“What!? Only 10 songs??” she cried, then kicked the turntable across the studio, once again limited to that random number of favorites that people in the media are allowed to have. Only 10! But there were at least 15, 20, maybe even 25 or more she could have named or even sung out loud if it was she who owned the airwaves and not the radio station she worked for. Ah well, 10 will have to do until she wins the lottery and can buy this dang radio station. In the meantime, Laura’s top 10 songs from very good albums of 2013 are:
10. Houndmouth – On the Road
From their debut From The Hills Below The City. By “hills” they mean Floyd Knobs, and by “City” I’m certain they mean Louisville, KY. Or maybe New Albany, IN. Either way, this young band which sounds ancient and wise and from another time and place, when rock ‘n’ roll had good stories matched with great melodies and grooves, has produced a brilliant record this year. Can’t wait to hear what they do next!
9. Kings of Leon – Rock City
The Followill Brothers are back with a fantastic new album in which every song is strong and good. Their music is so good that I have finally forgiven them for dropping the F Bomb on my show during a live studio session almost 10 years ago.
8. Cayucas – High School Lover
Southern California quartet creates the perfect shimmering pop song. Gee, I’ve never heard that before! But seriously, it’s good stuff and great fun!
7. No More Kings – They’re Coming To Get You, Barbara
Louisville/California duo Neil DeGrade and Pete Mitchell use the film Night of The Living Dead and zombie imagery to create a gorgeous, heartfelt song that has the vocal harmonies and melodies of what could have been a Simon and Garfunkel classic if they were still recording together. Who knew zombies could be so romantic? No More Kings, that’s who. They also cite The Karate Kid as one of their main influences. Wow.
6. Jim James – A New Life
My Morning Jacket’s frontman makes the perfect solo record, and this song is one of the many gems on it. I also recommend seeing the video that was made on the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon if you can. It’s also incredible. In fact, it’s mind bending – so don’t watch it and drive at the same time, OK?
5. Neko Case – Night Still Moves and The Lone Bellow – You Never Need Nobody
It’s a tie for the coveted spot of number five on Laura’s top 10 list! The judges just couldn’t choose between these two and after lots of recounts and broken chads, a tie was called. Neko proves herself time and again with each album that she’s here to stay in the American Canon of song. The Lone Bellow came out swinging from their Brooklyn based cradle and took us by storm with their 3 part harmonies and powerful lyrics. Will they earn their own spot next time? Stay tuned to find out.
4. Josh Ritter – Joy to You Baby
Oh Josh, how I love thee! You’ve been through a lot of heartache after a painful divorce, but then met another lover and became hopeful. How do I know all of this? Because he says so all over this album. Then you have the class to wish joy in the face of such heartbreak. What a guy and what a great song, too.
3. Bear’s Den – Agape
This song from this London band makes me want to light my lighter and sway with thousands of strangers. OK, that sounds weird but if you go to concerts much, most people use their lit up cellphones. No, I want to use a real lighter for this song and that says a lot about its singalong potential. Bear’s Den is on the Communion label started by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons, so yes there’s an obligatory banjo in there but it’s a great song and I can’t stop singing it. So there!
2. Wake Owl – Wild Country
Can I tell you that I hear hundreds of songs per week and rare is the occasion when I want to play a song several times in a row like I did when I was 13 or 14 years old, with a hair brush as my microphone, in front of my lighted up make-up mirror? Oh, I can’t tell you that? Well, too late I just did and that was the case again with this song from Wake Owl. Colyn Cameron is the singer/songwriter and I don’t know him personally but I do love him for this beautiful amazing song.
1. Jason Isbell – Traveling Alone or Songs That She Sang in the Shower or Live Oak or Stockholm or Elephant or…
Just throw a dart at Isbell’s album Southeastern and any song is perfect in every way. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes a number one album of 2013. He got sober, he got married to a wonderful woman, and he wrote the best album of his life.
Happy New Year, and here’s to another great year of music ahead on WFPK! Yours truly, hairbrush, mirror, lighter and all. – Laura Shine