2013 in music and my top 20 songs of the year

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Well that wasn’t a very good year for pop music, was it? We had to wait until November until we were given a half-way decent pop hook (Rihanna’s Monster chorus), but even that was replicating the exact same formula Ri and Slim nailed for the first time a few years ago.

Of last year’s two really big hitters, only Taylor came out with one great tune (“22”), but that was actually from 2012 and Carly Rae was nowhere to be seen.

The biggest summer sellers both used Pharrell in what must have been a very profitable year for him. And both tracks became the de facto back-to-back option for lazy DJs everywhere. “Blurred Lines” provided guilty pleasure plays long after its release and “Get Lucky”‘s brilliance was put to the test of being played to death. Unfortunately both failed. I haven’t voluntarily played either since August.

Elsewhere, Miley Cyrus has encouraged moral outrage across the country by being provocative. She’s outraged more people than even the Daily Mail managed to this year. And last time I checked, it has always been the role of a pop/rockstar to piss off the adults of the world. Teenagers love her and all your outrage is doing is helping her shift records. The only depressing thing about Miley is that she hasn’t recorded a decent tune since Party in the USA. Miley, be as naked as you like, but please get back in the studio with Jessie J asap.

Eminem brought out the MM2, which aside from the Monster was terrible. Kanye’s Yeezus flirted with trap too much to be anywhere half good (Bound 2 being the only exception), and the new Jay couldn’t even manage one good tune.

In RnB, Amel Larrieux released an exceptional album, which is probably my favourite longplayer of the year. It sounds like some late 90s RnB and for that I’m incredibly thankful.

The real blossoms (unsurprisingly for me, granted), were with dance music. Let’s first get the bad out the way. The deep house sound from the past two-to-three years, spurred on by the Jamie Jones’ of the world has entered the mainstream well and proper. MK’s Storm Queen remix was massive but not particularly inspiring (unlike his LDR take), Duke Dumont witnessed relative success for a good few months, and BrEaCh (sp?) saw to it that even the Radio 1 Breakfast show wasn’t without its house cuts. 

But the best thing about deep house’s entering into the mainstream has been the need for the underground to recreate itself (its been long overdue).

Todd Terje was the absolute victor this year. His edit of Lindstrom’s “Vos-Sako-Rv” was exceptional, and so underappreciated (yet when I played it out at a summer party this year, it killed it). But of course his “Strandbar” release has to be the one that constantly turned heads and wowed dancefloors everywhere. And when you got bored of Disko for its more in-your-face piano explosion, Samba took over to bring out the intracacies for months after.

Fort Romeau was my personal favourite producer of the year. In 2012, he was putting out harmless deep house that lounged its way through out soundsystems very unoffensively, but this year – my word! “Jetee” was an absolute banger uniting acid influences, hands-in-the-air breaks with truly melancholic piano in the space of 6 minutes. “Stay/True” was the real glory moment though. Weatherall-esque drugchug taking the acid thing even further produced exceptional tunes at well below the regular bpms.

The love for lower bpms for me this year was created by my greatest clubbing experience in five years (I.e. Clubbing zero one) as I found Rhythm Section. As if by magic at a time when I was getting utterly bored by the London club scene as it was sluggishly playing dull, insipid and uninventive four-to-the-floor house or techno for an audience that needed a head full of horse tranquilisers to appreciate anything more than 15 minutes of it, I found RS.

Rhythm Section, headed up by Bradley Zero, better known as ‘the guy in dreads’ in the Boiler Room videos, changed everything. Here I was dancing to music at anything from all over the world at any given tempo, and it all ignored the paint by numbers house and techno that every other club seemed to be playing. 100bpm never felt so natural to dance to. And my mix of the year is without a doubt the first RS show on NTS I heard: solidifying that early RS sound that I fell in love with: “Stop Bajon”, and “Rising to the Top.”

My love for disco expanded this year in tandem, and in particular with the re-edits scene. Fingerman’s “Too Much” and Late Nite Tuff Guy’s “I Want Your Love” mix (which admittedly isn’t a re-edit) stood out on top, but I could have easily put together a top 20 of re-edits that all sound as excellent today as they did when I first heard them this year, while simultaneously bringing some life back to forgotten originals.

There’s some jazz entering my heard properly for the first time outside of the Miles Davis and bigband canon that previously existed. The jazz influences on the King Krule album in particular were standout for me, and really impressed me with the modern genre-blurring he achieved. Dysnonia blew my mind as to what jazz could be, as did the Sons of Kemet album. My love for both comes from Gilles Peterson who also turned me on to countless other jazz sounds throughout the year.

Looking back, I got into the Philly Soul sound via hearing Tom Moulton’s incredible anthology that I only found this year. Likewise, a new appreciation for Screamdelica was found as I realised there was more to that record than Loaded.

Albums by The Range, Bilal, Jai Paul, Colin Stetson, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Rhye also all left a mark, in the pits of late night bus journeys, early mornings and soundtracks to loosing myself in books.

Vampire Weekend’s new long player was my surprise like of the year. I don’t often find many guitar-heavy albums that satisfying anymore, but the new VW LP was really excellent. The afrobeat influences from the first record are still there but the world music sounds have diversified even more, which was consistently refreshing with an album that got better with every play.

It was a great year for a lot of music. My dance music tastes broadended, RnB and guitar music seeped back in, but after last year’s great twelve months for pop, I was a tad disappointed this year. Still, you can’t win them all.

 

My top 20 songs of the year

20 – King Krule – A Lizard State
19 – Bilal – Lost for Now
18 – Kan SANO – Everybody Loves the Sunshine (Leftside Wobble Remix)
17 – Gil Scott Heron – Bottle (Disco Tech Rework)
16 – Andras – Running Late
15 – Romanthony – Ministry of Love (Andres edit)
14 – Fort Romeau – Jetee
13 – Vampire Weekend – Diane Young
12 – Amel Larrieux – Afraid
11 – Daft Punk – Get Lucky
10 – Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
09 – Chaos in the CBD – 78 to Stanley Bay
08 – For Romeau – Stay/True
07 – Fingerman – Too Much
06 – Late Nite Tuff Guy – Bless the Rains
05 – Taylor Swift – 22
04 – Sons of Kemet – Inner Babylon
03 – Lindstrom – Vos-Sako-RV (Todd Terje Extended Dub)
02 – Paul Simon – Diamonds (Ame Private Mix)
01 – Todd Terje – Strandbar (Samba Mix)

 

Albums of the year

Bilal – Love Surreal
Amel Larriux – Ice Cream Everyday
Dawn of Midi – Dysnonia
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
King Krule – Six Feet Beneath The Moon
Mountains – Centralia
Rhye – Woman

 

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