Happy New Year, one and all! 2013 was one wild ride for me, both professionally and personally. Kids growing up, all the uncertainty of the future of health care, Miley Cyrus’s foam finger–sometimes it’s all just too much for a guy to take. So today, this first day of 2014, I’m going to relax before a friend’s New Year’s party and list for you my favorite tunes from last year. There were a lot of great songs released in 2013, so I will list some great “honorable mentions” as well. I wish everyone a happy, musical 2014! Enjoy these songs below.
10. Stay at Home Mother — Sheryl Crow. I’ve never been a full-time professional musician, but I’ve played many more gigs in my life than I can count. More importantly, however, I understand fully what it feels like to wonder how your work, work hours, and ambition are impacting your little ones. This acoustic song, tear-jerkingly honest, heart-breaking, and hopeful, encapsulates that struggle beautifully and plaintively. Though my boys are maturing faster than I prefer, they still ask me not to leave if I have to leave for an evening meeting or other such thing. I appreciate and cherish that, and I hope that for the rest of my life my children will want me and my wife to “stay at home.”
9. Hey Pretty Girl — Kip Moore. I love songs that summarize a person’s entire life in three minutes. This song tells the story of one man’s history with his wife, front to finish. The guy in the song just wants what most of us want, I think–someone to love, someone with which to share the simple joys of life. I’m drawn to the slightly off-kilter rhythm (which is unusual in country radio), the vocal melodies, the believable lyrics. Plus, this is the first song I played after bringing my very first bass guitar home five months ago.
8. This is What It Feels Like — Armin van Buuren, featuring Trevor Guthrie. My boys are completely obsessed with pop music. They demand it in the car, play it the moment they get home from school, dance to it with wild abandon at their school socials. Accordingly, a tsunami of modern pop has been forced upon me in 2013. Understand, pop when I was their age was “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day, “Beth” by Kiss, and “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns, so what is popular now to young people sounds radically different from the music on the radio when I was coming of age. But my curmudgeonly self must admit that there are some pretty good songs in my boys’s playlists, and here is one of them. Like “Hey Pretty Girl” the baseline rhythm is a little atypical, but it’s very danceable nonetheless, as I’ve witnessed firsthand.
7. I Hold On — Dierks Bentley. This song slays me. I identify completely with the idea of appreciating what you have and valuing the things and people that have stuck with you for years. As time goes on your modern life becomes increasingly deluged by garish and obnoxious distractions–technology, hassles, vulture-like people–that in the end don’t hold near the meaning of a small circle of simple, rock-solid things and people that continue to have your back. Like Dierks, “I hold on.”
6. Anywhere With You — Jake Owen. This song speaks to the travel abandon button I wish I could push more frequently. You know the feeling you get when you thumb through Travel + Leisure or Islands, that wish that you could scratch your itch to travel immediately–like get on a plane right now–but you can’t because you’re looking at the magazines on the treadmill in your gym before going to work? We love a good trip, and I’m looking forward to more exploration in the near future.
5. Odds Are — Barenaked Ladies. BNL still rule, after all these years, despite the departure of Steven Page. Using their trademark humor (check out the video!) they speak deceptively simple truths. I hold up this song as a beacon of hope for me and my fellow physicians in 2014. I sincerely hope that, despite my cynicism regarding what so many different people and organizations are thrusting upon us in health care, “the odds are that we will probably be all right.”
4. Sunny and 75 — Joe Nichols. I guess this shows you where my head’s at, considering this song along with my #6 pick. Here in Seattle in the summer it’s sunny and 75, one of the best places on the planet to spend the summer, but at the moment it’s grey and considerably cooler than 75, and there’s not a beach chair in sight. I’ve been singing this song in the car all year, though.
3. Elevate — The Winery Dogs. My friend, bass master Billy Sheehan, combined with Richie Kotzen and Mike Portnoy to create this explosive supergroup, whose debut album is in my opinion easily the greatest hard rock release of the year. There are too many great songs to choose from in the album; the relentless “Time Machine” and the sublime, bluesy “Regret” in particular were real contenders for this list. Ultimately, however, I chose “Elevate” for its awe-inspiring riffs, technical precision, great vocals, and of course Billy’s absolutely sick bass skills. I strongly urge you to see this trio in concert should they roll through your area in 2014. A Winery Dogs show is a game-changer.
2. Alma de Guerreiro — Seu Jorge. This is Brazilian funk at its finest, chugging over a deeply embedded foundation of ijexa. I came to know this song from performing it at a Carnaval concert last spring. The riff is inescapable, and it’s impossible not to move under its spell. Salve Jorge!
1. I See Fire — Ed Sheeran. Put Peter Jackson, Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, and the traditional Celtic song “The Parting Glass” in a blender and you have this powerful piece, which sings of a fool’s hope in the face of relentless malice and terrible odds. It’s hard for me not to draw parallels between the song and what is happening on this planet at the moment, but I’m choosing simply to enjoy this apocalyptic track for its dark acoustic brilliance.
Here are some honorable mentions from 2013.
Brainwash — La Luz. Seattle all-female surf rock quartet. Great stuff.
Tippin’ Point — Dallas Smith. Modern Canadian country at its finest.
Wake Me Up — Avicii. Another impossibly catchy song introduced to me by my pop-lovin’ sons.
Follow Your Arrow — Casey Musgraves. She has some stones to sing about what she sings about. More power to her for speaking the truth.
Whatever She’s Got — David Nail. This was an ear worm all autumn long.
Opiates — Throwing Muses. Kristin Hersh is a genius.
Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love — Boston. It is great to hear Brad Delp’s voice again.