See also: Henry Rollins: Whitey Christmas
I get a lot of letters bemoaning the current state of music. The people writing portray themselves as the lone survivor with good taste, lost in a sea of corporate box wine auto tuned drek. It often seems more like poor, too smart for my own good, sadly-eclectic-little-me self-promotion than genuine frustration.
To a certain extent, I understand. There really isn't much for me in the world of big music, either. I am glad it's there for all those who like it, but its existence neither twists my arm nor picks my pocket. You can always look elsewhere. The options are plenty and there is seemingly no end of great music to be had.
For these melancholic missive issuers, I always have happy news. The state of music is absolutely fine, I tell them. I add that the only problem is that there is not enough time to listen to all the good records being released and to attend all the shows happening. I think that 2013 was an amazing year for records.
As so much music is listened to via MP3 download, many will never experience the joy of analog playback and for them, I feel sorry. They are missing out. Thankfully, all is not lost, not even close. Record Store Day is now a greatly anticipated event and more bands are pressing up vinyl versions of their music and as well, making it really fun with colored vinyl and limited editions.
Here are some records that came out this year that I thought were great. Knowing that you can check out most if not all of these bands for free online, I will not attempt to go into much description. The only point I am trying to make is that music is alive and well and 2013 was a perfect example.
Marnie Stern, Chronicles of Marnia
I am such a fan. I don't think there are any bad Marnie records, and I find myself liking them better as they come out. One of the things that makes Chronicles stand out is that it's her first album without Zach Hill on drums. He is an amazing musician, but sometimes bashes everything near him into extinction. Kid Millions was recruited for these sessions and sits in really well with what Marnie is doing.
The Julie Ruin, Run Fast
Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox of Bikini Kill's new outfit. So great that these two are back together again and that the results are so good. I saw them play in Los Angeles several weeks ago, and it was such a great time. Great songs, and Kathleen is in total control of her voice.
VUM, Psychotropic Jukebox
This Southern California band might be somewhat obscure to New Yorkers. The band sent me a copy of their Night Sun album years ago, and I was a fan immediately and have been featuring them on my radio show frequently ever since.
Steven R Smith, Ending/Returning
SRS records under a few different names. There is the solo material, then there's Thuja, Hala Strana, Ulaan Khol, Ulaan Markhor, Ulaan Passerine, to name a few. To be succinct, it's usually instrumental, guitar driven music. He has a ton of releases and to me, they're all worthwhile. On Ending/Returning, he takes on seven pieces two different ways, LP1 solo and LP2 as Ulaan Khol. Excellent and challenging.
Omar Souleyman, Wenu Wenu
I have every Omar album I have ever seen. One of my best record buying experiences was finding albums of his in two different record stores in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The men behind the counter must have thought I was strange, holding Omar CDs in my hand, yelling "What a score!" I saw him play several months ago, the place was packed and he had us all moving.
Blistering and fun. Like all their records, I sit there listening, wondering how they are able to do it. Sadly, the release of Fetch was delayed by the Fukushima disaster but it's out now and it's great.
Two new releases by Fushitsusha, Japanese guitar terrorist Keiji Haino's free rock assault unit on Heartfast are great. The titles are in Japanese and try as I might, I can't find translations anywhere.
Hisato Higuchi's new album Otomeyama Bottoms, not all that easy to find but worth it. I was hooked on him after I heard the She EP.
Ashtray Navigations, aka Phil Todd is an experimental soundscaper from Leeds UK. He releases CDRs constantly and I try to keep up as best I can. His new one, Spray, is excellent.