Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Sound of the Season

It’s that time of year again! I’m not talking about Christmas, I’m talking about yearly reviews! This year I’m kicking off with my top 5 musical albums of the year, since it seems that I’m way behind on watching the 2013 crop of films and I always save books for last, so here goes!

With some ridiculous promotional stunts pulled and the album sufficiently hyped last year, Daft Punk returned after a lengthy hiatus with Random Access Memories. I may have gotten tired of hearing the lead single (even though it did feature the amazing Pharrell Williams), when I finally got around to listening to the whole album I was delighted. And then confused. And then amazed. Daft Punk did what they always do and redefined the electronica genre by taking us back to the 1970s with disco undertones and to the future with their unique sonic blends.

And then there was the the new kid on the block, Avicii. He crashed into the dance music scene with the unbelievably catchy song “Levels” and I was super stoked when he finally announced the release of his first proper album, True. The lead single, “Wake me Up,” may have gone over like a lead balloon (to paraphrase DJ Paul Oakenfold) at Ultra, but I was hooked on the song from the very first time I heard it. Avicii’s beats are completely infectious, and the blend of melodies is perfect in every track from start to finish. It’s impossible not to dance to “Shame on Me, ” which sounds just this side of familiar, or to feel the emotional impact of the poetic lyrics from “Hey Brother.” I sure can’t wait to see what electronica’s new rebel child will come up with next!

The surprising album that was on my iPod longer than any other this year was Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob. I’ve always liked the duo’s singles and their vocal abilities (usually utilized by electronica artists and DJs), but with this album I liked almost everything. While I listened to “Closer” on repeat all summer – and argued with my boss about how the weird vocal effects are what make the song perfection – the softer ballad “I was a Fool” and powerful “I’m not your Hero” are the tracks that have stayed with me.

Every year I expect Tiësto’s latest Club Life volume (this year we travel to Stolkholm) to fall flat; no one can be this consistently good, year after year. But when I heard his remix of Icona Pop’s “I Love It” I knew he had done it again. There have been some terrible remixes of the already perfectly danceable track – the most memorably terrible during the one night I deigned to go clubbing this year (clearly I need a higher class of DJ… and club for that matter) – but Tiësto dropped the bottom out of the track and stuck to the same bass-line to create a more mellow but still high energy melody. Some may criticize his drastic move away from his trance roots, but I’m glad that Tiësto has allowed himself to experiment and grow as an artist.

The last album to make the my top 5 of the year is a hesitant addition, but one which I am growing to like more and more every time I listen to it. I was a little disappointed by Kaskade’s last album (it was far more mellow and lounge-y than I expected), but Atmosphere is definitely more my speed. The lead track is wonderfully melodic and the lyrics are beautiful. I can’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t recognize the feeling of alone-ness of growing up while being surrounded by the world. Kaskade’s talent seems to be capturing the emotions of a moment in a melody, as he repeats the process in the tracks “Feeling the Night” and “Floating.” Future generations will look at these carefully crafted songs the same way that we look back at the poets of the Romantic Era and William Shakespeare, and be able to connect with the human experience that doesn’t change through the ages regardless of form of expression. 

There are a few oddball songs that I'm totally obsessed with, but those will have to wait til later in the week! See you all later bitches (and happy listening)!

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