The Best Albums of 2013

Listen upPlus a look at what’s ahead.

by John D


Wow. 2013 has flown by! So quickly, in fact, that even though I am writing this in 2013, you will be reading it in 2014. It has been a pretty good year for music, and I will just ignore (as to not offend) what I consider to be the bad parts. I want to offer you some examples of what I think are some of the best things that happened in music this year. I want to talk about the best albums of the year, but first, I am going to address some things that were great for music in Birmingham.

The first is the addition of Iron City to the Magic City. This new venue has created an arms race of sorts for the mid-size venues in Birmingham. The benefactors of this? Music lovers in Birmingham.  A capacity of almost 1400 people allows Iron City to fit in nicely between the Soundstage (capacity 880) at WorkPlay and the Alabama Theater (capacity 2500). The 1400-person capacity works quite nicely for the economies of scale that some touring acts require (where as WorkPlay might be too small and the Alabama too big) and allows a wider variety of acts to stop in Birmingham. The next great thing for Birmingham was the creation of the Cask and Drum Music Festival. It was an interesting combination of a music festival and a wine and beer festival, and its lineup was just as eclectic. Smaller groups that can be considered “pop,” a jam band thrown in for good measure, and of course, headliner Dwight Yoakam gave everyone something they wanted to see. The best part? You may have come for one band, but you stayed for the others (my favorites were Nashville’s Kopecky Family Band and L.A.-based indie folk band Lord Huron). Cask and Drum is more interested in quality than quantity, as evidenced by the talent present, and the fact that they planned to sell no more than 4000 tickets. The good news is that Cask and Drum will return next year and some presale tickets have already been released.

Moving onto best albums of the year! I will start off with a local album: Birmingham native Duquette Johnston released a scorcher of an album in May 2013. Rabbit Runs A Destiny (on Birmingham’s Communicating Vessels label) is one solid album. It swings back and forth from ethereal rock and roll (as evidenced by “Heart Is Breaking”), to slow burners like “Dancing Song,” to its twangy alt-country-rock title track. A solid effort from a local artist who also caught the attention of NPR’s  World Café, which highlighted the album and interviewed Johnston.

Here are some less-local but still awesome albums that can claim “Best of 2013”:


Kurt Vile, Wakin On A Pretty Daze: A Philadelphia native, Vile has been around for a while and continues to get better. Wakin is such a solid album that the only reason you will skip a song is to get to one that you can’t wait to hear. Heavy on guitars, the album does not shy away from using drum loops to build the backbone of a song.


The National, Trouble Will Find Me. This is the sixth studio album from a band that has definitely made its own way. What can you say about a band that has a baritone for a vocalist? He speaks his lyrics as much as sings them, and the brooding muddy-sounding bass that thrums through much of the albums can be labeled as dark, morose, or somber, but they aren’t afraid to cut loose and unleash some rocking tunes on this album.


Queens of the Stone Age, Like Clockwork: This is one of my favorite bands, so while I honestly think it’s a phenomenal album, I admit I could be biased. If you like QOTSA, it’s just more good music. If you don’t care for them, you might find it to be creepy and dark. If so, you definitely shouldn’t watch the videos the band released with the album.


Blitzen Trapper, VII: Country/folk experimenters Blitzen Trapper continue to evolve. Their newest album came out at the tail end of 2013 but was worth the wait. This is what southern rock sounds like when it comes to Oregon; the band uses banjos, harmonicas, and, at certain points, pedal steel to create their distinctive brand of hip-shaking country funk. This is an album you will definitely sing along with, even when you barely know the lyrics.


Upcoming Shows


BB King 1/14 @ Iron City. The legend is 88 years old and still playing music. Don’t miss this chance to see him.

The Wailers 1/15 @ WorkPlay. The Wailers are touring to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Legend, the most popular reggae album of all time. Last time they were here, they packed out the huge backyard at Avondale Brewing.

Lucius 1/24 @ WorkPlay. Indie pop from Brooklyn that’s infectious, to say the least.

Maria Taylor 1/25 @ The Bottletree: Birmingham native Taylor has a new album and one of the best voices out there.

Sebadoh 2/10 @ Bottletree. Once on the leading edge of the lo-fi movement, the band put out their first album in 14 years in 2013. Don’t miss the chance to catch them in such an intimate setting.

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