Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year in Music, 2013: Top 20 Moments in Music

This might be my favorite of the annual lists. Below are my twenty favorite moments in music over the past year - little snippets of songs that made me perk up my ears or just think "whoa". The definition for "moment" varies in length (ranging in length this year from a momentary background noise to a two plus minute rap verse) and makeup (particularly clever lyrics are always welcome, but even minor chord changes can trigger the right effect).

Without any further ado, let's dig in.

20. Puig Destroyer - Stop Fucking Bunting

It's insane, it's funny, it's poignant, and most of all, it's true. That it's being screamed at you shouldn't dissuade you from taking its message to heart. You hear that, Ron Gardenhire? Play for one (that's all you get).
19. Daft Punk - Get Lucky
The ending funk breakdown

The cherry on top of the disco/funk sundae that is "Get Lucky", and the perfect comedown to the best song to touch Top 40 radio this year.

18. Dessa - Warsaw
"It's a dive bar. Save the game... you drink and you sit"

I'm not entirely sure why some of the lines in 'Warsaw' get me like they do, but I smile every time I hear this one.

17.  Sigur Rós - Brennisteinn
One shimmering note pierces through the darkest, most propulsive Sigur Rós song in years, right before the song soars.

16. Deafheaven - Sunbather
Those shimmering guitars 7:55 in.

A huge part of the reason that I liked Sunbather so much was all the post-rock sensibilities that the band built into it. In between blast beats and screamed vocals, we get sections like this one, where an atmospheric, shimmery guitar fades in.

15. The Joy Formidable - This Ladder Is Ours
The Intro Open Up the Throttle

The intro to Wolf's Law gets things going the right way, transitioning from the epic-sounding string section to a proper stadium rock sound.

14. Phosphorescent - Song For Zula
"...and I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free"

The harrowing end to one of the most perfect anti-love songs ever written.

13. Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?
The slinky, swaggering guitar line

It reminds me a lot of the opening to "Godzilla" by Blue Öyster Cult, but it stands up fine on its own. Sure, it makes for a good instrumental for a rum commercial (gee thanks, Bacardi), but it's even better once Alex Turner starts sneering lines like "Been wondering if your heart's still open and if so I wanna know what time it shuts"

12. The Haxan Cloak - The Drop
What is that groaning??

'The Drop' is the final track to the dark masterpiece that is Excavation. It starts out innocently enough (as innocently as Excavation gets, anyway), a fairly simple, relatively non-evil low bass sound, with what almost appears to be a melody line.

Then, at around the four minute mark, it turns.

 11. The Joy Formidable - Maw Maw Song
The sound gets big

'Maw Maw Song' is a stupid name for a song. The song is pretty decent, then, with a blistering snare roll - it decides to go epic. Suddenly, there's guitar theatrics and you wish you were seeing it in a packed stadium.

 10. Vampire Weekend - Hannah Hunt
"Dammit, Hannah"

It's during that last chorus to 'Hannah Hunt', where Ezra Koenig's voice strains as he sings "If I can't trust you, then dammit, Hannah" when you can start to understand how everyone is losing it over Modern Vampires of the City.
9. Run the Jewels - Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi)
"I said El-P didn't do it, so get the fuck outta here."

Over the past few years, the partnership between El-P and Killer Mike has proven fruitful for both rappers. So, when Killer Mike raps "Producer gave me a beat/said it's the beat of the year/I said El-P didn't do it/so get the fuck outta here." it's both a grin inducing like and probably a sign of good sense on Mike's part.

8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Jubilee Street
"I'm flying..."

About three-quarters through Push the Sky Away centerpiece and highlight 'Jubilee Street', Nick Cave switches from storytelling to stream-of-consciousness euphoria, singing "I'm glowing/I'm flying/Look at me now/I'm flying/Look at me now" as the band soars to match.

7. The National - This Is the Last Time
"Jenny, I am in trouble..."

The ending to "This Is the Last Time" almost feels like a completely different song, going from a relatively peppy "I won't be waitin' anymore/I won't be vacant anymore" to "Jenny, I am in trouble/Can't get these thoughts out of me/Jenny, I'm seeing double/I know this changes everything" as the background singers sing "It takes a lot of pain/to pick me up"
6. TV on the Radio - Mercy
Synth squiggle

As good as the last couple of TV on the Radio albums have been, it's good to see them doing a little faster tempo song. The little synth line after each chorus is pure awesome, and something I'd like to see them do more of.

5. Capital Cities - Safe and Sound
Cheesy fake trumpet!

Seriously. How much money did this cheesy, fake trumpet sound make these guys? One of the best "cheesy fake instrument" spots ever.

4. The Haxan Cloak - Consumed
Exit light.

I'm shocked that some movie studio hasn't handed Bobby Krlic a blank check and given some horror movie commercial the best background music ever. The slamming sound feels like a crypt closing, forcibly removing all of the light from the room.

I've listened to this album on a bright, sunny day. It does nothing to dull that feeling.
3. Big Sean - Control (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica)
Kendrick Lamar's verse

It's the verse that removed whatever doubt remained regarding Kendrick Lamar's superiority. It's vicious, it's funny, and it takes absolutely no prisoners. It's not particularly rare that a rapper gets upstaged by one of his features, but this is the upstage to end them all.

2. The National - Pink Rabbits
"You said it would be painless..."

Another depressing classic by The National.

You said it would be painless
A needle in a doll
You said it would be painless
It wasn't that at all

1. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
"Thought you were praying to the ressurector..."

What happens in the last couple of minutes of 'Reflektor'

* That great Colin Stetson-led descending brass melody
* David Bowie!
* Some great piano
* The best part of any song this year, or any moment I can think of since maybe 2010.

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