2013 was a fantastic year for indie music, at least when pertaining to my own personal tastes. I didn’t listen to as many full records as I have in the past but thanks to the music collecting efforts of Indie Rock Playlist I have been able to listen to hundreds of new artists every month. The folks handling those playlists do very good work (and I have a feeling I in some way encouraged the choice for August’s first song with Chrono Trigger’s main title. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not the only CT fan alive) in letting you hear what’s good out there.
The other day I was thinking about my own music tastes and how much they’ve changed in the past few years. It was a necessary change. The move toward more electronic music just fits with my personal tastes. If I grew up in the eighties I likely would have been a synthpop lover, not a metalhead or anything else. What are current popular rock/metal bands today? I could name you 50 bands that were popular in the 2000s but would struggle with a dozen today. As the Limousines said in “Internet Killed the Video Star”, “Did you hear what they said? That rock and roll is dead? Yeah it’s like a zombie it’ll dig itself right up again”. Sorry you didn’t make the list, guys. “Love is a dog from hell” just missed the cut.
Speaking of the list, time to get to it.
20. Foals – Milk and Black Spiders
Record: Holy Fire
Artist Link: http://www.foals.co.uk/
Foals has been a hit and miss artist for me, mostly due to the vocals. That said, “Milk and Black Spiders”, despite being an odd title, is a beautiful song. The song is slow but it doesn’t plod. I think the backing music arrangement just came together perfectly, especially in the strings department. It’s a warming song, and a good choice to begin the Top 20.
19. How to Loot Brazil – I’ll be your Shadow
Record: F for Vortex
Artist Link: http://www.howtolootbrazil.com/
What an odd band name. “How to Loot Brazil”. I know we’re starting to run out of band names but I’d usually toss this track aside just based on the artist name. But “I’ll be your shadow” infects you quick and drives the fever through. It sounds a lot like something Arcade Fire would make if they went back to their roots from Funeral.
18. The Fix – Red Dress
Artist Link: http://www.youneedthefix.com/
The Fix… or You Need The Fix? This is an odd one. I found a link to them doing this song on YouTube live (in an apartment) from 2011 so it’s quite possible this isn’t a 2013 song. However, I did find it on an IndiePlaylist 2013 playlist (August) pretty deep in so it might be a re-release which would make it count. Either way, it’s one of my favourite songs of 2013. It’s heavy, it rocks, the lyrics have enough sandpaper to work and by the time the chorus hits with the dirty guitars, you’ll be singing right along to it. It may be 2013, it may not be, but who cares? It’s great.
YouTube (Live): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpGaHEayuFI
17. Nine Inch Nails – All Time Low
Record: Hesitation Marks
Artist Link: http://www.nin.com
It had been a few years since my favourite band ever released a record, the disappointing but free so whatever “The Slip”. In that time, Reznor had scored two fantastic soundtracks and did some work with his wife in How to Destroy Angels before coming back to the band that made him wealthy (and me happy) with Hesitation Marks. It’s hard for me to hate the record because it’s exactly what I wanted to hear from Trent Reznor in his fifties: something new. For the most part, this record takes Nine Inch Nails in places I’d never think to hear them be in. That said, it’s still a mediocre record which I ended up listening to maybe twice unlike other NIN records which I wore out. That all said, “All Time Low” could be an “All Time High” since… okay sorry that was terrible. I guess I was auditioning for being a cliché firing music reporter there. “All Time Low” has one of the funkiest bass lines in Nails history with a smooth, seductive chorus that feels like Trent finally showing his inner David Bowie. It’s a good shot at being the Duke. Ending the song with what sounds a lot like the Final Fantasy menu music was a nice touch too, said every single person who heard this song and played Final Fantasy once in their life.
16. NONONO – Pumpin Blood
Record: Pumpin Blood/Down Under Single
Artist Link: http://www.nononoofficial.com/
When this song first came up on an Indie Playlist I definitely thought it was that “Call Me Maybe” song from the cute Canadian girl that shares my birth year (1985 for those keeping track). Instead it was a different kind of bubble with a lot of synth sheen and smile. Not only does it employ whistling without it just being an excuse to not keep singing but the chorus is the type of chorus you want to sing with other people instead of just yourself. Just a lot of happy from these Swedes.
15. Big Data – Dangerous (Spacebrother Remix)
Artist Link: http://bigdata.fm/
Artist Link: https://www.facebook.com/Spacebrotherr
It’s amazing what a good remix can do to a song. The original “Dangerous” is very stripped down and simple. In the hands of Spacebrother (former drummer of Innerpartysystem) it turns into something that would convince you it’s a 2013 Michael Jackson song that would push him into an incredible career revival (as if him coming back from the dead isn’t impressive enough). Spacebrother has done this with a lot of songs, which is why this isn’t his only remix in my Top 20. The original is decent but the remix takes it to a new place.
14. Field Mouse – Tomorrow is Yesterday
Artist Link: http://www.fieldmousemusic.com/
Okay, I’ll get the physical fawning out of the way first. I think Rachel Browne is absolutely gorgeous. That woman hits pretty much all of my likes and being in a good band is just the cinnamon stick in a hot apple cider. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” is a shoegazy, quick and to the point rip through that I love despite it not really having a chorus anywhere. It’s okay though. You’ll know the lyrics to the whole song in the same time you’d learn a chorus from a less exciting song. Also the music video is fun too. Who said music videos are dead? Can’t wait to hear their LP, which they funded through Kickstarter.
13. American Authors – Luck
Record: American Authors
Artist Link: http://weareamericanauthors.com/
The lyrics in this song hit me… right here. I also love the fact the song actually SOUNDS like it’s just a straight recording. The lead singer doesn’t have incredible range and he’s completely content with that. When you can hear that in a song and appreciate that, there’s something wrong with the industry. The song hits a lot of “expected” details for a big pop song. But it just works for this. Even with the “Ohhhhhhhh”‘s in the background. “Just like my old man, I make my own luck” is such a great line.
12. Hunter Hunted – Dora Maar
Record: Hunter Hunted EP
Artist Link: http://hunterhuntedmusic.com/
I ended up finding about Hunter Hunted due to a track of theirs remixed by Spacebrother in “Keep Together”. However, “Dora Maar” is superior to that song and remix by far. A song about Pablo Picasso’s lover is probably gonna make someone roll their eyes on pretension but shut up it’s a beautiful song. The vocals, the haunting guitars. Actually, haunting is a good word to describe the whole thing. It’s a haunting track.
11. Portugal. The Man – Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue (Passion Pit remix)
Artist Link: http://www.portugaltheman.com/
Artist Link: http://passionpitmusic.com/
What a combination of artists here. “Gossamer” by Passion Pit was one of my favourite records of 2012 and Portugal. The Man’s “Evil Friends” is my favourite record of 2013. The original track could have broke my Top 20 but here Passion Pit gives it a higher tempo and while it loses my favourite line from the original song (“I just wanna be evil”) it replaces it by making this a dance track for your feet. You feel it in the legs more than anywhere else.