Sunday, 12 January 2014

Great Songs of 2013

I've been meaning to compile one of these lists for a while now. A selection of songs that were my personal favourites throughout 2013, all of which feature regularly on my day to day playlists, yet still sound as fresh and innovative as the moment I first heard them. In the near two years that I have been writing this blog, I have been fortunate enough to have discovered some fantastic music from both emerging and established bands, many of which are unsigned or on independent labels. The list below features a selection of these tracks, along with key songs from more mainstream and universally recognised bands - all in all, a delightfully random mix of good songs.

'Ain't Messin 'Round' - Gary Clark Jr.
On 'Ain't Messin 'Round', bright horns and momentous grooves offset perfectly against Gary Clark Jr.'s soulfully raw vocals. A furiously addictive guitar solo provides further edge to the whole structural arrangement. The track may well be the most 'complete' sounding song among Clark's Blak And Blu, a record that delivers a fine array of fierce blues / rock, fused with contemporary R&B.

'A Lot Like Magic' - Josh Rouse
Another horn-centred track, albeit one of an entirely different genre, 'A Lot Like Magic' and the album from which it is lifted from - The Happiness Waltz - marks a return to the sounds of Josh Rouse's earlier albums, most notably 1972 and Nashville - arguably his best releases to date. While The Happiness Waltz doesn't quite match the musical greatness of these previous releases, it is a warm and uplifting record, full of the infectious melodies and atmospheric lyrics that Rouse is renowned for. 'A Lot Like Magic' is the standout track, and upon listening, begs the question of how a musician like Rouse hasn't experienced more commercial success throughout his career.

'Kemosabe' and 'Duet' - Everything Everything
Everything Everything's 2010 debut Man Alive, was a flurry of crazy hooks, off-beat tempos, quirky lyrics and falsetto vocals. Their follow-up, Arc, remains true to the elements that made the first album so refreshingly unique, while also demonstrating a musical progression that is reflected in the tracklist. Arc shows more consistency than Man Alive, with tracks that hold more substance and depth. 'Kemosabe' is the finest example of this, though 'Duet' is wonderfully melodic - a quality that was perhaps lacking on their debut.

'Paper Doll' - John Mayer
I haven't been captured by John Mayer's last two albums, Born And Raised and Paradise Valley, in the same way as previous releases. Though there are elements of blues in places, both records are evidently dominated by a country and folk genre, resulting in material that has a quiet, and at times, subdued feel - an obvious contrast to the rich, solid sounds of 2006's Continuum. While I prefer Mayer's earlier work, his latest releases do have clear moments of strength, most notably on Paradise Valley's 'Paper Doll'. The track is perhaps, ironically, the first single of his that I have loved since any of the material released throughout the Continuum era. Delicate guitars and rich vocals amount to a song that is equally uplifting as it is melancholy.

'Right Action' - Franz Ferdinand
Four years after their last studio album Tonight was released to mixed reviews, Franz Ferdinand made an eagerly awaited return in 2013 with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. Lead single 'Right Action', features the signature anthemic sounds of sharp hooks and tight rhythms that made their first two records so irresistible. The rest of the album largely follows in the same vein, proving a much welcome return to form for the band.

'Alaska' - The Silver Seas
Upon its release, The Silver Seas described third studio album Alaska as being their "country record". The album definitely marks a departure from the immediate pop catchiness of debut High Society and follow-up Chateau Revenge. Unlike these previous releases, Alaska is a collection of songs that while initially, may not be instantly addictive, grow to reveal more depth on each further listen. The title track is by far the highlight of the album, with atmospheric lyrics that set the mood for the songs that follow. The album is made all the more timeless by Daniel Tashian's crisp vocals, which remain powerful and consistent throughout.

'Looking Out To Sea' - Red Sails
'Looking Out To Sea' by Red Sails was easily my favourite song of 2013. The track's superb production is apparent from first listen, with sublime instrumentation of smooth guitars, tinkering keys and crashing drums, riding effortlessly alongside lush vocals and backing harmonies. The overall result is a gloriously melodic song that is littered with interesting and unpredictable hooks from start to finish. I'm very much looking forward to hearing more music from this brilliant band in the near future.