Lorde-y, Lorde-y, if 2013’s breakout artists indicate anything, we have vast amounts of superb tunes to look forward to.
From Chance the Rapper to Haim, acts who hit their strides this year competed with the likes of Vampire Weekend and Kanye West. Because of this group’s diversity, there’s something for everyone.
Haim and Savages dominated alt-rock this year, and the groups include just one similar characteristic: charismatic songstresses front both.
From robo-synths to slow, electric rhythm patterns, ‘80s hits molded Haim’s sound. But having emulated acts from an awful music era, the band has transcended the success of its influences with a string of hits and its debut album, “Days Are Gone.”
The band’s “The Wire” stands out as 2013’s best single and sounds more like golden age rock than anything since Muse’s “Madness.” The lead guitar licks drive the song’s playfulness the same way Savages’ doomy bass sets dark clouds over each song on their first album, “Silence Yourself.”
Playing post-punk shows in England for years, the all-girl Savages match the energy from those early gigs with “Silence Yourself.” The album’s second-to-last track, “Husbands,” stands out as one of guitar music’s best moments as of late as lead singer Jehnny Beth chants “husbands” over surf rock beats for the better part of two minutes.
The underlying theme throughout “Silence Yourself” is this question: What’s the worth of words when people utter them for no reason? And with their edgy album, Savages makes sure every syllable hits hard.
Hip-hop and Pop
Both Chance the Rapper and Lorde garnered attention in 2013, but their stories couldn’t differ more. Chance the Rapper released his free mixtape, “Acid Rap,” this spring, and by fall, Lorde had a No. 1 hit with her song “Royals.”
Chance the Rapper’s project built on the past successes of Chicago rappers like West, Lupe Fiasco and Common. However, his boyish howl and improvised, Van Morrison-esque voice inflections set him apart. These aspects made the mixtape’s strongest song, “Everybody’s Something,” an emotional banger that sums up all his city’s faults—a tough task.
There’s also “NaNa”: a ridiculous, loose track where Chance the Rapper makes grammar mistakes on purpose, does his best crow impersonation, and threatens to unleash a deadly force on anyone who passes gas.
Lorde didn’t address farting on her debut album, “Pure Heroine,” but her speaker-busting ballads made her famous for a reason.
We’ve all heard “Royals.” My first instinct was to deny its unfair catchiness, but why try? Nothing this cool has topped the charts in 2013, and the minimalist chorus and the bombastic chimes that come after sum up music’s greatest impact: giving listeners the chills.
Also, Lorde’s album matches the biggest hit’s hype. It builds upon “Royals” and its most successful elements.
King Tuff and Foxygen have both been around since the mid-‘00s, but neither met its full potential until finding acclaim this year. King Tuff reissued his 2008 album, “Was Dead,” over the summer. Foxygen, a Cali duo, released my favorite album of 2013, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” in January.
With “Was Dead,” King Tuff sounds like the late Lou Reed, and his driving instrumentals tread the line between punk and Stonesy blues in the best way. “Stone Fox” and its eerie instrumentals balance melancholy with sheer euphoria. Any fan of gritty ‘60s rock will transport back to the days when distorted guitar and far-out lyrics ruled the radio.
Foxygen is another blast from the past.
Tracks two through four on the duo’s latest disc—“No Destruction,” “On Blue Mountain” and “San Francisco”—create so much psychedelic momentum, Foxygen could spend the album’s second half hocking loogies and still have an excellent project. Fortunately, Foxygen didn’t go that route, and all nine songs on the album create vivid imagery with epic instrumentals and silly choruses.
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