Doug Brooks: My Top Albums of 2013

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This is the third in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors. Check out all of this year’s lists at this link.

My eighth year of Radio Free Athens has come and gone. Although I have not been on as frequently as I have been in the past, I am still trying to consume as much music that I can and then pass it on to you, my listeners.

Here are some of the things that you may have heard on my show and/or have heard with me.

My buddy Tim Easton released Not Cool this year. My first listen was that it was pretty typical Tim; blues-based rock and I wasn’t too thrilled with it. The more that I got to listen to it, the more I liked it. It’s indeed based in the blues, but varying in styles and instrumentation. It’s one of those releases that goes from “eh” at first listen to “wow” later on. If you’re a fan of Tim, you will not be disappointed. If you have not listened to him before, it’s a great place to start.

When I heard that there was a new Mazzy Star recording coming out this year, I about fell out of my chair. If my memory serves me correctly, had it up for free listening for a while. (A great place to listen to things on the computer when you’re not listening to RFA.) I was worried that this was going to be one of those times when an inactive group (close to 10 years, in this case) finally puts out something…and it stinks. Seasons Of Your Day is pretty true to the Mazzy Star “sound,” with ethereal vocals and jangly guitars with the occasional acoustic bit. Dark, quiet sadness in a bowl of melancholy. It did not disappoint.

Going back even further in time are rock icons Black Sabbath. 13 was released in in two editions: regular and deluxe, the latter of which gives you a different graphic on the front and three extra songs. These guys still know how to put out excellent heavy rock. The shortest song clocks in at just over four-and-a-half minutes, with many close to the eight-minute mark. Classic Sabbath sound with a more modern production quality. They somehow even made Ozzy’s vocals intelligible.

The Black Angels continued to produce great psych-rock with their release Indigo Meadow. They remind us to not play with guns and comes close to proving that you can’t go roller skating in a herd of buffalo. (Thanks to Stanley Rood for the quote.)

My most recent acquisition is Jake Bugg’s Shangri-La. He is not to be confused with Joe Pug or the album to be confused with Mark Knopfler’s release of the same name. He writes great songs ranging in style from mellow and acoustic to high-energy rockabilly. I am still digesting this one, and as of now, it will be getting more rotation on my radio show.

An album from the past that I have found myself listening to over and over again is The BeatlesYellow Submarine. Raad (my three year old son) had become obsessed with the song of the same name and likes to listen to it over and over. He doesn’t get much past the title track but it’s been great to see him take a liking to music more and more. He continues to love going to festivals and boogieing. Makes being at a show even more fun when you see how much he likes live music.

Speaking of live shows, this year has been filled with some great ones. In April, Stuart’s Opera House hosted Bomba Estereo with Grupo Fantasma. While I loved Bomba the year before at the Nelsonville Music Festival, Grupo Fantasma brought an infectious blend of cumbia and salsa that had the audience on its feet dancing the whole set.

I didn’t get to see as much of last June’s Comfest as I wanted, but did get to see a set by Tim Easton and a smoking set by Columbus’ Tony Monaco Trio. The one performer I saw who I was really taken by was solo performer Aaron Lee Tasjan. Incredibly well-written and witty songs.

August brought the return of The Handsome Family with Danny Barnes to The Union. Danny Barnes was a treat. I had never seen him perform live, and with his looping and great banjo work, he put on one great show.

photo: Joan Butcher

The granddaddy of this year’s music events has to be the Nelsonville Music Festival: Perhaps the best one yet that I have attended. With lesser-known acts such as Field Report, Endless Boogie and Lucius and well-known performers like Mavis Staples, Wilco and John Prine, you’d have to look far and wide to find a better festival than the NMF. I was fortunate enough to be able to stand at the side of the stage during John Prine. Not only was it amazing to be so close to a legend while he performed, it was equally amazing to look out and see so many tears of joy being shed in what was a perfect moment. If the rest of the year could have been as good as life was in that moment, maybe there wouldn’t be as much cynicism and we’d all smile a little more.

Other artists that graced my Saturday show included Happy Chichester and his release Torchwood Loop, Valerie June and her album Pushin’ Against a Stone, Foals and local band Supernobody.

Radio Free Athens continues to grow with new hosts and new styles of music that you may not hear on other stations. Continue to tune in Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (on 1340 AM and on and listen to our dedicated group of community volunteers. Peace.