Lists, Reviews

100 Best Tracks of 2013

Here it is. PLATFORM’s 100 Best Tracks of 2013. Enjoy. Check back tomorrow for a list of our 50 Best Albums of 2013.

100. ELPHNT – Generative 1

99. Justin Timberlake – Mirrors

98. King Krule – Neptune Estate

97. Neon Indian – Change of Coast

96. SLABOFMISUSE – We Float Reality

95. Banks – Warm Water

94. Darkside – Freak, Go Home

93. Damscvs – Jealous

92. El-P & Killer Mike – A Christmas Fucking Miracle

91. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

90. Seferino – Self-Esteem

89. Blondes – Elise

88. Scout Niblett – My Man

87. Thor Rixon – Old (ft. Nicholas Preen)

86. Bass Drum of Death – Dregs

85. Thee Oh Sees – Minotaur

84. Forest Swords – Friend, You Will Never Learn

83. Shortstraw – Couch Potato

82. Wildebeats – Kevin Spacey

81. Foxgen- San Francisco 

80. Foals – My Number

79. Petite Noir – Noirse

78. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

77. Bye Beneco – On The Line

76. Lapalux – Without You (ft. Kerry Leatham) 

75. OFWGKTA – Look

74. Drake – 5am In Toronto

73. David Gabriel Corpse – Sweet Inner Child

72. Kwabs – Last Stand

71. Haim – The Wire

70. John Wizards – Lusaka By Night

69. Oh! Dark Arrow – Cave Swoon (ft. Push Push & Comfy Hammocks)

68. Tyler, The Creator – PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer (ft. Laetitia Sadier, Frank Ocean)

67. Twin Shadow – Old Love/New Love

66. Burial – Truant

65. Okmalumkoolkat – Bhut’Yang’Chaza

64. No Joy – Hare Tarot Lies

63. Gold Panda – Brazil

62. Cosmo – Yalla

61. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sacrilege

60. Sky Ferreira – Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)

59. Beatenberg – Chelsea Blakemore

58. Four Tet – Parallel Jalebi

57. FIDLAR – Paycheck

56. Toro Y Moi – Say That

55. Babyshambles – Penguins

54. Lone – Airglow Fires

53. Phoenix – Bourgeois

52. Chance The Rapper – Smoke Again (ft. Ab-Soul)

51. Vampire9000 – Victory Doves

50. AlunaGeorge – Attracting Flies

49. Earl Sweatshirt – Sunday (ft. Frank Ocean)

48. Mr Sakitumi – No More Sorrow

47. Jon Hopkins – Form By Firelight

46. Pharmakon – Crawling On Bruised Knees

45. Jagwar Ma – The Throw

44. Ben Khan – Eden

43. Juliana Barwick – Forever

42. Metronomy – I’m Aquarius

41. Tirzah & Micachu – I’m Not Dancing

40. Chrome Sparks – Marijuana

39. TV On The Radio – Mercy

38. Givan Lotz – Roses

37. Grizzly Bear – Will Calls (Marfa Demo)

36. Christian Tiger School – Demamp Camp

35. Arcade Fire – Afterlife

34. CHVRCHES – Recover (CID RIM Remix)

33. Local Natives – Heavy Feet

32. Danny Brown – Dip

31. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball

30. Justin Timberlake – Suit and Tie (Jumping Back Slash Khawulezayo Rework)

29. Thundercat – Heartbreaks and Setbacks

28. Rustie – Slasherr

27. Connan Mockasin – I’m The Man, That Will Find You

26. Fever Trails – Pattern Language

25. Vampire Weekend – Step

24. Cat Power – Manhattan (Ryan Hemsworth Remix ft. Angel Haze)

23. Kanye West – Blood On The Leaves

22. Foxygen – Shuggie

21. Drake – Worst Behaviour

20. Doldrums – Anomaly

19. Card On Spokes – Rain (ft. Nicky Schrire)

18. Blood Orange – Uncle ACE

17. Youth Lagoon – Raspberry Cane

16. Beach Party – Bacon Love

15. Darkside – Paper Trails

14. James Blake – Retrograde

13. Disclosure – Latch

12. David Bowie – Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy)

11. Autre Ne Veut – Play By Play

10. The Aztec Sapphire – Visitors

That ‘Visitors’ did not get endless exposure on popular South African radio is an injustice. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that it’s difficult to slot in a 10 minute song on air. And chopping off bits of ‘Visitors’ to cut a radio edit would be like cropping the disciples out of the Last Supper. Hyperbole aside, the track unsurprisingly propelled the band from heroes of garage practice to one of the most talked about bands in Cape Town.

The fact is that for most, ‘Visitors’ is synonymous with The Aztec Sapphire. It’s obvious how restricting and even damaging it can be for a new act to be solely recognised and cared for on the merits of a single track. That said, it does not seem that ‘Visitors’ was uploaded to Soundcloud in a gleeful impulse to show off what they had created. The four-piece appear to have a plan.

One cannot avoid surprise at the fact that Noordehoek of all places birthed this fully formed troupe, so comfortable in their image and sound but still ostensibly growing into the mould they sculpted themselves. Whichever way you look at it, a 10-minute first single from an unheard-of synth-pop band in South Africa is an outright ballsy move. Even the omission of all details but for the band members’ names on their Facebook page will have been a considered decision. Young as their years may be, The Aztec Sapphire have grasped the importance of creating intrigue.

The surrounding fuss notwithstanding, the song itself is stunning. Its ethereal beauty and patient progression see its many minutes fly by nearly unnoticed. In fact, the song only truly comes into its own after about 7 minutes of what is essentially invaluable build-up. Coming as it did from 4 audacious teenagers, it’s an undoubted masterpiece. – Zia Haffejee

9. Foals – Inhaler

Foals love to take the piss. They did it with the first single off second album, Total Life Forever with the release of ‘Spanish Sahara’, a 7 minute slow-burner that marked a massive departure from anything that was present on their first album, Antidotes. ‘Inhaler’ followed suit in as much as it was the track that felt least at home on Holy Fire, and also features that riff that after almost a year still gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

‘Inhaler’ has a funk bassline that’s groovy as hell but for me, the true hero of the track is the way it builds up, surrounding Yannis’ voice in a whirlwind of feedback and pressure only to have that cathartic release where his cry of “I can’t get enough space” cuts through it all for the first time. The lyrical content, on ‘Inhaler’ and Holy Fire in general, presented the band at their most lucid and as a direct result, most honest. Having decided to cut down on the weed smoking (allegedly entirely) Foals, with ‘Inhaler’, exhibited a new found bravado which might have scared some people shitless. I think that’s a fantastic achievement. – Sean Magner

8. Vampire Weekend – Hannah Hunt

Put simply, ‘Hannah Hunt’ is the best song Vampire Weekend has ever written. Seeking to dissect and explain why is rather more difficult. Yes, the gorgeously simple melody lines and vocals, served with a rapturous, life-affirming climax make it a stunning piece of music, aurally. But ‘Hannah Hunt’ beholds its true genius in the freeze-framing of life and love. By no means is it a conventional ‘love song’, for the very nature of this love is unclear from the evidence. The song gives the listener very little to work with. Is this ‘love’ growing or flailing? Is it even romantic?  The bizarre thing is that it doesn’t actually matter.

Those who google-researched the relationship between the real Hannah Hunt and Ezra Koenig will have experienced momentary disappointment upon learning the song’s narrative is mere fiction. The truth, for those who don’t know, is that the singer and Miss Hunt shared a class as college students, and that’s about it. Surprise, surprise that Vampire Weekend would dare name a song on the basis of quirkiness and aesthetics. In spite of this revelation, the song’s impact remains unimpaired because one quickly learns that the narrative’s details are unimportant.

Consider the protagonists’ travels. From “Providence to Phoenix” and “Waverly to Lincoln”:  there is no proof that the respective journeys to these locations took place on a single road-trip. The characters’ presence in those places could have been years apart. The line “You and me, we got our own sense of time” is masterfully made of subtle yet profound significance. ‘Hannah Hunt’ displays a mastery of the art of storytelling without the aid of linear narrative.

For all the mystery surrounding the events of the song, its brilliance is rooted in the fact that the listener is obliged to colour within the lines themselves. And they do so, ungrudgingly. Whether the song’s unspecified love is unreciprocated or unrequited is immaterial and subject to the perceptions of the audience. What is immortalised by ‘Hannah Hunt’ is a feeling. – Zia Haffejee

7. Rhye – Open

The love song is a strange phenomenon. Love is the inspiration for a great deal of the true artistic, literary or musical masterpieces. And yet, most love songs seem utterly devoid of inspiration; so much so that musicians who aim at poignancy choose to focus on their antithesis: heartbreak. It seems that all love songs have a kind of inherent inauthenticity – a sense of cheesiness – which goes some way to explaining why they have almost exclusively been left to the devices of pop singers. Their failure, it seems, often comes from an attempt to turn entire relationships, lovers or even love itself into a single song.

And then comes ‘Open’, to blow apart any of the aforesaid misapprehensions. It is a truly extraordinary occurrence, a love song filled with such genuine passion and tenderness that it never hints at syntheticity. Its delicate string overture, soft beats and claps and hints of horn provide the perfect foil for Milosh’s magnificent voice – the undoubted centrepiece to all of Rhye’s music. It’s a song that manages to flawlessly capture the kind of poetic love that proves to be so evasive to so many love songs.

But perhaps – even more than this – the real reason that ‘Open’ succeeds in a way that most love songs fail is because it doesn’t try to describe a perfect relationship or a perfect partner – but a perfect moment. And this microcosmic window manages to say more about the relationship, the lover and love than any perspicuous love song. That same moment provides the year with its most intimate one. It is, quite simply, perfect. – Simon Ruff

6. Booklub – Pompeii

The beauty of a song like Booklub’s startling ‘Pompeii’ is that it captures perfectly a moment in time. There’s nothing that should be particularly groundbreaking about it: it’s a listless floating dream pop number that shimmers with deft guitar work and wispy vocals. There are many similar sounds that exist in the stratosphere of this sort of genre, which resembles the math rock of a young Foals or the dream-pop of a Wild Beasts. But what the band captures in its breathless four minutes is five very talented yet ordinary men having a eureka moment. A moment where there’s a flash of musical genius where everything, all the effects and all the subtle chords just come together to work so beautifully.

Heavily indebted to the production by Thor Rixon who creates a thick ethereal vacuum for the guitars to gently unspool, Nic Preen’s seemingly wordless vocals float endlessly amongst the ghostly harmonies created by the rest of the band and this prepares us for the arrival of that downright tragic sax line. Melancholic and elegant, its complexity is the fact that even after repeated listens, it’s still possible to go back to it and discover a new aspect, a new mood or subtle note, immersing yourself each time and finding something else to quietly marvel at. Whether it’s a flash in the pan or an auspicious start, this will always remain a special moment. – Kevin Minofu

5. Deafheaven – Dream House

The first time I ever listened to ‘Dream House’ will perhaps forever remain one of the most cathartic musical moments of my life. I was unsure of what to expect from this much-hyped ‘black metal’ band, and approached the album with no small amount of ‘this-probably-isn’t-for-me’ skepticism. I wasn’t immediately taken in, but I did immediately drop whatever else I was doing, as the heavy, pounding sound blasted its way through my headphones.

The thrashing opening feels like it will never relent, never subside, and indeed it is five minutes before some respite is given. A solitary plucking guitar offers this break, and it’s a welcome breather, but it acts more effectively as an unexpected build-up to what is, in my opinion, the best ‘drop’ of the year, Tiësto and company get fucked. And that climax just keeps on keeping on far beyond what is sane or rational, like a brand of hedonism so sustained that it loses its pejorative qualities entirely. It’s almost impossible to hear what vocalist George Clarke is screaming without the aid of the internet, which doesn’t matter amidst the sonic majesty, but it is also made all the better when one does look it up. He sings four short, simple lines of what was initially a text conversation he had with a girlfriend he was desperately in love with. “I’m dying / ‘Is it blissful?’ / It’s like a dream / ‘I want to dream’”. It’s simple and beautiful, and once you know it’s there it’s all you can hear.

There are many who would decry such a high and standalone placement of any individual song off Sunbather, which was, in its entirety, a masterpiece of a metal album, an instant classic in its genre. But for its sheer intensity, its upfront ability to convert even the most cynical of skeptics (myself included), it deserves as high a place as it can get. It’s a truly astounding achievement. – Andy Petersen

4. Daft Punk – Get Lucky

Moments of great meaning or inspiration are always linked in the memory with place. So it is that we remember not only feelings of inordinate joy, but also where we were when we experienced them – whether or not this had anything to do with the sensation. And hearing the bouncing, gleeful opening notes of ‘Get Lucky’ most definitely fits into this category. For the multitudes that stayed up until exactly 12:01 a.m. on April 19th to listen to the long-anticipated release of the first Daft Punk single from Random Access Memories, it was exactly that: a moment of pure, unadulterated joy that propelled itself through their headphones and etched itself in their memories.

But this is not merely a song to be loved by Daft Punk fans, or even dance fans. It’s one of those rare songs that manage to transcend genre, taste, age and era. It’s a song tinged with 70s styles, sung by a 21st century superstar and put together by the biggest dance act of recent times. And yet, it can be listened to, sung-along to and danced-like-a-fool-to without any of this mattering in the slightest.

The greatness of a song often comes from a coincidence of its meaning and the context in which it was written – an amalgamation of topicality and memorability. But ‘Get Lucky’ takes a much simpler route to greatness: it shows that sometimes you don’t need to find a deeper meaning, sometimes it’s enough to just stay up all night for good fun.

Many will forsake ‘Get Lucky’ in favour of ‘Blurred Lines; for the Song of the (Northern Hemisphere) Summer this year, but only one of them will still be played, and loved, in a decade. – Simon Ruff

3. Merchandise – Anxiety’s Door

I heard ‘Anxiety’s Door’ on the 10th of January 2013 and after just one listen I knew that I would not hear a better song the whole year. Sure, there will be songs with a broader appeal, songs that would also perhaps have deeper cultural resonance but as a piece of music, the song would transcend all of that. The death knell of rock music has been rung for years if not decades now. Guitar music as we know it is becoming a relic of the increasingly more distant past, out of place in a looming future. But what Merchandise did on the sprawling seven-minute epic that is ‘Anxiety’s Door’ was show that we would always be nostalgic for the past and deeply uncertain of the future. Because of that, fewer things could encapsulate that tension like the traditional set up of the guitar, bass and drums that have the dexterity to convey urgency, beauty and horror all in one song.

It starts off with a pounding industrial drum-track that thuds its way through the entire song, storming and rollicking as it charts its way through increasingly higher trajectories. This is as Daniel Vassalotti’s riffs get increasingly more frayed – crushing and scorching the path behind them. Buoyed by Carson Cox’s full-bodied voice – like Morrissey shouting in a wind-tunnel – he speaks of the angst of expectation and duty and what it means to be young and searching for purpose in the world as he proclaims “you could have it all, dear”. Unsure and increasingly more nervous just like the rest of us. This then leads to the tumultuous climax of the song, which truly sets it apart. With such guile and precision the band hit true astral heights by bringing us to the edge of the precipice with a guitar solo so frantic and desperate you cannot do anything but simply hang on for dear life. 

It’s rock music for what it should be: overblown and off-kilter. It’s about a band aiming to make a song so big it threatens to lose control, but never does. It’s an artful game of tightrope songwriting that is propulsive and enthralling. It’s a truly epic journey that whizzes past just as quickly as it came. For that alone, God save Merchandise. For that alone, God save rock n’ roll. – Kevin Minofu

2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Its disco template is refined and the brief Bowie cameo had the music press in a veritable tailspin. The track featured both the stock standard music video as well as an immersive Haitian experience the band have become renowned for. Reflektor was the first glimpse of Arcade Fire’s latest album of the same name.

With the opening string flurries, we hear a glancing nod to their last Grammy-winning The Suburbs and from there on, we’re treated to a complete reimagining of the band’s aesthetic. With DFA and LCD Soundsystem tastemaker James Murphy contributing to production duties, the track is a real statement of intent, both lyrically and sonically.

The epic single hints at moments of bombast which one can expect later on during the album – the flourishes of brass and the guitar hook being the song’s standouts. Win and Regine deliberate over what it means to be in love in our ‘Reflektive’ age, considering themes of representation, truth and authenticity – no wonder it had to be 7 minutes long. – Sean Magner

1. Kanye West – New Slaves

It’s been one hell of a turbulent year for Kanye West, even by his exceptional standards. Up until now, it had been relatively smooth sailing for the Chicago-raised superstar since returning from his self-imposed exile in Hawaii. 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the most universally-acclaimed albums of the last decade, and he even managed to get a bit of fire out of Jay-Z’s 1% raps on 2011’s Watch The Throne. All the while, he steered clear of headlines, for the most part. People wouldn’t be blamed for asking, had Kanye gone soft?

Then came Yeezus. Without a doubt the most divisive album of the year, it was also the most overtly political of his career. Five years after the election of America’s first black President, Kanye was on hand to remind everybody that the work is far from over, that this is no time to rest on our laurels. And in a year where Trayvon Martin’s killer got off Scott-free, it seemed the perfect time to do so.

‘New Slaves’ was by far the best example of this. “You see there’s broke n*gga racism, that’s that don’t touch anything in the store / And there’s rich n*gga racism that’s that come in please buy more,” he raps, amongst stories of his and his family’s struggles on account of their black skin, and a serious critique of the private-owned prison system. Kanye was pissed off, and with good reason it would seem. You might be too if every time you spoke about your struggles what you said was reduced to a “rant”.

At the same time, it’s also just vintage Kanye, filled with his trademark punchlines and throwaways. “You see there’s leaders and there’s followers / But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower” is the best example of this, a line that means nothing and yet a whole lot both at the same time. The production is exemplary as always, the opening few seconds swirling to a cacophonous swell before giving way to perhaps the most minimalist beat on an incredibly minimalist album. In many ways, it’s the anti-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, working with the barest of elements and making the political personal rather than the other way around.

And then there’s the last one minute twenty seconds, where the gritty, raw industrial sound breaks, completely out of nowhere, into a gorgeous soul number that has Frank Ocean joining Kanye as they cry out together “And I’m not dying, and I can’t lose”. It’s the kind of moment that should last forever but only lasts eighty seconds, which feels like a triumph and a tragedy all at the same time.

It’s the perfect ending to a perfect song. Its conflicts and contradictions, its prescience, its restlessness and fury and beauty all conspire to create what is, undoubtedly, the best song in a year of amazing songs. – Andy Petersen


 

Check back tomorrow for our list of the 50 best albums of 2013.

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