I'm not usually an individual song man. Years of listening to the radio and spending too many hours in front of Channel [V] and rage have hardened me against the stratospheric pop fuzz that dominates the musical landscape of the masses, and bred a deep liking of full albums as an experience. I know that sounds old fashioned and almost like something Thom Yorke would say, but it works for me. That being said, a quick perusal of my Spotify playlist of the top tracks of 2013, which I added to regularly and often, finds some 750 songs I deemed worthy of future playback. That's A LOT. So clearly I do still have the seeds of mainstream music lingering in my the roots of my ears. It wasn't that difficult to pick 100 of the best. There have been 20 or 30 incredibly strong songs released this year, but past that it's more a case of tomato vs tomato. Each song in this top 100 meant something to me though. Whether it be a bit of fun (Feds Watching), a deep respect of technique and talent (Rap God), or a gut-wrenching tale that will render the song unlistenable to me in future months due to its close to home message (Bosco). Enjoy, as I have. I have written up a little something on the first 15 tracks, but to do so for the full hundred would require me to quit my job as an unemployed slacker and I have too much tied up in that, so here is the first 15, annotated, and I will follow this with the final 75. Embedded is my Spotify playlist that I have created for my top 100 tracks
Wow.. I seriously thought Reflektor would win this hands down. But the more I listened to this track the deeper it got, the stronger and more desperate the message became. 'Afterlife, oh my god, what an awful word'. 'When love is gone, where does it go?' I mean where does it? Arcade Fire do so well to present you with this despairing sentiment. When something truly deep and wonderful, be it love or life, comes in to existence, does it not become a tangible entity? I mean we can almost touch it, feel it, interact with it. 'And after all the hangers-on are done'. It's honestly gut-wrenching, and in the only way they know how the density of noise is propped up by this ridiculously poppy wall of sound that attacks you when the bridge is shouted. This is a flooring song. Just sit with it for a few listens, imagine the pain and the desolation someone experiences when they lose someone they care about. After the well-wishers move on, their 5 minutes in the spotlight done, what happens next? Then, when you're done pondering that, shut the lyrics out and marvel at the way the track moves. Those synths sirening in the background, providing the canvas for a simply FUNKY bassline to mirror the mood expressed so poignantly by the lyrics.. I mean shit, this is a good song. This is the best song of the year.
2. Rap God - Eminem
Why be a king, when you can be a god? That right there just wipes the slate clean. I actually thought I'd end up ranking Love Game higher, which is an interesting part of this song. King Kendrick's much publicised lyrical spray arrives in at number 5 on this list. The only man Eminem allowed alongside him on his record, and he throws him an unconquerable diss in the last line of this epic. This is just an absolute triumph. 6 minutes of the hottest lyrical fire since hip hop was brought in to existence. 'Even though I'll walk in the church and burst in a ball of flames / Only Hall of Fame I'll be inducted in is the alcohol of fame On the wall of (shame)'
'Rappers are having a rough time period, here's a maxi pad'
I'm out my Ramen Noodle, we have nothing in common, poodle
I'm a doberman, pinch yourself in the arm and pay homage, pupil
And I don't know what the fuck that you rhyme for
You're pointless as Rapunzel with fucking cornrows
You write normal? Fuck being normal
I mean shit this is even before he manages to rap 97 words in 15 seconds. That's right, his supersonic speed. And it isn't just gibberish, he manages to throw innovative, devastating and demonstrating in there. This track is pure insanity, it is the absolute pinnacle of his career. It combines every element of what makes Eminem fantastically brilliant and a modern genius. His razor wit, his awe-inspiring talent, his penchant for hard work, his technique, his barrier breaking ability. The production isn't even something write home about, but it's the perfect opportunity for Em to spit without anything weighing him down or stealing focus. Fire.
3. Placebo - Bosco
I cried when I first heard this song. I haven't cried since 1998. It's absolute beauty, and it hit me so hard in the middle of the chest, the emotion that Brian sings with and the mournful piano that breaks out in to a wonderful string section as he pours his soul on to the song is just strikingly beautiful. I guarantee I won't be able to listen to this song again in 2014, and it's only the very best music that has that kind of impact. There's someone out there who I dedicate this song to. I feel dirty not giving this the top track of the year, but I just won't be physically able to listen to it once my life situation changes, and for that it remains a double edged sword.
4. Daft Punk - Get Lucky
Had to be in the top 4 didn't it? For just sheer enjoyment and pleasure, as well as insane pop prowess. They haven't written anything so memorable since One More Time. And maybe it was the fact that Nile Rodgers provided the stupidly catchy tick tick that induces my father in to breaking out in spontaneous laughter everytime the chorus comes in. The true beauty of this track is what Daft Punk have managed to achieve with it. They created a record for the purists, a back to basics 1980s disco funk fest that fell largely on deaf ears in the mainstream. Tracks like Contact, Touch, Beyond and Giorgio by Moroder might not raise the heart rates at your local dance-fest, but almost as if to prove they can still write the absolute catchiest of pop Get Lucky exists. It's a reminder of the genius of these two men, it's their Hey Ya! moment. It will be spun for many years to come.
5. Bound 2 - Kanye West
The sickest, most insane love song of all time. Yet, weirdly, one of the most accurate and about as heartfelt as we're going to get from Yeezy. It tracks the trajectory of a modern relationship where ego's, fights and sex is abundant. It's no Drunk In Love this, it's a hard hitting, sobering look at how the 1% live and conduct themselves, and yet is so diverse that it could apply to any number of pash and dash scenarios that develop in to something more. When two huge personalities clash, this is what we get. This was what Yeezus should really have been. A pure and simple sample, and Ye not really trying on the mic, just spitting whatever comes in to his head. The rest of the record is almost totally throw away for various reasons, but Bound 2 resonates.
Close your eyes and let the word paint a thousand pictures
One good girl is worth a thousand bitches
Must be love.
6. Big Sean feat. Kendrick Lamar, Jay Electronica - Control
You know, listening to GKMC you almost get this vision of Kendrick as a sensitive thug. He isn't, and I doubt he is much of a thug at all, but there seems this unspoken rule of the new school that cosigns are plenty and beefs are about as common as steak in Newtown. Remember 50 cent vs Jadakiss? Ja Rule vs Eminem/50 Cent? Jay and Nas? We could pin a culture on those beefs. They never spilled over in to violence, yet they were rappers at the pinnacle of the game throwing hands at each other on wax and the listener was all the better for it. Lamar spawned so many responses from his verse, which was absolute fire, that he single handedly brought back one of the original corner stones of the genre. The battle rap. Of the replies, none matched the original for aggressiveness and mind-boggling word play. But when everyone heard that track, I'm sure there were a few sleepless nights. The hippie generation of back pack rappers was destroyed by King Kendrick. Watch the throne.
7. Haim - The Wire
Honestly, there is always two or three songs like this every year. Songs that just settle in to your ears like a lovely warm pair of muffs. They are songs that appear perfectly crafted for radio. The Wire was on such heavy rotation I began dreaming about it, which is never a good sign. Still, despite the incessant replays, the song never got old or tired. Despite the fact that the lyrics are slightly unintelligble, you find yourself comparing it to your own love life and it just kind of fits. Don't forget that old standard, repetition. They say It Felt Right a lot. And it does, still right now I have heard this song 4,376 times this year and I can't stop going bopping.
8. Lil Wayne Feat. Chance The Rapper - You Song
Maaaaaaan. I never got on board with Chance until this. 'Take ya to ya favorite restaurant
Ask for the bread then fuck in the restroom'. The beat is reminiscient of older Ye work, when he was sampling and then using Dre's drums. You almost forget Weezy has to come in, and i did for the first 6 listens because I had to keep spinning Chance's verse. Funnily enough, despite his recent form, the enigmatic Wayne brings his absolute A game, rapping 'Thinking about yo ass and how it look like a big smile
I get mental flashbacks of your asscrack
Lemme get back on track...
You say I act like I don't miss you, that's because I don't act'
For pure enjoyment this tracks rates so highly this year, and it details the meteoric rise of young Chance, who Wayne apparently called completely out of the blue to drop a verse, and with barely any prep he comes up with this! I'm sold.
9. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
For many weeks I was certain this would be my number 1 track of the year. It's just such a stunning return to form for this conglomerate. Never before have they written something so unobtrusively danceable. No Cars Go was in your face, Keep The Car Running was break out of your shackles type dancing, but Reflektor grows so slowly you almost miss its explosion, but when Bowie lends his hand on 'Down down down don't mess around' the song explodes in to its surroundings and you find yourself lost amongst the artisan density that they have laced the entire album with. There's so many sounds going on here it's like being in the mind of a severe shitzophrenic, you never know what to listen to next or where to turn. Brilliant.
10. The National - Graceless
I was waiting for a ferry at Luna Park during SYdney's Vivd Festival when I first heard this song. The lights were dancing on the night sky, yet I was almost as down as I had been for a long time. The black water was lapping at the pier, everyone around was laughing and joking and taking photos of the lights, and Graceless came on. The way it transported me outside of my surroundings and cocooned me in this melancholy bubble was wonderous. I wasn't high, I was just sad.
I'm trying, but I'm graceless
Don't have the sunny side to face this
I am invisible and weightless
You can't imagine how I hate this
11. Arctic Monkeys - Arabella
This track blends all that is brilliant about the band. They burst on the scene with brash and abrasive guitar noise which is perfectly mimmicked by the bridge of this song, which is then tempered by their softer side that occasionally shines through on stronger moments of previous records. It then explores their penchant for often confusing lyrics, 'Arabella's got some interstellar-gator skin boots
And a helter skelter 'round her little finger and I ride it endlessly'. Of course again, it's catchiness rendered it a radio mainstay but more so than Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High this was a more diverse look at the best of the band.
12. Future Feat. Lil Wayne - Karate Chop Remix
Ok, Lil Wayne's line is not cool. The rest of his verse is awesome though, 'Two cell phones ringin' at the same time
That's your ho, callin' from two different phones
Tell that bitch "leave me the fuck alone!"
See, you fuck her wrong, and I fuck her long'.
His disdainful treatment of women is not endearing, it's just perplexing how he can continue to come up with scenarios that aren't the same as the millions of others he has trotted out. Future's 2 verses though are the true gems. His flow is something that has been mimmicked by so many, even Beyonce has employed it. It's legacy will live on longer than 2013 as a spaced out romp that perfectly defines the mixtape game right now.
13. Boy and Bear - Three Headed Woman
I had one of those dreams, you were a three headed wooooooooomaaaaaaaan, you were sleeping with my best friend, I woke up in a sweat. I had a girl once who was upset with me because she dreamt I had cheated on her. It sucks. Boy and Bear have never been of any interest to me until I heard this, the lyrics resonate and they are packaged in such a slick indie package that it was impossible not to include this.
14. Lorde - Royals
Somehow I think her sentiments, whilst echoed by 99% of her current fans, won't be so easy to retain after the 2013 this woman had. This track is excellent though, a perfect rejection of the modern hip hop culture of bravado and big Bentleys. It's just a hyper intelligent girl from New Zealand asking why in gods name would I listen to Jay-Z rapping about Tom Ford when I shop at Target? It made you think for a second. And that minimalist production allows her voice to achieve its full dose of serenity.
15. The National - Fireproof
Ah The National. Stunning. You're fireproof, nothing breaks your heart. It's a desperate plea from a man, a male with testosterone eeking out of his pores, perplexed by a woman that seems impervious to normal womanly emotions and situations. It's such a wonderful reversal of roles, the way the immasculation is portrayed and pursued almost in his own head as he reasons why and how he is the emotional one whilst she remains staunch and unbothered. Another triumph from the lads.