Monday, December 30, 2013

Sebastian's best of 2013

In February we turn five years old which is quite a respectable and mature age, we think. Because of that we thought we'd drop our lame nomes de guerre in case you hadn't noticed. Not only that, we're even showing our faces which means that we're putting ourselves on the line as we're risking getting beaten up on the street by chillwave fans angry that we didn't include their favourite song on our lists.

At this point I'd like to point out that that picture unintentionally turned out pretty ironic. So, just to deny any charges, I do have glasses, but they're totally not black Wayfarers, my bike have five (5) gears, that lumberjack shirt is actually grey and black and not red and black (I'm Scandinavian after all), and although I like a good cup of coffee, I hate PBR. So there. On the other hand, we obviously do listen to music that your less cool friends probably haven't heard of, and we probably did listen to that band before they were mainstream.

Anyway, best of 2013... Here's where I pretend that I listen to other genres than dance music after complaining about how hard it was to decide on which tracks were Objectively Best Of The Year. And usually these lists are cathartic all-night work. But who are we kidding really? These lists are basically just twenty songs that we have listened to a lot, played out a lot or in other ways have meant something more than other songs this year.

So how do we describe 2013 in music? Again, it's hard to be completely objective. How do we differentiate between trends in music from shifts in or change of focus in our personal and subjective tastes? Especially since this blog basically just is about what a couple of dudes are listening to at the moment?

Let's start at the other end then. Personally, I dove deeper into deep- and UK house this year, my focus changing away from the sunny melodies and synths of yesteryear to the rhythms of deep basslines and four-to-the-floor kick drums. But at the same time, some nice vocals never hurt anyone.

And if we were to try to decipher the trends in our corner of the music world, I don't seem to be the only one moving in this direction. But more about that in future posts.

Apart from dropping our aliases, we have decided to just write about the top ten to make the posts a little more manageable. We also reveal the list from top to bottom, but since this surely will turn your whole world upside-down, it won't change your reading in practicality.

So, let's get to it!

#1. Holt Blackheath - Don't Have To Call [unsigned/free download]
Holt Blackheath managed to make this epitome of the perfect UK house track in my opinion. Deep bass, warm synth stabs, sharp hand claps and soulful vocals (plus that lovely plopping sound) makes for a catchy and uplifting tune that even your mum will like. It's been one of my most-played tunes this year, both when DJ-ing and in the headphones at home. It's unbelievable that this track hasn't been picked up by a proper label.

#2. Disclosure feat. Eliza Doolittle - You & Me (Bicep Remix) [unreleased]
Disclosure who? Bicep what? Ok, so hardly two unknown names, especially on my lists. Disclosure had one of the most anticipated and hyped up album releases of the year, even if they were distanced by Daft Punk in that regard. We'll see what happens with Disclosure. Are they lost in the burning light of mainstream pop music for ever, or can they keep their relevance despite the success? Undoubtedly vastly talented guys we're hoping for the latter.

Constantly moving forward with giant steps are Bicep, who had a couple of great EPs out, including that awesome track "Sacrifice" with Simian Mobile Disco. But my pick is their You & Me remix that was supposed to be released on the remix EP. The stream was premiered on Mixmag, but has since been removed, and in the end it wasn't included on the EP (despite being on Universal's promo copies). What's happening with it is all a mystery, but it was easily this year's best breakdown and build-up.

#3. HAIM - Falling (Duke Dumont Remix) [Polydor/Universal]
HAIM where? Duke Dumont when? Yes, another pretty obvious name remixing and even more obvious one. HAIM sky rocketed to stardom this year, and deservedly so with that album of theirs. There were a couple of originals in contention for this list, but in the end I went with the Duke Dumont remix. Dumont, who was close to making the list on his own with his "Need You (100 %)" that made it to the top of the UK singles chart. If the Bicep remix above was the build-up of the year then this was the intro of the year.

#4. Germans - Cruel [self released]
The track that probably stands out the most on the upper half of the list is an acquaintance we made through Auxiliary Tha Masterfader's awesome remix that blew our minds. Obviously Aux knows how to make that sweet Moroder-esque disco, but you can't take away that the original, which makes me think of Will to Power's classic "Baby, I Love Your Way", is truly great too. Tough choice between the two, but I'll have to choose Germans' original slow dance, to balance the list a bit. Sorry Auke!

#5. Waze & Odyssey - Be Right There (Citizen Remix) [MadTech]
A productive year each from Waze & Odyssey and Citizen with, among other things, strong releases on Kerri Chandler's MadTech label ("Be Right There" and "So Submissive" respectively). Not only that, but they had the good taste to remix each other's tracks too. All four of them were favourites this year, so why not let the three of them share the spot with these atmospheric synths and perfect garage beats?

#6. Tâches - Vegas (Joey McCrilley Remix) [unsigned/free download]
Another moody UK house track that I've enjoyed this year is Joey McCrilley's remix of  Tâches' "Vegas". One of the reasons is that it so clearly shows the drum and bass DNA of the UK garage movement, with that driving sub-bass and toned down kick-drum that doesn't emerge until halfway into the track. On top of that it's just a great song. I generally never listen to the actual lyrics in music, but the phrase "I see your stupid eyes" always sticks out when I listen to this track. I hope for more songs about stupid eyes in 2014.

#7. John Newman - Cheating (Wayward Remix) [Island]
Starting to see a pattern here? John Newman has a great soul voice, and Wayward is another very talented British production duo. This track resembles the one above in many ways, but it has a much straighter house rhythm. Still, great vocals and great beat.

#8. Bat For Lashes - Rest Your Head (MANIK Ghost Pines Rework) [unsigned/free download]
"Epic" is an adjective that we probably throw around a little too easily, but M A N I K's rework of this Bat for Lashes song is just that: a musical journey through different temperaments and styles. One second it's introverted, psychedelic IDM, and the next second it's an uplifting party banger. Ok, party banger is perhaps an exaggeration, but an utterly danceable house tune isn't a misrepresentation.

#9. Dusky - Careless [AUS Music]
Speaking of utterly danceable, Dusky's "Careless" was a track that we competed in putting on first when playing together. It's the sort of track that is perfect to mark a change in gears. Those who recognize that signature bassline immediately know what's up (and since "Careless" sat on top of most download charts, they are many), while those who don't know the track always warm to that vocal hook.

#10. Hackman - Change My Life [Futureboogie]
One of the newest tracks on this list is Hackman's "Change My Life", released a couple of weeks ago on vinyl. It's always risky to add such an obvious current favourite to a best of list, but this track just can't be overlooked. Chances are I'm being too hard on it, because it sure has a giant bullet next to the chart position. That growling sub-bass and that double-bass on top of it makes it extremely funky. Add lovely organs and vocals and it makes for one sweet track.

#11. Spirit Animal - The Black Jack White (Caleb L'Etoile Remix) [unsigned/free download]

#12. Empire of the Sun - We Are the People (Ted Lyons & His Cubs 5 Years Late Remix) [unsigned/free download]

#13. Sophie - Bipp [Numbers]

#14. Deetron feat. Hercules and Love Affair - Crave [Music Man]

#15. Classixx - Borderline [Innovative Leisure]

#16. Laszlo Dancehall - Gave Up [ManMakeMusic]

#17. Mercury - Let's Celebrate ft. Byron Stingily (Kings of the Universe Remix) [Nurvous]

#18. Stuffa - Levitate [Trunkfunk]

#19. Kixnare - Gucci Dough [U Know Me Records]

#20. Celsius - Thought As Much [Moda Black]