My 2013 in music

I saw some folks putting these together, and I thought I’d do likewise – it seemed like a fun way to kill a hungover afternoon. The challenge is simple: create a playlist that reflects your year – a track for each month. Something you listened to in that month that stuck out to you, or matched where you were or your mood. I agonized over this for an hour or so. Here’s my list:

  1. Nothing to Say – The Computers. January was me coming off the back of a rough back-end of last year. A lot of emotional bullshit, and for some reason The Computers’ latest album, ‘Love Triangles, Hate Squares’ spoke quite a bit to me. I saw The Computers live before they did this album – they were supporting Bad Religion. They were very different then, and I think something that made me appreciate this latest album more is just how much they’d changed and grown since I saw them live. They’re a small, relatively unknown British band, too, and I’m nothing if not a musical patriot.
  2. Dharma and the Bomb – Bad Religion. Late January saw the release of Bad Religion’s sixteenth(!) studio album, and that made February a very Bad Religion heavy affair. They remain up there with the likes of Elton John, Blur, The Blues Brothers, Michael Jackson and REM as artists who really shaped my musical tastes as a kid and teenager. The new album, True North, is fascinating, as after several much more modern CDs this one is harder, faster, and more reminiscent of the band they were when they reshaped the landscape of punk in the 90s shortly before Crazy Taxi introduced me to them. It’s full of killer 2-minute tracks and is in a very lyrically different place to the last few anti-government driven releases. I’ve picked this particular one because out of the gate lyrically it doesn’t sound like a Bad Religion song, but then Greg’s oh-so unique voice rises up and kicks in, and it’s fuckin’ magic.
  3. God Only Knows – Phil Keaggy (Cov. The Beach Boys). My choice for March is inspired by another release that month, but in videogames – Bioshock Infinite. The game is one of my favourite of the year, in part due to a time-bending story that – of course – made this Doctor Who fan very happy. A version of this track pops up sung by a Barbershop Quartet, plagiarized in-universe from our world to pop up in the fantastical world of Columbia more than 50 years before it was originally written thanks to a hole in the fabric of time. That version of the track is great, but it also reminded me how much I love the original. I listened to a lot of that, but also stumbled upon this lovely acoustic version casting about on Spotify. The track also really suits where I was personally in March as well, to be honest.
  4. Get Lucky – Daft Punk. I’m not sure there can be a music-of-the-year list without this release from April, right? It’s almost undoubtedly the most successful and pervasive release of the year, and that’s largely because it’s almost bloody perfect. I admire Daft Punk, more driven by electronic composition, for different reasons to why I admire most of the other artists on this list, but my god. This song. The album itself is actually not their best, but this song is something else. As I slogged through a very busy April, this track kept me busy and happy quite a bit. The weird thing is I’m still not tired of it – a miracle considering the radio/club play it still gets.
  5. How Does The Grass Grow? – David Bowie. It actually took me longer to ‘get around’ to David Bowie’s masterful new album, The Next Day, than I’d have strictly liked. It was about May before I really sat and listened to it. The man is a genius, and it’s clear that while it’s been a while since his last release he hasn’t been slacking – he crams a decade of creativity for other artists into that album. How Does The Grass Grow is probably my favourite – as while I love some of the more emotional ballads that evoke tracks like Space Oddity and Life on Mars, one of my favourite songs of all time, there’s some brilliant, clever stuff here. This is a song that lyrically asks questions about the nature of war, but it’s set to some excellent playing and a surreal, joyful-sounding “la la la” chorus that contrasts with the chant of “Blood, Blood, Blood” – the answer to the question of how the grass grows. That CD was basically my May – especially some of the more emotionally-charged songs – but this remains the stand-out.
  6. Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood. This track owes its place on the list to simple luck – it’s on my iPod. It’s a classic. On the second Monday of June before E3 2013 – Press Conference day – I dragged myself out of bed, hungover, and began to prepare to head out towards Microsoft’s conference. As I got ready, I put my iPod on shuffle play. The first track to pop was this, and it felt like a perfect, solar-eclipse sort of alignment of interests. It’s a song with energy, and it immediately got me pumped up for an incredibly hard day of work, but more obvious than that is how perfect the song was for that day, the day that the ‘war’ between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One would begin in absolute earnest. I think I will now forever, forever associate this song with that year’s E3.
  7. What’s the Difference – Dr. Dre (feat Eminem, Xzibit). I stayed in LA for the back end of June, but cancelled plans to stick around even longer for a myriad number of reasons. Some of those reasons were driven by personal stuff, some of it money, a lot of shit, really. I came back pissed off, frustrated and upset about a lot of different things. So I spent most of July listening to classic 90s/00s rap – lots of Dre, lots of Eminem, some Biggie, etcetera. I could’ve listened to a bunch of sad songs, which is what I usually do, but this year I just wasn’t in the mood. This has always been one of my favourites from the amazing Chronic 2001. “What’s the difference between us? We can start at the penis — or we can just scream ‘I don’t give a fuck’ and see who means it!”
  8. Guns of Brixton/I Fought the Law – Anti Flag (Cov. The Clash). August was a punk month. The sun is out, the heat is beating down, and there’s the yearly trip to Germany for Gamescom. The month always feels energetic – Gamescom is a lot less draining than E3 – and punk always ends up feeling appropriate. I actually don’t like Anti Flag’s newer stuff as much, but this dual cover of two of The Clash’s finest songs is really one of the best things they’ve ever done. I was working through my irritation from June slowly, and had transitioned from aggressive rap to boisterous punk. By the next month, the personal salt was washed away almost entirely.
  9. Carrie – Europe. I love myself a bit of 80s cheese, and so do the lads. September saw 14 of us descend on one poor all-inclusive venue (who were very gracious and good to us) for a big holiday. After a few days there one thing was clear – we were the rulers of the ‘Vulcano’, the ‘Night club’ that was more a dilapidated disco. Every single night we requested this track, and every single night we’d drunkenly bawl it in the closing hour before the club shut its doors and turfed us out. I went from only knowing the Chorus to knowing every single word of this track in the space of a week. It’s a great song, too – but regardless of quality of the song itself, it is now attached to the memory of my brilliant, stupid idiot friends singing, and Jack getting so drunk he had to use the door-frame of the club’s single toilet to remain upright. Good times.
  10. ¬†Convoy – C.W. McCall. September also saw the release of Grand Theft Auto V, though I actually ended up playing most of it in October. Convoy was a stand-out track from the game’s amazing radio station line-up – I’m not much of a country buff, and I had no idea this incredibly fun song existed. It caught on with us, the same people who became obsessed with Carrie, quickly. Once the online mode launched, we realized with glee, that our radios were in sync. We’d sing Convoy when it came on, into our Xbox Live Party, like nutters. We went paintballing later, and somehow Convoy was sung as we were besieged in a tiny hut and struggled to fight off the enemy. So thanks for that, GTA.
  11. Asshole – Eminem. The last few Eminem albums have been hit-and-miss for me. I certainly didn’t think Relapse & Recovery were as bad as some claimed, but they weren’t classic. I cringed when I heard the name of his new album, marking it a sequel to an all-time great that really is a defining CD of my teenage years. But… mostly, he carries it off. There’s some stinkers, but mostly November’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is a great CD, with some quality sequels to classic tracks. Asshole isn’t a sequel, but is one of my favourites off the CD all the same. I love the beat, I love the chorus (there’s nothing wrong with a pop star cameo if it’s well used), and the lyrics and flow are the man at his best. He’s grown a lot lyrically, too.
  12. White Christmas – Bad Religion (Cov. Irving Berlin). December means Christmas! Obviously. Bad Religion doing a Christmas CD is basically poetry to me. Those guys performing a piece like ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ is subversive by its very nature, and I love that. This cover of White Christmas, allegedly the best-selling song ever, is great.¬†There’s no other version of this song quite like this, and thus on this list it doesn’t just represent Christmas to me, but the idea of something old and tried and tested taken and pushed and experimented with in an exciting direction very different from how it’s been before. There’s a few things in my life I’d like to accomplish that next year. So here goes…