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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]

50 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]

0 plays

New Slaves

Kanye West

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
KANYE WEST - NEW SLAVES
[YouTube] [Spotify]

Yeezus is…

…huh. I thought that sentence would be a lot easier to finish. It’s just one of those albums that I love and feel a great connection to…but can’t articulate why, you know?

In a year where I found myself enjoying some really unexpected stuff (more on that later in the month), it was also surprising to listen to an album by a guy I’ve been enjoying for years, and feel completely alienated.

And then feel excited by that alienation.

I may still have not completely gotten my head around the album (it’s obtuse in ways that 808s & Heartbreak can only dream of), but I’ve had it on constant rotation since it dropped in June. There are plenty of moments that made me recoil in amusement when I first heard them ("hurry up with my damn croissants" and "I wanna fuck you hard in the sink" immediately spring to mind), but now those goofy moments are just part of the whole package I find so endearing.

And then there’s the moments on the album that make me punch the air.

The Daft Punk assisted noise that kicks off “On Sight”. The drums of “Black Skinhead”. Charlie Wilson’s vocals on “Bound 2”. And Kanye’s autotuned singing over the closing sample of Hungarian prog rock band Omega on “New Slaves”.

It comes out of the leftfield (which is perhaps why it hasn’t featured in any live performances to date), but it’s a perfect moment. While the preceding minutes of “New Slaves” showcase the anger and frustration that shaped much of the record, the Omega sample is effectively one massive wink at the audience. The old Kanye is still present, still playful at times (the jubilant tone of "Gyöngyhajú lány" and lyrics like “Let’s get too high again” refer back to his previous album), and still capable of creating moments that make me say “Oh shit!” (which is appropriate, seeing as he was the inaugural winner of said award).

"New Slaves" represents the album as whole quite well in that respect. There’s high and lows, dark segments and fun bits. It’s like Kanye scooped out equal parts of his left and right brain and recorded it to tape.

Yeezus is great, therefore, Yeezus is.

Winner of this year’s ‘Oh Shit!’ award
[Last year’s winner]

Runner-up of this year’s ‘Best Album Ever’ award
[This year’s winner: TBA]

20 plays

Do I Wanna Know?

Arctic Monkeys

Nick’s Favourite Music of 2013
ARCTIC MONKEYS - DO I WANNA KNOW?
[YouTube] [Spotify]

In contrast to the musical evolution of Foals, for a while it seemed that the Arctic Monkeys were actively becoming quieter with each record. Which is fine! Alex Turner has always had the kind of voice (in both his writing and singing) that suits both an abrasive punk sneer and a folksy, voice-of-young-Britain smirk, much like the young Paul Weller.

It was the former of those modes that first brought the Monkeys to our attention, and it’s one that they returned to with gusto on AM. “Do I Wanna Know?” opens the album, and it was clear from the get-go that these guys had their rage back.

Stomp…clap…stomp…clap. In terms of rock openings, that noise is second only to "1-2-3-4!"

Winner of this year’s ‘The Best Kind of Rock’ award
[Last year’s winner]

Runner-up of this year’s ‘Most Appropriately Awesome Video’ award
[This year’s winner: TBA]

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