The Best Music And Films Of 2013 So Far …

I’m currently off in the Northeast (which I’ve rechristened “Death Valley” because of the relentless heat and humidity. Seriously, I’m praying a cold day in Hell arrives soon, because I’m living in its fiery bowels.) However, the Press & Dakotan has FINALLY found room to run the list of my favorite albums and movies of the year. (What could be more important than ME and MY LISTS, dear editor??? … Don’t answer that.)

Find my picks below.


For those who love film and music, 2013 has been their lucky year.

We’re only half way through, and already I am having a hard time keeping up with all the amazing work being released.

I’m particularly disappointed in the number of films I’ve seen. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I usually have to travel to Omaha or fork over extra money to a video on demand platform to see the latest and greatest films.

However, for the latest music, I can simply fire up Spotify on my cell phone and find most any new release. Ease of access makes a big difference.

All right, let’s start off with my favorite albums of the year so far:

EleanorFriedberger10. Eleanor Friedberger — Personal Record

Friedberger’s songwriting continues to evolve on her second solo outing, and she manages to mix smart lyrics with catchy tunes. Highlights include “When I Knew” and “Other Boys.”

9. The Knife — Shaking the Habitual

The newest album from Swedish electronic masterminds The Knife is the very definition of a challenging album that demands multiple listens. This is a band that stands unafraid to try something new. My favorite track is the industrial nine-minute epic “Full of Fire.”

8. Kavinsky — OutRun

Anyone who saw 2011’s “Drive” has traveled down a dark highway playing Kavinsky’s “Nightcall.” This album, which does include “Nightcall,” sounds like it emerged from the 1980s video games and horror films that inspired it. It’s a place I love to spend time.

7. Queens of the Stone Age — … Like Clockwork

Finally, an album worthy of the band that got me so excited with 2002’s “Songs for the Deaf.” “… Like Clockwork” is a dark, moody record that is perhaps the most consistent of the Queens’ career. Check out “I Appear Missing.”

6. Depeche Mode — Delta Machine

The boys of Basildon revisit the blues on their latest effort, bringing to mind the guitar riffs that made “Violator” such a worldwide hit. It’s a natural fit. “Should Be Higher” and the seductive “Slow” are among the highlights.

5. Jake Bugg — Jake Bugg

It’s not often that I get excited about folk/rock music, but Bugg has the tunes to make it work. Check out “Seen It All” and “Two Fingers.”

4. Austra — Olympia

Lead singer Katie Stelmanis still has that powerful opera-trained voice that originally drew me to Austra, but on this second outing it is used more carefully. “Olympia” is a band effort, and it has resulted in a more full-sounding album. Check out “Painful Like” and “You Changed My Life.”

3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — Push the Sky Away

Cave has always had a way with words, but on “Push the Sky Away,” the lyrics really stick. The music is often quiet but menacing. Check out “Jubilee Street” and “Mermaids.”

2. Daft Punk — Random Access Memories

“Random Access Memories” is a musical odyssey that was worth all the time and money that Daft Punk spent to make it. Check out “Within” and “Touch.”

1. Suede — Bloodsports

Although Suede broke up past their prime in the early 2000s, “Bloodsports” proves that they have again found their demon and are capable of making some of the most electrifying, beautiful guitar pop known to man. Check out “Hit Me” and “Snowblind.”

And now for the films:

10. Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

This documentary about people living in the wilderness of Siberia was made by noted German documentarian Werner Herzog along with Russian director Dmitry Vasyukov. If you think South Dakota is remote, see how these Russians survive in an area accessible only by helicopter or boat using centuries-old techniques.

9. Star Trek: Into Darkness

Benedict Cumberbatch’s intense, Shakespearean performance lifts this fun, tense summer blockbuster to a whole other level.

8. 56 Up

Director Michael Apted continues to visit with individuals he first filmed as 7-year-olds every seven years, and this documentary series remains one of the greatest film experiments ever undertaken.

7. Room 237

If you loved Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” — and even if you didn’t — you’ll probably really enjoy this documentary about different interpretations of the film. It’s eye-opening, sometimes laughable and fascinating.

6. Spring Breakers

I thought “Spring Breakers” was hilarious and terrifying at the same time as it explored themes of hedonism and the hollowness of the American Dream. It’s not an easy film to watch and definitely left me with mixed feelings.

5. This is the End

This is the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. I loved spending time with some of the brightest comedic actors in Hollywood and laughing and laughing and laughing …

4. John Dies at the EndJohnDiesAtTheEnd

I’m going to get you on this bandwagon right now: “John Dies at the End” is destined to be a cult film, and it’s a cult you want to join. It’s funny, weird and features a Meat Monster. Need I say more?

3. The Place Beyond the Pines

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are great in this heart-wrenching film about two characters on different sides of the tracks dealing with their own moral quandaries.

2. Upstream Color

I’m not going to try and tell you what this film is about, because I can’t entirely explain it. It’s got a love story; a parasite that passes from humans to pigs to orchids; and references to “Walden.” Put those disparate elements together, and you’ve got an incredible movie. I don’t know how Shane Carruth did it, but he did.

1. Mud

Jeff Nichols is one of America’s best filmmakers, and “Mud” is the latest example of that. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young boy that hits all the right emotional notes and tells a thrilling tale at the same time. Matthew McConaughey continues his streak of excellent film work — words I never thought I’d have reason to say.

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