Rhythm & soul: Best of 2013
Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 23:12
It’s hard to believe that this is my last column until late January, so even though it may seem premature I’m going to break down a top five list for albums and songs released in 2013.
I blogged in January 2013 that the year looked promising for music lovers. I even compared it to 2010, my musical high point to date, when Arcade Fire released “The Suburbs,” The National produced “High Violet” and Spoon dropped “Transference.” In January, it was speculated that all three of these bands would release new albums, but sadly on two of the three did. Even more disappointing was that The National’s latest, “Trouble Will Find Me” was a lackluster follow-up to its predecessor. Despite this one let down, 2013 has been good to me. There were new records from Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, Tegan and Sara, Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and several new releases that simply blew my mind.
5. “Bad Blood” – Bastille
If you watched the World Series this year you couldn’t have missed the melodious and victorious melody of Bastille’s “Pompeii.” This phenomenal song, recognizable for its intricate harmonies and a capella beginning, has slowly climbed to the top of international charts and the rest of the album is equally amazing. If you like “Pompeii” and haven’t listened to the rest of the album, treat yourself to some new studying music and listen to “Things We Lost in the Fire,” “Icarus” and “These Streets.”
4. “Days Are Gone” by HAIM
It’s hard these days to find classic-rock-influenced music that isn’t country. HAIM nailed the balance between new wave, folk, rhythm and blues and solid rock ‘n’ roll on this album. The band, comprised of sisters, has a down-to-earth vibe backed with feel good guitar riffs and old school harmonies. If you are in the mood for some excellent slide guitar action listen to “The Wire.” “Save Me” is an ethereal number with a more soulful sound, but still has a detectable bass line that lends for some serious groove.
3. “Pure Heroine” by Lorde
Did “Lorde” mean anything to anyone last year? Nope. That’s what makes this album so special. A 17-year-old wise beyond her years, New Zealander took center stage this year with witty rhymes and biting social commentary. Her whole album is jam packed with catchy songs that bring issues such as vanity, the wealth disparity and discrimination to the forefront of pop music. Her breathy vocals lend an almost hilarious innocence to her music, but is validated by their strength and her grace on stage. Off this album, my favorite track is definitely “Tennis Court” which talks about how people have become so apathetic. Stand outs include “Bravado,” “Love Club” and “Royals.”
2.”Reflektor” by Arcade Fire
Given my column last week, it surprising that this album doesn’t come in first for me. However, this album is magnificent because it’s art at its purest form. All it takes is a listen to the title track or “We Exist” to know the artistic energy put forth in the album is sheer genius. Mixing synthetic sounds to create a futuristic feel, the album is dark and haunting in the best of ways, but somehow isn’t subdued. Many of the tracks are upbeat and danceable, but a sinister feeling lurks underneath the happy aesthetic.
1.”Heartthrob” by Tegan and Sara
I reviewed “Heartthrob” when it came out this spring and if I’m not much mistaken I think I was initially disappointed with the Canadian duo’s shift from acoustic to electro-pop. Giving it five or six months and seeing the duo in concert gave me a new perspective. This album is my favorite of the year because I could listen to it over and over without getting bored. This is in part due to the fact that the songs are so varied. From the slow and sad “I Was a Fool” to the upbeat “Goodbye, Goodbye,” to the pensive, but driving “I’m Not Your Hero” this album has a track for every mood. It’s a perfect mix of songs put together perfectly and I highly recommend that everybody give it a listen.