My Top Music of 2013 - Part 1

I love music.  I listen to quite a lot of music, and the kind of music I listen to is generally very diverse.  For those who don't know me, I am generally considered to be a "music snob".  I spent years listening to jazz and classical almost exclusively.  I made some exceptions for Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, and some other sundry classic rockers.  But for the most part I was strictly a jazz guy.
So 2012 and 2013 were the years that I decided that it was time to get out of my music bubble.  I subscribed to Spotify Premium and started loading up my playlists with my favorites.  Soon enough I discovered that I was getting a little bored with my regular favorites.  I hungered for something else, something new, something I had never heard before.
Through 2012 I listened to a ton of Muse, and some other great bands, but mostly Muse.  And then in 2013 I decided it was time to discover even more.  I rarely listened to an album that I had heard before.  I was almost always trying to discover new music.  Obviously the music that is new to me is not going to be new to everyone.  2013 was an adventure in popular music for me, but I wasn't really interested in Beyonce and Drake.  I really wanted to find the fringe popular music, the stuff that isn't necessarily top 40 but is just good stuff.  I wanted to find the great music, not just the popular music.
I think that most musicians will agree with me that popularity does not equal quality.  There is some music that is both popular and awesome, that people will be listening to 10-20 years from now.  And there are tons of songs that are popular now that people will embarrassed to listened to 3 years from now.  I was looking for the former type.
Over the next few days I'll be doing short reviews on my top 8 favorite artists of 2013.  Keep in mind that this is not a list of favorite songs that came out in 2013.  Some of this music will be old news, but were my favorites because either I discovered them in 2013 or because they captivated my interest.
I have also put together a Spotify playlist with my favorite songs from my favorite albums that I was listening to over the year, which I will be posting for all to enjoy.

Now to rank them in order of awesomeness and how many times I listened to them over the course of the year.

#1: Kimbra - Vows

What an album!  I went out on a limb with Kimbra.  This New Zealand pop artist collaborated with Gotye on "Somebody that I used to Know", which was huge in 2013, it's probably what she's known most for.  That song's alright, but Vows blew my mind with how much I liked it.
I started out listening to it thinking "Well, that's an interesting voice.  Not sure if I like that." But I gave it a shot and kept on listening.  Once I got used to the strange timber of her voice I started to realize how much depth and creativity was being portrayed throughout the album.
First off there's the almost singular focus on the voice.  There are such great harmonies running throughout the whole album.  Not just your regular triads that you hear in every pop album these days, but some really great jazz chords and intriguing sonorities throughout.
And then there's the choice of beats.  It's like pop/hip hop meets Afro Cuban/Latin American beats and rhythms.  Maybe that's a pretty common thing out in New Zealand, but I hadn't seen anyone meld those two very successfully here in the states.
These beats really work well because of the way the arrangements were crafted.  The way that she builds and releases the musical tension throughout her songs is akin to some of the great jazz artists that I have grown to love over the years.  I listened to some interviews of Kimbra, and she's very much into jazz music which makes me love her music even more.

#2: Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society

From about 2009 I've been a huge fan of Esperanza.  She is by far one of my favorite artists still living. She's a jazz bassist/singer/genius.  I listened to a 30 second preview of one of her songs on her Self-Titled album and was so blown away in those 30 seconds that I bought the whole album.
Radio Music Society is that kind of album as well.  I'll admit that I still think "Esperanza" is her best album so far, but Radio Music Society is a close second.
I actually started listening to this back in 2012, and if I had a list for 2012 this album would be on it, but I'll put in on the 2013 list because I was still listening to it a lot during 2013 as well.
Radio Music Society captivated my interest because Esperanza is a master composer/arranger/singer/bassist.  It's a great album filled with a great deal of contrast.
There's the fun of "Radio Song", the strangeness of "Cinnamon Tree", and the amazing lyrical message of "Crowned & Kissed".  By far my three favorites of the album.


Dexter said…
Well written. I'm interested to see the rest! I'm a sucker for cliff-hangers...