Well, that time of the year again, so let’s do what everybody else does and make a yearend list of the best of the year, shall we? But then again, we’re not really a legitimate music blog, so we’re just going small-term by talking about us, us, us. Like last year, this is by no means a representative list of the best music of the past year: these are all, really, my favorite tracks. But it has been an interesting year in music. The girls came out; the dance floor got quiet and merged with hip-hop; and guitar music is, well, still not quite back… but not all that gets a mention. Again, sorted in alphabetical order, my favorites: ten songs that you should soak in while we take a two-week break. We’ll be back on 6 January, unless, of course, surprise gigs get in the way, much like last year. [NB]
“Just To Make Me Feel Good” by Adam Green and Binki Shapiro | The former Moldy Peach and the woman off Little Joy had one of the more interesting collaborations of the year, although it’s really more of a throwback to Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. But as I am a sucker for songs that sound old, I went off and bought the CD when I had the chance. Their album, released in January, was tender and throwback-y and just all around fuzzy.
“No One To Call” by Caitlin Rose | Unlike Adam and Binki, I did not have luck finding Caitlin Rose’s CD in Hong Kong – apparently they ran out of stock or something. Now, I’m not exactly a country person, at least not the twang-y, homey kind, which partly explains why I’d turn my ears to this not-quite-alt-country singer-songwriter off Nashville. I, however, had the chance to listen to The Stand-In, her second album, and I like her worldview, her variety, and that sound. It’s, well… it’s homey without being homey.
“Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett | It’s safe to say that I am now a huge fan of Courtney Barnett, the Melbourne-based songwriter with the can’t-care-less drawl – although it really isn’t, if you listen to her other songs. Since we first featured her in June last year, she released “History Eraser”, which is now officially my birthday song for, well, reasons. Last August she released her new single, “Avant Gardener”, which is essentially about a panic attack; it captured a lot of ears in the US and the UK. Now she’s bundled her two EPs into an album of sorts, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. While seeing her albums in Manila is a long shot, I wait for her first full-length record.
“A Ton of Love” by Editors | Sure, Editors’ shift from one end of 80s new wave (Joy Division-y goth-gloom) to another (Echo and the Bunnymen-y jubilation) takes a bit getting used to, but it worked out for them. At least it worked out for me, the guy who fell in love with “Munich” when I was an impressionable college froshie, and sort of drifted away because it all felt same-y. “A Ton of Love” may have taken too much from the Ian McCulloch playbook, but as a slice of, well, jubilant pop-rock, it is lovely. Running a close second in this slot on the list is Placebo’s “Loud Like Love”, which also took the same tactic, but only loses out for being a more recent release.
“The Wire” by Haim | I hesitated to put Haim in the list, because all the hype that surrounded them for most of the year led to an album that’s good but ultimately boring. That said, Haim was this year’s big-thing-you-either-love-or-hate. I’m firmly on the love side: for all the people who will despise them for being sisters rooted in too-cool-to-be-hipsters tradition, I still like how they sound all 80s, 90s and now. Also, “The Wire” is a tasty slice of pop rock, valid Shania Twain comparisons be damned.
“Wasting My Young Years” by London Grammar | Early this year I tweeted Linda Marigliano (well, her show) and said that Hannah Reid’s voice is “the best I heard sing this year”. And that was on 8 January. It’s now 22 December and I still stand by that.
“Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore | For all the problems I’ve had with Paramore’s post-regroup, self-titled album, what with it being too relaxed for a make-or-break record, I have to admit they’ve had a string of lovely pop-rock singles this year. A knowing embrace of the band’s new demographic means they’ve let their hair down on “Still Into You” and this, their next single (although it already is a single in the UK), the highlight of their current album, which has your foot tapping in all places, right or wrong.
“It Starts And Ends With You” by Suede | Yeah, I include this because I’ve always loved Suede, and their comeback album Bloodsports is a shrewd return to form, and this is a lovely belter from Brett Anderson and the gang. I never fail to hear this song and attempt to imitate Brett in the album, his hands clapping, his microphone swinging. That last part especially, since I don’t have a microphone.
“So Good At Being In Trouble” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra | That so-called chillwave thing crept under the blog this year, but I have been enjoying the new single from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Shouldn’t be a surprise, really, as I’ve been into these things for a while now (see earlier Adam and Binki song). That, and the new Washed Out album, which feels like it moved past the sexy and went on a slightly poppier direction. (Slightly, because it’s all still a bit sensual.) And, arguably, the Killers collaborating with M83 on “Shot At The Night”.
“Sacrilege” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs | Finally, a grand thesis statement from the New York art rockers. “Sacrilege” kicked off a weird-looking (and ultimately uneven) Mosquito with a big boom. I’ll enumerate it again: the build-up, from Karen O in a hush, to that 24-piece gospel choir virtually asking you to go up that pulpit and preach your life away. (Also, that music video.) If a song could properly soundtrack the craziness that is music in 2013 – the twerking, the Lorde-ing, the surprise releases, and everything in between – this is it.