One last list before we bid adieu to this year once and for all, and this one concerns our top five Tracks of 2013. If all too often nepotism and/ or political (read: PR) persuasions can at best influence, if at worst intoxicate these sorts of annual overviews, then we’ve this time inadvertently wound up with a rather skewed upper echelon, with both Canada and Scandinavia making up the majority. Representing Yorkshire, and thus the UK, Sky Larkin’s scintillating comeback track, Motto; from Toronto, Drake and Montréal, Blue Hawaii; from Swedish wildernesses, Don’t be long and Copenhagen, Blaue Blume. And they’re ordered thus:
Katie Harkin and Nestor Matthews, together as Sky Larkin, had been apart for so long that their explosive comeback track Motto was made all the more immediate and so too impactive by its impromptu SoundCloud appearance early last May. Bulging with Harkin’s trademarkedly nifty quips, much avifaunal cooing, corybantic West Coast guitars and Matthews’ most rambunctious drum track to date, the duo sounded thirsty for adulation. And, albeit in moderation, they duly got it.
With both Kanye and Jay-Z independently releasing in 2013, this was a pretty big year for North American urban music. And whilst R&B’s indwelling misogyny showed few signs of letting up, thanks in no small part to the notoriety of a certain Abel Tesfaye, said subgenre experienced a relatively prosperous one, as well. But of all the smash hits caught in that very umbrella, few hit harder than Aubrey Drake Graham’s Hold On, We’re Going Home: subsequently picked at by everyone from Arctic Monkeys to Holy Ghost!, its crossover appeal felt truly limitless, its hyper-rhythmic aesthetic and strangely complimentary lyrical content rendering it our ‘mainstream’ Track of 2013.
Delving a little deeper underground, Swedish house duo Don’t be long may be yet to break into the dingy grottos and grim diskotek their locomotive take on exploratory techno bangs at, but their time will surely come. And FN, lifted from a thoroughly impressive début EP entitled ingen utgång, was arguably their most mobile of the eight pieces we’ve heard from them thus far. Though not only did it sound capable of inspiring great movement, but there was a cerebral tenacity to it, too – one capable of engaging even the rustiest of encephalonic cogs.
Just across the Øresund and inspired as much by Shakespeare as the wintry shivers of their native dwelling, incontrovertibly great Danish four-piece Blaue Blume have, in the three songs they’ve issued thus far, boasted a real wealth of intellect themselves. And Jealousy, their most recent, also just so happens to be their most resplendent too, with Jonas Smith’s paranoiac vocal sincerely petrifying. He trills of forces and corsets, Robert Jensen Buhl meanwhile embroidering intricate, glistering guitar lines into a suitably opulent, if still dismal sonic backdrop. 2014 could, and so too should be a significant one for the Copenhagen ensemble, for remaining material – much of which was aired at London’s Sebright Arms last October – will doubtless astound once again.
And so we reach the zenith where, somewhat predictably, the fairy atop the proverbial tree is none other than Raphaelle Standell-Preston. Having already featured quite prominently in our Records of 2013 rundown, the pride of place Try To Be occupies right here should come as nothing of a surprise, the song having retained said place since the start of the year. And it’s been a year to transcend every expectation so far as Blue Hawaii may be concerned, for whether ambidextrously restructuring the itself magnificent Untogether live (for proof of which revisit this particularly “beautiful thought”, The Other Day) or ditching the thrusting minimal techno in favour the sweeping refinement to be found below, Raph and Alex “Agor” Cowan have really been on song this year. And long may they continue less trying, than unequivocally being so.