News Column

Music experts choose their top albums for 2013

December 5, 2013


Dec. 05--Opinions about the best albums of the year are nearly as diverse as the local music community itself.

For several years now, we've asked notable musicians, writers, music professionals and fans to give us their top albums. And as has been the case for a long, long time, no single album has emerged as the year's consensus best or favorite.

A few names and titles show up on several lists. And two of them are recordings by local bands: the Grisly Hand, for its "Country Singles" album, and PedalJets for "What's in Between."

Other names you'll see more than once or twice: Neko Case, King Khan & the Shrines and another local band, Dead Voices.

Tim's favorite albums of 2013

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": Kansas City band issues collection of finely crafted pop songs with country and soul flavorings. Brims with melodies, harmonies and grooves.

PedalJets, "What's in Between": Another local gem. Mike Allmayer re-emerges as one of the craftiest songwriters on his band's first album in decades. It's all riff-roaring hard rock with pop sensibilities.

Mikal Cronin, "MC II": My favorite pop record of 2013. He takes it to some exciting and endearing places.

Suuns, "Images du Futur": Because it feels like a collision between Clinic and the Black Angels.

Valerie June, "Pushin' Against a Stone": Old-school soul with some country-blues trimmings.

King Khan & the Shrines, "Idle No More": Garage rock with some brass, funk and soul.

Midlake, "Antiphon,": Atmospheres, melodies, harmonies and grooves -- it's all here.

Brandy Clark, "12 Stories": A dozen songs about love, marriage, infidelity, divorce, smoking weed, all written in ways too smart and candid for mainstream country.

Neko Case, "The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You": Because she keeps growing and evolving, and I keep following her.

Dead Voices, "Dead Voices": A gumbo of country, rock and psychedelia with some light jazz accents from a local super group. David Regnier's voice penetrates and transcends, and his all-star band is stellar.

More local favorites

Josh Berwanger Band, "Strange Stains": Bright, tight, hard and crunchy guitar -- pop musings from the guy who once helped steer the Anniversary ship.

Bloodbirds, "Psychic Surgery": A heavy gust of bluesy, grimy, hallucinogenic psychedelic rock.

Tech N9ne, "Something Else": All he does is keep making music that crosses corners and breaks boundaries. Features a wealth of collaborators, including the Doors, Kendrick Lamar and Serj Tankian.

Soft Reeds, "Blank City": Ben Grimes shows off his knack for writing indelible pop tunes in an array of styles and flavors.

Betse Ellis, "High Moon Order": The Wilders' fiddler ventures out on her own and makes a record filled with heart, soul and swagger.

Star staff and contributors

Jene Osterheldt, columnist,The Kansas City Star

Kanye West, "Yeezus": Because, Kanye.

Janelle Monae, "Electric Lady": Progressive, soulful and funky: I am fandroid.

Justin Timberlake, "The 20/20 Experience" The Michael Jackson influence is the magic to this classic.

Lorde, "Pure Heroine": A voice beyond her years and lyrics both cynical and soulful? Winner.

James Blake, "Overgrown": Robin Thicke may have had one the best singles of the year, but James Blake's blurred lines are so much better.

Valerie June, "Pushin' Against aA Stone": It was a tie between her, Kendra Morris and Rhye, but Valerie is somewhere between India Arie and June Carter Cash and I love that.

Drake, "Nothing Was the Same": I love a sensitive rapper.

John Legend, "Love in the Future": Pure R&B, and these days, that's a hard find.

Amel Larrieux, "Ice Cream Everyday": It's a dreamy summer day every time I hear it.

Jay Z, "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail": Picasso, baby.

Bill Brownlee, contributing reviewer

Earl Sweatshirt, "Doris": A gruesome dissection of the troubled teen rapper Earl Sweatshirt's raw nerves, may be the most rueful hip-hop album ever made.

Pat Metheny, "Tap: John Zorn's Book of Angels, Vol. 20": The artistically restless Metheny continues to defy expectations with a startling album of contemporary Jewish music.

Kanye West, "Yeezus": The background noise is a silly distraction. West has yet to release an album that's less than extraordinary.

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": Country icon George Jones died in April. Grisly Hand is doing its part to fill his shoes.

Jos James, "No Beginning No End": By finding the sweet spot between Al Green and Nina Simone, James fulfills his potential on his sensuous fourth album.

Dave Holland, "Prism": The veteran bassist and his all-star band salvage jazz fusion from music's slag heap.

Ghostface Killah, "Twelve Reasons to Die": Producer Adrian Younge provides the Wu-Tang Clan veteran with the organic backdrop his guttural flow has always demanded.

Kvelertak, "Meir": A Norwegian metal band devised the year's loudest party album by re-animating the immense riffs of Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin.

Tech N9ne, "Something Else": The Kansas City King upstages guest appearances by stars ranging from Kendrick Lamar to the Doors. He's truly something else.

Lorde, "Pure Heroine": Lorde's chilly critique of pop culture and thoughtful advocacy of isolated underdogs gives voice to a disengaged generation.

Joel Francis, contributing reviewer

Mikal Cronin, "MC II": Scuzzy guitars can't mask euphoric power pop. Ears smile, feet dance.

Terrace Martin, "3 Chord Fold": Snoop's producer blurs genres with Glasper, Kendrick Lamar, Khalifa.

Daft Punk, "Random Access Memories": Old-school surprise from electronic dance music pioneers. Track 12 got most plays.

Joy Formidable, "Wolf's Law": Even bigger roar on album two from Welsh three. Shoegaze meets prog rock.

Chance the Rapper, "Acid Rap": Chicago MC makes jokes while provoking thought. Shares Kanye's hometown.

Autre Ne Veut, "Anxiety": Blank frame on cover filled with longing, desire. Sadness sounds happy.

Neko Case, "The Worse Things Get ...": Alt-country redhead rages on state of love life. Makes married men sigh.

Blitz the Ambassador, "The Warm Up EP": Seven lively tracks. Anticipate full LP. Aptly named project.

Yo La Tengo, "Fade": Indie vets mellow. Quiet guitars and vocals. Intimate listen.

Keith Jarrett, "Somewhere": Archival concert captures standards trio in top form. More, please.

Chris Haghirian, Ink magazine, Middle of the Map Fest

The National, "Trouble Will Find Me": Matt Berninger's baritone vocals and his woeful yet smart lyrics won me over with "The Boxer" back in 2007. I haven't stopped listening since.

Chvrches, "The Bones of What You Believe": Synth-pop trio, mostly fronted by the slight but intense Lauren Mayberry. Every track is worth a listen.

Cowboy Indian Bear, "Live Old, Die Young": I've loved Lawrence-based CIB for a long time but this album really rises to the top lyrically and production wise.

Autre Ne Veut, "Anxiety": The second album for ANV, but it was all new to me. His music is part of the new wave of experimental R&B. I dig this genre.

Laura Marling, "Once I Was an Eagle": The fourth album from this 23-year-old Brit. It's her third time on my best-of list and third time nominated for the Mercury Prize (best album in the U.K.).

Postiljonen, "Skyer": This album by the dream-pop trio from Stockholm is why you should own amazing headphones. Ger rid of those silly white earbuds and then listen to this album.

Daughter, "If You Leave": Most of the music that grabs me starts with the lead vocals. Elena Tonra's are beautiful, haunting and trance-like. It's an impressive package.

Small Black, "Limits of Desire": I met Brooklyn-based Small Black at Middle of the Map in 2011, and I've been a fan of their indie-electronica synth-pop ever since.

Dessa, "Parts of Speech": Smart, intelligent music with underground hip-hop roots from the Doomtree crew. Minneapolis-based Dessa straddles the line of singer and rapper and is impressive at both. More people need to hear this.

Volcano Choir, "Repave": Justin Vernon may have shelved Bon Iver, but a lot of what made it great can be found in this side project. It's filled with twists and turns, and if you listen too closely you'll get lost.

Steve Wilson, contributing reviewer

Babyshambles, "Sequel to the Prequel": Pete Doherty continues to toss off appealing tunes; the band has a brilliant nonchalance.

The Beatles, "On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2": Better than the first BBC collection, fresh 50 years later. George especially is a revelation, as guitarist and singer.

David Bowie, "The Next Day": His best in more than 30 years and a competitor to some of his classics.

Danny Brown, "Old": As zonked as Cody Chesnutt and just as human and soulful.

Eleanor Friedberger, "Personal Record": Off-hand, synthetic, seductive songs that explore and reveal.

Laura Marling, "Once I Was an Eagle": Remarkable young talent. She almost makes me re-evaluate my Joni Mitchell problem.

Oblivians, "Desperation": Fourteen tunes in a half-hour and change. The Oblivians bring it all back home.

Sonny and the Sunsets, "Antenna to the Afterworld": The boy next door with the surprising record collection, and his head in the clouds.

Those Darlins, "Blur the Line": Insinuating with each listen Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett and Loretta Lynn tossed like a salad.

King Khan & the Shrines, "Idle No More": Rocking guitars, funky horns, shots of salvation.

David Frese, arts and entertainment editor

-- Jesse Stockton, "Thank You Very Kindly": Eight songs that run the gamut of Americana. Strong vocals and great harmonies.

-- The Harmed Brothers, "Better Days": This band's Missouri roots are clearly heard in its sound, which falls right between Lawrence's Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers and the Bottle Rockets of St. Louis.

-- The Wild Feathers, "The Wild Feathers": Calls to mind the best moments of the Wallflowers, the Raconteurs and, occasionally, the Eagles.

-- Charlie Parr, "Barnswallow": Squint and you'll hear Woody Guthrie mixed with Mofro. Wouldn't be out of place as the soundtrack to FX's "Justified."

-- Robbie Fulks, "Gone Away Backwards": As good as anything he's done since "South Mouth."

-- The David Mayfield Parade, "Good Man Down": It'll make you miss The Band's Levon Helm that much more.

-- The White Buffalo, "Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways": A murder ballad music box that's equal parts Decemberists and Jamey Johnson.

-- Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, "This Old Town": The album to listen to while waiting for new music from Old Crow Medicine Show.

-- The Avett Brothers, "Magpie and the Dandelion": I'd be happy if they released an album every month.

-- Joy Kills Sorrow, "Wide Awake": Boston-based roots band does a slightly better job at being the Lumineers.

Local musicians and music professionals

Jeff Harshbarger, bassist, People's Liberation Big Band

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, "Brooklyn Babylon": From the bombastic to the sublime, this genre-busting collaboration with live animator Danijel Zezelj is the shining example of the modern big band.

Terence Blanchard, "Magnetic": Blanchard continues his role as consummate bandleader on this extraordinary session. Everyone gets a chance to stretch and shine, especially pianist Fabian Almazan.

Dawn of Midi, "Dysnomia": If Kraut-rockers Can asked Steve Reich to write them a through-composed piece for acoustic jazz trio, they might get close to the pulsing, minimal brilliance of my most-listened to album this year.

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": My one non-jazz pick. It's far and away my favorite local release of the year. Great songs, great production and great playing. Lauren Krum could sing Ikea instructions and make them sound like a love letter.

Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd, "Holding it Down: The Veteran's Dreams Project": Featuring the poetry of Iraqi War veterans, this recording is provocative, intense, and necessary. It's easy to see why Iyer wins all of the awards.

Kneebody, "The Line": You know how groups that embrace all styles end up writing their own language? So does Kneebody. A very brainy, rocked-out soundtrack for our multi-genre age.

Joe Lovano, "Cross Culture": Lovano's energetic two-drummer band. Lovano is taking more risks than ever without forgetting to swing.

Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, "No Morphine, No Lilies": Effortlessly moving from swing to groove to free, master drummer Miller does it all. An all-star cast breathes every kind of life into one of the most eclectic releases of 2013.

Wayne Shorter, "Without A Net": Mr. Shorter's group continues to redefine the essence of music with this amazing live recording.

Matt Ulery, "By A Little Light": An ambitious, lush and cinematic release from this excellent Chicago-based bassist and composer. Get your good headphones out; this one deserves them.

Erik Voeks, singer-songwriter, Vinyl Renaissance

Jonathan Wilson, "Fanfare": Sounds like CSN&Y and mid-period Pink Floyd went for a ride through the desert together. It's a long trip. The album is more easily digested as two halves.

Prefab Sprout, "Crimson/Red": Really a Paddy McAloon solo record but it's the best collection of songs by him since "Jordan: The Comeback." Smarty-pants pop.

Elvis Costello & The Roots, "Wise Up Ghost": The Roots give EC's songs a murky groove unlike any of his previous work. Hopefully the "Volume 1" tag on the cover is not an in-joke and there is more on the way.

Midlake, "Antiphon": Midlake lost its primary singer/songwriter and let its indie-prog flags fly higher.

Dawes, "Stories Never End": West coast singer-songwriter rootsy rock with the "feel good" song of the year, "Hey Lover."

Richard Thompson, "Electric": Richard Thompson + an electric guitar? He could play over one chord for an entire album and it would still make my top 10 list. His best album since his last album. Also the best live show of 2013.

Chris Stamey, "Lovesick Blues": Classy, hook-filled literate songs. Business as usual for Stamey.

Neil Finn and Paul Kelly, "Goin' My Way": Live recording of Kelly and Finn trading off classics. Two discs and not a speck of cereal.

Robert Pollard: "Honey Locust Honky Tonk/ English Little League / Down by the Racetrack / When Machines Attack / My Mind Has Seen the White Trick / Force Fields at Home / Clouds on the Polar Landscape / ....": Really, Bob? Haven't had the chance to truly digest all Mr. Pollard released this year but between all of his many releases, there has to be at least one album worth of bitchin' material. Right?

Pedaljets, "What's in Between": Solid riffin' rock from one of KC's (Lawrence's?) best.

Alicia Solombrino, lead singer, Beautiful Bodies

Favorite albums

The 1975, "The 1975": I hardly ever say this but almost every track is a hit.

Letlive, "The Blackest Beautiful": I checked this band out on Warped Tour. The vocals and instrumentation on this album are edgy and catchy.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Mosquito": This reminds me of a mix of all their albums. My favorite track is "Slave."

Lady Gaga, "ArtPop": Captivating. I tried not dancing. It was impossible.

Fitz and The Tantrums, "More Than Just a Dream": This album puts me in a good mood. I have a weakness for a good pop record.

Favorite singles

Britney Spears, "Work B*** h": Come on. Duh.

Imagine Dragons, "Demons": Seeing them live and hearing the meaning behind the song made me fall in love with "Demons."

Daft Punk, "Get Lucky": Besides the fact that I love Pharrell and Daft Punk, this song is simply brilliant.

Tech N9ne, "Fragile": Love the beat. Tech N9ne's rap is one of a kind and true. Much respect for him.

Ha Ha Tonka, "Lessons": When I first heard this song, I was instantly drawn in. Definitely my favorite of theirs.

Christian LaBeau, Mills Record Co.

"Eccentric Soul: The Forte Label": This album is a collection of 45's released on the now defunct Forte label based out of Kansas City. It's a piece of K.C. soul history and everyone should own a copy.

Demon Queen, "Exorcise Tape": Zapp & Roger, cough syrup and '90s hip-hop instrumentals come to mind. It's Tobacco from Black Moth Super Rainbow.

F*** Buttons, "Slow Focus": If John Carpenter attempted to make dance music.

Charles Bradley, "Victim of Love": Deep. If you can't feel this guy, check your pulse.

Lady, "Lady": Soulful feel-good hits of my spring and summer.

King Khan & the Shrines, "Idle No More": It's King Khan!

Emiliana Torrini, "Tookah": She sings, I melt.

Retox, "YPLL": Justin Pearson (The Locust) and company make you feel like you could fist-fight a grizzly.

Melt Banana, "Fetch": Adorable, chaotic, and silly all at the same time.

Cody Wyoming, The Philistines

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Specter at the Feast": Positively thick with atmosphere and huge heavy grooves, beautiful melodies and a beautiful menace just beneath the surface and sometimes right on top.

The Pedaljets, "What's in Between": Mike Allmayer's songwriting has never been better and the band plays with a drive and focus that is unmatched. Tough, intelligent, snotty and endearing all at once.

Dead Voices, "Dead Voices": Dave Regnier's Dylan-as-psychedelic-honky-tonk songwriting; the swirling guitars and lap steel; the powerful yet nimble bass; and the impeccable drum work: all part of some truly original sounds.

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": Jimmy Fitzner, Lauren Krum and Ben Summers voices are all distinctive yet they blend flawlessly, almost like sibling harmony. The other elements come from many different angles and places yet are focused on the same goal with the right idea about how to achieve it.

Tiny Horse, "Darkly Sparkly": I was in this band. But even without my contributions, this would be one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. I wish we would have gotten more music from Abigail Henderson. We miss you, Abby.

Calexico, "Spiritoso": Calexico playing live, with a symphony. If you understand that concept, you pretty much know what this record sounds like. And it's wonderful.

Queens of the Stone Age, "Like Clockwork": Dark, sad spooky yet still groovy. Josh Homme has turned a corner in his creative journey. This album shows what we've come to love from QOTSA's records but also shows a sensibility that has grown a great deal.

Mazzy Star, "Seasons of Your Day": It sounds exactly like a new Mazzy Star record should: Hope Sandoval's voice is still breathtaking, and David Robacks playing is still pastoral and grand.

Radkey, "Devil Fruit": See them up-close while you can, 'cause these kids just got shot out of a cannon. They're really making it happen. And "Devil Fruit" is a furious piece of work.

Jim James, "Regions of Light and Sound of God": I've only recently begun listening to him. but I am completely knocked out by every new thing he does. This is no exception.

Laura Lorson, Kansas Public Radio

Latyrx, "The Second Album": Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker make the most technically demanding record of the last 10 years. The lyrics are challenging, and complex, and syncopated -- what I wanted hip-hop to evolve into.

Mikal Cronin, "MC II": Eminently likable. I like power pop, harmony, and the garage rock aesthetic. So make of that what you will.

Neko Case, "The Worse Things Get ...": No big musical surprises, but her songwriting gets stronger and stronger with time. Give this one time to grow on you.

Public Service Broadcasting, "Inform Educate Entertain": Post-rock electronica, heavy on the samples from public service film clips and European movies. Fascinating, and fun.

Cool Ghouls, "Cool Ghouls": San Francisco garage pop, but not a retro act. If you're sick to death of autotune and endlessly market-tested airbrushed music, this will cleanse your palate.

Night Beds, "Country Sleep": Dreamy Americana. It's very Ryan Adams/Pete Yorn /Devendra Banhart, but that's not a bad thing. If you are 22 and have a crush on someone, this is for you. If you were once 22 and had a crush on someone, this is also for you.

Cecile McLorin Salvant, "WomanChild": She's young, she's got terrific control, and understands how to use her voice as an instrument, a la Billie Holiday. Kinda retro in that early Madeleine Peyroux way, but not derivative.

Volcano Choir, "Repave": Darker than Bon Iver, which is fine with me. Musically very interesting. Lots of textures and layers, sometimes in the Pink Floyd "Meddle" sense and others in the Built to Spill sense.

Savages, "Silence Yourself": A straight-ahead postpunk sort of record, for which I thank God.

The Haxan Cloak, "Excavation": Dark electronica/drone/industrial, a record made to be physically felt. Sure, it's bleak, and that's kinda the point.

Mark Manning, host of Wednesday MidDay Medley on KKFI

PedalJets, "What's in Between": Triumphant return to the recording studio to create their first new material in 23 years and our most-played album of the year.

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": The Grisly Hand has found its stride as songwriters and with Joel Nanos at Element Studios.

Betse Ellis, "High Moon Order": She has crafted her solo career path with new songs and new recording and continued touring, playing original and traditional and punk rock in her own solo powerhouse style.

Dead Voices, "Dead Voices": Kansas City super group, including David Regnier, who is a beautiful storyteller in song.

Bloodbirds, "Psychic Surgery": The Psychedelic sound is more alive than ever with this post-punk trio featuring ex-Ad Astra Per Aspera member Mike Tuley, his wife Brooke Tuley and Anna St. Louis. Also available in limited edition vinyl.

The ACBs, "Little Leaves": The band joined us live on Wednesday MidDay Medley on Feb. 27. We

Radkey, "Cat & Mouse" and "Devil Fruit": St. Joesph trio of teenage brothers (Darrion, Isaiah and Solomon Radke) toured Europe and released two EPs.

Soft Reeds, "Blank City": One of KC best songwriters and band leaders, Ben Grimes returns with the second full length of Soft Reeds and continues to share his gift of writing intricate, catchy, and glam rock inspired pop songs.

The Dead Girls, "Fade In/Fade Out": Features some of the year's best pop songs.

Bobby Watson & The I Have a Dream Project: "Check Cashing Day": Kansas City is a better place because Bobby Watson lives here and teaches at UMKC. "Check Cashing Day" comes on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and features the poetry of Glenn North, Kansas City award-winning wordsmith, who writes poems that always move us.

Robert Moore, host "Sonic Spectrum" on KRBZ (96.5 FM)

Bill Callahan, "Dream River": One of the most beautiful albums I've heard in a long time.

Shearwater, "Fellow Travelers": On my top 10 list two years in a row, this time with a unique album of covers.

Suuns, "Images du Futur": The album neo-psych band Tame Impala was trying to make.

Washed Out, "Paracosm": A much more mature and lush album from the king of chillwave.

Sisu, "Light Eyes": Beautiful dreamgaze from the Dum Dum Girls drummer.

Midlake, "Antiphon": A classic-rock masterpiece.

Savages, "Silence Yourself": Post-punk a la PiL and Siouxsie with a bonafide edge.

Mazzy Star, "Seasons of your Day": Their finest moment.

King Khan & the Shrines, "Idle No More": Soul-drenched garage freakout.

Fuzz, "Fuzz": Ty Segall's Sabbath-influenced project.

Barry Lee, host of "Signal to Noise," KKFI

Richard Thompson, "Electric": The usual high quality songs from a master musician. Produced by Buddy Miller.

The Dead Girls, "Fade In Fade Out": Lawrence's best power pop band: more power than pop with great songs and great players.

Julia Holter, "Loud City Song": Haunting music that sounds like no one else. Perfect for a rainy night drive around the city.

Simone Dinnerstein & Tift Merritt, "Night": A seamless melding of classical piano and acoustic songs of exquisite beauty.

Betse Ellis, "High Moon Order": Wherein Kansas City's premier fiddle player shows that she's much more than just a talented old-time country fiddler.

Valerie June, "Pushin' Against a Stone": Southern deep soul blues singer and songwriter makes a memorable debut.

Ha Ha Tonka, "Lessons": Missouri band keeps the Americana roots music flame alive and teaches us all new lessons as the band hits its stride as songwriters.

"Eccentric Soul: The Forte Story": The best archival record label in the country, Numero Uno, unearths KC's lost soul sides from a long-gone homegrown record company.

Neko Case, "The Tougher It Gets ...": One of this generation's great singers at the top of her form.

The Beatles, "On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2": The raw post-Hamburg sounds of a band that at the time was the best live band in England even before it all broke loose.

Samantha Fish, guitarist, songwriter

Anders Osborne, "Peace": I love his songwriting and the evolution he has gone through. This record is incredibly multi-dimensional, from heavy-hitters to soft and sentimental.

Mike Zito, "Gone to Texas": His best record to date. He tells the story of starting his life over in Texas. His voice and guitar work are off-the-charts good.

Tedeschi Trucks Band, "Made Up Mind": Every time I've seen them, they are tighter and better. There are 11 people total in the band, and the sound is so incredible. Destined to take home some awards this year.

Trampled Under Foot, "Badlands": This Kansas City powerhouse family trio is one of the best blues bands in the country. "Badlands" is making huge waves this year (still No. 4 on the Roots Music Report since debuting in July). Musically, its my favorite TUF record.

Devon Allman, "Turquoise": Devon's voice is the great standout on this record. He's got the Allman sound, but he's developed his own unique style. Superb production by Jim Gaines, and the hooks will be stuck in your head for days.

Trombone Shorty, "Say This to Say That": I fell in love with this band when I saw them in May. The record itself has some nice fluctuation with rocking guitar and horn section hooks, to funkier R&B-driven tunes. This guy also plays the hell out of his instrument.

Buddy Guy, "Rhythm and Blues": He's 77 and can still rip it better than most guitar players.

Tommy Malone, "Natural Born Days": I just found out about this guy this year, and I was blown away. He's a great songwriter, gritty soulful singer and incredible guitar player.

Gov't Mule, "Shout!": You can't go wrong with Warren Hayes and this record really drives. Blazing fretwork, imaginative songs, and really well produced.

Cyril Neville, "Magic Honey": I've had the opportunity to see and hear him up close a lot this year with the Royal Southern Brotherhood. The man captivates and truly inspires his audiences with his soul and energy.

Katy Guillen, Katy Guillen Trio

Patty Griffin, "American Kid": Acoustic songs both soft and driving from timeless songstress Patty Griffin

Mavis Staples, "One True Vine": Soul, gospel, spiritual numbers, features "I Like the Things About Me," throwback to classic Staple family album "Be Altitude: Respect yourself"

Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": Americana experts with the classy vocal stylings of Lauren Krum on favorite track, "Blind Horse."

Quasi, "Mole City": A recent discovery of 24 songs spanning indie and classic rock, a project of Janet Weiss' (Sleater Kinney, Wild Flag).

Mason Jennings, "Always Been": Sweet Sunday morning songs.

Neko Case, "The Worse Things Get ..." Earnest songwriting backed by swells of orchestral rock.

Dr. Dog, "B-Room": Classic Dr. Dog formula.

Radkey, "Devil Fruit": Young energetic punk rock. Favorite track: "Start Freaking Out."

The Wood Brothers, "The Muse": Catchy, blues rooted-numbers reminiscent of the Band.

Vampire Weekend, "Modern Vampires of the City": Layered, poppy rock.

Michelle Bacon, editor of the Deli KC, bassist in the Philistines

Ha Ha Tonka, "Lessons": Tonka's most beautiful and lush effort yet, powered by the collective musical and personal maturity of the four members, who have grown exponentially in their six years as a band.

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": Grisly maintains its vocal harmony-driven classic-country style while integrating rock and soul influences to create additional layers of depth and dynamism.

Tiny Horse, "Darkly Sparkly": The shining, sometimes haunting voice of the dearly departed Abigail Henderson with husband Chris Meck and a smattering of KC's most polished players makes this one of the year's standout releases.

The Latenight Callers, "Songs for Stolen Moments": An eerie, sensual LP that paints this dark noir four-piece in a smoke-filled, whiskey-fueled light, simultaneously luminous and hazy in its colossal peaks and chasmic valleys.

Not A Planet, "The Few, The Proud, The Strange": Showcases a power trio that soars on the muscle of Nathan Corsi's vocals, which contend with and outlast any other male vocalist in KC, and the solid rhythmic duo of Bill Sturges and Liam Sumnicht.

Clairaudients, "I'm A Loudmouth, You're A Puppet": Presents a young band full of potential, with finely constructed songwriting that concurrently pummels the listener with refined vocal harmonies and massive atmosphere, yet soothes with its delicacy.

Silver Maggies, "My Pale Horse": A dark Americana band propelled by intricate guitar work and atmospheric tapestry, The Silver Maggies put a picturesque Southwestern spin on its music.

The Dead Girls, "Fade In/Fade Out": A gem from Lawrence's power pop heroes. It's punctuated, pure pop that screams the good old days of classic guitar rock.

Freight Train & Rabbit Killer, "Freight Train & Rabbit Killer": The most psychopathic, enigmatic album to emerge onto the scene, from two brilliant musical shamans of Kansas City.

Katy Guillen and the Girls, "And Then There Were Three": A debut trio of blues songs with stylistic twists and turns that underscore the sheer instrumental/vocal talent of three of KC's most skilled young musicians.

Mike Dillon, The Mike Dillon Band

Queens of the Stone Age, "Like Clockwork": This one had to grow on me. Josh is able to capture the imagination at various moments. Great bands make you wish you were in that band . Led Zepp did it when I was in junior high, the Chili Peppers did it in the late '80s. The Lips did it in 2000. Queens is the only band out there that I have a secret band crush on.

Man Man, "On Oni Pond": (Drummer) Adam Gertner played this record quite a bit in the van

Melt Banana, "Fetch": I love this band. Apparently the drumming was programmed. Hard to believe. Rock!

The Melvins, "Everybody Loves Sausages": My all-time heroes rock the "Black Betty."

Clutch, "Earth Rocker": I love JP's go-go metal.

Dillinger Escape Plan, "One of Us": This is the killer. Professors of the math rock.

Meridian Brothers, "Desesperanza": This came out of at the end of 2012, but I feel in love with this in September. Salsa on LSD. One-man band from Colombia.

Mississippi Sheiks, "Vol. 1": Reissued in February. Discovered this group through a Bob Dylan podcast.

Fidlar, "Fidlar": Beer-punk rock that is fun for driving.

Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, "No Morphine, No Lilies": A beautiful instrumental record with a couple of nice vocal tunes from the great drummer Allison Miller.

Ray Velasquez, DJ (and former Lawrence resident)

Jah Wobble/Marconi Union, "Anomic": Cinematic ambiance, as if: The Mood, the Mad and the Dubby.

My Bloody Valentine, "MBV": Still gazey after all these years. If the shoe fits ...

Primal Scream, "More Light": Illuminate > eliminate > emancipate.

The Asphodells, "Ruled By Passion, Destroyed by Lust": Dubbed-out, drugged-out, post-punk swagger. Weatherall says it all.

Savages, "Silence Yourself": Post-punk, female ferocity that screams love and avoid. So, Siouxsie sue me.

The Field, "Cupid's Head": Head music with heart.

Boards of Canada, "Tomorrow's Harvest": Sometimes sinister. Sometimes serene. For all tomorrow's "arties."

Wire, "Change Becomes Us": Refound sounds resurrected, reworked, re-wired ... Refreshing.

Daniel Avery, "Drone Logic": A proper techno LP that hits the Spock.

Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory, "Elements of Light": Icy, electronic ring tones as PdP and TBL chime in, in 2013.

Mark Davis, Sound engineer, Vinyl Renaissance & Audio

Steven Wilson, "The Raven That Refused To Sing": Six stunning ghost stories set to music by a group of stellar musicians, recorded by Alan Parsons.

Sound of Contact, "Dimensionaut": Sci-fi concept album featuring Simon Collins, son of Phil.

Amplifier, "Echo Street": Gorgeous, melancholy post-prog from this Manchester, UK, group.

Voltto, "Incitare": A collision of 70s-style jazz fusion and modern prog rock featuring Danny Carey of Tool.

Black Sabbath, "13": Who would have thought they would sound this huge and menacing after all these years?

Spacesuit, "Future Girls": Sea Change-era slow motion soundscape jams.

Karnivool, "Asymmetry": Ambitious, innovative third album from Australia's best band.

Pelican, "Forever Becoming": First record in four years, quite possibly their heaviest, and best.

Chelsea Wolfe, "Pain Is Beauty": Dark, dreamy and impossible to describe.

Atoms For Peace, "Amok": Electronica played by real musicians.

Chuck Haddix, host of the Fish Fry, KCUR (89.3 FM)

"Eccentric Soul: The Forte Story": Reissue of classic soul sides from the Forte label, recorded in Kansas City from 1967-80.

Bobby Watson, "Check Cashing Day": Composed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The title cut is one of the most profound statements about Civil Rights and the state of America sings Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and Les McCann's "Compared to What."

Iris DeMent, "Sing the Delta": A meditation on love, family and faith. DeMent's heartfelt vocals are aptly complemented by a band featuring Al Perkins and Reese Wynans.

Allen Toussaint, "Songbook": Features Toussaint live on the piano performing classics from his vast repertoire to an appreciative audience.

Jess Dee, "On my Mind, in my Heart": Dee cut his musical teeth on classic soul. His clean, soulful vocals and pop sensibility create a neo-Soul classic.

The Grisly Hand, "Country Singles": Grisly Hand gives country music a bear hug. This slice of Americana captures the grit and twang of country music played in truck stops and honky-tonks.

James Cotton, "Cotton Mouth": One of the pioneers of the Chicago blues tradition, Cotton is captured at the top of his game. A new blues classic.

Aaron Neville, "My True Story": A joyous celebration of the doo-wop tradition by one of the pioneers of that genre. These classics are Neville's "True Story."

Shawn Holt, "Daddy Told Me": When blues legend Magic Slim died this year, his son Shawn Holt took over his band, the Tear Drops, and hasn't missed a beat. Rough-and-ready Chicago blues.

Afrolicious, "California Dreaming": New psychedelic soul from the Bay area. Powered by a crack horn section and funky rhythm section, Afrolicious lays down a beat that is in the groove."

Steve Tulipana, co-owner of RecordBar

Charles Bradley, "Victim of Love": Another revivalist instant classic from the Daptone label. Produced to melt hearts and ears.

Grant Hart, "The Argument": A long overdue concept album based on John Milton's "Paradise Lost." Some of the most intense and experimental songs from Hart's post Husker Du catalog.

Joy Subtraction. "The Essential Joy Subtraction": Explosive and complex post hardcore from ex-Wretch Like Me's Abe Brennan.

Dead Voices, "Dead Voices": Hooky, clever and engaging Americana with a quirky sentiment that is completely infectious.

La Femme, "Psycho Tropical Berlin": Wave-y, psychedelic, synth-y, beautiful trancy and sometimes skronky pop music from France.

Jorge Arana Trio, "Mapache": Kansas City kids with jazz chops with a noise-rock pedigree. Six arms that sound like 10.

Pedaljets, "What's in Between": Big riff, big hooks, clever lyrics. Excellently produced comeback from hometown heroes.

Bloodbirds, "Psychic Surgery": Post-punk sonic assault. Driving bass and freak out guitars.

"Music From Saharan Cell Phones Vol. 2": Music culled from North African cell phones collected from second-hand stores. Diverse styles and electronic sounds from Mali, Niger and Morocco.

Heartfelt Anarchy, "Heartfelt Anarchy": Experimental funky psychedelic hip hop. Features members of Hearts of Darkness and the Conquerors. Trippy.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow him at Read more from him at our music blog, Back to Rockville, at


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