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Diarrhea Planet leads the local charge in a year full of powerful releases and big developments

2013 Year in Music

Diarrhea Planet - PHOTO: ERIC ENGLAND
  • Photo: Eric England
  • Diarrhea Planet

In 2013, Nashville's already internationally recognized homegrown music scene blossomed even further, with hard-touring, critically lauded DIY rock 'n' rollers like the mirthful but earnest boys of Diarrhea Planet leading the way via great releases and herculean live shows. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center was saved thanks to billionaire benefactor Martha Ingram, while the local hip-hop scene thrived and the women of country music slayed the boys in the quality department. There were outstanding releases from local blues and jazz artists, while Music City finally began to pull in the big-ticket pop and metal shows that eluded us for so long. We gained new labels and music-biz hubs, but lost many musicians and boosters who made invaluable contributions to the fabric of our city. And we played ourselves on TV.

In our annual Year in Music issue, we delve into the year's most interesting stories, rank our favorite albums of the year and revisit some of the best live performances. In our annual Rock 'n' Roll Poll, we ask some of Nashville's rockers, rollers, movers and shakers to weigh in on yet another landmark year in Music City, "it city" or no.

This Stuff Happened in 2013

Underdogs and Unlikely Heroes

From Diarrhea Planet to The Weeks and beyond, 2013 was a year led by scrappy underdogs

If any theme unites the critically acclaimed and breakthrough local releases of 2013, it's that they came from underdogs and unlikely champions — snot-nosed punks, troubled troubadours given a second chance, breakout stars and beyond.

In August, this week's cover boys, Diarrhea Planet, released the powerfully poppy party-punk platter I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams via JEFF the Brotherhood's homegrown label Infinity Cat Records. After guffawing at their gross-out-by-design band name, members of the national press started to actually pay attention to the quality of the record — DP fetched positive reviews from Rolling Stone and SPIN, and Pitchfork dubbed theirs the "greatest live show on earth." Even so, the Helen Lovejoy types among us still can't seem to get over their damn name. One Belle Meade News reader went so far as to write to the paper's "Ticked Off" section, noting that "if we have to live on a 'diarrhea planet,' show me where to get off!" Something tells me the Belle Meader didn't happen to catch DP's packed and — if you'll pardon the unfortunate adjective — explosive album release show at Exit/In.

But the Planeteers weren't the only unlikely party boys to win a serious following. Scraggly Southern-fried indie-rock troupe The Weeks — having recently relocated to Nashville from their native Mississippi — caught the ear of the brothers Followill, who proceeded to release the youngsters' Dear Bo Jackson LP via Kings of Leon's imprint Serpents & Snakes Records. And after slaying a full house at their headlining set during the Scene's Sounds Like Summer weekend at Cannery Ballroom in July, The Weeks returned to the Cannery complex last month for a pair of sold-out shows at Mercy Lounge.

The list stretches well outside the reaches of the local indie-and-punk set. Alt-country crooner Jason Isbell got clean, got married and released his Southeastern, a record fraught with themes of addiction and recovery and greeted with overwhelming critical praise. Darius Rucker — former leader of humdrum '90s radio rockers Hootie and the Blowfish — had a No. 1 hit on Billboard's Country Airplay chart with "Wagon Wheel" (a song partially written by Bob Dylan and fleshed out 30 years later by Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor). If you can think of a less likely sounding story from this year, I'd like to hear it. And from hip-hop stars like Starlito (whose videos have fetched literally millions of views) to female country stars like Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe (who rule the roost while male country acts continue to bore and perplex), 2013's surprises just kept on coming, with whoda-thunk-it stars rising through the ranks thanks to stand-out releases. D. PATRICK RODGERS

Best in Classical

Highs and lows in a historic 2013 season

Nashville's classical music scene was chock-full of highlights during 2013. The magnificent mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves gave an unforgettable concert at Belmont University's McAfee Concert Hall; Vortex percussion ensemble presented a rare performance of George Antheil's steamrolling Ballet mécanique at the Blair School of Music; and Alias Chamber Ensemble collaborated with Nashville Ballet and composer Kenji Bunch to present a thrilling new production of Macbeth at the Martin Center for Ballet.

Sadly, Nashville's classical year-gone-by will likely be remembered not for its glorious music, but for the Nashville Symphony's inglorious battle with its bankers. The drama began in March, when the NSO announced it would not renew its letter of credit on about $100 million in outstanding bond obligations — the orchestra used that money to build its acoustically marvelous Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Negotiations between Bank of America and the orchestra quickly broke down, and in June the bank issued a notice of foreclosure. With the assistance of billionaire benefactor Martha Ingram, the symphony brokered a last-minute deal that kept the Schermerhorn off the auction block. But the debacle left the symphony's coffers empty. So when the time came to renew the musicians' contract, symphony management initially sought steep cuts. Both parties compromised in the end, with the musicians accepting smaller cuts. The contract lasts just one year, so if the orchestra fails to raise sufficient funds this season, there will likely be more trouble ahead.

It's hard to forget the bad times, but here's what we ought to remember about the NSO's year in music: The orchestra gave a bracing rendition of John Adams' Harmonielehre, surely one of the most massive, complex and dramatic works in the entire orchestral repertoire; music director Giancarlo Guerrero continued his survey of Gustav Mahler's mighty works, leading an urgent performance of the Symphony No. 1; and the orchestra made a concert recording of Joan Tower's Violin Concerto. Regardless of what we recall of 2013, history will remember the Nashville Symphony for its stylish recordings of contemporary American music. JOHN PITCHER

Best in Hip-Hop

A year of nationally recognized releases and heavy litigation

If 2011 was the year Nashville realized it had a hip-hop scene, and 2012 was the year we hit critical mass, then 2013 was definitely the year people outside Middle Tennessee noticed we're primed to blow up. It wasn't like the hip-hop scene was granted "Next Big Thing" status — that would be a bit premature — but 2013 saw a number of homegrown artists gain national traction that wasn't accompanied by the usual "Shucks, Nashville has more than country" commentary.

While local hip-hop followers are used to the idea that hip publications from coast to coast can get on board with the East Side's finest, Cashville's prince, the man, the myth, the legend, Starlito, we weren't expecting Step Brothers 2, his collaboration with Don Trip, to be premiered via NPR. (We like to imagine Terri Gross and Garrison Keillor puffing mad blunts before the decision.) He's even gone on to release another album since — last month's Fried Turkey.

We also weren't expecting 2011 Scene Year in Music coverboy Dee Goodz to get shot — apparently he wasn't the intended target, and it was merely a flesh wound to the shin. Not that it slowed him down: He was playing a show the very next night. Anyway, we definitely weren't surprised when hip-hop bible The Source gave the nod to his latest mixtape, Donny Cash.

We did, however, get a little sideswiped by Waffle House's cease-and-desist letter to Jelly Roll for his Whiskey, Weed and Waffle House mixtape cover. (C'mon, Waffle House, don't let the legal department spoil a great endorsement.) And we were shocked that Sony's bullpen of lawyers had Gummy Soul's Bizarre Tribe: A Quest to the Pharcyde scrubbed from the face of the Internet for copyright infringement due to the record's use of A Tribe Called Quest samples. (OK, we weren't that shocked.) The only true surprise is that Nashville hasn't taken over the whole damn game yet. SEAN L. MALONEY

Best in Jazz and Blues

Featuring some of the finest local concerts and releases in years

If there's a word that best describes and assesses the state of jazz and blues in Nashville this year, it's "activism." 

The Nashville Jazz Workshop continued to lead the way in live concerts and academic empowerment, assisted by the Schmerhorn's jazz and pops series as well as occasional Ryman and War Memorial events. Any year in which Wayne Shorter, the duo of Bob James and David Sanborn, Al Jarreau, Michael McDonald, Chaka Khan, Aaron Neville and The O'Jays are among the headliners is a good one.

Likewise, many gifted talents demonstrated the value and impact of continued, aggressive advocacy: twin brothers and noted players Rahsaan and Roland Barber, who represent our jazz scene with widely recognized talent; the tireless husband-and-wife team behind the NJW's nonstop array of treats, Roger Spencer and Lori Mechem; the folks at WFSK and WMOT, who keep jazz on the broadcast airwaves; the duo of Beegie Adair and Monica Ramey, who again represented Music City at New York's Birdland; plus musician/writer Ted Drozdowski and musician/advocate Marion James, who keep the blues alive locally through Drozdowki's Scissorsmen and James' annual reunion/benefit concerts.

From labels like Jazz Music City (which featured exciting new releases from the Nashville Jazz Orchestra and Imer Santiago) to such indie companies as Delta Groove (which issued the superb "Drink Drank Drunk" from the Andy T- Nick Nixon Band and offerings from The McCrary Sisters, Tim Dillinger and jazz vocalist Lynn Lewis), there was no shortage of strong material from area artists. Area favorite Annie Sellick released her first Christmas album (Let's Make a Christmas Story), and ace vocalist Sandra Dudley and pianist Lori Mechem issued their excellent tribute work All of My Life — A Tribute to Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Plus there was the comprehensive Bethlehem reissue series supervised by Franklin-based Naxos. RON WYNN

Best in Metal

Heavy shows in progress, and heavy albums in the works

The big news in metal this year was that it happened, and it happened a lot — from the DIY venues to the local enormo-dome, Music City was buzzing with the sounds of brutality. And while it might have been a slow year for local releases — pretty much everybody from Laser Flames and the Great Big News to Forest of Tygers to Black Tar Prophet were in the studio, so expect a bumper crop of new LPs in 2014 — it was not a slow year for local shows and local bands opening up for bigger out-of-town acts.

Maybe that shouldn't feel like an accomplishment. But there was a time when Nashville was lucky to get one good metal show per month, and now we get to pick and choose what we want to see. Maybe next year all the Americana kids will get lost in the woods, and metalheads will get Music City to ourselves. We can only hope.

The pinnacle of 2013 for the hesher set was when Ed Force One touched down at Bridgestone Arena and metal legends — or gods, or unholy demons that cannot be slowed or dulled by the march of time, or whatever you want to call them — Iron Maiden reminded us exactly why they are legends. Or gods, or whatever. And openers Megadeth weren't bad either, which was a surprise, given Dave Mustaine's slide into right-wing lunacy.

In club land, Nashville had a stellar appearance from U.K. new-school legends Orange Goblin (it's a veritable British Invasion!), Austin's The Sword destroyed again, doom pioneers Saint Vitus slayed, and Glenn Danzig didn't rage at our photographer when he came to town (as he did during his Bonnaroo 2012 performance). Between Springwater and The Owl Farm, it seemed like every underground sensation from Windhand to Wolvhammer (and a few bands whose names don't start with a W) graced us with their unholy presence.

Oh yeah, and Sweden's Ghost B.C. released one of the biggest metal records of the year (Infestissumam), which just happened to be recorded over in Berry Hill at the renowned Blackbird Studio. Which totally explains why we heard so many Scandinavian accents at Twin Kegs' shuffleboard table back in 2012. SEAN L. MALONEY

Best in Country: Women Take the Lead

From real talk to intelligent songwriting, it's the gals who brought authenticity back to country music in 2013

Less than a month ago, Loretta Lynn had the Presidential Medal of Freedom hung around her neck for "singing what no one wanted to talk about" in her heyday. It's a different world now, but once more one in which country's women have to speak their minds from the format's margins — over the roar of revving truck engines on the male-dominated charts, at that.

The testosterone fest didn't stop some bold women from bringing it in 2013. There's no more dramatic example than Brandy Clark, a longtime Music Row tunesmith who finally released an unassumingly consequential album of her own. She didn't take outlandish risks on 12 Stories so much as revive country's tradition of real talk by empathetically and wittily narrating the working-class woman's struggle to get by without dying inside. Then there's Clark's sometime co-writer Kacey Musgraves, who introduced an astute, millennial voice to the country conversation. On Musgraves' hip, grounded album Same Trailer, Different Park, she dared address the constricting side of small-town existence and raise a joint to expressions of difference.

Speaking of weed, it wasn't the fact that Ashley Monroe sang about pot spicing up sex lives that set this year's Like a Rose apart — it was her sumptuous hillbilly soul and the emotional intelligence of her songwriting. She also had a hand in Pistol Annies' Annie Up, with its spiky production, potent points of view and plenty bankable personalities. Second-chancers Kellie Pickler and Julie Roberts made anything-but-generic offerings, too. But judging from the singles ruling radio, they would've all gotten farther with fist-pumping, backwoods party anthems. JEWLY HIGHT

Worst in Country: Bro Country and Hick-Hop

The dudes of country music keep this year's lowest common denominator extra low

Let's face it: Fratty alpha-male-stylin' Top 40 country tropes the lyrical likes of trucks, beaches and beers are no new thang. But in 2013, the Kenny Powers-worthy caricature-inducing sentiments of lowest-common-denominator-panderers like Jason Aldean (whose 2013 ode to Joe "Pickup Man" Diffie, "1994," features such mind-numbing pearls as "So go on tell your mom, tell all your friends / that your new favorite color is John Deere green / Hop in this truck, aka time machine"), dreamboat Jake Owen, duke of all things tailgates and tan lines Luke Bryan, and Blake Shelton may have finally hit critical mass when New York Magazine's Jody Rosen coined the term "bro country."

At the same time, bro country's rap-infused, not-so-distant cousin "hick-hop" wasn't far behind. In April, the subgenre jumped the shark with "Accidental Racist," Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's disastrous multicultural attempt to bury the South's whole historical race hatchet. With its comparisons of gold chains to slave chains, the tune proved itself The Day the Clown Cried of jaw-dropping country music missteps. Nevertheless, Affliction-shirt-come-to-life Belmont alum duo Florida Georgia Line and rapper Nelly had an easier time conflating their respective cultures on their ubiquitous hick-hop collaboration "Cruise," which prevailed as the "Get Lucky" or "Blurred Lines" of the year on radio dials anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon.

In pop music, styles are cyclical, and with any luck bro country and hick-hop probably aren't immune to titular and thematic truck and tailgate fatigue. Poison, RATT and Warrant probably thought their party at the top of the charts was going to last forever, too. Will Bryan, Owen, Aldean and the rest suffer hangovers in 2014? ADAM GOLD

Bottom Tier No More

Nashville sees a slew of big-ticket announcements

For years it was the worst part about being a music fan in Music City: bands not coming here. All the biggest tours and hottest up-and-comers hopscotched over us en route to Memphis, Atlanta, hell, even Birmingham, making Nashville a secondary market that came second to other secondary markets like St. Louis and Louisville. But if those days aren't over, they're at least numbered.

This year Nashville rocked a concert calendar that could've fooled you into thinking we've got a nearby ocean, nabbing appearances from hot-ticket A-listers the likes of Thom Yorke's Atoms for Peace supergroup — whose U.S. tour included only 10 dates — Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West. And metalheads got their first live Iron Maiden fix in 21 years. Same goes for fans of skate-punk legends Bad Religion, who played Nashville for the first time in its decades-spanning career. Even once-relegated-to-obscurity cult singer turned Academy Award-winning-documentary subject Rodriguez tacked a Ryman gig on his insanely anticipated (and maybe only) U.S. tour.

That uptick in through-Nashville-routed itineraries is sure to continue in 2014, with coveted concert draws such as former hometown girl Miley Cyrus, hometown boys Kings of Leon, recent Alt-Rock du Soleil phenoms Imagine Dragons, Bridgestone-bound art-rock superstars Arcade Fire and J.D. Salinger-esque indie troupe Neutral Milk Hotel having already announced Music City shows. They join acts the likes of Pixies, Haim, Cher and One Direction, the latter being the first non-country act to headline LP Field since 'N Sync. ADAM GOLD

In Memoriam

Heartbreaking losses in all corners of Music City

In a town whose lifeblood is music, seldom do we see a calendar year devoid of loss within the musicians community. From one of the very biggest names in the history of country music (George Jones, who died at 81 and whose legacy was celebrated at Bridgestone Arena in November with the "Playin' Possum: The Final No Show" tribute), to behind-the-scenes figures like longtime record executive Jim Foglesong, 2013 was no exception. World-famous producer and raconteur Cowboy Jack Clement (whose previously announced induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame took place shortly after his death) died at 82, and outlaw-country cult figure Tompall Glaser succumbed to illness at the age of 79.

More shocking but no less heartbreaking were the losses of younger Nashvillians — such as beloved punk-scene champion, organizer, blogger and bassist Ben Todd, who took his life at the age of 24. There was country singer Mindy McCready, who — after long struggling with addiction and mental health issues — took her life at the age of 37, and 44-year-old country artist Wayne Mills, who was shot and killed at downtown bar Pit and Barrel. Though he died in his adopted city of Chattanooga, the death of Marc Trovillion (former bassist for renowned Music City indie-country stalwarts Lambchop, who died at 56 due to a heart attack) was felt deeply in Nashville. D. PATRICK RODGERS


Bigger-capacity venues beget bigger-capacity shows

As noted above, major touring bands once habitually skipped Nashville while routing their way through the Southeast. The most severe liability was Music City's then almost nonexistent options in the mid- to high-capacity venue department. In 2013, Nashville has taken the tiniest steps forward, with outdoor venues stepping up their game and plans for the future taking root along the Cumberland River.

The clear headliner is Mayor Karl Dean's plan to build a 6,500-seat riverfront amphitheater on the former thermal plant grounds  — putting a permanent structure on The Lawn at Riverfront Park site, where festivals like Southern Ground have already taken temporary residence. And while that dream is still in the distance, smaller outdoor venues like The Woods at Fontanel have stepped up by booking sold-out shows by contemporary artists like fun., even bringing Sigur Rós back to town after a seven-year absence. The real question is that if we build it and they come, will Nashville's notorious status as a tough crowd lighten up as well? LANCE CONZETT

The Business of Music

Music City saw a boom of startups and transplants in 2013

Just when you thought you couldn't possibly see more out-of-state license plates in the Barista Parlor parking lot, think again: Not only are coastal natives populating our neighborhoods (ahem, this writer included) but they're — quite thankfully — moving their companies here along with them.

Massachusetts-based roots label Rounder Records announced the transition of their entire operation to Nashville, and Knoxville-based promoters AC Entertainment, New York-based publicity firm Shorefire Media and Raleigh, N.C.-based royalty-management firm Royalty Exchange all opened local hubs this year.

But startups are blossoming too: MusicSynk, an online licensing tool; Bandposters, which helps design and distribute promotional posters; Songspace, a collaborative network for songwriters and FLO{Thinkery}, which aids big names like Kenny Chesney in growing their brands. They all debuted this year, proving old Music Row has leaped into the digital age and continued to round out into a more robust, non-country-radio-dependent industry. MARISSA MOSS

Nashville on TV

Nashville continues to play itself on network television and beyond

I'm not ashamed to admit that I didn't think ABC's Nashville would last beyond a handful of episodes. Most television shows are quickly canceled, for one, and for another, I just didn't expect viewers in the rest of America would care about sexy goings-on in the South — proverbial "It City" or no. But the ratings have been eking upwards in this second season, and the series was even nominated for two Emmys: one for lead actress Connie Britton (though Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes is the show's true spiritual core) and, in a nod to the music of Music City, one nomination for original music and lyrics.

And our city's not just on network prime time: There's the Lifetime reality show Chasing Nashville, the upcoming TNT reality show Private Lives of Nashville Wives, the upcoming A&E reality show Crazy Hearts: Nashville and the Bravo reality show Thicker Than Water — all cartoonish renderings, to be sure. ASHLEY SPURGEON

Playing With Your Food

Zac Brown and Kings of Leon make Nashville the music-and-food-festival capital of the world

Not only has Nashville finally turned the dreaded "not just country" corner, but with renowned restaurants the likes of The Catbird Seat and Husk, it's turned the "not just shitty food" corner as well. This year, as artists found new, more creative and mouth-watering ways to brand themselves, Nashville found itself at the nexus where music and food meet — at least when it comes to the Zac Brown Band. In September, the country-jam stars' Southern Ground Music and Food Festival took over The Lawn at Riverfront Park for the second year in a row. Doubling attendance from its previous year, the two-day culinary and musical blowout featured performances by rock stars such as Grace Potter and John Fogerty and artisan cuisine from visiting chefs Giuseppe Tentori and 2013 James Beard Award winner Stephanie Izard and local vendors including Riffs Fine Street Food and Peg Leg Porker.

By sheer coincidence, this year's festival came only a week after Kings of Leon launched their weekend-long Music City Eats food festival. A more exclusive affair than Brown's 30,000-capacity feast, and one that Mayor Karl Dean praised as an effort to boost Nashville's rep as a "food city of distinction," the Followills tapped local talent like City House's Tandy Wilson and flew in celeb chefs like Jonathan Waxman and Donald Link to cook gourmet grub, host demonstrations and engage in panel discussions for local and tourist foodies (who paid $275-$500 a head).

While fine fare might have been the main draw at the Followills' major munch, the shindig boasted a music component in Petty Fest — an all-star jam featuring the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Norah Jones, The Weeks and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney kicking out heartland rocker Tom Petty's greatest hits. ADAM GOLD

Bounce With Us

Nashville embraces the Southern-fried "bounce" phenomenon, and O.G. twerking

Long before the world flipped its collective lid over Miley Cyrus' televised rump maneuvers, a handful of dedicated Nashville DJs and promoters were spreading the gospel of bounce, an energetic and sexually explicit variety of hip-hop born in New Orleans, whose jaw- and booty-dropping dance shows gave birth to twerking. Big Freedia and Katey Red, the two MCs who reign supreme in bounce, not only destroy audiences — as we've seen in their multiple Music City appearances this year — but also blaze a trail for equality in hip-hop, a genre that's been notoriously uncomfortable with homosexuality, if not downright hostile. STEPHEN TRAGESER

Best in Shows 2013

The Scene's live review column, The Spin, checked out more than 100 shows this year — here are the highlights

Honoring a Legend: A Tribute to Cowboy Jack Clement

Cowboy Jack Clement didn't become a country legend by playing by the rules. So leave it to him to essentially stage his own wake seven months before succumbing to liver cancer in August. In addition to the 2013 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee's final live performance, this sprawling, Opry-style tribute — held in January at War Memorial Auditorium — featured everyone from Dan Auerbach and Jakob Dylan to Charley Pride, Kris Kristofferson and John Prine, along with touching video messages from the likes of Bono and Michelle Obama.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The ghosts of country music past that haunt the Ryman ain't got shit on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who curdled blood at the tabernacle with terrifying performances of "Stagger Lee," "The Mercy Seat" and other popular favorites.

Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam never claimed Nashville, and Nashville never claimed him, but you'd never know it from the gushing reaction the singer got at his two-night Ryman stand in April. The shows sold out in record time for Yoakam, who delivered two dizzying sets of rockabilly barnburners and tender tear-in-beer ballads for the ages.

Willie Nelson CMT Crossroads Taping

It was one of those "only in Nashville" moments — getting to see Neil Young serenade 80-year-old birthday boy Willie Nelson with a spellbinding "Long May You Run" in front of a crowd of less than 200 at Third Man Records. The Redheaded Stranger dueting with the likes of Norah Jones, Jamey Johnson, Sheryl Crow and Ashley Monroe wasn't too shabby either.


Queen Bey coming to Bridgestone Arena was already about as big a BFD as getting pizza by the slice (finally!). But the Vegas-worthy costume-change-, sparks-, confetti- and bangers-boasting gig garnered national attention when Mrs. Carter led the crowd in a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin as the news of George Zimmerman's acquittal broke.

Nashville Outlines at The Stone Fox

It wouldn't be another year in Nashville without JEFF the Brotherhood turning in another epic, milestone headlining set at a grassroots local-rock festival, would it? The J-Bros — with help from D. Watusi, Tristen, Ranch Ghost, Ri¢hie, The Ettes and others drew a jaw-dropping (ballpark) 4,000 fans to this inaugural block-party festival at the roughly year-old Stone Fox.

Iron Maiden

"Scream for me, Nashville!" You'd have lost your voice if you did it every time impossibly on-point Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson commanded. Nevertheless, the 55-year-old sorcerer-esque metal god held high notes at the top of his lungs for two straight, pyro-replete hours at Bridgestone Arena, as his band busted out "Run to the Hills" and "The Trooper" with the same galloping gusto of their Reagan-era heavy metal heyday.

Nine Inch Nails
  • Photo: Diana Lee Zadlo

So captivating were the Matrix-trumping visuals and immersive industrial sonic accompaniment of Trent Reznor's career-re-defining high-art, high-budget Tension 2013 Tour that the crowd at the criminally undersold Bridgestone Arena didn't even seem to notice the omission of "Closer"— Nine Inch Nails' signature '90s hit — from the set list.

Justin Timberlake

Day of show, some tickets for Justin Timberlake's sold-out Bridgestone Arena gig were going for dollar amounts in the thousands — a small price to pay for a three-hour spectacle of a modern-pop Babylon. Seriously, motherfucker brought sexy to the back of the house, floating over the crowd, dancers in tow, on a transparent, moving bridge like a suit-and-tie-clad Silver Surfer of smooth jams.

Kanye West

Despite a truck crash that damaged some of Kanye West's famously ambitious production and forced him to cancel multiple stops on his Yeezus Tour, the notoriously frank rapper still managed to make his Thanksgiving Eve date at Bridgestone Arena, where he called out Nike head Mark Parker in a 20-minute rant, had an onstage come-to-Jesus moment with his very own "White Jesus," donned multiple Maison Martin Margiela masks and, oh yeah, even delivered some hits to an undersold but enthralled audience. ADAM GOLD

Top Local Albums of 2013: The Nashville Scene Critics' Poll

Using an algorithm (read: spreadsheet) first concocted for 2010's Year in Music critics' poll, we at the Scene tabulated 2013's results based on the ballots of our 20 go-to music writers, both staff and contributing. Because only full-length albums were eligible for voting, critically beloved EPs and singles such as Bully's Bully EP, Blank Range's Phase II cassette, Ponychase's "Parade of Youth" single, Andrew Combs and Steelism's "Emily"/"China Plate" split 7-inch, Plastic Visions' Plastic Visions EP and more were not included in this list. Certain would-be contenders — Jensen Sportag's excellent Stealth of Days and Paul Burch and WPA Ballclub's Fevers, for instance — were released after the ballot deadline.

Just shy of making the Top 10 — and it was a very close race — were Forget Cassettes' O Cursa, The Wood Brothers' The Muse, Cage the Elephant's Melophobia and Brandy Clark's 12 Stories. Los Colognes' Working Together, Useless Eaters' Hypertension, Starlito and Don Trip's Step Brothers 2, L'Orange's The City Under the City, James Wallace and the Naked Light's More Strange News From Another Star, Fielded's Ninety Thirty Thirty, Sturgill Simpson's High Top Mountain, Night Beds' Country Sleep, Lindi Ortega's Tin Star, Cy Barkley and the Way Outsiders' Mutability, Caveman's Fucking Hip Hop, Tim Easton's Not Cool, Jason Isbell's Southeastern and Amanda Shires' Down Fell the Doves all received multiple votes, as well. While we'd love to geek out in regard to all the aforementioned records, we had to cut the list off somewhere. Without further ado, here are the top 11 local records of 2013:

10. (TIE) Quichenight, Quichenight III (self-released)

It's too perfect that Quichenight III — Brett Rosenberg's third album under the name Quichenight, if you don't count 2011's A Very Quichey Christmas cassette — sneaked in here surreptitiously at No. 10. All of Music Row's writers and all of Music Row's production couldn't in a million years produce an album like this: a lo-fi collection of 17 tongue-in-cheek power-pop numbers and guitar goofs. Recorded onto a four-track Tascam Portastudio in the "bowels of Battle Tapes" (Rosenberg is the roommate of Battle Tapes Recording honcho Jeremy Ferguson, who has worked on releases by several of the artists on this list), Quichenight III is like some alternate-dimension collaboration between Captain Beefheart, Robert Pollard and Alex Chilton — and it features mirthful covers of the Jim Lee-penned "Let's Dance" as well as The Beach Boys' "I Wanna Pick You Up." D. Patrick Rodgers

10. (TIE) Promised Land Sound, Promised Land Sound (Paradise of Bachelors)

Wearing classic country-rock influences the likes of The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Band and Brinsley Schwarz on their loosely rolled-up flannel sleeves, Promised Land Sound bar-rock and gang-vocal their way through a gem-after-gem collection of life-affirming cuts that sound like long-lost top-shelf outtakes from any of the plates in their sure-to-be-excellent record collections. On this must-have self-titled debut, guitars jangle and shimmer, organs swoon and swell, and pedal steel weeps over bopping, bouncing bass and back-pocket shuffle on road-trip-ready highlights like "Weed and Wine" and the saloon sing-along "Make It Through the Fall" — the peaks of a sonic landscape where there ain't a valley in sight. Seriously, when you can deliver songs as simply great, eternal and finely spun as the working-class country-rock grandeur of "For His Soul" or the album-closer and crown jewel "Fading Fast" — which, with its yearning melody and equally arresting descending riff, seizes the heart like a vice grip — you don't need to reinvent the wheel. Adam Gold

9. Jonny Fritz, Dad Country (ATO Records)

For an album chock-full of trad-country influences like Don Williams and Buck Owens, Dad Country (the first album under the "Jonny Fritz" moniker from the artist formerly known as Jonny Corndawg) is very California. Dad Country was produced by Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith at Jackson Browne's L.A. studio and boasts a hi-fi, heavily orchestrated, cinematic sound that owes as much to Bakersfield as it does Music City or The Lone Star State. With the name change comes a more serious-minded, refined sound than on the preceding pair of Corndawg LPs. That said, Fritz's trademark playful, dark, literate, Lee Hazlewood-worthy wit is still in full effect. A heartfelt pain radiates in Fritz's glowing, buttery tenor as he sings about "hawking up green gobs and living on cough drops" (in the cold-and-flu sufferers' lament "Fever Dreams"), calls out name-dropping "scratchers of their asses" (in the beautifully mournful indictment "Social Climbers") or similar phonies who are gonna "rub your shoulders and buy you coke" (in the carefree, tropical-tinged toe-tapper "Wrong Crowd"). Adam Gold

7. (TIE) The Features, The Features (Serpents & Snakes Records)

It feels weird for this record to be down at No. 7, but hey, they'll forever remain No. 1 in my heart and in my "Bands We've Seen a Billion Times" list. No, seriously, I've probably seen this band more times in the past decade than I've seen my own family. So when we say that The Features is the local indie-rock stalwarts' most enveloping, intriguing, nuanced and beguiling record to date, just know that I've done a lot of research. On their fourth official full-length — though many a diehard counts bootlegs of unreleased sessions as Features albums — we find our hometown heroes getting funkier, weirder and deeper, augmenting their always-catchy New Wave-tinged power pop with more adventurous tones, structures and songwriting. Sean L. Maloney

7. (TIE) Torres, Torres (self-released)

No other Nashville artist went from zero to Pitchfork faster than Torres, the project of Belmont graduate Mackenzie Scott. Torres' eponymous debut, recorded at Tony Joe White's home studio in Franklin, made fast fans of everyone from U.K. critics to fellow former Middle Tennessean Sharon Van Etten, whom Scott joined in New York not long after playing her album release show at The Basement. There are moments when Torres sounds like the hastily pieced-together artifact it is, but it brings the feels. And there's no denying Scott's piercing lyricism and haunting delivery, as evidenced by the album's lead single "Honey" — which, amid the fuzzed-out guitar and skeletal drumming, makes the act of ashing into a coffee cup a thing of ravishment and almost unbearable longing. Steve Haruch

6. Those Darlins, Blur the Line (Oh Wow Dang)

For the most part, Those Darlins jettisoned the rough-and-tumble country-punk twang of 2011's stellar garage-rock romper Screws Get Loose. On Blur the Line, the Darlins' third full-length and first without former guitarist Kelley Anderson, the band finds the happy and sometimes ecstatic (see the punk deadpan of "Optimist" or the dreamy, sugar-toothed stomper "Drive") medium between twangy delivery, girl-group hooks and harmonies and slapdash punk attack. Along the way, with the aid of ace Nashville indie-rock producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Lambchop), the band slows its rockin' roll, delivering a handful of uncharacteristically restrained, slow-drawn serenades for long, lonely drives down dark highways. Standouts include "She Blows" — a wistful psych jam about an enigmatic temptress who rocks like a hurricane — and the queasy, desert-ready dirge "Western Sky." Adam Gold

5. Hotpipes, DUST (YK Records)

In a year of one-off reunions (see also: The Privates, Apollo Up! and beyond), it was Hotpipes who took our record players by storm like few other local artists could. Reformulated as a duo and backed by a local-rock murderer's row, singer Jonathan Rogers and drummer-turned-guitarist Dan Sommers reignited the Hotpipes name with a fire that deftly surpasses their previous records, not just in momentum but also in ambition. Songs like "Answer Your Telephone" and "Magic Is Everywhere" aren't just totally righteous — they're brilliantly produced, with complex rhythms and experimental pop instrumentation that pushes DUST beyond "good power-pop record" and into the territory of "local rock classic." And don't sleep on the record's music videos, most of which were directed by Rogers — they're about as essential as the songs themselves. LANCE CONZETT

4. Caitlin Rose, The Stand-In (ATO Records)

People have gotten off on how gleefully Caitlin Rose flips the bird to the notion of innocent, delicate-flower femininity at least since her debut EP Dead Flowers. Journalists just can't resist bringing up how she loves her cigarettes and holds her liquor. But those are lightweight displays next to the deftly barbed narratives on this year's twang-pop triumph The Stand-In. Fairy-tale romance doesn't stand a chance against the sneaky-sharp pricking of Rose's character-driven storytelling — about a letdown Vegas wedding, stardom's expiration date, flings with anticlimactic endings — and the coyness of her delivery. She and her collaborators Skylar Wilson and Jordan Lehning hang it all on terrifically catchy hooks and sumptuously sunny production that often bring to mind '70s West Coast studio pop. Then comes the album's delicious surprise ending: Rose's wryly self-aware turn as an uptown blues diva, a reminder that she's not your run-of-the-mill leading lady. Jewly Hight

3. Diarrhea Planet, I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams (Infinity Cat Records)

It's possible that Diarrhea Planet will never quite escape the easy, low-hanging-fruit jabs at their name — the vapid "worst band names ever" listicles, the 140-character jokes on Twitter, the op-eds from aghast Belle Meade grandparents. But those who get caught up tittering and Twittering about a pair of words no more upsetting than "Butthole Surfers" are missing out on something honestly special. Diarrhea Planet — once the reigning kings of the house-show circuit and now endlessly touring road dogs — have done the impossible: They've matured their party-punk spectacle without aging themselves out of having fun. On I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, DP turns their quad-headed, anthemic guitar hydra away from inside jokes and toward the realities of post-collegiate anxiety, longing and the brutality of growing up. It's that kind of vulnerability that gives DP an edge when it comes to punk rock. Well. That and their four-guitar riffageddon, which immediately turns any room into the best party in town. Lance Conzett

2. William Tyler, Impossible Truth (Merge Records)

It would be easy to compare William Tyler to fellow fingerpicking virtuoso and father of American Primitivism John Fahey — I know that it'd be easy, because people do so frequently. But on Impossible Truth, the second release under his own name — and first for legendary indie label Merge Records — Tyler's playing is singular and pristine. He's accompanied by auxiliary instrumentation here and there, from the graceful swaths of cello and steel on "Cadillac Desert" to the full-band blowout of "The World Set Free." But by and large, Truth centers on Tyler's tasteful playing, which is somehow beautifully poetic and lyrical. Perhaps it was his many years playing as a sideman (with Silver Jews, Lambchop, Superdrag and more) that helped him develop such an expressive playing style. Whatever it is, Impossible Truth is among the most evocative, cinematic and expansive releases this year, locally or otherwise, and it firmly establishes what Tyler's 2010 debut Behold the Spirit suggested: that this is an artist with a strong, unique voice, and he doesn't need vocals to prove it. D. Patrick Rodgers

1. Tristen, C A V E S (PUPsnake Records)

Working in a new style can be a tough proposition for any artist. Besides the risk of alienating fans, when does the medium begin making artistic decisions for you? On C A V E S, Tristen Gaspadarek turns the roots-pop sound of her previous record Charlatans at the Garden Gate on its head, making the techniques of '80s pop work for her, showcasing her versatile voice and telling her stories — tales of greed, alienation and heartache, made poignant but never saccharine by their electronically enhanced surroundings — the way she wants. Released on Tristen's own label and funded by her fans, C A V E S is also an outstanding example of how a talented and savvy artist can thrive in the new music business. Stephen Trageser


Diarrhea Planet - PHOTO: ERIC ENGLAND
  • Photo: Eric England
  • Diarrhea Planet

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