OK, so this is a top ten list, and that usually implies a ranking, but I’m going to make a small confession: I’m horrible at ranking. I see differences, but value in many respects, and it’s too hard for me to say “this is better than that” in many things, including music. So please try to not think of this as a Kasey Kasom-style countdown; rather a “these songs are folking great examples of music in 2013.”
10. Hammertowne– Hammertowne: Sourwood Mountain
Excellent mando-picking and vocal twang to go along with it in this tune by Hammertowne. It’s recorded pretty softly, which fits nicely with the lyrics and general feel, but you might want to turn up the volume a bit so as not to lose any of the song’s beginning.
9. Poor Old Shine– Poor Old Shine: Weeds or Wildflowers
Musical and lilting, with a bit of gravel-throated pure down-home joy, this is just an excellent example of country kids playing and having fun doing what they do well- make music, enjoy the outdoors, and reflect country life.
8. Chris Conly– Love and Protest: Meter Man
Big boom-chuck and power strums reverberate with an old-timey echo in this selection of modern music for action by Chris Conly. The return to classic sounds and classic themes that are dear to my heart, paired with technical skill and obvious mastery make for a great quick listen.
7. Susquehanna Hat Company– For Love of the River: Southbound to Slaughter
This dark tune with a skip in its step pulls no punches in the recording booth, pairing allure and accordions with a sultry voice that keeps your attention rapt while waiting for the new year to ring in a few days.
6. We Died at Sea– Rag Mama Rag: Wolves
The timeless qualities of this song and the fluency of the musicians in their chosen art make Wolves an evocative piece, with imagery of darkness and shadows rising quickly to mind. In a year filled with theatrical hits like Desolation of Smaug and Game of Thrones, the stately sounds of We Died at Sea fit well in the feeling of the year past.
5. Sphinx and Yeti– A Wild and Dangerous Place: Migration
Migration is gorgeous pure music, a rich landscape left untouched by someone else’ interpretation of the sounds, letting the listener see exactly what they wish in these bars. The beats and instruments of exotic lands are a mellow meditation that’s relaxing and enchanting all at once.
4. Frontier Ruckus– Eternity of Dimming: Careening Catalog Immemorial
I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s catchy, and cute, and for some reason it’s just stuck with me ever since it came out. I’m sorry or your welcome- take the one that fits and leave the other.
3. Maia Jelavic– The Less I See: Don’t Know
I really wanted to say Grace for this slot, as I prefer it slightly to Don’t Know, but finding a video or clip of Grace was impossible. Don’t Know has the essential qualities of Maia Jelavic that I enjoy, though, and doesn’t leave me blubbering at the end, so there’s that. It’s an excellent song, and I hope you enjoy.
2. Elephant Revival– These Changing Skies: The Pasture
Skillful use of washboard, beautiful chords, fiddle, and stand up bass. What more could you want? Nothing else really, at least in my opinion.
1. Coffee Zombies– Percolatin’: Inez and Elizabeth
Inez and Elizabeth is just waltzing and playful enough to lift the mood like few other combinations can; how could anyone be sad with a 3/4 time signature? Do yourself a favor and get up and twirl a bit to this one.