Up until September, 2013 was a desert in terms of good music in my opinion. I hadn’t liked a thing I heard released this year.
This was such a marked difference from 2012, the Year of Indie Rock. I loved so much from last year: Black Keys, Jack White, fun., Mumford and Sons, Lumineers. Even when I heard something that caught my ear, it was an album that came out last year (see: Passenger).
2013 was shaping up to be the Year of the Auto-Tuned Pop Diva, and I was not enjoying it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Katy Perry’s “Roar” is basically lyrically strung together cliches. “I used to bite my tongue…/ Scared to rock the boat…/ I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything…” I mean, come on. I got the eye of the tiger? I am a champion? Doesn’t anyone have to vet this stuff?
And the hiccoughing delivery of singers from Miley Cyrus, Perry, and Taylor Swift. Who told them that was how to sing? I can’t stand it. Even my former pop star hero, Lady Gaga, has released a mediocre dance album rife with auto-tune effects. Very meh.
Fortunately, the boys and girl (props to Ann Powers) at NPR Music put together their Fall Music Preview, and I found a few reasons to not write off 2013, musically speaking.
Avett Brothers, Magpie and the Dandelion — I was late to the game on this group, and I blame my shallow nature. I was taken in by the fiery bombast of Mumford and Sons, and their heartfelt adaptation of Americana-based pop. Hey, I like shiny things. But somewhere along the way, “I & Love & You” and “January Wedding” managed to catch my ear, and Avett Brothers put out an album this fall that continues the rich tradition of simple, earnest, American music.
Interestingly, this is the only band on my list who is not lead by a female vocalist. While 2012 was the year of (let’s face it) white-boy indie rock, 2013 for me has become all about the ladies.
Here’s my short list of what I’ll be listening to the rest of the year:
Luscious Jackson — This all-female group from the 1990s has reunited, and is releasing a new album, Magic Hour. I heard the single “So Rock On” on the NPR Fall Music Preview show, and I am so excited to hear they are still around and still making funky, hooky music. Cannot wait to hear Magic Hour in its entirety.
Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady — I just love this artist, from her ruby red lips and gravity-defying hair, to her theme album The Electric Lady. She’s sassy and saucy, and she brings a fun, fresh funk to R&B.
Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe — Last year was about guitars, this year is about synth-pop for me, apparently. Darkly themed, twee, Swedish synth-pop in this case. Can’t stop listening to this one.
Lorde, Pure Heroine — You didn’t think I’d given up on my pop vocalists, did you? While I love the playfulness of the song “Royals”, what stood out for me was her real-sounding, sultry voice. The single is catchy as all get out, so I went looking for the album on Spotify hoping that the rest of it would be just as good. I was not disappointed. Plus, I love that her real name is Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Conner. She’s Croatian Irish, for goodness sake.
POLIÇA, Shulamith — With affected vocals and a slow, synth groove, this is complex, layered music. A refreshing change to my ears, which are usually bludgeoned by nothing more complicated than three-chord guitar rock.
What are you listening to these days? Or has 2013 been a wash?