Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Best of 2013: Songs

Hello? Is anyone out there? *dusts entryway* Hello?! Oh, hi, if you're reading this. I know I disappeared after I came back from Germany and stopped blogging, but I have a valid reason: I returned from Germany a different person, with supercharged priorities and new priorities and no idea how I felt about being back in the US or how to re-integrate myself without feeling massive resentment.

It took me a few months, and a lot of life changes, but this week it made sense to come back. It's nearly the end of the year somehow (!) and I am trying to do some fun projects, like making end-of-year best-of lists.

I've been thinking about my top 10 songs of 2013 list all year. Really, I have. This year has been rich in great music and I feel so, so lucky to get to talk so passionately about the songs below. I hope you'll take a listen, because when have I ever led you astray?! Never, that's when!

There is an eclectic mix of gothic/industrial/synthpop and indie on this list. Just the way I like it. My music tastes have evolved and diversified more this year than anytime since my teenage years, so I have been doing a lot more thinking about music in general this year than in others. I'm so thrilled with these songs. I guarantee that you won't find this mix of songs on anyone else's list.


1. VNV Nation — Retaliate

This song. It's ... everything I could have ever hoped for in a VNV Nation song. It is totally deserving of #1. It's part of an album that I truly believe is the best album this band has ever made (and they've made a lot!). It's hard hitting, it's incredibly catchy, super danceable, and it makes me so happy every time I hear it. It makes my heart swell with joy, and my body feel like I could fly. It quite simply blows my mind every time, and I dance around the house like a crazy person, and yeah -- it's perfect. It gave me the "I am so happy my chest is going to burst open and my face is going to smile itself to death!" feeling. Quite an honor bestowed upon this song, as it has to be pretty special to cause that kind of reaction.

Justice never waivers
it is my single purpose
relentless the pursuit
I will find you where you hide
counting on your indecision
deciding when to strike
calculating movement
the senses of the chase

2. Holy Ghost! — It Must Be The Weather

The first time I played this song to Scott, he said "When was this made, 1986?" in a snotty voice. But it's totally true: this song is straight out of the 80s, and 80s appropriation has never sounded so good. Holy Ghost! is one of this year's discoveries for me, and their sophomore LP, Dynamics, is a superb record. This song blew my mind the first time I heard it, and I spent the rest of the day looping it in Spotify. I would count the songs until I'd get to this one again, and then I'd desk jam in my cube, hoping no one saw me. It's just an awesome song. Great music, great lyrics, and yes -- oh so 80s. I dare you not to boogie during the refrain!

Tell me what to do cause I don’t know how
Sitting in my room when it’s all blacked out
Tell me don’t love it cause I like you now
Violence in my heart comes out my mouth

Holding on nothing just as fast as I can
Tell me what to do, tell me what’s the plan
Holding onto nothing
I’m holding onto nothing
I’m holding onto nothing just as fast as I can

3. System Syn — Daydream From a Deathbed

I love every song on Clint Carney's latest System Syn album. I read in an interview that this record is a tribute of sorts to all of the people he's known (or known of) who were young and screwed up and didn't see that one day they'd come out of it (and committed suicide). The result is a haunting record about despair and hope -- of course bittersweet. This song, named after a painting of Carney's (yeah, he's a talented artist in at least three disciplines, and is in at least three bands!), is particularly catchy, and the first time I heard it I had "the moment" where my brain (figuratively) exploded and I realized just how much the energy level had been brought up -- exciting! This track has great lyrics, a great dance beat & it's just fun.

You can't taste the sweet through the sorrow,
Because you don't allow yourself to fail.
That's all it is, sweetheart;
The struggle.
That's all it is;
Always something just beyond your reach

4. Shout Out Louds — 14th of July

Shout Out Louds were another of my 2013 discoveries, and I'm really shocked it took so long for me to finally listen to them. They are nothing like I'd thought, and their latest effort, Optica, instantly went into heavy rotation in my cubicle. I immediately latched on to a song in the middle of the album, "14th of July," and for whatever reason -- I'm not sure -- it became my easy favorite. I had the pleasure of seeing SOL live last spring, and when they played this song? I went just a little CRAY CRAY. What a great band. Also, I'm assuming the 14th of July is a holiday in them there Swedish parts? Or French parts? France is in the song.

Take me down on the 14th of July
And take me to the fireworks
And show me how the fire works

5. MONO INC. — Kein Weg Zu Weit

Oh, Mono Inc. How I love you. We discovered this band before this year's M'era Luna festival, and they were one of our favorite performances all weekend. They often sing in English, but on their latest album, Nimmermehr, they acquired a new co-vocalist and a new appreciation for singing in German. I liked this song when we heard it live, but when Scott & I returned from Germany and watched the video, the true emotional impact of this song hit me. I am overcome with that chest-swelling-with-emotion feeling every time I listen to this song now, even though I don't understand exactly what the words mean as they're sung. This is an important lesson -- I don't really need to know. I get it. Emotion is a universal language.

Kein Weg zu Weit, zu weit mit Dir,
Kein Meer zu kalt, gemeinsam segeln wir,
Kein Stern zu hoch, ich flieg mit Dir,
Bis der Himmel untergeht

(translates roughly to)

No way too far, too far with you,
No sea too cold, together we set sail,
No star is too high, I fly with you,
Until the sky goes down

6. Arctic Monkeys — Do I Wanna Know?

I will never forget the first time I heard this song. First of all, Arctic Monkeys are one of my favorite bands of all time. Anyway, I was sitting at the table with Scott at our Airb&b flat in Prague, playing games on a rainy afternoon. We were watching mtv.uk, and they were doing an hour of Arctic Monkeys videos. Near the end, Scott went to take a nap, and I came back into the living room to find this on. Not only had I never heard it before -- it was god damn sexy. Like, overwhelmingly sexy. And that's pretty much why this song is amazing: it's sexy in every way. And little did I know at the time, the rest of the album would be, too. O_o

Have you got colour in your cheeks?
Do you ever get that fear that you can't shift the tide that sticks around like summat in your teeth?
Are there some aces up your sleeve?
Have you no idea that you're in deep?
I dreamt about you nearly every night this week
How many secrets can you keep?
'Cause there's this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat
Until I fall asleep
Spilling drinks on my settee...

7. Disclosure — F For You

As a lady of a decent age who in a former life raved it up in the bay area nearly 15 years ago, I've been a bit appalled at the decline of "edm" as you kids are calling it today. This is why Disclosure are so refreshing. Even though they're just kids, they're leading the charge in making electronic music interesting again. In fact, a lot of the interesting things these brothers are doing reminds me of what I'd consider the heyday of house music, in the 90s/early 00s. But it's not like they're rehashing the past, and that's all -- no, they are definitely putting their own creative spin on it. Get it? Spin? Anyway, this is my favorite song off of their debut album, Settle.

I've been infected with restless whispers and cheats
That manifested in words and lies that you speak


8. Bastille — Pompeii

I have a confession to make: I never wanted to like Bastille. I knew they were a band from England composed of guys that most of the younger set find attractive (OMG GET OFF MY LAWN). I also knew that they were blowing up, getting really popular, playing Popscene, that sort of thing, so I decided before I heard them that they were generic, just like every other hipster band. I kept coming back to them, though, because I really loved their name, and that they had a song called Pompeii. When I finally watched the video, I loved the song, and I loved Dan Smith's voice. I got the chance this fall to hear that voice in person, and it was every bit as advertised. This song is pretty classic, in my opinion, however poppy it may be.

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You've been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?


9. Hot Chip — Look At Where We Are

When this record first came out, early this year, I read a review that said "'Look At Where We Are' is the most beautiful song Hot Chip has ever made." I listened, and as the waves passed over and through me, I believed it was true. What an incredibly emotional, delicate ballad ... and it's about love, not losing love. I am really personally touched by this song because of my own nearly 10-year relationship being so sweet, and all of the ups and downs we've gone through to get there (as any couple does). It touches my heart. Yes, the icy one. It thaws a bit when I listen to this.

Look at where we are
Remember where we started out
Never gonna be without each others love again
Look at where we are, are, are


10. CHVRCHES — Recover

Interestingly, I probably wouldn't have given CHVRCHES a chance if I hadn't heard so much about them via my many friends who saw them at SXSW this year. You see, not only were they a breakout star of the most hipster-est of music festivals, but they also have a female lead singer. I can count the number of bands I listen to with female lead singers on one hand. It's just not generally what I'm into in the post-Lilith Fair era of life. I listened to this song one day, though, after it was posted on Facebook, and wow. To me? This is what good pop music sounds like. I mean, I've since discovered that this band is excellent across the board, but when I heard this song, my jaw dropped and I immediately began rethinking my worldview. Cool stuff.

I'll give you one more chance
To say we can change or part ways
And you take what you need
And you don't need me

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Whew! There were many deserving ''honorable mentions" including "Teleconnect 1" by VNV Nation, "R U Mine?" by Arctic Monkeys, "Return the Favor" by We Are Scientists, and "Devil's Game" by Desdemona, but I wanted to challenge myself by sticking to 10 choices and 1 pick per artist. It worked out. Go me! J/K.

Did you enjoy this list? Share it! Feel free to do your own and comment with a link to yours. Though I don't suspect many people are coming round here anymore.

OK. I'm done with this beast. Enjoy the music, and hopefully I will be back to do my album list soon! 

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