10) OneRepublic – “Counting Stars”
So many of the songs on this list are ones that make me want to hop on a treadmill and start running (ironic since I don’t ever exercise) and this is yet another one. The incessant drum beat coupled with a killer bassline grabs my attention every time. Plus this one adds some tasty other bits like the piano backing and the little splashes of organ that all join together to build into this wonderfully full sound.
9) The Civil Wars – “The One That Got Away”
This song is simply beautiful in every way, from the stark acoustic arrangement to the female vocalist’s sweetly impassioned delivery right down to the male’s quivering harmony. Hearing stuff like this makes me glad I never chose music as a career because I could never make something so utterly perfect and that would annoy me. So sad that the duo essentially split up upon the album’s release, because they simply weren’t together long enough to exhaust the possibilities of what their dynamic chemistry could achieve. Breathtaking, truly.
8) The New Roses – “Without A Trace”
From epic beauty to gritty rock, this is another slow-building monster of a track that makes me want to go out and push myself to the limits. They actually used this song for ads of Sons Of Anarchy over in Germany (the band themselves are German despite their southern rock sound) and that sounds perfect, as it’s got that whiskey-soaked biker quality to it: gravelly vocals coupled with AC/DC-styled riffs. This is what hard rock is all about to me.
7) Red Line Chemistry – “What Do You Want From Me”
The first of two covers to make my Top 10, which feels a bit like a cop-out, but then again, a good song is a good song, regardless of who originally did it. This was first written and performed by Pink Floyd on their last studio album, The Division Bell, but this update by the Alice In Chains-inspired Red Line Chemistry is actually superior in some ways. They give it more power than the original and take it soaring it up whereas Floyd kept it a little too grounded. (The video link here is the best I could find, a live version that lacks the epic power of the studio recording. Bogus.)
6) All Things New – “New Man”
Out of everything on my list, this is by far the most out of character. I don’t really know how I came across it, but when I did, it stuck with me even though on its surface it’s the kind of thing that usually rubs me wrong. All Things New is a Christian band that plays what is essentially country music. Not being a religious guy, I tend to get turned off by songs with overt lyrical messages, and this one certainly falls into that category. The cynic in me usually wins out in cases like this. But for some reason, most likely the uplifting vocals, I wasn’t pushed away by the message, and in fact find it inspiring (as the song intends). I guess even a wise-ass like me can be reached on occasion.
5) What Now – “Move Like A Sinner”
I swear it’s not intentional that these last two songs went back-to-back on my countdown, but we go from strong Christian music to a song that is pure sex (including the video which is borderline Skinemax-level porn). But MAN this song just gets under my skin. Reminds me a lot of Thirty Seconds To Mars before they decided to abandon guitars, with a heavy electronic bed playing under the emo rock guitars. If this song doesn’t make you wanna have sex then you’re probably doing it wrong.
4) The Almost – “Lonely Boy”
The final cover song on my list and the second song from the awesome Fear Inside Our Bones album, this was originally a chintzy 70’s tune by Andrew Gold (see here for the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kbgjmmr5vw) that is taken to a whole new place by The Almost, although they keep it close enough to make it recognizable. In fact, my first tip it was a cover (never having heard the original) was how much it stood out from the rest of the album, sounding way more “pop” than anything The Almost was writing on their own. But it’s partly that contrast that makes me love it so much, as it’s got that 70’s pop-songwriter sensibility combined with a modern hard rock edge in delivery, combining two things I love even though I often make fun of the former.
3) Avicii – “Wake Me Up”
File this with “Get Lucky” and “Roar” as a certified Top 40 hit that actually managed to make a dent with my peculiar musical tastes. But play it I did, over and over again, completely swept up by the acoustic arrangement and the amazingly soulful vocal. It’s strange to me that Avicii is more or less a house DJ (and another Swede, go figure) who just happened to spit out this song with the help of a fairly obscure American soul singer (Aloe Blacc) and the guitarist from Incubus. Regardless of how it came together, it wound up being one incredible song that I have yet to grow tired of. I love when music completely surprises me like this.
2) Alpha Rev – “Sing Loud”
As I’ve stated ad nauseum throughout this countdown, despite my juvenile sense of humor and generally cynical attitude, I’m often drawn to music that is uplifting and inspiring; songs that start simple and then slowly take me to a higher place, and no song in 2013 did that better than this one. It’s a simple formula but one that routinely works, especially when delivered with passion and sincerity. It sometimes aggravates me that American radio doesn’t play more of the great music that I’ve discovered in the nooks and crannies of the internet, but I’m glad that it’s getting made regardless, and finding its way to my ears along the way. I fucking love music.
1) Pearl Jam – “Sirens”
And then there was 1. I am not the world’s biggest Pearl Jam fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I will admit that with every new album they put out I manage to find at least one song that grabs my attention. With Lightning Bolt that ended up being several songs, but none did so more than this simple yet incredible track that features perhaps my favorite Eddie Vedder vocal of all time along with some truly choice guitar playing by Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. It’s also a beautifully produced and mixed song (and album), with each instrument getting it’s just due without one overpowering the other. These guys were simply meant to play together.
Well that was fun. And exhausting. Finding something unique to say about 100 different songs was a challenge I don’t care to repeat anytime soon, but I’m glad I gave it a go. Here’s to more great music on 2014.