Sunday, 8 December 2013

Top 113 Songs of 2013, #50 - 41

Give it up for Manor, Sia, Michelle Xen and Little May!

#50. Beautiful Parade
by Colour Bomb

So I hold on to something, just long enough,
To watch it all float away. 

“We’ve been dancing to heartbeats in our mind”. I love the opening lyrics of 'Beautiful Parade'. This vocal tone of the lead singer – whose *name* I don’t know reminds me of Chris Martin (Coldplay). This is a good thing in my books. Stretched out sounds, intimately sung with more than a hint of passion work beautifully in 'Beautiful Parade'. 

*All my searches led to the Colour Bomb being described as “two consenting adults”. Hence not sure of singer’s name.* (Lou Endicott)

Man, this is a nice sinister little pop song, but not in a dark kind of way. You think it’s just another little indie pop number, but then comes the chorus, they hit the high notes “it’s a beautiful parade” and something weird happens. It makes you listen, gets stuck in your head and a couple of hours later you’re singing “watch it all float away-ay-ay” but you don’t quite know how it got there. This is an awesome, polished and addictive little song that creeps into your psyche and keeps you singing for hours afterward. Sinister, see? (Jo Michelmore)

It’s nice, sweet, simple and good to have on while cleaning the house. (Nayt Housman)

“We’ve been dancing, to heartbeats in our minds.” I don’t know much about the “two consenting adults” that comprise Melbourne’s Colour Bomb, but I know they make great music. ‘Beautiful Parade’ is three and a half minutes of faultless pop perfection. Smooth vocals, a memorable hook that sticks in your mind and that vibe that makes you want to run around golden fields with no clothes on. No, wait, that’s just what happens at the end of the video. It might not make we want to get nekkid in the wild, but it does make me want to dance. (Matt Bond)

#49. Sirens
by Pearl Jam

I pull you close, so much to lose knowing nothing lasts forever,
I didn't care before you were here. 

Welcome back, Pearl Jam! It’s been a long time between songs, but these grunge gurus are back with a new album. ‘Sirens’ is their second single and I can definitely hear the Pink Floyd feel they were aiming for. I don’t want to be another fan girl oo-ing and aah-ing over Eddie Vedder because yes, the band is more than just the vocalist. They’re all extremely talented musicians, but, for me, that distinctive Eddie Vedder croon is what makes Pearl Jam, and ‘Sirens’. He does the crooning, and I do the swooning. (Katie Langley)

I don’t really know what to say about ‘Sirens’ other than it’s a really beautiful song with an incredible guitar solo. Pearl Jam manage to release music as moving and full of emotion as they did in the 90s, while aging gracefully. You stay classy, Eddie Vedder and friends. “Want you to know that should I go, I always loved you, held you high above, true.” Great lyrics, great song. (Matt Bond)

Pearl Jam! I remember you! You were good when there was scraggy long “rock hair” and before that horrible cover of that song I don’t even want to think about because I know it will infect me for a week. Dammit, now I’ve thought about it… Anyway 'Sirens' isn’t bad, it’s listenable and possibly even singable to. Thankfully it’s not yet at the point of anything Creed or Nickelback have inflicted us with, so that’s always good too. (Nayt Housman)  

Dear Nayt. Oh where, oh where can my baby be? The lord took her away from me. She's gone to heaven so I've got to be good. So I can see my baby when I leave... this world. 'Last Kiss' is awesome, haters to the left. (Matt Bond) 

There’s a lyric in almost every Pearl Jam song I adore. Now, I’m not saying Eddie Vedder is some kind of poet, or classic writer or person to be revered amongst songwriters (even though sometimes I think he should). I’m not saying that he’s more talented than anyone else or more intellectual than your average rock star. I’m not going to say Pearl Jam are the greatest of musicians, or leaders in any evolutionary musical uprising, or anything like that. All I’m going to say is that when Pearl Jam do heartfelt, they do it really, really well and as a Pearl Jam fan and like a lot of Pearl Jam songs manage to do to Pearl Jam fans, there’s a little wave of spine tingling “oh” that happens when I hear that voice of Eddie’s singing from his heart in such a way; “it’s a fragile thing, this life we lead…” (Jo Michelmore)

I can’t help but have a soft spot for Pearl Jam and Mr Eddie Vedder. The early catalogue of music produced by Pearl Jam helped soundtrack my coming of age with its rebellious styling and grungy alternate attitude. Although I don’t listen to Pearl Jam much these days I do keep my ear to the ground to see what the band is up to. And hence this new single which I really enjoyed in 2013 caught my attention. This new instalment of Pearl Jam, while staying true to the band's strengths as a rock outfit, have some extra delicious ingredients like piano underneath and gutsy harmonies. The song is a mellow rock ballad that appeals to my older ears without me feeling too much like I am an out of touch old fogey. (Lou Endicott)

#48. Lose My Cool
by Michelle Xen

My head is swimming,
With all the things you say and do. 

You know when someone screws you over or something and you keep calling them just to hear their voice but you hate them so you don’t speak and you’re breathing heavily into the phone then you have this weird voice in your head that sounds like it’s spoken through one of those voice masking devices telling you to do awful things so you start yelling and then you get a smashing headache so you drink a bottle of vodka and take those mystery pills from the back of the cupboard and it only makes everything so much worse? No? Well I’m not saying Michelle Xen does either, but 'Lose My Cool' is so deliciously delirious that I can’t help but make up such fantasies in my head. Yes, in my head. 'Lose My Cool' is addictively dark ‘n’ dirty bass heavy electro pop that really connects with my primal, unhinged crazy person in the most sexy, neontastic way. Now read this again out loud without taking a breath. (Nayt Housman)

Michelle Xen. She’s like a force of synth pop nature, consistently coming up with tracks that leave me in awe of Australia’s new electro royalty. ‘Lose My Cool’ had me hooked right from the start, with those sleek, dark and sexy beats that open the track and the first lines, “the room is spinning, and hell I don’t know what to do.” I also thoroughly enjoy the irony in a track called ‘Lose My Cool’ being one of the coolest tracks of the year. Xen has arguably been the most fascinating Australian female artist of the year, yet has received nowhere near the attention she should have. Let’s change that in 2014. The On For You EP is out now and, as Nayt will tell you, it’s one of the best we’ve heard all year. (Matt Bond)

'Lose My Cool' in a nutshell is cool industrial alternate girl pop. And it’s done very well. The film clip is a trippy kaleidoscope of colourful flowers, spandex 80s inspired clothes and neon lights all sported by the very glam Michelle Xen. This song appeals to the teen in me that sings with a hairbrush still in my bedroom and pretends to be a pop star as I bust out my best power moves. I’m surprised that Michelle hasn’t got more attention with this song or clip – as they are both done so well. I love the pop theatrics, the outfits and the makeup that Michelle seems to always add into her clips. And I know some people might look like a blueberry ready for squeezing wearing them, but where does a gal get amazing fuchsia lycra leggings like Michelle’s from? (I’m asking for a friend….) (Lou Endicott)

Michelle Xen, I get the feeling you’re a bit of a badass, and I love it. ‘Lose My Cool’ is dramatic, edgy and my own personal theme tune for when I’m in a foul mood. (Katie Langley)

#47. Boardwalks 
by Little May

You could never run but you said you'd run with me.

Here it is. Perhaps my favourite song of 2013. Perhaps (there are SO many gems this year it’s always hard to pick one). But this one is definitely up there. The gentle finger picking and sweet lullaby rhythm that this song begins with just makes my heart melt like an ice-cream in the sun. But maybe what I love more than anything here is the exquisite vocal blending of the three members of this Sydney music outfit. The build in this song gets me every time. The drums underneath just sing out to be heard again and again. These girls know how to make great music and I can’t wait to see them live for the first time next week!! (yes, lucky me). I have a feeling that this band is destined for huge things. (Lou Endicott)

‘Boardwalks’ is beautiful, just beautiful, although the song is tinged with a little sadness. “Somebody told me you were leaving town, I swear I never thought you'd be the one who'd let me down”, they sing. Who left you Little May? You tell me and I’ll sort them out. Although, I’m not sure that I’ll need to. The tempo of the track changes towards the end of the song - a sign that all is not lost, and that any broken hearts will be repaired, particularly with the closing lyric “give me back what's mine”. (Katie Langley)

‘Boardwalks’ is a gorgeous, gorgeous song with three beautiful voices weaving harmonies that will leave you a little breathless, a little weak at the knees and completely head over heels in love with Sydney trio, Little May. The track lightly builds up, focusing on the dreamy/wistful voices at the start alongside folky guitars, before racing towards the percussive heavy finish line. Liz Drummond, Hannah Field and Annie Hamilton are already being called the ‘next big thing’ by so many music blog peeps we love and we couldn’t agree more. (Matt Bond)

This reminds me a lot of the songs on Emiliana Torrini’s genius album, Fisherman’s Woman. So gentle and serene with the most heart-warming sentiments and that lazy Sunday afternoon feel. Just sit back, relax and drift into your memories. Beautiful. (Nayt Housman)

Just be prepared, in six months’ time, when someone asks you where you first heard about Little May, you’re going to say “on this great blog I read” and then you’re going to mention another blog ‘cause you probably forgot it was here. I don’t really care what you say; with songs like this, I just want Little May to become so popular that people start asking that question. (Jo Michelmore)

When we had a chat with Little May's Liz Drummond in July, she told us the story behind 'Boardwalks'...

Liz Drummond:  'Boardwalks' was written a while ago. I had originally recorded a demo on Garageband in my bedroom. I showed it to the girls when we formed as a band, and we decided to rework it; Han took on the lead vocal, we added harmonies and Annie added catchy guitar hooks. It was written coming out of a long term relationship. I was looking to move forward, travel and pursue music. Every song on the EP has a pretty particular vibe.  Whilst they all fall into the 'folk' category, a couple of the tracks gravitate towards a bigger sound. We were listening to a lot of Local Natives and Half Moon Run around the time we were recording. Percussively, we drew a lot of inspiration from them. There is a real mixture of stripped back stuff, but also a real focus on layering and building the songs. And harmonies, of course.   

#46. Architecture
by Manor

I don't try to believe in, leaving...

Pass me the flares, ‘cos I’m feeling funky! As soon as ‘Architecture’ begins I visualise a disco ball reflecting light onto a packed dance floor. People are smiling, and there’s a lot of thrusting. In my ideal fantasy it would also include scantily clad men in gold hot pants. But I digress. There’s a real groovy (yes, cringe, I just said that) bass line to ‘Architecture’ that’s infectious. Couple that with sweet, ethereal vocals to create a really unique track. I’m dancing right now, aren’t you? (Katie Langley)

I think my original review of ‘Architecture’ said something along the lines of Manor featuring the silky, dreamy vocal work of Caitlin Duff, with Nathaniel Morse providing the sweet, sweet music. Between the swoon worthy opening guitar work and Duff’s ‘Sweet Disposition’-ish kick off, I was sold on Manor’s third single ‘Architecture’ by about the twenty second mark. This is the sound of a chilled out summer’s day, a long drive to the coast and some afternoon beverages by the water. This is the sound of the next great Australian indie-pop act. I can’t throw enough praise in the direction of Duff’s voice that expertly glides across three and a half minutes of incredible music escapism. Actually, that’s exactly what I said. What? (Matt Bond)

Oh, the intellectual jokes I could make about a song called ‘Architecture’ from a band with a name that is also a type of house, but we all know I’m not so intellectual and I just write some words about music and things that I likes on this blog. So, instead I’ll say simple things about Manor being a great little duo from Melbourne who write nice little songs full of layered instruments and wistful sounding vocals. I’ll also write some words about how much I like it, which is quite large amounts of like. So many likes that if they were rooms, there’d be many of them, all inside a stately manor. Architecture. Manor. Get it? Duh. (Jo Michelmore)

Another soft and lilting gem this year is 'Architecture' by Melbourne duo, Manor. I enjoyed the rolling lyrical structure and almost round like quality that singer Caitlin Duff plays with in this track. The effect is hypnotic yet uplifting. (Lou Endicott)

I’m pretty sure most of this top 113 could just be compiled as a chillout album. There are so many fabulously cool, chillicious tracks including this. Architecture has this awesome funk riff that starts it off and then like quick spray of WD-40 the vocals glide in effortlessly and make sure the whole assembly runs smooth as silk. (Nayt Housman) 

#45. West End
by Astrid and The Asteroids

I'm burning incense galore, it's just so hard being poor,
Might even make it to the status on my iPhone 4... 

Hahahahaha this is awesome and offensive. I’M NOT A HIPSTER! I needn’t worry though; I don’t go out in public enough to fit most of these descriptions. I’m “hermit chic.” Look it up. But seriously there will always be a satirical song to put all the current trends in their place and few do it as impressively as 'West End'. Whether you are offended or filled with joy by Astrid And The Asteroids satire you simply have to be impressed by their “pop-tire” genius. I’m not offended. STOP LOOKING AT ME! (Nayt Housman)

Perhaps I should just clarify this from the beginning. If you’re expecting a smash hit dramatic number form a smash hit musical when you heard this song, you might be disappointed. However, whichever city you live in, they all have a West End. If your hometown is tiny, then maybe your West End is just a street, or maybe it’s smaller than that, maybe it’s a shop or two. If you live in a thriving metropolis, then your West End might be numerous suburbs or localities, spread across various parts of the town. But wherever you live, it’s there. If you live in Brisbane, your West End happens to be called West End and it hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years. This is probably not making sense to anyone who’s not from Brisbane, but Astrid and the Asteroids seem to make sense of it, incredibly accurately. Not only did they describe it perfectly, they made a clip with a guy in a cat shirt and they made it all sound a lot better than a lot of the music I’ve heard on the streets of my own hometown’s West End. (Jo Michelmore)

I was born in Brisbane and lived there up until my late 20's. During my 20's I worked in South Brisbane as an acting coach. My team of teachers (and students too) would hang out before and after class in West End. The bohemian feel of the area as well as the multi cultural landscape meant a relaxed place to chill out without pretentions. Much like Fortitude Valley (which used to be a welcoming sanctuary for students, artists and the more left-wing people ), West End is a changing landscape. Although there are still pockets of awesome in Brisbane, on the whole it can be a little sad to see the grassroots community feel of a place shift to a more corporate and bland area. I posted this clip up earlier in the year and a good friend who lives in West End (and has for many, many years) said, “this song is about people who VISIT West End, not people who live or work there.” Touche. I really enjoyed the comedy of this song laced with its irony about the “new hipster” culture that seems to be the thing at the moment. It’s the old adage that what was underground becomes mainstream. And when that happens unfortunately the true flavour of something can lose its authenticity and thus its appeal. 

However this song’s appeal for me is still going strong in its originality and musicality and it deserves a place in this countdown as a standout of 2013. (Lou Endicott)

I have a sudden urge to sing with a really breathy tone, have an organic soy tea and be so street chic with all my frieeeeeends. While ‘West End’ is taking a friendly jab to the face of Brisbane’s hippest hang in town, I love that anyone, anywhere in the (admittedly Western) world can appreciate the satirical hipster vision being applied throughout the song. Astrid and The Asteroids get their groove on here and get those feet of yours moving. ‘West End’ is pure indie pop fun with killer vocals. 4101 for life! (Matt Bond)

#44. Elastic Heart
by Sia ft. The Weeknd and Diplo

And I know that I can survive,
I'll walk through fire to save my life. 

When she’s not too busy writing songs for every single performing artist on the face of the planet, Sia can concoct some brilliant tracks of her own. Unsurprisingly, Sia always does the tracks she wrote better. Can you imagine ‘Elastic Heart’ in the hands of anyone else? Don’t! It’ll make you feel mighty sad. Joined by the silky smooth vocals of The Weeknd and featuring Diplo on fist pumping production duties, ‘Elastic Heart’ is a more than welcome return to performing prominence for the world’s most in-demand songwriter. Her sixth studio LP is in the works as we speak and if this is the direction she’ll be taking, I approve. I very approve. (Matt Bond)

This is Sia flexing her superior pop writing muscles and making the rest of the pop world sit back and take notice. None of Sia’s pop contemporaries can scoff or claim superiority because she’s more than likely written for them and even if she hasn’t, I almost bet their best writing skills could barely scratch the mighty armour of words built up around this supreme being of pleasure (aural pleasure that is and see what I did there? Maybe only lovers of 00s electrip-hop will get it). Elastic heart is power pop at it’s best and although it shows off the kind of production driven by the money making music machine, it still gleams with the kind of light that has made Sia such an endearing, individual and spectacular musician. Its glitch beat and synth balance the super shiny pop exterior and give Sia’s golden voice the highest platform of which to soar. Oh and there’s some other singer in this song too but the autotune was required to bring “whoever it is” to even a 10th of what Sia delivers.

She might not be at the top of the charts, may not be in as many tabloids and may not have as many fans chanting her name in the streets as some more infamous pop stars, but with this kind of raw talent and a voice more distinct than the roar of a lion (that was the most powerful cliché I could think of) then she hardly needs any tricks of the trade. I enjoy watching the list of pop divas lining up to have Ms Furler write half their album. BAM. *This was in no way a bias review from a fan whom has been there from the beginning* (Nayt Housman)

Well, I think that Nayt has captured the sentiment perfectly. There’s a lot to love about this song, and there’s a reason that it features on the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – it’s awesome (duh), with power and strength to match the movie. This isn’t a song about feeling sorry for yourself, and crying into your cornflakes. It’s the perfect anthem for when you’re feeling defiant, and resilient. The line in the chorus “well I've got a thick skin and an elastic heart” will become your own personal mantra. (Katie Langley)

I love the kooky voice and music that Sia produces. And here is another one of her offerings. This time The Weekend + Diplo are an added feature and add a new flavour to the brew. “I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart,” Sia sings. The age old once bitten twice shy theme of self protection after hurt is still one that the musicians, poets and story makers play with. I love the attitude behind this song with its smack in the face electronic beats and layered vocal backing wails. (Lou Endicott)

Maybe I’m the only person in the world that hasn’t seen The Hunger Games, but then, I’m like that when it comes to film. I’ll get around to it when I get a chance, if ever. There’s too much music to listen to, which is what I tend to do rather than watch the movies that music sometimes comes from. So the fact that Sia wrote this for one of The Hunger Games’ soundtracks doesn’t mean a lot to me. What does mean a lot is whether the person who writes for so many other pop stars and is the ‘featuring’ part of so many other artists songs can do pop herself. I guess this song is proof she can, even if she does has to have others do the ‘featuring’ part for her. (Jo Michelmore)

#43. Given The Chance
by The Kite String Tangle

Girl you know I like you,
Girl you make me crazy... 

The first time I heard this song, I fell in love. Immediately. The second time I heard this song, I listened carefully, I heard all its parts and sounds and I fell in love, again. The third time I heard this song, I listened to the lyrics and I heard every one of them and while they were simple, they were addictive and I fell in love, again. The fourth time I listened I turned it up, loudly and declared this would be one of my favourites for the whole year and I fell in love, again. The fifth time is irrelevant, because there have been countless times since then, and everything I felt the first, second, third, fourth and fifth times was just confirmed again and every single time I listen, I fall in love, again and again. (Jo Michelmore) 

Much like the effect that Chet Baker has on my ears, this song by The Kite String Tangle (aka solo artist Danny Harley) drew me in with its soft male vocals and plucky gorgeous little electronic soundscapes. 'Given The Chance' also has a Moby-esque feel with its wailing backing vocal builds that suggest the emotion of either a breakdown or a breakthrough. Either way I enjoyed listening to this song this year. (Lou Endicott)

Now this is electronic music I can get behind! Front man Danny Harley’s vocals create a sound that’s beautiful and dreamy. ‘Given the Chance’ is the kind of song that puts its arms around you for a big hug. It’s not one of those awkward man hugs where they pat each other repeatedly on the back and stick their bums out to prevent full body contact. It’s a hug that pulls you in close and never lets you go – you feel safe and happy. It could just be the perfect soundtrack for summer. I’m kicking myself as I’ve only just discovered this musical gold, but pleased to hear Danny is based in my hometown of Brisbane. I’m looking forward to blissing out at a show sometime in the near future. (Katie Langley)

Add this lil poppit to the chillout list too. Feels like a bit of Jose Gonzalez, a little bit of Massive Attack, a little bit of Trent Moller and probably a bunch of other equally unique, chilly artists. (Nayt Housman)

#42. Fall Underneath
by Snakadaktal

Well I don't know if there's treasures in the ocean,
Or if death will whisk me far away... 

It’s probably just me but the band name “Snakadaktal” feels like it should be for some grungy garage rock, yet when I play their music which is so serene and beautiful it conjures images of a lone cloud in a summer sky, then I say their name out loud, “SNA-ka-DAK-tal” and I get ‘stink face’. Rant over. Otherwise, 'Fall Underneath' is another special track by these talented youngsters which, as mentioned conjures lovely images of summery skies and along with the quirky 70s influenced video gives a carefree sensibility that is all consuming. (Nayt Housman)

When I think of Snakadaktal, this is the song that first comes to mind, these are the notes I first hear. Lucky they’re good ones, but then, this is a band that seems to smash together only good notes into good songs, so any would do. Regardless, it’s those hand claps and the synths that get me every time. Snakadaktal are dreamy, they’re catchy, they're pop and they're dance and they’re not really that easy to describe, but ‘Fall Underneath’ is all of those things, which are all really good things, so it doesn't matter how you describe it really, does it? (Jo Michelmore) 

Here’s another gem from Aussie band, Snakadaktal. This song is another favourite chill out song of 2013. The dream pop feel that this song creates is one that leaves me floating - particularly with the beautiful falsetto voice of Phoebe Cockburn. 'Fall Underneath' is one I have put on this year when I just wanted to have a brain/ear massage (metaphorically speaking!) and just let all the unwanted stuff go. (Lou Endicott)

Like jeeze, like… wow. Snakadaktal know how to make you feel like you’re living in the best dream ever. Don’t believe me? Just listen to ‘Fall Underneath.’ This is what dreams are made of, if you dream of blissful electronic indie. And why wouldn’t you? (Matt Bond)

#41. Never Expire
by Gossling

But your heart was the furthest thing away...

The love child of Joanna Newsome and James Blake? Maybe. Vocally, Gossling always reminds me of a smoother version of Ms Newsome and although her tales are not epic sixteen-minute marathons, they still make their home in your heart. I really love Gossling’s cute childlike voice and how it really marries with the instrumentation on 'Never Expire' and I love her way with words. “You told me words that will never expire, watch what my body says when you’re caught being a liar, I’ll fire words as staccato sounds, grinding my teeth, shoulders tightly wound.” Gossling has been making big impact in music over the last few years and rightly so. Lets hope her music never expires. (Nayt Housman)

I had the privilege of interviewing Gossling (aka Helen Croome). I have been a little fascinated with ever since. I love her grounded down to earth approach to her music, her unique voice and her beautiful songs. 'Never Expire' the first release from the brilliant album Harvest of Gold is a fantastic example of the moody magic that Gossling creates. “You told me words that I once admired” sings Gossling. Reflecting back on the interview earlier in the year, her words and songs are still ones that I admire. (Lou Endicott)

While we were getting all excited about her upcoming BIGSOUND Live performance, Gossling was awesome (as per usual) and answered some q's from Lou. Here, she talks about what inspires her songwriting...

Gossling: Many things inspire me, from other artists to films, to friends and their relationships. My songwriting process is usually to create a melody idea or chord progression first and then the lyrics are the last things to arrive. Writing alone is definitely quite a different experience to collaborating with another artist. They both have their pros and cons however. I guess when you are writing alone you are in compete control and only have yourself to consider, however you're then stuck with only one brain and sometimes two brains on the one job can create something even more unique and original.  

See you tomorrow for ten more astounding, audacious and amazing songs from 2013!


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