Alright folks, it’s that time of year again. Everywhere you go you’re bombarded by a million “Best Of” lists, whether it be the best movies, books, fashions or TV Shows. However, us true music nerds know the best lists are all about music. Christmas is a time when everyone is out bustling around, shopping, and visiting. It’s also the time when all the music nerds come out of hiding and brave the malls just so they can pick a copy of every music magazines “Best Of” list. For those of you who don’t partake in this yearly tradition so strongly it almost becomes a religion…. well I feel for you. The impending new year is a perfect time to not only make resolutions you’ll never keep, but also to think back on all the great music you discovered that year. I missed writing a Best Of post last year, and for that I’m truly sorry, but I’m here now, and I’ve collected my favourites of the year, whether they be 2013 releases, or just things I discovered or fell in love with this year. Hope you enjoy, and please let me know what you think should have made the list! I’m going to do things a little differently, and my list is going to include full albums I loved, as well as singles and videos I really liked.
The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
This was a later in the year discovery for me, but I’ve been addicted ever since. I actually heard their single “You Never Need Nobody” on Radio 2 Morning with Tom Power this summer and was totally hooked. I even used it as my alarm song to wake up to every morning, however, for some stupid reason I didn’t think to look up any more of their music. My Dad actually sent me the link before Christmas and I gave it another listen and totally fell in love. It’s been on constant repeat ever since. It’s a great blend of folk/singer-songwriter/roots, there’s even a little country twang thrown in there from time to time. The band consists of two guys and a girl and they harmonize beautifully. They all have gorgeous voices which just really isn’t fair. She’s got a seriously damn cool voice though. If I could sing I would want to sound like her. It’s seriously kick ass.
Each song is quite masterfully put together, and tells a complex story. They’re all basically love songs, but let’s be honest, what isn’t a love song these days? I’ve come to the conclusion that “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional” should probably be my theme song, as those of you that know me can probably understand. They’re by far one of my favourite bands to come out of 2013 and I can’t wait to see what they do next as this is just their debut album. Attached is their cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” This might be one of my favourite covers and a pretty awesome little video to.
Leif Vollebekk – North Americana
This has to be by far one of my favourite albums of 2013, and probably of all time. It’s that perfect blend of folk/roots and that extra special something something that makes an album so great (I know that was really vague…). From about the first second I heard one of those melodic guitar licks and his perfect raspy/jazz voice I fell in love. He creates an intricate blend of instruments and voice to create a mini masterpiece in each song. You can hear the time and consideration that went into each one, but the songs never sound too controlled or restrained, and there are moments of pure genius hidden in each song like a little gem. The songs are great on their own, but as an album they flow perfectly. It’s also a great live show if you ever get the chance. He changes the arrangements so much, it almost sounds like new material. This one has been on constant repeat in my house. Between my Dad and I, it was played almost every day for a few weeks after first discovering it. I can always tell a great album when I continue to go back to it, after the initial discovery wears off and I’ve definitely done that with this one.
July Talk – July Talk
We all know how I feel about this album already. Now, it didn’t come out it in 2013, but I discovered it this summer and my life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve never had a musical project affect me quite the way July Talk did. There is something about the push and pull of his Tom Waits-esque growl against her angelic voice that really gets me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like this, and I’m not sure I ever will again. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I don’t even know how to begin to define it, all I know is you should really just give it a listen for yourself. I’ve met people that either fall in love with it instantly, or can’t even stand to listen to it. I guess it’s like cilantro… you just never know. All I know is this album will always be a go to for me if I need to get out some pent up anger or work out some issues, it’s perfect for that.
Inside Llewyn Davis (the soundtrack)
This is a Coen Brother’s movie that hasn’t even come out yet, but I’ve been completely hooked to the soundtrack since I first heard a sample. The movie is all about a struggling folk musician in the 60’s and features music from Mumford & Sons, Justin Timberlake and Bob Dylan, I mean what’s not to love about that?! All the songs are great and they really create a real atmosphere of the time and the music that was being played. If you’re looking for a great folk soundtrack (and really, who’s not?) than this is perfect for you. I’m an especially big fan of the songs the Auld Triangle and Green, Green Rocky Road. Below is a clip of the movie and one of the songs from the soundtrack.
Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart and other songs
I dished to all of you about my sincere love for Frank Turner in the spring, and I still feel the same way. I’ve actually never listened to a whole album of his stuff, I’ve just bought a selection of songs, but I’ve loved every one of them. I think he’s a great voice for a bunch of issues and he follows along in Billy Bragg’s shoes a bit when it comes not only to his style of music but to how he chooses to present himself. He classifies himself as folk/punk which I’m just realizing now is actually a whole genre of music, who knew!? However, if the rest of it sounds like Frank Turner and Billy Bragg I could probably get into it. His newest album Tape Deck Heart, which was released this spring has a bunch of great songs on it. I’m especially addicted to “Recovery” and “The Way I Tend to Be.” His songs are actually quite depressing, but for some reason it kind of seems like get-up-and-go music for me. It’s a funny juxtaposition, but I recommend giving it a try and seeing if it has the same affect on you.
Jack Johnson – From Here to Now to You
I’m a sucker for Jack Johnson. I always have been. There’s something about his surfer/cool vibe that really works for me sometimes. When I need to just chill out or get into a happy place, he’s always my guy. I think this album which was released this fall is actually my favourite of all his albums in their entirety. All his songs are pretty cute and catchy and air on the side of cheesy, but somehow he pulls it off. “I Got You” and “You Remind Me Of You” are exceptionally adorable. This is probably one of the most mainstream albums on the list, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to him. Plus, he seems like a really interesting guy in real life. He’s funded and created a few different charities and he seems pretty involved in his life and community, which I really respect coming from someone who is in the position to make things happen. I wish more celebrities used their power for the greater good.
Below is his video for “I Got You” which is probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Here’s your happy for the day.
Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes
This album kind of took me by surprise. I just sort of came across them one day while looking for another band. They’re a Canadian group based in Montreal which is extra awesome. They have a really interesting sort of indie/pop sort of sound, and all their songs are super catchy and original. I’ve found myself putting this album on quite a few times when I wanted to escape from all my depressing folky boys. “Call Me in the Afternoon” and “Full Circle” are probably two of my faves if you’re looking for a quick introduction to them. I love seeing this sort of stuff come out of the Canadian music industry. It gives me so much hope for where the industry can go.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love
This song didn’t actually come out this year, but for some reason I’m only just discovering it. For those of you who haven’t heard it, this song was released by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis last fall (2012) on their album The Heist. It’s a pro-gay marriage/love song. Neither Macklemore or Ryan Lewis are gay, which raised a bunch of anger from some people, but I think it means even more coming from a straight rapper, standing up for something he believes in, especially in a genre so rooted in homophobia. I’ve even heard it played in a few malls and restaurants. I think it’s pretty incredible that it’s catching on like this, and that people are allowing it to be so widespread. It’s a step in the right direction for sure. If you’ve got time to watch the video I highly recommend it and really listen to the lyrics, it’s amazingly powerful and I tear every time when he says, “No freedom ‘til we’re equal, damn right I support it.”
Mary Lambert, who recorded the female vocals, created a whole song based on the chorus and produced a video that went with it, because she realized there wasn’t a cute love story video about a lesbian couple and she wanted that to change. It’s pretty great as well.
These are by far my favourite things that were released in 2013 or that I discovered. Below I’m going to attach a list of a few other things I really loved. I didn’t want to do a write up for everything I discovered this year, or else you’d be reading this post for hours. Plus, some of the things on the list are repeats I’ve already gushed to you about before, however it doesn’t mean I didn’t love these albums any less.
- The Dunwells – Blind Sighted Faith (One of my favourite Hillside 2013 discoveries, shockingly I still find myself listening to this all the time)
- Willy Mason – Carry On (This was a Gentlemen of the Road discovery that was probably one of my favourite summer 2013 albums)
- Donovan Woods – Don’t Get Too Grand (This was an early 2013 discovery that I sort of forgot about until just recently and shame on me for that, because this really is a great album)
- Sam Cash & The Romantic Dogs – Stand Togther, Fall Together (Possibly one of the greatest band names of all time, also just a really great band. I especially love their song Fall Together)
- Lorde – Pure Heroine (The mega-hit Royals is only one of Lorde’s many musical gems. The whole album is surprisingly great. I can’t wait to hear more from her, plus she’s only 17…)
- Wild Child – Pillow Talk (This albums is a little different for me, but I highly recommend it, it’s got a great indie/alternative vibe, and it was my summer jam on the way to work every day)
- Shakey Graves – Roll the Bones (This was a discovery from working at Paquin this summer. He’s a got a really interesting sound to his music and it’s really good late night/study/party/whatever music)
Below is a video that Shakey Graves and Wild Child did together. It’s a pretty happy song and they just look like they’re having so much fun that I thought it would be a good way to end this post and welcome all of you into 2014, a year full of new music and possibilities.