Top 89 Staff Picks: Mark Wheat, Host

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Top 89
Our annual poll, the Top 89 (of each year) collects of our audience's favorite songs. (MPR Graphic / Tracy Kompelien)

Albums


(In alphabetical order.)

Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Arctic Monkeys - AM
Cloud Cult - Love
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
Polica - Shulamith
Savages - Silence Yourself
Tosca - Odeon
Various Artists - Song For Slim

Originally I had whittled this list down to a Top 10 but it included Brian Eno's Lux which is perhaps the album I listened to most this year. Then I went back to check when it had come out and it was last November and was actually on my 2012 list, and I noticed that last year I only picked 9 albums so I thought I would continue that tradition again!

I must say that in retrospect I wouldn't call it a stellar year for discovering new music that I love. With exception of the spectacular debut from Savages this list is dominated by old tried and true musical friends. In fact in the case of Reflektor it's a combination of two of my faves if you include the producer James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Despite that, I was not sure it would work for me, but he melding of the minds that went on to produce this new one is breathtaking.

It's always pleasing to see artists that you have loved for years, like Arctic Monkeys, blow up big time. They're playing Madison Square Garden on their next tour here and First Avenue on Valentine's Day. And the French duo Daft Punk, who I used to spin a lot in my dance floor DJ days, had a hooj breakout into the mainstream with "Get Lucky". And the Austrian duo Tosca who I used to play at downtempo DJ gigs and still form the base of our home soundtrack, came back with a stellar release.

Another old fave Nick Cave had his highest profile year ever, too, with a double performance at Coachella with his other band Grinderman. I recently finished a career retrospective by Uncut magazine which served to make the point that he's perhaps the most vital artist to come out of the punk music scene, who's still making terrific albums, and getting rave reviews for his energetic live performances. On top of that, he's authored two novels, several films and scored some soundtracks. He'll be back playing an extensive tour here in 2014, including June 21 at the State Theater.

I must admit that I've not been able to spend too much time yet with the very recently released compilation of Slim Dunlap's songs. I've always appreciated him highly as a fan of The Replacements and he did a solo benefit for my first local music show back in the late '90s. He's a sweet guy who is still suffering terribly after a stroke last year. Of course the project was also the catalyst for the rest of the band to reconvene, which supplied my musical highlight of the year, their show in Chicago.

Two other fine locals round out my list and they could perhaps be considered the yin and yang of my musical tastes, or make a nice complement to each other. Cloud Cult's is filled with love and Polica's with dark, barely constrained hate!

Songs


(In alphabetical order.)

Atoms For Peace - "Judge Jury and Executioner"
Dawes - "Most People"
Deltron 3030 - "Melding Of The Minds"
Eleanor Friedberger - "When I Knew"
Elvis Costello and The Roots - "Refuse To Be Saved"
Iron & Wine - "Lover's Revolution"
J. Roddy Walston and the Business - "Take It As It Comes"
Jake Bugg - "What Doesn't Kill You"
Laura Marling - "Master Hunter"
Low - "Plastic Cup"
Pixies - "Bagboy"
Sigur Ros - "Isjaki"
The Replacements - "I'm Not Sayin'"
The Suburbs - "Turn The Radio On"
Yoko Ono - "7th Floor"

This list of singles is made up of some tracks from records that almost made my top albums list (Atoms for Peace, Dawes, Iron & Wine, Low, Sigur Ros); new discoveries of the year (J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Jake Bugg, Laura Marling); old faves that made a return to form (Deltron 3030, Eleanor Friedburger, Elvis Costello and the Roots, Pixies); and a trio that represent some of the musical highlights of my year; The Mats live in Chicago; The Suburbs at the Minnesota State Fair and Yoko on the phone!

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