Favourite Songs of 2013

20) Califone– Frosted Tips

Sometimes all you need is a chorus and just drive it home.  Taking the same cue from their earlier classic ‘Funeral Singers’, this is the indie folk answer to ‘Get Lucky’

19) The Knife- A Tooth For an Eye

When Fever Ray screams ‘Eyes, Eyes, Eyezzzzzzz!’ you realise that you’ve never quite heard a song like this before, although with The Knife’s output, this shouldn’t be surprising any more, but it still drives home.

18) Jon Hopkins- Open Eye Signal

Well you’ll never need another jogging song again. Like a demented techno tune that forget it was entertaining, this gradually drills into your body until your heart has to recalibrate its own beat.

17) James Blake- Retrograde

James Blake’s true power comes from balancing the delicate with the powerful, and he achieves this on a new level with an ethereal vocal riff pervading then subsumed into a blinding synth chorus and an equally brittle ‘suddenly I’m hit’.

16) David Bowie- Where Are We Now?

Coming as a surprise to most at the start of the year, this beautifully simple song speaks volumes in Bowie’s fragile Berlin tour-guide persona.

15) Marnie Stern- Nothing is Easy

I like treating this song as a collection of great small songs combined into a near perfect rock anthem about gittin’ ‘er done.

14) Arcade Fire- Afterlife

Looks like they’ve done it again.  Instead of waxing on youth and suburbia, Arcade Fire have enlarged onto the grand movie finale mindset complaining about ‘what an awful word’ it is.

13) No Age- An Impression

Despite a disappointing album, ‘An Impression’ stood out as a beautiful tribute to creativity, Dean Spunt wondering at ‘I’ve never seen colour act this way’ and then joined by heart-wrenching string accompaniment showing a new direction for the constantly transforming band.

12) Jai Paul- Song 2 (Str8 Outta Mumbai)

Even though almost impossible to find, after Jai Paul rejected it as a completed number, this is one of the crowning experiments into a pop song.  A beautiful Maria Carey-esque vocal chorus and flowing lyrics it could be a stadium filler if it didn’t staunchly remain the bedroom recording state.

11) Phosphorescent- Song for Zula

My biggest concern about this song is that it goes on for slightly too long.  But that more reflects on Phosphorescent’s objectives, that he discovers a near-perfect musical formula, but instead of crystallising it he uses it as a springboard for deep self-reflection.

10) Vampire Weekend- Ya Hey

Vampire Weekend’s new album is filled with a certain ilk of songs: ‘Step’ ‘Hannah Hunt’ and ‘Ya Hey’.  With the biblical references and surprisingly effective pitch-manipulated backing vocals, ‘Ya Hey’ most of all manipulates a nostalgia for a heartbreak that you never had experienced.

9) Darkside- Paper Trails

This song originally screamed out Eagles to me, the lamest of the lame of which Big Lebowski helped crystallise for all of us.  But these dripping riffs and muttered vocals have reinvented what cool can be.  And I think it’s these guys who deserve to be occupying the new slickness that Arctic Monkeys have dubbed themselves with

8) Drake- Hold on We’re Going Home

Simple drum beats are doing great these days, all Drake needed to do is add a seedy 80’s cop soundtrack with deep emotion to create one of the most heart-felt songs of the year.

7) Julia Holter- World

When I first played Holter’s Loud City Song I was blown away by the opening track.  The stark purity of Holter chirping ‘heaven…all the heaven’s of the world’ transporting you to another world and making you wish that she would never be interrupted by any other kind of music.

6) Parquet Courts- Master of My Craft/Borrowed Time

So cheat number one.  Yes these are in fact two songs, introducing us to Parquet Courts’ debut album Light up Gold.  But the seamless transition from ‘Socrates died in the fucking gutter!’ into the nagging solo of ‘Borrowed Time’ make them forever conjoined piledriver twins.

5) Iceage- Coalition/Ecstasy

Cheat number two, and much less connected than the Parquet Courts double bill.  But these two opening songs from Iceage’s sophmore album share the same mentality of near perfect punk songs.  And the best about them is that they shouldn’t sound it: the solos wander off, no bars remain the same, and respective choruses are tardy screams of ‘Excess!’ and ‘Pressure!’.  But the fact that they do somehow work gives them their special power

4) Kurt Vile- Wakin on a Pretty Day

This was the perfect summer song, that I’d have on going to and coming back from the library revision slog.  Just give yourself 10 minutes and you’ll be feeling pretty good about the world for a while.

3) Deafheaven- Dream House

Here is an example of an epic.  Except one so epic, that within the first few seconds into their opening song, you’ll already think Deafheaven have reached their climax.  But with 9:14 we just reach new choking altitudes of pure emotion- unearthly screecehs, tremolos and chasing drumrolls.  You’ll be lucky to have energy enough to listen to the rest of the album.

2) Rhye- The Fall

The first ten seconds of the song contain a staggered blend of pattering piano, drums and then slide guitar, by which time you’ll have sunk deep into a state of calm.  Though the music is upbeat, the lyrics give a tired landscape of a couple trying to grasp on to their fading sexuality, and in this tinted bleakness you settle into a bed of creative beauty.

1) Daft Punk- Get Lucky

I find it quite amazing how none of the major music sites haven’t put this as their top song.  Everyone seems scared of seeming too cliched in claiming this as their favourite.  But it’s the universally greatest song of the year dominating across all genres and disappointing few.  Especially if you consider that last year’s equivalent such as ‘Gangham Style’ or ‘Call Me Maybe’ had to be enjoyed with a tint of tongue-in-cheek, meanwhile ‘Get Lucky’ is just pure and unashamed fun.

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