Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Popheaval's Best of 2013: #10-1

Alright, I think it's about time to list the remaining half of my Best of 2013 listing. If you haven't seen the first half (#20-11) yet, you can find it over here. But now, let's get on with it - here's my top ten of 2013!

10. 'Reflektor' by Arcade Fire

Okay, it should be no surprise that "Reflektor" makes an appearance - no matter what best of lists you check, the song is almost bound to show up. And rightfully so: it's a good song, fair enough. The massively hyped-up album of the indie rock royals, however, was a bit of a disappointment for me. Obviously it's always tough to come up with a follow-up to such a brilliant album as 2010's The Suburbs, but considering how 'big' they've become, one tends to have large expectations. Some of the album songs even feel a bit fillerish - uh-oh. Furthermore, while the song itself is top-notch, it could be a tad shorter: the song clocks at seven and a half minutes, and while it doesn't fall flat, it doesn't really bring anything new into the mix during its last couple of minutes - excluding surprise backing vocals by the legendary David Bowie, of course. Whether releasing such an unusually lengthy single is an act of braveness or arrogance is a matter of opinion but the song is one of the highlights of the year nevertheless.

9. 'Asleep At The Wheel' by Band of Skulls

Continuing with indie rock, here's Band of Skulls. In my opinion, the English band is one of the most exciting and genuinely interesting rock bands at the moment. I once wrote an introductory bit about the group so you might want to check that one out as well. Anyway, they've got a new album Himalayan coming out next spring and they've also released the lead single. It's titled "Asleep At The Wheel" and it's sounding terrific. It reminds me a bit of Queens of the Stone Age and has a lovely progressive feel to it, complete with mid-song changes in time signature and all. And heaven knows that's a big musical turn-on for me. Band of Skulls have already released two excellent rock albums and judging by this, their third one will not pale in comparison.

8. 'Flatline' by Mutya Keisha Siobhan

The three original Sugababes - the 'Origibabes', if you will - buried the hatchet and made a comeback, and their debut single "Flatline" was certainly one of the most anticipated single releases in pop music this year, at least in the blogosphere where it aroused a lot of excitement and was received with enthusiasm. Commercially it didn't fare too well, however, even failing to peak higher than #50 in the UK charts. Then again, it wasn't even promoted that much and if MKS themselves were not concerned with the single's chart success, why on earth should we! The song is an amazing grower of a pop tune, boasting a big chorus and that's what really matters, now is it not. Too bad there has been no album news whatsoever in a loooong while, as the big momentum their unexpected get-together had is pretty much gone already... Bring on the album, for the love of God, bring on the album!

7. 'Sugarcane' by Sleigh Bells

I must admit, the success of "Sugarcane" on my unbribable 'Best of' scoreboard  was surprising. Originally I chose "Young Legends" as Sleigh Bells' entry (their latest album Bitter Rivals had a number of great songs to pick from) but ended up switching it to "Sugarcane" as in the end, the former felt just a tad too generic whereas the latter is a much more fitting example of how a Sleigh Bells track should be: distorted guitars, loud beats, catchy melodies - like a mixture of dynamite and bubblegum. And this song did in fact place like significantly higher than my original choice. "Love Sick" was another close one and together with the ear-splitting "Minnie", these four tracks were the ones I picked for the album highlights in my review.

The song's not available on Youtube, though. 

6. 'Pretending As Always' by Anouk

The moment I heard Anouk's "Pretending As Always" for the first time I knew it'd be one of the best songs of the year. It's so incredibly beautiful and with its wistful lyrics, painfully relatable too: "In my dreams I'll make you want me / One more time the sun will shine". And it's accompanied by an equally heart-breaking music video. Anouk's latest album Sad Singalong Songs is a near-perfect one (and certainly lives up to its name): I for one gave it five stars. And out of all its songs, none - not even her magical Eurovision entry "Birds" - is quite as gorgeous as "Pretending As Always". 

5. 'The Way Out' by Porcelain Raft

Gosh, it's top 5 already! And kicking it off comes the marvellous Porcelain Raft with "The Way Out", the lead single from his 2013 album Permanent Signal (a review of it can be found over here). It also holds a special place in my heart since it served as a bit of a self-empowerement anthem for me last autumn when I was dealing with a problematic situation in my life. So hearing this song live was quite the treat for me. Despite its lyrics describing how the "trees are growing through the pavement, breaking the ground" its slow-motion music video has no Greenpeace ambitions but rather features a stripper being sexually assaulted by some creepy customer. In all of its simplicity, it's actually pretty powerful.

4. 'The Apple' by V V Brown

V V Brown's "The Apple" was another song that instantly screamed "song of the year" for me. Following the semi-titular lead single "Samson", "The Apple" was the second single released from her phenomenal sophomore LP Samson & Delilah (do check out my review as well). The two songs represent Brown's new, radically different music style that fits her surprisingly well. While the retro-pop of Travelling Like The Light was fun and all, her reinvention showcases a much more mature and creatively ambitious V V Brown. And I'm loving it.

3. 'Exodus' by M.I.A. feat. The Weeknd

At #3 we have "Exodus", M.I.A.'s collaboration with The Weeknd. Well, to be honest, I think it's more of a lengthy sample than an actual collaboration in the sense that The Weeknd's parts all seem to be taken from his 2012 song "Lonely Star". However, M.I.A. does take the song to a whole new level, completely making the song her own in the process. It's a dark, hypnotic number whose infectiousness nearly rivals that of her 2012 hit "Bad Girls". Her music might be a bit hit and miss but when she nails it, she nails it good.

2. 'White Noise' by Disclosure feat. AlunaGeorge

Speaking of infectious, "White Noise" was personally the most persistent earworm this year for me. It's also a brilliant example of how a collaboration should be: "White Noise" is a perfect mix of Disclosure's deep urban sound and AlunaGeorge's futuristic pop. It did quite well commercially as well, peaking at #2 in the UK charts. Due to its catchiness it'll be a guaranteed hit in any given party, yet sounding cool and 'alternative' enough to retain its hipster-friendliness. In brief, it's one of the absolutely best singles of 2013 - and on my list, the second best one.

1. 'Sacrilege' by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

So, here we are - Popheaval's pick for the best single of the year is Yeah Yeah Yeahs' amazing gospel rock number "Sacrilege". It starts off as an indie rock song but towards the end builds up into a magnificent climax, backed with a gospel choir. On their 2006 song "Cheated Hearts" Karen O sang "Sometimes I think that I'm bigger than the sound" but here the spotlight is ultimately stolen by the sound and the impressive backing vocals of the choir, as seen in the song's live debut. But it doesn't really mater at all - it's an epic four-minute journey that you're ready to take again, and again, and again. And even now, after spending a lot of time in heavy rotation in my music player it still succeeds in sounding as fresh and exciting as it did during the first listen. And if that's not a sign of an exceptional song, I don't know what is.

So there we have it: the 20 best songs of the year! It wasn't an easy task to rank them but it sure as hell was an interesting one. How do you like my choices? What were your favourite songs this year? Remember to share your picks and suggestions in the comment section below. And here's the playlist of the featured songs - do enjoy!

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