School, work, and real life has been a bit of a drag so far in 2013. Not a drag in a bad way or anything, it’s just that things are busy and time for fun is at an extreme minimum. But I did want to clear a bit of dust from the SOP blog and roll out some tunes from last year that I missed highlighting.
And maybe I’ll get to sports some time soon because there’s so much to talk about. Chip Kelly! (??) The Flyers are back…and I think I’m excited. Bynum and his knees may be playing in some games soon, and Jrue Holiday has been going off. And big thumbs down to Delmon Young joining the Phillies, but it’s real cool that Chad Durbin is back.
But here’s the music. And I promise, the next music post will talk about this year.
The second album from Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was never at the top of my list to check out. When I decided to buy it, I saw that Drake was on a track, so I thought it was best to put it back and just forget about it. But I came back to the record (minus the Wheelchair Jimmy spot) and loved it. It’s not often that I dig hip-hop from Los Angeles, but Lamar has made one hell of an album.
Also, KL looked good on SNL, including this bit with the Lonely Island.
When I first heard this track – the first single off the third album from Foals (out on Feb. 11th), I thought it was Filter or some ’90s band. Most of the mathy-tension is gone and it really doesn’t seem like the same band. Is this artistic growth? I guess so. Either way, it’s an awesome song.
Philly rapper Swiper put out this awesome mixtape called Stupid Genius that totally flew under my radar last year. It’s reminds me of some of the fun (yet not too goofy) stuff from the ’90s.
Download the mixtape for free here.
I missed this single when it came out, which is a shame because AlunaGeorge has already established a remarkable reputation for quality. Their debut album is out in June.
Another Philly guy. GrandeMarshall was just signed to Fool’s Gold and released the awesome 800 mixtape last year. Expect an album this year…and if you’re looking to throw him some support, get the new Fool’s Gold sampler off of iTunes (featuring the track “Kelly Green,” which is in honor of @cranekicker’s petition to Jeff Lurie).
After a week+ of putting this list together, I’ve finally reached the end. Not surprisingly, I’ve come across a few songs that should probably be included, but it’s impossible to be 100% thorough with these things. If you want to see the rest:
Next week I’ll work on the albums and my 2013 list, and maybe get around to some of the stuff I missed (but probably not).
Either way, this will be a good way to not think about how bad the Sixers are without Bynum and Jrue.
10. Everything Everything “Cough Cough”
At times when this quartet do the whole “art for art’s sake,” it can hinder the music, but on their debut you heard the potential for something great. Tunes like “MY KZ YR BF” and “Suffragette Suffragette” hinted at this, and with “Cough Cough” – the first single from their sophomore album, that potential has been fully realized. It’s an anthemic, percussion-heavy romp that shows the band at their darkest, but also most triumphant.
9. Runaround Kids “Blush”
There’s nothing minor about my obsession with this band any longer – it’s a full blown love that’s absolutely craving the next album. The smattering of singles and comp appearances from the band this year showed that the massive growth on Linked Arms was no joke – they were still looking above and beyond their current subject matter of “GIRLS DON’T LIKE ME DRINKING DRINKING DRINKING BAND BAND WAKEFIELD WAKEFIELD GIRLS.” With “Blush” – the sole new add-on to the Teeth Blue, Lips Red EP, we’re getting a potential sneak peak of 2013, a year that could very well feature this trio running things in West Yorkshire, London, and beyond.
8. Pulled Apart By Horses “Everything Dipped in Gold”
I gave up on most “heavy” music years ago – it just really wasn’t my thing any longer, but Pulled Apart By Horses are one of those rare, once-in-a-decade bands who are truly next level. What’s most important is that they know how to write songs – catchy as all fuck songs – that rarely leave your head and make their gigs truly memorable events. “Everything Dipped in Gold” is one of those moments that remind you that anyone can write a timeless song.
7. Pins “LuvU4Lyf”
Some bands are downright annoying with their marketing – like WU LYF, but others take a more understated approached, like Pins. And in reality all the band did was remain under the radar, release minimal information, and play utterly brilliant gigs – or at least that’s what I heard from scores of locals. The band’s first single stoked the flames a bit, but the release of their first EP, of which “LuvU4Lyf” is drawn from – lit a massive fire. Clocking in at just 2:30, it’s pulsating bass-led rhythm section and explosive chorus are accented by lead singer Faith Holgate’s proclamation, “I would die for you, and I love you for life.”
This is the type of song that makes a career.
I just got brutalized by the hardest exam I’ve ever taken in my life. Holy shit, it was a terrible, terrible experience.
Here’s the middle of the top 50. The list is starting to get really good.
30. Saint Etienne “Heading for the Fair”
From an album that’s both reflective and melancholy comes a song that’s both, and in classic Saint Etienne style, they’ve buried one of their better songs on the album. While many will say that they had their heyday in the ’90s, I’d argue that they’re in the midst of a late career renaissance. This is easily one of their best songs since Good Humor.
29. Niki & the Dove “The Drummer”
This year’s indie dancefloor filler. If someone did a 20-minute remix of this track, I probably wouldn’t complain all too much.
28. Blood Red Shoes “Lost Kids”
This is the first of three songs from them on this list, and one of their most linear moments. But the thing to remember with this duo – even when ordinary, they’re still miles more interesting than almost any other band on the planet.
27. Lone Wolf “The Swan of Meander”
His new album – and this song in particular – has the influence of Wild Beasts all over it. It’s a brooding, dark, and expansive mess, but it’s also the lead single from Paul Marhsall’s best album yet.
26. Bloc Party “Octopus”
A band that returns from a hiatus, even a short one, is almost always past its due date. Whether it’s money or whatever, their heart is usually not in, but Bloc Party bucked the trend. “Octopus” brought back the guitars, and more importantly, the life to the band. This is one of their best moments since Silent Alarm.
25. Runaround Kids “The Narcissist”
I was a little hesitant to put a cover on this list, but this song is too good not to include. Taken from a split tour EP with Irish group We Are Losers, this redo contains everything I love about these guys – the vocal acrobatics, the guitars that fall somewhere between post-hardcore and pop, and the manic energy.
24. Jessie Ware “Night Light”
Hype can be a huge turnoff. I bought into it with Katy B, but I was sorely disappointed. Many of the same folks were all over this record, but I’m glad I gave it a try. Tracks like “Night Light” are an absolute gem.
23. FOE “Mother May I?”
No exaggeration here, but I’ve probably listened to this record once a day this year since its release. Album track “Mother May I?” is one of the reasons why, a grunge-washed rocker that would have made band frontwoman Hannah Clark a star in ’90s.
22. The Cribs “Anna”
Perhaps the Cribs have seen their moment pass in America, but they remain massive in their home country, and for good reason. Each album is anchored by singles, and filled out with indie/garage rockers that are anything but filler. “Anna” may show a more sensitive side of the band, but it’s anything but restrained.
21. Johnny Foreigner “Maybe Daniel’s All the Push I Need”
Every end of year list I’ve made for the past seven years or whatever has featured these guys. And with good reason. They never stop releasing music – albums and singles and EPs and splits and cassettes. You’d think that they’d run out of ideas soon, but as evidenced by this latest single, they’re still going strong.
It’s finals week, so I probably won’t get the next installment of this up until Friday. Gotta get A’s or else.
If you missed 50-41 on Monday (I don’t blame you), then here’s a link so you can catch up before you read below.
40. Pulled Apart By Horses “Some Mothers”
A brutalizing, two-minute post-hardcore jam should not be this melodic, and should not get lodged in your head all day. But it does. Each and every time.
39. Niki & the Dove “Mother Protect”
I initially avoided this duo because of the massive hype – and also because one of the guys doing PR for them is a massive, self-centered douche. But in a way, I suppose I lost out. The band’s debut one is one of the more enjoyable listens of the year, pulling in elements of electronica that would make Bjork proud. “Mother Protect” is the album’s most inventive moment.
38. The Kabeedies “Eyes”
“Eyes,” the lead single off of the band’s second album,” saw a shift in sound, away from saccharine pop to an expansiveness that sees more focus on rhythm. Surprisingly it works, and the new music has had a much longer shelf life.
37. Let’s Buy Happiness “Works Better on Paper”
My love for this band has nothing to do with the fact that I’d like to go on a kissing date with their lead singer. Brilliant indie pop.
36. Cheers Elephant “Doin’ It, Right”
Good music with a ’60s rock feel, “Doin’ It, Right” recalls some of the best moments of the Kinks. Best thing of all? They’re from Philly.
35. The Spills “Atomic Arabian Facebuster”
The Spills were relatively quiet this year, but of the songs they released, this is my clear favorite. It emits hyperactive energy through every note, making it the musical equivalent of Coke and Pop Rocks.
34. I Concur “Your Chair”
When a band releases their finest moment as their latest single, you hate to hear that it’s also their swan song. Their knack for storytelling over fuzz-drenched indie noise is going to be missed, as “Your Chair” continues their trend of brilliant lyricism backed by memorable instrumentation.
33. The Megaphonic Thrift “Fire Walk With Everyone”
At times this Norwegian group sounds like Guided By Voices raised exclusively on a diet of T. Rex and Ride – and that’s nowhere more apparent than on this track.
32. Egyptian Hip Hop “Yoro Diallo”
After this London group’s string of brilliant singles a few years back, I was sure that their debut album was going to be life-changing. When it finally came out this year, I can’t say it was the tour de force I was expecting, but the more time I devote to it, the more I really start to understand it. And “Yoro Diallo” was the first track to grab me. It’s a lo-fi electronic masterpiece that rewards those who are willing to devote the time to really break it down.
31. Alt-J “Tessellate”
Alt-J probably never meant to be a pop band, and this tune for sure was never meant to be a pop song. But alas, “Tessellate” is pop music for 2012, a song that pushes all of the right buttons and at times can be quite uncomfortable to listen to while home alone.
Putting these lists together can be a huge pain in the ass. I may have things down to a science after doing these year-in and year-out for a long time, it’s never easy to rank songs or albums, leave off tracks you really like, and then try to make sense of the final order. It’s never totally accurate and I always forget songs despite keeping a running spreadsheet throughout the year.
Over the course of this month I’ll be doing a few different lists, including (probably in this order) songs, videos, albums, and 2013 bands. While I like to be as thorough as possible, I’m not lucky enough to have music sent to me anymore (at least not as much as I used to), and furthermore, I can’t wait until the last day of the year to put things together.
The list was finalized mere moments ago after a lot of writing and erasing on a few pieces of crumpled paper. My hands are cramped and covered with pencil marks and I’ve sort of lost any desire to go back and revise this. It’s final, and here are numbers 50 to 41. Click the links to see a video or hear the song.
Expect a (mostly) complete Spotify playlist when I post the top 10.
50. Bloc Party “V.A.L.I.S.”
Buried in the middle of Four, this track is the tender side of the all-out assault of the new album. Not a single, at least not yet, but it should be.
49. Clock Opera “Man Made”
A band that I’m still really unable to pigeonhole, which is normally a good thing, but I still don’t know what to make of their debut album. A good record that splices together some nice indie with electronic washes, there are a few too many dull moments. This isn’t one of them.
48. St. Gregory Orange “Salem A.M.”
Remember Arab Strap and how they basically did whatever the fuck the wanted musically, and everyone loved them for it? These guys are blazing the same path, and this track would be a massive hit in the same universe where Spock has a beard. Click the link for a free download.
47. Everyone Everywhere “Queen Mary II”
It’s emo for people who remember emo the first time around, and this local band softly killing it while most of the world is missing out.
46. The Joy Formidable “The Ladder is Ours”
Second albums can be tricky business, but if this Welsn trio follows this path and not the one laid out in “Cholla,” then we’ll have no reason to be let down by the new record. At least not musically, because that artwork is terrible.
45. Wildeflower “Good Girl”
A nice find from London label Stella Mortos, home of Entrepreneurs, this tune is both haunting and uplifting and hints at an artist that has the potential for something very special in the near future.
44. Django Django “Hail Bop”
Like the comet Hale-Bopp, this group has come from deep other space. A few years back they were playing music that was ahead of the curve for most people, and with “Hail Bop,” off of their debut album, they haven’t changed a thing. I’ll spin this record in 2022 and still feel like I’m in the future.
43. Big Deal “Teradactol”
This duo’s first record was decent, but not up to par with anything from vocalist Alice Costelloe’s former band Pull in Emergency. “Teradactol” is the first big moment from Big Deal, and with the reverb kicked way up, it seems that may have just found a shoe that fits.
42. Ellen & the Escapades “All the Crooked Scenes”
The title track from the band’s debut album had me hooked from the onset. It’s indie folk without the pomposity, slowly building into a chorus that makes you wish that this group were ultra famous rather than those Mumfords.
41. This Many Boyfriends “Number One”
When a band wears their influences on their sleeve, it’s often hard to separate the two, but the mastery of this Leeds group is that they’re referential without ever being unoriginal. And tracks like “Number One” make you feel like you’ve been listening to them forever.