Best of 2013: If You Won’t Reinvent Yourself, You Can’t Circumvent Yourself

1.) The Right Thing Right—Johnny Marr (The Messenger)
2.) 2020—Suuns (Images du futur)
3.) Busted Up—The Replacements (Songs for Slim)
4.) Lose Yourself to Dance—Daft Punk, ft. Pharrell (Random Access Memories)
5.) The Ghost—Efterklang (Piramida)
6.) Where Are We Now?—David Bowie (The Next Day)
7.) Breakfast Can Wait—Prince (Breakfast Can Wait)
8.) Bicho Auto—Juana Molina (Wed 21)
9.) Flying Low—Mazzy Star (Seasons of Your Day)
10.) Mad Sounds—Arctic Monkeys (AM)
11.) End Boss—Man Man (On Oni Pond)
12.) At Night in Dreams—White Denim (Corsicana Lemonade)
13.) Flashlight—The Amazing (Gentle Stream)
14.) Finister Saw the Angels—Laura Veirs (Warp & Weft)
15.) Disappear—Army of Anyone (Army of Anyone, 2006)

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For those of you who may be new to this whole endeavor, I’ve been making year-end mixes since 2004. I was initially inspired to do so by a coworker who, at the end of 2003, was giving out burned CDs full of the stuff he had enjoyed listening to that year. The tracks included in his collection spanned decades and included old-timey jazz, rock en Español, French pop, and plenty else. My own musical tastes had never been exactly of-the-moment, but my roommate at the time had taken it upon herself to educate me in the ways of a little music review website called Pitchfork, and so, suddenly, listening to stuff that had been recently released by musicians working just slightly under the mainstream radar became a thing that I did and cared about.

I started reading music blogs and downloading tracks both by weird one-off bands who seemed to disappear immediately after making a minor splash and by soon-to-be-huge acts like Spoon, The Decemberists, and Death Cab for Cutie. Thanks to my roomie, the blogs, and my own curiosity, it wasn’t long before I had amassed a new-to-me collection of music that I wanted to share with my pals. I’ve also always kind of hated the pressures of gift-giving at Christmastime, so that year I decided that everyone was getting a burned CD of a dozen or so songs that had become important to me. The whole project took on a life of its own after that.

That first installment in 2004 was just a CD-R with a photocopy of the track listing and a few song-by-song descriptive notes handed out to maybe ten friends. In subsequent years, some fifty or more CDs were put into increasingly elaborate packaging designed by some of my creative comrades and were accompanied by longer and more effusive essays describing why that year’s songs had been chosen to represent a snapshot of my life in music. (You can see track listings and read essays for the first six years’ worth on my old blog over here.)

But as the rhythms and indeed the priorities of my daily life began to shift in 2010, I decided to take a break from regular blogging and quietly retired my old online home, Wrestling Entropy. The end of the blog didn’t signal the end of the mixes; I just stopped making quite such a big deal about them. In trying to get back to the original spirit of the thing—sharing music I loved with people I cared about—I also realized that I wanted to stop seeking out shit-hot new releases quite as avidly. The self-imposed pressure to keep up with the hype machine lost its charm, and I craved getting back to the kind of connection with music that I’d had earlier in my life. I wanted to really get to know an album, I wanted to revisit old loves, I wanted to delve into the influences and associates of the artists I was already familiar with, I wanted to allow people to recommend things to me that they thought that I’d genuinely like—not the stuff I thought I “should” hear. As I’ve mentioned previously, joining a band changed the way I listened to music quite a bit as well. I think I’ve mostly succeeded these past few years in getting back to my own definition of the basics.

However, as the technology to do so has gotten so much easier to use and since I know so many people stream music via Spotify, et al, as a matter of course now anyway, I thought it might be cool to post my mix online this year. If you click the image above, you’ll be taken to 2013’s installment over on 8tracks. (I’ve also started archiving prior years’ mixes on my page there as well.)

I suppose all that remains to be said at the moment is that there are miles of walking, riding the train, and driving around Chicago in these songs; hours of happy half-listening at home while reading on the couch or cooking in the kitchen too. There’s the little elements Brian and I exclaim over and rewind to hear again and again; there’s the stuff I only listen to on headphones because I know he can’t stand it, the stuff that remains a treat just for me. There are the repeats who’ve appeared on past years’ mixes (Man Man in ’08, White Denim in ’08 as well, and Laura Veirs in both ’05 and ’11) and of course a whole host of artists beloved by the world at large whose output I’m still playing catch-up with. I had two very memorable concertgoing experiences seeing Johnny Marr and Efterklang play live; I had an equally memorable time listening to that Army of Anyone song on YouTube. I knew immediately in early March that “Where Are We Now?” would have to be included here; I was scrambling well into early December to squeeze “At Night in Dreams” somewhere into the mix because I couldn’t believe how awesome Corsicana Lemonade turned out to be.

Even totally stripped of any of this context, though, I hope you enjoy the mix. I wish you great joy in the coming year and peace in your own recollections of the year just past.