The last two years have been fairly ho-hum for me in terms of music. I was concerned that 2013 would follow that pattern. Although 2013 still doesn’t look to be a banner year for my tastes in the way that 2010 was, there have been a number of noteworthy releases, particularly from the second quarter onward. Here are a few of my picks for 2013 to date (in no order).

Jamie Lidell-Jamie Lidell (Warp)

I fell hard for Jamie Lidell with 2005’s Multiply and it’s soul-drenched follow-up, Jim. 2010’s Compass didn’t do it for me, and I’d admittedly lost faith in the guy as a result. Thankfully, Lidell proved me wrong with his latest release, which finds him drenched in the Minneapolis sound, merging his past forays into music of the electronic and soul varieties. (check out my initial review for Jamie Lidell

 

Daft Punk-Random Access Memories (Columbia)

Perhaps the most anticipated album of the year, and also a divisive one. Count me among those drinking the funky kool-aid. Excellent collaborations abound (most notably Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder), providing exactly the jolt that Daft Punk needed to refresh their approach. And yes, this is still the album of the summer in my book.(Check out my initial review of Random Access Memories)

 

David Bowie-The Next Day (Columbia)

David fuckin’ Bowie. He’s been musically inactive for nearly a decade, and has severely limited his time in the public eye. Then, like a spider from Mars, he issues a new single out of nowhere, and follows up with a full LP shortly thereafter. And more importantly, it’s good! The Next Day finds Bowie operating in retrospective mode, providing an album of brand new tunes that subtly acknowledge his rich artistic legacy. (Check out my initial review of The Next Day.)

 

Steve Earle-The Low Highway (New West)

I’ve only recently dipped into Steve Earle’s discography, spurred by his acting work in The Wire and Treme, as well as our pal Pete Icke’s enthusiastic fandom of Earle. Thus, The Low Highway is the first Steve Earle album that I picked up upon release. The disc finds Earle operating in a mode similar to 2011’s I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, though it perhaps stretches back a bit more to Earle’s country fried roots. Blending socio-political commentary with Earle’s penchant for storytelling, The Low Highway is a welcome addition to an extensive and impressive catalog.

 

Ra Ra Riot-Beta Love (Barsuk)
I was pretty hard on Ra Ra Riot’s third LP in my initial review. While I stand by much of my critique, the album has subsequently grown on me, much in the way that 2010’s The Orchard did. Beta Love is certainly an even poppier, dancier, and to some extent, more electronic album. This does add in a new element to the group’s signature sound, a necessary realignment following the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn. Beta Love isn’t as immediately accessible as the group’s fantastic 2008 debut, but repeated listens prove that Beta Love is a grower, not a shower – and it is a step into a slightly different creative direction. (Check out my initial review of Beta Love.)

 

Iggy and the Stooges-Ready to Die (Fat Possum)
Following the sore disappointment of 2007’s The Weirdness, I didn’t bother getting excited about another new Stooges album. Yet with Ready to Die, Iggy and the boys proved me wrong with a sonic punch to the gut. Ready to Die swaps out the late Ron Asheton for James Williamson, who initially replaced Asheton on 1973’s Raw Power. If Ready to Die can be compared to any of the Stooges’ original triple threat of LPs, Raw Power is in fact the most adequate comparison. It’s loud, brash, in your face rock and roll. Iggy sheds the lyrical pretense that sullied The Weirdness, and it all comes together for a surprisingly great post-peak Stooges LP. (Check out my initial review or Ready to Die.)

 

Youngblood Hawke-Wake Up (Universal)

Youngblood Hawke is the only band on this list that was completely new to me in 2013. With Wake Up, the band has packaged a tight collection of buoyant indie pop rock centered on anthemic, melodic singalongs. It’s catchy as hell, and will likely have you singing along by the second go-round of each chorus.

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