Friday, December 27, 2013

PCA Playlist: 100 Most Excellent Songs of 2013, 21-40

We journey on with our trek through my preferred nominees for the best tracks of the year in this, part two of our five part voyage. Here we have old favorites with new music (or, in one case, a revamped version of an old classic), new favorites with new business, and bands who hit a strong note or two on otherwise lackluster albums. Mixing up genre, making you work for it, I've no time to pepper this with Soundcloud bites, Spotify links, or YouTube inserts. Maybe later. For now? Use the 8Tracks playlist at the bottom of the post and read on...

21. Kingdom ft. Kelela / "Bank Head"  Kelela is the next big thing, and "Bank Head" is a slick, slowed-down club track that is not to be denied.

22. Mack Wilds / "Own It"  The most radio-friendly uptempo r&b track not played on the radio? Maybe. Just maybe. 

23. Chelsea Wolfe / "The Warden" Like so many dark things mated with one another to birth a feral, ethereal child of the woods. A quiet, sinister fairy tale.

24. Goldfrapp / "Thea"  Goldfrapp tends to morph from album to album, but their last effort veers closer to the immaculate Felt Mountain than the duo has been in years. "Thea" is lush, cinematic, driving, beautiful, and under-appreciated.   

25. Angel Olsen / "Sweet Dreams" A girl who howls like Chris Isaak and Roy Orbison over badass, jangling electric guitars. Is this an acquired taste? Possibly. But damn.

26. Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip / "Thank You"  Two elder statesmen of fast rap get together and show off. The result is pretty much joy.  Seriously. This is a dance party and a half.

27. Jay Z / "Picasso Baby" The latest in Jay Z's ongoing celebration of excess includes so many references to contemporary artworks it's no wonder he went on to perform in a gallery. 

28. Nine Inch Nails / "Copy of A"  The jury split when Trent Reznor resurfaced with new Nine Inch Nails this year. Not all of Hesitation Marks is terribly fascinating, but "Copy of A" speaks to the strange ways the industrial sound Reznor pioneered has become normalized, mainstream, and only reproducible, essentially, as pop.

29. Todd Terje / "Strandbar (Disko)"  Have I mentioned lately that I'm a sucker for disco? This shit is like an extended instrumental straight out of the late '70s.

30. Rhye / "Last Dance"  Mike Milosh is the dude version of Sade. His voice is too damn pretty, the music so damn smooth. The combination makes for an album with some sex appeal.

31. Janelle Monae ft. Prince / "Givin' Em What They Love"  Because these two were born to collaborate, and I cannot pass this song up when it pops up on shuffle.

32. Foxygen / "San Francisco The best twee hippie bit of meandering around. Catchy in that way that makes it almost immediately familiar, like a song you've somehow known all your life.

33. Julia Holter / "Maxim's I"  A shifting, living, orchestral beast of atmosphere and intrigue. When the fog of the cymbals parts, it's a thing of beauty.

34. Phosphorescent / "The Quotidian Beasts"  This is a song that comes on like the feels. Ride out the weird gut punch.

35. Gauntlet Hair / "Bad Apple"  The snare.  The snare!  THE SNARE.  It starts, and I'm like...yes. And then it gets to 1:43 and I'm like....YES. AGAIN.

36. Kanye West / "Blood on the Leaves" In which Nina Simone's version of "Strange Fruit" is used to rather inappropriately back West's audacity. It's a WTF moment that's so shallow and stupid, but also somehow sonically brilliant.

37. Parquet Courts / "Master of My Craft" Coming to you like a rapid fire Pavement track, Brooklyn punk rockers Parquet Courts. Jump up and down, please.

38. James Blake / "Retrograde"  What does "Retrograde" do? Moves in a retrograde orbit, of course. Two directions, simultaneously, like you're being launched into your head space.

39. Yeah Yeah Yeahs / "Sacrilege"  Karen O. is, perhaps, one of the last true glam rockers and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tend to make straight-up, balls-out rock songs their lead singer can strut and scream to. "Sacrilege" is a bit of a shift, a song that grows slowly, steadily, to a gospel climax that is so, so satisfying.   

40. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra / "Love is the Drug"  Well, I know NPR and Baz Luhrmann are behind me in pushing this 100%, but that's not enough.  Ferry did what was always meant to be and adapted his swaggering Roxy Music tracks for 30s, jazz age sound. The result? Surprisingly fabulous. Most don't have vocals, but "Love is the Drug" does and is all the better for it.  New life.

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