Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Popheaval's Best of 2013: #20-11.

The end of the year is drawing near and you know what that means - best of lists! Yay, amirite? (Also, this is my 100th blog post! This calls for celebration.) And no music blogger would be credible without one of their own so... here's mine. It certainly wasn't an easy task to try and narrow down the best songs of a whole year into a set amount, let alone rank them. I was considering all these different kinds of brackets to do the job for me but ultimately ended up with an unbribable scoreboard (THAT TOOK AGES TO FILL). And of course I forgot to save it and then accidentally deleted the whole thing, having to do it all over again...

Phew, it sure took some time. And innumerable replays of songs. The face-offs were tough, but here's the final results. Lists like this are obviously highly subjective since they are merely a matter of personal taste (I didn't give two fucks about chart positions or commercial success). I have also probably missed a myriad of excellent songs - I've spent the whole past year discovering amazing songs from 2012 that I had totally overlooked in my last year's list. Furthermore, in order to prevent the list from becoming too monotonous and consisting of multiple songs from same artists/albums, I chose to use only one song/main artist.

There will also be another post on special mentions, but here's the first part of my final list with the final order - are you ready?

Here we go!

20. 'What A Difference Your Love Makes' by Basement Jaxx

Basement Jaxx have kept their fans waiting for a follow-up to 2009's Scars and Zephyr albums that, apparently, were initially meant to be released as a double album, with the first disc consisting of more traditionally dance-y Jaxx tunes while the latter would see them experiment with a more chill-out kind of a soundscape. In the end, the eclectic duo decided to release them as separate records, though. They did also compose the soundtrack for the 2011 monster movie Attack The Block so it's not like their listeners hadn't gotten anything during this time. But now they're back with their sixth studio album in the making. "What A Difference Your Love Makes" was released this September as the second single so far, preceded by the less-than-stellar "Back 2 the Wild". The song is still no "Good Luck" or "Red Alert" and probably should've been released before the summer rather than in the middle of the autumn, considering how upbeat and summery it is, but it's still a distinctive Jaxx pop number, accompanied with a happy video with South African people just dancing around with no worries. And it's good enough to make it to #20 on my list. 

19. 'Passionate Ones' by We Are Legends feat. Artymove

This one is a song I just recently wrote about. It's by the Swedish electronic music duo We Are Legends and features a fellow Swede Mathilda Lindgren of Artymove doing the vocals. It's an infectious '90s-tinged pop tune with a modern beat whose deep urban style reminds me slightly of Disclosure. No wonder she sings "I got to be the one you love / if you're still around when the storm is down baby" - with these constant storms we've been having lately here in Scandinavia, you can never be too sure.

18. 'So Real' by Artymove

At #18, Artymove's back, now as the main star with their 2013 single "So Real". The band mellows down with this beautiful ballad. Piano-led as it is, it's got nice electronic instrumentals to back it up and even a little "wub wub" going on in the background. Some quality pop from Sweden. Why, oh why can't the Finnish indie music scene be on par with the rest of the Nordic countries... so unfair. Well, at least we have the most heavy metal bands per capita in the world, as pointed out by the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt. Um, yay.

17. 'Belong To The World' by The Weeknd

There are some artists that make two appearances on this list. The Weeknd is the second one of these, first appearing at #17 with "Belong To The World". As you might recognise, the song samples Portishead's 2008 song "Machine Gun" (gosh, it's already five years from that...!) and boy does it do that well. It's always a challenge to properly cover or sample a song but The Weeknd nails it in here. The aggressive drum sample electrifies the synth-laden number, resulting in one fine track. The song is slightly watered down by the legal issues around it, however, as he apparently sampled the Portishead song without the band's permission. Too bad.

16. 'Attracting Flies' by AlunaGeorge

At #16 we have the English duo AlunaGeorge with "Attracting Flies" who came second in BBC's Sound of 2013 poll. Their futuristic-sounding mixture of pop and R&B has cemented the group's position as one of the most interesting London-based acts at the moment. "Attracting Flies" is a brilliant single that received great critical acclaim upon its release, even being chosen as "Best New Track" by Pitchfork. It also has an amusing juxtaposition with frontwoman Aluna Francis singing with her sweet voice about someone who's literally talking a whole lot of shit: "Little grey fairy tales and little white lies / Everything you exhale is attracting flies". Not only is the song catchy, it's also got clever, sharp lyrics. Got to love it! Oh, and it's music video features a bunch of modernised, urbanised fairy tales.

15. 'Glass' by MØ

Ah, MØ. Remember when I went to see her? The Danish indie popper MØ is one of the most promising new acts of 2013, and her forthcoming 2014 debut album should be a blast. Her live performance sure was. "Glass" received an amazing, heartfelt live rendition during the gig which secured the song's place on this list. "Oh, why do everyone have to grow old" she laments, expressing a sentiment shared by all the Peter Pans of the world. And even though I guess the grammar of the sentence could've done with some revising, I'm convinced that with proper pop music like this we can remain at least a tad younger in our hearts.

14. 'Youth' by Daughter

Well, technically this song dates back to 2011 when it appeared on The Wild Youth EP. In 2013, however, when the London-based indie rock group released their debut LP If You Leave, the song was remade and got a single release as well. Although highly similar with the original version, the 2013 remake does sound even better and also more polished. As a completely new track it could've ranked even higher.

13. 'Where Are We Now?' by David Bowie

The comeback of the iconic rock pioneer David Bowie was definitely one of the most notable music news of the year. With a career as extensive as Bowie's a comeback comes with enormous pressure but The Next Day, his first new record in 10 years, did not disappoint. The album is strong, yielding a range of brilliant songs, but it was his dreamy comeback single "Where Are We Now?" that I ultimately chose for the list. "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" was a close second. It must've been a huge surprise for all the Bowie fans out there when the single was dropped on Bowie's 66th birthday, totally unannounced and unpromoted after years of radio silence. 

12. 'Roar' by Katy Perry

Wait what, Katy Perry's "Roar"? Say what you please but her self-empowerment anthem "Roar" was one of the best pop singles of the year. It's instantly catchy, uplifting and has a big chorus - what more can you ask for? Call it a guilty pleasure, but I was really surprised how good Perry's Prism album (also stylised as PRISM) actually was. It had a bunch of great songs such as the Icelandic-indie-folk-rock-meets-Bollywood "Legendary Lovers", the more typically Katy Perry pop tune "International Smile", '90s disco romp "Walking On Air", almost Moby-esque "Spiritual" and the more emotional songs "Ghost", "Love Me" and "Double Rainbow", to name but a few. I'm not even sorry, that's some quality pop there. And all ye Finns out there can be proud of the Nokia phones appearing in the music video, now that they still are in fact Finnish and, well, in existence. The clip also gives you useful information on how to survive in a jungle - shoe heel, for instance, seems to make a perfectly proficient spearhead, and you can also learn how to turn a domesticated elephant into a shower and take care of a crocodile's dental hygiene, just so you know.

11. 'Ribs' by Lorde

Ending the first part of the Best of 2013 list and landing the 11th place comes Lorde, the 17-year-old synthpop sensation from New Zealand. You must've been living under a rock if you haven't heard her hugely successful single "Royals" that have even achieved a bit of a memetic status in the realms of the internet. However, my favourite track off her debut album Pure Heroine is the pulsating "Ribs" that, quite like MØ's "Glass", deals with the fear of growing older and the loss of a child-like innocence. Here's my review of the album so remember to check that out as well!

So that's the first half of the list! Here's part 2, there's some amazing stuff there...

[The background for the post header can be found here.]


  1. Ohh love that so real by Artymore.. AMAZING. Glad I checked out your blog, was looking for something new to listen ;)

    1. Great to hear that, welcome aboard :) That's what this blog's all about - discovering new and exciting music!