Mark Saleski’s Mid-Year Best Of 2013: Pat Metheny, Richard Thompson, E. Normus Trio, The Flaming Lips

It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s…almost July? Well, mid-year has once again snuck up on me. Time to recap the (fantastic) musical half-year that has apparently flown by. I’ve piled all of the genres together (jazz, rock, blues, and metal) because that’s exactly how a usual listening day goes — from a straight-ahead jazz record to metal and back.

Note that the numbers attached to the list impart no value judgments. I know that as a music critic I’m supposed to have some kinda rating system attached to this stuff (Hello, Pitchfork!) but that continues to make no sense to me. I suppose I could have used play counts to make some order here but that would imply I actually keep track of such things. This is just the order that the albums occurred to me as I scribbled them down on paper.



No 11: Richard Thompson – Electric

Mr. Thompson and his trio go to Nashville to have a visit with one Buddy Miller. This one got a lot of play around the SomethingElse! water cooler.

No. 10: Atoms For Peace – Amok

Thom Yorke and Flea? Does that make sense? Hell, yes! A supergroup of sorts extending Yorke’s The Eraser material, this album doesn’t stray all that far from Radiohead’s more electronic material, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exhilarating. Also, it’s orders of magnitude more interesting than anything the Chili Peppers have done in years.

No. 9: Ches Smith & These Arches – Hammered

OK, so there’s definitely a part of me that would like to have Mary Halvorson appear on every jazz record turned out from now until when my ear parts fall out of my head. And can Tim Berne be on those records too? Nah, that’s probably too much to ask.

No. 8: The E. Normus Trio – Love and Barbiturates

The cliché to employ here is “punk jazz,” but I’ll be danged if that doesn’t fit perfectly.

No. 7: Marc Ribot & Ceramic Dog – Your Turn

Ribot & company lean more toward rock on this album, but they’re still kind of tough to pin down, category wise. And just what the hell is “Master’s Of The Internet”?

No. 6: Pat Metheny – Tap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels Vol. 20

Metheny and Zorn together? For a few moments, I had a hard time getting the concept of Masada tunes being Orchestrionized. But then 30 seconds into this record and it all made perfect sense.

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No. 5: Black Sabbath – 13

Wow. The crew have returned one last time to crush some bones into powder. That it might be their own bones makes this all the more powerful. The return to the rain, thunder, and lightning at the very end is a nice touch. I almost teared up there for a minute.

No. 4: Matthew Shipp – Greatest Hits

OK, so I’m going to make a pathetic little brag here. This record was going to be called Matthew Shipp Essentials. I commented on facebook that Shipp was tossing away a chance at jazz hilarity by not naming it “Greatest Hits.” Shipp took my advice and the rest is history.

No. 3: Bill Frisell – Big Sur

Frisell spends some time alone at the ranch and comes up with some of the most evocative music he’s done in years.

No. 2: Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette – Somewhere

Did we really need more visitations from some standards. Apparently, we did.

No. 1: The Flaming Lips – The Terror

I don’t even know what this damned thing is. Is it rock? It’s got all of the elements, but seldom busts out in that manner. On the other hand, it’s spooky and weird and reveals new details on each and every listen…something I have done nearly every day since the release.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.