At NPR Music, they're wrapping up the year the best way they know how, with their hotly contested list of their 50 favorite albums of 2013. Now, all this week, we'll get a peak of that list from our in-house experts, including NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, whose beat is the ever amorphous indie pop, which - Stephen, what exactly is that these days?
STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: I have absolutely no idea. It used to mean accessible but unpopular.
Sarah Jarosz makes her first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Now 22 years old, Jarosz was signed to Sugar Hill Records when she was just 16. She shifted gears in 2009 to enter the New England Conservatory of Music, and graduated this year.
Those who love indie singer-songwriter Bill Callahan's music no doubt have their favorites among his solo albums, if not from records he previously made under the name Smog. Callahan's music has been remarkably consistent and deeply meaningful; as a writer, he's truly invested in making every word count. Callahan's latest album, Dream River, is a classic illustration of his artistry.
If the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, sometimes two apples will land on similar turf. Brian Blade has been Wayne Shorter's drummer for several years and leads his own project called The Fellowship Band. His older brother Brady Blade is perhaps best known for his drumming with Emmylou Harris and is an all-around music industry mover and shaker.
All it takes is two seconds of hearing "Round round get around / I get around" and you're there — in the sun, on the beach, in the '60s. The Beach Boys vaulted up the charts while branching out from surf music to psychedelia. This year the remaining band members released Made in California, a six-CD box set loaded with outtakes and other rarities. Critic Ed Ward examines the rise and long decline of a beloved group with a unique sound.
Next, we have one writer's picks for the season's best Christmas music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE CHRISTMAS")
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
TAMMY WYNETTE: (Singing) I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.
INSKEEP: Wow. That's a classic by Tammy Wynette, part of a new compilation that's been released with George Jones. The song made a list put together by Marc Myers of the Wall Street Journal, who's on the line to talk about it.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 11:19 am
These are the albums we loved the most this year. In what we've written about each one below, you can see what we felt should be rewarded, what shook us up and what sucked us in over the 12 months of 2013.
This week's pick for World Cafe: Next is Dott, a young quartet from Galway, Ireland. The music on the band's debut album, Swoon, calls upon the sounds of garage-pop, with chugging, jangly guitars out front and the vocals of Anna McCarthy on top.