Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

The Best Albums of 2013

The title says “Best Albums of 2013” but this is not a top ten list. I compile a top ten list of movies every year. I am able to see most of the movies in a given year, at least the ones that are worth seeing, and then come up with a list of the top 10 films. I find this extremely difficult to do with music for several reasons. First, there is so much music out there. This is a good problem, but it makes it extremely difficult to accurately evaluate the best albums in a given year. Second, music has so many genres and these genres are often distinct from one another. If someone makes a good film, then most filmmakers acknowledge it is a good film whether it is a comedy, drama, fantasy, etc. If someone makes a great rap album it may be acknowledged by many, but someone whose favorite genre is country may not see the greatness in it that others do. I will listen to any genre of music, but I admit that I am biased and some genres appeal to me more than others. For instance, I listen to far more Americana than I do Metal or R&B. So, this is not a top ten list. It is simply a list of the albums I have most enjoyed this last year.

Best Albums


The National – Trouble Will Find Me

The more and more I listen to The National the more I fall in love with their music. They are a band that may not jump out at you at first, but it doesn’t take long to learn they are full of talent. This year they continued their streak of impressive albums with Trouble Will Find Me. I’m not sure you will find an album this year that is lyrically and musically better than this one.


Jason Isbell – Southeastern

Jason Isbell got sober and made the best album of his career. Jason began his career with the Drive-by Truckers before going solo. This album is more mellow than any of his previous works which allows him to showcase his voice and more importantly his songwriting abilities. His sobriety and marriage to Amanda Shires has paid off. Southeastern is an incredible album from an incredible songwriter.


Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

I admit I was not a fan of Vampire Weekend when they first came out. I listened to their music and I even saw them perform live, but I wasn’t impressed. Needless to say, I was a little leery when people began to talk about how great their latest album was. I decided to give them another chance and I am glad I did. Vampire Weekend has matured and made an exceptional album. I caught their live show again this year at ACL and I was thoroughly impressed. They had one of the better sets of ACL.


Patty Griffin – American Kid

Patty Griffin has consistently put out great music over her entire career and this year is no different. American Kid is not just filled with great music, it is a great album that looks back to the past. Griffin was not only blessed with a wonderful songwriting ability, but she was also blessed with a heavenly voice. Her gospel album she made a few years ago is still one of my all time favorite albums.


Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Arcade Fire have become one of the most interesting groups making music today. They won album of the year at the Grammys for their last album, and on this album they reinvented their sound and made something great.


Over the Rhine – Meet Me at the Edge of the World

This husband and wife team has been putting out their own music for some time now. They are not part of a major label or have some high powered publicist going out promoting their work. What they do have is talent. They have made a beautiful and thought provoking album that can rival anything coming from the major labels.


The Avett Brothers – Magpie and the Dandelion

The Avett Brothers teamed with Rick Rubin to make another solid album. This is probably my favorite out of the three they have made with Rubin. These brothers continue to amaze. If you ever get the chance be sure and catch one of their live shows.

Best Compilations and Reissues


Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait

Bob Dylan has continued to have a great career even later in life, but one of the most surprising and amazing that he has done has been a series of bootleg releases that gives us a taste of alternative versions of his songs and other gems. Another Self Portrait looks back at a low point of Dylan’s career, but with this release one begins to question just how low it was. This two disc set is filled with amazing songs that never made the cut. There are probably many artists that are overrated, but Bob Dylan is not one of them. His albums of outtakes and alternative versions of songs is better than most people’s best stuff.

Von Ronk

Dave Von Ronk – Down in Washington Square

I admit that I had never heard of Dave Von Ronk until the Coen brothers began to make a film loosely based on his life. After hearing him sing Dink’s Song I can imagine the Coens listening to this one song and being inspired to make an entire film. Down in Washington Square is a collection of songs put together by Smithsonian Folkways that spans Dave Von Ronk’s entire career. He was a friend to many artist that came through Greenwich Village including Bob Dylan.

Best Live Album

Horrible Crowes

The Horrible Crowes – Live at the Troubadour

Brian Fallon’s side project, The Horrible Crowes, released an incredible album full of music and it was all recorded live in 2011. Live albums either work or they don’t. It is hard to be a good live band, and it is even harder to put out a good live album. The emotion and energy that you feel when you see a band live has to come through on little speakers in a room that may only be occupied by one person. The Horrible Crowes pulled it off beautifully.

Best Gospel Albums


Mavis Staples – One True Thing

Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy ought to make a new album every year. Mavis has one of the best gospel voices there is and Jeff Tweedy knows how to choose the right songs and arrange them perfectly.


The Relatives – The Electric Word

This is an album that almost never happened. After more than 30 years of dormancy The Relatives resurrected their career and released The Electric Word. This is an album unlike any other. The best description I have heard of it is “gospel funk.” Don’t worry about labels. Just sit back and enjoy.

Best Covers Album


Billie Joe + Norah – Foreverly

When I heard that Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones were redoing an Everly Brothers album song for song, I though they were crazy. The Everly Brothers were the masters of harmonies. I never thought Billie Joe Armstrong of Green day would be able to pull it off, but somehow it works. Billie Joe doesn’t sound like Billie Joe, and he harmonizes well with Norah Jones. This album was a pleasant surprise.

Best Rock Album


The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law

When I heard the distorted guitars on Wolf’s Law I thought I had been transported back to the 90’s. I miss that distorted guitar sound from the 90’s. I miss albums that rock. Thankfully there are some new bands like The Joy Formidable who are carrying on the tradition in a brand new way.

Best Debut Albums


Valerie June – Pushin Against A Stone

Valerie June is a remarkable young talent that can sing country, folk, blues, R&B, and more. She does not limit herself to one genre and in that sense she is a true American artist.

Wallings Jr.

The Wallings Jr. – Before the War

The Wallings Jr. released their album at the right time. There are a lot of popular bands who have a similar sound, bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, but The Wallings Jr. are not simply riding the coattails of these popular bands. They have their own sound and their own unique talent. I hope they find a broad audience and continue to put out sophisticated music for people who are looking for more than what they find on top 40 radio.

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