The Very Best Music of 2013. Period.

December 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm (Best-of lists, Music Mixes)

2013 best of

In the past whenever I’ve scraped enough time to do a year-end list of the best music from the previous 12 months, I’ve always presented it with a sort of  genial “Aw shucks-ness”, saying that a particular grouping of songs or albums were just my personal choices for my favorites, but that there were other just-as-worthy lists out there.

Every year I’ve done that, I get the feeling that folks who read my list tousle its hair, cluck it on the chin and say “Aw, that’s a nice list.”

Hell with that.

This year’s list is the definitive list of the best songs representing the best albums and/or artists of 2013. Period. End of story. There’s no equivocating here.  You might see other lists out there, polluted by crappy artists who have no business being under such consideration. For instance, if you put Haim on your list, I at least hope the damn check cleared for you. (As radio fodder/vacuous pop crap, Haim are fine. Wonderful in fact. If they’re in the same list as Kurt Vile, though, you’re trying too hard.) Don’t call this a bias against being popular, either. Some of the best songs of 2013 were exceedingly popular, and they’re represented here.  We got your back, in other words, and yeah, I’m aware that this is one of a gajillion lists of best music of 2013 out there. What I’m saying is this: my list is the one that matters, that won’t fail you, that actually really is the best music of 2013.

So there.

What I did last year I’m doing this year. Instead of blathering on and on and boring everyone with a wall of words, I’m instead doing a mix of the best of the year in songs. What I did was select 50 songs from the year. They’re either the best songs, or the songs I think are most representative of what the album they’re on is about, or are the best way for someone unfamiliar to find their way into an artist or album they might not know. That’s the criteria: outstanding song, representative song, and/or easiest access into the rest of the record or artist.  Most of the time, it’s a mix of all three of those things.

Thus, I have for you the Top 50 of 2013. You know why this Top 50 is better than anyone else’s Top 50? Here’s why: THERE ARE 52 SONGS IN MY TOP 50! Rolling Stone or Pitchfork will give you a Top 20 or Top 100 or whatever…but you know how many records or songs will be in their lists? Yeah, exactly. 100 or 20 or however many they say.  Are they unfamiliar with the concept of a lagniappe? A baker’s dozen? I’m promising 50 songs, but delivering 52. That’s clearly better. Empirically, even.

Even better, with 52 songs, I broke them into 3 separate mixes, each about 60 minutes long. The songs are absolutely positively in no order of quality. Instead, I picked songs out that flow together, and put them in an order that makes for a great listen while, say, you walk from the National Gallery Of Art to the Jefferson Memorial and back to the train station…or drive from Virginia to Vermont to ski and back. There’s an ebb and flow and back and forth here.

What I am going to do here though is live blog listening to the tunes here to tell a bit about why they’re here and why I picked ’em. Nothing huge, just a sentence or two. We’ll do Tape Numero Uno today, Tape #2 tomorrow, and Tape #3 on Thursday.  Let this page be the placeholder for all that, with cross links to the other mixes.

First up, Mix Tape #1!

Mix Tape #2!

Mix Tape #3!

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2012 In Fifty Songs

December 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm (Best-of lists, Music Mixes)

CarlyGangnam

There are many things I am not good at doing.  One of them is telling people how much I appreciate the posting links to videos and songs and whatnot in twitter and facebook posts, or just dropping me a line about something they’ve heard.  What you all may not realize is that I make a point of listening to each and every piece of music I’m hepped to in those ways.  No really, I do!  I figure if someone is moved enough by a song or an artist to post about it that there’s probably something there worth my five minutes to listen to.  I’ve heard a lot of music that didn’t click with me by doing that.  The great thing is, I’ve also heard a lot that did move me.

What this is is a summary of 50 songs from 2012 that moved me enough to want to hear more.  They’ve become representative of my favorite records and artists of 2012.

I could spend days telling you about the music so many of you have told me about this year (in what was a rich and amazing year for great tunes), but instead I’d like to show you.  Better yet, I’ll let you listen to them!

I won’t use the same words and phrases you’re used to hearing from me to say how much I liked certain stuffs in 2012.  Rather, I figured I’d get back to my roots and just do a music mix of my favorite songs and artists from the past year. Been about six or seven years since I’ve done this, but I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out.  Additionally, thanks to Spotify, Turntable.fm, and Twitter I feel like I heard so much good music by so many great artists in 2012 that trying to pare things down to just 20 records would be an impossible chore.

So what’s all this then?  Let me try to explain.

1. I broke the 50 tracks down into two separate mixes of 25 songs each.  The mixes are interchangeable. I just separated things by how the flow goes. Each one is about 90 minutes. Each is crossfaded and normalized and one big mp3 file. The idea is, listen to all of it or come back to it, do whatever. That said, the object isn’t “Hey, how can I grab these songs?!?!” If you try, you’ll be stuck with the crossfaded bits and bytes from the beginning and end to each song.  Instead of going to that trouble, throw some worthy artists some money, huh?

2. These go in order. That order has nothing to do with chronology or perceived quality. The order is: these mixes need to flow, one song into the next. Each one is autonomous.  There should be a beginning, a middle, a few peaks, a few valleys, and then a wrap up. When you get to the end of one of the mixes, it should feel like you’re at the end, y’know?

3. Finally, thanks are in order: everyone who contributed to the “What are you listening to” 2012 thread at Quarter To Three, anyone who’s ever pm’d me or emailed me with a song or record or artist to listen to, anyone who’s ever posted a music video on my Facebook timeline,  anyone who’s ever DJ’d in a room in Turntable, anyone who’s contributed a record to our Bitches Brew Spotify playlist….THANKS!!!!! This mix is as much all of you, and a tribute to all your good taste, not mine. I just manage to occasionally shut up long enough to listen when someone says that they like a song and then find the time to go see if I like that song, too.

These are the songs I liked off records I liked by artists I liked this year. They’re probably not the “best” of 2012; there’s probably not much crossover in the venn diagram of “stuff I really liked” and “stuff that sits on most critics’ lists”. I didn’t always choose the “best” song off a record I liked, either, necessarily. I picked songs in a lot of cases that I thought were representative of an album I liked a lot, and gave special consideration to songs that fit with a mix better, too. At any rate, I hope y’all will hear a few tunes you like, too!

“50 Smash Hits From 2012!”

Gangnam Style:

  (Right click and “save as”…or just click to stream)
1. Japandroids “The Nights Of Wine And Roses”
2. Ty Segall and White Fence “Easy Ryder”
3. The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Viholliseni Maalla”
4. CaveofswordS “Ghryme”
5. Disappears “Replicate”
6. Weird Dreams “666.66”
7. A. C. Newman “I’m Not Talking”
8. The dB’s “Send Me Something Real”
9. Frank Ocean “Bad Religion”
10.Lee Fields “You’re The Kind Of Girl”
11.The Bamboos (Feat. Tim Rogers) “I Got Burned”
12.Rodriguez “Can’t Get Away”
13.The Dum Dum Girls”Season In Hell”
14.The Human Eyes “Born To Die”
15.Diiv “How Long Have You Known”
16.The Delta Spirit “California”
17.The Blakes “Narwhal”
18.Sharon Van Etten “Serpents”
19.The Cheatahs “The Swan”
20.I Was A King “Indiana”
21.The Mark Lanegan Blues Band “Leviathan”
22.The Cloud Nothings “Wasted Days”
23.Jack White “Hypocritical Kiss”
24.Euros Childs “These Dreams Of You”
25.George Harrison “All Things Must Pass (Demo)”

Call Me Maybe:


1. The Men “Open Your Heart”
2. Ex Cops “The Millionaire”
3. Lotus Plaza “Eveningness”
4. Sinead O’Connor “The Wolf Is Getting Married”
5. The Resonars “Sit Right Down”
6. Snake & Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band “Black Egg”
7. Randy Michael & The Well Dressed Lads “The Face”
8. Sleepy Kitty “Don’t You Start”
9. Toys That Kill “Stye”
10. Giuda “Number 10”
11.Nada Surf “Jules And Jim”
12.Tame Impala “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
13.The Allah Las “Don’t You Forget It”
14.Twelve Thousand Armies “Darling Let’s Breathe”
15.Nude Beach “Some Kinda Love”
16.Redd Kross “Stay Away From Downtown”
17.The Mountain Goats “Cry For Judas”
18.The Amazing “Flashlight”
19.Lightships “Silver And Gold”
20.The Royal Headache “Down The Lane”
21.Bob Mould “The Descent”
22.Richard Hawley “Down In The Woods”
23.Aimee Mann “Soon Enough”
24.Woods “Is It Honest?”
25.Spiritualized “So Long You Pretty Thing”

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O Pitié Dracula! (Halloween Music Mix, 2012)

October 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm (Music Mixes)

Of course you knew this was a-comin’.  Of course you did.

Let me go one step beyond, so to say, though:  of all the Halloween Music Mixes I’ve done, I’ve never thought of one as being as good as this one.  Really.  This one’s my favorite.

A few credits need to go out, especially to a turntable DJ named UncleJim who managed to turn me onto some fan-damn-tastic and great Halloween tunes.  Not all of them fit the spirit (haha, Halloween puns) of this year’s mix, but at some point in some mix, I’ll absolutely make room for Rosemary Clooney’s “Wobblin Goblin” or Patsy Montana’s “Yodeling Ghost” (seriously, now you’re dying to find out what a song sung by Patsy Montana called “Yodeling Ghost” sounds like, aren’t you?)

Another thing:  there’s only one repeat here from past mixes that I’m aware of:  back in 2002 I made a CD-only mix that had a certain Bunnymen song on it.  I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I used it.  This year I planned to use Grant Lee Phillips’s acoustic, folky version of that song…but as I listened, it just didn’t fit or really work.  I wanted Ian McCulloch’s over-the-falls vocal and Will Sergeant’s reverby guitar and missed them greatly.  So.  Original version is back, but probably a first for most folks reading this.

Now, there are two covers of songs I’ve used in the past.  One is at least as good as the Donovan original that I’ve nicked previously (no spoilers, but seriously, if I told you what the cover was and you hadn’t heard it yet, you’d be all “That’s gonna suck, dude”; I’m here to tell you that not only does this unlikely cover work, but it kicks ass nine ways to Sunday).  The other cover I have come to believe is far superior to the goofy, almost uncomfortably minstrel-show-sounding original.  I’ve used that original, and even a Nina Simone cover, but honestly this is one blues number where the angry hippie from San Francisco does the angriest and most-frightening and unhinged version.  Plus, I love Creedence….(more Halloween references for the win!)

For bonus points, this year’s mix also has a Holland/Dozier/Holland song (see if you can spot it!) as well as a Joe Meek production.  We’re nothing at Popnarcotic.com if not a little bit aware of our hip forebears.  Also, yes, I know that given the untimely demise of Broadcast’s lead singer that one particular track is a little…ookie.  I prefer “eerie” here to “inappropriate”.

Enough of my yakking.  Here’s the mix, all stitched together like a 71-minute podcast in 192 kb mp3 glory, with all tracks mixed and normalized to maintain fidelity and volume consistency.  As ever, I strongly urge you to just listen at least once without checking the track list.  It’s more fun that way.

Also this year a warning, since I’ve heard from some of you that you play these mixes in the car with kids or when handing out treats on the 31st:  The very end of the very last song on the mix has pretty clear NSFW language; it’s a lyric that quotes a pretty famous movie, and it’s fleeting before the fadeout, but it’s there.  Just fair warning–if kids or bosses or moms are actively listening, probably best to hit skip when the Lambs get all Silent.

Let’s get to some music!

O Pitié Dracula! (Halloween Music Mix, 2012)

Click Drac’s picture for the MP3….

or for the reading averse, here you go:

O Pitié Dracula!

Track list?

Fine.

Fine.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you about spoilers, though.

1. …
2. Billy Taylor “Wombie Zombie”
3. Cavemen “Vampirer”
4. Rockwell “Someone’s Watching Me”
5. Christine Pilzer “Dracula”
6. Superdrag “Do The Vampire”
7. The Gothic Archies “Scream And Run Away”
8. Lou Rawls “Season Of The Witch”
9. Jackie Morningstar “Rockin’ In The Graveyard”
10.Broadcast and The Focus Group “Seancing Song”
11.Portishead “Over”
12.Chet Baker “That Old Devil Moon”
13.The Moontrekkers “Night Of The Vampire”
14.R. Dean Taylor “There’s A Ghost In My House”
15.Echo & The Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon”
16.The Fall “I’m A Mummy”
17.The Soft Boys, “Strange”
18.The Chameleons U.K. “Swamp Thing”
19.The Tombstones “Black Cat”
20.Creedence Clearwater Revival “I Put A Spell On You”
21.Don Bishop “Nightmare”
22.The Greenskeepers “Lotion”

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cHr15tmA5 dR0pZ–A Dubstep Christmas

December 16, 2011 at 7:39 am (Music Mixes, Uncategorized)

Aw yeah, it’s that time of year!  We the humble blog elves of Popnarcotic happily present you with the coolest thing ever:  Dubstep Christmas, 2011!  This was the year we fully embraced a music movement that isn’t at all fleeting or breathtakingly awful and yeah I’m talkin’ serious dr0pz yo.  Without further ado, here’s the track list:

1.  “Adeste Fidelis”  –deadmau5 (27:29)

2.  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (Extended)  –DJW00t with do5ta4 n w00dy (41:13)

3.  “Fairytale Of New York” –The Pogues (3:41)

Click me for download page!

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More Halloween Music Mixes!

October 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm (Music Mixes, Uncategorized)

Just realized that when I migrated to WordPress in the winter of 2010, I never did bring over some Halloween music mixes.  Let’s fix that.

For giggles, here’s the 2007 mix, Gravest Hits 2007.

Here’s the 2008 mix, Gravest Hits, 2008.

Here are the TWO mixes (yeah, not doing that ever again) from 2009:

I Seek To Eradicate These Things With A Shovel

and

Rosedale At Midnight

In case you missed last year, here’s 2010’s mix:

Black As Night, Black As Coal

Combined with this year’s mix (which you have to scroll down for) that’s about 7 1/2 hours worth of Halloween-themed music, with maybe just a couple of repeats. If you want track lists, just click on “October” of whatever year, 2007-2010.  The link to the mix is dead (haven’t fixed them yet, and I have a ton of stuff to get done today, so they’ll stay unfixed for a while) on those months, but the track lists are there.

 

Enjoy and Happy Halloween! Be safe everyone!

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Zombie Dance Party! (Halloween Music Mix, 2011)

October 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm (Music Mixes)

Yep, that time of year again!  There’s nothing I enjoy more than the good ol’ fashioned creepy fun of doing a Halloween music thing, and this year’s version is a corker.  Every song in the mix is a new one for this annual endeavor, and if I can drop any veil of modesty for a sec…this sucker delivers.   Before you ask….

“Wait, how can you do a Halloween music mix without….”

As always, there’s no Ozzy.  A surprising dearth of Danzig.  Not one tiny bit of Danny Elfman or Bauhaus.  I’m not saying that I don’t dig those folks:  I do.  What I am saying is that there are going to be hundreds, if not thousands of music mixes out there that will have all those folks represented to the point of overexposure.  Here at the ‘Narc, we have a crippling weakness for the road less traveled, and as such that’s what our mix does.

“But dude, what about….”

There are plenty of cool, great songs out there that fit but aren’t on this mix, and the reason might be that I’ve been doing these sorts of mixes for years now and this year I was determined for there not to be any repeat songs from previous years.  As such, if you’re looking for something obvious that’s missing, it could be because I used it on another mix….or perhaps I’m just dense.  Always looking for selections for next years mix!

“Couldn’t you just do a whole mix of kick ass metal/goth/garage/chiptunes for this?”

I could, but I’ve got better taste than that.  As it is, we sort of dabble in a lot of genres here.  Except chiptunes.  Seriously, if your idea of inducing Halloween party behavior is to put on the original Castlevania theme, you’re either too geeky or too inundated with hopeless hipsters to be worth saving.

Without any more ado…

ZOMBIE DANCE PARTY! (Halloween Music Mix, 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Track list:

1. “Do Not Adjust Your Set”
2. Ronnie Dawson, “Rockin’ In The Cemetery”
3. Otis Redding, “Trick Or Treat”
4. Tishamingo, “Devil’s Love Song”
5. The Grip Weeds, “Haunted”
6. Eyes, “When The Night Comes”
7. ELO, “Evil Woman”
8. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti, “Frigh Night (Nevermore)”
9. The Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”
10.Patsy Cline “Walking After Midnight”
11.Donovan, “Season Of The Witch”
12.Ladytron, “Ghosts”
13.The Reverend Horton Heat, “The Halloween Dance”
14.The Boy Least Likely To, “Monsters”
15.Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3, “Ole! Tarantula”
16.Imelda May, “Psycho”
17.Band Of Horses, “Is There A Ghost?”
18.The Yardbirds, “Evil Hearted You”
19.Tegan And Sara, “Walking With A Ghost”
20. L7 “Pretend We’re Dead”
21.Tito & Tarantula, “After Dark”
22.The Cramps, “Rockin’ Bones”
23.James Carr, “The Dark End Of The Street”
24.Stephen Lynch, “A Month Dead”

(As always, one 75-minute MP3 file, sequenced, normalized for volume, stitched together for full spooky Halloween glory.)

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The Ghost Of Christmas Past…

December 15, 2010 at 1:24 am (Music Mixes, Uncategorized)

(2011 Edit:  No, not really.)

(2011 Edit, part deux:  If you’re disappointed beause you were really looking for a dubstep Christmas album…well, seriously?  C’mon.  We’re about 2 weeks from dub drops in Walmart TV ads.  Let it go.  Enjoy some Christmas music from years past.)

So this past year when I moved the blog to a new server because Blogger/Google decided it was time for them to make poor business decisions, I left behind an awful lot of files (which I do have backed up on a variety of external drives and whatnot, but still), some of which included a whole bunch of past Christmas mixes. Sort of gratifying that various folks out there have been requesting them, and so without any further ado, let’s go ahead and at least put up the last five shall we?

2005: “I Got Yer Wassail Right Here, Mac”
2006: “It’s Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas”
2007: “The Christmas Sound Is All Around This Town”
2008: “Listen Up Ebenezer!”
2009: “Christmas Shoes”

2010:  “There’s No Life Like The Snow Life”

2011:  “I Still Believe In Santa Claus (Even If Nobody Else Does)”

2012: “…As Long as We Have Hands to Clasp”
2013: “Mary I’m Tryin’ to Be Cool”
2014: “Peace on Earth”

I’ve got the CD from the 2004 mix floating around here somewhere, and I’ll do a little magic on it and get it uploaded too. In 2003 I had a whirlwind of activity hit me outta the blue (I ended up spending Christmas working in Connecticut, which was fun…but very unexpected), so that year I just sent out Christmas cards, no CD or mix. 2002’s mix, “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” is lost to history now, although most of the songs on it have re-surfaced on one of the past 6 mixes. (And it better be lost to history, since the 2010 mix I just finished–yeah, I said it–has that year’s most prominent track repeated; a few of you 15 folks who got that CD in a Christmas Card or whatnot back then will be disappointed in that repeat…but heck, it’s been 8 years. Give a brotha a break!)

Looking over track lists (and you can find those in the archives, just head for December of whatever year), I’m pretty happy that I haven’t gotten too awfully repeat-happy. Over six years, I’ve got 120 different Christmas or winter-themed songs, very few of which suck, which is a pretty decent track record if I do say so myself…and I just did.

As I was putting together this year’s mix, I was again struck by just how many truly awful Christmas songs become available every holiday. Lots of established artists just mail it in for a quick cash-in with some dreadful, soulless readings of some Christmas chestnut. At least I can understand the financial reasons behind that in a purely cynical way. The holiday tunes that really exasperate me are the gajillion indie artists who think the way to do a Christmas song is to pick some heartfelt standard and re-render it slowed down and dripping with implied irony. I suppose something like that could work in a vacuum…but you stick awful, over-ironic crap like that on a holiday mix next to the Green Pajamas’ “Caroler’s Song” or something from Vince Guaraldi, or especially next to that certain Irish ditty that ends every Christmas mix I do by tradition and all that dripping hipster-ism just collapses in on itself.

So anyway, you’ve got a few hours to wait until I upload the Christmas mix for 2010. Grab one of these older ones and give it a spin. Thanks for reading, I hope your holiday season so far has been as enjoyable as mine!

(Edited to include 2011’s mix to this list for easy all purpose Christmas music grabbing.)

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