+ Charles Walker and the Dynamites: Love is Only Everything (2013) – On their newest blast of vintage-flavored Nashville soul, vocal vet Walker and guitarist/songsmith Leo Black stick to the familiar – namely original tunes that bring out the brassy orchestral R&B preferences of the Dynamites and the effortless soul/funk charge that makes Walker sound ageless. The cheery Still Can’t Get You Out of My Heart and the blues smackdown Yours and Mine (a duet with Bettye LaVette) rank among the many delights.
+ Patty Griffin: American Kid (2013) – On her first outing following an extended stay in Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, Griffin offers up an album of stately but understated beauty. Sure, the ragged blues of Don’t Let Me Die in Florida kicks up some dirt. But the bulk of the record is steeped in antique quiet, from Highway Song, a captivating duet with Plant that serves as a reciprocal communion with the spirits, to Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone, which sounds like ‘40s-era serenading filtered through Brian Eno-esque ambience.
+ Dead Can Dance: In Concert (2013) – The title is the only thing generic about this latest performance document by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, the Mulder and Scully of modern pop. The music is often as exact as the group’s studio works, mixing world music melodies, foreign rhythms and especially Gerrard’s lyric-less singing. At times, as on Ubitquitous Mr.Lovegrove, the resulting blend is otherworldly. At others, such as the luscious groove of Children of the Sun, Dead Can Dance sound dead sexy.
+ Todd Rundgren: State (2013) – Some might see this foray into big beat electronica as jumping on a stylistic bandwagon several years too late. But one man band experiments involving pop accessibility and advanced electronics have always been Rundgren’s modus operandi. While State takes a few listens to gain your trust, its songs reveal considerable wit and solace as well as a generous supply of melodic charm, all of which remain Rundgren trademarks. At 64, Todd still has the ability to satisfy and surprise.
+ Stick Men: Deep (2013) – Stick Men is the prog alliance of Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter. Levin and Mastellotto’s lengthy credits include extended tenures in King Crimson, which suggests some of Deep’s punctuated charge. But the record is both tough knuckled and textured, using Levin’s Chapman Stick, Reuter’s Stick-like touch guitar and Mastellotto’s acoustic and electronic drums to created densely patterned instrumental music colored by funk and a sense of prog that is truly progressive.