“IT’S NOVEMBER!!! WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!?!?!!?????” — me, this morning when I woke up.
Indeed, it is time to change the clocks, lament the death of nature and get our asses ready for the cold, brutal fist of winter to pummel us into the doldrums of S.A.D. Yay? At least the music keeps us warm.
The past two months whizzed by and before you know it, it’s time for the Year End Listocalypse. Let’s get this show on the road.
As I muse over the “Big Picture” of 2013, the most striking theme of the year was soul, beats and humanity filtering their way into the sounds of my favorite artists (see: NIN, Daft Punk, Arcade Fire). Call it the Let’s Dance Bowie-fication (or, on a lesser scale, the Viva La Vida-ing of a sound). I’ll blather on about it at the end of December, but I’d just like to make mention here, since most of the songs that follow are full of big beats, big emotion and a lot more humanity than I’m used to at this time of the year. Here’s what I’ve got for September:
1. Coldplay – “Atlas”
That song from the Catching Fire soundtrack. Sounds like nothing they’ve ever done before, and yet it’s perfectly Coldplay. For better or worse.
2. Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”
Is this their best song ever? Apologies to the “Wake Up” crowd — I’m a Suburbs man, myself — but this is just a 7-minute party with AF, Bowie and James Murphy.
3. Jessie Ware – “Night Light”/”Sweet Talk”/”Imagine It Was Us”
Smooth and cool. If I had known about this album when it came out last year, it’d be in the Top 10. It has dominated my past few months. It fulfills everything I loved and missed about the early ’90s, in my debut-Mariah phase of life.
4. Ylvis – “The Fox”
Yes, seriously. This is a great song.
5. OneRepublic – “Preacher”/”Can’t Stop”/”Light It Up”
This OneRepublic album…it’s a grower! No shame! While Ryan Tedder is one of the best pop writers around today, he still can’t figure out what he wants his band to sound like. “Preacher” is their Coldplay phase. This song should be mashed up with “Paradise” because it’s basically the same song. Then we have some other Top 40 radio rip-offery with “Can’t Stop” and “Light It Up” — which is to say these should ALL be on the radio. ASAP.
6. BANKS – “This Is What It Feels Like”
If Aaliyah were still alive today (god, how I cried), she’d be making songs like this. So smooth, so sexy, so awesome.
7. KT Tunstall – “Feel It All”/”Made of Glass”
“Feel It All” is the most uptempo song on her new album of desert twang ballads. The chorus is a sweeping gorgeous little thing. Then we have “Made of Glass” which is bar-none one of the greatest songs KT has ever written (whoa, slow down Neil!). The ending whistle solo with orchestral backup caves my chest in. One of the highlights of my year.
8. Austra – “Home”
Poor Austra are getting swept by the wayside in this overstuffed year of amazing releases. This is a highlight from their latest that I keep coming back to. I’m sure I’ll get better acquainted with this album, but not this year.
9. Savages – “No Face”
This song is fucking brutal. Claws to the face, thrashing in a sweaty pit, hair-pulled in quasi-sexual physical overexertion. I want to kick, I want to jump, I want to fuck, I want to spit and scream and shake my face around like I was seizing. Holy shit, I love this song.
10. Schoolboy Q – “Collard Greens” feat. Kendrick Lamar
I slept on Kendrick Lamar for too long, and I am ashamed. This kid is the real thing. Schoolboy is part of his crew and this is his most palatable song (for me). I can’t get enough from the blippy-bloopy, driving beats. The rhymes are quote-worthy too. I’m happy to be interested in rap again.
Album of September: based purely on how much I listened to it on loop, this is most definitely the month of Jessie Ware’s Devotion. Sure the album didn’t come out this year, but whateverrrrrr it is stunning. Take me back to 1991!
Now we move on to October.
1. KT Tunstall – “Alchemy”
I saw her at the end of September and it was a revelation. I’d waited a very long time and she did not disappoint. This was an unknown track from her setlist — a rare track from a concert-only EP release — and it’s such a delicate piece of beauty, the kind of snowflake track that you’re scared will melt if you play it too loud. Just…absolute beauty.
2. Sisters of Mercy – “This Corrosion”
Holy shit! Thank you World’s End end credits! Thank you Simon Pegg! If I went through my formative teen years in the 80s, I’d totally be a Sisters of Mercy fan haha, who am I even kidding. This shit is awesome. All the doom and gloom of Joy Division and The Cure, but with a nice dance-y dose of Bowie.
3. Lady Gaga – “Venus”
This song was released a few days ago and it’s already jumped up my charts to dethrone everything you see below, songs which had a whole month to spend with me before being unceremoniously flung from their perches by this wacko Sun-Ra-sampling ode to planetary romance.
4. Linkin Park and Steve Aoki – “A Light That Never Comes”
Have you HEARD this song? It’s a perfect collab — even more appropriate than their Collision Course experiment with Jigga — and it makes me want to to go to a dance party and pretend I’m a little EDM shit. BANGER.
5. Lorde – “Buzzcut Season”
Yeah I finally caved and now I like “Royals.” But the rest of the album is great too. This is my clear standout. It’s a hypnotizing, insistent groover, perfect for chill-out mixes and emoting with your online friends.
6. Lady Gaga – “Do What You Want” feat. R. Kelly
Read that line again. Did you ever think you’d see “Gaga” and “R. Kelly” in the same sentence? I surely did not. Her Manson collabo-remix made more sense. But here we are and this song is huge. You miss The Fame? Prepare to rejoice, Poker Face. I think it would fit nicely on Fame Monster though. It’s R&B Gaga, someone you all missed. R.Kelly’s verse is perfect. This is all just so ridiculous it works.
7. Florence and the Machine – “Strangeness and Charm”
Thank you Shazaam. Thank you Cole Haan outlet store. This was a bonus track from Ceremonials and I’m ashamed that I didn’t have it already. It should have been on the final album cut. It’s huge, a typical Florence wailer. I love this ginger powerhouse.
8. Kendrick Lamar – “M.A.A.D. City”
As you read above, I’m finally onboard with Kendrick Lamar. I’ve had this song for over a year but I never listened to it. Stupid ass Neil. Makes me miss the glory days of Death Row. This song makes me drive fast.
9. Miley Cyrus – “Wrecking Ball”
OHHHHH SHIIIIIIIIT, no he DI’INT! Yes I did… After a horrible shame spiral that required a lot of emotional support, my sister and I finally succumbed to this fucking song and omg I love to sing it at the top of my lungs. My stepmom walked in on me the other day, wailing in the kitchen. I felt like I had just been caught masturbating. So, much, shame. But damn it if this song isn’t one of the Top 10 Best Pop Songs of 2013. Congrats, you misguided little soul.
10. Drake – “Hold On We’re Going Home”
Add this to my shame spiral. I hate Drake. But fuckit I LOVE THIS SONG. I love singing along, I love to pretend I’m smooth. And I can sing it better than he can haha (hashtag drake you suck).
Album of October: surely this will turn some heads, but sorry, Arcade Fire just released their new album a couple days before the end of the month, so the winner remains Goldfrapp and their Tales of Us. They had the good sense to release it at a decent time of the month, in time for my rankings. It’s quiet, introspective. Let’s put it this way, since you’ll only want this if you’re a Goldfrapp fan: file this under Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, NOT Black Cherry, Supernature or Head First. It falls somewhere between Felt and Seventh — no song is as rollicking as the least rollicking on Felt Mountain, and yet no song is as uplifting or carefree as anything on Seventh Tree.
See you at the end of the year…