Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Best Songs of 2013 (To me. So far.)

"Letter of Intent" by Ducktails still reigns supreme in 2013.
Of all the technology platforms I've used on an almost daily basis over the years, few have given me as much sheer frustration as iTunes.  Whether that's due to its ever-changing rate of operating speed, it's clunky design, or its almost resolute inability to adapt to change (Have you ever tried changing the drive location of your music library or attempted to retain your playlists from one computer to another? MY GOD.), iTunes and I have been waging a kind of "cold war" for seemingly eons now.

With all that said, if there is a single feature of iTunes I love and rely upon to do the very work I bring to you in this space on a regular basis, it's the little thought of and even less mentioned "star rating" functionality.  This is a feature that I'm quite certain goes back to the original iPod/iTunes design, but one whose usefulness (especially for me) has never waned.  The ability to assign a star rating to songs has allowed me to filter, create playlists, and ultimately evaluate and record my opinion of songs and albums each day.  

Without turning this in to a boring technical article, I'll give you a super simplified explanation of how I evaluate songs:

3 stars - good song
4 stars - really good song
5 stars - absolute standout, excellent song

Isn't science awesome?

Now while this may appear to be an evaluative system that any monkey could come up with (I mean, it is), it's how it's applied that's key.  And while I won't get into all the nerdery I subsequently employ via the star ratings for my iTunes library, what I can tell you is that the "5 star" rating is one I take quite seriously and bestow upon a song with ultra-conservative frequency.

With all that said, I've got a grand total of fourteen 2013 songs that have achieved this vaunted status in my library at present.  So with the goal of presenting to you what I have deemed the best tracks of 2013 thus far, you now have gotten a glimpse of "how the sausage is made", if you will.  A few interesting (at least to me) numbers:

  • 9: the number of the 14 tracks available on Spotify.  This is due to in part to Thom Yorke's much-publicized conflict with Spotify and its artist compensation structure and also due to the next number...
  • 4: the number of the 14 tracks from a single album--the 2013 Italians Do It Better compilation (though you'll never hear a compilation that is so seamlessly executed as a true "album" than this) After Dark 2.  This transcendent 2013 release isn't available on Spotify at the moment, though MAY be eventually (last year's MJR Album of the Year Kill For Love by Chromatics was released in early 2012 but didn't appear on Spotify until Christmas-time I think).  Label co-founder and the instrumental engine behind both Chromatics and Glass Candy, one Johnny Jewel, essentially eschews nearly every industry-standard convention when it comes to releasing, pre-releasing, distributing, and pricing his music.  In addition to composing, playing, producing and meticulously editing (nearly all) of the music himself, he designs the album art, picks the vinyl color, chooses the font, and coordinates almost every aspect of the music product and live-show availability of every band on his label.  The operation can run slowly, but there's no arguing with the quality of the final output.  This is a dictator I can get behind.
  • 9 (again): the total number of albums represented in this list.  I'd love to have as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible, but some promising upcoming fall releases have me encouraged.

So anyway, here's my list of the best songs of 2013.  They're in no particular order, though I did conduct an extremely small Twitter poll asking some of my closer and most well-respected music-listening friends to weigh in with their three favorite (three so as to be 140 character-friendly) 2013 songs.  The list below is in no particular order, but I did rank my current top three as part of the Twitter conversation.  I'd LOVE to get YOUR feedback on your favorite tracks of 2013 thus far.  No seriously, I would.

 For you seedy Spotify-ers out there, I've got a running playlist of my top tracks of 2013 available for your perusal which include (at the time of posting) 112 tracks including all my 5 star selections below (except those previously referenced).  Happy-ish listening, kids.

UPDATE: Due to a couple of requests, I've just added a playable playlist of these 14 songs below via the magic of 8tracks.  Again, I include an 8tracks playlist on EVERY playlist of the week.  It's free, plays from your phone or computer and does NOT re-direct you or require an account of any kind.  Got it?  Good.

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