too much. too much.

 

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it takes lake county a while to do what’s right (and then they still kinda don’t do great)

 

Heaven or Las Vegas at 25; Me at a lot older than that

The never ending stream of album anniversaries is strange for many reasons, but it gets really weird when you’re celebrating quarter-century marks for albums you identify with as an adult.

Heaven or Las Vegas is the album that, for me, marks my transition into adulthood … even though I wasn’t really an adult when it came out. 

I was starting my second year of college, and had just turned 19, which is, really, advanced adolescence, rather than actual adulthood. But for me, this was the year that the whole rest of my life started to come into focus; I was writing professionally (as in , getting paid for it, though not much!), I was paying my own rent, I was free to do whatever I wanted … and that mainly involved driving around and listening to music. And the tape that never seemed to leave the deck in my shitty little VW Fox was a Capitol Records promo of “Heaven or Las Vegas.” 

It’s weird to consider this a driving-around record; Cocteau Twins are best for pensive clove-smoking sessions or hallucinogen come downs, right? Maybe. But they never were for me. The thing that always drew me to the band was their sheer voluminousness, their willingness to fill – even on their quietest, prettiest tracks – every centimeter of space with sound. It’s a trait they share with lots of my other favorite artists; whether Sun Ra or Prince or the Flaming Lips, the artists I’m drawn to tend to fill in their musical pictures with more and more and more sound, rather than truly thoughtful lyrics or musical precision. And Cocteau Twins were a band that cared little for either lyrics or precision. 

But, as this album made clear, that didn’t mean they didn’t care about emotion or melody or the cumulative impact of combining their strengths in different ways. It was the most direct and song-driven of the group’s work to that point, and Heaven or Las Vegas continually confounded me with the way it laid bare its emotions – joy, confusion, hope – without using easy-to-understand lyrics. 

To be completely honest: I sang along to this record more than any pop or rock record with anthemic choruses, and even 25 years later, I have no idea what any of the words are. 

I could try and draw corollaries between the whole new-baby/strained-relationship reality of the Twins’ principals and my own confused reactions to the freedoms and responsibilities of young adulthood, but they would be dishonest. I just felt that, at the time, this was the best pop album on the planet, and, 25 years later, I think it is still a pretty prime contender for the title. Which is why that promo cassette never got ejected (thank god for auto-reverse!). 

Music in 2013 was the best it’s been in a while.

I had or have or will have a lot of thoughts about this year in music, but those thoughts are just as narcissistic as this list. I will say that the Internet – especially Twitter – is destroying thoughtful music consumption (much less thoughtful music criticism) while simultaneously encouraging and enabling voracious music fans the opportunity to be excited about an unfathomable amount of high-quality music. Yes, this may be as contradictory as it is tautological, but whatever. It’s great and it will only get greater.

Just know this:  No music critics are ever right. None of them. All they – we, I guess if I were pretentious enough to still wear the hat – do is enunciate their prejudices and preferences in a contextual way so they – we – can make sense of them. Whether exceedingly optimistic (if occasionally cynical) or exceedingly cynical (if occasionally optimistic) or simply opting for the backstory-of-artist/description-of-sound/summation-of-quality blueprint (90% of the rest), all these folks are doing is trying to get you as excited (or as angry) about a particular piece of work as they are. Thanks to the Internet – but, again, especially Twitter – it’s so much easier for fans to aggregate that excitement (or anger) in a way that resonates the most. I am 100% sure that the Twitter Critics Cabal is responsible for why I got so excited about so much music this year. And so angry about so many stupid  things I really didn’t care about.

But there was lot of great music to hear this year. In fact, there were so many great albums that came out in 2013, I found myself listening to modern country music records … and then proselytizing about them as if I’d found a stick that could drive a car.

So remember that no matter which “BEST MUSIC OF 2013” list you’re reading, all you’re getting is the aggregated rundown of the music that a bunch of music fans really liked. Pasting the authoritative “BEST OF” is ridiculously self-aggrandizing, but it’s also true: This is the music that these people thought was the best. And you can disagree. And everyone can still be right.

Here are the 80 albums and four singles that I liked the most in 2013. Hilariously, I probably forgot some.

  • AlunaGeorge – Body Music
  • Ashrae Fax – Static Crash reissue
  • Austra – Olympia
  • Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
  • Bettie Serveert – Oh, Mayhem!
  • Sanjay Leela Bhansali – Ram-Leela OST
  • Bitchin Bajas – Bitchitronics
  • Bleached – Ride Your Heart
  • Bombay Dub Orchestra – Tales from the Grand Bazaar
  • Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows
  • Boy – Mutual Friends
  • Califone – Stitches
  • Anna Calvi – One Breath
  • Charli XCX – True Romance
  • CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
  • Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
  • Coliseum – Sister Faith
  • Coma Cinema – Posthumous Release
  • Mikal Cronin – MCII
  • Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  • Darkside – Psychic
  • Dead Gaze – Dead Gaze
  • Deafheaven – Sunbather
  • Deap Vally – Get Deap! EP
  • Dirty Beaches – Drifters/Love is the Devil
  • Disclosure – Settle
  • Fortune Howl – Earthbound
  • Frankie Rose – Herein Wild
  • Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
  • Girls Against Boys – The Ghost List EP
  • Great Thunder – Strange Kicks EP
  • Haxan Cloak – Excavation
  • Heliotropes – A Constant Sea
  • IO Echo – Ministry of Love
  • Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister
  • The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law
  • Kylesa – Ultraviolet
  • David Lang – Death Speaks
  • Lorde – Pure Heroine
  • Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
  • M.I.A. – Matangi
  • Juana Molina – Wed 21
  • Ashley Monroe – Like A Rose
  • Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
  • Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
  • My Bloody Valentine – m b v
  • Mykki Blanco – Betty Rubble: The Initiation
  • Palms – Palms
  • Paramore – Paramore
  • Pissed Jeans – Honeys
  • Pistol Annies – Annie Up
  • A Place To Bury Strangers – Strange Moon
  • Poliça – Shulamith
  • A. R. Rahman – Coke Studio India [live]
  • A. R. Rahman – Raanjhanaa OST
  • El Remolón – Boxeo Constitución
  • Dawn Richard – Goldenheart
  • Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In
  • Emeli Sandé – iTunes Session
  • Savages – Silence Yourself
  • Anoushka Shankar – Traces of You
  • Sigur Rós – Kveikur
  • Nadia Sirota – Baroque
  • Still Corners – Strange Pleasures
  • Survival – Survival
  • Swearin’ – Surfing Strange
  • The Thing – Boot!
  • Thundercat – Apocalypse
  • Trentemøller – Lost
  • William Tyler – Impossible Truth
  • Julieta Venegas – Los Momentos
  • Ventura – Ultima Necat
  • Jessie Ware – Devotion
  • Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
  • Widowspeak – Almanac
  • Dustin Wong – Meditation of Ecstatic Energy
  • Zomby – With Love
  • Various – Harafin So: Bollywood-Inspired Film Music from Hausa Nigeria
  • Various – Sub Pop 1000
  • Various – Yellow Loveless – Japan
  • Marina & the Diamonds + Charli XCX – “Just Desserts”
  • Prince – “Breakfast Can Wait”
  • Quantic & Anita Tijoux – “That Thing”
  • Anna Waronker – “Somebody’s Watching Me”