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

Lucy Schwartz: Timekeeper

Lucy Schwartz will release her new album, Timekeeper, on August 27th. Gone is the sweet, soft singer-songwriter sound of 2008’s Winter in June. In its place stands 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.

The opener, “Ghost in My House,” is a standout with an eerie melody punched up with quasi-Gospel handclap percussion, noirish Western rock riffs and electro beats. You can stream it below.

The supercatchy beat and doo-wop backing harmonies of “My Friend” mask the song’s ill-tempered warning to a female frenemy.

“Marie Antoinette” is the album’s spectacular, string-accented centerpiece and heralds a shift toward a more experimental style in the album’s second half. It’s a lovely, subtle breath of chamber-pop air with a haunting ascension of voice and melody. Later, the ballad “Fire Away” resurrects and softens that beautiful chamber-pop sound.

The plucky instrumentation and clinking, clanking, rusty electro-rhythm of “Time Will Tell” is more steampunk than folk revival. You can stream it below.

“Boomerang” kicks the pop back up a notch, all lilting vocals and fingersnaps. It was featured on the new season of Arrested Development. You can stream and/or download a free, legal mp3 of the track below.

“Captain Sunshine” has a languid, Beatlesesque pop sound. You can stream the song below.

You can stream Lucy’s Timekeeper album in its entirety at The Wall Street Journal. To celebrate the album’s release on August 21st, Lucy will perform a masquerade ball-themed concert at No Vacancy in L.A. Admission to the concert is free and masks will be provided at the door.

Buy @ Amazon

Lucy Schwartz Official Site

Lucy Schwartz: New Album & Mp3

My 2008 review of Lucy Schwartz’s debut Winter in June began with the line “I’m always puzzled when certain female singer-songwriters receive mainstream popularity and media attention while others like seventeen year old Lucy Schwartz remain in the shadows.” Now 20 years old, Lucy has since been heard in several tv shows and movies and her recent EP Help Me! Help Me! made the blogrounds. Her sophomore full-length album Life in Letters will be released on August 31st, and you can download a free mp3 of the non-album single “When We Were Young” by entering your email address in the widget below…

Life in Letters Track List:

My Darling
Rain City
I Want The Sky
Life in Letters
Those Days
Shadow Man
Gone Away
Somebody To Save
Take a Picture

The album is not yet available for pre-order, but should be at the links below closer to the release date…

Buy @ Amazon

Lucy Schwartyz MySpace

Mp3 Menagerie: Dean & Britta, Lucy Schwartz, Aidan Knight

Dean & Britta – Making Me Smile (mp3) *

I don’t know if “indie-lullaby” was an official sub-genre before, but it certainly is now. This sweet song is from the upcoming charity compilation Sing Me To Sleep, which benefits the children’s charity The Valerie Fund. The album features lullabies and covers by Stars, Laura Gibson, Trespassers William, O+S, Tanya Donelly, Telekinesis, The Real Tuesday Weld, Julie Peel, and Sigur Rós among others. It will be released by American Laundromat Records on May 18.

Pre-order @ Label Site

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of label


Lucy Schwartz – Help Me! Help Me! (mp3 expired) *

Singer-songwriter Lucy Schwartz returns with the EP Help Me! Help Me! on January 26.

Buy @ Amazon

*mp3 provided by & posted w/ permission of Filter Mag

Lucy Schwartz MySpace


Aidan Knight – Jasper (mp3)*

Atmospheric indie-folk with a warm voice. Singer-songwriter Aidan Knight will release his new album Versicolour on March 2.

Pre-Order @ Amazon (not yet available)

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep

Aidan Knight MySpace

Lucy Schwartz: Winter In June

I’m always puzzled when certain female singer-songwriters receive mainstream popularity and media attention while others like seventeen year old Lucy Schwartz remain in the shadows. Lucy’s voice as well as her melodies are pretty, and in some cases damn catchy. She plays a superior brand of what would probably be deemed a commercialized pop and acoustic sound if she were more famous. Oh and did I mention her voice was used in Arrested Development?

Tracks like the opener “I Don’t Know a Thing” and “Blue Sky” are airy pop melodies that could easily compete with Sara Bareilles in a catchiness contest. “Crooked Box”, “High Above”, “Pushed and Pulled”, and the finale “June” are slightly moodier ballads. These are the kind of dreamy ballads and infectious pop songs that would have been gushed forth by WB teen dramas like Dawson’s Creek and Felicity in the 1990s.

“Paper Plane” and “Face Down” stand out by splashing piano pop with a surprising hint of jazz in a way that recalls Fiona Apple’s debut Tidal, and “Strange Feeling in the Night” has a more interesting quirkiness that reminds me a little of Gabriela Kulka.

Lucy Schwartz – Paper Plane (mp3 expired)
Lucy Schwartz – Strange Feeling in the Night (mp3 expired)

Lucy Schwartz MySpace

Buy @ Amazon

Buy @ CDBaby