Hello there, it’s been a while since I posted on here, I got rather carried away with life and this became a casualty of neglect in the process. For no longer. One of my resolutions for this year was to maintain this blog, as I’m passionate about what I do and it would be a massive shame if I had nothing to show for it. So, what better way to kick off a new year of musical hunter-gathering than sharing with you my personal favourite songs of last year. Some of them may seem familiar as I have raved about them before, others you may have never heard before. They’re not all from unknown artists, most of them aren’t even from this year and some of them I’ve just been late to the party for, but all are in my eyes, subsequently awesome. This list is also available as a playlist on Spotify if you fancy listening to it without my commentary: Top 20 Songs of 2013
First, a few honourable mentions that didn’t make the cut this year:
All Hail The Yeti – After The Great Fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf0U8QrK9u4)
(Would’ve been in no questions asked, but cut at the last moment only because Top 21 wasn’t that catchy, will most likely be guaranteed next year, this song is too amazing not to be.)
Dye The Flux – Bernard (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6YZWvJAMYg)
(Not included mainly due to incredible personal bias and on-going bromance, shouldn’t rule out it completely though, song is so punchy, infectious and definitely has my favourite breakdown this year easily.)
Dirtyphonics – Walk In The Fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gUarMfsPyU)
(One of the best metal/DnB mash-ups I have ever heard and will be in a DJ set, eventually. But had to be cut sadly because just didn’t have as much longevity as some of the other songs on this list have.)
Queens Of The Stone Age – I Sat By The Ocean (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOXaUjGk-yY)
(Could’ve smooth-talked its way in easily, by just being amazing full-stop, but the album as a whole deserves more plaudit rather than just a single song, so it missed out on a space.)
Kavinsky – Deadcruiser (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZazxFu087M)
(Cut mainly because of being as good as another Kavinsky song already on this list, so would limit other songs just as good, but this is such a badass jam, it’s unbelievable, God bless the 1980’s.)
So on with the list:
20. Resist The Thought – Resurrect The Reaper
It’s sad to start the list with a tragedy, Australia’s Resist The Thought disappeared for a year after their sophomore effort Sovereignty and finally gave up the ghost in November. But something they left behind was this just shy of 3 minutes bulldozer of a track. Crushing technical abilities and a memorable cameo from CJ of Thy Art Is Murder have kept me coming back for more, as the length of this track is perfect for a quick fix of madness.
19. Mnemic – Diesel Uterus
One of the bands possibly pre-dating djent before it was known as djent was Mnemic, a progressive tech metal outfit that has kept soldiering on despite being gone well past their Audio-Injected Soul heyday. On one of my nights watching a show now defunct (it was called Metal Tuune on channel Propeller, and bought some interesting bands to my attention), this was on the rotation and it bought the beautiful simplicity and addictiveness of Meshuggah riffs with the contrast between threatening growls and a powerful chorus, it became firmly implanted in my head and is fully deserving to be on this list.
18. Eschar – Singularity
The other Guildford band in my bromance triangle, I bought their Elements EP in 2012, but have seen them twice more this year since I bought it and Singularity gets better with every listen, live and recorded. Whilst my post-metal mode flutters in and out of existence, the atmosphere and craftmenship of all of these talented musicians continues to linger on. Plus from around 2:05 to 3:09, I can’t understate how much I am in love with this, as much as I don’t even understand how this is possible. Support local music folks, as bands like Eschar are just waiting to emerge and their music is like writing a tour guide for the end of the world.
17. Kant Kino – Push Your Buttons
If ever 80’s sirens spoke through the medium of electronic body music, then Germany’s Kant Kino have perfected that artform. Industrial has become an avenue I’ve immersed myself in a fair amount this year as the blurring between rock and dance music basically binds my aspiring creative passions together. The aggressiveness of the vocals along with almost effortless pulsing fluidity of the beat and synths is once such example of how the two genres influence one another and in summary, has formed an incredible underground floor-filler.
16. Omaha Bitch – Dancing Cyprine
OK, the video is both kinda funny, brilliant and worthy of feminist rage in equal measure, but for all of France’s Omaha Bitch’s questionable relationship with women, they’ve made a menagerie of rock and metal songs, spanning multiple sub-genres and sounds. Dancing Cyprine is a cocktail, two parts punk, one part pop, one part hardcore and a slice of black metal to garnish. It just seems like a breath of air in a stagnating genre, filled with growling fringe merchants in tank tops and tunnelled earrings, and they stand there in uniform, tongues in cheek and armed with a catalogue of kick-ass metal tunes.
15. Rolar – White Energon
Drum ‘n’ bass had to feature at some point in this list as my neurofunk addiction slowly spirals out of control with each passing year. White Energon from Ukranian producer Rolar however has been a staple of my drum ‘n’ bass collection this year because of the unapologetically short build-up into instant euphoria. Whilst a mutating bassline throbs underneath the vibrant, piercing synth hook, pounding drums keep the whole track jetting at a velocity you can’t possibly control. The result is something that you can lose your mind in time and time and time again.
14. Joanna Syze – Rodina (feat. Zardonic)
Phenomenal. There is truly no other word for this song. The resounding influence of Eastern European culture in a drum ‘n’ bass track combined with a haunting spiritual atmosphere and a voice so powerful that carves straight into your soul, is staggering. Joanna Syze is a talented woman no doubt, this isn’t higher because I haven’t listened to it en mass. But you can’t. This is pure beauty in organic and synthetic form, and it needs to listened to as such, else the spectacle of such a song is tarnished. (In contrast, I also recommend the Balkansky remix of this song, mainly because it’s so bass-heavy, it’s like using planets as wrecking balls against the ozone layer.)
13. Abbe May – Karmageddon
There needs to be more of what singer-songwriters like Abbe May does. There are a few out there like Rose Kemp, Tiny Vipers, Chelsea Wolfe and Laurel Halo (all worth checking out), all of these ladies are making addictive pop-laden songs filled smothered in doom and dread but are memorable for the right reasons. Karmageddon is the most infectious of them all, misty, ominous in its execution but oozing with a sassiness that pop stars have to have manufactured. The guitars on second album Kiss My Apocalypse have been stripped back a bit, but the cold electronics introduced have made this songtress’ work even more foreboding.
12. The Birthday Massacre – Red Stars
This is definitely a band I am late to the party for. In Red Stars, The Birthday Massacre have fine-tuned the loud-quiet dynamic with a chilling, synth driven masterpiece. Everything fits together so perfectly, vocals echo with both innocence and vengeance, guitars crunch in exactly the right places and the atmosphere stays in the right side of frost and shadow, remaining delectable instead of depressing. Utterly absorbing from beginning to end, this is a gem I won’t ever forget.
11. The 69 Eyes – Borderline
In coinciding with Finland’s 69 Eyes masquerading around as The Helsinki Vampires, they created an incredible nugget of late night listening in Borderline. Meeting country and blues with lounge rock, sensual vocals meld upon cigarette-stained chords and my absolute favourite riff of this year, the song reassures that chivalry in men still exists but serves as an inner caress to the female ear, sexily and not distastefully so. A diversion or maturation from their glam rock persona, it’s a delight to hear such passion on display like this.
10. Kavinsky – Testarossa Autodrive
Another staple of my DJ sets, Kavinsky not only created an astonishing 80’s homage in Outrun, so much so it’s one of my favourite albums released this year, Testarossa Autodrive is a great advancement on how electro house music should be made, instead of some of the sorry excuses that become mainstream (I’m looking at you Eat Sleep Rave Repeat!). The timelessness of the synth, no doubt styled to resemble a cop show of the times, against just a simple kick-snare beat keeps the whole trajectory in a trance you succumb to in seconds. Testarossa Autodrive is a reason to believe that Kavinsky should share that podium against Daft Punk and Justice as a fantastic producer of French electronic music.
9. Schoolyard Heroes – The Plastic Surgery Hall Of Fame
Another dead band I unhealthily obsess over, Schoolyard Heroes are without doubt, my favourite band I have discovered this year so picking one song was hard, but their final album Abominations played host to this quirky little journey that dragged elements of punk and metal, kicking and screaming and threw them to the pavement. Theatrical pop vocals, against growls and screams, duels along side punishing guitar attacks and some impressive drum passages, fuelling this horror show and pantomime to its satisfying conclusion. They made the macabre enjoyable, and by God am I grateful to have heard it.
8. Noisia & Evol Intent – The Liquid
Some producers should just quit whilst they figure out how much money to spend on software, this tune, despite being debuted two years ago and undergoing multiple incarnations, is a production masterclass. I kinda gave up wanting to make electronic music because of Noisia, they are still on top of the neurofunk food chain, and this amazing gabba/breakbeat clash-up is a testament to their ability to utterly annihilate dancefloors globally. Hitting harder than asteroids in Russia and more explosive than rigging up a chemical factory with C4, Noisia continue to ruin the DnB game, and I have no problems with this whatsoever.
7. Rishloo – Scissorlips
I was mourning this band earlier this year, and by a minor miracle, they reunited two months ago which makes the world a great place once again as such a group of talented musicians should never been separated in the first place. Scissorlips has been such a powerful and evocative song for me, it dragged me to a dark place yet still found a bright hope in that despair. True, passionate, emotional songwriting and musicianship have made this a song that has resonated so much with my mindset and my emotions, and I am so thankful that such a fantastic piece of music has affected me in such a way.
6. Placebo – A Million Little Pieces
That piano. Those haunting keys of ivory etched into a cold but beautiful environment. I made a call earlier last year that based on 1 minute plus of audio, that this song would be a classic and I was not mistaken. I refer to Placebo as an emotional guide to how I feel at times, and A Million Little Pieces more times than any other, has summed up how I’ve felt quite often this year. Absolutely aching purity and honesty, atmospheric but firmly planted to earth, there aren’t many words that even come close to describing this song’s simply stunning composition. No other song has made me feel so vulnerable this year. And as humans, we need that sometimes.
5. Ulterior – The Locus Of Control
Ulterior describe use two words, ‘icecold’ and ‘staticvenom’ to describe their music and honestly, it’s an absolute perfect fit. Borrowing from the best parts of the electronic and alternative scenes of the 80’s, is The Locus Of Control, an icy, calculating, analogue synth propaganda parade, soaked in menace from head to toe but yet deceptively enthralling. Ulterior have created a work of art here, making something seem so devoid of human life but made completely by the living is an admirable skill, and such one I have revelled in for long periods of time this year.
4. Pure Reason Revolution – Black Mourning
In a forever continuing love affair with dead bands, this is the most attractive of them all in my eyes. Pure Reason Revolution are truly a band like no other and Black Mourning from Hammer And Anvil is on the pillar as one of their best works. Gorgeous vocal harmonies, bright keyboards, guitars hit hard when needed, outrageously catchy hooks… The song is so well crafted by such incredible musicians, it genuinely hurts so much that they are no longer together. If elegance in complexity needed a definition, I would point to this song in a heartbeat. Spectacular doesn’t even come close to justice.
3. VNV Nation – Control
Best. Free. Download. Ever. If you wanted further evidence on how rock and dance music influence one another, then VNV Nation’s Control has to be the pinnacle of that theory. Whether you see a headbanging tune trapped on the dancefloor or an S&M orgy in the mosh pit, the pummeling beat, swirling, almost maddening synths and inciteful assertion of ‘I WANT CONTROL’ is no doubt the most memorable moment of chaos I have had the pleasure of orchestrating this year. Strobes are obligatory, seriously.
2. The Upbeats – Beyond Reality
I was going to try and make it through this list without swearing, but when describing this track, mindfuck is an apt term. Another track that has been on circulation for a while before being released this year, Beyond Reality has to be the most precise name for a drum ‘n’ bass track this year, maybe ever. The bass is so visceral, it’s interdimensional fabric tearing apart and when it gets to that drop, it’s cathartic and an opportunity to go ballistic in one. The sensation of just losing it is inconceivable. For an album name like Primitive Technique, The Upbeats have created the sound of the future, probably not even of this planet, but it is devastating and deliriously entertaining in equal stead.
1. The Algorithm – Access Granted
Sure, picking and ordering the whole list was tough. But when it came to this spot, there was never any contest. I’ll dissect the reason this is my favourite track of this year. Faded in tech metal with jarring glitches of electronica, saxophone, dropped into more tech metal and lingering electronic clouds, short EDM interlude, arppegiated keyboard anarchy overshadows more tech metal to blastbeats, into a reggae bridge, into explosive tech metal burst, into full-blown glowstick rave then sped up to drum ‘n’ bass pace, into a wall of death in a chiptune factory that just escalates into absolute armageddon, into a final gabba assault. This is the mad science of the music world and it’s so ridiculously well produced and executed, it’s practically faultless. Remi Gallego, you are a genius, a crazy, fricking genius, or a witch. No other human can even come close to this monstrosity. In one word: life-altering.