Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2013

It’s that time of year again! Below are my personal favorite albums of 2013. This year the list fell together fairly easily – due both to the excellence of the following albums and the lackluster nature of their competition. Though I’m shocked by my #1 album, which only recently knocked two other favorites from the top spot. The top three are really interchangeable, they are far too brilliant and too different from each other to truly rank. But I’ve been playing my #1 album on almost continuous repeat for the past three months, so it’s undeniably my favorite of the moment.

Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, watch videos and/or download mp3s. And please feel free to comment with your own favorite albums (or songs) of the year.

*Honorable mention to Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest, which I only heard for the first time this week – long after having compiled and scheduled my Top Albums list. It’s impossible now to choose anyone to cut just to make room for Sara, but it’s a good album nonetheless.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2013

25. Rusty Belle: Common Courtesy

…their multi-genre, multi-instrumental style runs the gamut from Americana and folk to rock, soul and blues…bluesy, sparse, soul-rock…delicious shades of Nick Cave

Buy @ Amazon


24. Ian McFeron: Time Will Take You

…What a delight this little folk-rock gem is!…produces the same immediate reaction of refreshment and affection as Adams’ Gold – though there’s more of a classic country-folk swagger.

Buy @ Amazon


23. Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone

…unlike anything you’ve ever heard before…acoustic blues masterpiece swiftly carried along by Valerie’s distintive voice… exquisite marriage of a low-fi folk melody and sweet, plucky bluegrass instrumentation…grinding, funky blues-rock sound associated with bands like The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes, but Valerie’s voice and phrasing give it a soulful, gospel-folk spin

Buy @ Amazon


22. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: Love Has Come For You

…Comedian turned bluegrass musician Steve Martin and singer Edie Brickell have joined forces…what a delight their collaboration turned out to be! Martin’s deft, delicate banjo playing is the perfect complement for Brickell’s gentle, melodious voice.

Buy @ Amazon


21. Black City Lights: Another Life

…a sexy and very moody collection. At times the band’s dark, trippy electro-pop style sounds like a mix of Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Julee Cruise, Lacuna Coil and MS MR.

Buy @ Amazon


20. One Mile An Hour

…brilliant, self-produced, self-titled debut album, which they accurately call a “complex, introverted outsider-folk record”…airy, panoramic, beautiful, unusual folk music…swirling, psychedelic folk guitar riffs, slightly raspy and softly plaintive vocals. A bit of Ray LaMontagne, a little Elliot Smith, even hints of Jeff Buckley and Pink Floyd and something totally Other – a ghostly, intangible mood. This is why I love music, why I love writing about music. This is inspiration

Buy @ Amazon


19. Varous Artists: Variations on Chopin

…puts an ambient and electro-pop spin on Chopin’s classical melodies…magnificent, mindblowingly lovely…not your standard classical album…absolutely fantastic

Buy @ Amazon


18. Ours: Boxer the Ballet 1

…one of those albums I love more intensely with each listen…pure, old school American rock that often reminds me of classic Foreigner, maybe a bit of Scorpions or even Cinderella…big, theatrical voice of lead singer, Jimmy Gnecco, should also appeal to Muse fans

Buy @ Amazon

Ours – Pretty Pain (mp3)*


17. Ruth Moody: These Wilder Things

…The Wailin’ Jennys are spawning some excellent solo albums…Moody’s angelic, lilting soprano tangles with pop-polished bluegrass and folk.

Buy @ Amazon


16. Ivan & Alyosha: All The Times We Had

…comparison to The Lumineers is still fairly accurate. The two bands definitely share a certain multi-instrumental, melodic sensibility, but Ivan & Alyosha’s music is distinctively different enough to stand on its own merit…as lovely, comforting and encouraging as an old friend…somewhere between Ryan Adams and The Low Anthem

Buy @ Amazon


15. Melissa Ferrick: The Truth Is

…absolutely outstanding…instrumentation is gorgeous, lush and elegantly Southern..phenomenal, thought-provoking

Buy @ Amazon


14. Rykarda Parasol: Against the Sun

…gives her signature noirish rock sound a modern polish without compromising its dark, artistic integrity…Rykarda uses her voice as much as any instrument: haunting moans and surprising ooh la la’s…echoing yelps…melodic whistles…and Mamas & Papas harmonies…the kind of richly layered album that immediately mesmerizes and still gets even better with each listen

Buy @ Amazon


13. Molly Drake

…Nick Drake’s mother. Molly was a very talented poet, composer, singer and pianist whose music obviously had a strong influence on her son’s work. Sadly, Molly’s exquisite music was mostly a family secret during her life and is only now being released to the public…the entire album features Molly Drake’s unusually pretty soprano and piano in a lilting, old-fashioned parlour style of music. Her lyrics, however, delve into the same kind of elegant, poetic, somewhat melancholy introspection that her son would eventually explore

Buy @ Amazon


12. Brooke Waggoner: Originator

…an extraordinary collection…a beautiful, brilliant and absolutely enchanting album…thunderous piano crashes layered over bombastic horns and choral voices

Buy @ Amazon


11. Bing Satellites

I’m bending the rules here a bit, as Bing Satellites has released too many albums this year to narrow down to one and the ambient nature of his music makes it difficult to differentiate one track from another. I especially like his latest release, King Midas in Reverse, and Twilight Sessions: Volume 11. We at the Muruch household have a giant Bing Satellites mp3 playlist that is on almost daily rotation. Bing’s music is the perfect soundtrack for reading and relaxation.

Bing Satellites Official Site


10. Allison Crowe: Heavy Graces

…what a lush piece of work…a touch of Celtic folk in the instrumentation, haunting backing vocals and a slow building, seething tension until Allison unleashes her wail…I predict we’ll be seeing Allison Crowe not once but twice on our best of the year list.

Buy @ Amazon


9. Lucy Schwartz: Timekeeper

…a multi-instrumental, multi-genre sound that encompasses the atmospheric, high energy electro-pop of Butterfly Boucher, the folk revival instrumentation of Mumford & Sons and a dash of Hannah Fury‘s Gothic, antiquarian sensibility

Buy @ Amazon


8. Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady

…as interesting, diverse and addictive as we’ve come to expect from Janelle and finds her collaborating with Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange, Miguel and Esperanza Spalding…artistic attention to detail combined with a gorgeous voice, a flare both for the dramatic as well as the funky and a science fiction churning imagination continue to put Janelle Monáe into a category all her own: Cyber-Soul

Buy @ Amazon


7. Elton John: The Diving Board

…finds Elton John making a welcome return to his musical roots with a basic piano-bass-drums set-up and features some of his finest piano playing in the past four decades…it’s a sadly rare album these days with lyrics that actually mean something…The Diving Board already sounds like a classic and is a worthy release for the man behind “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Levon” and “Tiny Dancer.”

Buy @ Amazon


6. MS MR: Secondhand Rapture

…dramatic, bombastic, sexy, moody and utterly fantastic…falls somewhere between Florence + the Machine‘s delicious over the top theatrics and Great Northern‘s haunting melodies with a little extra rhythmic oomph…like Kate Rusby fronting a ’90s trip-hop band like Faithless or Morcheeba…basically MS MR are everything I could want in a band…absolutely addictive and will surely be on my best of the year list

Buy @ Amazon


5. Hem: Departure & Farewell

…will be battling Foxygen for my Top Album of 2013…Hem have all but perfected their “Metropolitan Country” sound and singer Sally Ellyson’s voice is truly timeless…a dazzling transcontinental journey — by air and by sea

Buy @ Amazon


4. Trent Dabbs: The Way We Look At Horses

…a masterful and exquisite song cycle that brilliantly bridges the gap between Elliot Smith’s pensive folk-pop and Ryan Adams’ rustic alt-country…I’m so happy and relieved to have fallen in love with this album. I can’t remember the last time I listened to an entire album repeatedly without skipping at least one track…moody, melodic and magnificent. It’s certainly one of the best albums of the year and one whose songs stay with you long after it ends.

Buy @ Amazon


3. Foxygen: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

…If Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic isn’t my #1 of 2013, we have a spectacular year of music ahead of us…the rare album that truly deserves to be called Beatlesque…elements of vintage psychedelic rock, modern indie- and garage rock, a bit o’ The Animals, a splash of Elvis, a smidgen of blues and various other experimental feats that defy category. It’s unusual, innovative and totally fantastic…a sublime slice of pop perfection.

Buy @ Amazon


2. Allison Crowe: Newfoundland Vinyl

…plays like a lovely, vintage collection of traditional Irish and Canadian folk ballads, lively sea chanteys and drinking songs, parlour songs and country tunes with surprising retro, girl-pop harmonies woven throughout…full of dazzling melody and such a unique charm…Allison’s voice is so strong and spectacular, I’m afraid Foxygen has fierce competition here for my favorite album of the year.

Buy @ Amazon


1. Lorde: Pure Heroine

…more than lives up to all the hype…one of those rare song cycles that flows seamlessly from beginning to end and keeps the same level of energy throughout…Lorde’s signature blend of heavy, sporadic beats and witty, sardonic lyrics, which are often written from an outsider’s point of view in a poetic style.

Buy @ Amazon

*all mp3s, streams & videos uploaded by & posted w/ permission of artists, labels and/or their PR reps

Muruch’s Top 50 Songs of 2013

Following are the fifty favorite songs of the year that I submitted to Contrast Podcast‘s forthcoming Festive 50. I have to add an honorable mention to “Cassiopeia” by Sara Bareilles. I adore the song but only heard The Blessed Unrest album this week – long after having scheduled my Top Songs and Top Albums lists and it’s impossible to cut anyone from either list to make room for Sara.

Muruch’s Top 50 Songs of 2013:

50 Ylvis: The Fox
49 Rykarda Parasol: Take Only What You Can Carry
48 Tyler Lyle: Medusa
47 Little Red Lung: 50 Fingers
46 Lizabett Russo: Tonight
45 Broken Tempo: You
44 Boardwalk: I’m To Blame
43 Banditos: No Good
42 Ivan & Alyosha: The Fold
41 Black City Lights: Give It Up
40 Icona Pop: I Love It
39 One Republic: Counting Stars
38 Katy Perry: Roar
37 Joshua Burnside: Black Dog Sin
36 Dayna Kurtz: Reconsider Me
35 Valerie June: You Can’t Be Told
34 Foxygen: San Francisco
33 Valerie June: Shotgun
32 Imagine Dragons: Demons
31 Trent Dabbs: A Thousand Nights
30 Janelle Monae (feat. Miguel): Primetime
29 Molly Drake: I Remember
28 Allison Crowe: Skipper Billy’s Wake
27 Janelle Monae (feat. Prince): Giving Em What They Love
26 Hem: Walking Past the Graveyard, Not Breathing
25 Melissa Ferrick: Overboard
24 MS MR: Bones
23 Trent Dabbs: Mountain Song
22 Lucy Schwartz: Time Will Tell
21 One Mile an Hour: Sunken Ships
20 Foxygen: Shuggie
19 Lorde: Team
18 Allison Crowe: The Men Who Die for a Living
17 Lorde: White Teeth Teens
16 Trent Dabbs: The Last of Its Kind
15 Hem: Departure and Farewell
14 MS MR: Hurricane
13 Lorde: Tennis Court
12 Allison Crowe: The Black Velvet Band
11 Hem: Gently Down the Stream

10 Lorde: Glory and Gore


9 Janelle Monae (feat. Erykah Badu): Q.U.E.E.N.


8 MS MR: Dark Doo Wop


7 Imagine Dragons: Radioactive


6 Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic


5 Vienna Teng: The Hymn of Acxiom


4 Lorde: Royals


3 Trent Dabbs: The Way We Look at Horses


2 Alice Boman: Waiting


1 Allison Crowe: Words

Buy Music @ Amazon

Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe’s sophomore album, The Electric Lady, was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. This followup to her exquisite debut, The ArchAndroid (one of Muruch’s Top Albums of 2010), continues the bizarre, enthralling tale of time travelling android Cindy Mayweather – first introduced in Janelle’s Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) EP. However, you needn’t have heard the previous two albums in Janelle’s mythic trilogy to enjoy The Electric Lady. The music on the album is as interesting, diverse and addictive as we’ve come to expect from Janelle and finds her collaborating with Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange, Miguel and Esperanza Spalding.

I’m not usually a fan of instrumental intros, but Janelle’s anticipation-building “Suite IV Electric Overture” is an exception. The liner notes say it was “inspired by the idea of Ennio Morricone playing cards with Duke Ellington.”

The standout track “Give Em What They Love” is exactly the kind of fun, multi-layered funk duet you want from Janelle Monáe and Prince. The clip on Amazon does not do the song justice, it needs to be played in full on high volume through stereo speakers.

Almost as good is “Q.U.E.E.N.” with Janelle’s quirky, melodic, semi-rap defiance and a guest appearance by Erykah Badu. I first posted the video here last May and you can watch it again below.

The album’s title track has a slightly more traditional R&B dance sound with guest vocals by Solange.

Another major highlight is “Primetime,” a sultry, soulful ballad duet with Miguel. You can watch the brand new video for the track below.

“Dance Apocalyptic” is a fun dance tune, though it’s not nearly as crazy as the title suggests. You can see the video below.

“Look Into My Eyes,” “It’s Code” and “Can’t Live Without Your Love” show off the lovely, gentler side of Janelle’s voice.

Janelle’s ode to “Sally Ride” is quite the fantastic journey, the ultimate futuristic soul song. And Esperanza Spalding’s voice is the perfect match for Janelle’s in the Neo-Soul song “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes.”

Though I can’t say I enjoy listening to the somewhat jarring pseudo-radio interludes interspersed throughout the album, I do love that Janelle still makes actual albums. Her fantasy concepts aside, Janelle obvious wants her fans to play her albums in their entirety and take them as a whole listening experience rather than a collection of singles with some filler.

That kind of artistic attention to detail combined with a gorgeous voice, a flare both for the dramatic as well as the funky and a science fiction churning imagination continue to put Janelle Monáe into a category all her own: Cyber-Soul.

Buy @ Amazon

Janelle Monáe Official Site

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

It’s that time again! Following are my Top 25 Albums of 2010. Like ’em or not, these are the albums I’ve personally enjoyed and listened to most often in the past year. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…

*Honorable mention to Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, which would have been #2 on this list had it been released this year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

25. Sheila Nicholls: Songs from the Bardo

…I was so excited to see Sheila Nicholls name on a new press release!…genre-hopping…moody experience…Sheila’s lovely vocals drive every song

Sheila Nicholls – Bardo (mp3)*
Sheila Nicholls – Natural Law (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

24. The Concretes: WYWH

…sultry and atmospheric…blends mellow electro-pop melodies with ambient beats beneath new lead singer Lisa Milberg’s whisper soft vocals

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*
The Concretes – Good Evening (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

23. Heart: Red Velvet Car

…a step back from the pop-rock endeavors of recent decades in favor of a multi-instrumental style…perfect display of Ann’s astounding vocal power and Nancy’s searing guitar riffs.

Buy @ Amazon

22. Warner Nuzova: Russian Music for Cello & Piano

…The deep resonance of Warner’s cello is juxtaposed and intertwined with the emotive peels of Nuzova’s piano, resulting in a sound full of somber beauty and classical romance.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Screaming Females: Castle Talk

…loud, exhilarating, wailing punk rockers…a spectacular cacophony of ferocious growls, frenzied shrieks, scorching guitar licks and tempestuous rhythm

Screaming Females – I Don’t Mind It (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

20. Brooke Fraser: Flags

…a collection of subtle folk-influenced melodies and pretty, infectious pop fleshed out with innovative arrangements and all wrapped up in Brooke’s warm voice

Buy @ Amazon

19. Agent Ribbons: Chateau Crone

…churns atmospheric retro pop-rock with modern rock riffs, handclap percussion, and girl group harmony. The result is somewhere between The Zombies and The Shangri-Las.

Buy @ Amazon

18. Creed Bratton: Bounce Back

…With the help of his backing band The 3DVB’s and his The Office co-star Ed Helms, Creed has made an unusual, funny, funky, and all around awesome album.

Creed Bratton – Rubber Tree (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

17. Robert Plant: Band of Joy

…an almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana

Buy @ Amazon

16. Danielle Ate the Sandwich: Two Bedroom Apartment

…The combination of that kind of sweetly self-deprecating humor and Danielle’s clear, warm voice along with some very pretty acoustic melodies make this album a charmer.

Buy @ Amazon

15. Robert Stallman: The Nightingale in Love

…Whether you’re a classical aficionado or simply enjoy pretty instrumental music, this lovely album is definitely one to try…Simply put, The Nightingale in Love is beautiful. So very beautiful.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Sade: Soldier of Love

…an album everyone should hear…strong artistic integrity combined with an exquisitely exotic voice and elegant melodies give Sade’s music a rare grace and beauty.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Katharine McPhee: Unbroken

…an excellent mix of infectious pop melodies and singer-songwriter acoustics…Her multi-faceted voice effortlessly flows from impressive Divaesque acrobatics to a warmer, relaxed charm reminiscent of classic Carole King.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Loreena McKennitt: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

…brimming with a heady mix of Celtic and folk instrumentation…Loreena’s supernatural soprano is on gorgeous display

Buy @ Amazon

11. The Bird & The Bee: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates

…tribute to 1980s pop icons Hall & Oates is no parody, instead this is a sincere and happy homage to one of my favorite guilty pleasure bands…the perfect soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

10. Sing Me To Sleep: Indie Lullabies

…a wide variety of charming, serene covers by various indie acts…The entire Sing Me To Sleep album flows together to create a lovely, gentle mood.

Dean & Britta – Making Me Smile (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

9. The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

…one of the most excellent, enjoyable rock albums I’ve heard in years…infectious but substantial rock – settled delciously somewhere between arena and roots.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Allison Crowe: Spiral

…Her voice flawlessly flows between the most pristine soprano and gut-wrenching, full-bodied wails…I hear Allison Crowe sing, and I remember the effect music is supposed to have on you.

Buy @ Amazon

7. The Innocence Mission: My Room in Trees

…pristinely pretty…Sparse arrangements are coupled with poetic lyrics full of scenic imagery and bittersweet emotion – all carried by the lovely soprano of Karen Peris.

The Innocence Mission – God is Love (mp3)*
The Innocence Mission – Happy Mondays (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

6. Moreland & Arbuckle: Flood

…If Moreland & Arbuckle’s upcoming album Flood is any indication, 2010 is gonna be a great year for music…this mix of Delta blues, folk, country, soul, and rock is one wild ride.

Buy @ Amazon

5. She & Him: Volume Two

…another collection of airy, retro-styled pop songs fleshed out with folk instrumenation…a breezy pop soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Kate Miller-Heidke: Curiouser

…like a collaboration between Kate Bush and Lady Gaga. Mainstream pop fans will definitely enjoy this disc, as will those searching for catchy tunes with lyrical substance.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Janelle Monáe: The Archandroid

…Conceptually and musically, this multi-facted, genre-mashing masterpiece has everything you could want in an album and then some. And Janelle’s supernatural vocal range is as chameleonic as the songs she sings.

Buy @ Amazon

2. Xavier Rudd: Koonyum Sun

…Xavier Rudd is my favorite artist, full stop…yet another breathtaking masterpiece that’s sure to land Xavier Rudd at the top of my year end list again.

Buy @ Amazon

1. Anaïs Mitchell: Hadestown

…transforms the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a post-apocalyptic American fable with Depression era style and indie-folk sensibility. This gorgeous, exciting project reminds me why I love music so much and why I love writing about music so much.”

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3)*
Anaïs Mitchell & Bon Iver – Wait for Me (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

*all mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artists, labels and/or their PR reps