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.

Refused – New Noise (Rehearsal, Umeå 2012-02-29)

 Oh yes. Refused is back.

Back in the days when I used to go to the library and rent albums in order to build my music collection, Refused were one of my gem punk discoveries (up there with Scatter the Ashes.) And when I saw that they were on the poster for this year’s Coachella, I flipped.

I am unbelievably excited for this comeback show.

Gossip – Jealous Girls (Live in Liverpool)

I was driving home from work today and had the Live in Liverpool album by Gossip on, and when this song came on, I remembered how badly I’ve wanted to share it with everyone every time I hear it. So here you go.

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the bass line that stomps around in this song. And the snare hits make me think of someone marching around, stomping their feet and clapping like Mick Jagger in this clip (skip to :45).

Jealous Girls by Gossip

The Kills & The Horrors @ The Henry Fonda

Last Friday I went to see the Kills opened by the Horrors and Magic Wands at the Music Box at the Fonda Theater in LA. I didn’t care too much for Magic Wands (but they aren’t bad by any means), so here are my thoughts on the Horrors and the Kills (both of whom I’m enamored with).

The Horrors' lead singer Faris Badwan in LA at the Music Box
The Horrors' lead singer Faris Badwan in LA at the Music Box

The Horrors

What do you do after you are one of the most hyped bands of 2006 with the world on your fingertips? If you are the Horrors, you lay low for two years after touring and in the meantime record an album that is incredible but sounds nothing like your debut.

I was hooked after my first listen to the Horrors’ debut album Strange House three years ago. I loved that while there was something familiar in their songs, they sounded like nothing else I was listening to. Quite a bit has changed in the musical landscape since 2006, but the Horrors’ new sophomore album Primary Colors somehow instills the same feeling as Strange House.

The five piece put on a great show for being an opening band. Ferris, their lead singer, has a great presence on stage. After going from nothing to the cover of NME, he still seems pleased that people are interested in the music his band makes. Luckily, the Horrors are impeccable live and have no trouble recreating the dense punk sound that Primary Colors contains. There wasn’t much banter in between songs, they played pretty straight through their set.

As for the songs they played on this tour, you wouldn’t know that they ever had a debut album if you just saw the setlist. They essentially play Primary Colors start to finish save for two songs. It’s perfect – if you love Primary Colors; songs from Strange House are nowhere to be found.

Alison "VV" Mosshart, one half of The Kills
Alison "VV" Mosshart, one half of The Kills

The Kills

My new obsession. In the weeks leading up to Coachella 2009, I listened to their most recent album Midnight Boom start to finish and remembered how much I liked a few songs on their previous album No Wow. Since seeing the later half of their Coachella performance (and being completely mesmerized throughout), I’ve been watching/listening/reading everything I can get my hands on relating to the Kills.

The duo often gets compared to the White Stripes, but Meg White hasn’t got a single thing on Alison “VV” Mosshart. And since the White Stripes haven’t done much of anything lately, I’ll take the Kills without complaining.

Hotel and VV might be the most compelling people I’ve ever seen on stage. It might be VV’s long black hair as its own performace, or it maybe its the “chemistry” they have with each other while playing, or most likely, it’s just the fact that the two exude coolness. It’s not hipster snobbery; it’s a feeling of not giving a fuck, but having everything line up perfectly that reels everyone in.

Now that they have three LPs out, finding solid material to play isn’t much of an issue. Well over half of the songs on the setlist are hits with simple lyrics that can be sung along to. It was a great show all around (save for the tall ass with wiry blond hair who did nothing but instigate fights all night long). The last song of the encore was especially great as they invited the Horrors back out to do their 8+ minute version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You.” The song involved every wire on stage getting tangled around VV and the Horror’s guitar player as they lay on the floor rolling around. It was great.

All in all, the show proved to me that the Horrors aren’t going anywhere, the Kills are even cooler live than on record, and that I absolutely hate LA audiences.

photo credit goes to flickr user hazyskyline6

The Smell is so sweet

The Smell ThumbnailLast night I decided that I wanted to go to a show in downtown at a tiny underground indie/noise/punk venue called The Smell. Why? Because two of The Smell’s brainchildren were performing: No Age & Mika Miko. Along with these two were The Strange Boys, Jay Reatard, and Disaster Bad Parents.

The night started around 8:30 when I caught the Metro 81 which was a straight-shot to where I needed to go. So I got off at my stop and started heading in what I thought was the right direction. I was able to make it in front of the No Age: Weirdo Rippers venue front, or back, as the real front is down an alley. It was apparent that I couldn’t get in there as there was no door-handles and a guy who didn’t look like The Smell’s normal cliental told me to go through the parking lot; great advice, if the parking lot was open. So I wound up walking around the block until I came to a small alley that looked like it’d lead to the back of the building, which it did.

So I walked inside and got my $8 wristband (no pre-sale tickets), went to the bathroom (which is covered in graffiti and band stickers), and walked into the main-stage area where Disaster Bad Parents were beginning to play. They weren’t really my taste of music, but The Smell is known for letting all kinds of music play, so no judgement passed. Next were The Strange Boys. I think that they have an average age of about 15, no lie. They were great, even though I think that they played a lot of covers. Their sound kind of bounced along without losing its classic punk sound.

Next up, to my surprise, was No Age. I figured that, since they are the biggest band coming out of The Smell, that they would be last. I was glad that they played third, because I had to leave at 11:40, and it was already around 10:30 (my bus left at midnight, and it wouldn’t come again until 5). They were amazing. The waves of feedback and crazy drums were exactly what I thought No Age would be. For “Everybody’s Down,” the guitarist came out into the crowd and just walked around playing the repetitive chord progression while the drummer stood on an amp and sang the song. Then they got back into position and the song hit it’s critical climax. All hell broke loose. It was a massive pit where no one was trying it hit anyone else. It was the nicest pit that I’ve ever seen. It was more of a pure enjoyment of the music instead of a violent collective.

Near the end of their set, some ass started yelling, “BORING…BORING…” So the drummer got pissed, and we threw him out of the club. Considering that No Age could fill venues many times this size, and they they come here because it’s home, they pretty much rule the place. Anything that they say, goes.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay for Jay Reatard and Mika Miko because I didn’t really feel like missing my bus. Beign stranded in LA at night isn’t very fun. Not that I know from experience, I just know how weird it is sitting at a bus stop while the homeless wander around behind you… So that was my night at The Smell. For $8, I’ll be back.

Edit: Changed Retard to Reatard, thanks hopkin.

The Horrors make me blend in

The Horrors

Fuckin hipsters. It’s their fault that I’m one who blends into the crowd. Too bad I listen to their music.

Just look at that picture for another second. Where do you get the idea to dress/do your hair/put on makeup/etc… like that?! It’s a damn good thing that The Horrors play amazing music, or else they’d slip under my hipster radar like so many others do. Maybe it’s something in the British blood. If that’s the case, I’m nothing but screwed.

So, back to the music. The Horrors play a mixture of lofi indie garage punk. The sound quality is equivalent to The White Stripes, but their style is closer to the punk bands of about 20+ years ago. Need something more recent as a comparison? Think Klaxons sans electro plus scenester clothing.

What makes the Horrors different from any other band in the British punk wave going on right now? For me, it’s the electric organs. Nothing is too complicated with the Horrors, and nothing about them pretends to be (other than their hair). Their chord progressions are repetitive, as are the organ riffs, drums, and vocals. They are simple, original, and … they have really tight jeans.

Success is coming to the Horrors as of now. Their latest (and first) LP Strange House has received very good reviews that basically agree with everything that I’ve said thus far. Check them out.

Coachella 2007: Circa Survive

Circa SurviveLet me point out firstly how odd I find it that Circa Survive is even playing at Coachella (a post-hardcore band amongst the indie/electro-nation?) That said, I really do live Circa Survive and don’t have a problem with them playing.The Circa Survive arises some odd feelings in me, so I will first go over the history that I know of. The band started after the lead singer, Anthony Green, left a little band named Saosin (where he was also the lead singer.) He left on very odd terms. At an airport, while he was waiting for his next flight to go meet the guys of Saosin, he called to let them know that he had a change of heart decided that he didn’t belong anymore. Saosin has since moved on to singer Cove Reber.Leaving the drama behind, Anthony Green is what made/makes both bands what they were/are (but Cove was a good replacement.) His voice is very powerful and ethereal simutaneously; it really is amazing to listen to. He can hit notes that other punk singers only dream of being able to hit without tearing apart their vocal chords. His singing style is fairly agressive, meaning that he does scream… but only once in a while. He is not a scream singer in any way shape or form. To put is simply, I love Green’s voice.Circa Survive has released only one studio album to date, but a new LP is due very soon. Their sound is very open and ambient. The guitar ruffs aren’t choppy; they fade off into the distance being overlapped by the oncoming riffs. The vocals do the same. Their song construction is anything but conventional. While most songs do have the verse/chord progression, the many variant Circa takes on this makes for a nice change of pace. It will be very interesting to see where the new LP takes Circa. It might launch them to where Saosin is now, above Saosin, or it could mark the end of a fairly new group.Sorry for the constant Saosin comparisons, but Saosin is one of my favorite bands right now…

Coachella 2007: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers Heads

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been a staple in my music collection from as far back as I can remember (not of my own volition in the beginning.) Their great amalgam of funk metal, punk, rap, and pop makes a sound unique from anything around them throughout their current 24 year career. While their first two records didn’t do too much regarding chart success, from Mothers Milk on, success has followed them wherever they go.I want to spend the most time on album #5: Blood Sugar Sex Magic. My favorite album, and judging from chart success, may other’s as well. Having been produced by Rick Rubin, it almost seems obvious that it would be an amazing record, and having sold 12 million copies worldwide, there is no doubt that this is one of the greatest rock albums (of all time). This album is pure energy and fun. Heavy bass emphasis puts funk at the forefront of the record with Anthony Kiedis’ rap sharp and powerful lyricism. “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge” are two amazing singles that showcase the creativity put into every song on the record.Moving on to the following albums, Californication was an even larger chart success than its predecessors with singles like “Californication”, “Scar Tissue”, and “Parallel Universe”. To date, it has sold 15 million copies. Californiation allowed RHCP to basically clean up at the 2000 MTV VMAs (and win a few Grammys at the same time.) Skipping past By the Way, which is another great record, we arrive at Stadium Arcadium.So much hype surrounded this album that I didn’t think that it could live up to what it was supposed to be, and in my opinion, it didn’t. There is no denying that the amount of awards that Stadium Arcadium has garnered speaks volumes about its success as a pop album, but I feel that RHCP left their sound behind them and replaced it with some cotton candy and bubblegum. I don’t feel that it’s a bad album, I just hope that they play more than Stadium Arcadium at Coachella…

Coachella 2007: Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine Band PictureAnyone remember one of the biggest political bands of all time? Rage Against the Machine left the scene in 2000 due to Zach de la Rocha’s (lead singer) announcement that he didn’t feel that he could stay honest to himself and be in the band. After the breakup, the rest of the band (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk) joined together with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell to form Audioslave (which recently broke up.) Forgetting their complicated history, Rage is reuniting to play at Coachella and three more shows as a part of the Rock the Bells concert in New York and Northern/Southern California later this year.Rage plays amazing funk metal infused with very politically charged lyrics. Everyone of their albums is sure to punch you in the face and leave you on the floor bleeding. Tom Morello’s strong guitar sounds go hand in hand with de la Rocha’s emphatic style of writing and execution. Another characteristic of Rage’s music (common to funk metal) is the way that they push the bass to the front many times. It’s very heavy music with a message.I have been in love with Rage for about five or six years now. Yes, this means that I wasn’t into them while they were a band (I was only in 3rd/4th grade when they broke up), but their music hasn’t diminished in meaning as time has passed. If you want to check out what they sound like, I recommend checking out the songs Calm Like a Bomb, Bullet in the Head, and Killing in the Name. If you don’t like those, oh well, those are just my favorite songs. Read more to see the video for Sleep Now in the Fire. Rage Against the Machine will be the headliner for Sunday of Coachella.