Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Terrific tunes, badass beats

From local gems to international superstars, this year was oozing with musical goodness

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All year long, our music writers bravely tackle whatever releases come their way -- the good, the bad and the pointless. But as 2013 winds to a close, they get to single out the artists who rocked their worlds, jazzed up their lives and put down roots in their hearts. Below, Uptown's New Music page contributors list their top 5 albums or singles of the year.

Bruce Leperre's albums

1. JASON ISBELL -- Southeastern (Southeastern): Ex-Drive By Trucker Isbell's fourth solo recording is a dark, personal glimpse into his life and those he's encountered on his journey. A lyrical and musical masterpiece.

2. FRANK TURNER -- Tape Deck Heart (Xtra Mile/Universal): Turner ,31, is a British punk rock poet armed with an acoustic guitar ( la Billy Bragg but sans politics) and a Joe Strummer sneer.

3. STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES & DUCHESSES -- The Low Highway (New West): A modern-day Woody Guthrie, Earle offers up a sincere snapshot of today's America rife with backwoods meth labs, addicts, big-box stores, hurricane survivors, homeless and incurable romantics while still seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

4. THE NATIONAL -- Trouble Will Find Me (4AD): Many thought this Ohio-raised, Brooklyn-based band couldn't improve upon previously lauded albums Boxer and High Violet but they were wrong. Haunting.

5. BILLY BRAGG -- Tooth & Nail (Dine Alone): On his 10th album, the self-professed "Sherpa of Heartbreak" eloquently addresses the loss of his mother, questions the meaning of life and admits his weakness as a handyman against a country/folk/rock/soul backdrop.

Chris Smith's albums

1. WAYNE SHORTER -- Without A Net (Blue Note): Saxophonist extraordinaire makes a triumphant return to the storied Blue Note label with his excellent quartet on this live recording. Shorter remains at his peak as he turns 80.

2. CHRISTINE JENSEN JAZZ ORCHESTRA -- Habitat (Justin Time): Montreal saxophonist and composer Jensen's followup to Juno Award-winning Treelines enhances her stature as force to be reckoned with in jazz. The disc balances composition and improvisation over six great tracks.

3. CâCILE MCLORIN SALVANT -- WomanChild (Mack Avenue): The winner of the 2010 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in vocal is sassy, sincere and sometimes sexy on this 12-tune disc of standards and originals.

4. CHRISTIAN McBRIDE TRIO Out Here (Mack Avenue): Monster bassist McBride leads his trio in a hard-swinging, nine-track outing of standards and bluesy gospel with a great version of the R&B staple Who's Making Love.

5. 3 COHENS -- Tightrope (Anzic Records): Siblings Anat (tenor saxophone, clarinets), Avishai (trumpet) and Yuval (soprano sax) play mostly a cappella in their fourth recording together. They have uncanny musical rapport, and their emphasis on horns-only music and improvisation cements the chemistry that began as children in Israel.

Jen Zoratti's albums

1. THE JULIE RUIN -- Run Fast (Dischord): Riot Grrrl pioneer/ex-Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna returns with her second album under The Julie Ruin moniker. It's a manic-panic burst of punk rock that proves Hanna still has plenty to scream about.

2. AUSTRA -- Olympia (Paper Bag): The sophomore album from Toronto's Austra is a sexy, slinky dance-floor scorcher that anchors the ethereal, operatic vocals of frontwoman Katie Stelmanis.

3. YOUNG GALAXY -- Ultramarine (Paper Bag): This shimmering fourth album finds the Montreal band at the height of its powers, with the impossibly cool Catherine McCandless taking the lead on vocals.

4. TEGAN AND SARA -- Heartthrob (Warner Bros.): An unapologetically glossy arena-pop offering from Canada's most famous twins, who have officially taken their rightful place in the Top 40. Forget Katy Perry; this is a teenage dream.

5. ARCADE FIRE -- Reflektor (Merge): As a whole, Arcade Fire's latest double-disc magnum opus isn't perfect, but many of its songs are -- particularly on the tight, Talking Heads-indebted first half.

Jeff Monk's albums

1. SHUGGIE OTIS -- Inspiration Information + Wings Of Love (Epic/Shugiterius): A re-issue with the kind of relevance that may have actually, sadly, gone unnoticed by the great unwashed. Worth searching out.

2. MOTRHEAD -- Aftershock (UDR/Motorhead Music): A back-from-the-near-dead Lemmy Kilmister proves yet again that death will not be his Santa Claus.

3. MINISTRY -- From Beer To Eternity (AFM Records): Edgy, frightening and at times, a difficult listen... yet oh so worth hearing for its perceptive angst.

4. PAUL MCCARTNEY -- New (MPL / Concord / Universal Music Canada): The Beatle who just won't go away quietly. Effervescent and wonderfully creative.

5. ERIC BURDON --'Til Your River Runs Dry (ABKCO Records): Former Animal who still knows how to rock with style and grace.

John Kendle's albums

1. NEKO CASE -- The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti): She could sing utter nonsense and still be amazing, but when the siren-voiced Case gets soul-baringly personal, there's no singer with a greater emotional impact.

2. VAMPIRE WEEKEND -- Modern Vampires of the City (XL): A fully realized great leap forward for these New York indie hipsters who blended a scrappy indie esthetic with an exploratory, sound-scaping spirit.

3. ARCTIC MONKEYS -- AM (Domino): Alex Turner and Co. have come a long way, baby. They still look good on the dance floor but they're a far more clever and sophisticated rock outfit than many people think.

4. LORDE -- Pure Heroine (Virgin EMI): Who cares if she's been signed since she was 13 and cynics suggest she's a construct? This now-17-year-old New Zealander made this year's album of pure pop for now people.

5. M.I.A. -- Matangi (Virgin EMI) -- Maya Arulpragasam once again displays her talent for sonic collage, pasting together hip-hop, electronica, world music and pop beat-making with her always fascinating lyric blend of antagonism and aphorisms.

Steve Adams' singles

1. ROBIN THICKE FEAT. T.I. & PHARRELL WILLIAMS -- Blurred Lines: Nothing this year was feistier, more fun, or flat-out sexier than this racy R&B romp. Hands down the song of 2013.

2. DAFT PUNK FEAT. PHARRELL WILLIAMS -- Get Lucky: Definitely not what longtime Daft Punk fans were expecting, but that clearly didn't matter, as there was no escaping this absolutely delicious disco throwback this past summer.

3. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE -- Mirrors: Very rarely does a song come along that's so purely pop, but also so incredibly grand and mature sounding. Mirrors is undoubtedly one of those beautiful anomalies.

4. RUDIMENTAL FEAT. JOHN NEWMAN -- Feel the Love: While technically released in 2012 in the U.K., we didn't truly get a taste of Rudimental in North America until they dropped their debut album Home this past April. Feel the Love is undeniably feel-good, funky drum 'n' bass with soul to spare.

5. KANYE WEST -- Black Skinhead: It's hard to choose just one song from Yeezus as the standout, but the primal raps and thunderous Depeche Mode/Marilyn Manson/Gary Glitter beats of Black Skinhead make it as good a choice as any.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2013 D7

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