So, songs. Songs out of context, for the most part, if you adhere to the belief that the album is, to bastardize The Bard, the thing. And though we cling to the primacy of the album as an Art Form -- admittedly probably out of a nostalgia for the linear listening of our youth -- we can't ignore our fixation with the song. Which, now that we think about it, is sort of a life-long pursuit. Countless are the hours we've spent across more than three decades BUTNOTFOURYETSHUTUP picking the hits, either by making mix tapes (dicatphonin' The Beatles LPs off the record player, tapin' off the radio, yo) or sequencing DJ sets, and of course there's this here blog. Clicky Clicky's entire premise is picking the hits, at least as we hear them, and under cover of this overlong and unnecessary paragraph we bring you our favorite 10 songs released in the calendar year 2013. Now sounds all, but as we think about the selections below it occurs to us that we like many of these "now sounds" for some wispy connection they give us to things we've loved in (or about) the past. The rush of adolescent infatuation as portrayed by Veronica Falls' "Teenage," the boundless psychedelic reach of Guillermo Sexo's guitar-heavy head piece "Meow Metal," and everything in between -- each one connects strongly with us, and we hope you will consider these songs, and perhaps find a favorite among them you've not encountered previously. Our albums list will follow later this week. Thanks for reading Clicky Clicky in 2013; you're all stars.
1. Veronica Falls -- "Teenage" -- Waiting For Something To Happen
Sing now, muse, of the innocence, mystery, freedom and longing of adolescence, and the safe little bubble that it all transpires within. From behind a coy fringe of hair Veronica Falls' Roxanne Clifford earnestly delivers the lyrics to "Teenage" -- which charm us more and more with each listen -- and memorably harmonizes with co-fronter and guitarist James Hoare. With its indelible melodies, big guitars, noodly leads and a simple, steady rhythm, "Teenage" is quintessential indie rock, a timeless single, and our favorite song of the year. Buy Waiting For Something To Happen from the consistently amazing Slumberland Records right here.
"...driving late at night, I'll let you listen to the music you like..."
2. Radiator Hospital -- "Our Song" -- Something Wild
We suppose this is the flip-side of the coin vis a vis the idealized teenage love story conveyed in our selection above. But damn it if it doesn't have pep and charm, despite its vivid recounting of a relationship coming apart. Folks looking for some representation of the crucial West Philly scene in this year's list (you know, Swearin', Waxahatchee) will have to just accept that we listened to the Radiator Hospital record more [we reviewed it here], as great as Surfing Strange and Cerulean Salt are. Some of that has to do with timing, of course: as stated in years past, our year-end lists are heavily weighted toward aggregate play counts for current-year releases. So, albums that come out earlier in the year are rewarded if they've got staying power, which we think counter-balances a temptation to be totally high on the latest thing at the end of the year, to the detriment of the early releases. But discussion of that hokum obscures just how memorable and accomplished Something Wild and, in particular, "Our Song" are. Go ahead, try to listen to it just once. Buy Something Wild right here.
"...sometimes I hear you crying alone in the shower, and I don't make a sound..."
3. Krill -- "Theme From Krill" -- Lucky Leaves
As we've said in prior years, a lot of the entries on our year-end songs list get there because they are songs that we couldn't stop singing to ourself while doing all manner of mundane things, changing diapers, walking dogs, retrieving the car after a long day in the office. And while there are probably very few Krill fans in the high-rise office building that contains the door upon the back of which we hang our coat each morning, we heard more than a few folks from "the scene" singing "Krill, Krill, Krill forever" to themselves this year. It's a bizarre -- and bizarrely catchy -- anthem about the division of the self, the thinking behind which fronter Jonah Furman has explained here and elsewhere. We'd say something here about the difficulty and rarity of catching that sort of musical lightning in a bottle, but most Clicky Clicky readers have already heard the new Krill single, which is strong evidence that the band's facility for writing hooks around engaging ideas and concepts thrives. But the one in "Theme From Krill" will likely not be forgotten any time soon. Stream it below, and buy Lucky Leaves right here.
"...and I got sick of him, and he got sick of me..."
4. Speedy Ortiz -- "No Below" -- Major Arcana
We pegged this loping waltz, which ended up being the second single from Major Arcana, as a favorite during our very first listen to the pre-release promotional copy of Speedy's brilliant full-length debut (which debut has sparked the quartet's meteoric rise into the national consciousness, tours with The Breeders, Los Campesinos!, Stephen Malkmus and the like). "No Below" is not as gnarly and confident as "Tiger Tank," not as unhinged and exciting as the final chaotic moments of the album closer "MKVI." Instead, it's got a lot of patience. And a lot of space that leaves room for fronter Sadie Dupuis' vocal -- so small in that first verse, with the slightest vibrato to her elongated vowels -- to draw you into her confidence and then bore right into your soul. It's a(n apparently) confessional, outsider ballad. The final minute bursts open with several bars of big guitars and then a few more quiet lines from Dupuis before the song winks shut. Perfect song-writing, memorializing some little moments, dynamiting others. Buy Major Arcana from Carpark right here.
"...spent the summer on crutches, and everybody teased..."
5. My Bloody Valentine -- "She Found Now" -- mbv
The opening moments of this tune are tattooed on the minds of the long-suffering and totally amazed My Bloody Valentine fans, a vast international horde that early this year shared in a too-rare Internet-age communal experience: the shock and awe of the surprise release in February of the London act's 22-years-in-the-making sequel to its legendary Loveless LP. After clawing and scratching our way onto a web site crumbling under the fan demand, the first of the spoils was the beautiful "She Found Now." The tune whispers reassurance to us as the soft fuzz of the bass wraps listeners in a warm embrace, chiming guitars arcing, bending and layering. One of the larger tragedies for young people is the realization that people we love inevitably change; whatever the reason ultimately was, My Bloody Valentine didn't evolve in any sort of jarring manner, delivering a sublime set of recordings, "She Found Now" included. Buy the record from the band right here.
"...you could be the one..."
6. Fleeting Joys -- "Kiss A Girl In Black" -- digital single
For the last seven years the one shoegaze act that consistently filled that My Bloody Valentine-shaped hole in our heart was Fleeting Joys. And as none of us knew at the onset of 2013 that MBV was preparing its surprise release, we were relieved when Fleeting Joys issued this new single in the first week of January. The intoxicating "Kiss A Girl In Black," all buzz-saw, bending guitars and murmured vocals, raised our hopes for yet more music from FJ with the indication at Bandcamp that it was taken from the band's forthcoming third long-player. Just about a year later we are still waiting (sound familiar) for that third LP, but that wait has been tempered by dozens upon dozens of listens to the stunning "Kiss A Girl In Black," which is embedded for streaming below. Click through the purchase the track.
7. Karl Marks -- "Out In The Deep" -- Life Is Murder
Karl Shane's acoustic performance of this number at Great Scott in July at the Major Arcana record release show was riveting. The song, a spare and gothic lament, is mournful yet electrifying. And when Mr. Shane goes for those desperate final lines after fomenting a storm of grungy guitar and exploding drums, the hair stands up on the back of our neck, every time. In his review, our scribe Dillon Riley highlighted the fact that there is a fair amount of humor to be found in the LP this song arrived on, but we don't hear any of that on "Out In The Deep." Gripping and dramatic, the song is the closer on Kal Marks' 2013 collection Life Is Murder; buy it right here.
"...and I will fall from a great height..."
8. Hallelujah The Hills -- "Honey, Don't It All Seem So Phony" -- Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Trash Can
Historically, we think we can all agree that new material worked up to make an odds 'n' sods compilation more attractive to the music consumer often tends to be nice but not completely remarkable. Remember that relatively recent 'Mats song "Message To The Boys?" It's good, right? But it probably is the last thing to come to mind when you think of The Replacements. Well, by way of contrast, this Hallelujah The Hills track, which made its first appearance on just such a compilation released in May, is a three-alarm fire of what fronter Ryan Walsh calls "chord-based cosmic Americana." Lines of smart lyrics levied rapid-fire over top strident strummery, "Honey, Don't It All Seem So Phony" wins with its witty recitation of failures, foibles and, sort of hidden right there in plain sight, some true unvarnished sentiment. Mr. Walsh takes the song out with a soaring call to arms, but at that point he doesn't have to sell hard: he had us from the first line. Buy Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Trash Can right here.
"...I saw you breaking down in a magazine, and I never told a soul what it meant to me, now I'm on a mission fueled by LSD, trying to break these patterns..."
9. Slowdim -- "Up Stream" -- Slowdim
Another tune with a hook that just won't leave us. We probably could have mastered a foreign language if we had otherwise used the time we spent this year just singing to ourselves the line from the pre-chorus of "Up Stream," "it's OK if you can't remember." The song is a big, bright rocker with great vocal harmonies and clever composition, showcasing what many around these parts know well: Slowdim fronter Paul Sentz is a crazy talented songwritin' mofo. "Up Stream" opened the band's self-titled full-length debut, which was released in March. Buy Slowdim right here.
"... it's ok if you can't remember your name..."
10. Guillermo Sexo -- "Meow Metal" -- Dark Spring
Our year-end list this year has leaned hard toward songs with hooks versus songs with an intense vibe. Well, here's your intense vibe. An other-worldly, epic prog-influenced rocker, a headphones-required exploration of the places that only the veteran Boston-based psych-pop juggernaut Guillermo Sexo can take you. We've never taken steps to confirm or deny that this tune is just about living with a spooky cat, probably because we're afraid knowing one way or the other might somehow diminish the beautiful mystery painted here with Reuben Bettsak's 10 million guitars and singer/keyboardist/birthday girl Noell Dorsey's entrancing vocals. Despite being more than seven minutes in length, "Meow Metal" is not the longest tune on Dark Spring, but it is perhaps the best at capturing the zeitgeist of what Guillermo Sexo was about in 2013. Dark Spring was released by Midriff in September; buy it right here.
"...I saw you first, I have no idea what you see..."