Sunday, December 22, 2013

Best Music of 2013 Mix

Lo and behold, here we are again at the close of another year. Time, then, for my annual "best of" mix--basically an excuse for me to look back at my favorite releases from the past year and make a mix CD to give out to friends. What can I say, I'm old fashioned like that.

2013 has been a pretty great year for music! In fact, after agonizing over what all to include on this mix, I think I may put together a couple of extra lists (online only, because CD-Rs get expensive!) to compile my favorite local music of the last year, as well as some stuff that didn't quite fit the flow of the main mix. We'll see how motivated I'm feeling.

Anyway, on to the mix! As always, this is by no means meant to be comprehensive. There is just too much great music being made for me to keep up with it all--but I like to think this is a pretty good look at a few genres, at least. And a fun listen. If I do say so myself. Feel free to let me know what some of your favorites from the year have been in the comments!

"Post Millennial Creep" - Em's Best of 2013 Mix

1. "The Mother We Share" - Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
I've been loving the modern synth pop trend, and Chvrches debut album is an absolutely perfect example of just how good this genre can be. There's no denying the heavy influences from '80s new wave pioneers, but bands like Chvrches are great because they don't attempt to bury said influences. They revel in them, and bring some 21st century mood to the mix. I love everything about this track.

2. "I'm Not Your Hero" - Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
I included the first single from Tegan and Sara's near-perfect Heartthrob record on last year's mix ("Closer" was released in 2012, after all) and have zero shame about including another track from that album (fully released in 2013) on this year's compilation. I haven't stopped listening to this heartfelt and joyous masterwork of synth pop all year.

3. "We Are Explorers" - Cut Copy, Free Your Mind
Cut Copy knocks another one out of the park. Highly danceable, catchy as hell, and let's be real - pretty queer. How can you not love these guys?

4. "Painful Like" - Austra, Olympia
There must be something in the water in Toronto. Austra was a "Lost Girl" soundtrack discovery for me, along with list-mate Lindi Ortega, Adaline, and Lioness (all bands I also recommend). Throw Diamond Rings into that mix as well (discovered when I was randomly asked to be his opening DJ for a show here in Madison) and I reiterate: Toronto is where it's at. I love Austra for the strange and beguiling nature of their lyrics and lead singer Katie Stelmanis' fascinating voice.

5. "I Want You" - Lindi Ortega, Tin Star
Toronto native but now Nashville-based Lindi Ortega's new record is pretty much just one dusty road foot-stomper after another, and that's just how I like it. This track ain't particularly complicated, but boy does it pack a wallop. I mean, who among us hasn't felt that plaintive "I want you to want me" refrain deep in our bones? Sing along, let it all out.

6. "Ain't Fair" - Deap Vally, Sisteronix
One of my favorite new bands (if not winner of that title outright) of the year, Deap Vally is a powerhouse rock n' roll duo that I desperately want my band, Damsel Trash, to open for some day. Drums, guitar, vocals. Sometimes that's all you need to make your point.

7. "Health Plan" - Pissed Jeans, Honeys
I have to give my friend Matt Fanale (aka Caustic) the nod for turning me onto these cats. Dirty punk rock with a slyly progressive soul. The whole record is just a rip-roarin' good time, and this track is especially timely. THANKS, OBAMA.

8. "Werkin' Girls" - Angel Haze, Reservation
Another new favorite artist for the year, Angel Haze came charging out of the backfield with this track that seems to have caught some mainstream attention as well (it was featured in the movie "The Heat," for instance). The subject matter of many of her tracks is deeply personal, and just fuck-you in-your-face real. An emcee with serious flow and, from the sounds of it, no fear. MORE PLEASE.

9. "Batches and Cookies" - Lizzo, LIZZOBANGERS
Lizzo was a last-minute entry to my list, and I'm ashamed that I hadn't caught wind of her before. Minneapolis based emcee with serious talent and this track is both awesome and adorable.

10. "Get Lucky" - Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
I usually try to avoid including songs that were quite so ubiquitous, but dammit if this Pharrell featuring track isn't just...well, really good. It's a "song of the summer" that I can actually get behind, without wanting to throat punch the singer (that's right, Robin Thicke, I'm looking at you).

11. "We Were Rock n' Roll" - Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
Someone explain to me how Janelle Monae isn't just, like, Prince levels of popular and world-dominating yet? This woman has more talent in her android-loving pinky that half of the current crop of pop starts combined. Expertly crafted soul-funk-R&B hybrid amazingness, super fly dance moves, dapper as fuck personal fashion, and an absolutely beautiful voice.

12. "Man" - Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
Another album I've been listening to on repeat since its release, this particular track is a wonderfully bold, brash, gender bending, and strangely moving ode to masculinity. If you're not yet familiar with Neko Case's work in general, please do yourself an enormous favor and get on it now. This album is a good place to start. Then pick up Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Then, everything else.

13. "Don't Let Me Die In Florida" - Patty Griffin, American Kid
Patty Griffin has been at this music business for decades now and hasn't lost a step. If anything, I'd say she just gets better with time (if that's possible? because she was always so damn good). This record is full of fantastic Americana, storytelling, and Griffin's signature golden voice. This song in particular is a tribute to her father, who made the title plea after a visit to the Sunshine State. I can relate.

14. "Copy of A" - Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks
The first reviews I heard of the new NIN were that it was "too poppy" but fuck, have you listened to old/original NIN lately? That shit was basically industrial pop. And I LOVED it. Just like I love this track, and the album is pretty darn good in general. It's fun to watch and listen to an artist progress and try new things, especially when it works out so well.

15. "Candy Tongue" - Trentemoller, Lost
I continue to be pleasantly surprised by every new Trentemoller release. He knows how to make great use of his various guest vocalists (I'm always a sucker for good female vocals in electronica), and how to turn the electronic genre on its head in new and interesting ways.

16. "All I Know" - Washed Out, Paracosm
A fitting way to end a mix, I think - Washed Out is fast becoming the king of lovely chill out music. His last record has been my go-to relaxation soundtrack whenever I have to fly, and I suspect this album will fast join it in rotation. Beautiful.

(Listen to this playlist on Spotify)
The Lost Albatross