Here's my annual disclaimer: I reserve the right, because no one is making you read this, to get really long-winded and listy. That’s right, I may decide to go on and on and on about the music, movies, books, moments that stuck out for me this year. It might not be ranked. It probably won't be chronological. And it won’t even necessarily be interesting. But it will be true. Leonard Cohen once wrote to all of us, “I hope you’re keeping some sort of record.” I am, Leonard. I am.
LET'S LEAD WITH MY FAVORITE MUSIC OF 2013
A stellar bunch of albums vie for the top spot on my list, crowding each other. On any given day, any one of them could reasonably claim the #1 perch. And (ranked for today and today only) they are:
1. Milk Carton Kids / The Ash & The Clay
2. Caitlin Rose / The Stand-In (this album made a strong case for about three months straight in my car. great band, old school voice, great songwriting.)
3. Vampire Weekend / Modern Vampires in the City (This surprised me as I have openly and actively been OFF the VW bandwagon. But this album won me over.)
4. Mideau (Self titled, not in stores yet, but trust me it is that good)
5. Jason Isbell / Southeastern
The next tier is strong too and could legitimately argue into the first tier. In fact, just looking right now makes me a little bit sad. HOW WILL THE NATIONAL DEAL WITH THE CRUSHING REALITY THAT THEY "ONLY" MADE PAUL JACOBSEN'S TOP 10? I hope you dudes are ok, The Nationals. Call me. We can talk it over.
The National / Trouble Find Me
Over The Rhine- Meet Me At The Edge of the World
Tegan & Sara / Heartthrob (a long, long way from the days where my friend Billy & I wondered aloud how they got on the bill at the Bridge School. This album is pure, glossy pop brilliance.)
Laura Marling / Once I Was An Eagle
Phosphorescent / Muchacho
Also in the conversation
Lori McKenna / Massachusetts
Patty Griffin / American Kid
John Murry / The Graceless Age
Hiss Golden Messenger / Haw
Queens of the Stone Age / Like Clockwork
Kacey Musgraves / Same Trailer Different Park
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
Guy Clark / My Favorite Picture of You
The race for first was between Song For Zula by Phosphorescent, Memphis by Milk Carton Kids, and Royals by Lorde.
Pink Rabbits- The National
Hard To Find- The National
Step- Vampire Weekend
My Favorite Picture of You- Guy Clark
Meet Me At The Edge of the World- Over The Rhine
Ramona- Night Beds
Like A Rose- Ashley Monroe
There, There- Mideau
Merry Go Round- Kacey Musgraves
All I Ever Do- Lori McKenna (not released this year, but I listened to it like it was)
You Caught The Light- CHVRCHES
Closer- Tegan & Sara
Goodbye- Tegan & Sara
Night Still Comes- Neko Case
Joy To You Baby- Josh Ritter
I Was Cruel- Caitlin Rose
Everywhere I Go- Caitlin Rose
Live Oak- Jason Isbell
Holy Ghost- Low
America- Laura Veirs
Are You With Me Now- Cate Le Bon
You can find nearly all of them and more on Spotify (Songs I Dig In 2013). And, please, don't get me started on Spotify and my tormented, conflicted relationship with it or my very specific rules for my personal use of it. Ugh.
Besides the Secret Sisters/Iron & Wine show at the Beacon Theater in NYC, I’d say the best shows I saw were The Milk Carton Kids at The State Room in SLC (incredible show—funny, heartbreaking, crazy good guitar playing), Mideau’s CD Release show at Velour in Provo (a revelation to me), The Bridge School Benefit Concert at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View CA (as always), and Jeff Tweedy at Kingsbury Hall.
No movie enveloped me like Gravity did. I forgot to breathe. I forgot where I was. I am not saying it was the best movie ever, but I haven’t had a movie EXPERIENCE like that in forever. It is the one and only exception to my “3D Always Sucks” rule.
Inside Llewyn Davis (painfully brilliant)
Nothing Can Hurt Me (a doc about Big Star)
The Way Way Back
World War Z (maybe my expectations were too reasonable)
Sound City (a doc made by Dave Grohl about a legendary studio)
I can’t wait to see Her.
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan was a brilliant book. It is hard to recommend because it is just chock full of sad and broken, but her weaving of people and themes and timelines was just as masterful as it comes.
After that, some bios/autobios. The best was probably Who I Am by Pete Townshend, though the bio on Leonard Cohen (I'm Your Man) was very well-done too. Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young was a little disappointing, but being a superduperfan probably didn't help.
During one of the iciest Januarys in Utah history, I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in sunny New Zealand shooting a TV commercial (which, to date, has never aired! Thanks, advertising!). I got to explore the down-under beauty of Waihi Beach, Waiheke, Auckland, saw Alabama Shakes and Band of Horses live and even got lucky enough to cross paths with a photography exhibit “Who Shot Rock N Roll” that had some of the most iconic rock photography ever seen. (I should also mention how much I genuinely missed my family and how grateful I am for those who looked out for them in my absence.)
I spent a week in London too, where I got to see a ton of incredible street art (something I, who have zero street cred, have a real affinity for), see David Bazan play a remarkable set one Saturday night, and basically enjoy the best of London (including the cold).
INSIDE, OUTSIDE, USA
When I got back to the States, I got to see Disneyland through the eyes of my kids. To say it was magic is an understatement. Say what you will about merchandising and exploitation and capitalistic-driven whatever, but the awe that electrified my kids was genuine.
SOMEWHERE IN MIDDLE AMERICA
I toured through Nebraska with my good friends Sarah Sample, Ryan Tanner, and Dylan Schorer. Each night was wonderful, but I remember one night in Wray, CO when we played Ryan’s song “Our Love Will” as being particularly magical.
I also got to go to NYC with my wife and parents and a couple of their friends. Holly & I went to see The Secret Sisters and Iron & Wine at the Beacon Theater. Adsfasdfasd
COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
Riding the alpine slide in Park City with my son was one of the best things ever. Squeals of joy, oooohs on the big hills, everything. To be a kid again.
RELAX & FLOAT DOWNSTREAM
Hearing Wilco and My Morning Jacket cover The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” was unbelievable. The hair on my arms raises up just writing about it.
PLAYING WITH THE BAND
I was lucky to play a lot of music this year. Five experiences (six, counting Nebraska above) 1) Putting together Get Off My Cloud: The Songs of the Rolling Stones for the Provo Rooftop Concert Series was, as always, a ton of work and a huge payoff; the music in our lovely Deseret is something special. 2) The Lower Lights Christmas shows are now something I can't really start Christmas without. 3/4) Opening for Caitlin Rose and later Sarah Jarosz were two shows I won't soon forget. 5) We finally started recording the new album and our short four days in the studio were incredible; I can't wait to finish it and let you all hear it.