Monday, July 1, 2013

Taking On 2013 - Top Tracks (Q2 Quarterly Review)

With last year being so huge for music, it's kind of easy to look at the present as a kind of disappointment. I know only a few seconds ago I was thinking the same thing. But that's why I make these lists throughout the year, to kind of monitor the pulse of different forms of culture and get an idea of how the landscape has shifted. And comparing this list to April's it most certainly has, because even though I'm still not sure that 2013 has reached 2012 levels of greatness the number of certified bangers to be pumped out of the music industry across genres in only half of a year is astounding. As I continue to use a master Spotify playlist to help track tracks, feel free to also click on titles for Youtube links of all the songs where available. And, really, let's get on with the list!

10. "Master Hunter" - Laura Marling (NE)

Marling's most evocative song hits me so well because of how it kind of blends this almost too simplistic quasi-country instrumental with a more boastful demeanor that masks the vulnerability found at points throughout the album and this track. Or perhaps, and this seems highly likely, I just can't help but love the evocation of Bob Dylan.

9. "1Train" - A$AP Rocky feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T (-4)

With hip-hop there tends to be this desire to hit as quickly and precisely as possible, packing in as much lyrical depth as possible in to each line, so when a song (even one featuring multiple artists) hits that clocks in at over six minutes it damn well better be able to sustain itself. With the interchange of styles, "1Train" succeeds.

8. "What I Like" - Charli XCX (NE)

Though there are any number of tracks from Charli XCX's debut that could have made this list, but the way this song kind of embodies the concept of light, airy pop hits me where it hurts. Though not indicative of Charli's style as a whole, the sound itself is simply infectious, and that's the foundation of great pop.

7. "Diane Young" - Vampire Weekend (NE)

Taking a song from Vampire Weekend's latest out of context is tough because that album does place a heavy emphasis on continuity. That said I've found "Diane Young," in part because of its instrumental pacing, to be one that I can return to even when not giving the whole album a proper listen.

6. "Warrior" - Demi Lovato (NE)

Not quite the extension of "Skyscraper" that one would hope, Demi Lovato's most unapologetic ballad on her new album contains the same emotional weight that she brings to the majority of her music. There's a rawness and sincerity to the track that showcases both Demi's incredible vocals and songwriting prowess.

5. "Nightwater Girlfriend" - Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (NE)

Hard to believe that it's basically been three years since Let It Sway dominated my lists for the majority of the year (and even some time since career retrospective Tape Club) but with "Nightwater Girlfriend" SSLYBY's return couldn't have come at a better time. There's an  energy in the song that sort of oozes the feeling of summer in the same way that Cut Copy's work did a few years back and Japandroids did with their previous two albums. A great song on its own, but also a fantastic anticipation builder for their new album.

4. "Dropla" - Youth Lagoon (no change)

Trevor Powers's sophomore effort as Youth Lagoon is largely marked by a more expansive sound that kind of begins encompassing lyrics, generally to a point that would not work for me if it weren't for the way that he uses the semi-sparse lyrics to illuminate the emotions channeled by the songs. The repetition in "Dropla" almost sees his lyrics becoming another instrument in a lush orchestration, yet they still maintain the power of lyrics, which is a direct means of exploring theme within a musical construct. It's this balance that makes "Dropla" so magical.

3. "DEAD ISLAND" - kitty (no change)

While there are plenty of songs from kitty's DAISY rage that I love, the power and confidence on standout single "DEAD ISLAND" showcases her unique flow while highlighting just how lyrical she can get. I tend to favor songs that exude energy, something that plays well on speakers, and "DEAD ISLAND" passes the speaker test, but what makes me love it is the darker current running throughout that has her commenting on the state of society (theoretically New York, but it's applicable to many areas). I'm still not sure if, by year's end, this will be my favorite kitty track, but it's a damned great one either way.

2. "Twin Hype Back" - Run The Jewels feat. Prince Paul (NE)

Given the relatively recent release of the Killer Mike and El-P collaboration album Run The Jewels I am still figuring out which track is the 'best,' but the one to which I have already listened the most is "Twin Hype Back." It doesn't have the same sense of paranoia that marked El-P's Cancer 4 Cure or the crushing force of Killer Mike's 2012 effort R.A.P Music, though this record is mostly lighter as a whole so one wouldn't expect to find that here. The inclusion of Prince Paul perhaps makes it the most indicative of the album as a whole, having "Twin Hype Back" exist as a microcosm for Run The Jewels: focused and uncompromising.

1. "I'm In It" - Kanye West (NE)

I should probably state now, rather than at the end of the year, that if this was an unabridged list all ten songs on this list would be a tiered ranking of tracks from Yeezus, and even with that acknowledgement I'm not sure that this song will end the year as my favorite from West's latest. With that out there, what makes me love "I'm In It" isn't that killer reggae part or all the accentuated "ughs" at the end of most of West's lines, but rather the force and conviction with which he delivers the lines. Everything is cut to its core. These are traits, admittedly, that characterize a majority of Yeezus, and for this reason I'm sure I will continue to fluctuate between which is my favorite track on there. But as this representation of West at his most and least lyrical, almost simultaneously, "I'm In It" might just be the best.

On The Bubble

"Kush Coma" - Danny Brown
"95 Til Infinity" - Joey Bada$$
"Young And Beautiful" - Lana Del Ray
"Bourgeois" - Phoenix
"We Can't Stop" - Miley Cyrus

So what did I leave out? What should be higher? Let me know in the comments section and keep an eye out for my Top Albums of the year so far shortly!


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© 2013 Richard James Thorne


  1. "1 Train" is dope. Surprised nothing from ACID RAP, RUN THE JEWELS, or SAAAB STORIES made the list. (Not that I'm the biggest fan of those three, but I'm pretty sure you are.)

    1. RUN THE JEWELS track at number two! I'm still deciding which ACID RAP song I would put up there, I'm sure as time goes on and everything shakes out it will make the cut though. Or not, there's a ton more great stuff upcoming I suppose. Should be interesting. Still DB, ScHoolboy Q, and Willis Earl Beal albums in the pipeline!

    2. Holy hell, I must be illiterate.