I end up sharing a lot of links on Twitter, so I thought it might be worth collecting what I think were the stand-out pieces of the week. (“Stand-out” doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with every word, just that these were the most interesting or thought-provoking items I came across).
I didn’t listen to a ton of new music this year, and probably listened to as much old music (old country, old jazz, old punk, lots of Elvis) as new. But there were a few 2013 releases I really liked. Here, in no particular order, are the albums I found myself returning to repeatedly.
Queens of the Stone Age, . . . Like Clockwork
Arcade Fire, Reflektor
Paramore (self-titled album)
Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day
Camera Obscura, Desire Lines
Wilie Nelson and Family, Let’s Face the Music and Dance
Robbie Fulks, Gone Away Backward
Shearwater, Fellow Travelers
Long-time readers may notice the absence of any heavy metal on this list. For whatever reason, 2013 was the year I almost completely lost interest in new metal. Particularly “extreme” metal. Maybe I’m getting old (maybe?), but I’ve gotten really tired of the cliched, cookie-cutter Cookie Monster vocals and the dearth of melody and effective songwriting that characterizes so much extreme metal.
There’s new never-before-heard music coming from Johnny Cash.
Cash’s estate is releasing “Out Among the Stars,” an album he recorded with Billy Sherrill in the early 1980s that was never released by Columbia Records, then disappeared when the company dropped Cash in 1986. Turns out Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, stashed the tapes — along with just about everything else that came into their possession.
This period was possibly the low ebb of Cash’s career.
The 12 tracks include a duet with Waylon Jennings and two with June Carter Cash.
“We were so excited when we discovered this,” [son John Carter] Cash said. “We were like, my goodness this is a beautiful record that nobody has ever heard. Johnny Cash is in the very prime of his voice for his lifetime. He’s pitch perfect. It’s seldom where there’s more than one vocal take. They’re a live take and they’re perfect.”
John Carter Cash doesn’t think Columbia executives realized what they had in hand. Even though his father had been a major star, tastes would soon turn to Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.
Biographer Robert Hilburn, who recently released “Johnny Cash: The Life,” said the music fans are about to hear was recorded during some of the most difficult years of Cash’s life. He felt like he’d lost his legacy and he was still dealing with the fallout from personal problems including infidelity and drug addiction.
He soon met producer Rick Rubin, though, and wrote a coda to his career that gave his life something of a mythic quality.
“Out Among the Stars” is slated to be released next March. I’m very excited to hear it.
I can make no claims to comprehensiveness for my music listening habits–in any given year I hear only a tiny fraction of what gets put out, and only a slightly larger fraction of what taste makers tell me I should like. But for what it’s worth, here are the albums released this year that I found myself enjoying and coming back to most frequently: