My Favorite Music of 2013

It is time once again, fair blog readers, for the last remaining “year-end” list that I still do: music.  I’ve been making these lists since 2007, but the first few were on my MySpace blog, which has been destroyed, but you can see past Notes From the Fire music lists here:

Favorite Music of 2009

Favorite Music of 2010

Favorite Music of 2011

Favorite Music of 2012

If you are a person who regularly receives CDs from me in the mail, you’ll be getting a mix disc representing this list.  Don’t get discs from me and want one?  Drop me an e-mail/ text/ blog comment and I’ll send you one.  Oh, and just to be clear, this is my favorite music that was released in 2013, not just the music I loved the most during the year.  That list would look a bit different.

I had to make it a top 11 list, I was unable to take any of these artists off the list.  So, without further ado, in order, the albums I liked most in 2013:

11.  Elvis Costello and The Roots, “Wise Up Ghost”

What seems like an unlikely pairing when you first hear about it turns out to be something that seems like it should have happened all along.  All snarl, no filler.

10.  Editors, “The Weight of Your Love”

These British whiners just keep finding ways to whine that feel like they’re punching you in the goddamn throat.  And they keep building on previous albums and boldly evolving.

9.  Kings of Leon, “Mechanical Bull”

We’re obviously never going back to the shit-kicking jambalaya balling rock of the band’s youth, but this new, outsized punching bag swing will do just fine.

8.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Push the Sky Away”

An album a little short on excitement, but 100% dripping in atmosphere, as well as what this band does best: the saddest sex songs on Earth.

7.  Deerhunter, “Monomania”

The creepy indie shoegazers are back, and NOT weirder than ever! Bradford Cox and company get a little more structured on this disc, which suits them just fine.  Have four minutes?  Watch this.  All the way through.

6.  Kinski, “Cosy Moments”

The little-known drone-rockers (I just made up that term) get all vocal-y on their best album yet.  Unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

5. “Oblivion” soundtrack by M83

The French electronica duo M83 have here crafted the most jarring, emotionally resonant film score since Hans Zimmer’s “Inception”.

4.  Willis Earl Beal, “Nobody Knows”

Willis Earl Beal

Willis Earl Beal

Probably the most thrilling, humbling, disquieting debut from a solo artist that I have ever been witness to.  Please get on the Willis Earl Beal train.  His music is soulful, disturbing, beautiful, and pummeling.  In addition, he’s a personality with clear potential to ascend to the next level in the cultural zeitgeist.  Get on the train early, you heard it here first.  Plus, watch this.


3.  Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”


Perennially one of my favorite bands, most years this album would have taken my #1 spot, but the competition was stiff this year.  Like their previous outings, “Reflektor” is a true work of artistic genius, both analytical and guttural, not afraid to come at modern topics through academic approaches, and canvassing world music and deep rock history for influences, resulting in a rounded, eclectic-sounding collection of contemplative ass-kickers.

2.  trouble-will-find-me-b-iext21843049 The National, “Trouble Will Find Me”


If I were to, right this moment, make a list of my favorite bands, The National would almost certainly be #1.  Matt Berninger’s wickedly free-associative lyrics uncover profound things within me, and the band’s perfectly balanced approach to squeezing life through a hole in a tomato aligns precisely with my temperament.  This album (the first new one to come out since I became a fan of the band) was no disappointment.  I’ve listened to its melancholy bathtub bleedout tunes hundreds of times this year.  Click here to watch the lyric video I made of my favorite song on the album, “Don’t Swallow the Cap”.  It references the Beatles and Nirvana’s “Nevermind”.  You’ll like it, but listen to it twice in a row.

1.  Man Man, “On Oni Pond”



Man Man are a band like no other.  They are most often termed “experimental”, but some of the more memorable labels that have been adhered to them are “Viking swing”, “carnival rock” and “voodoo funk”.  They must be experienced to be understood.

While I am always excited for a new Man Man album, they have always been more about the live experience for me.  I do believe this is even the first time one of their albums has made one of my year-end lists, let alone topped it.  I was never expecting “On Oni Pond” to blow me away the way it did.

Here the band actually attempts to “mature” while maintaining their signature quirkiness.  It works in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible.  Honus Honus (the moniker lead singer Ryan Kattner goes by) sings in turns about seemingly silly things like “pink wontons” or Wolf Blitzer (in the song “End Boss”) and then turns around and gently reminds us “nobody knows/ where the time goes./  nobody knows” (in “Fangs”).  The combination of calculated buffoonery and genuine affectation left me wanting more, dancing around my living room.


15 Responses to “My Favorite Music of 2013”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    Alright, pick a video for me to watch, per the agreement you never agreed to or acknowledged from my blog. If you haven’t done your part though, then sit on a cactus.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Oh do not recall any such agreement on your blog! I shall go look at this now.

      • sethdellinger Says:

        Wow! That really was something! Yes, it is not something I would buy and listen to, but I would see her live anytime! Incredible performance. (for anyone who might happen to be reading this, we are referencing the Janelle Monae video on Kyle’s blog, here:

        I’ll have to ponder what I want you to watch and will probably send it to you on Facebook, since I didn’t actually embed any videos on my list this time.

  2. Duane Eugene Miller Says:

    With respect, calling Arcade Fire “Genius” just made me realize that that word is totally subjective and all our little worlds are so different. For me they are pretentious and intentionally “hipster” which (again for me) makes them come off as obnoxious posers. I’m not pointing this out to make that argument particularly or try to convince you that my perception is the right one. (I am aware that that is totally futile anyhow – and if I actually believed that I should be punched in the face) Just observing the oddity of experience and how the same thing can appear so different. Totally weird, as generally I hold your musical taste in high regard – or at least in some accordance with my own artistic sensibilities. Perhaps the world will end if we ever agree on Tool or Arcade Fire:P What intricate little reactors. And I’m looking forward to checking out the Man Man album. They are pretty awesome :)

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah our artistic tastes intersect a lot but where they diverge…they REALLY diverge haha. We both have at least one group that just baffles the other one. I’m sure the way you think “How could he like that??” about Arcade Fire is the exact same way I think about you and Tool. We don’t just dislike these bands…we feel the other person has been duped by them! haha. Well I have drank the Arcade Fire Kool-Aid (I really do think “genius” applies to them) and you’ll just have to accept it the way I’ve accepted your Tool-ness :) You’ll be getting a CD so you can hear a few of the Man Man songs, but if you find yourself with cash to burn, I can 100% guarantee you’ll love it.

      • sethdellinger Says:

        And more to your point…it really IS strange how people can receive artistic and entertainment product on such different wavelengths. Things that one person sees or hears and thinks is life-changing can be totally boring to the majority of humanity…what is going on inside us??? “intricate little reactors” is a great phrase for it

      • Duane Eugene Miller Says:

        I’ve already downloaded Man Man

      • Duane Eugene Miller Says:

        Yeah I’ve moved on from viewing it as “duped” to using it as an existential question. Not even a specific question. Just general inquiry and gratitude for diversity, and my new found ability to have freedom from my own opinions. But yes, not so long ago, “Seth is being fooled by those losers” or something resembling that :) Now I am quite delighted that you like them as much as you do. It forces inquiry in a way, that we agree as we do, and also do not with such certainty. Wild. It’s good :)

  3. Duane Eugene Miller Says:

    …and I’m surprised that Russian Circles “Memorial” didn’t make it on your list. Pretty solid entry from them. However I haven’t heard a majority of what you’ve posted here so perhaps there are some serious gems I am unaware of.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I quite enjoy the new Russian Circles album, as I always enjoy them, but they’re just not a band I’m passionate about. I like to listen to them in a kind of distracted, entertainment way, but they don’t move me much…not enough dynamism (I want some quieter moments and less frequent tempo changes from them). That being said, if I had made a top 20 list, it would have been on it, for sure.

      • sethdellinger Says:

        A more simple way of saying what I just tried to say about Russian Circles: I find them technically brilliant but not especially emotionally resonant.

        • Duane Eugene Miller Says:

          Yeah I suppose I feel similar about them, though I don’t often require an emotional resonance from my music (sometimes I do though). More often I am a sucker for a giddy “Holy shit I can’t believe I’m hearing this!” …

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