Tracks of 2013 – Top 10

It is now time to wrap up the year of music 2013 has given us and what better way to start than with my top 10 tracks of the year. Out of the top 10 there have been tracks that have struck me for their imagination, innovation, risk-taking, melodic mastery and so on. They come from worldwide heavyweights to the more obscure crafters of music and they’ve all been picked from those I have looked at, so please don’t despair if there are any missing artists as they might just have passed me by this year.

10. Paul McCartney – Appreciate

 

Yes. He is 71. Yes. It is from his album New. No. It isn’t what you are thinking. If you look upon McCartney’s 2013 album; full of nostalgic forays into the past decades of his career, then you’ll see that the man of innovation and risk taking is still there. Appreciate is a hidden gem within the New album. It’s neo-psychedlica curled around a hip hop beat and it has more freshness about it than many of the young artists releasing music this year. That is either a sign of McCartney’s prowess or a sign of the lack of it amongst the new musicians of today. http://youtu.be/3Aq-iiDXo7I

9. Gaz Coombes – Buffalo

Despite plying his Britpop trade around 20 years ago, Gaz is probably making the most profound and elaborate music of his career. Buffalo is to be a single off his upcoming album which is he is currently working on. If this track is anything to go by then he looks set to expand upon the firm foundations of his debut album from 2012. A dramatic and atmospheric glow as the song progresses through it’s stages of varied tone. http://youtu.be/xi8AH-peorY

8. Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

They perhaps needed to do something bold and different after many saw their fourth album as their comparative worst effort. What I like about this track is that it’s not obviously crammed with reverbing guitars or with Alex Turner rapidly delivering his vocal around it. There’s no hint of desert rock here either. It’s driven by a different source which gives the song an indelible groove while giving it bags of space for a more developed and tuneful vocal from Alex. Perfect example of less being more in terms of production. http://youtu.be/2spbZbOPu_w

7. Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas – Instant Crush

This one of the best tracks off Random Access Memories and it best combines the 70’s and 80’s influences with the typical Daft Punk sound and style. Throw in Julian Casalancas and you have one of the most tuneful and melodic tracks they’ve ever produced. You’re left vulnerable to the plucked, churning of the rhythm much like Andy Summers of The Police produced with Every Breath You Take in 1983. The vocoded vocal is poised in perfect balance to the synths and you can still detect the character of Julian’s voice beneath it. A fantastic piece of electro pop and a change of direction that worked for Daft Punk. http://youtu.be/a5uQMwRMHcs

6. Bombay Bicycle Club – Carry Me

Bombay Bicycle Club

A great progression of their music was suggested with Carry Me. Retaining the elements that make them successful is key and they did that. But the re-evaluation was not only needed but works to great results. A mix of subtlety and sheer boldness. All the fine raw elements clashing with the bold industrial sounds while still forging a great spacious and floating harmony and atmosphere. The result of a complex song being instantly accessible through recording skill. http://youtu.be/OZCfqhRgJ0Q

5. Savages – Husbands

Dark, angry , gritty and everything else. This song features the deep rooted bass line which remains about the only constant throughout. Above it is the grinding and screeching guitars with the clashing percussion. Smashing through it are the snarling and bold vocals that evoke a real raw and emotive feel that is shoved right up into your face http://youtu.be/rmJ_mcvRQsI

4. TOY – Endlessly

TOY followed their debut with a solid second effort in Join The Dots. It gave them a chance to refine and let their sound grow with Endlessly being the prime example of that. That theme of organised chaos holds true again here, yet it is directed into a more distinguished melody which makes it all the more enjoyable. Wonderfully spaced out and atmospheric despite the various elements in action. http://youtu.be/o1Yre4Gmb-E

3. Jagwar Ma – Man I Need

Man I Need’ is one of the standout tracks from Howlin which instantly sets the tone with the psychedelic whirring along with the wide scope and relaxed urgency of the percussion which is pretty typical of a psychedelic style. The rhythm makes an indelible groove, the percussion plies at it too. Also a magnificent clash of influences to create something new. A standout track from a standout album. http://youtu.be/K8KCPw9kYpo

2. The Knife – Full of Fire

This brother and sister duo from Sweden took the traditional notions of song structure, style and context and shredded them into a million pieces. They didn’t just progress their sound to the next level, but to the next light-year. It’s deep, dark and gritty. The industrial grinding of the lower pitched synths and set against the flashing synths sounds above them. The vocals combine with the instrumentals in such a eerie and unfamiliar way that it is at times a wonderfully terrifying experience. The fact it is a ten minute affair only enhances it as you lay on edge at each development of sound. It is almost too advanced to contemplate for some. But at least we now have a possible avenue for musical progression instead of recycling the last 50 years to no end. http://youtu.be/DoH6k6eIUS4

1. Rose Elinor Dougall – Future Vanishes

I have to admit that I initially had this track placed further down the top ten. But only after I listened to all the tracks again did I realise that this song was still ingrained in my mind. It then hit me that this track actually fulfils all the criteria I asked for. It has melodies and hook at every turn, it has a magnificent atmospheric quality to it, imaginative in it’s forms and lyrics and innovative in terms of combining pop and electronic features to a psychedelic track. On top of all this is it’s beautiful contradiction of its self. It can send you into an atmospheric and psychedelic trip into the depths of your thoughts or can leave you at the mercy of it’s rhythm and deep rooted groove. It does everything you ask for. Why shouldn’t this track top my list? Is it because she doesn’t sell out arenas or headline Reading and Leeds, or grace the top of the charts? I don’t think so. That’s not what I’m about, but this song is. http://youtu.be/JUqVhh0kuNA

TOY – Join The Dots review

I’m thrilled to say one of the most exciting bands of 2012 are back with a follow up from their debut with Join The Dots. They masterfully combined a garage, shoegaze and neo-psychedelic sound to mould free flowing, rapid and fluctuating music. Mastering the fine line between the extended and drawn out sounds and slick and hook filled music. There is always a sense of controlled chaos about their music that is brought together by the vocals of Tom Dougall. His lower pitch yet smooth vocal style sits on a different level from the instrumentals and at times acting as the foundation of a lot of their songs. All in all, it was a debut that was hard to fault and gives them a task with Join The Dots.

The title track starts of with the central rotating riff and is joined by the bass while several sounds and synth chords subtly spill off it. The reverbing rhythm guitar then kicks in along with the percussion and intermittent synth chords that are pulled together by Tom’s vocal that’s isolated from the rest of the music and slightly dulled over in the way its recorded so as not to crowd out the other elements either. The lengthy song has some laser-like lead solos and whirring and repeating synths that are all tied up to the bass that churns away underneath it all. The percussion is heavy on the cymbals and that really stretches out the sound and expands the space the song creates but without using the typical heavy echo to achieve it. The slow construction of the sound and it’s lengthy demolition allows for so many other elements and features to play a part too and the song in general is a great example of making a ‘long’ song work in terms of interest and intrigue. Beyond that, their methods in recording and production seem to have gotten stronger and their song structures more complex. ‘Endlessly’ opens with the more out of focus and gentle lapping of the rhythm guitars with the zoned out synths falling in a feather-like fashion on top of it. The vocals are slightly echoed and recorded in a more distant fashion to act as a crossroads or a channel for all the distorted guitars and echoed percussion. A sort of faint light in the gloom. The song’s more contemplative moment fades with that eighties indie riff that slowly develops into a churning wave of melody that’s guided by the bass and is lead back into the chorus. That theme of organised chaos holds true again here, yet it is directed into a more distinguished melody which makes it all the more enjoyable.

‘It’s Been So Long’ has a rapid and more urgent feel about it. The churning of the instrumentals is much more compact and the bass is much of the driving force it isn’t in some of the other tracks and it allows for the light and wavering synths to retreat behind it. After this there is a culmination of cascading rhythm and laser like lead guitar elements. ‘Left To Wander’ has that sort of unconventional melody and tune to it and so forging a darker undercurrent to what is a light hearted chord progression of which the plucky guitar riffs land on to. Tracks like ‘Fall Out of Love’ are wondrous pieces of electronic psychedelica. The Numan-esque synths clashing with the wall of distortion. Join The Dots is certainly a refinement of what they did with their debut. There is more melodic twists and turns of the more peculiar and less transparent. They haven’t really altered their sound to a great degree and there will still be the odd person saying they’ve just took The Beatles and other sixties groups psychedelic and sonic sounds and sped them up. But just considering that feat in itself is quite impressive. If anything TOY have produced much more richer sounding music and utilised further influences along the way so that argument doesn’t really hold steady. If anything they should start to push off in a different direction with their next venture. They have pushed their current sound to it’s peak now and they are more than capable of taking the risk as they are wonderful combiners of sounds. But Join The Dots is a steady improvement nonetheless.

TOY – Join The Dots = 8.5/10

 

This Weeks Music Video

This Weeks Music Video. The Killers with Just Another Girl, Daft Punk and Justin Casablancas with Instant Crush and TOY with Joint The Dots

Sunday Suggestion – TOY – Left Myself Behind

With their new album Join The Dots on the way; I thought I’d revisit one of TOY’s first forays and one of my first encounters with their music late in 2011 when I was a naïve first year college student. This song does seem to be void of any credit which it loses to the songs like Motoring or Lose My Way, but this song has a certain muted confidence about it. They knew they were already at a pretty skilful level at all forms and processes, yet they also left room to develop their sound which they did in effortless fashion and continue to do now. This song has less of a sonic wave of sound pushing it through. It is a little more understated on the atmospheric front and is more of a churning, whirring and oscillating guitar track. The rapid rhythm, the screeching solo’s, the unrelenting percussion… and then Tom’s weighty yet calm vocal to pull everything in place. It would certainly strike the 16 year old me that this was an exciting band and as always; discovering a new band always leaves the door ajar for new influences to creep in and to expand your scope. This song did that for me. Enjoy.

 http://youtu.be/dcQ2nXDvWDY

Image from blog.muchmusic.com 

Album Taster – TOY – Join The Dots

I’m thrilled to say one of the most exciting bands of 2012 are back with a follow up from their debut called Join The Dots. They masterfully combined a garage, shoegaze and neo-psychedelic sound to mould free flowing, rapid and fluctuating music. Mastering the fine line between the extended and drawn out sounds and slick and hook filled music. There is always a sense of controlled chaos about their music that is brought together by the vocals of Tom Dougall. His lower pitch yet smooth vocal style sits on a different level from the instrumentals and at times acting as the foundation of a lot of their songs. All in all, it was a debut that was hard to fault and gives them a task with Join The Dots. The track starts of with the central rotating riff and is joined by the bass while several sounds and synth chords subtly spill off it. The reverbing rhythm guitar then kicks in along with the percussion and intermittent synth chords that are pulled together by Tom’s vocal that’s isolated from the rest of the music and slightly dulled over in the way its recorded so as not to crowd out the other elements either. The lengthy song has some laser like lead solo’s and whirring and repeating synths that are all tied up to the bass that churns away underneath it all. The percussion is heavy on the cymbals and that really stretches out the sound and expands the space the song creates but without using the typical heavy echo to achieve it. The slow construction of the sound and it’s lengthy demolition allows for so many other elements and features to play a part too and the song in general is a great example of making a ‘long’ song work in terms of interest and intrigue. Beyond that, their methods in recording and production seem to have gotten stronger and their song structures more complex. The album Join The Dots which is out on April 26th already looks pretty promising so watch this space…

http://www.toy-band.com/

Image from www.fusedmagazine.com