10 Albums From 2013 You Should Have Heard
Terry Allen, Bottom of the World
Photo courtesy of Lance Cowan Media Terry Allen
You can yack on all day about Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott or some other artless, vacant, party-popular, Texas good-ole-boy bands, but the old salts know that Terry Allen's music is that real Texas deal. On his first new material in 14 years, Allen touches all the bases with wit, depth, verve, and insight. Allen's songs quietly punch like a heavyweight. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
The Bottle Rockets, The Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side
A band from the outskirts of St. Louis, the Bottle Rockets were peripherally connected to Uncle Tupelo and almost as influential. Finally freed from label limbo by Bloodshot's lawyers this year, these two albums from the early '90s are about as good as alt-country ever got -- even though it's just an acutely rural brand of rock and roll. Here passions run hot as small-town economies grow cold (or are swallowed by suburbia), and the Bottle Rockets capture it all in pointillistic detail.
Both albums also feature some of the greatest songs ever written about motor vehicles ("Wave That Flag," "$1,000 Car," "Gas Girl," "Indianapolis") that are really about so much more. Thank God the Bottle Rockets are still with us, and their message then rings just as true today: kerosene works, why not gasoline? CHRIS GRAY
Grant Hart, The Argument
It's unfortunate that over the years Bob Mould's erstwhile songwriting partner Grant Hart has not received quite the acclaim he deserves for how much he contributed to their band Husker Du. Nevertheless, Hart has continued to record and create veritable masterpieces since Husker's end, and released another little-heard one this year.
His epic retelling of Paradise Lost, The Argument contains all the familiar set-pieces and tropes of Hart's songwriting, but that's what makes it so enjoyably familiar. Even when he branches out on the record, it's unmistakably Hart. While The Argument can be trying at times as it works its way through Milton's story, Hart manages to produce hit after hit on a record that will please both casual indie-rock enthusiasts and Husker Du diehards alike.COREY DEITERMAN
Jason Isbell, Southeastern
Probably the most hailed album in the roots scene this year, Southeastern finds the ex-Drive-By Trucker sobered up with a pen that's sharper than it's ever been. There isn't a weak moment on the album, among highlights like the rocker "Super 8 Motel" ("I don't wanna die in a Super 8 motel") to the stunning "Flying Over Water," one of the most lethal knife-in-the-heart lyrics anywhere in 2013. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Unvarnished
Joan Jett is 55 and can still kick your ass. On her first album since 2006's Sinner, the erstwhile Runaway scratches that seven-year itch by surveying her life in leather. Getting old sucks, she admits on "Hard to Grow Up," but Jett has been refining her cocky and frank brand of glam so long its chugging power chords are stitched into her DNA. And whether she's railing against "TMI" or celeb culture on "Reality Mentality," Jett's seen-it-all tone never loses its sympathy for the underdog ("Different") or its weakness for badass rock and roll. CHRIS GRAY
Le Castle Vania, Prophication
Although it's only four tracks long, each track on Prophication will find a home on your Halloween playlists next year. The title track is a nice bit of atmosphere that is more horror TV show intro that dance floor destroyer. "Disintegration" features some lovely, haunting vocals before the noise comes in, and "Incarnation" deserves its shot as the chase music in a horror movie.
The star track, though, is "Raise the Dead," featuring Cory Brandan of Norma Jean. Meeting right in the middle of electro-house and metalcore, the track takes the best of both styles and results in one of the biggest "I can't wait to sing this out loud" hooks of the year. I wouldn't mind a whole album of tracks in the same style to be honest. CORY GARCIA
List continues on the next page.