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10 plays

Hold On, We're Going Home

Drake

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013

DRAKE - HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME (FEAT. MAJID JORDAN)
[YouTube] [Spotify]

I still don’t have a solid opinion on Drake. While he’s had a hand in some wonderful work over the past couple of years, he still throws out the old stinker. "Started From the Bottom" (as I mentioned in my Run the Jewels post), was one of the worst songs I heard all year.

And from the same album, you have “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, which was one of the best songs I heard this year.

In a way, Drake is almost the perfect pop music artist. Sometimes he doesn’t try, and is rubbish. Sometimes he does, and it’s pretty neat. Either way, he makes money. Pop music in a nutshell!

Me, I prefer it when songwriters do make an effort. My musical taste these days is such that I’m not really bothered by songs that don’t leave an impact on me, but if a song does resonate with me, I’m likely to remember it down the line.
(Although, seeing as "Wrecking Ball" was also one of my favourite songs of the year, the songs that resonate with me might have varied mileage with you.)

All of which brings us back to "Hold On, We’re Going Home". In a year where one of the biggest-selling singles was telling women "I know you want it", it was incredibly refreshing to hear a counter-argument in “you’re a good girl, and you know it”. Rather than badgering a lady into having sex, Drake just lets things slowly unwind through a mutual respect. The song is a smoky, end-of-an-evening trip through a night club, much like "PrimeTime" was earlier in this list.

The lyrics leave a lot to the imagination of the listener, which is always a plus for pop songs in this vein. The less information we have, the more we can attribute our own memories and dreams to the story. That’s how you get a song to resonate in the popular consciousness. You allow it to mean different things to different people.

So, naturally, Drake went on to completely ruin that aspect of the song when it came to making the music video, casting himself in a Scarface fantasy in which he rescues a damsel-in-distress wearing nothing but her underwear.

But that’s Drake for me. I have to have him both ways. And so long as I get the good side, I can deal with the bad.

20 plays

Help Me Lose My Mind

Disclosure

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
DISCLOSURE - HELP ME LOSE MY MIND (FEAT. LONDON GRAMMAR)
[SoundCloud] [Spotify]

Settle was a dance album I’d been waiting a long time for. I haven’t heard a dance album this replayable since Kish Kash.

That album, like Settle, was incredibly energetic for most of its running time, but slowed things down for the final track, "Feels Like Home".
On their debut album, Disclosure also save the best for last with “Help Me Lose My Mind”, and eclipse Basement Jaxx in just about every way.

Like the best Disclosure songs, a lot of the credit for the track’s brilliance should go to the guest vocalist. Hannah Reid (of London Grammar) delivers the most soulful vocal performance of the whole record (which is no mean feat (pun unintended)), while the Lawrence Brothers let the synths swirl and the bass drums pound in the background. The result is a calming soundscape that, despite its drug-like atmosphere, has been a song I’ve repeatedly played when I needed to concentrate on something I was doing.

Like writing this!

20 plays

Wrecking Ball

Miley Cyrus

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
MILEY CYRUS - WRECKING BALL
[YouTube] [Spotify]

…what?

Ever since I drew that comic a couple of months ago, this song has just continued rattling around in my brain. I genuinely think it’s great!

I knew then that this post was coming, and so I decided to do something special. I could write as much as I want right here, but I think that some people might not be entirely convinced unless they literally heard it from me.

So here’s a video I made. Enjoy!

Winner of this year’s ‘Ah, Screw You Guys, I Like It!’ award
[2011’s winner]

30 plays

PrimeTime

Janelle Monáe

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
JANELLE MONÁE - PRIMETIME (FEAT. MIGUEL)
[YouTube] [Spotify]

Much like her songs tell the story of the colliding worlds of humans and robots, Janelle Monáe excels at blending the soul of contemporary R&B with the lavish world of prog rock concept albums.
You could say she’s following in the footsteps of another legendary pop musician (who happens to have a guest spot on The Electric Lady), but I think Janelle is forging her own path. Based on interviews, she certainly has the agency to do that.

With that said, “PrimeTime” is a Prince song through and through. I mean, that guitar! It’s “The Beautiful Ones” through the lens of 90s slow jams, made extra smooth by an appearance from Miguel, already a dab hand at silky club anthems. The track shines like a mirrorball, still slowly rotating at the end of a long night.

0 plays

Afterlife

Arcade Fire

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
ARCADE FIRE - AFTERLIFE
[YouTube] [Spotify]

As song subjects go, the idea of life after death is a heavy one. It figures that Arcade Fire are one of the few bands fearless enough to tackle it head-on.
It’s an idea that inspires so much fear and hope in people. Fear of the unknown and a hope that it will be easier (and, based on this series of posts, “hope” seems to have been my word of the year).

The song seems to present ‘afterlife’ as something of an oxymoron. It could never be as simple as queuing up in the clouds to (essentially) move house. Life is where love happens, where our souls reside. Death is a part of it. We all need to close out our paragraphs some time.
But all this love and rage and compassion and torment and understanding that we all go through, where does that go? We know where our bodies lie, but the soul? Can those things really just dissipate into nothing? It doesn’t seem like a fitting end to all the emotions that a single human life contains.

"Can we work it out?" they ask. They can’t, but they make the concept a little easier to swallow. And that’s enough.

30 plays

Thank You

Busta Rhymes

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
BUSTA RHYMES - THANK YOU (FEAT. Q-TIP, LIL WAYNE & KANYE WEST)
[YouTube] [Spotify]

You might have noticed that I’ve re-ordered the featuring credits from how they appear on the single artwork. It’s the fair thing to do, I feel. Wayne and Kanye have about two lines each, and neither of them make a particularly big impact on the song. At least 2 Chainz can make two lines into a chorus through the force of sheer repetition.

Man, Q-Tip though! Holy crap, this guy still has it. You could skate through his entire discography from the early days with A Tribe Called Quest, his solo work and appearances with the Beastie Boys and DJ Shadow, and you’d still find few verses that match the tight rhyming you hear in his third set here (2:35). You’ll notice that 50% of the screen is a static shot of Q standing stock still and doing his thing. It’s a real stand up and take notice moment.

Oh, and Bus does good too, not as fast as he was back in the day, but still charging at a speed that almost dares the beat to overtake him. The two work well together, a fact that is exemplified in the free mixtape they released this month.

The Abstract and The Dragon. Control and rage. Yin and yan. Hip and hop.

Winner of this year’s ‘Funkiest Joint’ award
[Last year’s winner]

20 plays

Old Love / New Love

Twin Shadow

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
TWIN SHADOW - OLD LOVE/NEW LOVE
[YouTube] [Spotify]

2013 was a year my time spent playing video games ground to a near-halt (I can’t stop completely, the second season of The Walking Dead has only just come out!), but even I made time for Grand Theft Auto V.

Rockstar’s music selections have always been the toppest of notches, but they outdid themselves this time around. Not only do you get an absolutely sublime score (the first in the series), but 15 musical radio stations, representing the widest selection of music in any GTA game yet, all expertly chosen and all vying for space between my ears. I still can’t pick a favourite (but if I could, it’d be Non-Stop-Pop. Seriously!). And nestled into all of them is a heap of original songs from some of best West Coast-y music acts around.

Not that I’ve ever thought of Twin Shadow as “West Coast-y” in the past, or even the least bit dancey. When I checked in with George Lewis Jr last year, he was sort of leaning in that direction, but still had one foot in his 80s New Wave-starting point.
I’d wager “Five Seconds” could have been a massive club hit with a bit of tweaking, but I’m flat-out astonished that “Old Love/New Love” didn’t tear up the charts.
I mean, listen to it! This is pure EDM. This is what people want nowadays, right? The public baffles me.

The real question is whether this sound is what Twin Shadow wants to focus on right now. I’m wary that this is a one-off song bashed out for a video game. I’d guess that there are a lot of indie artists that would want to attempt to make a big pop dance song like this, just to see if they could.

Maybe this is nothing more than an experiment, but it’s a successful one.

Winner of this year’s ‘Make People Dance or Die Trying’ award
[Last year’s winner]

0 plays

Riptide

Vance Joy

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
VANCE JOY - RIPTIDE
[YouTube] [Spotify]

It’s not often I watch a music video that perfectly mirrors my appreciation of a song, but that’s exactly what the clip for “Riptide” does.
Both the song and the video are cute. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. They both owe a debt to their respective influences (Wes Anderson and Bon Iver). They’re both a little on-the-nose when it comes to the writing. And they both bring a massive smile to my face.

Get acquainted with this song now, before it’s used in every advert ever.

Winner of this year’s ‘Most Appropriately Awesome Music Video’ award
[Last year’s winner]

59 plays

Weight

Mikal Cronin

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
MIKAL CRONIN - WEIGHT
[YouTube] [Spotify]

I don’t always get too personal when writing these posts, but when it comes to writing about my absolute favourite songs of the year, the ones that have truly meant the most to me, it’s difficult not to.
So, if you’ll permit me…

2013 was a year of standing still for me. While I’ve improved at doing everything I already do (better at my job, better at making a radio programme, better at writing (hopefully!)), I haven’t added any strings to my bow. I may have improved my stature, but I’m still essentially in the same place I was this time last year.
My favourite song of 2012 was "Stay Useless" by Cloud Nothings. It summed up my 2012 pretty well.
Seeing as not much changed for me in 2013, it’s sadly fortunate that my favourite song this year could almost be a sequel to that song.

"Weight" is about someone who is tired of their lack of moving forward. They recognise their hesitance and insecurities are holding them back, but somehow can’t force themselves out of the funk they’re in.
Where Levon Helm was tired of the weight he had to carry, some of us are scared about taking it on in the first place.
And we have to, eventually. It’s the only way to grow in this world.

The problem is, we’re all built differently. What may work for many won’t work for everyone.
But, at the same time, we can’t waste time or wait for someone to guide us to a simple answer. You gotta hold on.

And then, at the 2:55 mark, you hear a fuzzy guitar solo that has touched me emotionally like nothing else this year. The first time I heard it, at 5.30 in the morning, walking to work down a dark street, I almost broke down in tears.
There’s just something about those notes and the way they’re left to breathe. It just sounds so lost and…hopeful. Eight months since then, it still gives me shivers.

The solo hammers home the theme of needing to grow and develop in your own life. The song has been something of a mantra for me as I plan what to do next. And I’m sure it’ll get plenty more spins as I put that plan into action.

I think I’m ready for the weight of seeing it through.

Winner of this year’s ‘Best Song Ever’ award
[Last year’s winner]

10 plays

Get It

Run the Jewels

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
RUN THE JEWELS (EL-P & KILLER MIKE) - GET IT
[YouTube] [Download]

There’s an art to boasting. Like rapping in general, there are two important components: lyrical content and vocal delivery. You need to be creative with your analogy, and speak with confidence and conviction. Fail on both fronts, and you’ll be laughed out of the room (looking at you, Drake).
If you can master both facets, chances are you’re either El-P or Killer Mike.

It seems obvious in hindsight, but wasn’t always clear that these guys were destined to be joined at the hip. Mike came from the Atlanta scene, which always had a fascination with a jazzy, smooth sound (epitomised by ATL gods OutKast), while P headed up Brooklyn’s Definitive Jux label, famous for acts like Aesop Rock and Cannibal Ox who dealt with more social-realist themes.
And yet, when the two finally came together for Mike’s R.A.P. Music last year, everything clicked immediately. They worked together so well, they bashed out a follow-up collaborative album this year, working under the name Run The Jewels.

The entire album is proof that both guys are arguably the best rappers working today. True, Kendrick Lamar might be more exciting and experimental with his content and delivery, but listen to the way P and Mike just plough through their verses on “Get It”. No beats skipped, no pauses taken, no mercy.

The song (hell, the album) is a massive boasting session from the two guys that do it best, but the greatest line is also the simplest:

"We’re overly fucking awesome"

True that.

Oh, and the album is available completely free from the Fools Gold website. You should…get it.

Winner of this year’s ‘Best Fucking Poetry’ award
[2011’s winner]

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