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my favorite albums of 2013

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Last night Jack and I drove to Chicago to see Andrew Bird's Gezelligheid concert. Gezelligheid is a Dutch word for cozy. Wikipedia says it can also connote "belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness."

After Vietnamese food, we got cozy in the beautiful in 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan, and I couldn't help but get nostalgic about the first time Jack and I were in Chicago together, eight and a half years ago. We saw Andrew Bird then, too, remarkably enough, at the first ever Pitchfork music festival (then called the Intonation music festival).

Jack and I both love music, but his love is far more informed. The guy listens to easily five times as much music as I do, and he listens methodically, like a few years ago when he made a spreadsheet of albums released in the year of his birth, and systematically listened to them all over twelve months. He's read extensively on music history, and he's also an amazing songwriter.

All this to say: I always feel a little silly talking about my favorite albums because I feel so unqualified to have favorite albums. Jack's very democratic about it all though, and says I shouldn't feel silly. And actually this year our top three albums are the same!

1. Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend
This album is amazing- full of catchy, poppy, songs that display a range of musical ability and influence yet make a cohesive whole. Thematically centered on religious faith, identity, and mortality, it's the most poignant wrestling with God through song that I've heard in a long time. (Full review here.)

2. Denison Witmer - Denison Witmer
Songs about what it means to grow up comprise this haunting, lyrical album. (Full review here.)

3. Southeastern - Jason Isbell
Serious and sad, this album by former Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell doesn't shy away from sexual abuse, suicide! and heartbreak. But it's beautiful and I love it.
Try this track: Relatively Easy

4. Desire Like Dynamite - Sandra McCracken
This album, largely inspired by Wendell Berry's writings on interdependence and sustainability, is lovely. (McCracken wrote about her visit with Berry for Art House America.)

5. Songs by the Nashville Cast

Just gotta be honest. Listening to some of these songs gives me the same pure pleasure that watching the soapy show itself does. And they've had some great songwriters write for them - Gillian Welch, John Paul White, and Elvis Costello, among others. The link above will take you to a playlist of my favorite songs from the show's first two seasons.

Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Mitchell's The Sounding Joy is a collection of folk carols drawn mainly from Ruth Crawford Seeger's classic songbook American Folk Songs for Christmas (1953). This joins Sufjan and Rosie on my list of Christmas albums I love to listen to.

Other albums I want to listen to more: The National's Trouble Will Find Me; Mark Kozalek & Desertshore; Mark Kozalek and Jimmy LaValle's Perils from the Sea; Arcade Fire's Reflektor; The Handsome Family's Wilderness


Previously: my favorite movies of 2013