“Music is totally dead these days… take me back to the 60s…” Haven’t we all been at so-called “adult” parties where the grown-ups try to tell us how music is dead now? Well I say that music is very much alive today. Maybe nobody will ever evict The Beatles from their widely-recognized status as the greatest band ever, but music today is far from dead. And while it may be mid-February of 2014, I’d like to offer up a strangely specific 32-item list of songs you might have missed from 2013. Hit the jump for the list.
“Listerine” – animalight
Pro-tip of the day: the best place for free music is bandcamp.com. No questions asked. Part-Blink-182, part-Get Up Kids, the catchy animalight single combines frantic lyricism with driving punk rock guitar riffs for a song that was definitely overlooked by many more listeners than it should have been.
“High Street” – Blood Orange
A find from my uncle, hip-hop producer Devonté Hynes’s second album as Blood Orange is filled with woozy beats backing everything from 80s synth grooves to this introspective British rap cut about making it in the music industry. “This one’s for my Gs on the North side.”
“A Bitter Divorce” – Captain, We’re Sinking
One of the more emotionally compelling tracks this year comes from Scranton pop-punk outfit Captain, We’re Sinking. “A Bitter Divorce” examines a relationship as it crumbles around the boy and girl involved in it. The standout moment occurs when the drums kick in and vocalist Bob Barnett shrieks one of his best lines on the record: “I made a list of all the things that I despise/And I wrote your name down several times.” Chills.
“Miguel – Do You… (Remix)” – Cashmere Cat
Sorry for the ridiculous way I denote remixes, but it’s how I have them categorized in my iTunes. For this particular rework, Cashmere Cat transforms Miguel’s crooning of the words “do you like drugs” into a trippy lead-in with a surprising electro-house synth drop.
“Shiver” – Casket
Casket’s LP S/T is a magnificently dark, raw punk-rock record. The standout first track tackles themes such as depression, drug-addiction, and suicide. However, despite the gloom and doom of the lyrics, the bridge provides an almost danceable guitar riff amidst intermittent screaming.
“Tether” – CHVRCHES
Most indie synth-pop sounds formulaic and boring. Ever since the industry figured out that Passion Pit’s sound sells records, it became increasingly rare to find well-produced, unique music in the genre. However, after “The Mother We Share” got a solid buzz, I knew CHVRCHES were a breath of fresh air. This deeper cut off of their debut LP The Bones of What You Believe is a pulsing, chilled out melodic synth track… until it drops right in your face with an Avicii-worthy groove.
“Doin’ It Right” – Daft Punk feat. Panda Bear
Rolling Stone called “Get Lucky” the song of the year, and considering how influential Random Access Memories was this year, it’s hard to argue with their decision. I’d like to direct your attention, however, to the beloved robots’ collaboration with Panda Bear of Animal Collective. Reminiscent of their older material, with looped robotic vocals and Panda Bear’s undeniably catchy lines: “If you lose your way tonight/That’s how you know the magic’s right.”
“Lite Dream” – Diarrhea Planet
I first fell in love with Diarrhea Planet when I heard the closing track from their first record, “Fauser” (please listen to it on YouTube if you don’t already know it). Where this brilliantly-named band’s first LP flies by in under 20 minutes, their second LP really fleshes out the songwriting. The first track shows off their new talent while staying true to their frantic guitars and shouted vocals.
“Hive” – Earl Sweatshirt feat. Vince Staples & Casey Veggies
After Earl released “Chum,” many of his fans worried that the rapper famous for his tongue-twisting lyrics about rape and murder had “gone soft.” This vicious single off of his album Doris proves that they were worried over nothing. Vince Staples (who went bar-for-bar with Earl on “epaR”) delivers a guest appearance that Earl maintains is the verse of the year, including Kendrick’s monstrous three-minutes on “Control.”
“Rory” – Foxing
I recently described Foxing to my friend as “The Head and the Heart meets Dance Gavin Dance.” The band’s song “Rory” epitomizes this comparison, with a beautiful piano backing heartrending vocals… and then the screaming starts.
“Recovery” – Frank Turner
The first single off of Frank Turner’s newest album Tape Deck Heart is pure happiness squeezed into three and a half minutes of bouncing acoustic guitars, merry piano riffs, exuberant drums, and Turner’s wonderfully British vocals. I don’t care what kind of music you listen to; it’s impossible not to smile when you hear this song.
“Twin Size Mattress” – The Front Bottoms
Dedicated YGM readers probably didn’t actually miss this track, but this song makes the list for those of you just joining us. The Front Bottom’s unique combination of acoustic power chords, electric guitar riffs, and basic drum fills backs one of the most unbelievable songs written in 2013. And the shout-along verse at the end is pop-punk at its finest.
“Level Head” – Have Mercy
One of the notable aspects of music in 2013 was the heralded return of the “emo” sound. Among the frontrunners of this new revival was Baltimore-based rock outfit Have Mercy. Their stellar debut The Earth Pushed Back was among my favorite albums this year, blending soft rock melodies with post-hardcore shouting over driving chords.
“Erica” – Hot Sugar feat. The GTW
Another producer based album, Hot Sugar’s free Man Made – EP had several well produced up-tempo hip-hop tracks. A standout, however, was this chilled-out trip-groove. Set over a druggy piano loop, The GTW croons sweetly about “worst nightmares come true.”
“A Curse Worth Believing” – Into It. Over It.
Evan Weiss, the brain behind Into It. Over It., has a knack for weaving together honest confessions and lush soundscapes. The full band’s sophomore effort follows up 2011’s nothing-short-of-brilliant Proper with twelve excellent crafted songs. “Curse” showcases Weiss’s ability not only as a lyricist, but also his gifts in creating melodies that stay in your head for hours.
“Redbird” – Kevin Devin & The Goddamn Band
Kevin Devine released two very good albums in 2013. Bubblegum, which “Redbird” is from, was produced by Brand New’s own Jesse Lacey and features Kevin Devine’s sometimes-backing group, The Goddamn Band. “Redbird” sounds like KD took a page out of the songwriting book of his Bad Books partner Andy Hull, starting slowly before swelling to a dramatic climax, and ultimately fading back into nothing.
“Soundings in Fathoms” – The Lonely Forest
The Lonely Forest’s debut album Arrows was one of the best indie-rock albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to; everyone from my best friend to my mom was a fan. “Soundings,” off their sophomore project Adding Up the Wasted Hours, is proof that this great rock outfit created a worthy successor. This acoustic heavy jam is sure to put a smile on any music fan’s face.
“Living in Vain” – Lorine Chia feat. Chance the Rapper
If any artist had a true breakout year in 2013, it was Chance. So rather than putting any one of the thirteen stellar tracks from Chance’s brilliant mixtape Acid Rap on this list, I’d like to direct everyone’s attention to one of his best featured verses on this track. Chance does his off-kilter tongue twisting in the midst of Lorine Chia’s neo-soulful pondering of the universe. Enjoy.
“Your Graduation” – Modern Baseball
While Chance crossed the line from underground to mainstream, Modern Baseball broke out within the punk rock underground community in 2013. “Your Graduation” was the first single from their second album, You’re Gonna Miss It All. The middle section of the track showcases a new voice—that of famously “steady handed” drummer Sean Huber. Make sure to pick up their record on Bandcamp.
“Boston” – Moose Blood
I actually discovered this song courtesy of Modern Baseball posting it on Facebook. Moose Blood’s brand of punk rock on “Boston” is about as raw as it gets. The lyrics tell the crushing story of a couple splitting up, leaving a man whom has nothing left. Keep your ears open for the Brand New reference toward the end.
“Graceless” – The National
The National are nothing short of indie-rock gods. Their widely-acclaimed sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, showcased their classic sound: rock instrumentals with Matt Berninger’s unmistakable baritone lamenting. “Graceless” features particularly downer lyrics: “Come apart at the seams/Now I know what dying means.”
“Coke Diet” – Neville Bartos & Chris Lorenzo
With so many subgenres of house music, it gets kind of hard to keep track. One of my new favorite subgenres, however, is called “jackin’ house,” and I discovered it through this brilliant rework of the star studded remix to N*E*R*D’s “Everyone Nose.” Though Neville Bartos and Chris Lorenzo left out Pusha-T’s stellar verse at the end, I promise you can bump this at any time of the night and the dance floor will shake.
“Kanye West – Bound 2 (Remix)” – Solidisco
Whether you were a fan of the absurd “Bound 2” video or not (I fall into the latter group), Kanye West proved he still knows how to make headlines. Nu-disco up-and-comers Solidisco take Charlie Wilson’s chorus and stir in some groovy synths for a euphoric jam.
“Calling on Columbia Pike” – Speedwell
There’s absolutely nothing fancy about Speedwell’s approach to punk rock. Power chords and lovelorn lyrics take up the much of the three and a half minute tune, with an acoustic breakdown thrown in. For some reason, however, the sweetness of the narrator asking for a kiss on a cold night makes it a hidden gem.
“Where It’s Warm” – State Lines
I praise a lot of the music I write about here, but it’s possible that I’ve never discovered an artist I relate to as much as State Lines. “Where it’s Warm” is the closing track on their second album, For the Boats. Written in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, For the Boats abounds with melancholy, but no song is nearly as honest or haunting as this. The track starts out with an out-take before Jonathan DiMitri’s raspy voice and guitar tell a tale of suburban angst surrounded by trumpets and ending with the eerie final lines: “They’re coming after me/They’re coming in my sleep.”
“AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It (Remix)” – Tchami
With this remix, Tchami delves into another of my favorite house subgenres, known as “future house.” AlunaGeorge’s sexy vocals combined with Tchami’s garage-like synths made this a highlight of my New Year’s Eve playlist.
“Acrylics” – TNGHT
TNGHT rose to fame off of their Higher Ground – EP, notably the horn-heavy title track. For “Acrylics,” the duo play with a spooky lullaby jingle before they start the trap build up. A warning for the faint of heart: this one drops pretty heavily.
“Lipstick Destroyer” – Tobacco
Tobacco once said in an interview that while he admired Daft Punk for how much time they spent perfecting their sound; he goes on to say he spends as much time if not more destroying his own sound. “Lipstick Destroyer” is about a minute and forty-five of a sound just as dirty as Tobacco claims.
“Mercy” – TV on the Radio
While I’m totally into their songs like “Family Tree,” TV on the Radio is at its absolute best when churning out pulsing rock anthems à la “DLZ” or “Wolf Like Me.” “Mercy” continues in said tradition. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for updates regarding their upcoming album.
“Unbelievers” – Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City was a huge deal in 2013. Since the release of “Diane Young” and “Step,” the music world has been buzzing about how excellent Vampire Weekend’s third studio effort was. “Unbelievers” never quite got the press’s attention like some of the other singles, but it’s classic Vampire Weekend at its finest.
“Devil in My Bloodstream” – The Wonder Years
I wrote a review of The Greatest Generation raving about just how excellent it really was. From the first notes of the opening track to the final fadeout, The Wonder Years really nailed it with their fourth record. “Devil” is a particular standout; its beautiful piano-driven opening half explodes into a pop punk anthem.
“Me” – The 1975
While the British quartet blew up with their hit single “Chocolate,” this deep cut (off on Music for Cars, the same EP “Chocolate” was originally released on), is my personal favorite track they’ve ever written. Where The 1975’s debut album was full of pop melodies and 80s synths, “Me” is dark to the point of suicidal, with haunting saxophones and electronic drumbeats.