So this is, like, more than a month late, but I’ve never had the chance to publish one so here it goes. These are my five (ok the playlist has ten, but I’m only going to discuss five) favorite songs of 2013.
2013 was a landmark year for music. So many huge acts released new albums. Kanye West, Tyler the Creator, Katy Perry, Arctic Monkeys, Beyonce, Vampire Weekend, Daft Punk, Drake, Queens of the Stone Age, Foals, Earl Sweatshirt, Toro y Moi, Washed Out, and Anamanaguchi all released killer records. Rarely is one year packed with so many big stars, underground breakouts, and crossover hits. Whoever said music used to be better never lived in the year 2013. Without further ado, here are my picks for top five songs of last year.
5. Daft Punk – “Lose Yourself to Dance”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Daft Punk and Pharrell produced one of the single biggest hits of last year. What you might not know is that they made another song. While not as radio- and chart-friendly, “Lose Yourself to Dance” is a slinky, sexy, funk track that perfectly epitomizes exactly what Daft Punk was trying to capture on their latest opus “Random Access Memories”. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is the kind of song you want to hear when you’re walking into the club or a bumpin’ house party. It’s the sort of song that makes you want to shake your body in a slow, but deliberate rhythm. Most of all, it’s a song that takes you back to a bygone era, but without the implied nostalgia or stigma (think about all those gold chains, chest hair, and cocaine) that similar tracks might produce. Simply put, the song is just a good time.
4. Queens of the Stone Age – “I Sat By The Ocean”
When Queens of the Stone Age came to prominence after the release of their seminal record “Songs For The Deaf” rock music, after the rap/rock years, finally seemed back on track. That record came out over ten years ago and while rock went right back off course, the Queens have come back with a vengeance. Their latest record “…Like Clockwork” has a personnel list as long as a Van Halen tour rider, many of which (Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl) are legends in their own right. “I Sat by the Ocean” is one of those songs that makes you wonder why it hadn’t been written sooner, a song The Rolling Stones themselves would probably have killed to write. It’s lyrically strong, has a good hook, and grooves for days. This is one of those songs that still makes you believe in the power of rock ‘n’ roll!
3. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Want to Know?”
If you told me eight years ago the Arctic Monkeys were going to make the coolest blues-rock song in a generation, I would, rightfully so, have serious doubts about that, but that’s exactly what happened in 2013. A lot has changed since this snot-nosed brits first made their debut. Singer Alex Turner has seen incredible growth as both a lyricist and song-writer, and with that growth has created possibly one of the most vital rock records to come around in some time. “Do I Wanna Know?” is four minutes and thirty-two seconds of heavy, heartfelt, honesty. Turner’s famously straightforward lyrics might be too emotional and sloppy for some bands, but the way the Monkeys put it all together here established what we’ve known all along. They know what they’re doing. Instead of a cheesy or sappy blues-rock song, we get a raw and real track that utilizes classic blues-rock aesthetic for a much more modern and forward-thinking purpose.
2. Earl Sweatshirt – “Burgundy”
Earl Sweatshirt’s long-awaited full-length “Doris” finally dropped, and not a moment too soon. His group OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All or just Odd Future) has been making waves for the past 5 or so years and Earl was considered to be one of their best members. However the young MC’s career was put on hold for a year after his mother sent him to boarding school in Samoa until he turned 18. Thankfully his art is still on-point and the matured Sweatshirt is here to show us not just the depths of his talent, but also the growth he’s experienced in the past few years. Few songs display this as well as “Burgundy” which describes everything from the tensions in his relationship with his mom, to the battle hip-hop lyricists have with their feelings in a hyper-masculine culture. All this plus killer production from none other than The Neptunes. All in all a great listen.
1. Grizzly Bear – “Will Calls (Marfa Demo)”
When Grizzly Bear set out to make their 2012 masterpiece “Shields”, they had cut several demos and other tracks along the way. “Will Calls” is one of those demos. Released this year as part of the “Shields” B-Sides collection, it’s hard to believe that this song didn’t make the record. The haunting opening section with its barebones percussion and minimal instrumentation plays perfect host to Ed Droste’s longing croons. The dynamic chorus then explodes in a wall of bass guitar and cymbals bringing a sense of urgency not felt in many songs. The track is a beautiful roller coaster of emotions and an excellent use of tonal palette. Easily my favorite song of last year.