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It’s been a pretty good year for music.  As arbitrary time markers go, it seems 1st January 2013 – 31st December 2013 is a fairly good demarcation of a time when lots of excellent music was released in to the world.

We’ve brought together a few songs that we want to remember from 2013.  They’re in no particular order, there’s no number one – it’s just some notable releases that made the year sound good for us.  When we started to compile the list, what was particularly noticeable was the recognition given to the videos accompanying our chosen songs.  It would seem that since we now consume most music sat in front of computer screens, we can use them fully to augment and diversify what we hear and see.  Though it echoes the music channel era of MTV (and the rest), the internet is more unregulated and so things have got far more interesting.  Perhaps also, since methods of acquiring music have become more unregulated, music videos are no longer the disposable by-product of a song’s promotion, but something worth remembering and revisiting.

We’ve enjoyed revisiting the best music of the year, and we hope you enjoy what we’ve chosen.  The best part about using a time frame such as ‘a year in music’ is that it means nothing, and so we think it’s safe to say this musical flowering isn’t about to shrivel with the change in year.

– – –

 

Dust Clears – Clean Bandit

Another exciting single from the brilliant Clean Bandit.  I first heard them last autumn with A&E and they’ve continued to impress me with their new material throughout 2013. Looking forward to their album, whenever it appears. Plus they make amazing videos:

– Nat Barker

What a Difference Your Love Makes – Basement Jaxx (Brixton Market Garage dub)

My favourite remix of the year.  Carnival vibes.

– Nancy Saul

– radio rip only!

Backwaters – Drenge

I could have picked any song from their eponymous debut but I went for Drenge’s scathing, visceral portrayal of their hometown Castleton, in Derbyshire. Famously championed by ex-Labour MP Tony Watson in his resignation letter, I can honestly say, as someone with an opinion that matters far, far more: ‘Yes ex-Labour MP Tony Watson, Ed Miliband should listen to Drenge because then he might appreciate life a bit more and not be as much of a slimy lizard man’.

– Kyle Picknell

Will Calls – Grizzly Bear (Diplo remix)

Didn’t really want to put Diplo on this list, but here he is.

– Alice Lawrence


Dancing – Aaron Smith (KRONO remix)
Everyone seems to really like this song and its happy, happy vibe.  Parisian producer duo KRONO have racked up quite a variety of remixes this year, but this one is a stand-out.

– Holly Hunt

People of the Sticks – Besnard Lakes

Canadian rockers the Besnard Lakes returned with their fourth studio album this year Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO. Their first single maintains their signature psychedelic sound with shimmering guitar lines and beautifully melodic vocals. Be sure to check out the video…

– Lily Grant

Wraith – Peace

This is a song of juxtapositions.  Distorted vocals are next to ringing guitar riffs; at times ‘Wraith’ is slowing and trailing, but then wildly impulsive and climaxing. You would think that this would make for a confusing listen, but this superfluity is a breath of fresh air.

– Georgia Marshall

My Number – Foals

My favourite track off their fantastic third album, Holy Fire. Being one of the few bands able to make 3 convincing and fresh albums has established them as one of the best British acts going.

– Nat Barker

Sophie Brear agrees: A massive hit, but deservingly so. With ‘My Number’, Foals achieve a sound of arena sized proportions.  It’s perfectly polished, showing their maturation yet still retaining their original zest.  No number of repetitive plays in every ‘indie’ club I enter will make me love it any less.  Its infectious guitar riff and mercilessly catchy chorus might as well come with a ‘will make you dance every time you hear’ guarantee.

Somewhere Else – Mariam and the Believer

How does such an obnoxious lo-fi loop of Mariam the Believer’s incredible voice sound so ugly at the start of my first listen, but by the end irreplaceable?  I honestly have no idea but boy am I glad that it does, and if you’re a fan of any kind of alt-pop you’d be doing yourself a disservice not listening to it.

– Harry Rosehill

It’s Never Over (Oh! Orpheus) – Arcade Fire

A massive departure from Arcade Fire’s previous musical endeavours.  It’s a musical experiment for them, but with fantastic result.  The intricate craftsmanship of this song is clear.  The best part though, is the moment when the pulsating, gradually burgeoning opening beat explodes into that brilliant, all-consuming guitar riff.  What follows is pure audio pleasure.

– Sophie Brear

It’s You – FCL (San Soda Panorama Bar Acca Version)

Since Will Tramp dropped ‘It’s You’ at the Annie Mac Presents… Warehouse Project,I can’t help noticing it everywhere. There’s several really good remixes of it but this is my favourite; stripped back but still club-worthy.

– Nancy Saul

Papi Pacify – FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs: ‘I’ve had tinnitus for four years, so basically I haven’t heard silence for four years. I think that might have something to do with the more weighted sounds in my music like on ‘Papi Pacify’.  Anything that’s too mid or high is in the same range as my tinnitus, so it all just sounds like a long beep.’

As for the video…

– Alice Lawrence

Cocoa Butter Kisses – Chance The Rapper

I, unlike most people I think, was pretty disappointed with hip hop this year. One undeniable bright spot that all critics seem to be able to agree on is Chance the Rapper’s breakthrough mixtape Acid Rap. ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ is my personal favourite track off the mixtape, yearning nostalgically for a simpler time whilst keeping it fun and light with subtler darker overtones.

– Harry Rosehill

The Stars Are Out Tonight – David Bowie

It’s difficult to pick a highlight out of the beautiful sonic variety that is Bowie’s The Next Day.  However, there is something so sincere and soulful about ‘The Stars Are Out Tonight’.  For me, its sound bears a timeless quality which perfectly parallels Bowie’s transcendence across musical periods.

– Sophie Brear


Lose My Breath – Yuck
Yuck emerged from their line up change this year sounding better than ever. Their residency at Hoxton’s Macbeth and their album Glow and Behold proved that the band are really on to something good. This song distills that goodness in to something woozy and fuzzy that’s here to stay.

– Alice Lawrence

Talk Dirty to Me – Jason Derulo

Not ashamed. Not even a bit.

– Nat Barker

Wasted Time – Ta-ku (ft. Thandiwe Phoenix)

I think it’s Phoenix’s vocals on this track that make it so hypnotic.  Ta-ku opened the year with his Make It Last EP and then returned in the autumn with the longer Songs To Break Up To, from which this beautiful song is taken.

– Alice Lawrence

Sonnentanz – Klangkarussell (ft. Will Heard)

In case the song’s title and its video don’t make it clear, this is a summer tune, and it’s as good as they come.  Quite impressive considering it’s (sort of) the debut single from the Austrian duo.  …Also Cara Delevingne got involved, which was pretty great.

– Ely Villanueva

Life Round Here – Chance The Rapper & James Blake

Well who’d have thought this would work so well?  Blake had said that his original version never felt finished, and describes Chance The Rapper’s contributions as a completion, ‘with a neat little bow’.  Check out both artists, and the video’s director, discussing their work here.

– Holly Hunt

Team – Lorde

Lorde caused quite a stir this year with her debut album, Pure Heroine.  Those things aside, ‘Team’ does display some remarkable talent for someone who’s just turned seventeen.  Her other lyrics aside too, this song does contain the rather resonating ‘I’m kinda over getting told to throw my hands up in the air’.

– Ely Villanueva

Late Night – Foals

Both Kyle and Georgia chose this tenebrous number as one of the best of the year.

Kyle reckons: Holy Fire‘s equivalent of ‘Spanish Sahara‘ is even better than the actual ‘Spanish Sahara’ and that means it is really fucking good. It has piano and a guitar solo and everything. Yannis Philippakis pours his heart out over a typical Foals groove before unleashing a funk coda that brings the house down, just like they used to.

Georgia also appreciates the rare guitar solo, adding: One of the album’s centrepieces, this dark and brooding track seems to come from a confessional Philippakis.  If you liked this definitely listen to Koreless’ remix:

 – the remix is so good, it makes the list too.

I Wanna Be Yours – Arctic Monkeys

My favourite song from this year’s album AM.  The lyrics are taken from a poem by the legendary John Cooper Clarke, where he ‘attempts to reduce [himself] to the level of a mere commodity, for the greater good of the object of [his] desire’.  Clarke gives full credit to Turner for ‘spotting the romantic halves’ of the poem and turning it in to a ‘full on love song’.  And what a love song it is.

– Holly Hunt

– no video, yet.

Untitled – Paul Woolford

Undeniably one of the most acclaimed releases from the house circuit this year, and for good reason.

– Nancy Saul


Breeze – JAWS

The most laid back 5 minutes of music to come out of Birmingham since UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘Breeze’ floats along as you’d expect it to before each soaring chorus. The guitar sound is completely intoxicating, and listen out for the best few seconds of cowbell you’ll hear all year. Bliss.

– Kyle Picknell


Hanging – Wet Nuns

After hearing this song, I was pretty convinced that Wet Nuns were the best thing that’s happened to all music ever and that they were about to change the whole world forever.  Then they broke up.

– Alice Lawrence

Feel Real – Deptford Goth

Created by Daniel Woolhouse, alone in his front room, ‘Feel Real’ is the electronic soundtrack to someone’s loneliness. Beautiful and subtle, the lyrics are made more prominent within the music video, as they appear one at a time in the centre of the screen. In a one off performance, the song was performed in an abandoned church, with Woolhouse accompanied by an experimental gospel choir. This incredible arrangement of the song put further emphasis on the emotion behind it, with instruments replaced by vocal lines, such as “feel real now” and “we had nothing”.

– Maisie Kelly

Carry Me – Bombay Bicycle Club

Previous cover stars, Bombay returned to us in early December with a song so catchy it hurts. Tribal drums + ‘You carry/You Carry/You Carry/You Carry Me’ x a lot = you inadvertently singing it out loud in public for weeks. It’s like an underplayed, indie ‘Get Lucky’, and therefore infinitely better.

– Kyle Picknell

Can’t Get Close – Sampha (Jacques Greene edit)

After working with the likes of SBTRKT and Drake (and featuring on the Beyonce album) Sampha is finally in the midst of writing his own album.  If the titbits from his EPs Dual and Too Much / Happens are anything to go by, 2014 is going to be filled with that voice.

– Nancy Saul

Perth vs Ready For The Floor – Daughter (Bon Iver vs Hot Chip)

Elena Tonra’s haunting voice remains captivating throughout her album, If You Leave.  However, it is her cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Perth’ and Hot Chip’s ‘Ready For The Floor’ that highlights how good she truly is.  As amusing and irrelevant as most YouTube comments are, one comment that I saw seemed to sum up the cover perfectly.  It was something along the lines of: “She has covered Justin Vernon, a.k.a God, and has managed to do it justice.  Respect.”
So yeah.  Respect.

– Maisie Kelly

Retrograde – James Blake

Here we see Blake’s talent as a songwriter and not just a great producer,  as his mature lyrical reflection is mesmerising.  It’s great to see his continuing success when heading in new directions.

– Georgia Marshall

Are You With Me Now? – Cate Le Bon

‘Are You With Me Now?’ is the elegant second single from Cate Le Bon’s third album, Mug Museum. The beautiful, haunting vocals overlay a delicate and repetitive guitar riff in a stunningly mesmeric way.

– Lily Grant

Reflektor – Arcade Fire

When I was sixteen in a jubilant crowd shouting ‘HEY’ along to ‘No Cars Go’, I was sure Arcade Fire were making the best music in the world in the at that time. Then, I slowly seemed to move away from the band, convincing myself I’d matured out of their music.  It took me a month after Reflektor came out even to consider giving it a try, something that was put off longer when I heard they were retreading old lyrical territory – Win Butler’s dissatisfaction with the modern technological world.  Then I heard James Murphy had produced it, and I thought I owed it to my sixteen year old self to at least give it a listen (LCD Soundsytem also played a great set at Reading that weekend).  And aren’t I glad I got over myself.

– Harry Rosehill

Hold On, We’re Going Home

I’m not normally a Drake fan, but I can’t deny this is a great song.

– Ely Villanueva

Blush – Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice have spent the year finding ‘their sound’.  Alice has spent the year finding their SoundCloud and wolfing it down.  This song is a change in tone from other, heavier offerings, but it’s so delicious.

– Alice Lawrence

Endlessly – TOY

Kraut-rock band TOY’s first single from the second album ‘Join the Dots’ takes on a more ‘poppy’ approach with catchy melodies whilst maintaining their signature reverb heavy guitar riffs.

– Lily Grant

so fresh there ain’t even no video.

Paper Trails – Darkside

Nicolas Jaar said: ‘We wanted this record to feel experiential rather than musical, so we’d be going back into large chunks of the album saying, “No, we need an organ really low in the mix here so we feel like it’s still a world.”  It’s music, but it’s also this little crystal orb that’s full of these feelings that are crazy, and painful, and maybe ecstatic.”

– Alice Lawrence


First Fires – Bonobo

This cluttered track is the first on the album released earlier this year, The North Boarders.  The song features Grey Reverend, who Bonobo allows to take centre stage. After buying the album, I kept listening to this song on repeat, trapped listening to the combination of Reverend’s soft voice and the electric warmth created by Bonobo.

– Maisie Kelly

Zebra Katz – Y I Do

Though this sounds even better embedded in his astonishing DRKLNG mixtape, it’s still a captivating track with infectious aplomb.  Best listened to in headphones, walking somewhere very important.

– Alice Lawrence

Bipp – Sophie

‘I can make you feel better… If you want to.’  This song always succeeds on its promise with every listen, and not only is it a pick-me-up but the most danceable song I’ve heard all year.

– Harry Rosehill

GMF – John Grant
GMF, in this instance, stands for ‘greatest mother fucker’, which may sound like something from a Blink-182 record, but it’s actually part of a heart-breaking and addictive story about addiction and heartbreak, and being HIV-positive, and being gay, and being middle-aged, and other things.  Probably my karaoke track of the year.

– Alice Lawrence

Swan Dive – Waxahatchee
I don’t know whether this is my favourite song of the year, but I’m certain it’s my most listened to.  Which is weird, seeing as how the hopeless themes of the song were completely irrelevant to a great year for me.  Katie Crutchfield’s lyrics are transporting, however, and when she sings to (presumably) her lover, ‘you’ll quit having dreams about a swan dive to the hard asphalt,’ you really feel her pain and are thankful for her honesty.

– Harry Rosehill

Never Grow Old – Floorplan

Robert Hood is a religious minister, as well as a veteran electronic producer and DJ, currently working under the Floorplan moniker.   He said in an interview this year, ‘I’m a vessel, and I’m delivering God’s message through techno’, and it’s a vein of thought that’s stuck with me as much as this song.   That fabulous vocal sample is a young Aretha Franklin; for more joy like this, check out his mix for FACT magazine.

– Alice Lawrence

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