Wednesday, December 25, 2013

10 Best Albums of 2013

Merry Christmas, everyone. With a mere week to go until the ball drops in Times Square, listeners all over the globe have been compiling their Best Of lists for the year. For the Bodega, 2013 was a complex but often exciting time to be paying attention to international music. In early March our superfriend Carol hipped us to a program at BAM that would change our lives: Mic Check: Hip-Hop from North Africa and the Middle East. Later in the month, the Bodega returned the favor, taking her to see pioneering Palestinian rap group DAM at Drom on New York’s lower east side.

As more of our regular CD-findin’ haunts in the city dried up, new doors were opened, including two previously undiscovered stores selling Czech and Latin music, allowing us to exponentially grow our stock of both, literally overnight. For more recent music, there’s the endless rabbit hole that is Bandcamp. In fact, most of our 2013 faves came from this revolutionary end-run around the terminally ill Music-Industry-As-Such.

Above all, our fellow music bloggers kept their little rooms on the Internet warm even when the sun wasn’t shining anywhere else. Special Big Love to stalwarts Awesome Tapes from Africa, Jenny Is in a Bad Mood (Japan), Jewish Morocco, Jugo Rock Forever (former Yugoslavia), Madrotter Treasure Hunt (Indonesia), Monrakplengthai (Thailand), Moroccan Tape Stash, Music from the Third Floor (India), My Passion for Ethiopian Music, and Turkish Psychedelic Music 2, to say nothing of fellow eclecticists Flash Strap, Ghost Capital, Global Groove, Inconstant Sol, Kadao Ton Kao, Music for Maniacs, Snap Crackle & Pop, and Terminal Escape — to name but a few of the dozens whose offerings fill our hours and ears.

Two great but seemingly dead blogs got new life this year: Brain Goreng (Indonesia) and Voodoo Vault (Japan), though whether either will keep up the good fight into 2014 is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, Interstellar Medium | Foreign Lavish Sounds stormed onto the scene to raise the bar unconscionably high and show us just how awesome a music blog can really be. We’re humbled, shamed even, but genuinely grateful for their existence.

2013 was a year of personal triumph for the Bodega: We not only published some of our least egregious nonfiction to date (in Burning Ambulance, Indiewire, LA Review of Books and Roads & Kingdoms), we received the ultimate worldly acknowledgement of our humble efforts in poetry: Inclusion in a Norton anthology

But there were setbacks. In April, our then-host, Divshare, kicked us out of the file-sharing playground, citing multiple complaints about our *cough* copyright infringement *cough*. Tail between our legs, we hooked up with ADrive and began to restock the shelves, offering customers a new feature: The Bodega Pop Comp (see “hot comps” in the sidebar to the right).  

Then, in May, Super DJ, creator and director of WFMU’s Give the Drummer Radio stream, and music blog supporter extraordinaire, Doug Schulkind asked if we’d like to bring the bodega to WFMU in the form of a weekly broadcast. Our ego said yes, yes, oh god let us, yes. Our ego has never been the brightest bulb in the tulip patch, but he tends to get away with pretty much whatever he wants.

So, every Wednesday evening from 7-10pm ET, starting on January 15, we’ll be hosting Bodega Pop Live on the aforementioned stream. Shout outs are due to several fabulous people—in addition to Doug, of course—who helped make this happen: Brandon Downing, Andrew Maxwell, Andrei Molotiu, Sianne Ngai, Mel Nichols, and above all, Carol “Craftypants” McMahon, who donated a Macbook we desperately needed to do the actual streaming. 

Still awake? Hello? Awrighty, let’s move on to the sole reason you’re even here tonight: Bodega Pop’s Top 10 Albums of 2013 …
DAM
Dabke on the Moon ($8.99)
December 15, 2012
As we intimated earlier, middle eastern and north African hip-hop reigned supreme in our ears this year, including this album, technically released last year, but for all intents and purposes not readily available until 2013. It wasn’t the first album we’d heard by the pioneering Palestinian rappers, but it was easily the best of their work to date. The album blasts off with the unlikely-sounding rocker “Street Poetry” and doesn’t let up, kicking out jam after jam all the way through the anthemic “I Fell in Love with a Jew” and final deep groove of “Handcuff Them War Criminals.” If I was Christgau (“Christmas with Christgau” has a nice ring to it, eh?) I know three very talented young men who’d be getting a big ol’ A+ in their stocking.


The Girl
UR Sensation ($8.99)
January 9, 2013 (planned December 19, 2012)
I almost can’t breathe when I think about the awesomeness that is Aiha Higurashi. Her first band, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, was easily the best rock group of the Aughts, and with every subsequent project Aiha has shown us a new or at least slightly different side of herself.  The Girl, who released their second album this year, brings it back home to the stripped-down, noirish rock Aiha first explored with SSKHKH—but the sound is grittier, more disconcerting. Our sole complaint? Try setting up a Google alert for “The Girl.” 

Various Artists
Spanish New Wave, The Golden Age (6 Vols.) (Free)
January 20, 2013
See, I told you music bloggers were awesome this year. Compiled by Sebi and Jose Kortozirkuito for free download on Boozetunes, this six-volume set of post-punk music from Spain is everything the bodega dreams of: A vast, and vastly entertaining panorama of pop from a faraway time and place, lovingly introduced with a smart and relevant preface. 


Various Artists
Khat Thaleth (Free)
January 22, 2013
Goodness gracious: The year really started out with a bang, didn’t it? This late-January Arabic hip-hop compilation, released two days after the awesome comp above, is pretty much the coolest international rap collection we can think of since 1988’s Brazilian overview Hip Hop Cultura de Rua. And the download is gratis on Bandcamp. Yep, you heard us: Free.


Satanicpornocultshop
Picaresque ($10)
February 2013
The Japanese sound-collage trio put out seven albums and EPs in 2013, which makes them among the most prolific groups of … dare-we-say all time? A perennial favorite here, the shop’s funked-up February release had the bodega rawkin out on the 7 train as we rode it in to work every morning. 



Various Artists
Harafin So - Bollywood Inspired Film Music from Hausa Nigeria ($5)
April 23, 2013
Holy crap, but Christopher Kirkley’s label is amazing. 2013 was a stellar year for Sahelsounds, beginning with a January release of the second volume of Music from Saharan Cell Phones. This Bollywood-inspired, auto-tuned Nigerian pop was a real revelation to us, having had no prior idea that such a thing even existed. 


Nisennenmondai
N (iTunes store, $9.99)
July 2, 2013
OMG I love these women, who put out what was easily my favorite music video of the year. (Don't stop watching before the 3:20 mark, seriously.) A must-have for all fans of the N-group and for any lover of the industrial / instrumental / experimental wing of J-rock. 




MWR
Because I’m an Arab (Free, if link works)
August 14, 2013
A publicist for this Palestinian rap trio sent me word of this album—a retrospective of the band’s brief but thrilling career-to-date. Hailing from Gaza, these guys are as sonically rich as they are politics-forward. I’m not sure if the Dropbox link I’ve provided is going to work for you — but I have no earthly idea how else to get a hold of this album, let alone pay for it. (If you know, send the info/link our way.)


P.K.14
1984 ($8)
September 13, 2013
The fifth album by one of Beijing’s oldest post-punk bands, formed all the way back in 2001. (It must be liberating having such a short music history.) Though they’ve mellowed slightly with age, they’re still awesome—in fact, even more so this decade than last. You can listen to the whole album on Bandcamp for free … so go listen to it, not to me.

Various Artists
Sounds and Colors: Brazil ($11.43)
November 25, 2013
I have heard the future, and it sounds an awful lot like the República Federativa do Brasil. Seriously, this record is fabuloso. Also, this label looks like it’s gearing up to give Sahelsounds a run for its money. Blaspheme? No, blashphe-you. Get over to their Bandcamp page and start digging around — and don’t miss out on their earlier “name your price” collections. You won’t be disappointed.

6 comments:

kreismyr said...

thanks for this post! bigups & happy hanukkah!

jezc said...

Great post and the MWR link worked for me! Cheers Jez

Craftypants Carol said...

yay!! i'm glad i didn't miss anything while i've been on vacation for a couple weeks. I'll totally be listening on Jan 15th!

Unknown said...

love your site and the music you allow us to hear. Special thanks for pointing me to Sahelsounds.

Ted Swedenburg said...

Thanks a mill for posting MWR! They are from Acre/'Akka, a 'mixed' city in Israel, not Gaza. One of the group's members, Mahmoud Shalaby, now works as an actor, appearing most notably in Jaffa (2009) and Les hommes libres (2011), playing the part of the Algerian-Jewish singer Salim Halali.

Gary said...

Thanks for the info, Ted!