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Nicole Oran's 2013 Playlist: Jay Z, Daft Punk and Savages

by Nicole Oran   Dec 16, 2013 14:03 PM EST

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Music Times, like so many other music publications, was looking to publish a "Best of 2013" playlist. We met to discuss what such a playlist should include, and that's where we ran into trouble. We couldn't agree. Sometimes two of us just couldn't agree on whether the performer was amazing or terrible, and even when we agreed they were amazing, we couldn't agree on what track was most representative of their work.
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
Ryan Book, Music Times 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

15. "Walk Us Uptown" by Elvis Costello & The Roots
At first this seemed like an unconventional collaboration, until this song was released. Costello has said that after seeing The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, playing with so many different artists, he knew there was a lot of potential there for an interesting project. The results were a masterfully designed record that brings out the best from both sides in Wise Up Ghost, which was released on September 17 via Blue Note Records.

14. "Holy Grail" by Jay Z feat. Justin Timberlake
Much like “Suit & Tie,” “Holy Grail” represents the pretty much inevitable impact a song can have when it combines the likes of two of the biggest names in music and the entertainment world. They have it in the bag from the get go, but not for good reason. A great beat, Jay Z’s seamless rap style and Timberlake’s undeniable vocal talent made “Holy Grail” a definite song of the year.

13. "She Will" by Savages
The four women in Savages are a true example of female empowerment with the way they present themselves and the messages they endorse. They posted a mission statement online that read: “Savages’ songs aim to remind us that human beings haven’t evolved so much. That music can still be straight to the point, efficient and exciting.” In this song, frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s intense, aggressive vocals display that sentiment exactly.

12. "Run" by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
The release of The Speed of Things gave us a fully developed pop record that conjures up comparisons to The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and the stand out track from this record is definitely “Run.” Going from softer, sweet sounding melodies to a really explosive chorus, it’s a well-rounded track that is a perfect highlight of all of the songs on this record. It’s an impressive piece of lovely musicianship.

11. "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk
Daft Punk has long been giving us ridiculously catchy dance tracks that don’t always seem to make sense in theory, but they never fail to entertain, and that’s a testament to the genius of their work time and again. With the help of Pharrell’s vocals and an ageless groovy guitar riff, this song almost makes you forget that you’ve been listening to the same lyrics repeated over and over for four minutes.

10. "Reflektor" by Arcade Fire
With some of the most clever and covert promotion this year, Arcade Fire brought what ended up being of the most well-received and praised albums of the year. After making appearances as Reflektor at secret shows in Haiti and a few in the U.S., the band finally mellowed out and gave the people what they wanted by playing the operatic dance track on multiple television shows and offering a string of tour dates. They apparently know to release a hit song.

09. "Down Down The Deep River" by Okkervil River
This track in particular, from The Silver Gymnasium, highlights Will Sheff’s ability to tell relatable yet complex stories through his lyrics and dynamic arrangements. This time the song speaks of Sheff’s childhood, growing up in Meriden, New Hampshire. The song starts off slightly unassuming with it soft synths and then slowly builds turning into horn-filled celebration. Okkervil River has always made an impression and did just that again this year with a nostalgic musical novel.

08. "Man" by Neko Case
Beyond some of her early work with The New Pornographers and other Canadian bands when she first introduced us to her uniquely sharp and whimsical vocal chops, Neko Case’s solo work is equally enchanting. With this track she pairs up with She & Him’s M. Ward, but her performance is about as far away from the soft, round voice of Zooey Deschanel. This up-beat song is just fun and classic Neko Case.

07. "Come Walk With Me" by M.I.A.
M.I.A. did it again this year by making a huge impression with her album Matangi and this single. The political activist and musician walks a fine line in this track by being a bit overwhelming and almost off-key at times, but it works, and we’re left with a beautiful mess of nasally vocals and aggressive beats. It’s worthy of praise when an artist can create something we’ve never really heard before, yet it feels entirely comfortable, at least after a few listens.

06. "Entertainment" by Phoenix
Phoenix would arguably have a difficult time writing a song that wasn’t completely infections and deserving of a sing-a-long. With “Entertainment,” Thomas Mars has successfully put together another catchy hit that pretty much requires listeners to turn up the volume, assuming they aren’t at one of the band’s many festival appearances. The drums have a powerful affect in the song and the choir-like vocals make this track an example of why Phoenix remains France’s most famous rock band.

05. "The Wire" by Haim
The Haim sisters have emerged from Los Angeles and created one of the best pop anthems of the year by taking hold of the much appreciated ‘90s-sound resurgence. As we’ve seen before, family bands seem to have an advantage sometimes by having inevitable chemistry. But these girls are taking it to a new level with such a stand out track and record this year. It’s hard not to love a song with such an energizing breakdown and hook like that in “The Wire.”

04. "Royals" by Lorde
There’s no question that one of the standout stars from this year is the young, talented and outspoken Lorde. She has taken pop music to a whole new level by combining her hauntingly subtle vocals and hooks with social commentary about opulence and ultimately revolting against the Miley-era of the genre. Despite the irony of delivering that message as she is becoming pop royalty, she still seems very laid back about the success.

03. "Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake feat. Jay Z
It seems redundant at this point to talk about how talented Justin Timberlake is and the impression he’s made on pop music as a solo artist over the years. But this year it was even more warranted when he put out The 20/20 Experience, especially with the release of “Suit & Tie.” Combining one of the most prevalent pop icons of this generation with hip hop mogul Jay Z has the recipe to be an insane hit, and that’s exactly how it turned out.

02. "Ya Hey" by Vampire Weekend
Ezra Koenig's lyrical mastery is highlighted in this track, and on the album Modern Vampires of the City in its entirety, which is a prime and unexpected example of taking music with incredibly catchy pop hooks and making it pensive and kind of dark in a way. The message within this song reminds us that there are possibilities to have love and compassion for people, even when it doesn’t seem warranted on the surface. Vampire Weekend created a masterpiece with this year’s record, and this song is a definite standout.

01. "Tiff" by Poliça  feat. Justin Vernon
The dreamy vocals from Channy Leaneagh have made a huge impact on the current synthpop genre this year as Polica is taking over and spreading the infectious vibe all around the world during its massive tours. For this song, fellow Minnesotan, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, joined in and subtly added his own soft and dreamy sound to the song. The resulting “Tiff” is a haunting yet captivating song. Though the video for the single made an unsettling impression with its gruesome nature, the song itself is mesmerizing.

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