Every year, we’ve brought you a collection of the best, most played and critically acclaimed music of the year as we did this year with our Best of 2013 Channel and upcoming genre-based playlists. This week, the Music Unlimited staff will highlight some of their favorites so you can get a personalized perspective on some of the greatest music from 2013. Enjoy!
Best of 2013: Nick Dedina, Music Curator
For all the talk about albums being discarded for single tracks in the digital age, one of the little secrets about music services such as Music Unlimited is that listeners, no matter their age, still love listening to entire albums. From Daft Punk’s ultra-fun Random Access Memories to the new Eminem LP, our subscribers love long listening sessions with entire albums.
For me, the music story of the year is also the album of the year: David Bowie coming back strong with The Next Day.
Bowie had been out of the spotlight for a decade and talk of ill health has never stopped during his absence. Working in secret, he went back to recording, reportedly cutting a few dozen songs with a group of old friends who, like him, can do things off-the-cuff and quickly, using instincts gleaned from decades of experience instead of polishing everything with endless overdubs and re-dos.
The album is both elegiac (“Where Are We Now?”) and rebellious (“I’d Rather Be High”), strangely upbeat (“Valentine’s Day”) and apocalyptic (uhhmm, pretty much every song), rushing towards the new while looking back on an amazing career with echoes of everything from old favorites such as “Five Years” to “Ashes to Ashes” to an album cover that obscures the central image from 1977’s “Heroes” sleeve.
While David Bowie isn’t the artist to turn for a reaffirmation in humankind’s basic decency, it’s gratifying to see the public and the critics embracing the work of someone they took for granted back when the excellent Heathen and Reality were met with collective shrugs at the start of the 2000s. Turns out that making people miss you is a good career move (likewise, Bowie counter-promoted, offering no interviews or commentary for our 24/7 consume and discard culture).
The Next Day isn’t perfect but it plays like a cohesive, complete experience. The bonus tracks on the Extra Edition are strong but are better played separately from the album. The one exception is James Murphy’s reworking of LP cut “Love Is Lost,” which draws out Bowie’s mournful yet menacing vocals, improving on the original even as it deconstructs it.
In a completely different direction, Josh Ritter’s hopeful “Joy To You Baby” was my favorite song of the year.
Foals’ Holy Fire is so addictive that it had me, once again, wondering why this indie dance band isn’t played on the radio like Phoenix or Daft Punk.
A good sign for 2013 was that it was hard pairing my list of favorites down, with excellent releases by the likes of Quadron, Laura Marling and Villagers getting reluctantly dropped from my Best of list at the last minute for inclusions by the likes of Arctic Monkeys & Billie Joe Armstrong + Norah Jones.
Still, at the end of the day, I can sum up 2013 with “Thank you, Mr. David Bowie.”