Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Taking On 2013: Top Tracks

Okay, here we are once again. Some would say that we are in the thick of the year 2014, though I would not be one of those people as I am holding on to the past like a toddler who refuses to give up his favorite blanket even though he is so clearly on the cusp of manhood. But it's time to let go. The TV Shows are done, the video games are over, it's time for music. We've been tracking all the best songs from the year over the past twelve months and we have arrived at this list. So let us list on, and as usual click the links to listen to the songs, and only one song per artist is eligible.

10. "No Below" - Speedy Ortiz (-1)

Brooklyn indie group Speedy Ortiz kind of flew under the radar last year, which is pretty surprising given how intense many of the standout tracks from their debut album were, none more than the wistful "No Below." The song doesn't deal in major revelations on a high concept level, but its emotional core carries enough weight to thrust it in to the best tracks of the year.

9. "All Me" - Drake feat. 2 Chainz and Big Sean (NE)

Every so often the stars align and Big Sean delivers not a terrible verse, and so it happened this year on Drake's "All Me" where Big Sean's verse may actually be the best. I mean Drake's last verse that fades out is pretty great. I'm not completely sure of that, but the beginning "Ho. Shut the fuck up!" becomes perhaps the best introduction to a verse in any song last year. Not to mention such 2 Chainz gems as "And my dick so hard, it make the metal detector go off!"

8. "Bakers Man" - Migos (-3)

And so it was settled. There was a bunch of wrestling to do when narrowing down the many brilliant cuts on Migos's ignorant YRN mixtape, but ultimately I had to stick with "Bakers Man" partially because of the incredible "skrrrrt"s layered throughout the song, partially because of now (almost certainly) soon-to-be unemployed NFL quarterback Christian Ponder, but mostly because, in less than three minutes, this song never stops going hard.

7. "DEAD ISLAND" - kitty (-3)

I never figured out how to make all the cool symbols that kitty uses in this song's title or in her name, but as the year continued and I attempted to figure all of that stuff out what also didn't change was my adoration for her standout track from D.A.I.S.Y rage. This song kind of just appears and then disappears thanks to a highly underrated mix, bringing with it some of kitty's finest lyricism. I would say that 2014 is looking bright for her.

6. "Wavering Lines" - Willis Earl Beal (NE)

Though it did not hit quite as hard as 2012's best song "Evening's Kiss," Willis Earl Beal's "Wavering Lines" channels his stirring brand of soul and song writing to combine for a song that still stands among 2013's best. There's such a power in Beal's voice that it permeates throughout his art, tapping in to a wealth of emotions. Even when the songs are more polished, there's no escaping the raw qualities of Beal's voice, which may very well serve as the song's most powerful instrument.

5. "Marry The Pussy" - R. Kelly (NE)

At one point in time, somewhere between post-Chapter 12 of Trapped In The Closet and whatever chapter he ended with now, I thought maybe R. Kelly had lost the manic insanity that made the initial outpouring of that wonderful hip-hopera so compelling. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, comes "Marry The Pussy," a song wherein the word pussy is uttered over fifty times in a four and a half minute span that includes this quasi-rap verse that is literally layered with some of the craziest lyrics in a song full of them. There is no other song on this list that is as much of an experience as this one. It is pure insanity that such a song can exist.

4. "40 Acres" - Pusha T feat. The-Dream (NE)

Pusha T has always come fairly correct on the m. i. c. That, no question, is for sure. But pairing him with The-Dream could be an ill-fitting combination; however, none of Pusha T's style is compromised in a more slowed down setting. Though lyrically there are sharper spots in My Name Is My Name, the beat on this song combined with the inclusion of The-Dream makes for one of the year's most interesting and enjoyable tracks.

3. "I'm In It" - Kanye West feat. Assassin and Justin Vernon (NE)

We'll save the wealth of love for Yeezus until the Top Albums list, but for now I guess it was time to establish that "I'm In It" is probably the best song on the album. I mean that part that Assassin drops is definitely incredibly impressive. And the end where Kanye punctuates so many lines with "ugh" is pretty magical. There's kind of this raw physicality, this sense of brutality and connection, in "Put my fist in her like a Civil Rights sign" that kind of acts as a thesis for the entirety of Yeezus. And if that's not magic, I don't know what is.

2. "Christopher DRONEr" - Ab-Soul (-1)

Certainly I lament the lack of a full on Ab-Soul project in 2013, but if his next major work consists of songs with the same type of intensity as "Christopher DRONEr" (or either of his previous works, I mean both are great) I'm sure that 2014 will be a great year. From the "Terrorist Threats" referencing opening to the "New Slaves" conclusion, Ab-Soul's style pulsates throughout the track as he quickly exercises his lyrical prowess over this powerful beat. Kendrick may have generated the most headlines last year, but TDE's own Ab-Soul ended up with easily the best song.

1. "Birds" - Death Grips (No Change)

Here is some real talk, realer than anything to come before: any of the songs from three through one could occupy this top slot. But only one does, and in a year where the world of house music and hip-hop constantly collided, it seems fitting that (off of a great 2012 as well) kind of hip-hop ensemble Death Grips top this list. Even on an album full of aurally experimental tracks, the mixture between lyrics and instrumentals is most pronounced here, creating this interplay that continues to cement Death Grips's status as one of the most unique groups currently working.

And we also have these songs that were on the bubble:

"Everlasting Arms" - Vampire Weekend
"Drug Parade" - Flatbush Zombies feat. Danny Brown
"Still Sane" - Lorde
"Chain Smoker" - Chance The Rapper
"Twin Hype Back" - Run The Jewels

And with that we have come to an end. To see some other songs in consideration check out my Spotify playlist, follow me on there, and be on the lookout for the 2014 MegamiXXX!

Agree with the list? Disagree? Let me know below in the comments and keep an eye out in the coming days for the Top Albums of 2013!


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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© 2014 Richard James Thorne

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