I like end of year lists. Not other people’s – but my own. I like making lists far more than I like reading them. Don’t get me wrong – I love discovering music, but top 5, 10, 20 or 100 lists of music I’ve mostly not yet encountered often feels to me like a workload. I have so much music to listen to already. Your favourite records are yours. These are mine.
As an aside, my spending on recorded music probably doubles year on year. In order of magnitude (descending): vinyl (on Bandcamp and in record shops), digital music on Bandcamp, the occasional record purchased at a gig, the very occasional CD purchased at a gig (which I then rip to the computer and give away). Nothing else.
If I was a musician and I was trying to specifically target “me” as a consumer, I’d stop complaining about Spotify and get my music on Bandcamp ASAP.
I’m someone who would probably buy Radiohead records if they were there. But of course, that’s just me. Extrapolating general advice for the music industry based on personal consumption practice would be absurd if it wasn’t for the fact that that’s what most people seem to do.
Anyway, I’m going to use this end-of-year moment to recommend some music I’ve absolutely loved in 2013 – and tell you a little about what it was I loved about it. Not albums – just some songs that were really important to me this year.
A top five of sorts – for all sorts of reasons. And this is, of course, by no means comprehensive or in any order at all…
There used to be four songs that could bring me to tears on a reliable basis. Especially when I’m already emotional or overtired. This is number five.
Devastating for reasons that I can’t quite explain, but can guess at. Nor can I explain the fact that even though I found this an emotionally exhausting piece of music, I kept going back to it again and again for months.
Adam Scrimshire sent me an early version of this song, and even though it’s rough and unpolished, that’s the version I play most often.
By contrast, this was for me the most joyous piece of music of 2013. I have been unable to tire of this song, and it puts me in a fantastic mood.
I haven’t DJ’d a great deal over this past year – but I played this song every time I did (twice, on one occasion) and it filled the floor without fail. This is what parties should sound like.
Amazing. Listen and think to yourself: This is one teenager. Not only is Jacob Collier an incredible arranger and producer (using a single Shure SM58 microphone), a fantastic vocalist and harmoniser, but also an incredible multi-instrumentalist with phenomenal jazz chops. It’s a cappella for the first half, and then he lets loose on pretty much every instrument you’ve ever heard of. I particularly like his bass playing.
If I had lost my faith in popular music or young people at any point, this would have instantly restored it.
The award for ‘song that got stuck in my head the longest’ this year goes to Jungle. This has been on endless repeat in my brain since I heard it. When things go quiet, it comes back – and it is very welcome.
Smooth, lovely groove with a very cool James Blake meets Curtis Mayfield vibe going on.
This last one’s not on Bandcamp, but I had to include it: Dust Descends, by I Am Legion.
It’s by far the cleverest piece of music I’ve heard this year. For ages, actually. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s worth listening to on several fronts.
It’s basically a supergroup: drum & bass giants Noisia team with rappers Foreign Beggars – both of whom I’m a fan of individually. Together, they’re calling themselves I Am Legion and have released an album which has its moments, though it’s far from a masterpiece. This track, however, just blows me away.
The production is off the charts. Amazing sound design. And I haven’t been as impressed with an instrumental solo in an electronic music track (it hits after the 2nd verse) since BT’s Madskillz Mic-Chekka (1999).
And the rap is mind-boggling. Without wanting to deconstruct too much and get into the layers of clever going on – just pay attention to the rhyme. Verse one has one of the most complex and sophisticated rhyme schemes I’ve ever heard. Verse two does not rhyme at all. It’s a rap in blank verse – and he makes it work. Phenomenal.