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Monday, January 20, 2014

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2013 (10-1)

10. Goldtone---Kurt Vile
        No 2013 track was as closely tethered to its name as Goldtone, a ten-and-a-half minute expedition through one gorgeous sound or contented sentiment after the next, all in the hue of that same precious metal. Much like fellow album bookend Wakin on a Pretty Day, GT is more of an excuse for Vile to noodle away on into oblivion than a traditional verse-chorus-verse number, but it's the tune's adornments, from hushed back-up singers to a shy xylophone, that set it apart. Though a more caffeinated electric guitar threatens to harsh the song's mellow near the finish, Daze's closer stays zen-ed out, its warm grasp slowly loosening and drifting away back into the ether.

9. The Red Wing---Fuck Buttons

        By the standard that Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have established for themselves, The Red Wing opens in relatively subdued fashion, but don't get too comfortable. Those odd squeaks and hollow thunks echo in a cavernous space that, by song's end, is filled to the brim with all manner of sonic assailants, forming an unnerving balance between the threatening and the etherial. The track's unstoppable march into enormity peaks near the 5:30 mark, and by the time the bottom falls out about a minute later, you'll need to catch your breath... and then hit repeat.

8. Neptune Estate---King Krule
        Neptune Estate is more of a place than a song, a far off planet on which Archy Marshall composes one of the most singular break-up tunes imaginable. A drum machine loops endlessly in the background, lending the track a structure-less air as it glides along from one movement into the next, all colored with Marshall's distinct shade of melancholy, lyrics vacillating between despair, distain, and longing. The repetition, the sudden brass, the bummed-out whistle that slices through the track without warning; Neptune Estate's other-worldly cocktail of sounds and emotions is difficult to explain with words, and impossible to deny with ears.

6. *Tie* Unbelievers---Vampire Weekend and Step---Vampire Weekend
        The twin banner-carriers of my favorite album from 2013, Unbelievers and Step represent at least two sides of what makes Modern Vampires so damn successful. The former, with its steady chug of crashing drums, ecstatic keys, and quasi-celtic bridge, is irrepressibly celebratory despite its xenophobic lyrics, an atheist anthem and blow-out-your-speakers jam rolled into one. The latter, conversely, is fueled by a pristine pairing of harpsichord and piano, a perfect backing for Ezra Koenig's stunning turn, his lovely voice tugging heartstrings with a tale of letting your guard down, and learning to accept and cherish the things around you. Don't make me choose just one.
5. Black Skinhead---Kanye West
        Another Kanye West album: another theme song. Just as Yeezy semi-declared POWER his emblematic tune on Dark Fantasy, Black Skinhead roars to life with a similar proclamation, a jarring call-to-action whose pummeling drums, hop-scotch rhythm, and sinister sounds play like an arena jam for the most sordid sporting event of all-time. No other song last year pleaded quite so violently to be played at ear-splitting volumes, that pre-chorus reverb able to fill rooms up all by itself, Kanye's wounded howls leant extra ferocity and desperation. In the words of the out-of-nowhere Will Ferrell sample on N***as In Paris, "It gets the people going!"
4. Chum---Earl Sweatshirt
        It's been 445 days since the world was first introduced to Chum, which makes it an odd inclusion on this list given its parent album, Doris, didn't come out until August 20th last year, but its initial impact remains wholly intact. I'll spare you the backstory (which you should check out if you're not already abreast), but Earl's first track since returning from Samoa finds the MC in unnervingly fine form, his hyper-personal flow dazzling atop a simple, nocturnal beat that calls a ceaselessly looping piano its backbone. From his relationships with both of his parents and his Odd Future bandmates, to his new-found fame and the folks at Complex magazine, Chum says a lot about what the 19-year-old is going through while still leaving many aspects of his personal plight draped in shadow, his intricate and thorny word-play technically marvelous and unsettlingly earnest without ever over-stepping.
3. Retrograde---James Blake
        I would say that Retrograde is a song of peaks and valleys, but it really consists of just two low planes and a mountain so tall, it boarders on absurdity. Blake's sing-song hum might insist otherwise, but there's a palpable sense of dread to the track, each second louder and more abrasive than the last until the troubadour finally proclaims, "Suddenly I'm hit," and smacks us with a wall of synthesizers that wheeze with unrepentant power and bombast. If Retrograde is a love song, as many have claimed, it's certainly a conflicted one, contrasting emotions all coming to a head and battling to death atop that aforementioned hill, scaling back down after just over a minute of all-out war, an eerie feeling still hanging over us like the darkest of rainclouds.
2. Sea of Love---The National
        While I wouldn't put Trouble Will Find Me anywhere near the top of the, 'Best Albums by The National,' discussion, there's a real chance that Sea of Love is the best song that Matt Berninger and the brothers (and the brothers) have ever written. Everything that we've come to love about the band during their amazing fifteen year run (sneakily speedy drums, sinewy guitars, tales of, 'common man's strife,' Berninger's signature baritone, drastic mid-song shifts, blow-the-roof-off climaxes) is perfectly synthesized into a four-minute miracle, a career victory lap crammed into the smallest of showcases. It's a tale of longing to re-connect, featuring a chant-and-shout, tear-all-the-walls-down conclusion whose urgency dovetails into an almost holy sense of catharsis.
1. Get Lucky---Daft Punk feat Pharrell
        One sign that a song is great: you perfectly remember the first time that you heard it. I was at home, in my room, laying down after a few long days at work, when I clicked on a link that simply read, "New Daft Punk Single." Another way to know that a song is great: it sounds amazing. That initial burst, with Pharrell's swagger-infused come-ons, powered by Nile Rodgers' heavenly rhythm guitar, and eventually encased inside of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo bizarre robotic croons, brought a cartoonishly enormous smile to my face, and sent my finger to the, 'replay,' button mere seconds after the sound had faded. Even after all the over-saturation, the earned hosannas, and the requisite backlash have all come and gone, I still view Get Lucky as a positively magical six minutes, a track whose charms and spells never seem to wain, and the single greatest pop song to achieve major radio success in at least a couple of years.

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2013:

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2013:

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