Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top 20 - '13

It's been too long since we last posted on here. Keeping up with Random Ramblings has proven to be a bit more difficult this year. Outside factors have kept me from maintaining the one-post-a-week frequency of last year. So with the intent of looking to start anew in 2014, I've decided to go back to the original reason that I started what was once called Random Ramblings of DJ Brian L. This will be the first of our two year-end lists. Sure, we may have missed a few months of our Monthly Backtracks mixtapes leaving off at July. Hopefully we can pick up with that again in the New Year. It is fitting, however, that we finish off the year by looking back on the music that soundtracked the last 365 days.

This year I've decided to flip things around and do things a bit differently. In the past, I've gone and made a mixtape counting down the top songs of the year -- 10 in 2010, 11 in 2011, 12 in 2012. As for the top albums list, I would go and come up with exhaustive lists going so far as listing the Top 50 albums or as little as the Top 20 (only once doing a top 10 albums list.) For our top albums of 2013, I've decided to go with a shorter list concentrating on the albums that I'd really obsessed over -- The Top 13 Albums of 2013 will be up in the next few days. That being said, our top songs list will be expanded to 20 songs. So this mixtape will count down the Top 20 - '13.

A quick look back on the year will reveal that seemingly all of my favorite artists put out new music ranging from all-time favorites like Nine Inch Nails and Gary Numan to seminal industrial artists like Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, and Front Line Assembly. Not to mention triumphant returns of bands such as Suede and My Bloody Valentine. But to put the year into perspective, 2013 was the year that my goth/industrial leanings really took over. It had been building in previous years with indie rock embracing a darker sheen as heard in the music of artists like Trust, Cold Cave, The Soft Moon, and Zola Jesus. 2013 seemed a bit different as my taste of straightforward indie rock seemed to wane a bit in favor of a more familiar and comforting sounds of industrial and goth. That singular fact will become evident in these two year-end lists as bands such as Youth Code, Tying Tiffany, and Factory Floor will show. So enough over-analyzing. Let's get to my Top 20 songs of 2013!


Top 20 - '13
20. "Les Loups"- Luminance: Found this song on a French darkwave/coldwave compilation and fell in love with it instantly. Luminance is a Belgian act that based on the dark New Wave feel of "Les Loups"picks up its cues from The Cure, Modern English, and Cocteau Twins. A strangely engrossing track that lurks in the shadows under a shroud of mystery.

19. "Soothe My Soul" - Depeche Mode: While their 2013 album, Delta Machine may not rank high in Depeche Mode's body of work, there are still a few gems on it. "Soothe My Soul" is the best on there sounding like a more mature sibling of "Personal Jesus." This is one that should find its way onto the band's live setlists for years to come.

18, "One Second" - Tying Tiffany: An Italian dark pop artist that is poised to make a breakthrough in the States, Tying Tiffany is fashionable enough to rival Alice Glass as the next darkwave/goth pin-up. "One Second" is haunting yet chillingly danceable,

17. "Deceive" (feat. Sune Rose Wagner) - Trentemoller: I'll openly admit that I'm not well-versed in Trentemoller's material but with Lost the palette is expanded. It's an album full of collaborations with such artists as Low, Blonde Redhead, Jana Hunter, and more. But it's on "Deceive" where a propulsive bassline is kept grounded by Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes. The result is an addictive dark psych pop track that is damn near untouchable.

16. "Enjoy" - Andre Obin: With his debut album, The Arsonist, Boston electronic artist, Andre Obin comes up with an ambitious collection of songs that touches on many genres while maintaining a singular sound. "Enjoy" is the dreamy midpoint between of EBM and synthpop. Its title isn't just a suggestion, it's a directive.

15. "The Throw" - Jagwar Ma: In addition to 2013 being the year that industrial won me back, it was also the year that saw the beginnings of a Madchester revival thanks to albums by Cut Copy, SULK, and this Australian duo, Jagwar Ma. "The Throw" sounds like a lost Happy Mondays single before all the drugs came into play. That is, of course, meant in the very best way possible.

14. "Stay Out Here" - The Knife: Shaking The Habitual is without a doubt, one of the most challenging albums of the year. "Stay Out Here" is a near 11-minute opus that twists, turns, and then recoils onto itself. It's given a bit more of an imposing edge thanks to a Grace Jones-like guest turn by Light Asylum's Shannon Funchess.

13. "How Long?" - How to destroy angels: Before Trent Reznor revealed that he had secretly been piecing together a new Nine Inch Nails album, we got to hear his other band with long-time collaborators, Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan, and wife Mariqueen Maandig on lead vocals. "How Long?" brought HTDA's trip-hop tinged industrial pop into slight R&B territory.

12. "This Ladder Is Ours" - The Joy Formidable: It didn't take long for Welsh trio, The Joy Formidable to become one of my favorite bands. On their second album, Wolf's Law, they aimed for towering heights. "This Ladder Is Ours" makes their arena-sized shoegaze even bigger thanks to an awesome chorus.

11. "Love Hurt Bleed" - Gary Numan: While the pop mainstream will consider Gary Numan a one-hit wonder, those in the know are fully aware of the fact that not only is he a pioneer in electronic music but his aspirations at updating his music to current standards are what makes him a true artist. Over the last decade or so, he's embraced a more industrial-rock stance and it's a direction that fits him well. On "Love Hurt Bleed" it all comes together perfectly as gnashing guitars, throbbing beats, and soaring synths serve as a foundation for Numan's sinister sneer.

10. "In Time" - Death Rattle: Though there may not be much in the way of background information for Death Rattle, their EP, Fortress still sounds foreboding and hypnotic. Goth, darkwave, and electo-pop become intertwined while hints of Zola Jesus and Chelsea Wolfe ripple through. "In Time" is a good starting point for this band with its plodding tempo and eerie, layered vocals.

09. "Upstarts" - Johnny Marr: The Messenger was a bit of a sleeper. Johnny Marr's solo album should have been met with the same kind of adulation as anything Morrissey has ever put out but alas, that wasn't the case. Instead, we just get Johnny Marr putting out a great solo record with workman-like efficiency. "Upstarts" is one of its highlights; a spiraling guitar pop gem that does just as much to show off his vocals as it does his musicianship. It prepared us for the fact that when Mr. Marr would tackle Smiths songs during his tour, we might not end up missing the Moz.

08. "Pursuit" - Gessafelstein: While everyone worshiped at the House of Daft Punk shimmying away to the countless covers of "Get Lucky," fellow French-man Gessafelstein was busy making one of the year's best electronic albums. No, not EDM. Save that stuff for all the wub wub bass-dropping, Molly-dropping masses. Sure, "Pursuit" might not have been heady stuff, but its muscular take on industrial-strengthed techno put much of the rest of the pack to shame.

07. "Dead End Roads" - The Foreign Resort: Copenhagen band, The Foreign Resort have been quietly perfecting their blend of shoegaze, fuzz-pop, and New Wave. Now with John Fryer lending some assistance producing their music, their strengths are finally pushed to the forefront. The single, "Dead End Roads" is a prime example of what this band is capable of. Dark, danceable, and insanely catchy, if this song is a precursor for what's to come then be prepared for the possibility of a major breakthrough moment.

06. "The World Ends" - VarWith Iceage, vocalist, Elias Bender Ronnenfelt creates a sound that is rooted in punk and hardcore. But with Var, Ronnenfelt is able to explore his more experimental urges. "The World Fell" is an infectious industrial-dance dirge that wouldn't be out of place next to Skinny Puppy.

05. "After Dark" - Deathday: This song is a good example of what happens when a fellow DJ suggests the perfect song to me. "After Dark" appears on the excellent The End of Civilization compilation on Mannequin Records and it has been an obsession since the first time I listened. This LA post-punk band comes up with a biting synth song that splits the difference between Killing Joke and Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode. It's no wonder "After Dark" has been on constant rotation on both BriPod and DJ sets alike.

04. "Metroland" - OMD: With English Electric, their second album since 2010's comeback release, History Of Modern, OMD proved that they still have plenty of gas in their tanks. English Electric's excellent first single, "Metroland" is proof positive of that fact. A heavenly 7 1/2 minute synth pop gem. The drums at the 5 1/2 minute mark is downright life-affirming.

03. "You (Ha Ha Ha)" - Charli XCX: How is it possible that a song with that title is able to be so good? If there's anything to be learned when it comes to Charli XCX it's to expect unexpected things. The third year in a row that she's had a song land in our year-end countdown and this time she does it with a song that's so catchy and sugary on the surface that it's possible to miss the fact that it's a kiss-off. A bratty, condescending kiss-off at that. I'd hate to be the subject of this song. God knows I wouldn't do well with Charli letting everyone know I was dumb and then laughing at me.

02. "It Starts And Ends With You" - Suede: Probably the most unexpectedly great comeback of 2013 is Suede. Bloodsports was better than it had any right to be. Even if the rest of the album was rubbish, the mere fact that this song was on it would make Bloodsports essential for any Suede fan. However, "It Starts And Ends With You" is one of those songs whose build to the chorus and to the song's title is the stuff that dreams are made of. Luckily, the rest of the album is pretty stellar, too.

01. "People Are Poison" - Cold Cave: It's a no-brainer that I would love Cold Cave. Taking influence from bands like The Cure, New Order, NIN, and Nitzer Ebb definitely helps. They add some Jesus and Mary Chain guitar fuzz on "People Are Poison," released on the Oceans With No End 7" -- one of four singles Cold Cave released in the calendar year. What makes "People Are Poison" stand out among the rest is that its dripping with anger masked by a cool demeanor. Even when Wesley Eisold utters "You are nothing" it's done with an underlying sense of apathy that's almost worth striving for.

So there you have it. The year 2013 wrapped up in 20 songs worthy of constant rotation. Next up (before the New Year) we'll have our Top 13 Albums of 2013. So until then, listen loud and become immersed.

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