Mark’s Top Five of 2013

Time to once again tap into my inner Cusack and reveal my Top Five Albums of 2013.

5. Antiphon by Midlake

After the departure of lead vocalist and founding member Tim Smith, Midlake has been born again with a much more powerful sound reminiscent of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. I saw them when they came through town and they were amazing. Here is the title track.

4. State-by Todd Rundgren

The wizard returns to original material with a true gem that works nicely as a companion piece to his 2004 release, Liars. Vintage Todd!

3. The Next Day by David Bowie

Seriously, WTF happened to David Bowie? He vanishes for 10 years and then makes one of the best albums of his career. With the January release, I truly got to enjoy it all year. There isn’t a bad track on the whole LP. Here is one of my favorite tracks

2. AM by Arctic Monkeys

The lads from Sheffield can’t seem to make a bad record. NME made it their album of the year and graced it with a rare 10 out of 10. AM is more laid back than their previous records but still packs a wallop lyrically. Alex and his stories…

Here is a live version of the first single, “Do I Wanna Know?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWRkk4rf7l8

1. San Cisco by San Cisco

The best album of 2013 belongs to Fremantle, Western Australia’s San Cisco. Much of their music was released late last year but they didn’t secure a record deal here until early this year. I have played this disc so much that it is nearly worn out. My 14 year old daughter loves it and can’t get enough of all the catchy pop hooks and down under bliss. Parts of it remind me of the 80s but yet it still sounds very fresh. I’d urge you to check out all their EPs as they have many tracks not on the album.

Here is the track that helped them get a US record deal.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Johnson!

Many of my favorite artists sneak out albums and never tell me. Todd Rundgren is sadly no exception. Towards the end of last year, he released Todd Rundgren’s Johnson (snicker), a collection of his interpretations of Robert Johnson classics. The disc is very difficult to find (although a stateside release is planned for April 21st of this year) and is available only in New Zealand and some parts of Japan as well as the UK. Is it worth it?

For die hard Todd fans like me, yes. No matter what Todd does, I’m going to like it. So he automatically gets a 6 if he just records himself breathing for 50 minutes. But that’s all the further the disc gets for me. Maybe it was because I was super excited that he was getting back to being the killer ax man that I know he’s always been or maybe it was Kasim Sulton playing bass on the record that got my hopes all high but, after several times through it, it’s just alright.

His renditions are somewhat plodding and over produced. The guitar work is excellent and so is Kaz’s bass but most of the disc feels like it was recorded and performed by a hair band trying to be hip and cool. On a few tracks, there are simply too many effects and the instruments got washed out. Thankfully, his stunningly soulful voice is not drowned out and this is one of the albums saving graces.

I love Todd and have seen him live more than any other performer on my faves list (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009…at total of 17 times) so it is with heavy heart that I again say–For Die Hard fans only.

Shining Still…To Give Us The Will

In the summer of 1980, my father pulled into our driveway. My mom and he had been divorced for just over a year. I had spent the last year missing him terribly. He was living over a half hour away in a different city. I had just turned 13 only a few months before and the hormones were raging. My emotions were all over the place as the man who had introduced me to the sacred power of music had become a part time dad.

My dad was like my own personal John Lennon. He was so fucking cool with his longhair and carefree lifestyle. He liked The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, and scores of other great bands. As a child I would sit on the floor of our basement as he would pull out vinyl gem after gem and spin it on his Thorens turntable which I still own to this day. Like Alice falling through the rabbit hole, a vibrant and gorgeous world opened up to me. Anything was possible in this magical place that shone brightly, was eternally warm and forever welcoming. I learned at a very early age that as long as there was music, no one would ever be truly alone.

One artist that I fell in love with immediately was Todd Rundgren. Hermit of Mink Hollow was the album I remember hearing quite a bit back in the late 70’s, although my dad played all of Todd’s records incessantly. When he pulled up in our driveway that day in 1980, he had a big smile on his face. I ran out to greet him and he said, “Hey Mark? Guess what? I have tickets for us to see Todd Rundgren’s Utopia at Poplar Creek in Chicago in a few weeks. Wanna go?”…

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