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Washington, DC, United States
I don't write here nearly as much as I should, but when I do, I'll try to make it count for something.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Musical Musings: Best of 2013

The biggest advantage to being housebound for many many days over the holiday season is having a lot of time to explore every facet of the internet – and one of my favorite things to do on the internet around this time of year is looking at “best of” music lists. It’s always a catch-22 because while I absolutely love looking at other people/magazine/websites’ top lists, I always get infuriated with them too (like Pitchfork, who gave KANYE WEST the honor of best album of the year because they’re hacks).

Anyway, exploring all these lists always inspires me to create a top 100 playlist of my personal favorite songs of the year (which is hard because it’s difficult to keep it down to ONLY 100) but this year I decided to challenge myself further. Instead of just doing a crazy playlist (which you can check out on Spotify, if you’d like), I am forcing myself to bring it down to just 25! I attempted a top 10 but it was impossible. How do people even do that?

I genuinely love every single song on this list. Yes, Justin Timberlake is on this there, OBVIOUSLY and yes, so is Jay Z and Drake. But there’s also Daft Punk, Janelle Monae and Atoms for Peace. Hopefully you’ll find something on here that you discover and say, “Hey ain’t too shabby” or maybe you had already considered some of these tracks for your own favorite of 2013. I tried to keep it pretty diverse and I don’t think there are toooo many surprised in here for those of you who know me fairly well.

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

  1. Atoms for Peace, “Ingenue”: I could go on and on for days about how good this album was. Definitely my favorite for the year (or at least tied with Daft Punk and Foxygen). But this track in particular hooked me, right from the get go. Stays with you and every time I hear it, I’m almost hearing it for the first time.
  2. Irene Diaz, “I Love You Madly”: Stripped down and gorgeous. Sometimes the best songs are nothing more than the right voice and a guitar. And this song is so so right.
  3. Eleanor Friedberger, “Stare At the Sun”: I am obsessed with this woman’s voice. It’s so unique and strange and beautiful and every once in a while, the perfect song really brings out everything that’s great about it. I want more solo albums from her.
  4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Sacrilege”: Another lady voice I’m obsessed with. Karen O is a BEAST with that wail of hers. But I love when it’s turned ethereal, like in this song, and you feel like you’re transported to a tribal world. Her voice belongs in another era.
  5. Foxygen, “San Francisco”: I cannot even tell you how hard it was to pick just one song off of this album. Foxygen is currently my favorite “up and coming” band and I really hope to see them live one of these days. I almost picked “In the Darkness” (which stayed in my head for months, after seeing Drinking Buddies) but “San Francisco” is the most infectiously 60s pop-like single off of this very retro album so I had to pick it.
  6. Janelle Monae & Erikah Badu, “Q.U.E.E.N.”: Personally I think Erikah Badu is crazy but man that loony lady can saaaaaang. The combination of her and Janelle (whose latest album is GORGEOUS) is just unstoppable.
  7. Daft Punk, “Instant Crush”: I feel bad that I put this all the way down in the 7th spot. I really do. While I had my doubts about this Daft Punk album at first (mainly because people wouldn’t shut up about it for months), it grew on me over time until suddenly it was on my regular rotation and I’d find myself dancing alone to it in my apartment (or, y’know, my office) all the time. I know I probably should pick “Get Lucky” (and hell, I almost did because I love that song no matter how overplayed it is) but this is actually the first song off of this album to make me go, “Hey wait a minute now, there’s something here!”   
  8. James Blake, “Retrograde”: I’m not convinced that James Blake isn’t a ghost. His music is not of this earth, I swear. But none the less, I actually believe that this is his best single yet. Sultry as usual with a somewhat harder edge than his music typically has.
  9. Charles Bradley, “Victim of Love”: My old soul flutters when I hear this song. I love me some Charles Bradley. Who knew that a guy who started off as a James Brown impersonator could make his very own awesome imprint on the musical world?
  10. CHVRCHES, “Recover”: Let’s all be honest. This band/song was this year’s indie (read: hipster) darling. I admit it. But I don’t care because this song is just so infectious that it deserves the attention.
  11. Thundercat, “Oh Sheit It's X": Usually not my type of jam but it’s so funky and retro. It makes me want to put on a pair of platform shoes, get an afro wig, and bust a move. Admit it… you’re listening to this right now and wanting to do the same exact thing.
  12. Drake, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”: Even I cannot believe I picked a song by Drake for my top 25 list. But like so many other songs on this list, it’s totally from another era. While “Oh Sheit It’s X” makes me want to bring out the platform shoes, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” makes me want to invade the 1980s club scene. Also this music video takes me back to a time when music videos were elaborate stories and not just big booty dancers or bearded hipsters crying into a camera. I mean the music doesn’t even start until minute 2:35 and I love it.
  13. Haim, “The Wire”: I was embarrassingly late in discovering this band. But better late than never! I dare you to listen to this song and not at least bop your head. If you manage to resist, you are a cyborg. Sorry you had to find out this way.
  14. Jay Z, “Picasso Baby”: I know I have a double standard. I don’t care for Kanye (though, truth be told, I don’t think he’s untalented; I just hate his verbal diarrhea). I loathe Beyonce. But man, do I love me some Jay Z. I always have and I always will. I can’t even really explain it. A lot of things I hate about Kanye are character traits that Jay Z has. Same with Beyonce. And yet, here we are – with me loving this track to death, right down to the lyrics, “I’m the modern day Pablo Picasso, baby.”
  15. Justin Timberlake, “Pusher Love Girl”: Guuuurl. I love this man. I still hate Jessica Biel for crushing my dreams. But honesty time? I wasn’t crazy about this album. It’s grown on me but this is one of the few tracks off the album that I have consistently loved from the first moment I heard it. I keep daydreaming that Justin is singing it to me, hrrrmmmmm…. Ahem. Yes. It’s a good track.
  16. Yo La Tengo, “Ohm”: More honesty? I didn’t even know they came out with a new album until like two weeks ago. Pretty sure it came out like 5 months ago. Pretty sure every music magazine made a big deal about it. I felt a little like Donna Noble when one of my nerdy music buddies mentioned it to me – all “Huh? What?” And yes, I just made a Doctor Who reference. Get over it. But back to YLT! Great album (as usual) and this is my favorite track off of it.
  17. TV On the Radio, “Mercy”: Oh, TV On the Radio. AKA the Ol’ Reliables. They are just consistently great and this track does not let me down. I’ll say that it’s probably one of their more accessible songs – far more palatable than some of their more static, experimental ventures – but still has the same level of mania their music always has. I just want to crowd surf when I listen to one of their albums.
  18. Phosphorescent, “Song for Zula”: What genre is this? Folk soul? Is that a thing? Because it should be, because it’s fantastic. The shout out to Johnny Cash doesn’t hurt either. I originally had this track at the #20 spot but decided to bump it up a few notches.
  19. Alice Smith, “Shot”: I read a review of Alice Smith’s album She that sums up everything for me: this is basically what would happen if Fiona Apple decided to put together a string of afro-funk songs. This song in particular has some great hooks and a truly fantastic groove.
  20. Disclosure & AlunaGeorge, “White Noise”: A club favorite of mine. I mean, I don’t go to many clubs, but I imagine this song would play at a lot of the types of clubs I’d frequent if I was the type to… y’know, go clubbing. I like Disclosure but I love love love AlunaGeorge. Her voice loans the right amount of emotional depth and power to this already very danceable track. Great stuff.
  21. Bonobo, “Cirrus”: Jazzy and fun. A song not afraid to be filled with joy. Fantastic beats. Great arrangement. Only reason why it’s not higher on my list is because it’s not really my breed of music so I have to be in the right mood for it. But man, when I am – blamo! My dancing feet take over.
  22. Beck, “Gimme”: My favorite of the three standalone singles he released this year. One of his techier, more experimental sounding tracks of late while still managing to keep a consistent melody and an interesting arrangement. That man proves over and over that he knows what he’s doing in the music department.
  23. Kurt Vile, “Wakin on a Pretty Day”: Lovely and languid. A breath of fresh air. Contemplative without overthinking it. Just a simple, beautiful song. Another favorite album of mine, by the way.
  24. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, “We the Common People (For Valerie Bolden)”: Playfully political. Happily bleak. A real toe tapper about the bullshit we surround ourselves in. I heart everything about this song.
  25. Ariana Grande, “Honeymoon Avenue”: I adore this song for being such a throwback to 90s pop soul. Like Monica could have sung this, or Brandy – or hey, I’ll be honest, Mariah Carey. And hate all you want, but this song reminds me of listening to the radio on my bedroom floor with my cassette player and attempting to record my favorite hits off of whatever Top 40 station I was obsessed with at the time (probably 93.3 – San Diego’s most Top 40est station there is). This song makes me wants to think about my 8th grade boyfriend and practicing cheerleading moves with my junior high besties and rolling skating on the pier. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, my friends, and this track is chock full of it.

Any tracks you totally disagree with? Anything you would add? Let’s dish!