Jim Tuerk’s Top 10 Records of 2013
It’s the end of the year, and the time where I roll up my sleeves, sift through my stacks of wax and digital playlists to bring you my Top’s list of the year. Many of you know that I play guitar and write for a rock and roll band—we released a record this year, actually. I have a true passion for improvised music and the music that our artists create, but as the resident rocker here at Greenleaf, my list comes from a different place than most jazz blogs you’ll read. Hope I can turn you on to some good sounds.
#1 – William Tyler – Impossible Truth
I’ve read in a lot of places that this year was the rise of solo guitar album. As a huge John Fahey (et al) fan, I couldn’t be happier to concur. This album is not exactly a solo guitar album, though—in fact, a lot of what I love about this is the textures Tyler creates to rest below his fearsome finger picking. Start to finish, this is a true work of art that may be more compelling for non-guitarists than a lot of the straight-up Fahey-style works. It also has added mojo for me as it was released on my birthday.
#2 – Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
I was actually a relative late-comer to the QOTSA party, but once I was in it, I immersed myself in it. I don’t expect people to understand just how much respect I have for Josh Homme, but I really think his approach and aesthetic is second-to-none in terms of modern rock or really where alternative rock went post-grunge. I started a QOTSA cover band — the first time I’ve ever done something like that — this year, and just learning the deceptively simple tunes has changed me in the way going through the Beatles Complete Scores has always done. Not that Homme is Lennon or McCartney, but for modern rock, there isn’t anyone better. This one gave record label Matador their first number one album ever, which is much deserved after the amount of amazing music they’ve released. It’s not my favorite Queens album — Era Vulgaris, for sure — but start to finish, this is conceptual, accessible, weird, straight-forward, and everything in between all at the same time. Plus, not only is there a long list of guests (Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor), but Elton John plays piano on a track. Side note: Josh put together a great tune for the Sound City Reel-To-Reel soundtrack called “Centipede” which you can check out on my 2013 Jams Playlist on Spotify.
#3 – Causa Sui – Europie Tide
This is some heavily jammy psych rock not for the faint of heart. My friend Kevin turned me onto this one, and I hunted down one of the only 500 double-LPs that were pressed by El Paraiso Records. The all-instrumental set has a lot of echoey guitar riffs, hard-hitting drums, and charge-ahead bass. Hope to see a show of theirs one day.
#4 – Califone – Stitches
Califone has been a staple of my listening for a long time. Originally based in Chicago, they recorded at a now defunct studio I used to frequent — I actually own the “Spider’s House” piano that was used on a lot of the the earlier sessions. The leader of the band, Tim Rutilli, dropped some of the core members from the lineup for this record. I was a little worried, but he delivered another great combination of acoustic guitars, churned-up percussion rhythms, and really interesting and organic sounding electronics and samples. Califone still hasn’t put out a bad record.
#5 – Fuzz – Fuzz
Fuzz is a power trio in the truest sense of the word. This is the heaviest album on my list — unabashedly loud, rambunctiously loose. The guitar tones on here are some of the fuzziest stuff that I’ve heard in awhile. Classic 60s aesthetic. The band features one of psychedelic music’s current poster-boys, Ty Segall, who plays drums in this band rather than his usual guitar—some of you may have seen Segall play on late night with his solo-project band that generated a lot of buzz in recent years. Great stuff.
#6 – Bill Callahan – Dream River
My first internship was at Drag City here in Chicago. They release records by a lot of my favorites — Jim O’Rourke, David Grubbs, and Bill Callahan (formerly Smog). Callahan has a dry wit about him that some people just don’t get. I am not one of those people. The first tune on the album features a line: “The only words I’ve said today are “beer” and “thank you”” which is followed by multiple iterations of the words “beer” and “thank you.” It works better when Bill delivers it. This review sums up a lot of what I feel about Callahan, and his new album.
#7 – My Bloody Valentine – m.b.v.
For as much as I get pissy at Pitchfork, they summed up this band pretty well: “the unfair advantage My Bloody Valentine have over all their shoegaze imitators: they’re allowed to sound like My Bloody Valentine.” As someone who loves his whammy bar and is constantly worried about being too Kevin Shields-y, I can certainly empathize. This is the first album since the absolute-classic album Loveless in 1991. That’s a long time to wait, especially for folks like me that hang on every note on that album — it’s in my Top 5 of all time, as cliche as that’s become. Regardless, m.b.v. is a great effort. Not as compelling as Loveless, but definitely in the upper tier of music released this year.
#8 – Marisa Anderson – Mercury
Another guitar album in the Takoma/Fahey style. All the tunes here are short and sweet, never dwelling too long here or there. I think of them as little dreams — the kind you wake up with, and can maybe only hold on to a piece of before the rest rushes away. They are two completely different players, but some of this music reminds me of one of my favorite players Bill Frisell who has a knack for showing me just how beautiful the guitar can be. This was a relatively recent find—I first heard it at NPR and I’m grateful for that outlet for giving this music the exposure it deserves. Looking forward to supporting this great guitar player on future releases.
#9 – Mark Lanegan – Imitations
What a voice. Grumbly and gruff which so much character. Lanegan was the front-man of Screaming Trees, though this release has nothing to do with a lot of what I’ve heard from his or their catalog. This is a collection of all covers ranging from John Cale to Vern Gosdin to Chelsea Wolfe. It would also be one of the greatest brooding breakup records ever. Really the only drag on the album is the shamefully bad version of Autumn Leaves that is (thankfully) the last song on the album. Still, absolutely a great record.
#10 – Kurt Vile – Waking On A Pretty Daze
Last year’ Smoke Ring For My Halo was on my list. And this one is right up there. The tune “Was All Talk” is the real standout here — a rambling circular riff that never fully resolves one way or another and lyrics that play to his recent rise in popularity while offering his usual brand of lazily foggy obscurity. But the whole album is great, and one that shows Vile wasn’t just a one-good-record dude.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end. If you think I missed something important, let me know if the comments section. I always have my ear to the ground hoping to find a new audio gem.