It’s just turned into 2015 and the internet is full of lists of all the best songs of 2014. But how on earth is one supposed to have fully digested all the music and events of a year by the second in which it ends? That doesn’t make any sense. So here below are the songs that I enjoyed most from 2013, after … y’know … a full year’s careful and appropriate consideration…
Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix)
While the rest of the songs below are unordered, without any doubt at all this James Murphy remix of David Bowie was my top song of 2013. It’s long, epic, rambling and yet sharp and punchy at the same time. It’s got traces of classic Bowie grafted into it but it is at no point a piece of nostalgia. And it does that thing where structure emerges out of noise and then collapses again before returning that just does something dirty and pleasing to my frontal lobes.
Blood Orange: You’re Not Good Enough
A bit of an odd song — lots of lovely syncopation, crisp noises and a bit of a funky feel married to nasty passive aggressive sentiment and emotional complexity. A song like what happens as an iron spike is rammed through bits of your brain that aren’t really supposed to be connected and you have all these brilliant revelations and you feel like you understand the world, but unfortunately you’ve now got aphasia and you can’t explain it to anyone and well basically you’re brain damaged.
Favored Nations: The Set-Up
I feel like I should be ashamed that I heard this song on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto 5, but I’ve decided that instead I’m going to wear that as a badge of pride because it demonstrates that I’m still down with the kids and understand their funky bullshit.
Arcade Fire: Reflektor
A really annoying song about how digital media is like disconnecting us from the reality of the world around us or some crap like that. Much like St Vincent’s Digital Witness (another song I love which is also a pile of reactionary balls) it triggers my inner Bowie, whom I believe in his prime would never have sat there making ominous self-important songs about what was going wrong with the future, but would have leapt at it teeth bared and wrestled the damn thing to the ground. Then he would have sat there ripping bits off it and eating them with his gleaming brilliant metal disco teeth. I’m pretty sure it’s not accidental that Bowie himself only turns up in the song about halfway through right at the point that it decides to stop being whiny and get sexily apocalyptic instead. A world in which all meaning is collapsed and we’re left falling endlessly through the reflection of a reflection of a reflection? I’d have cigar and a glass of something bubbly in the middle of that… Cheer up, Arcade Fire!
Arctic Monkeys: Do I Wanna Know?
For some reason the songs that have kept with me are all the ones that pull out a feather and use it to tickle my Freudian Death Drive (which, now I come to think about it, absolutely should be the thing powering the transit of Hotblack Desiato’s Space Ship in Hitchhikers). I think I like fatalism and cynicism as long as I get to roll around in it naked in my head. This is a song made for dirty, bleak, slightly angry, very sexy wallowing.
Haim: My Song 5
I don’t entirely understand Haim, but that album they did the year before last year stuck with me in a way that that album that Chvrches did really didn’t. Typically I’ve gone for the song that’s the most chopped around and odd. It’s like The Bangles and Pixies were chopped up into bits and joined together into a weird set of weird angular, unbalanced zombie pop singers. The addition of a bit of a shoddy rap in the video and the video blocking out all the funky bits of the song is a bit annoying, but the song itself is pretty great.
So Lorde’s funny, right? She was awesome in South Park, she’s done songs that are so ubiquitous that you basically wish you could never have heard them because at least an eighth of your brain is dedicated singing them to you over and over when you’re trying to get some work done or go to sleep. And you sort of want to hate her because she’s like nine years old. But there’s just one problem — she’s actually really good! She’s one of the sort of art-school, song structure as designed landscape, with tensions and balances and contrasts and stuff. But she also manages to get quite a lot of emotion and insight into them. Blarg. I don’t know. I like it. That’s the point.
If you don’t get on well with women with funny voices waving their arms around like Kate Bush on mushrooms, then you and I were never really destined to be friends… But I’d ask you still to suspend disbelief and push yourself through this bizarre Gaga/Bush video hybrid and try the song. If your Willing Suspension of Disbelief can’t get you through the confused baby that some anarchic animal/human handler appears to have released on set for no apparent reason, then I’ll forgive you, but I still think you’ll have missed out.
Calexico: Frontera/Trigger (Live)
An odd one to end with — utterly unlike everything else above, but still stunning. A live reworking of two classic Calexico songs with all the old Spaghetti Western plotlines but now newly saturated with a wild cocktail of fresh operatic and mariachi juices. It’s still got that bombast and bleakness that I like and it builds, my god it builds, towards the most glorious, eye-roll-back-in-your-head moment of pure wonder towards the end. You just have to let it run away with you.
And that’s that! Turns out that Daft Punk’s opus didn’t stick with me much and nor did Chvrches. Who knew! I hope you all had a great 2013 (and then a sufficiently adequate 2014) such that you’re now open to being wished good luck in the year ahead, which is 2015… Next on the One Year Late Review: Miley Cyrus twerking — what was all that about?!
Yours, Tom xx