amongst books

amongst books

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fav Music of 2013

In 2013, I acquired--either through purchase, free download or magazine freebies--42 new CDs. So figuring out what my favourite 10 CDs are from the year is not an easy task, but I think it's worthwhile to share favourites. 

I'd like to know yours. bear in mind that my tastes do not run to ambient music or electronica or hip hop or rap. I like some country, some classical, pop, blues, folk, some rock, alt country, I suppose. I am beginning to develop a taste for jazz and opera. what is important to me with non instrumental music is the combination of good melodies & lyrics. 

for instrumental work, I am inclined toward string instruments, but there are exceptions to every generalization I make, of course. my criteria for best of is that I have to like 80% of the music on the CD. This means I have to have played it a number of times.


Bassekou is from Mali. His wife, Amy Sacko sings lead. She has an incredible voice. So vibrant.  Other singers are also amazing. The music is full of energy.It's kind of like listening to a contemporary version of blues music. I just find this music so joyful and happy-making. "Jama Ko" means "big gathering of people" according to the blurb over at Out Here Records. Important gatherings in Mali are accompanied by the music of the griots, a tradition which Bassekou and his band, Ngoni Ba are part of.

Idle No More - Songs for Life, Volumes One and Two

These collections of free downloadable tracks by artists in support of the Idle No More Movement is eclectic and fun. Some of the musicians are familiar to me, but I hadn't necessarily heard the songs or that version of the song. New & exciting discoveries for me were (Vol 1) A Tribe Called Red, Digging Roots, & the sexy George Leach, whose voice is wet-making. Apparently he's also a potter. Sizzle! On Volume 2, I loved the strong voice of Sandy Scofield. You can tell she has a jazz background. I enjoyed hearing the Winnipeg-based roots quartet, Oh My Darling singing in French. I must buy their French CDs. I've heard Melody McKiver perform twice: once at Rob Friday's Vernissage at Shanghai Restaurant and just recently at the A B Series Xmas Party. She played with Glenn Nuotio & jammed with poets Adeena Karasick and Bill Bissett. she's incredibly talented. I love the song, Theresa, on this album in honour of Chief Theresa Spence. There's such great music on both these albums. And they're free!

Ben Harper with Charlie Musslewhite - Get Up! This guy's voice is so sweet and smooth. This is a bluesy album with slide guitar and Musselwhite's soulful harp playing. See how I'm using the slang term "harp" for harmonica? this is my attempt to be cool. uh…oh well…


I loved this guy as Smog & I love him still now that he's dropped the Smog. His voice is still low and smoggy sounding, or maybe foggy would be a better way to describe it. This is a beautiful album with his gentle voice, background fiddles, Wurlitzer organ, bass, conga drums, clave, fiddle and flute . It's supposed to be an album you can listen to late at night and I'll vouch for that. I love his lyrics. "Giving praise in a quiet way…like a church, that's far away…Outside a train sings its…whalesong." The Sing. I love his pauses. I don't have near enough of his music. Resolution for 2014, have more Bill Callahan in my life. Dreamy stuff.


Bob used to play keyboards for Blue Rodeo. His voice has got a really incredible range. He's a talented producer, film scorer musician, a renaissance man. Additional singers include Mary Margaret O'Hara, Maylee Todd, Serena Ryder, and others. This is a really quirky CD.


Ok,I never heard of Josh Garrels before. He's a Portland singer/songwriter who was invited to Mayne Island to perform a dozen live performances in a week. Picked this one up from NoiseTrade.com which gives you free music in exchange for your e-mail address. Which probably explains all the junk e-mail I get, but hey, I'll do a lot for free tunes. His voice is high and spirited, reminds me of Jeff Buckley.  I'd really love to see the film.


LL is Aly Spaltro and she has a gorgeous ethereal voice. I admit that I probably bought this CD mostly because I just liked the name "Lady Lamb the Beekeeper."  This is her debut album and it's a juxtaposition of her melifluous voice and some raucous electric guitar. The lyrics of songs are haunting and quirky, an unusual mix. "Jesus sucks the mud out of your soul," she croons in "Aubergine."  On "Florence Berlin" her voice reminds me of Leslie Feist's voice.


You knew if Ron had a new CD out, I'd have to include it on my favourites list, right? I've loved every one of his albums. Each one has a different vibe. This one has a feeling of optimism somehow, even with songs entitled "Nowhere to Go But Down." His voice is strong. The music is grand and the lyrics are thoughtful and often have this child-like imagination that I find endearing. The album is once more produced by Mitchell Froom, who has produced a number of Ron's albums. Orchestral is the word that comes to mind to describe these songs. I'm particularly thrilled over the bonus tracks which are the result of a song-writing collaboration between Ron and English lyricist Don Black. The songs on this album are memorable and ones that I come back to all the time. I always think the latest of Ron Sexsmith's albums is my favourite, but I think this one is going to stay with me for a long time as  a fav. The chief reason why I'm a fan is because of the beautiful and unforgettable melodies. They are here in songs like "If Only Avenue," and "Life A Broken Heart." His lyrics are playful, intelligent in songs such as "Snake Road," which plays with the Adam and Eve story. Ron's voice is sexy, gorgeous and strong on this album. I was fortunate to attend his recent concert at the NAC Studio in October and can report that the songs play just as well live as they do on the album. I tend to prefer hearing Ron live with just him playing guitar or piano, but I also enjoy hearing his band. Can't wait for the next CD!


Another freebie, the third in a series by OR. I love covers. I love these interpretations of 80s songs that were so much a part of my late teenage years and early adulthood. When I heard Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days" I was chugging back another pint from the pitcher of $5 beer at the Bomb Shelter, the bar where all the engineers hang out, at the University of Waterloo. My boyfriend's Systems Design class won the Havenger Scunt and we got I can't remember how many cases of beer as a prize…but I digress. There's something so laid back about the way the band is playing this music, which was so frantic in the 80s. in the early aughts, this music is laid-back. Will Sheff's voice is damn sexy, kinda loose, not all the consonants pronounced. I know he isn't a slacker, but if he were a slacker, he'd be a loveable one. A brief mention too of their latest album "Silver Gymnasium," which is so different, full of piano. I really like that one too. It's a storytelling album, like "The Stage Names" & much of their other music. It's very upbeat, more upbeat than a lot of their earlier albums. You're either gonna like that or you're not. I do.


Ok, it couldn't be a best of list compiled by me if I didn't include a tribute album. I LOVE TRIBUTE ALBUMS! Was that loud enough for you? I love hearing other musicians interpretations of familiar songs. I enjoy discovering musicians I haven't heard of and also I find I listen more closely to the lyrics, fall in love with the originals all over again. These are better days, baby. All royalties for the CD are donated via Light of Day, an organization which raises money to help people with Parkinson's Disease. There are 37 songs on this double album. I love Dion's voice on "Book of Dreams," Dan Bern's version of "Thunder Road," Elvis Costello's slow country take on "Brilliant Disguise," Rosie Flores on "Lucky Town"…heck, I didn't pay that much attention to Springsteen when he was popular, but after this CD, I'm going to revisit him for sure.

In 2013, a dear friend gifted me with several of Tom Wait's CDs. While none of them were released in 2013, I have to say that these CDs have been a source of great musical joy to me. And the inspiration for poetry and fiction too. I love exchanging music with dear friends and lovers. It's a great way to get to know someone. I hope you exchange music with your friends and lovers over the holidays.


Other highlights of 2013 include the National's "Trouble Will Find Me," Patty Griffin's "American Kid," Bill Bragg's "Tooth & Nail," Michael Feuerstack's "Tambourine Death Bed,"…I could go on and on, but I won't. What are your favourite albums from 2013?

2 comments:

Douglas Barbour said...

Given what you like, check out Robyn Ludwick, Out of These Blues...

Amanda Earl said...

thanks, Doug. i shall!