It's been a very good year

Groups like Foxygen and Daft Punk and singers like Justin Timberlake and Kacey Musgraves have made the first half of 2013 a great time for music.

Humberto Howard
La Santa Cecilia

If the first half of 2013 is any barometer, this is going to go down as one red-hot music year. Though the demise of the powerful record company model has dimmed fame and fortune for aspiring artists, music fans have reaped the benefits. Musicmaking has been freed! Not since the 1960s has the variety of songwriting and sonic landscapes been so vast, with plenty of room for all comers.

The big albums of 2013 you probably know already. Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience is a sophisticated, sexy dance-floor smash, like the man himself. Staying on the dance floor, Daft Punk returned with an irresistible retro/disco single, “Get Lucky,” and an aptly titled album, Random Access Memories, which is bound to bring on a case of Saturday night fever.

Breakout singer/songwriter/wild child Kacey Musgraves stands apart from the overproduced Nashville grist with a clear-eyed, defiant take on life as a country girl on Same Trailer, Different Park. It’s an instant classic, first note to last.

Vampire Weekend released their third magnificent album, Modern Vampires of the City, with breathtaking songcraft and sparkling production. Lead singer/writer Ezra Koenig’s witty, knowing lyrics set a mighty high bar for any band to follow.

The National, Queens of the Stone Age, Canadian twins Tegan and Sara, Kurt Vile, French popmeisters Phoenix, legendary Brits Bloody Sunday, James Blake, and Laura Marling all came through with stirring, original works this year, every one worth a long listen.

But it’s the “hey – who’s that?” artists that have gotten 2013 off to such a rip-roaring start.

Little Green Cars’ Absolute Zero is a guileless charmer from a Dublin band with five – count ’em – five singers, all about 20 years old, and they make an endearing, harmony-rich sound that will captivate you, guaranteed.

You’ll want to check out an East Los Angeles band that defies categorization. La Santa Cecilia is truly a band without borders, seamlessly blending Tex-Mex, bossa nova, tango, and bolero influences – all with a huge dollop of soul. Charismatic lead singer Marisol Hernandez delivers spine-tingling vocals on their latest album, Treinta Dias.

Sixteen-year-old Kiwi singer/songwriter/rapper Lorde is already a big star down under. Her infectious single, “Royals,” is a timely, rare glimpse into genuine teendom.

Perhaps my favorite record of 2013 came out in January from Foxygen, two wild and crazy 20-something cats from L.A. It’s already been reviewed by us, so I won’t elaborate except to lobby for a listen, if you haven’t already. It’s pure, unhinged fun and could only have been conceived in this brave, new, post-record-company world.

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