November 26, 2013

Completely Obsessed

Favorite songs of 2013 — Part 1

It’s time to take stock and pick our favorite children. These are the ones we’ll talk about to our friends, spend the most time with, listen to with the most attentive ears, and the rest will eventually be forgotten.

I’m talking about songs, of course.

As I look back on the past few years, I can see how one mood and sound seemed to weigh on me heavier than others. There was the Americana year where Jason Isbell’s Here We Rest was on nonstop repeat, and the year that Yeasayer’s Odd Blood never left the turntable. This year, I found myself back into the familiar throngs of rock. It was a good year for big guitars, soaring choruses and all the other bits that make up an anthem. That’s where we’ll start: five now, five more next month.

10. Kings of Leon — “Rock City”

Welcome back, fellas. The Tennessee family’s last couple had tested my fandom after three superb and downright fun records. It seemed that with Only by the Night and Come Around Sundown, they had begun taking themselves entirely too seriously. It took not only critics dismissing their records but also actual pigeons having a life-imitating-art moment (when they literally shit on them during what was probably a bland performance) before they took a step back, regrouped and released what is my favorite comeback of the year. Mechanical Bull has the swagger, speed and nonsense of their first trio but with more muscle, and “Rock City” is their best glam song yet.

9. Atoms For Peace — “Judge Jury and Executioner”

Much of Thom Yorke’s side project’s debut is perfectly built for background music on a late-night drive, but this single in particular never fails to grab my attention. From the opening groove where someone is mouthing the bass line to Thom’s repeating hook, “Judge” can easily stand up next to any single Radiohead has released post-2000. I’d even go as far as to say it tops anything on The King of Limbs.

8. Haim — “The Wire”/“Don’t Save Me”

I couldn’t pick just one song from the debut of these L.A. sisters. I had waited well over a year for Days Are Gone to be released, and, once it was, it was on nonstop around our house. “The Wire” got some comparisons to “Heartache Tonight,” which would be unforgivable if it weren’t for how good they do it. From there, we get slight nods to Michael Jackson while the trio trade parts of a story of some poor schmuck who can’t get over them. I’m sure it won’t be the last time, ladies.

7. David Bowie — “The Next Day”

Did anyone see this coming? We had all been begging for the Thin White Duke to return but had mostly given up due to rumors of retirement. As it turns out, Bowie had been working on The Next Day, his first album since 2003, for the past few years. Not only was it his best since ’95’s Earthling (or maybe even ’84’s Tonight) — it proved just how powerful a force he was to all music. The title track kicks it off and finds our hero using those weird chords and structure that made “Loving the Alien” so fun. I hope this isn’t the swan song on his career, but if it is, it’s a heckuva great finish.

6. Volcano Choir — “Byegone”

I’ve never been on the Bon Iver train as much as others (“Skinny Love” is great, but I can take or leave most of the rest), but if Justin Vernon decided to put all of his chips in his other band, I would be all in with him. It’s not like Volcano Choir is so different from his day job. Maybe it’s the added might, heard loud and clear on “Byegone,” but there’s much more than just extra testosterone in the mix, all the way to Vernon’s voice, which has become its own instrument. The songs themselves can go from jammy, for one moment, before completely slamming into a full-throated monster, proving this band could not have picked a better name.

Come back next month for the thrilling conclusion!

Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.