Ryan Book's Playlist of 2013: Lorde, Kanye, and Kvelertak
Hence it was decided that rather than try to agree (a seemingly impossible endeavor), everyone would get their own "favorites of 2013" playlist. We won't argue that these are neccesarily the best tracks of the last year, but they're definitely songs that caught our respective attention and caused us to hit 'repeat" over and over and over again. Check out the rest of the staff's opinions below:
Danica Bellini, Mstars News Writer
Caitlin Carter, Music Times Writer
Angelica Catalano, Managing Editor
Mereb Gebremariam, Mstars News Writer
Carolyn Menyes, Mstars News/Music Times Writer
Jon Niles, Mstars News Writer
Nicole Oran, Mstars News/Music Times Writer
15. "Pull Up" by Alex Faith
Alex Faith opens "Pull Up" like so many popular "trap-rap" entries, describing just what happens when he rolls up. Listeners inevitably nod their heads, which is when Faith and company attack them for it. The headlining emcee, Tedashii and Corey Paul are conscious rappers, but they hiss just as aggressively as any of their "kingpin" peers. They may make you feel stupid for liking Juicy J, but this track will sound just as good from your car's subwoofer.
14. "TLC" by 40Thousand
Brooklyn upstart 40Thousand only raps for around a minute-and-a-half during "TLC," but he glides from death to sex to Hindu mysticism so smoothly that the listener doesn't need to consider the juxtapositions. Time constraints don't leave room for a hook, so the emcee turns to the one-long-verse storytelling methodology, letting his protagonist and listeners trip equally over the otherworldly ambience of his backing beat (skip ahead to 0:16)
13. "Zombie Blood Curse" by Six Feet Under
If the lack of a rhyme scheme or the seemingly cognizant thoughts of a zombie bother you, it's possible that you're thinking too hard about this. Tampa's Six Feet Under practices true death metal, and "Zombie Blood Curse" exemplifies the movement with its stomping riffs, blast-beats and primal growling of grotesqueries. Don't take it too seriously, and you'll realize that death (and death metal) can still be fun.
12. "Aunt Betty" by Middle Class Rut
One could feasibly argue that Middle Class Rut bears an audio resemblance to Jane's Addiction, but if so, "Aunt Betty" would be considered among the best of either band's repertoire. Zack Lopez is most responsible for the comparisons due to his vocal similarities to Perry Farrell, and the fuzzy layer covering his lead guitar. The emotional pull drives our interest in the track however, ranging from quiet desperation during the chorus to thunderous desperation during the bridge.
11. "New Slaves" by Kanye West
Kanye West may think the second verse of "New Slaves" is the best in hip-hop history, but we'd rather anoint verse one as "Best of 2013." It needs far less time than its following verse to establish a far grander scope. West furthers his relevance by testing the nerves of two races: Alleging massive organized racism to one while prodding at stereotypes to the other. A two-minute prog-rap instrumental gives listeners a chance to shrug off shell-shock before the song ends.
10. "Dieu" by The Haxan Cloak
"Dieu" is the soundtrack for the boy or girl who wakes up in the hospital, only to walk outside and find the world they knew is gone. Vocals aren't needed; after all, who would they talk to? Thunderous bass-note interjections send shockwaves, echoing across the wasteland. Indistinguishable bits of human voice appear, like a television trying to display its last broadcast. Haxan Cloak's Bobby Krlic maneuvers emptiness as if it were itself an instrument.
09. "Stripes" by Brandy Clark
Female performers such as Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Rose are bringing some edge back to country music, but Brandy Clark trumps all with this scorned lover's tale. She contemplates the value of vengeful murder and its potential harm to her personal aesthetics during this uproarious bout of black humor. Much of 12 Stories takes a sadder approach to country , but Clark shifts into pure aggression for this single.
08. "See It My Way" by Mikal Cronin
Mikal Cronin plays "See It My Way" as if he were the average high schooler in his first band. The garage is the only place to practice and his struggles talking to girls serve as the primary songwriting inspiration. The difference, of course, is that Cronin is talented. This energetic piece of power pop should give alt-rock fans and Top 40-iers some common ground with its raucous chorus and rock-out solo.
07. "Demon To Lean On" by Wavves
Wavves represents the same brand of Southern California pop punk that produced Green Day 20 years ago: Lyrics that declare just how much their lives suck, but bright, power chord-driven choruses that suggest life wouldn't be fun if they couldn't complain. The lyrical details of "Demon To Lean On" lean on our inevitable deaths and a gaping absence of hope. The stripped down surf-rock riff of the verses seems to know better.
06. "Cafeteria Food" by Pissed Jeans
Many performers become legend through passionate, emotional performances. However, the genius behind "Cafeteria Food" is the monotone way in which it tackles its subject matter. Matt Korvette mundanely details workplace bitterness, and a sludgy guitar riff follows at the same pace. The punchline of the chorus catches the listener so off guard that you can't help but laugh at the conviction of Korvette's malaise. It's American Psycho put to music.
05. "Snilepisk" by Kvelertak
Kvelertak translates to "chokehold" from Norwegian, and the band goes straight for the throat in the introduction to "Snilepisk." Although the lyrics may be in the band's native tongue, the overarching theme can't be missed: Drink hard, mosh hard. If the language barrier and thrashing chaos isn't enough to differentiate them from American hardcore for you, the breakdown near the end will add an air of exotic flair (before delving into madness again).
04. "Wait For Love" by St. Lucia
We realize there's quite a few cynical/depressing songs on this list. If "Wait For Love" by St. Lucia can't get you (or us) out of that funk, we're not sure what will. Millions of people pretend to hate "Africa" by Toto, and those same people will probably pretend to hate this track too. There's no denying the anthemic nature of the hook, and at least we won't deny how bubbly it makes us feel. Throw your shame out the window and dance, dammit.
03. "Tennis Court" by Lorde
Any profile on new pop star Lorde begins with wonderment that this 16 year-old is now on top of the world. Although "Royals" would prove one of the year's biggest hits, "Tennis Court" would provide the answer to everyone's question as to what it's like to be a superstar while dealing with the same high school dilemmas as every teenager on Earth. The single is deeply personal while being just as catchy as any song on Pure Heroine.
02. "Full of Fire" by The Knife
The Knife is frustrating by design. Much of Shaking The Habitual was formulated just to test how long us critics would stick around. No matter how experimental the duo gets however, every album has at least one track that can crowd a club's dance floor. You can argue nine minutes is too long for a "single," but "Full of Fire" never lets up. Nothing about this track—the rhythms, the vocals, the lyrics—is straightforward, but it still fits at any party.
01. "Hive" by Earl Sweatshirt
There's nothing particularly scary about Earl Sweatshirt's raps on "Hive" (but plenty that's particularly NSFW). The minimal instrumentals however—slow, rumbling bass and occasional Gregorian chant—coupled with Earl's dead-eyes delivery make it feel like something is going to jump out and get us. The emcee's strong, visual rhymes make him one of Odd Future's best contributions to hip-hop, and if you haven't heard Vince Staples yet, this is the time to do it.