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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Best Songs of 2013

Its difficult to put these lists together, because, lets be honest, our top 20 songs lists may actually feature 1/2 of our favorite album rather than a song a piece from each of our favorite albums.  But, that wouldn't make for a very interesting list.  So - let me state that there are a lot of songs from my top 10 albums that I probably like better than some of these, but I tried to only feature 1 per artist.

Beta Love
from Ra Ra Riot - Beta Love
Oddly, this track comes from one of my less favorite albums of the year.  Really.  I didn't like the album much.  But THIS is the track that stuck with me all year.  Even after a million listens and in-the-car sing-alongs with my family, I still love it.  So catchy.  Plus, it features - hands down - my favorite music video of the year, and possibly one of my favorite music videos ever. 


This comes from my #1 album of the year.  Man, I wish it wasn't such a short album!  For those not in the  know, Volcano Choir is Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) + Collections of Colonies of Bees, a post-rock instrumental experimental super group from Milwaukee.  I found them years ago as they have some associations with Pele - one of my all-time favorite "post-rock instrumental experimental super groups."  Volcano did an album a couple years ago, but it didn't quite click as most of it, from what I gather, wasn't a full collaboration between Vernon, et al.  Whereas they actually wrote Repave together.  The whole album is great, but Byegone is a real standout.  This song that really gelled for me when they played it live on Jimmy Fallon.  Unfortunately, NBC took the video down.  Boo.  You can grab some other great live performances of Comrade, or a full concert hosted by NPR

Get Lucky was the first track we all heard of the new Daft Punk album, and was my summer jam.  However, even though it and Lose Yourself to Dance (my 3 year old son's favorite song - he says "this is my jam" when it comes on) were catchy and instant hits...they didn't have much staying power for me.  They lacked substance and proved a bit shallow and repetitive.  Ironically, Touch was one of my least favorite songs on the album.   The vocals by Paul Williams REALLY rubbed me the wrong way.  But, if you can get past his voice - which I did eventually - this song is immense.  It has enormous depth and over the course of the last few months, has crept up on my list.

Stay Young
This is a tough choice because The Silver Gymnasium has SO MANY good tracks.  It Was My Season, Down the Deep River, Pink Slips, On a Balcony, Lido Pier Suicide Car, or nearly every other song on the album could be on here too.  

Diane Young
After a spectacular self-titled debut album, and so-so sophmore release (Contra), I was very happy to see Vampire Weekend put out a GREAT 3rd album.  It topped a lot of peoples' lists.  Obvious BicycleStep or Everlasting Arms were all strong contenters.  But, I'll go with the Diane Young (Dyin' Young) for today.

Born Too Late
I loved Dent May's first Ukulele-based album.  It was ridiculous.  For his 2nd album he dropped the Uke in favor of 80's electro-pop.  I didn't like it.  For his 3rd album, he kept the 80's flare, but fleshed the sound out with a lot more organic sounds - horns and such.  The result is great.  He has a gift for catchy pop melodies, and his over-the-top oldschool crooning is infectious.  

Joy to You Baby
 Ah Josh Ritter.  One of my favorite singer-songwriter balladiers ever.  He's a poet (and an author - he wrote a book last year).  The new album is a little hit and miss, but this track gives me goosebumps sometimes.  

Criminal Fingers
 Over the past 2 years I have had something of an obsession with The Hold Steady.  Finn is a story teller and the characters, places, and narratives that run through all of their albums (recurring characters and scenes) sucked me in.  I can't wait for their new album - hopefully coming next year.

 The great thing about this National album is that they come off as a band firmly comfortable with what they are - not trying to reinvent themselves - just doing what they do, and doing it well.  This churner of a song is a great example. 

from RA Scion - The Sickle and the Sword 
Followers of the blog will have heard of RA Scion, formerly of Common Market, before.  Kentucky born and raised, current Seattle-ite, he has been putting out socially conscious hip-hop for years and has reinvented himself so many times.  The new album is spiritual, metaphysical, deep, and a bit spaced-out in content and production.  The production is surprisingly ambient, but has really grown on me.  Unfortunately, the producer Rodney Danger and him have gotten into a disagreement and RA Scion is now offering it for free.  Although he has turned down many offers for donations to help him recoup the personal investment he put into it (and a beautiful video), I still think we should pass the plate.  To make matter worse, this comes off him taking all of the proceeds from the album release party, and donating them to a local Seattle surf rock band La Luz whose equipment had recently been stolen.  No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.


Heart of Nowhere
Just like their last album, this one took a couple months to finally hook me - but it got me good.  The entire album is catchy and great.  This is the album opener, and a real standout - even in spite of the HORRIBLE guest vocals on the bridge by Anna Calvi.

from Atoms for Peace - Amok

News of Radiohead's Thom Yorke putting together a full album with his Atoms for Peace project was very exciting and I played this track repeatedly on my radio show last year.  Standout on the album.

Even if We Try
This comes from one of my early favorites for the year.  New band.  Great harmonies.  Like Fleet Foxes meets Local Natives.

Great Lake Derelict
Post-rock awesomeness + enigmatic vocals.  I love me some Appleseed Cast!

Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)
Shad is hands down my favorite Canadian hip-hop artist.  Ok...also the only one I know.  He is articulate, intelligent, self-deprecating in his humor, etc...  Great message.  Shout out to First Nations.  Even some controversy on borders and transnational commerce / oil pipelines.

If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't on the Dancefloor)
Forgive them their name.  These guys (from Detroit) put out great, unabashed, dance tunes.

Grace for Saints and Ramblers

Kind of a hit and miss album, but along with Caught in the Briars, this here is a highlight.  Here's a great live version they did on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  

A New Life

Another hit and miss album.  The stand-out track here.  Another live version, via Fallon and the Roots.

Blues to Black
Mike Kinsella rarely disappoints.  I often make the mistake of thinking of him as an acoustic singer-songwriter, but then remember that on most of his songs, he plays a full range of instruments - often layering his ALWAYS piercing lyrics with waves of electric guitars. 

Miracle Mile
Not their strongest album, but a handful of tunes worth keeping.  The lead-off track here is the best.

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