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.

Tiesto – Love Comes Again (feat. BT) (Hardwell Rework)

Over the past few months, I’ve slowly been wading through the EDM waters seeking out the bits of quality stuff here and there. And with Eric Prydz’ very recent and very outstanding Essential Mix, the progressive house goods have been pouring in. But today I came upon a rework done by Hardwell last year of a monster trance track I absolutely loved back in 2004: Tiesto & BT’s Love Comes Again. The rework does its job very well.

Four Tet – Pyramid

It’s a special track that can get a crowd moving when they’re expecting known material and they’re served fresh stuff. Both times I saw Four Tet, Pyramid did just that. Clocking in at a steady 8:30, the song has movement for days – provided in no small part by the chugging looped vocal sample.

I can’t admit to being one who’s followed Four Tet through his long journey through IDM, jazz, and their fusion with electronica, but I am absolutely loving his fairly recent output of straightforward dance music.

Got 17 free months? Make a Daft Punk Helmet!

A Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo helmet to be exact. This video made my day, and I love that DIY projects like this exist.

I think that I heard, back around the time of the Alive 2007 tour, that the real helmets cost thousands of dollars to make. Check the link below for a more detailed explanation of how this was done.

Daft Punk: FINAL! -Volpin Props

The Field & The Juan Maclean @ Webster Hall

The Field: Axel Willner
The Field: Axel Willner

The Field

the field opened, if you consider the field an “opener”

minimal, but not really, comment from amg review

Willner’s productions are as minimal techno as early-’90s Field precursors Seefeel were minimal rock; they’re not the least bit minimal, at least not sonically, and his approach to techno continues to sound like that of a dream pop/shoegaze freak

four man band, bass/drums, really only needed two people though

about five songs, more from new album (two old, three new)

when the song I love kicks in, it’s amazing, rave-like (ie. over the ice)

people need to calm down when listening to it, you can dance, but please stop spazzing out

rothko is to the field as …. is to …..

John Maclean & Nancy Whang (of LCD Soundsystem)
John Maclean & Nancy Whang (of LCD Soundsystem)

The Juan MacLean

amazing, FAR surpassed my expectations

quintessential DFA sound.

four piece, everyone actually doing band stuff

theremin on stage, used to good effect and with real skill

nancy whang is DFA’s Alison Mosshart

played a good mix of new and old songs (I’ll admit I haven’t listened to the new album that much)

great groove “happy house” stretched to about twenty minutes long (from it’s typical twelve), rises and falls, tempo changes, as good of pacing as Daft Punk’s live show, really put the show over-the-top

did I mention there was a theremin?

Justice – A Cross the Universe

justice and the sweet atmosphere that accompanies the show
justice and the sweet atmosphere that accompanies the show

Who puts out a live CD/DVD combo when they’ve only released one LP and a couple EPs? I mean, it’s not like a headlining electronic act could build an entire show off of one album… Unless of course, it’s Justice we’re talking about.

Instead of going over the history of Justice, which you probably already know, let’s jump right into the track-by-track (I’ve combined some tracks that are split into two on the CD).

  1. Intro (?/5) – Like listening to people screaming in anticipation? Then put this track on repeat for a few hours. I can’t really rate it because it’s just an intro track.
  2. Genesis (4/5) – Those horns… There might not be a better way to begin the live show. They’re mean, ugly, and they perfectly symbolize what Justice has done to dance music. As much as the Intro track is a welcoming to the live show when siting on your couch, Genesis is the intro to the live show when you’re on your feet and the lights just went out. It does it’s job well, but it suffer from a problem that runs through the entire show: Justice can’t find a groove to let people dance to (I’ll elaborate later).
  3. Phantom Part I & I.5 (4/5) – Genesis dies out, and that infamous synth line comes in. Right from the get-go, Justice is chopping the track up with the “boom-kat-boom-kat” drums that are featured in all their songs. Part I is a straightforward Phantom Pt I, and Part I.5 is more Phantom Pt I as an segway to D.A.N.C.E. It jumps back and forth between Phantom and a spacy kinda-arped synth; it serves as a way to slow the show down a bit.
  4. D.A.N.C.E. Part I & II (4/5) – Beginning with the acapella vocals, D.A.N.C.E. Part I leaves behind the funky groove that usually accompanies these vocals (a piano does eventually join in). No problem, acapella basically means sing-a-long to the audience, and it works pretty well seeing as everyone knows the lyrics. Part I ends by speeding up and giving into the faster, more eletro-oriented Part II. I have no idea what hardware Justice uses to get these unbelievable synths, but the one that comes with Part II is brand new and amazing. It really carries Part II through it’s 3 minute extension of Part I. These two parts of D.A.N.C.E. are perfect evidence of why Justice has been able to turn a 40 minute LP into an hour and a half live show.
  5. DVNO (4/5) – Losing no momentum, DVNO comes in with the same synth that went with D.A.N.C.E. Part II. I hated this song on the album at first, but the radio edit and this live version have converted me. The vocals aren’t sluggish and abrasive anymore, they’re smooth and provide another sing-a-long. This track undergoes it’s fair share of chopping and splicing (thanks to Ableton Live, I believe).
  6. Waters of Nazareth (Prelude) (3/5) – This track serves as a quasi-extension to keep the audience interested without becoming fatigued. It isn’t really Waters of Nazareth, but some small parts of the song are mixed in. There are some vocals included I don’t recognize, but they aren’t a big part of the song. It’s only a two minute segway, and 15 seconds of it are the break down that lead into One Minute to Midnight.
  7. One Minute to Midnight (3/5) – One of the most interesting tracks on the LP to me. It didn’t receive much attention, but it’s cool in a different way than the rest of the songs. Unfortunately, it’s also used as a semi-segway to the next song in the live show.
  8. Tthhee Ppaarrttyy (0/5) – Call me a hater, but this track should never have been included on the album. Just because Uffie is a label-mate of Justice doesn’t mean that she’s necessary. Luckily for Justice, there are a TON of people who do love this song. The crowd roars throughout the whole thing.
  9. Let There Be Light (5/5) – The name of this track couldn’t be more appropriate here. It begins at a snails pace and builds to its true tempo of over 120 bpm. This song and the synths that come along with it seem to want to rip each other to shreds from start to finish. There are high-pitched repeated screaming sounds contrasted against a super-low grinding bass that somehow come together with the same drums that are in all the songs. I guess to showcase some of their remixes, Justice also includes a small sample from their remix of Scenario Dance’s Skitzo Dancer. You know, the one where it says “disco” over and over and over.
  10. Stress (4/5) – Some reviews call this the highlight of the show. I disagree. While this “Auto Remix” of Stress is quite a feat in how much it differs from the original while still maintaining it’s tones (of stress), it doesn’t ever really go anywhere. It builds, and builds, and builds, but when the drums hit, they just seem awkward and don’t reach that climax that electronic tracks are meant to. The bouncing strings are awesome, but again, they don’t go anywhere. At the end of the song, the bass line from We Are Your Friends comes in.
  11. We Are Your Friends (Reprise) (5/5) – If I called D.A.N.C.E. and DVNO sing-a-longs, they are nothing compared to We Are Your Friends. As Justice’s first single as a remix of Simian’s Never Be Alone, it’s what begun the never-ending hype that surrounds Justice. Instead of playing the vocals in their entirety, Justice just plays the first word of each line and lets the audience finish it. The gimmick works, and the live recording captures the beck-and-call perfectly. In my opinion, this is Justice’s happiest song. It’s dead simple in its construction, and the distortion and grit that is in the rest of their songs is no where to be found (except when they go into the Metallica song…)
  12. Waters of Nazareth (5/5) – This is the real Waters of Nazareth. While We Are Your Friends is Justice’s happiest track, this is without a doubt their angriest. It’s the first Justice song I ever heard, and at the time it convinced me that Justice was an industrial-dance duo. Justice has turned the public’s perception of electronic music on its head. No longer do you have to be in a club listening to “unst-unst-unst” bobbing our head all night. Now you can be at a street festival with thousands of people doing some amalgamation of dancing, jumping, and moshing. Justice might be a fad (it’s seeming less and less likely though), but the closest thing I can compare them to is The Prodigy.
  13. Phantom Pt II (5/5) – Forget Stress, Phantom Pt II is the real climax of this album and of the live show. It’s what everyone has wanted to hear all night, and when it comes up to speed, everyone basically goes apeshitcrazy. This version of the song is a mix of the original, the Soulwax remix, and I believe the Boys Noize remix. It’s as close to perfect as you can get. It would be perfect if it didn’t have that damn lady talking in random spots. Forgetting the lady, I love this song. I’ve listened to it way too many times. It brings be back to when I saw Justice at Street Scene earlier this year in the same way that the Encore song from Daft Punk’s Alive 2008 album brings me back to when I saw them last year.
  14. Encore We Are Your Friends (Piano) – It’s a short song that brings in the encore. Nothing special.
  15. NY Excuse – Honestly, I don’t really like this song. It’s really interesting, but I think it takes too long to get where it wants to go, and when it gets there, it sounds like it’s trying to be We Are Your Friends + Justice distortion, but it falls short (run-on sentence, I know).
  16. Final Metalica – Bringing Metallica to an electro show is pretty much what Justice is about. It’s a good final song. They pump up the 4/4 beats and speed it up; it closes the show nicely.

Overall, I think I’d give the album a 4/5. That last point is lost to the fact that Gaspard and Xavier don’t frequent dance floors. Only in Phantom Part II does the live show give the audience a groove to dance to. In other places it tries, but the songs are cut short by breakdowns or transitions that leave the beat out. To bring up the Daft Punk comparison, I feel that this was something that Daft Punk did flawlessly. They know how an audience reacts to certain songs. They understand that fatigue sets in when you leave the energy too high too long. I hope that Justice can learn these things over time and improve their sets accordingly.

Daft Punk – Alive 2007

daftpunkalive2007-thumb.jpgRemember that post I did a while ago about Daft Punk’s incredible concert at the L.A. Sports Arena? This is the review of the live album for that tour, not the actual experience of the concert. If you are a dedicated Daft Punk fan, I’ll try to have some info in here that interests you, but with this review I’m looking more to those who don’t “get” Daft Punk or what it (as a movement) has come to encompass. Let’s get the obvious points out of the way. 1) Anything Daft Punk does right now blows my mind. 2) This album is the epitome of an electronic live album. Here’s why:

  1. Robot Rock / Oh Yeah: We begin with the chopped words “Human Robot” being spoken very slowly. The pace picks up, high hats are forging on, and bit by bit the beat comes in to play. After 2:20 of intro, Robot Rock comes in full force. This track off of Human After All, which has had its fair share of plays, starts the record off nice and hard. It’s repetitious, but rough enough so that we know that Alive 2007 definitely isn’t Discovery 2. As Robot Rock gets split and mangled, Oh Yeah, one of the straightforward Homework tracks, replaces the beat. We continue a bit to establish that bass will not be lacking here, and move on.
  2. Touch It / Technologic: In comes the sample of Technologic used by Busta Rhymes mixed with a modified Robot Rock beat. Please, try not to get overwhelmed by the variety of beats layered behind the vocals here. After a bit of straight Touch It is finished playing and our two robots kill every sample used, the true Technologic vocal comes in to speak every line of the intro. Some guitar sample is played with it, and after a whole minute without bass, Technologic’s trudging beat blasts out to keep the heads bobbing. Again, more shredding of sounds is done with Ableton Live and the other hardware located in the most elusive of pyramids.
  3. Television Rules the Nation / Crescendolls: The first empty second shows its face, but the vocoded line of “Televisionnn… Rules the Nationnn…” quickly covers that up and continues the Human After All laden first tracks. But then we are so rudely tempted with the lines of “Around the World,” and my favorite synth line ever gets its play time. This song really is better at a fast tempo. The song cuts straight into Crescendolls, which plays for a bit. Crescendolls is a party-ready song to begin with, but when they bring back Television, wow. The high-energy of Crescendolls and the industrial trudge of Television is insane to say the least.
  4. Too Long / Steam Machine: Time to come down. Television/Crescendolls was fun, but that energy can’t last too long. This song is an excellent example of how Daft Punk isn’t out to keep the energy at 10 all night; they recognize that by bringing it in waves, those highs are so much better when they hit. Regardless, this is a nice revamp of Steam Machine, which was one of the songs on Human After All that got too repetitive. Not so here. This song serves its function: to bring the energy down & give everyone a breather.
  5. Around the World / Harder Better Faster Stronger: Your breather is over, brace yourself. As you can hear, when the bass-line of Around the World comes in, it’s obvious that you’re in for a treat. As Daft Punk’s most singable song plays, another all-time classic works itself in. If you want to chant along, please feel free. These two songs are fan favorites for a reason, and when they are pumping at the same time, the energy is back up at 10. Throughout the song, never do these two monsters seem to be at each other’s throats. It’s as if they were meant to be torn apart and squashed together from their creation.
  6. Burnin’ / Too Long: Coming back down, the raw originality of Burnin’ shines. Straight from Homework, this 10 year-old song hasn’t aged a day. A fair amount of effects are thrown into the mix so as not to get repetitive. For the second and final time, Too Long surfaces for its showcase. It got 10 minutes on Discovery, why not another 5 here? As the song comes to a close, it is clear that Part I is finished.
  7. Face To Face / Short Circuit: The interlude between acts begins. Don’t worry, the energy doesn’t get too high here. To me, this song shows off Daft Punk’s ability to perfectly re-create their songs to form new entities that stand on their own. As if the original beat on Face to Face wasn’t sweat enough, Harder Better Faster Stronger is no longer a vocal section, it replaces the hodgepodge first beat. Ending this middle-ground, Short Circuit and then silence.
  8. One More Time / Aerodynamic: Hear those bells? Know what they mean? If not, just grab a hold of your seat, there isn’t much of a break until the end. As the One More Time synth plays sans bass, you can hear the crowd wanting to sing along before the vocals come in. 1/2 of a bass, and then it’s in full force. A classic indeed. Just sing with the thousands of fans with Daft Punk’s most famous song. A third of the way through comes Aerodynamic’s guitar solo and the following beat. Just as was done with Television/Crescendolls, two songs become one. This is an energy = 11 moment, revel in it. This song is the entire album wrapped into one: classics, rises, falls, loud crowds, etc…
  9. Aerodynamic Beats / Forget About the World: Slowing down a bit, but not too much, Daft Punk kinda flaunts an old mix here. It has a great synth that sweeps in and out that meshes with Brainwasher’s vocals near the end.
  10. Prime Time of Your Life / Brainwasher / Rollin’ and Scratchin’ / Alive: 4 in 1, that’s what you get here. Prime Time’s vocals are nice, but are pumped up a notch when Rollin’ and Scratchin’s single drum hit accompanies it. Both old and new are played here. One observation of this track is how well Human After All combines with Homework. For as much slack as Human has received, when played with Homework, they really do work well.
  11. Da Funk / Daftendirekt: Part III (of III). Da Funk has my second favorite synth in it. It bounces and stays consistent with its bitter sting throughout. As Daftendirekt follows and mixes with Da Funk the effects that can be applied live are shows off here. Stutters, EQs, and the like are all used here, making for a song that differs greatly from the original two from Homework. They don’t carry the same 90s French Touch sound that their originals do, they are brought into the 21st century with style and class.
  12. Superheroes / Human After All / Rock’n Roll: To be blunt, this song is all rise. But what else could you ask for from a finale? It begins with Superheroes’ simple bass and the looped vocal comes in gradually as the original does. And then, what’s that? Oh, that’s the best beat of Human After All. That beat hits SO hard. How a house track is made into a fist-pumper escapes me. This song was always meant to be a finale song. With lyrics that say, “We are human, after all. Thanks for comin’, after all,” it could be nothing else. Pitches are raised, volume is maxed out, and in the end, the beat is dropped for the final “After All.” Fitting. The crowd roars, and for good reason. They know that an encore is coming up.
  13. Encore: Human After All / Together / One More Time / Music Sounds Better With You: So if you were lucky enough (like myself) to get the limited edition version of Alive 2007, you know what this track is. If you were cheap or couldn’t find the limited edition, go and download this song. It’s worth it. Going back to basics, “Human” is repeated many times until the “Time” sample from Para One’s remix of Prime Time After All at 2:15 brings the song into swing. The beat continues and eventually “Together” is brought in. The song falls down repeatedly as the second part begins. And we come to the rise. You can hear it; the hi-hats are increasing. Now it’s all or nothing, and the crowd roars. Why? Because the red suits just lit up, and it’s the most amazing thing that they’ve ever seen. But the song continues with One More Time accompanying this mix of old/new hits and old side-projects. I can’t really say enough about this song, it completely blows me away. 10 minutes for a single-song encore is amazing. The show is over, your mind has been blown.

I hope you have enjoyed my explanation/review of each track. If you agree or disagree with any of my points, feel free to comment!

Boys Noize – Oi Oi Oi

It’s been some time since I’ve reviewed any music (the Neighborhood Fest doesn’t count), so here goes. You might be surprised to hear that this distortion-electro artist called Boys Noize is German. If you aren’t, then you need to do some reading up on modern electro artists (I have quite a bit of stuff written here, just look around). France is all over the house/electro scene right now. Back to the CD.

It’s quite good. DJ Alexander Rihda aka Boys Noize is making music very similar to SebastiAn and some of Justice’s earlier EP stuff. Possibly comparable to MSTRKRFT if they used more effects to rip apart their hard but pristine sound. This album Oi Oi Oi is similar in sound to his already released EPs. It’s a very hard, rough sound that is conveyed through the deep bass hits overlayed by heavily distorted synth riffs. There’s a bit of glitch thrown into the mix too. Look at the album cover (a disco skull), it exemplifies the sound perfectly.

The songs throughout the album start off great. The trouble that I have is that they all don’t amount to something. You can have a great intro with the bass dropped out and slam in with the effects and everything, but the song needs to go somewhere. I feel like trance has a good grasp of the rises and falls, but sometimes the majority of the time trance DJs overdo it (especially in long live sets). Songs like “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Oh” are really great songs because they have the synths come and go with new elements being introduced through the songs. Songs like “Shine Shine” and “Vergiftet” just don’t cut it for me.

Overall, it’s a really good record, and the remixes that he’s done are amazing as well. Oi Oi Oi doesn’t really measure up to the likes of Ross Ross Ross from start to finish though.