This album continued to grow on me throughout the year. It's such a strong album full of driving guitar, funky, dirty rhythms, and Lewis's penchant for telling stories of partying as well as more serious themes. This is Black Joe Lewis all grown up and pissed off. This is Black Joe Lewis's best album.
Speaking of growing up, 2013 saw Jonny Fritz change his name from Jonny Corndawg in an effort to not get pegged as a joke affair. I think Dad Country is the epitome of that change. There are serious-as-hell songs on here masked in seemingly funny material. It's not terribly funny though when you think about the narrator of "Ain't It Your Birthday" showing up sometime later at his ex's house to wish her happy birthday. Character studies are Fritz's forte, and on Dad Country, those lovable losers/weirdos are everywhere.
Deer Tick really did a 180 on this album. From Divine Providence to Negativity, there is such a deep contrast, but the essence of what makes Deer Tick a great band serves as the glue; the songwriting. McCauley and crew wrote some of Deer Tick's best songs for this album, an album darker and more somber than any of their previous. When you listen from front-to-back, this album hits every note on the melancholy spectrum. But, it doesn't necessarily make this album a downer. It makes it an album perfect for reflection- whatever that reflection may be on.
From the first note of this album, I was blown away. His voice, his honky tonk band, and his stunning lyricism all seemed out of place for an album being released in the year 2013. But, that's what makes Simpson's album so damn enjoyable. It's a breath of fresh air to be able to find country music such as this still being made. With a voice similar to Waylon, I think we'll see much more from Simpson. Country music needs many more Sturgill Simpsons. Maybe 2014 will bring more along.
I suppose 2013 was the year of growing up for bands, because on Walston's album, the band took a huge leap in terms of song material. From dealing with his condition that causes him to shake (thus, Essential Tremors) to the father-to-son tale Boys Can Never Tell, there are songs that are more serious, yet keep the party going with The Business's rowdy backing. My initial complaint with the album was that I hoped it would have more piano, but after multiple listens, there's not a damn thing I would add or take away from the album.
Futurebirds continue to be one of the best bands out there with this album. Taking their reverb-laden rock to new levels in sound, Futurebirds created their masterpiece. Their numerous EPs and debut LP were great, no doubt, but this album takes that sound, adds years on the road, and finds the band at their peak. As I have said before, this album is perfect for an afternoon on the back porch/patio/balcony during the summer. It should also be stiflingly hot. This is the kind of album we will be listening to for years to come.
Yeah yeah, the name... It's dumb. Sure. But, these boys from Nashville put out one damn fine rock and roll record. If you can explain to me anything wrong with 4 guitars, I'd love to hear it. An album rife with the perils of getting older and feeling isolated, the LP rocks harder and more accessibly than anything I can recall in the past few years. It's also just a lot of fun. It took me a while to get on board with this band, but once I got over the name, I have yet to be disappointed. Great band, even better album.
I thought Ha Ha Tonka would not be able to top Death of a Decade, but I clearly thought wrong. An album based on an NPR interview with Maurice Sendak sounded a bit over the top at first. But, leave it to the guys in Ha Ha Tonka to tackle the subject and do so nearly perfect. The album sifts through the taste of regret, forcing the listener to tackle regret in their own life, looking back through the days, months, or years. As with other albums dealing with the subject on this list, it doesn't burden the listener. It merely poses the question, and it's up to the listener to look back and take the past as it was, or dwell uncomfortably on those times we could have maybe done things differently.
My god. When I first heard that Jason Isbell was sober and had been hanging around Ryan Adams, I was a little worried. Not because he was sober, mind you. But, because Ryan Adams career had been somewhat frustrating to me once he reportedly got sober. I don't blame it on the sobriety, one bit. I doubt very strongly one writes better or worse on or off substance. But, I still had doubt that the new, slower Isbell album would be something I would like. I was wrong. Dear god, I was so wrong. This is the most stark and beautiful thing Jason Isbell has ever done. The songs about sobriety (or, rather, grappling with sobriety) and his new love (the wonderful Amanda Shires) made for one of the best albums of the year. I'm not sure how anyone can place this album lower than 2nd. I had the hardest time saying whether this or my number 1 album were 1 or 2. I changed the order many times. This album is gorgeous. It's intense. And it's Jason Isbell's best damn album, which is saying a lot...
I had never heard of John Moreland prior to this year and to be honest, I'm glad I hadn't. First hearing of this new-to-me artist and hearing his supposedly incredible album was one of the best things to have happened in 2013. The songs on this album are by and far the best songs I heard this year. They are somber songs. They are songs that are honest. Sometimes painfully honest. When you hear Moreland sing with his raspy, soothing voice, there is nothing but comfort in knowing that there is a person who knows your feeling. Listening to these songs make one feel, immediately, comforted and slightly uncomfortable. We are seeing into John Moreland's soul. The very things he's frightened of, saddened by, and/or angered by. And, we need that. We need honesty in songs. I'm glad I discovered John Moreland this year. I'm glad he made this incredible album and put it out this year. At the end of the day, this is, in my mind, the best album of the year.
Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels. Dawes - Stories Don't End. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris. Fifth on the Floor - Ashes & Angels. North Mississippi Allstars - World Boogie Is Coming.