My 10 favorite songs so far in 2013

It’s just about June, and even though I should probably wait for the end of the sixth month, yesterday a friend asked me what my favorite songs of the year are so far, so here they are. I’ve tried to not have a single genre dominate the list (even though I’m listening to way more pop and electronic music these day), and although some of these songs were originally released last year as singles, all of them were at least put out on an LP in 2013.

The list in no real order:

Fuckin’ Problems – ASAP Rocky (feat. 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar)

Maybe not the best song to begin with, but as Long. Live. A$AP came out just two weeks into the year, so it starts the list. I love when the beat to a song is a hook in and of itself. The vocal sample and the lazy, eroded drums that bookend the song have been stuck in my head even more than 2 Chainz’ actual chorus – which has been stuck plenty on its own.

 

Ministry of Love – IO Echo

I can get into ambient, noisy stuff. But layer some pop structure and catchy melodies on top and I really can’t resist. That’s pretty much the recipe IO Echo followed for “Ministry of Love.” Every element of this song seems to be complementing every other element: the bass pumps up the fuzzed guitar which blends in with the mid-to-high end drums, and the vocals just ensure that you have something to sing along to – simple but effective.

 

Full of Fire – The Knife

It’s pretty clear that 2013 has more super-insanely-hyped “semi-comeback” albums than any year in recent memory. The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual is one of those albums. Never a band to align itself with the rest of what everyone else is doing, The Knife went way into left field with this one, as evidenced by the fact that “Full of Fire” is one of the more accessible songs on the album.

It’s a ten minute unfolder that starts with drums that evolve and change at and in every bar. The warped vocals and stuttering synths come in at the same time, and continuing on everything builds and bends while the drums become the synths and the synths become snares and high hats and bird chirps. It’s unnerving in the best way. Every part of the song gets warped and layered until the twenty seconds when everything but the drums drop and Karin plays on Salt ‘n Pepa’s “Push It” by chanting “Let’s talk about gender, baby/Let’s talk about you and me.”

 

My Number – Foals

“My Number” is probably the closest thing to their earlier work that exists on their new album, which isn’t to say that I don’t like the direction that they are evolving in, but I really do love how well their songs can bounce (see Balloons, Total Life Forever, and Two Steps, Twice.) This is just a fun song that exemplifies their best abilities to make indie rock really pop-friendly.

 

Lose Yourself to Dance – Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell Williams)

Maybe I’ll go into more detail later, but as far as this album goes, I’m in love right now, and I think that’s going to build over time.

Just looking at this song though, THAT GROOVE! There aren’t many songs that I would listen to on repeat because I’d rather just go through an album, but this song could continue for an hour and I’d ask for more. There isn’t a part of this song I would change. The progression of the beat to the guitar to Pharrell’s vocals to the vocoded panning vocals and on, I love it all and it fits like a glove. This is going to be up there on my favorite songs of the year, no doubt.

PS: I know that the lyrics are simple, but I find enjoyment in whether the song is suggesting that you have to lose your inhibitions in order to really dance or whether dancing is what causes you to forget your worries.

 

The Fall – Rhye

The most chill song on this list. Maybe the most common line you’d read about this new group is how singer Mike Milosh sounds like Sade, and while that’s true, that doesn’t change the fact that this music could so easily fall into banal lounge-y stuff. Luckily, Rhye stays clear of that trap by taking their warm and relaxed sound and placing small flourishes of plucked strings, drawn out ambient ooohs, and switch ups that keep the songs from lingering.

 

Sacrilege – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Boy do I wish I could have had multiple songs from this album to choose from. At least this lead single delivered. Is the gospel choir at the end a cheap tactic? Is the build tongue in cheek or just easy? Why am I fine with one verse and two-line chorus for four minutes? I don’t know, but I like this song. It’s possible I’m just falling for it though.

 

You’re the One – Charli XCX

Yeah, I know this came out a year ago. But so did half of the songs on the album, and that came out this year, so I’m counting it. What Charli XCX lack in vocal strength she more than makes up for in production and sheer ability to layout hooks in every single song she releases. There seem to be a solid number of female indie pop singers releasing material right now (Little Boots, Kate Boy, Charli, etc.), but none of the others have this glitter-goth thing nailed quite like she does. There’re probably four or five songs on the album that I was picking from for this list; it’s a strong one.

 

She Will – Savages

Let it be know, I’m very much still processing this album. Everything I read about Savages restates something along the lines of “there’s nothing new here”,  “they wear their influences on their sleeve”, or “look! girls playing stuff that isn’t riot grrrl” while at the same time laying crazy amount of praise on the group. Put simply, I like the raw sound, and this song is catchy. But again, still getting into it.

 

You Are My Destiny – The Juan Maclean

And here we are at the end with The Juan Maclean bringing house into the fold. I could have put a lot more electronic music on this list – notably Hot Natured’s “Reverse Skydiving”, Factory Floor’s “Fall Back” and Atoms For Peace’s “Default” – but they haven’t hit me quite like the rest of songs on here. Also, I’m trying to keep the list eclectic.

But back to Juan. This song really typifies the house-ier side of DFA Records: spacey synths and Nancy Wang on vocals. Live drums would’ve been the kicker, but the song is probably stronger without them. I like that this song is long, that it builds, but also that the meat of the song hits sooner than it does on “Happy House“. I hope Maclean has more in store for us this year.

The Knife + a Trannie: Pass This On

Usually I prefer to watch music videos before I read reviews for them, but that’s just what I prefer. It usually happens that the reason why I watch a video in the first place is because of a review I read. So if you want, go ahead and watch the video above before you read this… Oh, in case you care, what you are watching is Pass This On by The Knife released in 2006.

OK. That is one of my favorite music videos for many reasons. Reason #1: It’s dead simple. There is nothing here that isn’t essential to getting the video’s mood/feeling/perspective across; no wasted time.

Reason #2: It’s fun and awkward at the same time. With a transvestite trying to swoon the random audience the whole time, and with everyone ending up doing their own variation of a dance in the end, can it get much odder? (The answer is yes, just watch some of their other videos.) It’s odd because teenage boys are dancing, but it’s fun because they seem to be really into the music. It isn’t some contrived choreographed routine; it’s what they are feeling, their movements.

Reason #3: There’s a trannie. Come on, who doesn’t love a trannie? Especially when he/she is used in place of the original artist. Rickard Engfors, the transvestite in the video, does a great job of making you believe that he is really singing the song (just as he does in the live performance.) His extremely bony body sort of freaks me out, but that’s partially the point.

Reason #4: It stays true to its artists vision. The Knife, which is comprised of siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer, does not reveal the faces of its artists. They are always seen with strange masks on; currently they are on the crow’s beak idea. The fact that they are not in the video sticks with their hidden identity persona.

This video just makes me smile. Oh, and I haven’t really mentioned the song. I think it’s amazing as well. But then again, this is a review of the video, not the music. Take away what you will, just try to appreciate it at least. Be ready to hear more about The Knife in the coming weeks.