Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mid-Year Best of 2013

I checked in back in April with this list, detailing the best songs in the first quarter of the year. The last couple months of 2013 have also been kind, building up a very strong year. Here are 10 more new songs that encompass the best of the 2nd quarter of 2013.

1. The National – “Pink Rabbits”

The National - Pink Rabbits by partacz95

There were three songs on the new album from The National that stopped me in my tracked, but none were as affecting as “Pink Rabbits”, a glimmer of hope in Matt Berninger’s often-gloomy world. “I’m so surprised you want to dance with me now…” might be the most touching lyric Berninger’s ever penned, a moment of happiness emerging from the unconfident.

2. The 1975 – “Chocolate”

The 1975’s work to date is a strange-yet-alluring mix of pep and ambience. The song is confident and catchy, featuring some fantastic guitar work. This is indie pop in the vein of Foster the People or Walk the Moon, and music like this leaking into the mainstream is making the world better.

3. London Grammar – “Wasting My Young Years”

With nary and album under their belts, London Grammar are building up quite the reputation. Songs like “Wasting My Young Years” and “Metal & Dust” are already passing around the blogosphere, garnering comparisons to Florence + The Machine and The xx, which is another way of saying it’s a bit like Florence with a gentle touch. Can’t wait to hear the whole album.

4. Cold War Kids – “Water & Power”

My excitement over the new Cold War Kids album emerged first when I heard the more uptempo “Miracle Mile”, but it’s actually “Water & Power” that emerged as my favorite from the album. The reverbed vocals over the soft piano and chirping guitars grow and grow, accompanied by the question “Are you willing? Are you brave? Who could make you feel afraid?”. There’s definitely some personal identification going on there with me, but I hope you like it as well.

5. Vampire Weekend – “Step”

There was an obnoxious week in my life when I couldn’t do anything but sing the opening verse to this song. Lyrically, it’s nonsensical, relying more on sounds than on meaning. But sonically this is the best I’ve ever heard Vampire Weekend, a band that has shown me glimpses but never quite convinced me.

6. Lana Del Rey – “Young & Beautiful”

Some songs are just too perfect for the artist. Despite the multitude of feelings out there towards Lana, it’s hard to deny this song could fit with anyone else any better, and that alone should show her validity as an artist. The symphonic nature of the song adds the drama, and Lana’s vocals perfectly encompass the glitz and glamour and underneath-the-surface woundedness displayed in The Great Gatsby.

7. Guards – “1 + 1”

Back in 2007, MGMT came out with an album that blew my mind with it’s combination of pop and psychadelica. It was apparently too poppy for MGMT themselves, because they haven’t got near that sound again. Enter Guards, with their curiously poorly reviewed album, to take up the baton. “1 + 1” grows and swarms, charming in it’s simplicity, and glorious in sound.

8. Rogue Wave – “College”

Rogue Wave’s career has never quite reached the peak of the very first time I heard them, huddled in a bar in San Antonio scribbling lyrics to “Lake Michigan” on my hand so I could Google the band later (this was before Shazaam). I gave their newest album a listen and found a few tracks that really caught my ear, including this indie rocker.

9. Iron & Wine – “Winter Prayers”

“Winter Prayers” is a special kind of Iron & Wine song, relying on not much more than Sam Beam’s hushed vocals and soft instrumentation. Beam has, across his career, penned some very moving and personal lyrics, and “Winter Prayers” rates high in this regard. “Slide down South/when once in a while your confidence leave you” he recommends to himself. The South Carolina native longs for home and healing. For him it’s the South, for you it may be somewhere else, but the sentiment strikes home. Out of place, cold, and troubled, sometimes we need home.

10. The Hold Steady – “Criminal Fingers”

Hold Steady, I miss you! One of the few bands of which I own a t-shirt hasn’t released an album since 2010, and I’m lonely. Enter Record Store Day b-side release “Criminal Fingers”, and I’m in love again. Please release a new album!

Some Others That Caught My Ear:

I hope you found something you like! I’m still working my way through new albums from Jimmy Eat World, Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and others. A good music year continues!

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