Tuesday, 17 December 2013

HMM Presents: The Best Of 2013- Track Of The Year

Over the next week, I'll be uploading several pieces on the year in music as I count down to the very first issue of Heavy Metal Mouth magazine. The online magazine edition of HMM will be an end of year annual focusing on the greatest music of 2013 and you will be able to access it before next Tuesday, 24th December. Expect plenty of artists to be named that have already been featured on the website this year as well as many more as I unveil the 25 best albums of the past 12 months. I hope that the expansive nature of this list in contrast to one year ago demonstrates the progress that has been made at HMM over the year.

To kick things off, here are my top ten tracks of the year.

10. Control/BET Awards Cypher 2013- Kendrick Lamar

Technically, neither of these songs belonged to Kendrick Lamar. ''Control'' was a Big Sean track while the BET Awards Cypher featured the entire Top Dawg Entertainment roster freestyling over the classic backing beat of ''Shook Ones Part 2''. But technicalities went out the window when Kendrick stepped to the mic on each, because quite simply, he owned them. From the rage fuelled, egomanical, Tupac inspired verse on ''Control'' that saw the Compton star declare himself king of the game and name drop every single rapper he saw as a competitor (sparking a war online that recalled the greatest days of rap as those who were named responded in turn ,while those who weren't responded anyway, attempting to prove their right to inclusion on Kendrick's list), to another hard-hitting lyrical masterpiece at the BET Awards that served to reaffirm his dominant status, 2013 saw Kendrick remain firmly in the spotlight due to the sheer power and intensity of his rap skill on a selection of outrageous guest features (for more, see ''Nosetalgia'' by Pusha T or another track further down this list). Now just imagine what could happen on another whole album.

9. Bound 2- Kanye West

2013 saw more talk about Yeezus' third single's music video than the song itself, a rarity in itself these days. Ye riding on a motorbike with Kim Kardashian at the helm to a green screened sunset backdrop was both lauded and laughed at, but the one thing that Kanye craves most is attention, and aided by an excellent parody by James Franco and Seth Rogen, he certainly succeeded. It would be totally wrong to forget the song itself though; falling in at the end of Kanye's frightening electronic nightmare on Yeezus, ''Bound 2'' seemed to be the Chicago born rap star telling his old school fans he was still there for them, with a College Dropout styled soul sample and passionate delivery that made it such a universally acclaimed finish to West's stunning sixth album.

8. Reflektor- The Arcade Fire

The title track and opener to Arcade Fire's 4th album instantly demonstrated the influence of LCD Soundsystem retiree James Murphy in the most glorious manner possible as the Canadian collective swaggered through an irresistibly funky 7 minutes, during which David Bowie stopped by for the tiniest of cameos and the band announced their return in style, opening the door to another journey that reminded us so well of the incredible power of The Arcade Fire and their epic, life-affirming masterpieces.

7. Instant Crush- Daft Punk

The obvious choice here is 2013's mega dance hit ''Get Lucky'', probably the biggest single of the year, but Daft Punk have never been about the singles and digging deeper into the French duo's albums is always rewarded with more understated classics. A long, long awaited return was marked with an album of incredible funk music that rearranged the band's electronic elements and made incredible use of a wide variety genres. On ''Instant Crush'', Julian Casablancas helped to deliver an indie dance tune that recalled both the finest work of The Strokes and smaller Punk hits, coming off somewhere between ''12:51'' and ''Digital Love'' in an emotive, yet undeniably infectious love song.

6. Rusty- Tyler, The Creator (Feat. Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt)

Those of you who've followed Tyler's career over the past 5 years (and maybe even those who haven't) will be more than aware of the incredible controversy and opposition the rapper has provoked- from feminist rights groups to law enforcement and even Earl Sweatshirt's mom, Tyler's brand of shock value comedy has been criticised heavily, but his third studio album this year saw the 23 year old finally starting to mature. On ''Rusty'', the most representative song of this unprecedented growth, Tyler raps is best ever verse wit a scathing attack on all of those who ever doubted, dissed or dared to face him, accompanied by some of Odd Future's finest talent over an old school beat produced by the rapper himself.

5. Mirrors- Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake's return to the music industry saw him produce his best ever work as he expanded his repertoire in unexpected yet totally logical ways while maintaining the image and style that saw him originally develop into one of the world's most popular artists. ''Mirrors'' is the ultimate representation of The 20/20 Experience, retaining Timberlake's pop sensibilities and radio/chart presence wile also providing a textured, multi-layered electro love song that instantly stands alongside ''Cry Me A River'' and other classic, significant modern pop classics.

4. 1 Train- A$AP Rocky (Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T)

1 Train is one of the most significant songs of the year not only because of it's immediate greatness (first second to last is an undiluted, raw rap attack courtesy of the some of the finest young talent in the world right now) but also for its soon to be realised context and legacy, as the cast of this 6 minute braggadocio classic go on to achieve greatness over the next decade. A$AP assembled a crew of the most exciting MC's in the game for ''1 Train'' and for evidence of eaches skill you need look no further than this, the best straight up, old school hip hop song of the year.

3. I Wanna Be Yours- Arctic Monkeys

You'd probably be more likely to go automatically towards ''Do I Wanna Know?'' or ''R U Mine?'' when picking from Arctic Monkey's exceptional fifth effort AM, but the real merit and craftsmanship of this album lies in its final track, as Alex Turner takes the mundanity of daily British life and turns it into something more beautiful and extraordinary, detailing his devotion to a potential love through a series of witty yet totally sincere metaphors.It's a fittingly wonderful closer to to the album, and one of the most affecting pieces of songwriting that the charismatic frontman has ever put to paper.

2. Hold On, We're Going Home- Drake (Feat. Majid Jordan)

Drake said that ''Hold On'' was him and long time production partner Noah 40 Shebib ''humbly attempting'' to channel Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones as they crafted a song designed to be worthy of wedding dances a decade from now. Perhaps he need not be so humble in future; the result is a stunning romantic ode that is set to stand the test of time much in the same manner as classics by pop icons like Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Prince before it. ''Hold On, We're Going Home'' is Drake defined, and a showcase for the reason behind the Canadian's continued dominance in the music world right now.

Serious credit is also due to Arctic Monkey's for their skillful cover of the original, which introduced the ballad to another society of listeners. Check out the video in Radio 1's Live Lounge for stone cold evidence of Alex Turner's transformation to sex god from the spotty teenager who first introduced the band in ''I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor''.

1. New Slaves- Kanye West (Feat. Frank Ocean)

Yeezus contained any amount of jaw dropping moments that grabbed hold of the listener and shook them where they stood, right from the opening wall of noise of what felt like a thousand filthy synthesisers crushing down upon you on ''In Sight'' to the soul sampling beauty of the aforementioned closer ''Bound 2'', but none came as incredible, drop dead gorgeous and mesmerising as the climax of ''New Slaves''.

Following two verses of relentless, furious rapping from Ye (the second of which he declared to be ''the best rap verse of all time'' in typical fashion) the song explodes in a wave of bliss that's carried home by Frank Ocean's angelic, spellbinding vocal. A finer sound I haven't heard this year, or perhaps even since... Well, since the same guy dropped ''Runaway'' three years ago. You're probably sick of hearing it (from the man himself, let alone the rest of us) but there's just no escaping it; Kanye is king.

Y'all can't fuck with Ye.

Next: Album Of The Year 25-21

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