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Dec 27, 2013

Best Music of 2013

The past year was an odd one for music, in my opinion. So many bands that hadn’t put out an album in years returned, with mixed results. Most of my favorite albums ended up being by new (or new to me) artists. Three out of my top five albums were debuts.  I also found myself enjoying releases by bands and musicians that have been around for a while, but hadn’t previously really resonated with me (Devendra Banhart, Vampire Weekend). Only time will tell if it will go down as a great year or just a so-so year for music, but either way, here's what I liked.

Favorite Albums of 2013:

1. Disclosure - Settle

I have to give it to Disclosure, because of any album I heard this year, this was the one I got the most excited to listen to again and again. I’m already pumped about hearing it on New Year's Eve.

2. Fielded - Ninety-Thirty-Thirty

I wouldn’t be surprised if most people have not heard of Fielded a.k.a. Lindsay Powell, which is a shame since Ninety-Thirty-Thirty is such a strong album. I first heard Fielded perform at Apop’s birthday party early in 2013, and was blown away by how great Lindsay’s vocals were live. Fielded reminds me of Tori Amos (specifically the Y Kant Tori Read years), but every time I tell people that they assume negative things. So forget I mentioned it. You can listen to Ninety-Thirty-Thirty here and judge for yourself. http://fielded.bandcamp.com/album/ninety-thirty-thirty

3. HAIM - Days Are Gone

I’ve already said probably all I need to say about HAIM here. Despite what I hope was an uncharacteristically embarrassing live performance on SNL, I’m still really into this album.

4. Savages - Silence Yourself

The whole girl band sounding like Wire thing has been done before (and in my opinion, done very well) by Elastica. But Savages manage to make sounding like Wire more exciting than anyone has since Wire. Does that even make sense? By far the band that I most want to see live in 2014.

5. Majical Cloudz - Impersonator

The stark, soulful vocals and somewhat depressing point of view presented by Majical Cloudz reminds me of the The, a favorite band of mine. But Magical Cloudz is definitely less upbeat tempo-wise than the The. This is dramatic music for soul-searching introverts, which I guess I am? Bit of interesting trivia, Majical Cloudz singer Devon Welsh’s dad is Kenneth Welsh, best known (by me) for playing Windom Earle on Twin Peaks.

6. Devendra Banhart - Mala

The most surprising thing to me this year was how much I liked Mala. It isn’t that I haven’t enjoyed Devendra Banhart’s previous albums, its just that sometimes his singing style reminds me of handlebar mustaches, in a bad way. But on this album his vocals are a bit less at the forefront, allowing the murky ambiance and gentle, meandering electronic melodies to shine through.

7. Jon Hopkins - Immunity

Jon Hopkins has been around a while, but came to my attention just this year with Immunity.  While Hopkins' mesmerizing songs are electronic and often have a fast beat, they are not dance songs, really. They are more like songs to enthusiastically zone out to, which is better than it sounds.

8. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

Probably more than any other album here, this one was a grower for me. I wasn’t really that excited about the first few singles released (“Dance Apocalyptic” still doesn’t do it for me, despite being about dancing and the apocalypse, two of my favorite topics). However, the slow grooves “Given Em What They Love” and “Primetime” featuring Prince and Miguel, respectively, totally make up for it.

9. (The London) Suede - Bloodsports

I’ve been a Suede fan since back in their early 90s heyday, so I was pretty excited that they managed to put together a successful comeback album after such a long absence (10 years). If you’ve never heard Suede before, this is an acceptable place to start. IMHO they represent British rock at its finest, though I think its safe to say that Brett Anderson’s vocals are not necessarily universally appealing. If you are okay with over the top vocal acrobatics (I am!) then step this way.

10. The Blow - s/t

Like Suede, the Blow returned this year after not releasing an album in a while and really delivered something special, without seeming to change what made them really special in the first place. The brilliance of the Blow has always been in their lyrics and that remains true for this album. Example: "I heard a rumor that I was amazing/ I tell myself everything I hear about myself" from “I Tell Myself Everything.” Your repeat listens will be rewarded.

Favorite Songs of 2013:

1. “GMF” - John Grant

GMF wins simply because of any song I enjoyed in 2013, this is the one I want as the soundtrack for most of my interactions with other human beings for all time. Recognize my greatness, people!

2. “Latch” - Disclosure

Really, I could have listed any of the first four songs (not counting the intro) from this album. They have each alternated being my favorite track from Settle over the course of the year. I’m really into “Latch” right now despite the fact that it makes me think of nursing babies. That is a big mental image hurdle to get over, but this song does it with ease.

3. “Feds Watching” - 2 Chainz

I know this song isn’t about the NSA spying on people, but we can all pretend that it is? And then bask in our devil-may-care drop-toppin’, head-boppin’, internet searchin’, phone call makin’, etc. The government may know my secrets, but at least I’m fresh as hell.

4. “Step” - Vampire Weekend

Of any song or album on this list, nothing has divided my household the way Vampire Weekend has. My husband can’t stand it. And I get why people dislike Vampire Weekend on an intellectual level, but I also think sometimes our preconceived notions can get in the way of our enjoyment of things. Just give “Step” a listen and pretend the artist performing it is called something else, like say, Werewolf Sabbatical. Let me know if this helps.

5. “Reflektor” - Arcade Fire

My one complaint about this otherwise fantastic song  is that they buried David Bowie’s vocals. If you get one of the best rock vocalists of all time on your track, why make it impossible to hear him? I deserve an explanation, Arcade Fire!

6. “Shut Up” - Savages

I think the reason I like this Savages song the best is that it features what Pitchfork called “Jehnny Beth's Siouxsie-summoning battle cries.” I really can’t put it better than that. Plus, I like telling people to shut up.

8. “Goldtone” - Kurt Vile

Wakin on a Pretty Daze was a good, if not mind-blowing, follow-up to Smoke Ring for My Halo, an album that I loved from beginning to end. This was probably my favorite track from Wakin…contemplative and lovely. Plus, we here at BombPop love a gold tone.

9. “You (Ha Ha Ha)” - Charli XCX

Credit must be given to Gold Panda (who had a pretty great album of his own this year) for the amazing sample that provides the backbone of this song. I like the original, but Charli’s pop version with it’s rap-talking vocal to me is sublime. Effing it up never sounded so good.

10. “Full of Fire” - The Knife

My never to be published list of 2013’s greatest musical disappointments would probably be topped off with the Knife’s album. The 2013 release I was looking forward to the most, Shaking the Habitual just didn’t live up to expectations. I really love the two lead-off singles, but the rest of it is puzzling even after 12 months of listening. This song, though, lives up to its name.

New Years Eve Must-Plays:

1. "Walking on Air" - Katy Perry

I’m not a huge Katy Perry fan, or at least not as big as some people I know (ahem, Samantha). With that huge caveat, I will tell you that this is my favorite Katy Perry song ever and it is an absolute blast to dance to.

2. "Work Bitch" - Britney Spears

If this was a “best songs to work out to” list, then this song would be number one. Alas, it is not. But it is still a pretty fantastic dance song. And, please do call the govenah.

3. "F for You" - Disclosure

F for fantastic!

4. "Slow Down" - Selena Gomez

It was a standout year for Selena Gomez between her (really!) pretty great album Stars Dance and her appearance in what may have been my favorite movie of the year, Spring Breakers. Keep it up, Selena!

5. "Mirrors" - Justin Timberlake

I think it would be really fun to mirror dance with someone to this song. Anyone interested?

6. "Bubble Butt" - Major Lazer

One of the silliest songs of the year, no doubt, but also one of the catchiest. If you managed to perfect your twerk earlier this year, here’s your opportunity to show it off.

7. "I’m Out" - Ciara

I really enjoyed Ciara’s comeback this year, and this may be my favorite song on the album ("Body Party" is also amazing). Nikki Minaj adds some much needed f-bombs to class up the whole affair.

8. "Turn the Night Up" - Enrique Iglesias

Do not judge me. I’m not advocating anything Enrique has done before or will do in the future. I’m just telling you that this song is a great dance jam.

9. "Warm in the Winter" - Glass Candy

This song is thematically perfect for NYE. If you don’t believe me, give it a listen.

10. "Wenu Wenu" - Omar Souleyman

If it works for all the hottest Syrian weddings, it will probably work for your NYE dance party.

What do you think? Did I get it right? See my Spotify Best of 2013 Playlist below to hear all my favorite tracks of the year for yourself.

Pictures from Amazon.

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