The 20 Best Albums of 2013
(full list is below the article)

I’ve been conditioned to have an open mind when any of my any favorite artists announce they are going to do something different, as the below scenarios have crossed my path throughout the years:

“Springsteen is doing an album of covers from the 1800’s with washboards”

“Elvis Costello is doing an album with a classical string quartet”

“Eddie Vedder is doing an entire album on the Ukelele”

“Tegan and Sara are doing a pop album”

I’ll admit I had two reactions upon hearing that Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob would be a pop album, the first being:

It made sense, considering they’ve done at least one perfect pop song on every album since If It was You which had “Monday Monday Monday” , So Jealous had “Walking with a Ghost” & “Take me Anywhere”,  The Con had “Back in Your Head”, Sainthood had “Northshore” & “Aligator” , which all should have been top 10 hits if top 40 Programmers had any clue.

…but then there was a little ounce of doubt, a brief fleeting thought, what if “Pop Album” means crap like Auto tuned Vocals, or Sampling and/or god forbid Pharell or Chris Brown on it? or whatever Top 40 radio shoves down teenagers throats as hits.

I admit I did gasp at the potential thought of that, for about 2 seconds.

Then I realized it’s Tegan and Sara and they don’t play by anybody’s rules but their own.

In 2013, when Tegan and Sara dove head first into the Pop Mainstream, they did so with no shock value, no half naked or fully naked pictures of them or soft core porn videos, there’s not even pictures of them in dresses, other then a magazine shot from like 15 years ago, I don’t think there’s ever been a shot of them “sexed up”, because they don’t need to do that.

When you are confident in your place in the world, and with your beauty and your art, you don’t need a smoke screen to make someone pay attention, or to divert from your auto tuned vocals or lip synced concerts.

Tegan and Sara have always represented everything you’d want your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, daughter or son to be: Honest, Independent, Confident, Opinionated, Hard Working, Talented, Artistic and Beautiful.

and now add persistent to that list.

The first single “Closer” came out in September of 2012 (The album Heartthrob was released in January 2013) and in the world of top 40 radio, if a song doesn’t break in 6 weeks, it’s done because there’s a weekly onslaught of new singles and videos and PR stunts every week from every major pop star; so once a song doesn’t hit, it falls down and out of the chart and off the radar. and the labels and pop stars reload and try again with another single.

But Top 40 didn’t realize is that this is Tegan and Sara and they don’t play by anybody’s rules but their own

Almost a year later, “Closer” did make the Billboard Top 100 chart, a few weeks earlier it had broken into the Top 20 airplay charts on a few different radio formats. It never had been done this way; this long after its release with no other event (ie soundtrack, death etc) surrounding it.

Just hard work.

and a fantastic album which in my opinion is the best album of 2013. How this album or any songs from it did not get any Grammy nominations is a huge head scratcher.

The First 5 songs are as good as any opening quintet of songs on any pop album since Thriller and once again if top 40 programmers had a clue by now all 5 of those songs would be top ten hits: “Closer” “Goodbye Goodbye” “I was a fool” “I’m not your Hero”  “Drove Me Wild” and the remaining 5 songs continue the pace with such standouts as “I couldn’t be your friend” “Now I’m all messed up” and “Shock to your System”

Heartthrob legitimately has 8 songs that should or could be top 10 hits, which is unheard of in this day and age for a “Pop” album to be this solid.

The world we live in now; have made “Pop” music transient and more of a pump and dump scheme, where acts and labels release things as quick as possible with one or two hits on it, then re-release it with a bonus track and then make another album, creating a false sense of longevity while keeping some PR Firms in business as they cycle up to cash on favor after favor.

Heartthrob of course is different, because I’m sure as you are now aware, this is Tegan and Sara and they don’t play by anybody’s rules but their own.

Coming in at #2 this year is Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Unvarnished which is her best album beginning to end since her debut album. Some scathing political commentary, some forlorn love, catchy riffs and Joan’s distinctive voice really hit on all cylinders. Standout tracks include “ “Bad as We Can Be” “Hard to Grow Up” “Make it Back” “Soulmates to Strangers”

Willie Nile continues to deliver, and American Ride is no exeception and is my #3 album of the year, standout tracks include my #1 song of the year “If I Ever See the Light” “This is our Time” “Life on Bleecker Street” “God Laughs”

Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt comes in at #4 with standout tracks “Getaway” “Sirens” “Pendulum” “My Father’s Son”

Brooklyn punks The So So Glos come in at #5 with Blowout with standout tracks “Son of an American” “Wrecking Ball” “Lost Weekend”

And with no warning David Bowie dropped The Next Day and very happy he did as that comes in at #6 with stand out tracks “The Stars are out Tonight” “Valentine’s Day” “Boss of Me” “Where are we Now”

Hollis Brown’s Ride on the Train comes in at #7 with standout tracks “Gypsy Black Cat” “Down on Your Luck” “Ride on the Train”

And another thing that came out of left field with little advance warning was Billie Joe + Norah’s Foreverly coming in at #8, a very faithful redo of The Everly Brothers’ Songs our Daddy Taught Us

Wyldlife’s debut album came in the top 10 a few years ago, so needless to say their 2nd album, The Time has come to Rock and Roll was highly anticipated, but there is an old adage “you have your entire life to make your first album, and then a few months to make your second” hence the term sophomore slump, no slump here, as Wyldlife has done it again, coming in at #9. Led by standout tracks “Saturday Night” “Trash” and “The Right”

The New Jersey rock and roll scene is alive and well with The Front Bottoms leading the charge, The Talon of the Hawk comes in at #10, Stand out tracks include “Skeleton” “Au Revoir” “Funny You Should Ask”

Lorde domininated the airwaves with her debut album Pure Heroine and it comes in at #11, stand out tracks include “Tennis Court” “Royals” and “White Teeth Teens”

I think i already mentioned how alive and well the New Jersey music rock and roll scene is, EdTang is part of why, Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner comes in at #12 and features such stand out tracks as “Vaya” “Lincoln” “Two Old Friends”

One of the most important bands to come out of NYC at the tail end of the 70’s punk scene are the Del Lords, and Elvis Club was their first album in 23 years! and it comes in at #13, stand out tracks include “Damaged” “Princess” “Everyday” “When the Drugs kick in”

Like Willie Nile, Garland Jeffreys continues to release solid album after solid album, Truth Serum comes in at #14 featuring stand out tracks “Any Rain” “Dragons to Slay” “Truth Serum”

Queens of the Stone Age ….Like Clockwork comes in at #15, stand out tracks include “Smooth Sailing” “Fairweather Friends”  “My God is the Sun”

There’s alot of older legacy artists on this list, and that’s because they know what they are doing, Paul McCartney’s New comes in at #16 featuring stand out tracks “Everybody out there” “Queenie Eye” “Save Us”

Joe Grushecky’s Somewhere East of Eden comes in at #17 with a collection of haunting songs, some solo, some with various Houserockers, stand out tracks include “I Can Hear the Devil Knocking”  “Who Cares about those Kids” “John the Revelator”

Wesley Stace’s Self Titled (really it’s titled Self Titled) comes in at #18 with stand out tracks “The Wrong Tree” “When I Knew” “Wrong for the Part”

The bomb that hit the music industry and the internet was Beyonce’s Beyonce album that came with no promotion and took the world by storm and left alot of blogs who submitted their year end lists in November holding the bag, since they couldn’t add it, I guess it’s more important to get your list out first than to wait to all of the albums are released. It made my list at #19 and here’s the stand out tracks “Blue” “Superpower” “XO”

Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart rounds out the list at #20, stand out tracks include “Recovery” “Tell Tale Signs” “Good and Gone”

Support these artists and purchase these albums.

1.   Heartthrob TEGAN AND SARA
2.   Unvarnished JOAN JETT and THE BLACKHEARTS
3.   American Ride WILLIE NILE
4.   Lightning Bolt PEARL JAM
5.   Blowout THE SO SO GLOS
6.   The Next Day DAVID BOWIE
7.   Ride on the Train HOLLIS BROWN
8.   Foreverly BILLIE JOE + NORAH
9.   The Time has come to Rock and Roll WYLDLIFE
10. The Talon of the Hawk THE FRONT BOTTOMS
11. Heroine LORDE
12. Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Dinner EDTANG
13. Elvis Club DEL LORDS
15. …Like Clockwork QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
17. Somewhere East of Eden JOE GRUSHECKY
18. Self Titled WESLEY STACE
19. Beyonce BEYONCE
20. Tape Deck Heart FRANK TURNER

 THE 30 Best Songs of 2013

This was a pretty good year for music, tons of great songs, when I first heard Willie Nile’s “If I ever see the Light” it jumped right out of the speakers and grabbed me by the throat, the lyrics say it all, we’ve all been in the position of fighting to see the light and Willie’s song captures it perfectly. It’s inspiring and it’s the best song of 2013.

I’ve made a montage of the top 30 songs for you to listen to, as opposed to youtube videos of each song, hoping that after you hear the montage you’ll be inclined to support these artists by buying these songs, there’s a ton of local and local based artists on this list as well..

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1.If I Ever See The Light Willie Nile (local)
2.Tripwire Elvis Costello & The Roots
3.Man Neko Case
4.Trash Wyldlife (local)
5.Getaway Pearl Jam
6.Drove Me Wild Tegan & Sara
7.Bad as We can Be Joan Jett and The Blackhearts (local)
8.Flood Cooper
9.Everyday The Del Lords (local)
10.Son of an American The So So Glos (local)
11.Down On Your Luck Hollis Brown (local)
12.Skeleton Front Bottoms (local)
13.Breathless Love Lucero
14.Everybody Out There Paul McCartney
15.Vaya Edtang (local)
16.Truth Serum Garland Jeffreys (local)
17.Thanks for Getting Fat Avon Junkies (local)
18.Champagne Mark Wilkinson
19.Song for Hope Jake Clemons
20.Like Hell Prima Donna
21.That’s Heavy James Maddock (local)
22.I can hear the devil knocking Joe Grushecky
23.The Wrong Tree Wesley Stace
24.Tennis Court Lorde
25.If our Music Plays Again Emily’s Army
26.Rockstar,rollstar, moviestar, TV star Tonio and the Change
27.Lost Bianca Monica (local)
28.Rollercoaster Static Summer (local)
29.Keep Together Hunter Hunted
30.Riot Seasons (local)


Here’s the 20 best covers of 2013, the best known original version is in ( )

Covers are are very important part of an artist’s repertoire and growth, just look at how many covers on are on the early Elvis, Beatles and Stones albums, as well in the live sets of Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam…

Most of these are available via itunes etc, some only on 7 inch singles, some you had to see it live and perhaps you can find on youtube. Enjoy!

1.i’m Not Sayin Replacements (Nico)
2.Rock and Roll is Dead Prima Donna (The Rubinoos)
3.Fool To Cry Tegan & Sara (The Rolling Stones)
4.Swingin Party Lorde (The Replacements)
5.High Hopes Bruce Springsteen (The Havelinas)
6.Let Her Dance Wyldlife (Bobby Fuller Four)
7.Roving Gambler Billie Joe + Norah (traditional)
8.Lil Red Riding Hood Girl in a Coma (Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs)
9.Changes Charles Bradley and Budos Band (Black Sabbath)
10.Just Dropped In (to see what condition) The Launderettes (The First Edition)
11.You Must Fight to Live on the Planet of the Apes Peter Buck (the Mummies)
12.Johnny 99 Shovels and Rope (Bruce Springsteen)
13.D’yer Maker Bardot (Led Zeppelin)
14.I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day Nick Lowe (Wizzard)
15.I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (Bi-lingual Version) The Krayolas (Ramones)
16.From the Git Go Lucero (Slim Dunlap)
17.Nobody knows you when you’re down and out Neko Case (Bessie Smith)
18.Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You The Hold Steady (Billy Squier)
19.John the Revelator Joe Grushecky (Blind Willie Johnson)
20..Call It Off Bern & the Brights (Tegan & Sara)

  • Chris Collins

    I’m in love with the Tegan and Sara record. “Now I’m All Messed Up” is one of my favorite songs of the year. The Lorde album is great, and she gets bonus points for covering the Replacements elsewhere. The Wyldlife album is a ton of fun. And you know what album I really liked too? No kidding? Miley’s. Give it a listen. It’s a good pop album.

  • Mark D

    Great write-up on Tegan & Sara. I agree 100%. They are incredible and for them & their music I am thankful.

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