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10 songs from 2013

I had so much fun making last year’s list that I decided to do it again! These are, in no particular order, some of my favorite picks from 2013. Title links go to YouTube.

Folk-Rock

Gone Too Long – Churchill (The War Within EP)
The War Within is by far my favorite EP of the year, and choosing just one song from it was very hard. This song is catchy, emotive, slightly gritty, and completely addictive. Change, from the same EP, was a close runner-up (if nothing else, the music video is great).

The Habit – Lissie (Back to Forever)
Lissie is phenomenally talented, and if you ever get the opportunity to see her live you should take it. Other standouts on the album include Shameless and Further Away (Romane Police). If Back to Forever is a little too folk for you check out Morgan Page’s collaborations with Lissie (The Longest Road, several tracks on Believe). Or just check out one of her amazing covers – she’s well known for her Pursuit of Happiness cover, and she recently debuted an equally strong cover of Hold On, We’re Going Home.

Indie *

Twenty Seven – MS MR (Secondhand Rapture)
I like to imagine that MS MR is what you would get if Florence and the Machine reincarnated as a slightly chiller, slightly more electronica artist. It’s dark, atmospheric music perfect for when you’re feeling slightly moody.

How – The Neighbourhood (I Love You.)
Sweater Weather is apparently the cool (i.e. charting) song from I Love You., but How is a strong track that does a great job setting the tone for the album. It’s one of my favorite rainy day albums, and I get a lot of mileage out of it here in Seattle.

Doubt – Kitten (Like a Stranger EP)
Watching Kitten mature across EPs is fascinating. Their latest offering shows a clear 80s influence, and feels significantly more electronica than their first EP. I wasn’t in love with Like a Stranger, but both the titular track and Doubt are worth a listen (and boy can Chloe Chaidez sing live).

Little Space – The Limousines (Hush)
The Limousines round out my “moody indie music” kick this year. Hush is a little edgier than my usual fare, and the album art weirds me out a bit (although not nearly as much as Get Sharp), but it’s definitely worth a listen.

Electronica

Broken Bones – CHVRCHES (The Bones of What You Believe)
The Bones of What You Believe is unquestionably the best album I’ve heard all year. Broken Bones is a bonus track, so maybe it doesn’t count, but it’s also fantastic. The lyrics are creepy and sinister enough that I mentally consider it part of the Hunger Games soundtrack.

Human – Krewella (Get Wet)
Krewella might be everything I always wanted Ke$ha to be, with a little extra wubwubwub (to use the technical term). Human departs from the party-it-up mentality of the rest of Get Wet and goes for something slightly more substantial. As an added bonus, they actually can sing, as proven by their stripped down acoustic performance of Alive.

Pop

Hold On – Icona Pop (THIS IS… ICONA POP)
Icona Pop embody cheerful summer music, and it’s a bummer that they had to bow out of Bumbershoot this year. The entire album is fun and upbeat, and Hold On stands out for its marginally more serious tone.

Brave – Sara Bareilles (The Blessed Unrest)
Inspired by a friend’s struggle to come out of the closet, Brave is an enthusiastic, inspiring anthem whose message can be applied to an awful lot of life’s challenges. Every time you’re having trouble speaking up just play this track and pretend that Sara Bareilles is your own personal cheering squad.

But what about Lorde?

I know, I know. How could I make a top songs of 2013 list without including Lorde?

I didn’t like Pure Heroine nearly as much as her Love Club EP (which includes Royals), but she posted that to her SoundCloud in late 2012. So all of my top picks for her (Royals, Bravado, Million Dollar Bills) don’t actually qualify.

Now you know.

Aftermath: Talking about depression

About a month and a half ago, I posted an essay about my experiences with depression. A surprising number of people read it (more than five times as many as my next most popular essay). Nobody left a comment on the actual essay, and very few people responded to the Facebook and Twitter posts I made to share it.

However, a significant number of people have contacted me directly. I’ve received Twitter DMs and Facebook messages, had lengthy IM and face-to-face conversations, and even gotten snail mail about it. I’ve drawn a few conclusions from this:

  1. A surprising number of people are affected by depression. I never would have guessed that any of the people who reached out to me had also dealt with depression. I also talked to several people who had never personally been depressed, but had watched helplessly as their friends dealt with similar problems.
  2. Nobody wants to talk about it publicly. Many of the people who contacted me said things like “thank you for writing this” and “you’re brave for sharing this”. A lot of the people I talked to had (legitimate) fears that they would be penalized, socially or professionally, for discussing their experiences with depression in the open (I assume it only gets worse for other mental health problems). It’s really unfortunate that this is the case, and I’ve been pondering how we can create safe ways for people to share their perspective.
  3. My network is more supportive than I expected. The fact that people reached out to me to say that my post resonated with them was great. The fact that people reached out to me to say that they had never been depressed and were grateful that I had shared my perspective was amazing. I knew that I had good friends, but I was genuinely surprised by my friends who talked to me with the intention of learning how to better support their friends. I don’t know how well this generalizes to other social circles, but my working hypothesis is that if you’re having a tough time, your friends care and want to help you.

In short, talking about depression matters. I’m not entirely sure where to go with it, but it’s clearly important. If you have thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them!

10 songs from 2012

Inspired by Go Periscope’s Top 10 Songs of 2012 and a subsequent conversation with my housemate, Jeff, I put together my own top 10 songs of 2012*. I’ve grouped them loosely by genre, and they’re in no particular order. Title links go to YouTube.

Electronica

Carousel – Go Periscope (Wasted Youth)
I dig the drops on this one – it’s a little bassier than Go Periscope’s usual fare without going full dubstep. It’s by far my favorite track from Wasted Youth, which I’ve enjoyed but am not crazy about.

Somewhere to Hide – Shiny Toy Guns (III)
Bringing back Carah Faye Charnow has done wonders for Shiny Toy Guns – a lot of III is kind of weird and it took me a few listens to enjoy it, but it’s much stronger than Season of Poison. Somewhere to Hide opens the album, taking cues from the best parts of both We Are Pilots and Season of Poison.

Riot – Dragonette (Bodyparts)
Dragonette is really hit or miss for me. I didn’t particularly like most of Bodyparts, but Riot is fun, poppy, and not so vapid that I grind my teeth listening to it.

Pop

All That Matters (The Beautiful Life) – Ke$ha (Warrior)
Pure guilty pleasure. I have no defense or justification, but I really enjoyed Warrior. Runners up from the album include Die Young and Crazy Kids (mainly for the chorus).

Superhuman – Sarah Solovay (Superhuman EP)
Technically, this song came out in 2011, but the EP wasn’t released until 2012. Sarah Solovay is a young, talented singer-songwriter from New York who’s doing what she can to save the “girl with a guitar” genre from manufactured stars like Taylor Swift.

Rap

Shock – Ana Tijoux (La Bala)
Another “but the album dropped in 2012″. It’s got a catchy beat, Tijoux has a good flow (and can sing, as those who saw her at Bumbershoot can confirm), and it’s probably the only song in the list that would pass a “meaningful lyrics” radar (it’s a political rant in support of the Chilean student protests). I don’t like all of La Bala, but Sacar La Voz, La Bala, and Desclasificado are standouts as well.

Eighteen Cool – Hoodie Allen (All American)
Who doesn’t love youthful enthusiasm with a hint of schadenfreude? All American is fun, catchy rap that’s heavy on melody and light on misogyny.

I Told You So – Karmin (Hello)
The lyrics are only semi-sensical. Karmin does a lot better with pop-rap fusion than full-on ballads, and this is a great example of the former.

Rock

Speed the Collapse – Metric (Synthetica)
I’m still not entirely sure what this song is about, but it’s dark, edgy, and fairly melodic. Or maybe I just like that she’s not singing in a falsetto the whole song.

G# – Kitten (Cut It Out EP)
I really like this EP, and this particular song always gets me. 17 year old lead singer Chloe Chaidez is already being lauded as the new “it girl” of Los Angeles rock, for good reason. Cut It Out is a close-but-not-too-close runner up. The band’s first EP, Sunday School, has some great tracks as well (particularly Kill the Light and Chinatown).

* Admittedly, I spent most of 2012 listening to songs from 2010 and 2011