In the 1986 concept film True Stories, David Byrne says, “You like music? Oh, I know. Everybody says they do.”
I say it, too…though to be honest, my album-buying and concert-going this year barely justifies a Best Music list. So instead, here’s a small sampler grab-bag of audio that caught my ear during the past 12 months:
2013 Theme Song: “Tightrope” (Janelle Monáe)
Inescapable Song of the Year I Still Enjoyed the 1000th Time I Heard It: “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk w/Pharrell Williams)
1. Les Revenants (Mogwai)
Like the Angelo Badalementi soundtrack for Twin Peaks (which this French series deliberately emulates), Mogwai’s atmospheric soundscape is dreamy and spooky by turns and perfect for night drives.
2. Modern Vampires of the City (Vampire Weekend)
Less peppy than previous albums and with songs less instantly catchy, the Wes Andersons of alternative music nevertheless proved they had “the luck of a Kennedy” with a sadder but wiser sampling of their distinctive prep-pop.
3. Electric Lady (Janelle Monáe)
Janelle Monáe had more great songs (in more diverse styles) on ArchAndroid than many performers achieve in their entire careers, and now three years later the pint-size dynamo is back with another densely packed musical smorgasbord and the happiest feet in show biz.
Best Live Music:
Billy Bragg & Amanda Palmer (SXSW)
“Some people say women should be quiet, I just say Free Pussy Riot!” Bragg cried in an updated version of “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward” at the Stage on 6th Street during an amazing set that only got better when the old rabble-rouser was joined by controversy magnet Amanda Palmer for a cheery regicide ditty and the utterly winning “Ukulele Song” in the best live show I’ve ever seen at South-by-Southwest.
Best Live Music (Honorable Mention):
Ides of March (The Big E)
When you think “rockin’ out,” you probably don’t picture a band of flabby, balding dudes playing oldies for retirees, surly teens and tired parents at a free weekday afternoon state fair gig…or at least I didn’t until Ides of March’s reptilian, purple-haired lead singer Jim Peterik took the stage at the 2013 Big E like a bolt of lightning, briefly transforming the sad, seedy venue into rock-n-roll heaven with leap-to-your feet performances of “The Search Is Over,” “Vehicle” and a truly jaw-dropping, 20 minute performance of “Eye of the Tiger” from a true show biz Survivor.
Huell Waits (YouTube)
Not only does this YouTube video answer the question of what happened to Huell in Breaking Bad, but it also provided excellent music to write by as I hit replay about 1,000 times in 2013.
Best Audio (Non-Musical)
Robin’s Secret (The Howard Stern Show, Sirius)
“Shock Jock” Howard Stern has developed into the king of long-form interviews (and, y’know, butt bongo)…but nothing topped the reality show drama of this year’s revelation that co-host Robin Quivers hadn’t been live in the studio for months. Instead, she’d been broadcasting from her condo while (successfully) battling the endometrial cancer which nearly ended her life (as well as Stern’s radio show, which he revealed he wouldn’t have continued without her).