In our Year in Music issue (Dec. 5), we at the Scene polled 20 of our contributing music writers to determine the 10 best local albums of 2013. We were pleased with the results, from the long-awaited electronic pop of Tristen's poll-topping sophomore album C A V E S to the familiar, country-tinged barroom rock of Promised Land Sound. But our burg produces more top-notch music than even our critics' poll could adequately spotlight, and thus we present the "Best Local Rock of 2013 Winter Mix." Some of the tracks below are from records that made our "Top Local Albums of 2013" list, while others landed just outside of the Top 10, and still others weren't eligible (because they were featured on EPs, singles and as digital-only releases rather than on proper long-players). Visit the Scene's music blog, NashvilleCream.com, to hear the tunes and find out where to purchase them, or stream the mix on via Spotify or Soundcloud at the bottom of this page. Thanks to contributor Stephen Trageser for tracking down all the tunes.
Quichenight, "Space Gaggers"
Local songwriter and frequent sideman Brett Rosenberg's Quichenight III was recently described by yours truly as some sort of "alternate-dimension collaboration between Captain Beefheart, Robert Pollard and Alex Chilton." Among the most presentable of the lo-fi power-pop gems on III, "Space Gaggers" is replete with Rosenberg's nimble licks and clever, biting lyrics.
Promised Land Sound, "Fadin' Fast"
With grand swaths of steel sliding across its surface, "Fadin' Fast" captures just the sort of semi-hopeful melancholy that fans of The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Band will appreciate — it's homage to the best of '60s and '70s alt. country and bar rock without being outright derivative.
Jonny Fritz, "Ain't It Your Birthday"
The artist formerly known as Jonny Corndawg may have dropped the silly surname, but he hung onto his sense of humor. A Cajun juke-joint boogie with just the right dollop of mirth, Jonny Fritz's "Ain't It Your Birthday" is a tale of self-destruction brought to you by a dude with a bit more foresight than the song's narrator.
The Features, "Won't Be Long"
Local indie-rock heroes The Features have never stopped making outsized pop music with great playing and larger-than-life melodies, and this year's The Features is no exception. A catalog standout, "Won't Be Long" sports that whole yearning-meets-triumph power-pop feel that The Features have been crafting for a decade-and-a-half.
Los Colognes, "Working Together"
With shades of The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," The Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey" and Wilco's Sky Blue Sky, the titular tune from Los Colognes' debut LP Working Together quickly cemented the country-jam-pop ensemble's place on the local scene with a catchy riff and a sanguine message.
Bad Cop, "My Dying Days"
The bad boys of Bad Cop are known for stirring up trouble — so much so, in fact, that it's easy to occasionally forget that they actually make pretty good garage-punky rock 'n' roll as well. Take, for instance, "My Dying Days," the closing track from this summer's The Light On EP: When frontman Adam Moult is just singing about getting fucked up and being a mess, he's quite charming. Doesn't hurt that the guitar riff is earworm-y as hell.
The Weeks, "Brother in the Night"
A brass-adorned dose of Southern soul-grunge from The Weeks' first Serpents & Snakes Records full-length Dear Bo Jackson, "Brother in the Night" is a crime-spree ballad that's a little rough around the edges. It's a bit unclear exactly what sort of illegal acts our narrator has been up to — he definitely killed somebody, and there's blood money involved — but it certainly ain't bad for a pack of Mississippi youngsters.
Caitlin Rose, "Waitin' "
And hey, it's the only song on this mix to have been featured on ABC's Nashville (though we have spotted Hayden Panettiere enjoying a performance from The Weeks, so who knows about next season). "Waitin' " is but one of — as Scene contributor Jewly Hight puts it — the "deftly barbed narratives on this year's twang-pop triumph The Stand-In," but it's the only one that Nashville's Clare Bowen crooned along to from beneath her pile of impossibly blond hair.
Blank Range, "Scrapin' "
Local-rock fans will recognize Blank Range from the members' various other gigs, but on the A-side from their first 7-inch, they find their own urgent Southern-tinged garage-rocking groove. I'll do my best to avoid making a second Replacements reference on this list and just say it's a damn fine rock song.
William Tyler, "A Portrait of Sarah"
Perhaps the coolest thing about local guitar virtuoso William Tyler's "A Portrait of Sarah" is its music video, a tribute to Monte Hellman's 1971 cult road flick Two-Lane Blacktop. The song itself — like the rest of Tyler's Merge debut Impossible Truth — is beautiful and evocative, with Tyler tastefully showcasing his immense talent.
Tristen, "Gold Star"
From the No. 1 album in our critics' poll comes this electronic-pop ballad, which swirls and twinkles with string arrangements, backing vocals, sundry percussion and Tristen's own pristine lead vocals. C A V E S fetched wide acclaim this year for its skillfully crafted, thoughtful synth pop, and "Gold Star" is among the most beguiling tracks on the record.
Jason Isbell, "New South Wales"
Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell made an enormous splash with this year's Southeastern, a record made following the singer's time in a rehab facility. With Townes Van Zandt-like intimacy, "New South Wales" tells of Isbell's Australian tour with his pal (and Van Zandt's namesake) Justin Townes Earle — a time that Isbell described to NPR's Terry Gross as "debaucherous."
Sturgill Simpson, "Some Days"
What people mean when they say "real country" is Sturgill Simpson's High Top Mountain, which rightfully found itself atop several year-end best-of-country lists (from SPIN to Entertainment Weekly and beyond). Simpson's gruff delivery and country shuffle recall rough-hewn greats like Merle and Buck, and High Top's "Some Days" sports just the slightest touch of Larry Jon Wilson's country funk. Great stuff.
Hotpipes, "Answer Your Telephone"
A busy, whirring maelstrom of New Wave-inflected indie rock, "Answer Your Telephone" is among the most insistent songs on the recently re-formed and retooled Hotpipes' comeback effort, DUST.
Mystery Twins, "Mary"
Featuring one-half of longtime local rock 'n' roll quartet The Clutters, Mystery Twins make a sort of minimalist, garage-rockified version of old-school coed R&B acts like Mickey and Sylvia, Ike and Tina, and Inez and Charlie Foxx.
Those Darlins, "That Man"
The biggest, most gut-wrenching tune on Those Darlins' latest and most evolved LP, the Roger Moutenot-produced Blur the Line, "That Man" finds frontwoman Jessi Darlin howling with soul-punk defiance like some strange hybrid of Cherie Currie and James Brown.