I’ve enjoyed music more this year than I think I ever have before. I feel like it was a time of massive innovation and fascinating changes in electronic music; the post-Skrillex era (so to speak) has allowed unprecedented room for artists to try new things. Many masterpieces were created along the way, and I willingly accept the fact that my top 10 musical experiences of 2013 will not even come close to encompassing the scope of excellence this year has brought. This year, I swung towards the chiller side of the musical spectrum, taking a step back from my more “hardcore” tastes of the past few years in favor of Deep House chords and echoing vocals.
Anyway, this is my list, and I love it. I can only hope you will too! We begin…
10. The Melt Compilation
The Melt Compilation (Vol. 1) is a 19-track Trap collaboration by a mélange of fantastic artists. The tracks are dark and melodic, and this album helped me through innumerable late study nights. Highlights (IMHO) include “Alibi” by Deebs, “Stahp” by Djemba Djemba, and “Conga” by Snorlax. Oh, and it’s free!!
9. BT – A Song Across Wires
Next up on the list is this year’s album from the legendary BT. It’s largely a collaborative piece; only two songs on the album don’t have features. The album is a glorious electronic landscape of Trance and Progressive House, with distorted anthems like “Tomahawk” peacefully coexisting alongside smooth Trance tracks like “Skylarking.” It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish, reminding me song after song of what I love most about the more “classic” genres of EDM.
8. Warm Water (Snakehips Remix) – Banks
This song is so good it almost hit the mainstream. I had friends on Facebook who post statuses about Lady GaGa on a weekly basis post about this shit, and you know what? I didn’t even feel any hipster anger. It’s THAT good. Banks’ (most remixable artist ever) vocals remain the backbone of the track, and Snakehips’ swaggering bass line surges underneath with a soul-warming groove. It’s become one of my go-to tracks to show to people who cringe at the phrase, “Electronic music.”
7. Phonat – Machines Do Care/Identity Theft EP
I’m not sure I can really put into words why I love this track so much. I mean, only so much justification is necessary to explain why Phonat is incredible, but this song is just… different. It challenges the listener to find meaning in the chaos, and if you have half an hour to kill, I recommend listening to this song on repeat. Sit back, close your eyes, and try to follow a different line each time; first time focus on the bass, second time on the rolling synth pads, etc. The whole Identity Theft EP is quite strong, but “Machines Do Care” blew the rest away for me.
6. Fall Over (Djemba Djemba Remix) – Banks
Djemba Djemba was probably one of my favorite artists this year. To call him consistent would be an understatement; his music is of the highest quality, and this remix is my fave from his impressive 2013 musical portfolio. It’s menacing and edgy, and the thundering bass makes the hair on my arms stand up. Listen for the little pause right before the bass hits on the second drop; it’s perfect.
5. Valentine feat. Kyiki (Kyogi Remix) – DE$iGNATED
This remix from Kyogi, an absurdly talented British teenager, hits the sweet spot for me. It’s calming, it’s complex, it has great flow from start to finish, and I absolutely adore the minor Deep House chords. I know for a fact there’s video of me dancing quite embarrassingly to this song, but I love it so much I don’t even care.
4. Move Love (Kaytranada Edition) – Robert Glasper
Kaytranada is a household name around here at Salacious Sound, and I think this remix (sorry Ziad, edition) proves that we have every right to love him passionately. I had to think hard before putting this on my list, because I was having a hard time separating the music I’m loving most now from the music I loved most this year, but in the end, I couldn’t resist. It’s just too damn good. The pulsing vocals (one of my friends described the track as “a musical strobe light”) and the Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz piano (especially from 3:20-3:40) are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. This song is a revelation.
3. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
I’m a huge rap fan, and Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape was the soundtrack of my summer. It’s an oftentimes ridiculous and wholly sacrilegious flight through Chancelor Bennett’s LSD-infused mind, and it’s incredible. The production is jazzy and soulful rather than harsh or booming, and Chance swings seamlessly from introspective slam poet to unapologetic punk and back again. My favorite tracks are Cocoa Butter Kisses, Lost, Interlude (That’s Love), Acid Rain… screw it, just listen to the whole thing.
2. Bird Machine – DJ Snake (featuring Alesia)
Musical boundaries are meant to be pushed. People get too comfortable with what they know, and every once in a while some lunatics need to come through and redefine what we’ve come to expect from music. In 2013, the genre that was due for renewal was Trap music, in its many iterations. For me personally, my Trap epiphany came with this song in late February. Bird Machine is simultaneously laughable and brilliant, mind-blowing and comfortable. It’s unlike anything I’d ever heard before–or since, really–while still having the normal uncouth appeal of a hard Trap tune. I still love the look on peoples’ faces when they realize they’re listening to literal birdcalls over a bassline. It’s on my list of all-time greats.
1. Argentina and Astor Piazzolla
My number one experience with music this year was unlike the rest. I’m a cellist, and over the summer I got the opportunity to tour with my orchestra to Argentina. We learned a ton of Argentine music for the tour, which is to say we learned a lot of tango music, which is in itself a way to say we learned the music of Astor Piazzolla.
I fell in love with Piazzolla’s tangos. All of the sterility, all of the arrogance that had always bothered me about classical music was gone; in its place was true salaciousness. Piazzolla had revived tango music in the 20th century by throwing in a healthy handful of jazz, and the result is spectacular. The emotions flash around, from soul-crushingly sad in one measure to frenetic excitement in the next; every piece is a master class on the use of passion in music. It’s a bizarre thing to put in #1 on a list on an electronic music site, I realize this, but I’ll be damned if Argentine tango didn’t fundamentally change the way I see music.
Thank you all so much for reading, and I can’t wait to have another amazing musical year with you in 2014!