Monday, September 30, 2013

Best Music of the Third Quarter of 2013.

I continue to be impressed with the music coming out this year. In the last few months in particular, a number of albums have come out that are serious album of the year candidates for me, and they run the gamut from established acts to musicians offering their debut efforts. Some highlights are behind the jump, but those interested in more music stuff can check out If It's Too Loud for weekly new release reviews and other highlights from the musical universes.

* Valerie June - Pushin' Against a Stone: Valerie June's debut album is a folksy, bluesy, classic Americana effort that has shot to the top of my favorite albums from this year. I heard "You Can't Be Told" a while back and have anticipated this album ever since, and it absolutely delivers. This should be heard to be fully understood, but the best comparison I can make is a more traditional, more soulful Sallie Ford. Definitely add this to your list, even if you're not so much into the genre - June has such a unique voice and the mood of the album is so immediate that it's worth a listen. Key songs: "You Can't Be Told," "Wanna Be On Your Mind."

* Sarah Jarosz - Build Me Up From Bones: Sarah Jarosz keeps getting better and better. Her second album, Follow Me Down, was one of my favorite releases from 2011, and her follow-up, out today, continues being expansive and interesting. No one is doing what she's doing with bluegrass instruments and such stark, shadowy undertones. Plus, the album has its mandatory cover toward the end, with a version of Joanna Newsom's "The Book of Right-On," that meshes perfectly with everything Jarosz is doing. Early on, this is quickly becoming another candidate for best of the year. Key songs: "The Book of Right-On," "Over the Edge."

* Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady: Musically, I love pretty much everything about Janelle Monae. She's got a really unique aesthetic for R&B that plays into my love of sci-fi and over-the-top storytelling, she knows how to cultivate a musical image that compliments the pop sensibilities of having a clear physical one, and, most importantly, the music is great. While I've found I like some rap music over the last few years, more straightforward R&B hasn't always worked for me, but Monae does. The Electric Lady doesn't quite meet the heights of The ArchAndroid (one of my favorites from way back), but I'm pretty sure that would have been impossible. The new album is definitely one of the better things to come about this year, its only flaw being a little too produced. Definitely worth your listen. Key songs: "Q.U.E.E.N.," "Dance Apocalyptic."

* Savoir Adore - Our Nature: I had never heard of Savoir Adore prior to being sent this album earlier this month, but Our Nature is a revelation in many regards. Reminiscent of some of the best music Stars put out a decade ago, it's dreamy indie pop at its finest, with a few surprises over and over. No album ha ssnuck up on me quite the way Our Nature has, and I hope it gets a lot of attention. Key songs: "Anywhere You Go," "Dreamers."

* Icona Pop - This Is...Icona Pop: ALL HAIL EUROPOP. Icona Pop had a super addictive song in "I Love It," and the album is more of the same, with some really driving anthemic pop songs from start to finish. I absolutely loved this album on first listen, and while I know I'll probably get sick of the bubblegum in due time, I won't have any trouble wearing this one out in the short term. No album you hear this year will get your rear end moving the way this one will, I promise. Key songs: "I Love It," "Girlfriend," "All Night."

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