Muruch’s Top 5 Books of 2013

Though I continue to be a voracious reader, I can’t recall liking many new book releases this year. Most of the books I loved, such as Scott Alarick’s Revival, were all released in years gone by. Even the few novels that stood out (The Interestings, The Curiosity, Eleanor & Park and Donna Tartt’s much-hyped The Goldfinch) proved to be ultimately disappointing. I did, however, greatly enjoy three new poetry collections and two very unusual novels:

Muruch’s Top 5 Books of 2013

5. Louise Glück: Poems 1962-2012

“A day like a day in summer. Exceptionally still. The long shadows of the maples nearly mauve on the gravel paths. And in the evening, warmth. Night like a night in summer. It does me no good; violence has changed me. My body has grown cold like the stripped fields; now there is only my mind, cautious and wary, with the sense it is being tested. Once more, the sun rises as it rose in summer; bounty, balm after violence. Balm after the leaves have changed, after the fields have been harvested and turned. Tell me this is the future, I won’t believe you. Tell me I’m living, I won’t believe you.”

Louise Glück is a Pulitzer winner and critically acclaimed poet, but I only recently became a fan. I can’t say I love all her work, which is collected here in one volume, but she does have a very powerful and evocative voice at times. I especially like her Persephone-themed poetry originally published as the book Averno, which is included in this volume.


4. Samantha Harvey: All is Song

William came, and sat opposite. Leonard pushed a glass of wine towards him.

‘Scotland was difficult,’ Leonard said, in answer to the unasked questions. How was your trip? How have you been? He knew William would never ask. ‘I wish you’d been there, William, at least for a visit.’

No response, but then it hadn’t been a question, so he continued as if unperturbed. ‘Mind you, if you had come what would you have found? Me drinking wine too early in the day and watching films and scratting through boxes of things in the attic, like a weird animal. I can’t say I’ve really been in possession of myself.’

‘I don’t know what that would mean anyway. To be in possession of oneself.’

William smiled with intrigue as he said it.

This one may end up being higher on my list, but I’m not quite finished with it. All is Song was originally released last year, but the paperback was released in 2013. I only obtained a copy of the book myself last summer when I traveled to Ireland and it had been lost in my bedroom book pile until this month. It seems to have become a tradition for me to purchase Samantha Harvey books in Ireland, as they are difficult to find in local bookshops and they are so lovely I cannot bear to order them online. Much like Harvey’s previous novel, The Wilderness, All is Song is an exquisitely well written, somewhat cerebral read about an unusual male character. But the plot is quite different, this time examining the complicated relationship and philosophical discussions between two brothers after their father’s death as well as the controversy surrounding one of the brothers, a retired professor.


3. Leigh Stein: Dispatch from the Future

“I fear the past is a brushfire

and I am a prairie. Now that I have what I asked for
I see that I should have been more specific.”

If you think poetry is boring and old-fashioned, I highly recommend this very modern collection of verse by relatively new poet Leigh Stein. Published by the small press Melville House, Dispatch From the Future is a fun, clever, quick read — though by no means lacking in substance or feeling.


2. Maria Semple: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

From: Soo-Lin Lee-Segal
To: Audrey Griffin

I heard Bernadette tried to run you over at pickup! Are you OK? Should I come by with dinner? WHAT HAPPENED?

From: Audrey Griffin
To: Soon-Lin Lee-Segal

It’s all true. I needed to talk to Bernadette about her blackberry bushes, which are growing down her hill, under my fence, and invading my garden…

I usually hate literary gimmicks, but I adored this novel told in the form of found correspondence, report cards and other documented “evidence” as well as the fragmented memories of the teenage protagonist regarding the disappearance of her notoriously eccentric mother, Bernadette. It’s poignant, hilarious and totally unique. I can’t imagine how anyone will make a successful film of this book, but apparently one is in the works.


1. Sharon Olds: Stag’s Leap

“And when I wrote about him, did he
feel he had to walk around
carrying my books on his head like a stack of
posture volumes, or the rack of horns
hung where a hunter washes the venison
down with the sauvignon?”

Sharon Olds is my poetry idol. Her 1987 book, Gold Cell, opened my eyes to the world of modern poetry and taught me that poetry could be (and convey) so much more than mere pretty words. She takes confessional poetry to entirely new, eloquent, gut-wrenching levels. Her post-divorce collection, Stag’s Leap, is perhaps her most personal to date. There’s a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry this year.

Brendan’s 2013 Top Songs List

By: Brendan

Brendan’s Top 15 Free Downloads of 2013:

Dr. Dog – These Days


Vienna Teng – The Hymn of Acxiom


Brandi Carlile – Hard Way Home


Dying Machines – It Has Been


Bing Satellites – Awakening


Alabama Shakes – I Found You


Chloe Howl – Rumour (Yacht Remix)


Charles Hammell – Hear My Voice


Charlotte Church – Glitterbombed


Brandi Carlile & Emmylou Harris – Take Me Home, Country Roads


TG Lurgan – Liom Fhéin (Gaelic cover of The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy”)


The So So Glos – Everything Revival (mp3 download page)


Katie Herzig – Nothing! Shhhhhhhhhhhh


Soak – Sea Creatures (Ryan Vail/Unknown Remix)


Caitlin Rose – No More Lonely

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Chelle’s 2013 Top Albums List

Guest Post By: Chelle

Things I was spinning nonstop this year:

8. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock n’ Roll

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7. Bastille – Bad Blood

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6. HAIM – Days Are Gone

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5. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience part 1

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4. Jay-Z – Magda Carta Holy Grail

Magna Carta Holy Grail


3. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

Buy


2. Disclosure – Settle

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1. Everything Everything – Arc

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and like eleventy billion plays of all One Direction albums but I know you don’t wanna talk about that. :)

my top track of the year is Chris Malinchak, “So Good to Me.”

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

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2012

2012 was a very good year for music. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with enough albums for my year end list, this year the problem was narrowing down my choices. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, watch videos and/or download mp3s. Then comment with your favorite albums of the year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2012

25. Sugar & the Hi-Lows

…This brilliant collection of songs beautifully marries modern indie-pop with retro rockabilly and soul. The sound is Sun Records meets Raising Sand.

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24. Dala: Best Day

…Dala’s penchant for peppy country-pop harmonies and melodic folk-pop melodies fall somewhere between Lady Antebellum and Sylvie Lewis…sweet vocals, tinkling piano and buoyant strings…a pop culture cornucopia with references to everything from Shakespeare to Annie Hall

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23. Sylvie Lewis: It’s All True

…Sylvie’s elegant voice and delicate melodies elevate even the most simple of tunes to a higher level…a jaunty fable of star-crossed love with just the softest, lightest hint of jazz

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22. Eric McGrath: Little Ripples

…I expect Eric McGrath won’t be Ireland’s best kept secret for long…McGrath’s intimate singing style and breezy, multi-instrumental compositions often fall somewhere between Bright Eyes and Xavier Rudd, which is an extremely interesting and unique place to be. But even such grand comparisons are tenuous, because Eric McGrath is definitely blazing a creative trail of his own.

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21. Julie Lee & The Baby-Daddies

…this gorgeous, classic folk song cycle sounds like it was recorded decades ago…the entire album is lovely and sure to be on my best of the year list.

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20. Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man

…atmospheric electronics and somber melodies…brimming with all the emotions of a lifetime of regret and a heart full of love…a very pretty and innovative collection.

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19. Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

…Most of it is sheer, breathtaking brilliance…truly exquisite ballads…the spectacular far, far outweighs the bad

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18. The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten

…Many bands have tried and failed to capture The Boss’ throne, but The Gaslight Anthem have successfully proven themselves to be the true heirs of Bruce Springsteen.

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17. Xavier Rudd: Spirit Bird

…Xavier is one of my all-time favorite artists and his music never fails to amaze, uplift and thoroughly entertain me…Xavier wrote, sang and played every instrument (of which there are many) on this spectacular new collection.

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16. Muse: The 2nd Law

…Not only does The 2nd Law continue that grandiose marriage of arena rock and classical music, but its futuristic electronic twist allows the album to stand completely on its alone. Definitely one for the year end list…weaving thunderous rock, classical song structure and instrumentation with operatic backing vocals into a glorious, cross-genre cacophony.

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15. Jonathan & Charlotte: Together

…the teenage opera duo were this year’s Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent…Talent like Jonathan & Charlotte’s and an album like this doesn’t come along often, so I hope they have a long, successful career ahead of them.

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14. Leif Ove Andsnes: The Beethoven Journey: Piano Concertos No 1 & 3

…a very splendid and beautiful collection…elegantly serene…Andsnes and the other musicians do a superb job in their individual performances of each work. Even more noteworthy is their musical coalescescence.

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13. Garbage: Not Your Kind of People

…grandiose, rocked up electro-pop drama fronted by a wailing red-haired banshee. Their new album successfully captures and modernizes their snarling past glory.

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12. Cat Power: Sun

…shockingly upbeat sound…Cat Power is still as sultry and mysterious as she always was, but the music is very much uptempo…There’s just something so unique about Cat Power’s voice, lyrics and song structure. That unusual quality makes what could be, should be pop songs something entirely different. It’s unpop.

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Cat Power: Ruin (mp3)*


11. Amanda Palmer: Theater Is Evil

…The album explores pop, New Wave and synth rock in a way that is quite a departure from Palmer’s old punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, but it often has the same twisted wit, high energy and frenetic pace…the bombastic Theatre Is Evil is the best argument for fan-funded albums

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Amanda Palmer – Do It With a Rockstar (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – The Killing Type (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Want it Back (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Trout Heart Replica (mp3)*


10. The Mynabirds: Generals

…Have I mentioned I love The Mynabirds? The thumping, catchy, claphappy, fiercely femme indie sound of their new sophomore album, Generals, is somewhere between Lykke Li and Bats for Lashes. Thus the love…the album is deliciously rife with the band’s signature blend of synth-pop, rock, wails, hand claps and stomps.

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The Mynabirds – Body of Work (mp3)*


9. Wilson Phillips: Dedicated

…a tribute to The Mamas & Papas and The Beach Boys…their harmonies are as lovely as ever and very reminiscent of the two bands who spawned them…a sunny, summery, very catchy and surprisingly well orchestrated collection of classic pop covers.

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8. Khatia Buniatishvili: Chopin

…Khatia Buniatishvili’s Chopin is not only my favorite of the Chopin albums released this year, it’s my favorite classical release of 2012…Her nimble fingers are a perfect fit for the classical piano master’s compositions and her selection from his work is superbly diverse. Buniatishvili’s Chopin is an absolutely exquisite collection.

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7. Escort

…Escort is a seventeen-member “disco orchestra”…definitely one of the more unusual and delightful acts I’ve heard…I can’t imagine a more fun and catchy album being released next year.

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Escort – Makeover (mp3)*


6. JD McPherson: Signs & Signifiers

…Where did this guy come from?…McPherson’s music is a delicious mix of brassed up retro soul and rumbling vintage blues-rock. It’s been a very long time since I was struck by such an intense sense of awe while listening to an album…sound like classics by Little Richard, Jackie Wilson or The Big Bopper with a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Sun Studios-era Elvis thrown in.

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5. Goodnight Texas: A Long Life of Living

…who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good? Song after song, I would think I’d heard the best of the album only to be even more amazed by the next track. This is music for any band to aspire to and for any music fan to get very excited about.

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4. Norah Jones: …Little Broken Hearts

…Norah has finally found a dark, dreamy sound interesting enough to successfully break away from those old coffeehouse categories without losing the mellow charm that made her famous. Produced by Danger Mouse, …Little Broken Hearts spices up pretty post-breakup pop anthems with luscious splashes of noirish electro-rock.

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3. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel…

…Fiona Apple’s first album in seven years, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, weaves the fierce emotion, poetic lyrics and masterfully constructed compositions of her previous releases with a much more rugged recording style and strong splashes of jazz. The collection is somewhat unexpected and strange, but it’s also exquisitely beautiful and brilliant.

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2. The Vespers: The Fourth Wall

…The songs on The Fourth Wall break the barrier between folk and pop and also genre-hop through blues, gospel and rock…all wrapped up in dulcet harmonies and strikingly beautiful instrumentation.

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1. Anais Mitchell: Young Man in America

…Anaïs Mitchell is like a modern day Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan. Her epic lyrical narratives echo Guthrie’s masterful talent for blending the literary with the ordinary, while her fierce and unique vocal phrasing as well as her intricately multi-layered arrangements take Dylanesque to a whole new realm….Young Man in America is both an ambitious recording project and a beautifully rich tapestry of classic folk songwriting. Anaïs Mitchell just may be my generation’s most talented singer-songwriter.

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Uploaded by Wilderland Records

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

Muruch’s Top 10 Books of 2012

After a few years of delving into classic literature and non-fiction adventure books (mostly about exploring the Amazon and Mexican caves), I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some new novels this year. I didn’t post a book list last year, so I’m including one 2011 release I read this year. Please comment with your favorite reads of 2012!

Muruch’s Top 10 Books of 2012

10. Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

A charming, quaint little story about an elderly Englishman’s spontaneous journey on foot to see an ailing friend and the effect his decision has on himself, his wife and everyone he encounters along the way. It would have been my #1 book of the year if not for the second half veering off into Forrest Gump territory.

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9. Charlotte Rogan Virago: The Lifeboat

Set in 1914, a group of survivors in a tiny lifeboat gradually lose all sense of decency and themselves after nearly a month at sea in the aftermath of a sunken ocean liner. As the narrator reveals upfront she’s on trial for murder, you know this ain’t no Titanic.

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8. Natasha Solomons: The House at Tyneford

A classically written novel about a young Jewish refugee who escapes WWII-era Vienna to work as a maid in an English manor. It’s like a romanticized Downton Abbey.

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7. Sarah Sundin: With Every Letter

A melodramatic but sweet WWII-era romance about two military outcasts falling in love through correspondence.

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6. Lynn Austin: Wonderland Creek (2011)

…a charming, cheery little novel…Austin pays homage to Lewis Carroll by dropping her feisty, somewhat spoiled, bookworm heroine, Alice, in a strange, Depression-era, backwoods Appalachia town called Wonderland Creek…one of those uplifting reads that leaves a smile on your face at the end, though you’ll miss that wonderful little world when it’s over.

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5. Theodora Goss: The Thorn & The Blossom

…a romantic fable in unusual binding. This beautiful, open-spined book folds out like an accordion, so you can choose to read Evelyn’s story then flip over to Brendan’s perspective (or vice versa) as they meet in a bookstore, fall in love, are torn apart and attempt to find their way back to each other.

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4. Graham Joyce: The Silent Land

An unusual fantasy of a couple who miraculously survive an avalanche while skiing only to find the French village they are staying in completely deserted and eerily silent when they return. A chain of strange events and their inability to escape the village lead the couple to question the very world they live in.

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3. Ron Rash: The Cove

Rash certainly imagines some extraordinary plots. Had his 2009 novel, Serena, been released this year, it would also be on this list. Set in WW1-era Appalachia, The Cove tells of a lonely, outcast girl who falls in love with a mysterious, mute stranger who carries a secret of his own.

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2. Victoria Hislop: The Thread

Another exquisite, multi-cultural, multi-generational tale by Victoria Hislop, who just may be the finest writer alive. Her stories are always a rich, tightly woven, unparalleled tapestry of language.

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1. Kate Morton: The Secret Keeper

…truly a page turner…Morton deftly takes us back and forth from the blitz of WWII-era London through the 1960’s and into the modern age, weaving a universe of mystery and suspense all along the way…so well designed and executed that, for once, the twist at the end took me completely by surprise.

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