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2013 Wrap-Up: Top Tracks #10-1

Jessie Ware, Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, November 2013

The grand finale of top tracks of 2012 is here. Leave your favorites, arguments and comments below. Mixtapes will be on the way!

#10 Vampire Weekend-Diane Young (Amazon)
“Diane Young” might be the jolliest song about death I’ve heard in quite some time. The wit and metaphors dropped in this track were so clever, you might have missed them if you got caught up in inescapable production and hook. Totally fair, btw.

#9 Kanye West-Blood On The Leaves (Amazon)
The canvas the self-proclaimed “sophisticated asshole” crafted on “Blood On The Leaves” may seem like a paint splattered mess to some, but I found the manic cut to be a work of art. Kanye has always wore his emotions on his sleeve, but the backdrop of sample combo of Nina Samone’s “Strange Fruit” with TNGT’s “R U Ready“ matches his energy in epic fashion.

#8 Broken Bells-Holding On For Life (Amazon)
The first time Danger Mouse and James Mercer got together as Broken Bells, the results were so good you could easily forgive both artists if they ditched their other musical responsibilities. Fortunately, the surprise release of “Holding On For Life” continued their path of excellence. The eerie, but optimistic synth and guitar production fit perfectly with Mercer’s storytelling and falsetto hook. I’ve heard comparisons of Mercer’s vocal method to the BeeGee’s, but I don’t think the disco kings ever made anything this gangster.

#7 Disclosure-Latch ft Sam Smith (Amazon)
The initial vocal sample in “Latch” has echoed in my head so often that as soon as I hear it now, I’m instantly transported to Lollapalooza 2013. The buzzing bass, bouncing synth and enthralling vocals of Sam Smith make that trip one worth repeating.

#6 Volcano Choir-Comrade (Amazon)
You know that SNL skit where Christopher Walken commands more cow bell? My viewpoint on Volcano Choir had always been it “needs more Justin Vernon vocals”. Luckily, “Comrade” obliges as Vernon’s vocals rise and distort in epic fashion with a beautifully orchestrated soundscape from the rest of the band.

#5 Lorde-Royals (Amazon)
The budding pop princess showed you can make a smart pop song without resorting to Miley-levels of trash. My discovery of this song was some time in early June and I’m still not sick of Lorde’s apathetic view on tigers on gold leashes.

#4 Bastille-Pompeii (Amazon)
As far as 2013 hooks go, there weren’t many bigger than “Pompeii”’s. Dan Smith’s elevating vocals seemed tailor made for the thumping track about a fictional conversation in history. The accompanying bass-filled chants and rising synth made the fall of a civilization sound downright joyous. Technically, “Pompeii” was also the track I played most in 2013 (according to iTunes).

#3 HAIM-The Wire (Amazon)
Take your pick from HAIM’s debut album. Those ladies can craft smart pop hits. “The Wire” instantly grabbed me with it’s inescapable hook and Fleetwood Mac-style nostalgic feel.

#2 Mapei-Don’t Wait (Amazon)
“Don’t Wait” is sort of a “We Are Young” for 2013 but 100% better. Inspirational and leaning on friends are the themes of both songs, but Mapei’s powerful vocals with some added distortion make for an interesting difference.

#1 James Blake-Retrograde (Amazon)
The circling hum. The paced snare drums. The pristine high notes. You could have given James Black top track of 2013 after the initial sequence to “Retrograde”. Then he layered those elements into a well crafted of heartbreak and despair, topped with a hue of keys and majestic vocals. Go ahead, have a sip and pace yourself. “Suddenly”, you’ll realize you’re “hit”.