People often believe that the key to being in the music know is poring over blogs and magazines, buying every album that hits the charts and constantly debating what’s good and what isn’t. First of all, “good music” means nothing to me; music is personal and subjective in every single way. Secondly, it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming feat to figure out what you might want to listen to – all you have to do is read in a nutshell constantly (shameless) and be perceptive to patterns, conversations and sound trends that seem to be ruling the airwaves and world wide web.
Want to catch up to the critics? Here are what I personally think might be the start of what 2013 will be famous for:
1. Rhye – Woman: This critically-acclaimed mystery outfit have taken over 2013. It’s been nearly impossible to acknowledge anything else after this album of soulful, alternative R&B grooves emerged – surprisingly led by a male, Sade-reminiscent vocalist who’s new to the unsolo scene with his group’s first release. If the unique collection of candlelit, acid-jazz-infused ballads dictates a 2013 trend – we’re in for something really special.
2. Phosphorescent – Muchacho: Ranging from rich, stompin’ Americana (“Ride On/Right On” and my favourite “The Quotidian Beasts”) to timeless, film-ending ballads (“Song for Zula”), Matthew Houck’s aching Southern cry is poignant perfection on nearly every track; performing hymnals with a whooping, yesteryear carelessness and emotional depth that, in my mind, has been unparalleled for some time.
3. James Blake – Overgrown: We all know James Blake’s acrobatic pipes sound good in front of anything – spacey chords, jazzy dubs or a piano by itself – but what we are beginning to see with his second release is that his ability to assemble that “anything” in the background is limitless and blissfully unpredictable.
4. Caveman – Caveman: I had the pleasure of seeing and drinking with this group of Brooklyn nice guys recently – and let me tell you, their relatively quick rise to indie-rock notoriety is something even they seem adorably oblivious to. As already masters of delectable, instrument-packed hooks, and with Michael Iwanusa’s pure Bono-meets-James Mercer vocals – Caveman’s self-titled is the perfect precursor to what will be years of striking songwriting.
5. Kurt Vile – Walking on a Pretty Daze: Perhaps one of the coolest, scraggly-haired young Dads on earth – Vile’s fifth album is named exactly what it will make you do. Sewing together more lethargically content garage rock, his seemingly simple formula continues to please against the odds – proving Vile’s grungy je ne sais quoi is very much here to stay. (PS How cute is his daughter in this promo?)
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquitoes: On their fourth album and 10-year anniversary (almost to the day of the release), now-legendary front woman Karen O screams forward on their newest mixed bag of eccentric dance-rock tracks. Quite simply, bands who take time off to write and record, instead of beating out two albums a year, always come back with weirder and more intriguing vengeance.
7. ON AN ON – Give In: I saw this band four nights ago, and immediately, any crowd-wide curiosity about how their lush and spacious rock numbers would translate on to the stage was tossed out the window. When they take a break from mellow beats, their explosive synth-rock and vocally distorted harmonies are electric.
8. A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP: Marathon-man rap superstar A$AP continued to rack up the tour dates and dab his pen everywhere in 2013, stealing guest spots on indie hits, Rihanna’s tour and in Drake’s coveted crew. Similar to Weezy circa ’09, you really couldn’t swing a doo-rag last year without smacking A$AP. Thankfully, after all the hype, A$AP’s first official studio album dropped mixtape beats and street-savvy rhymes that made it worth the long wait. (Sorry about the PG version of this song…)
9. Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience: Suited up with hype man Hova on his arm, everyone’s favourite boy-bopper-turned-solo-phenom JT is back with his first solo album since 2006’s FutureSexLoveSounds. A dreamy coif and shiny shoes would have been more than enough to hook his keeling female (and unashamed male) fans – but, toss in some old world soul, new fancy feet moves and eight-minute love songs on his new tour? Someone better hire extra medics.
10. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse: I think most of the world has a soft spot for indie folk and heavily-accented Scottish men, so it seems natural that these guys were bound for success after embarking on an album churning journey ten years ago. This crew of powerful balladeers are hardly new to the scene, but this release might be their most emotionally ample yet; arrays of guitar, organs, and echoing pianos are some of the fibres that make up too many anthemic moments to count.