What a year. 2013 flew by. The days get shorter, life gets longer. It started off great, then there were some odd bumps in the road as spring turned into summer. However, we made it through the good and the bad. A few years ago, someone told me to stick to what I know, baseball, beer and music. So, here goes. This is a rundown of 2013 as it mattered, to me. A Couple Things I Think I Think about 2013
Just A Bit Outside
Baseball, again ended with the Red Sox as champions. They went from last to first, which gives every single team optimism going into next season. To think, a few good moves one way or another could lead a team to a title. The Yankees season was a bit disappointing, considering how many star players missed time due to injury. It was a bit refreshing seeing role players and washed up guys help out at times, but it will definitely be good to see the injured stars and new acquisitions next year. Hopefully the team doesn’t continue to age so poorly. This team badly needs a youth infusion.
As for the rest of baseball, it was an interesting season, filled with upstart teams that really gave their fans something to cheer about, such as the Royals, Indians and Pirates. If there are three teams I can think of that really deserve to win for their fans, it’s those three teams right there. On the mound, Max Scherzer was pretty money all year long, so was Clayton Kershaw, again. Is it any coincidence both are free agents in the next two years, just as the Yanks are looking to stash some cash away for a rainy day?
Another great year of youth being infused into baseball. It’s always a joy seeing young guys like Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, and Will Myers make a huge impact at such a young age. I’ve always been a big fan of prospects and young players. It’s great to see them come up and be stars. Now hopefully the Yanks can start figuring out how to acquire and develop some of those guys.
One more thing about baseball. I would love to say thank you to Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, both of which retired this year and made a huge impact on my life and my team. You will both be missed. I was lucky enough to be in Tampa on the day Mariano announced his retirement and made his first appearance in Spring Training 2013. Lucky indeed.
The Foamy Stuff
Another great year of beer. I had tons of great beers both here in NYC and on the road, including stops in San Diego, Austin, Tampa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Peekskill, Philly and Connecticut. In San Diego, I got to try Pliny the Elder and Stone’s Enjoy By on back to back tastes at the Stone Brewpub, which is a must visit for any beer lover. It was by far my favorite brewery I’ve ever been to. It’s so awesome, you could literally have a wedding there, it’s that beautiful. Also visited Lost Abbey/Pizza Port on that trip. That was pretty awesome too. While in Austin, I tried beers from TX brewery Jester King, which is worth the hype. Also, got to try my very first Oklahoma Beer from Prairie Artisan Ales. Tampa was for Hunaphu Day at Cigar City again. Loved every moment of the fest again this year. Enjoyed tons of great beers and made tons of new friends. Can’t wait for this year.
In terms of other beers I’ve enjoyed, really loved just about every beer I’ve tried from Peekskill. Love them so much, I visited them twice this year. Westbrook from South Carolina is another brewery making great beers. They just came into NYC this year and I’ve loved just about everything I’ve tried including the IPA, Rye IPA, Goze, One Claw and the Thai beer. Just great stuff all around. Cigar City also found it’s way back to NYC, which is good since I could only bring back to much on every trip down to Tampa. Jai Alai, such a great go to IPA. Really enjoyed just about everything I had from New Glarus this year too. Wow, I wish we could get those here in NY.
And without any doubt, the best new beer bar in NYC, is the wonderful Torst in Greenpoint. A completely amazing selection, which they let you try in different sizes, 5oz, 8oz or full pour. It’s a really good looking bar too, with old wood finish and an awesome granite bar. Man, I love that place and am happy I don’t live that close, otherwise I’d be there every day.
In My Belly
Another great year for food. My thing this year was homemade risotto. I had never known it was actually pretty easy, albeit laborious to make. You get a bunch of ingredients, proteins, wine, broth, veggies and just stir. It’s actually somewhat therapeutic.
In terms of restaurants with great risotto, there’s Cafe D’Alsace in the UES which has seasonal versions, the summer seafood one being my favorite. Little Owl in the West Village is pretty good too. Risotteria isn’t half bad either. Perilla has a faro risotto that is pretty bomb too.
I tried lots of new places to eat and drink this year, some of which aren’t necessarily all that new, just to me. One of them is Gotham West Market, which has Ivan Ramen, which in itself plenty of reason to visit, but also has food from Cannibal, El Comado, Blue Bottle Coffee and Court Street Sandwich shops as well. It’s a good spot for one of those nights where your companion might not have the same food in mind. Another place is Maison Premiere, in Williamsburg, which has absinthe drinks and awesome oysters.
In One Ear
Music, this year was exceptional. Like last time, I’m going to start with some of the records that I think are good, but really don’t deserve the praise given to them. First off, is the Queens of the Stone Age. I was just expecting a lot more from the album. All the guests, including Grohl behind the kit and the record falters a bit. From what I understand, Josh Homme was going through a lot of personal stuff while making the record, and it shows. It’s a lot more intimate and heartfelt, which is great, but just not what I was expecting from QOTSA. Maybe the record will grow on me, I don’t know, it happens. A few other records that I was expecting a lot more from include the No Age, BRMC, Beach Fossils, Sigur Ros and Savages records. To me, almost all those records falter in either production, quality or lavish songwriting.
Now, onto the good…the best! Deerhunter has hit that zone when they just can’t make a bad record. They’ve hit favorite band status. They developed into one of the most outstanding American rock bands around now. Monomania could possibly be their greatest piece of work yet. It’s a little psychedelic, a little country, a little shoegaze, styled with deep southern grooves and rich melodies. It’s a rare record where every single song is exceptional and they never get old listening too. Any time, anywhere, a Monomania song comes on and I can’t resist myself. I think that makes for an album of the year, wouldn’t you say?
My second favorite album of the year The National’s Trouble Will Find Me. It’s a gorgeous record from start to finish and any other year, it’s a record of the year. In fact, I think their last 3 or 4 albums have been my record of the year. This record is so good it got the band nominated for their first ever Grammy, which is a few albums too late in my opinion. Weekend’s Mirror is just an amazing piece of gothey inspired nu-gaze that just revels in washed out guitars and deep basslines. Ex-Cops True Hallucinations was a great first release from Other Music’s new label. It’s a washy, lo-fi, dreamy soundcloud with boy/girl harmonies and jangly guitars. It sort of combines what you think some of the best records Other Music would be playing in the shop. Chvrches debut album The Bones Of What You Believe came with a ton of hype and buzz, and albums like that rarely ever meet expectations. However, the sugary synthpop and sweet melodies delivered one of the best debut albums in recent memory. The best thing about this band, is that it features old friend Iain Cook, the former leader of amazing and underrated Scottish band, Aereogramme.
The rest of the top ten is a mix of old and new favs, making great records. Girls Names, a dark post-punk/synthy groove full of a tinny and distant Scottish brogue. The New Life came out on Slumberland, one of the best labels going now. Montreal’s No Joy delivered a fantastic mix of aggresive and dreamy shoegaze with female vocals and lots of harmonies. “Blue Neck Riviera” from the quartet’s 2nd album, Wait to Pleasure, is one of the sexiest shoegaze songs I’ve ever heard, with just a bit of a dancey beat underneath the dreamy vocals. Toro y Moi’s Anything In Return sees this dude just take his unique version of chillwave to the next level, with lush tones, R&B beats, a little funk, some dance beats and even some bubblegum pop. Next up is an album I sadly slept of for a good portion of the year and it wasn’t until I heard Aluna George’s song on their album, Settle, that Disclosure‘s sound really hit me. Despite being young, the brother duo are 21 and 19, they hit on various subgenre’s of the dance scene, even recalling some early 90’s Chicago house. This record kills it, dance album of the year! Boom, I said it. And to close out the top ten, and believe me this was a tough one. But I’m going with a band I dissed the last time I did this, Cults. Last time I felt they didn’t give enough new songs on their album to warrant a spot, this time, wow, they raised the bar. Not only did they deliver a record, Static, full of sweet girl-pop melodies, but found a darker, moodier and a bit more rocking side. Word has it, they made this record after breaking up, which in itself is tough, but the fact the record is awesome, makes it that much better and easier to understand the title and the edginess.
From there, so many great albums from old mainstays, BRMC, Black Angels, M.I.A., Phoenix, Strokes, Tomahawk, !!!, New Order, Biffy Clyro, Telekinisis, Rogue Wave, Shearwater, Nine Inch Nails and more, plus one favorite bands of the past 20+ years, My Bloody Valentine returned with a vengeance! Some side projects I really enjoyed, including Gruff from Super Furry Animals’ Neon Neon and Heterotic featuring Gravenhurst. Neil Halstad remembered how to play shoegaze on his new project, Black Hearted Brother. New stuff from upstarts and newer acts Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr., Beach Fossils, Aluna George, CharlieXCX, Foals, Iceage, Strfkr, Big Dick, Ruby Sons, Mmoths, Daughter and True Widow. Additionally, there were some really solid EP’s from Wild Nothing, MMoths, Gems, and a band that released multiple EP’s, enough to probably make an LP, Cold Cave.
Listening Pile: Deerhunter – Back To The Middle – A great song and odd video. Not my favorite song on the album, but this video is so odd and amusing, I had to include it in my post. Shot in London and directed by Olivier Groulx, the video features Durassie Kiangangu as its main protagonist…in drag. Which if you saw Deerhunter in concert recently, you’d realize singer Bradford Cox wears a dress while playing.