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.

Ke$ha – Die Young

Start with the four-on-the-floor dance beat. Move on to the pumping lead synth that drops in and out while building anticipation and providing relief throughout the song. Throw in an acoustic guitar playing the simple chord progression to fill in at the bottom of builds. Wrap up with coherent, empowering (and non-pandering) lyrics about living in the moment. It’s all there.

Oh, and don’t forget Dr. Luke.

Ke$ha’s latest offering is a great example of what a solid pop song sounds like today. Definitely one of the best pop offerings of the year.

Favorite Hot Chip songs

Tomorrow I will be seeing Hot Chip in concert for the (checking my Live Music records) seventh time. It’s safe to say that they are one of my favorite bands. In Our Hands, their fifth album, came out a couple months ago, and like the four preceding it, it’s solid as a rock. What other electro-pop band do you know that completely embraces the idea of being earnest?

“These chains you bound around my heart / complete me / baby / I would not be free” -These Chains

“And oh-oh / my heart has flown to you just like a dove / it can fly / it can fly” -Take It In

“I only wanna be your one life stand / Tell me do you stand by your whole man?” -One Life Stand

Best of 2011 Lists

It’s December! You know what that means? ‘BEST OF 2011’ LISTS!!! If you’re worried that you might have missed something great this year, check out any of these lists.

PS: I’ll alphabetize these once the new year hits. I’m adding to the bottom of the list as I find new stuff.

Why don’t I like Coldplay? An investigation.

Another fantastic piece from Sasha Frere-Jones: pop-music critic for the New Yorker. As Coldplay has a new album coming out called Mylo Xyloto, this piece is a perfectly unscientific look into why Coldplay just shouldn’t be.

5. U2. -346

Seven out of ten times, Coldplay sound almost exactly like U2—the U2 that exists now, not the wiry, feral U2 of 1980 (which would be a decent idea). U2 have not broken up. This is inefficient. Coldplay should consider copying Big Star or The Monkees.

(via The New Yorker)

Update: Pitchfork has interviewed Chris Martin. I repeat: Pitchfork has interviewed Chris Martin. This reminds me of when Pitchfork interviewed U2 after giving “No Line on the Horizon” a 4.2. Both come off as massively successful musicians giving interviews like they genuinely wish that this blog – that consistently pans their current output – loved them like it loves Arcade Fire or M83.

A few quick notes on pop music producers

Tonight I went through the new Britney Spears album. It’s streaming on the AOL Music site. This is not a review of that album, although I do intend to write one because I find it an incredibly interesting listen and lesson on pop development. I’ve become intrigued with the production of pop music as of late, and this album only pushed me further down that path.

I just want to point out a few things that I discovered while researching the production of her album.

  1. Bloodshy & Avant = 2/3 of Miike Snow. Now I understand why Miike Snow makes great pop music: the guys in the band wrote Toxic.
  2. Benny Blanco, the guy who did a filthy, “raunchy, megahorny hip-hop” album with Spank Rock that I listened to a few summers ago writes songs for Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, and Ciara, to name a few.
  3. Darkchild kinda seems like a self-absorbed loudmouth.

jj releases Kills mixtape

jj kills

I’m no expert on jj. I’ve listened to jj nº1, nº2, and nº3, but I still don’t have a firm grasp on what it is that they’re doing. Maybe that’s the point. On one hand you have Ecstacy and on the other you have Let Go. Is it beautiful indie pop or is it beautiful indie pop covers of hip hop songs?

With the release of the Kills mixtape, the question changes again. Is it beautiful indie pop covers mashing up a bunch of hip hop songs? I don’t know, but it’s incredible. Genres, who needs ’em?


  1. STILL
  9. BOOM
  10. HIGH END

jj kills

Justin Bieber – U Smile (8x slower)

Justin Bieber, experimenal ambient prodigy? :)

The first time I heard of Justin Bieber was last summer in the morning before I went to work. I was living in New York, and because it took me almost an hour to get to work in New Jersey everyday, I woke up fairly early and watched some VH1 music video show. There was this little kid on TV with Usher standing next to him. I was confused to say the least, but I just left it at that.

Skip over the Bieber fever that has been 2010 thus far, and we arrive at this: a version of Bieber’s song “U Smile” digitally slowed down 800%.

J. BIEBZ – U SMILE 800% SLOWER by Shamantis

As you could probably guess, you can’t make out a single lyric of the song. But what’s astounding is how well this song would fit alongside songs by artists like Stars of the Lid, Fennesz, or Gas. The track is thirty-five minutes long and plays like an incredibly crafted ambient or experimental micro-sounds record.

I have been listening to more pop music lately, and after hearing the original version of this song, I’ve gotta admit that there’s something to it. After all of my trying to ignore this kid, I guess it’s finally time to go grab the Bieber album…

(via NPR’s All Songs Considered Blog)

Robyn – Hang With Me (new single)

The single cover for Robyn's new "Hang With Me"

The radio-rip of Robyn’s new and first single off of Body Talk Pt. 2 has been unleashed, and it just so happens to be the dance version of “Hang With Me.” I think this new version of the song sounds akin to Body Talk Pt. 1’s “Cry When You Get Older.” This second installment of what’s supposed to be a three part release will see the light of day on September 6th.

Body Talk Pt. 1 was released a little over a month ago. It’s the best pop release of the summer so far, and it featured the acoustic version of “Hang With Me.” I can’t wait to get my hands on parts 2 & 3.

Robyn – Hang With Me (Single Version)

Robyn – Cry When You Get Older

Janelle Monae performs Tightrope on Letterman

So I’ve recently been telling everyone I know about two artists I believe will blow up soon: Drake and Janelle Monae. This post is about Janelle Monae.

I do believe that she will blow up soon, and this week has given you a few more reasons to believe me. Monae’s album dropped yesterday, and it’s incredible. It deftly bounces between soul, pop, funk, and experimental sounds with contributions from Big Boi, Of Montreal, and Saul Williams. The lead single from The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV) is “Tightrope (feat. Big Boi)”, and last night Monae performed the song to perfection on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Honestly, if that performance doesn’t make you say “wow,” I don’t know what can.