and undeniably musical pop album framed several defining moments in the new house this year. The Dirty Projectors take fascinating risks and tame them in every way imaginable.

7. Fleetwood Mac – Rumors: When all my CDs were packed up for a move a couple of years ago, I got Rumors on a whim. It was the first album I played in our second Austin apartment, but this year I discovered how amazing it really is.

6. Syd Arthur – On and On: Seriously great prog-pop from Canturbury. On and On is totally infectious, but is also subtly cerebral if you choose to listen in that mode.

5. The Format – Interventions and Lullabies: Although the inclusion of fun. in the top 20 sort of challenges the “one-entry-per-artist-per-year” rule, The Format is, technically, a totally separate project. I also think that Interventions and Lullabies is more consistent than Some Nights, and I most assuredly would not have followed Nate Reuss into the latter if I did not love the former so much.

4. The Dark Knight Original Soundtrack – It took me nearly all year to crack it open, but Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s soundtrack to the second Dark Knight movie has had a profound effect on my listening. It has reframed the way that I listen to current movie scores.

3. Tame Impala – Lonersim: Another album that initially defined our move into the new house, but in this case its depth unfolded into wider horizons. The distinctive songwriting defines the album, but there are intentionally crafted layers of sonic depth that seem unending.

2. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing and Other Stories: A well-crafted and unique progressive rock album that allows its players distinctive voices to shine through its concept is a rarity. Its even more rare that this situation could arise on a solo album, but Wilson stepped aside just enough to allow The Raven to become one of the finest albums this year.

1. The Postal Service – Give Up: Sure, the album is over a decade old, but was totally new to me this year. No matter where I was or who I was with, Give Up was the soundtrack for nearly any occasion and it never, ever wore thin. 

1 comment:

  1. The Postal Service - Give Up has been one of my favorites for awhile too! Luv IT!!!!