The best songs, wrote legendary music critic Ralph Gleason in 1971,
. . . please the ear and they please the mind. They ring in your head long after the radio is off. They come at you out of unexpected corners of your thoughts, are sparked again by shadows and shafts of sunlight and the very process of living through a day brings them into your mind.
Ralph J. Gleason: “The Dream Simply Isn’t Over,” Rolling Stone, 28 Oct. 1971
In 2013 a handful of songs rang in our heads long after the iPod was off.
Why? Through melody, rhythm, lyrics or some unknowable quality arising from all of these, these songs engage the mind by way of the emotions.
Free of the bombast afflicting most contemporary popular music, these songs appeal to our appreciation for subtlety, simplicity, and craft. Their creators interrogate the popular culture the way a collagist interrogates their materials.
Millennials all, these artists show a willingness to critique their own generation and, at the same time, show the pragmatic tolerance this generation is known for. They also exemplify the rebellious questioning of social norms by youth subcultures since the jazz age. Classism, middle-class hypocrisies, and sexism are all targets.
And so, here are 5 songs that mattered in 2013:
Haim: “The Wire”
Valerie June: “Workin’ Woman Blues”
Kacey Musgraves: “Merry Go Round”
Waxahatchee: “Peace and Quiet”
© Donald E. Armstrong and Material Practices, 2013