Hidden Gems: 2020k’s Top Ten Tracks of 2013

In this monthly feature, guest contributor RJ Kozain (2020k) shares with us the latest sonic finds that have made themselves at home on his playlists — treasures perhaps not easily stumbled upon.  Look for our monthly round-up of favourites on 2020k, Northern Lights and feel free to suggest your treasures on Twitter or Facebook.

Hidden Gems is an infrasound series on this blog wherein I present to you my own random musical finds that I will subjectively pack into one combined blog entry. These gem entries are presented in hopes that these songs make their way from my playlist to yours. The majority of these releases are songs that’ve been dug up by surprise, that have taken me whole, and refused to let me go. It’s in promotion of music and the joy it brings.

Any genre, any timeframe, any artist.

I encourage you to follow these artists in whichever way you find convenient. I’ve placed their profiles here through embedding the featured song. While you’re at it, follow me through my own musical endeavors over at my official website; updated fairly recently with new unearthed (and recognized) projects, as well as original material, located here.

This month, we take a break from five tracks to bring you a special posting of the top 10 songs of 2013 as told by 2020k.

10. Andre Obin – Lemondrop

Originally brought up in an earlier Hidden Gems volume, Cambridge based Electronic Pop musician Andre Obin’s soaringly synthesized “Lemondrop” breathes melodic joy as much as it does intricate programming. Vocals drenched in reverberation and alive with stereo delay relate the innocence of lemondrop candy to losing control, with only one place to go. Most likely a drug reference, but possibly only a relation to a special place make the lyrical content found inside “Lemondrop” as haunting amongst its nativity. While traditional in song structure, Obin explores constructing avenues that disguise accessibility by repeating and expanding upon main vocal melodies enough that they become relative to one another; seeking double meaning inside the more obscure sections of the song. Each section could be a chorus, a verse, a bridge – you get it. It’s an intelligent piece originally released as a lone EP single back in 2012, eventually finding its way onto Andre’s debut record The Arsonist [download] in March.

09. Daft Punk – Doin’ it Right (Featuring Panda Bear)

French electronica would be nothing without Daft Punk. In fact, innovation seems to be built into the two human beings that make up the robotic duo. Arguably, Random Access Memories is one of the most authentic, organic electronic based records released in recent time; making at least one of the tracks from their fourth studio release a shoe in for tasteful sound waves. The Panda Bear (of Animal Collective fame) aided “Doin’ it Right” brings forth the classic repetition found throughout Daft Punk’s discography, successfully doubles a vocoder as a never-ending hook as well as a lead selling point inside of instrumentation, and lays simplistic percussion on top of it all. It’s possible to get lost inside of the eclectic RAM disc, and it’s the one that will let you know how right the magic actually is.

08. Burial – Come Down To Us

“Excuse me, I’m lost,” begins the final track to the December released Rival Dealers EP. “Come Down To Us” completely obliterates down into the soul, becoming one of the most sociopolitical songs inside of the prolific UK musician’s entire career. In fact, in the review over at 2020k, we state that this seems to be the “most difficult Burial record to understand sonically and it’s by no means an accident. This is a crucial piece, if not the crucial piece inside of the Burial discography as it stands thus far.” Sexuality, love, self-love, self-conflict, society’s backwards standards – it’s all described in instrumental and vocal sampled detail, sprinkled throughout the duration of this thirteen minute and seven second epic. Don’t be afraid to step into the unknown and give this one a few deep listens – it most certainly deserves it.

07. Fiona Apple – Pure Imagination

Featured in a short film animation by the fair trade oriented Mexican restaurant Chipotle, Fiona Apple takes on a cover of Gene Wilder song’s “Pure Imagination” from Willie Wonka. What transpires within the song itself is a universe of that’s both uplifting, brooding, and cross-genre in so many aspects that it fits perfectly inside of a mood only Apple Apple can successfully deliver. The goosebump moment happens often, distinctly amongst the soaring “if you want to view paradise simply look around a view it” line, with it’s response lyric “want to change the world? There’s nothing to it,” emotionally lingering. What happens when Fiona steps up to the microphone is never less than compelling, mostly boundless in possibilities of the human psyche experience. Known for picking out perfect cover songs, this one was passed down to the songwriter’s life at a perfect time – ending The Idler Wheel… experimentation, “Pure Imagination” gears back toward traditional, filled musical arrangements for that stellar, full voice.

06. Moby – The Lonely Night (Featuring Mark Lanegan)

Mark Lanegan’s husky vocal delivery on “The Lonely Night,” is enough to make the hairs on a grown man’s arm stand straight up. Featured on Moby’s Innocents record, the teaser single delivers signature Moby string patches, spring reverb on drum machines, but remains epic amongst the sparse composition. There’s not much you can type about this song as it evokes lonely nights in such an honest fashion that it needs nothing more than a proper headphone listen to make this track’s loyal viewpoint of disturbed solitude.

05. Lusine – February

Ghostly International is known for unique blends (literally, now) all over the landscape of electronic music. Lusine seems to be at the forefront of this table, most times, and made no exception with the final track on his February released The Waiting Room. Appropriately titled “February” (though we’re sure this is more coincidental in terms of album release date/song title), the seven minute track bounces through panned vocal samples, a straight pulsing kick/snare combination, and creates a one-of-a-kind mood of optimism amongst progressive pop, electronic, and dance genres. It’s impossible not to nod your head or want to end a DJ set with this calmer, as it chills out as much as it brings sunshine.

04. M.I.A. – Bring The Noize (Single Version)

M.I.A. is constantly aggressive, but when Interscope records sent her Matangi record through several delays for being too positive, the world collectively tilted their heads to the side like a confused dog. On the proper lead single to the release, “Bring The Noize” pays homage to Public Enemy and schizophrenically dives through hoops of percussive lines, complete with Switch and Surkin produced army-esque repetition. A couple Wikileaks references and bank blaming lines later, an interpolation of Janis Joplin’s famous “Freedom is just another word” lyrics is slyly incorporate into the song’s outro, that confrontational asks you to choose. Choose to bring the noise.

03. Boards of Canada – Nothing is Real

While Tomorrow’s Harvest is filled to the brim with brooding musical layers of which describe a place between dystrophy, science fiction inklings, and worldwide change, there’s a level of difficulty a bit higher than the previous records Michael and Marcus Sandison have crafted. That being said, it’s a magnificent staple of artwork in the alternative electronic music scene, the duo’s discography, and Warp Records’ catalog in general. “Nothing is Real” yearns for the nostalgic subject Boards of Canada have come to be known for, and is as much nostalgic of their earlier material as it is of subjects in general. Inside of it contains a melody you can hum upside laid-back hip-hop inspired percussion and soaring pad sounds. However, while “Nothing is Real” could be the more mature, older brother to “ROYGBIV” from Music Has a Right to Children, it’s place on Tomorrow’s Harvest is highly warranted, especially during the vocal samples that question “Jesus, was it you indeed to flirt unkindly with my greed?”

02. Cults – High Road

Also mentioned previously on a Hidden Gems volume, Cults truly proved their progression from debut record to autobiographical sophomore breakup record with “High Road” and it’s accompanied music video. Exuberant reverberation surrounds Madeline Follin’s vocals as she laments regret of taking taking low blows instead of high roads. It’s the continuation of the band’s nostalgic vibe on this song that demonstrates a growth in the band that makes the repeat button on “High Road” being pressed abused it was the lifeline to keeping this cult alive. The Baio Remix is also worth a listen.

01. Lorde – Tennis Court

No explanation needed. If you disagree, I’ll meet you down at the Tennis Court. We’ll talk it out like yeah. Yeah.

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