Music News

Backbeat writers look back on national favorites from 2013

Page 2 of 7

Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-). It's been a long four years for Neko Case fans as they waited for the release of The Worse Things Get, her sixth full-length studio album. Case drew on some darkness for this one: Both of her parents died in the years preceding its release. She's nonchalant when she talks about it in interviews, but there's audible pain on this record, just as there is on her others. "Night Still Comes" and "Local Girl" are classic Neko Case, but check out "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" for a taste of something more sparse and eerie. — AR

Cayucas, Bigfoot (Secretly Canadian). Cayucas's brand of sun-drenched SoCal beach pop quickly drew a fan base of modern-day Parrotheads, complete with Hawaiian shirts. With a sound like Beck mixed with Paul Simon, the echoey vocals and simple lyrics create an album full of total earworms, with catchy drumbeats to match. — LS

Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap (Self-released). Chance the Rapper is one of music's most ebullient characters, and every ounce of that contagious personality comes across on Acid Rap. Once you move beyond Chance's one-of-a-kind vocal style, what's left is boundless energy, effortless sensuality, and one of the sharpest wits in music. — NH

Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran, Hagar's Song (ECM). Pianist Jason Moran has been part of Charles Lloyd's quartet since 2008 and has appeared on three albums with the saxophonist in that time. On Hagar's Song, the two continue to work incredibly well together, whether they're swinging through Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" or offering a more pensive take on the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." — JS

CocoRosie, Tales of a Grass Widow (Transisor Inc.). Operating outside the conventional aesthetics of popular music, on Tales of a Grass Widow, CocoRosie once again delivers music dense with ideas but handled with creative grace and balance. Part hip-hop — down to masterful beatboxing, indiscernible from electronic percussion — part quirky opera, part outsider pop, it's a playful tour de force of imagination. — TM

Deafheaven, Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.). The members of Deafheaven are master musical jugglers. Sunbather features epic, nine-minute musical suites like "Dream House" and mixes the blackest black metal with the most indulgent emotional complaints on songs like "The Pecan Tree." The album fuses rage and sadness, aggression and vulnerability. None of these combinations should work, but Deafheaven fuses them seamlessly on this brilliant record. — AG

Dr. Dog, B-Room (Anti-). Dr. Dog takes influences from the '60s and '70s and combines them with its own brand of upbeat indie Americana. Funky, clean Motown rhythms abound on "Distant Light" and "Long Way Down," while singer-bassist Toby Leaman's raspy, soulful vocals break your heart in "Too Weak to Ramble." The production is clean and simple, and the sound a slight departure from the band's noisier past. — LS

Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 (Columbia). The latest installment in Bob Dylan's bootleg series helps reframe one of the artist's most criticized and least understood records. Alternate takes and unreleased tunes from the Self Portrait sessions show an artist taking bold creative steps, not a burned-out rock star looking to abandon his audience. — AG

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris (Columbia). Earl's return to the rap game made Doris one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and it shows in the dreading, anxiety-ridden lyrics. The lack of risks taken by Earl is disappointing, but a few remarkable tracks combined with his consistent lyricism make Doris one of the best albums of the year, regardless. — NH

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Universal Music Group). Jangly guitars, lyrics that sound like gospel, and hints of '60s psychedelia all combine on the Magnetic Zeros' most recent album to create a sound like summer personified. On their third full-length, the band delivers music that ranges from epic big-band grandeur to stripped-down tunes with just the reverent and clear voice of lead singer Alex Ebert. It all works together like the soundtrack to a modern tent revival. — LS

Flaming Lips, The Terror (Warner Bros.). It would be understandable if the Flaming Lips had rested on their laurels when making The Terror. Instead, the band has written its most sonically daring album to date. Dark, challenging and evocatively abstract, the songs here capture a sense of existential isolation in a struggle with a Pandora's box of personal demons once thought vanquished. — TM

Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (Jagjaguwar). These guys came at just the right time to help us all recover from the loss of Lou Reed. There is snark galore, black humor and echoes of the Velvet Underground throughout 21st Century Ambassadors. The album title itself is what Foxygen is about: a bit pretentious, overly confident, and sarcastic as hell. — MS

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.