John Seay is a former musician, tour manager, and music journalist-turned-entertainment attorney at The Seay Firm LLC, where he practices exclusively in the areas of entertainment law, intellectual property law, and small business law. His clients are artists and arts-related small businesses. He listens to a lot of music. You can read more about John here and follow him on Twitter: @TheSeayFirmLLC
When I moved into my new offices at the Goat Farm Arts Center earlier this year, I discovered that previous tenants had intentionally left behind a killer little sound system. If I’m in my office, then I’m almost certainly playing music on it. And in 2013, more than the usual amount of that music came from new releases. Some of that new music was good, some of it didn’t really appeal to me, but a few albums or singles here and there have earned a special place in my permanent rotation. I’m pretty happy with those results.
What follows is an alphabetical list of my favorite albums from 2013, many of them accompanied by some brief notes. Following that is a list of albums I haven’t listened to enough to justify a place on my coveted Best of 2013 list, but which I already enjoy. And following that still is a list of some songs I’ve enjoyed here and there, exclusively from albums that I haven’t listened to at all and, really, probably won’t due to my unfortunate inability to devote all of my waking hours to music listening. Finally, my yearly disclaimer is that, like I said, I can’t possibly listen to everything. So, if I didn’t mention your favorite record of the year, then it’s probably because I didn’t have a chance to listen to it, not necessarily because I didn’t like it, although, yeah, that’s a possibility as well.
Belle Adair – The Brave and the Blue
This album was released on Single Lock Records earlier this year, and it’s a good one. Many of the songs have sort of a dream-pop element to them. “Melancholy” is a word that’s been tossed around to describe the record, but I think that it’s just reflective, and at times is downright catchy and upbeat. And live these guys rock. Here’s a link to a video from one the album’s first single, “Losing My Train.” However, my favorite song on the album is “Easy Way Out,” which you can listen to on the Spotify playlist.
Blood Orange – Cupid Delux
Yeah, like everyone’s said, this album does owe a debt of gratitude to, among other artists, Prince. That’s fine by me – if you know me, then you know I’m a huge Prince fan.
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
I was a big fan of these guys back in college and so was pretty excited about a new album. Electronic, instrumental music without being really annoying about it.
Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
Imagine Pinkerton-era Weezer and Superchunk with sort of a David Lee Roth swagger. Six-piece band hailing from Nashville, TN. These guys are just fantastic live. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me to their show, because everyone was weirded out by their name. I, however, thank them for at least finally helping me learn how to spell “diarrhea.”
Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
“Acid Rain” is my favorite track from this album. This year was a good one for hip-hop, in my opinion, between this album and Danny Brown’s record.
Darkside – Psychic
I really, really dig this record, and along with Boards of Canada, I feel like I’ve been set this year as far as high-quality sort of electro-pop is concerned.
Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
Curious to see whether I return to this album at all over time, but it has some tracks I really dig on it, including the one that I put on the Spotify playlist, “You’re Not the One.” She’s worked with Blood Orange before in the past (the fantastic “Everything is Embarrassing“), which makes a ton of sense if you listen to both of those artists.
The Grenadines – The Grenadines
Oh, man, I dug this record this year. Has some just plain fantastic songs on it, including “Shake,” which has a rad, if creepy, video. But, my favorite song from the album is “Counting Backwards,” which you can listen to on the Spotify playlist.
Steven Gunn – Time Off
Grateful Dead meets American primitive music?
Holy Youth – S/T EP
Reminds me of Grandaddy and Wire, but with a garage-y feel to it. Really a pleasantly raunchy sound. “I’m a Liar,” one of the more accessible tracks, is on the Spotify playlist.
King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
King Tuff – Was Dead (reissue)
New Madrid – Summer Dream Sigh
These guys are so talented, and from Athens, GA, which is of course one of my favorite places on Earth. They recently signed with New West Records, and good for them. Check out “Summer Dream Sigh” from my Spotify playlist and become a huge fan like me.
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
One of my favorite discoveries of 2013. Again, there’s a little Wire in here, but also Pavement and Jonathan Richman, but this band is totally original. “Stoned and Starving” is the song on the Spotify playlist, but really this entire album is worth getting.
Preston Lovinggood – Sun Songs
I loved this record. “Terminator” is a great track from it, for which there’s also a great video. But, just for the sake of mixing it up, and because there’s so many great songs on the record, I’m putting “Papa’s in the Movies Now” on the Spotify playlist.
SDX – Pawn and Gun
Probably like a few dozen people heard this record this year, out on Team Love Records (digital only release). From start to finish the record is good and quirky. It has the sort of a hastily thrown-together genius to it. Lots of good rock music here. “Quickly Shady” is the track I’m throwing on the Spotify playlist, though.
Tedo Stone – Good Go Bad
Another ridiculously talented young artist from Athens, GA. The title track is the one on the Spotify playlist, but the whole album is good and highly original, which is hard to do.
Justin Tuberville – Underneath the Shroud
Imagine Maynard James Keenan from Tool releasing some subtler bedroom recordings.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
A lot of my friends hate this band, but I think they’re really good. Yes, sometimes it sounds like I’m listening to Graceland outtakes (less on this album than on previous ones, though), but I really dig this album and respect these guys as artists who are releasing sort of complex records. Oh, and several years ago I played them at WhirlyBall and won.
Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Water Liars – Wyoming
One of my favorite bands over the last several years. Go see them live sometime. They have a new album about to be released on Fat Possum, I’m told. Many great songs from the record to choose from, but “Linens” is the one I selected for the Spotify playlist.
Wooden Wand – Blood Oaths of the New Blues
Wooden Wand & The World War IV – Wooden Wand & The World War IV
Yes, the prolific James Toth released two albums this year, and each of them is good enough to earn a coveted spot on this list. As a songwriter, Toth is an American treasure, which is something I don’t say lightly as that phrase is sort of ridiculous. But the man deserves it. Listen to “Supermoon” and “Jhonn Balance” from Blood Oaths if you don’t believe me. Oh, and then he has this whole other Neil Young/Grateful Dead/darker record (World War IV), too, if that’s more your speed. Hard to pick just a couple of songs from these two releases, but I picked “Supermoon” from the first and “Directions to Debbie Harry’s House” for the Spotify playlist. Those are the opposite poles from these records.
Albums I Haven’t Listened to All the Way Through Yet But Which Seem Rad So Far
Below is a list of albums that I’ve maybe listened to only partially or maybe once, but haven’t devoted a whole lot of time to. Or maybe I’m really familiar with one or two songs from the album but that’s it, so not enough to justify placing it on my Best Albums list. Regardless, I have dug at least portions of the below albums, and want to just at least mention them here. Each of these artists has a song on the Spotify playlist.
Bass Drum of Death – Bass Drum of Death
David Bowie – The Next Day
Danny Brown – Old
Mikal Cronin – MCII
Dead Gaze – Brain Holiday
William Onyeabor – World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?
M.I.A. – Matangi
Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
Phosphorescent – Muchacho
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
Here’s a list of some other singles I enjoyed this year – many of which came from albums I should probably check out, but for whatever reason haven’t yet.
Tyler Childers – “High House Road”
Judged an Eddie’s Attic Songwriter’s Shootout earlier this year, and this guy won – this was the last song he played. Really dig this guy’s tunes – great lyrics.
Chvrches – “We Sink”
Rhye – Woman, “Open”
Deerhunter – “The Missing”
William Tyler – “Cadillac Desert”
of Montreal – “Fugitive Air”
Nine Inch Nails – “Everything”
How to destroy angels_ – “Ice Age”
Son Lux – “Lanterns”
Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”
Money Mark – “Revolt of the Octupi”
Les Paul Pointillistic – “Springbreak of the Soul”
Big Black Delta – “Money Rain Down”
Mice Parade – “Look See Dream Me”
Sanders Bohlke – “Ghost Boy”
White Violet – “Autumn Grove”