Music wise, 2013 has been memorable for two reasons.
Firstly, my permanent move to New York City has expanded the scope and depth of the live music can I now access any night of the week. Every act wants to come to this city and every act comes to this city. Not only is live music more accessible for me but attending live music in New York City is so much cheaper than it is in Australia.
And then, establishing myself as a featured music writer on the music blog Upside Sounds has opened up huge doors for me to access the electronic music community in New York City and beyond. I’ve seen my knowledge, social circle, influence, passion for the space and audience expand in ways I never thought possible. I take the approach that no matter what has been written about a track or artist, I can always come up with my own unique voice and still be interesting and loyal to my music taste.
Having said all that, here are my favourite tracks of 2013, and why, and in no particular order.
1. Disclosure – White Noise feat. AlunaGeorge
To pick one track as the standout for 2013, as I had to do on Upside Sounds recently, I chose this.
It is the best track of 2013 because of the delicious variations in the tempo and intensity of its unique bass lines. Simple as that. This is a remarkably uncomplicated track; wonderfully structured and comes all stitched together nicely with vocals from AlunaGeorge. The best part is the build up and strength of its bass-filled crescendo that’s all over in just on 4 minutes. In a word, masterful.
2. Tourist – Together
If there was an award for best loop of the year, this track would win. Here we get a straightforward formula of repeated synth loops and vocals. Repetitive does not equal boring in this case.
I saw Tourist spin out of Brooklyn a few weeks ago. I note he is also a recent signing to Disclosure’s new label. Enough said.
3. Snakadaktal – Hung On Tight
I know and love Snakadaktal as the band that was discovered while they were still high school students at the school on the same street as my mum and dad’s home in Melbourne.
Maturity beyond their years given none of them would be legal to drink in the US, ‘Snaka’ are best known as the baby-faced under age winners of the 2008 Unearthed High competition.
Coming off their long-awaited debut album, this is one of the finest examples of minimalist indie pop you’ll hear all year.
4. Clubfeet – Everything You Wanted
Arhh Melbourne music. Representing!
A synth pop group out of Melbourne – why wouldn’t I like these guys? They just happen to be good too. I’m thrilled Clubfeet are building a more international following and getting recognition they deserve.
I’m posting the vid here instead of the soundcloud link, because the vid is cool and it was recently voted 2013 Australian Video of the Year on Triple J.
5. Flamingo – Heart, My
Here’s my pick for the most awesome track of 2013 that you’ve never heard and probably should.
I don’t know much about Flamingo. I’m a little far removed from the Adelaide music scene now. Except to say that last I heard they remained unsigned and fortunately this track has found good support on Triple J.
This track gets better the longer it goes on. The second half of this is especially memorable. The beat kicks in proper at the 3 minute mark and makes way for the best 90 seconds of synth pop you’ll hear anywhere.
6. Rüfüs – Desert Night
This ripper from Rüfüs had me hopping mad when it hit soundcloud earlier in the year. On the strength of this track alone I was literally counting down the days until their debut album dropped. These guys can mix too having put out some very decent mixes on soundcloud via Triple J throughout the year. I am yet to see these guys live and they are high on my list to make that happen in 2014.
7. Disclosure – Defeated No More
From my favourite album of the year and I was always going to pick more than one track from it in my top 10.
I had a tough time deciding whether to pick this or the more well known, awesome but commercially conventional track When A Fire Starts To Burn.
I went with this, largely because I think it’s better and because unless you really listened the the album as a collective, you wouldn’t know this track exists. It’s funked-up, sultry and has the influence of Ed MacFarlane from Friendly Fires stamped all over it.
This track has some of the best beat drops you’ll ever hear in your life. Why this was never released as an official single still has me scratching my head in wonder.
8. Chvrches – Recover
From one of the better EPs released this year is this little gem from Chvrches.
Unfortunatley I missed seeing them when they breezed through New York City in the second half of the year. It’s my number one gig regret for 2013 because live, I’m told they are a treat.
9. Touch Sensitive – Pizza Guy
I had the pleasure of seeing Touch Sensitive do his thang when he opened for Flume at Webster Hall back in September. He kinda got lost in the soup as the opening opener for big Aussie guns Flume and Chet Faker.
Nonetheless he was worth catching because this track absolutely bangs at high volume. If you haven’t heard it live or played at full force inside a club, you’re missing out.
10. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Best indie track of 2013, by far. And a track so epic they made not one but two music videos for it. An interactive experience complete with its very own website where you control the reflecting (damn, how cool) and then a 7+ minute black and white tale in classic noir style that takes the idea of reflection and uses it in so many clever ways. A shiny casket, disco balls, torches, metallics, that mirrored guy in a top hat, reflections off water and those creepy bobbing heads.
And because I can’t help myself and I do this every year, a little analysis..
Number of Australian acts in my Top 10: 5 (Touch Sensitive, Clubfeet, Snakadaktal, Rüfüs, Flamingo)
Number of acts I saw live in 2013 from my Top 10: 3 (Tourist, Disclosure x2, Touch Sensitive)