Greenberg’s Top 10 Albums of 2013

Greenberg’s Top 10 Albums of 2013

10. rock and roll dreams – temperance league


why it made the list:

While the album is chock full o’ the same Springsteenian/Byrdsian hybrid of gritty garage-flavored power pop that made their first album so great, it’s also book-ended by a couple of Spectoresque pieces that address the rock and roll dream from all angles – the reality, the mortality and the desired salvation sought by those who chase it.


9.  once i was an eagle – laura marling


why it made the list:

Marling’s 4th full-length album is the kind of album that transcends the “folk-rock” label. This is acoustic music that chugs along with a breezy locomotive purpose. The first 7 songs play like one long piece that twists and forks like a rushing river of song, buoyed by Marling’s Joni-esque voice and lyrics and some mad propulsive rhythms. The instrumental interlude that splits the album in two is just as delightful as the two hemispheres that comprise the whole. FYI, the latter half’s stand-alone pieces stand just as strongly as the album’s first half.


8. days are gone – haim


why it made the list:

I struggled with them for a bit, but ultimately, the Haim sisters won me over. It’s like they’re playing chicken – veering dangerously close to an over-glossed 80s pop style that typically sends me running for the hills. Still, they never cross that line. Instead, they’re simply using some of that mall sheen as window dressing for some pretty damn decent alt.pop.


7. wakin on a pretty daze – kurt vile

OLE-998 Kurt Vile-Walkin On A Pretty Daze

why it made the list:

The 9-and-a-half-minute minute opener – “Wakin On A Pretty Day” – is a blissfully mellow epic drenched in a lazy afternoon’s worth of golden-brown guitar that begs to be the soundtrack to your next road trip. “KV Crimes” makes every car  it’s blasting out of feel like a cherry Camaro. The common thread – each song is ridiculously melodic. The bonus – despite the marathon length of some tracks, they never get too jammy or noodly.


6. random access memories – daft punk


why it made the list:

This is what it sounds like when good and popular collide. It’s not a perfect album, but the awesome parts are so awesome that I don’t want to remember the summer of 2013 without it. The robotic duo return to remind us all that disco can be more than a cheesy ironic lark. In fact, when Nile Rodgers brings the clams on the half-shell and roller skates to “Get Lucky,” I feel like I’m 12 years old again, spending the summer at my dad’s high-rise apartment in Fort Lee. Elsewhere, “The Game of Love” evokes Air’s best Moon Safari moments, Pharrell brings the party and Giorgio Moroder is a more-than-welcome guest of honor. Of course, DP has the good taste to bring all of these elements together as a flavorful musical bouillabaise best served chilled all summer long.


5. reflektor – arcade fire


why it made the list:

Disc 1 grabbed me immediately and still engages me with the same kind of 1980 danceteria bacteria that infected so many great albums of that era by the likes of Talking Heads, The Clash and Gang of Four. The title track is a hypno-disco paean to how technology  brings people together in the most isolating way. The clarion call of the guitar-driven “Normal Person” could serve as a substitute to my first cup of coffee in the morning.  The carnival-esque “Here Comes The Night Time” is rife with exotic flavors and textures, and the jaunty “You Already Know” bounces with a borderline rockabilly lilt. In the meantime, Disc 2 is darker, moodier and more atmospheric. While it doesn’t jump out immediately, it does reward with subsequent listens.


4. howl – the howlin brothers


why it made the list:

Three roots music-loving college students move from upstate New York to Nashville, play anywhere and everywhere they can and attract the attention of the great Brendan Benson, who recruits them to back up Cory Chisel on his 2009 debut. This leads to him producing this gem – a fun and lively sampler of Americana styles that bristles with the same energy they bring to their joyous live shows. Ironically, it’s the smoky-noir-cool “Tennessee Blues” that shines as their crowning moment, and plays like the best song Peter Case never wrote.  The rollicking “Boatman Dance” may be the first song ever to urge the listener to “put on your dancing pants” – easily one of the highlights of one of the best roots music records of the year. BTW, did I mention these guys played at my house? Check it out! 


3. say that to say this – trombone shorty


why it made the list:

Shorty’s a world-class badass on an instrument that’s not commonly perceived as such. In his hands, it’s a deadly weapon that smokes suckers with a rock/funk/jazz/soul hybrid steeped in the grit, wit and soul of his native New Orleans. He can be as traditional or contemporary as he wants to be, and can switch gears on a dime. He’s also no slouch on the trumpet, or as a vocalist and songwriter either. In the live setting, he’s a masterful bandleader. His latest album is produced by the great Raphael Saadiq, who brings extra awesome sauce to an already tasty musical meal that also features the first studio performance of the legendary Meters in about 17 years.


2. where does this door go – mayer hawthorne


why it made the list:

Mayer, along with the aforementioned Raphael Saadiq, is one of the most skilled practitioners of neo-soul in the galaxy. Backed by his crack 4-piece band, The County,  he’s a consummate performer who delivers the best live show this side of E Street. After two albums of high-quality Chi-Lites-meet-Motown / AM gold-flavored soul, he adds shades of Steely Dan and Hall & Oates to the mix to create a delightful bag of gummy ear worms that linger for days. “Crime,” featuring Kendrick Lamar has been known to take up residence in my head for a week at a time.


1. i hate music – superchunk


why it made the list:

I’ll gladly fork over any indie hipster cred I ever had for sleeping on this critically acclaimed band for way too damn long. I always knew I’d dig them, I’d just never gotten around to it. However, when “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” cast it’s infectious spell, resistance was futile. It was like getting punched with hugs. Who knew that America’s most beloved indie rock band was also an awesome power pop band? While I feel foolish for arriving to this party in a most unfashionably late manner, my friends who’ve dug them for years tell me “it doesn’t matter that you got to the party late. All that matters is that you’re here now.” It’s a party celebrating the life-affirming quality of music – and making music with friends. This music may not bring back the dead or solve all of life’s problems, but it sure does make life a lot more awesomer. That’s right. You heard me. I said “awesomer” and I meant every syllable of it.