Top 10 Tracks of 2013

2013 was a crazy year for music, as many musical artists defied typical convention within their music and the marketing of their music. Jay-Z released an album onto a cell phone, Beyonce released an album without any promotion, and countless artists leaked their own album as an attack at the label they were signed to.  There was a lot of quality music to choose from in 2013, but I managed to find 10 of my favorites, listed here in no particular order.

1)  Phoenix – “Bourgeois”

This is my favorite “arena-rock” style song of the year. The kind of song that sounds best while being blasted loudly in front of a large crowd on a summer night.

2) Local Natives -“Colombia

I had heard a lot of Local Natives songs I liked before, but none of them quite clicked like this one did. It’s haunting, but also distinctly powerful and beautiful.

3) Ellery James Roberts – “Kerou’s Lament

This song immediately sucked me in from the first time I heard it. Its the kind of song that’s either loved or hated, but the songs ambition and passion cannot be argued.

4) Lana Del Rey – “Young and Beautiful

Pretty sure this song will go down as a classic.

5) Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young”

Vampire Weekend’s album, Modern Vampires of the City, was my favorite album of the year. Picking a favorite song was difficult, but “Diane Young”  never fails to get me to sing along to it.

6) Pusha-T – Numbers on the Boards”  (Explicit)

This song was my favorite hip-hop song of the year. Its dark and aggressive, but also funky and smooth. The main character is simultaneously arrogant, paranoid, insecure, and confident, if that’s even possible.

7) Disclosure – “When a Fire Starts to Burn

One of my favorite sample-based songs of the year. Fans of the Avalanches will feel quite at home here.

8) Daft Punk – “Touch

It bobs and weaves, ebbs and flows, gets loud, then gets quiet, and simply goes where no Daft Punk song has ever gone before.

9) FKA Twigs – “Water Me

This song gets pretty full-on weird, but also full-on awesome.

10) Kanye West – “Black Skinhead” (Explicit)

Sits somewhere between rock and hip-hop, and was on the of the most bombastic, loud, and crazy songs of 2013.

 

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10 Under the Radar 2013 Tracks

1. The Vaccines – “Do You Want a Man? (John Hill & Rich Costey Remix)”

This is a little gem of pop-rock perfectly completed with watery basslines flying all over the place.

2. Autre Ne Veut – “Play By Play”

Extremely well produced and poignant R&B. What’s not to like?

3. Mikky Ekko – “Pull Me Down”

Mikky Ekko is very close to breaking out into the mainstream. This is his first big single, but you might recognize him from the song, “Stay”, which he wrote for Rihanna.

4. Volcano Choir – “Byegone”

Justin Vernon (from Bon Iver) is involved. So, its good.

5. FKA Twigs – “Water Me’

Production straight out of the 22nd century, and a weirdly interesting video. Neo R&B at its finest.

6. Phoenix – “Bourgeois”

A great, energetic synth rock ballad.

7. Jai Paul – “All Night”

Great slow jam.

8. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”

Obviously, “Get Lucky” gets all the attention from their newest album, but “Instant Crush” is a great track as well, though less dance-y.

9. Ryan Hemsworth – “Perfectly”

A very pleasant 3 and a half minutes, that seems to stick in my head all the time.

10. Shlohmo – ” Later”

One of my favorite electronic music songs of recent memory.

 

Top 5 Songs of the Week

In case you’re wondering what happened in music this week, I’m here to give you the 5 best songs released either as singles or as part of an album this week. Lets go.

1)  The Killers– “Shot At the Night”

I know you might be thinking that the Killers haven’t made anything good since their breakout album, “Hot Fuss”, but this song is a return that album’s 80’s feel and epic synth balladry.

2) The Royal Concept – “Gimme Twice”

This song has been a favorite of mine for a while, but was released this week on their EP entitled, “Royal”. For fans of The Strokes and Phoenix, for sure.

3) Ben Khan – “Eden”

An amazing little piece of electronic pop. Very similar to Jai Paul’s recent work.

4) Aloe Blacc – “Love is the Answer”

A bit of funky soul to end the week on a high note. The production from Pharrell has a great bounce, but gives Aloe the spotlight.

5) Phantogram– “Selling Nothing”

Seeing Phantogram live was pretty incredible. It’s been a long time since their first album, but this second track off the new album shows they are just as on top of their game as before.

BONUS TRACK:This track is not from this past week, but from last month, but its too great not too share. Enjoy!

John Legend – “Open Your Eyes”

 

10 Songs I Love

A summary of my musical taste in 10 songs:

If I’m going to be writing about music, I think it’s best to give readers a background for my musical tastes. I figure that showing my taste’s will help you understand why I might not like something you like or vice versa. I’ll try to cover the whole spectrum of music I enjoy through 10 different songs, each covering a unique category of music I. Just to note, these aren’t exactly my 10 favorite songs, but more an overview of 10 songs I love. As always, thanks for reading.

1) Classic Rock

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody

I was pretty close to picking “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, but I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” just edges it out. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but sing along to the line  “I don’t wanna die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!” .

2) 80’s Era “Cheesy” Song I Love Anyway

Toto – “Africa

Any of my friends from senior year of high school can attest to my love of this song. My favorite part is the falsetto harmony “I bless the rain”. Look for that part at 3:32 on the video.

3) R&B Song

Frank Ocean –“Wiseman

This is a much newer song than the first two songs, as it was only released in late 2012. This song was intended to be in the 2012 film Django Unchained, but the director, Quentin Tarantino, couldn’t find a place for the song in the movie, and he didn’t want to dishonor it by throwing it in haphazardly. After listening, you can see why Tarantino cared for it so much.

4) Dance Song

Daft Punk – “One More Time

It’s simple, it’s a bit repetitive, but play this over huge speakers and see how long you can make it without dancing.

5) Hip-Hop Song

Kanye West – “Hey Mama” Grammy Version

Show this to anyone who hates Kanye West. They might still hate him, but they’ll now like one of his songs.

6)Alternative Rock

The Strokes- “Last Nite

The Strokes first album was so good, they spent the rest of their career trying to get close to it in quality, and have not yet succeeded. But man, was that first album great. This song, “Last Nite” takes its opening from Tom Petty’s “American Girl”.

7) Pop Song

Usher – “Climax

Usher is in top form in this 2012 hit song, produced by Diplo. Unlike current pop music, the beat is constantly rising and falling, without ever breaking out into a dubstep frenzy.

8) Old School 50’s Song

Bobby Darin – “Beyond the Sea

Yes, the original was technically written in 1946, but Bobby Darin’s 1959 version is my favorite.

9) A Little Off The Beaten Path Song

Animal Collective – “My Girls

Something about this song is just perfect to me.

10) Favorite live performance song/video

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends

Though the quality of the video isn’t the best, the song is.

Please excuse the one s-word at the beginning of the video. The rest is clean.

Magna Carta Holy Grail Falls Short

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Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z

2.5/4

“And We’re All Just Entertainers And We’re Stupid and Contagious”

Holy Grail” begins the album with this phrase, an interpolation of the chorus of Nirvana’s classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Though Jay-Z borrows the lyrics, the sentiment behind the phrase could not be more different. Kurt Cobain, when penning the original phrase, “Here we are now entertainers, I feel stupid and contagious”, meant it as a bit of angst paranoia, afraid of spreading his cynical mindset. Jay-Z re-purposes the phrase as a way of laughing at his critics. Whether or not you agree with his message, you can’t deny that people are listening. When Cobain wrote the original phrase, he was at the beginning of the growth of his success and fame. Jay-Z is at, arguably, the “falling action” phase in the plot of his life. Unfortunately, the lyrics of Magna Carta Holy Grail cover the same ground Jay-Z has covered for the last 3 or 4 albums, and Jay-Z simply doesn’t sound anywhere near as energetic as he was on the bombastic Watch The Throne.

That being said, Jay-Z rolls out the red carpet for Magna Carta. Vocal guests include Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, Beyonce, and of course, Suit and Tie-mate Justin Timberlake. The star-studded producer list stars a comeback Timbaland, the extremely on fire Pharrell, up-and-coming Travis Scott/WondaGurl, as well as the requisite Swizz Beatz, Hit-Boy, The-Dream,  and Mike Will Made It. These collaborators all bring a consistent intensity and quality to the album-you can tell they’re giving Jay-Z the best they have. The quality of the guests only serves to make Jay’s contribution more disappointing. For instance, Hit-Boy continues to show how versatile of a producer he is with the beat for “SomewhereinAmerica”. The beat starts with off-kilter horns and boom-bap drums before adding a twinkling piano loop, and is one of the best beats on the album. Jay-Z unfortunately chooses to spend the majority of the track with throw-away lines such as a repeating joke about Miley Cyrus twerking.

That isn’t to say there is a complete absence of quality songs. “BBC” successfully rides a similar vibe as the break-out hit Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines”, both produced by Pharrell. “Tom Ford” has Jay-Z riding a “N—– in Paris” style beat, though Jay-Z is missing the contrast Kanye brings. “Picasso”, the albums highlight, shows Jay-Z at his hungriest on the album, and is anchored by a solid Timbaland beat. Jay-Z offers a word of warning for those in the limelight on “Holy Grail”, when he raps “Bright lights is enticing, But look what it did to Tyson”. Jay-Z seems determined not to join the large group of celebrities who blow all their money shortly after making it. As a rap artist, this sets him apart. No other rapper has diversified their investments and business ventures as much as Jay-Z has, proving that he is a “business, man”. Perhaps the biggest problem of Magna Carta is that it’s all an outward appearance. There’s so little introspection into the heart and soul of the man on top of the world. Jay-Z mentions a lot of famous artists on Magna Carta, but unlike Picasso and Da Vinci’s finest works, the album fails to leave a lasting impression.