Before you go any further: Catch up on part one here.
Now that’s sorted, let’s get busy!
80. Surfer Blood – Demon Dance
Whatever mental anguish John Paul Pitts went through following his arrest in March 2012, he has come out the other end of it with the single most underrated rock album of 2013. It all began here, the opening number of June’s Pythons LP. It took in all of the context surrounding its creation: The location, California, was reflected in the sun-kissed guitar twang; while he producer, Gil Norton, came into play with the noted Pixies influence – particularly when Pitts breaks into a Black Francis yelp in the bridge. A product of its environment and a sign of even greater things to come.
79. Zedd feat. Foxes – Clarity
An unknown dance producer with a pretty female voice on top? Gee, why does that sound so familiar? Still, in spite of its full potential to be completely formulaic, “Clarity” ended up being one of the most exciting things to take over radio this year. The atmospheric build-up and restrained baritone of next-big-thing Foxes is paid off with one of the year’s strangest drops: Rave-synth and a kick that feels as though it’s going to pierce through the speakers matched up with the hum of a Gregorian monk choir. For all intents and purposes, Zedd gets an A.
78. Saint Pepsi – Unhappy
While backpackers, crate-diggers and producers alike are all off looking for that one great vintage soul sample that’s yet to be used, guys like Ryan DeRobertis – aka Saint Pepsi – are sneaking in out of nowhere with innovative and clever samples from complete leftfield. Here, DeRobertis toys with “The Summer Ends,” a standout from American Football’s debut (and only) self-titled record. Sending the track into the clouds and unlocking its inner bliss, “Unhappy” is easily one of the year’s finest inventions. If his peers aren’t careful, they’ll fall behind.
77. Alison Wonderland feat. Fishing – Get Ready
A first for both parties involved: Wonderland, normally a DJ and a part of the Sosueme collective, had never lent her name to an original composition prior to this. Meanwhile, the gents of Fishing here marked the recorded debut of their personas as a part of the Naughty Rappers Collective; a satirical group of Sydney musicians that play up the braggadocio and hyper-masculinity of hip-hop stereotypes. The result was as wild and ridiculously fun as one might expect from either party. With their powers combined, this Voltron of Australian dance guaranteed filled floors and the cheekiest of grins.
76. The Hard Aches – Organs and Airports
Adelaide’s Ben David started the year as the relative unknown out of the four singer-songwriters on the extensive Glory Days tour; completed by Wil Wagner, Hobart’s Lincoln Le Fevre and Sydney’s Isaac Graham. He ended it with a nation full of new friends and new fans, as well as an EP from his “other” band, harmonious folk-rockers The Hard Aches. Detailing the misery that comes with a long-distance love isn’t quite original; yet David delivered those woes with a fresh perspective and a heart full of hurting. After hearing “Organs and Airports,” you’ll be unsure whether to ask for songwriting tips or just give the poor bastard a hug.
75. Wil Wagner – How They Made Us
As much as this was a brilliant year for The Smith Street Band, their fearless frontman Wil Wagner had a momentous run in his own right. The release of his debut solo album saw him stripping his stories and imagery down to their very essence. You’re right there alongside Wil on Punt Road, getting as young drunk as you damn well please. You can spot the thugs hanging out at the seedy Swan Street bars. You can even take the weather with you, as Wagner describes the dawn following another late night in the city. It’s all laid out for you. All you have to do is listen.
74. The Wonder Years – Passing Through a Screen Door
“Jesus Christ,” spits vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell in disgust. “Did I fuck up?” Consider his situation: On the wrong side of his twenties, Campbell notices that many friends, peers and colleagues are settling down and investing in their future. He, on the other hand, is still living the tour-van life and growing increasingly frustrated with where he has ended up in life. Strangely enough, this open-book lamenting has resulted in one of the single finest tracks his band has ever recorded – to the point where one emphatically has to respond in the negative to the original question.
73. Mixtapes – Be the Speak That You Change About
Ohio’s Mixtapes have been around long enough to know where the bodies are buried within their genre and their scene. Truth be told, they’re a little pissed off: “Be the Speak…” is the single greatest indictment about the modern state of pop-punk that is currently out there. No other band out there has the guts to drop lines like “This generation’s getting worse,” “This doesn’t feel like a community,” or the most damning of all: “Most of these bands would sell their souls/For a four-star review and a sold-out show.” This is their CM Punk pipebomb; their ninety-five theses nailed to the Wittenburg door. It’s kind of a big deal.
72. Jimblah – March
The stomping gets louder as the procession gets closer and closer. James Alberts – aka Jimblah – is the leader of the procession. He has a lot of questions about why his native land of Australia is the way that it is. There are no easy questions here, let alone easy answers. The delivery is nothing short of furious, the passion akin to the fire of a thousand suns. The conviction and the belligerence that oozes through every last second of “March” is enough to make you stop whatever it is that you are doing and listen. Then, once you’ve heard Alberts out, it’s time to join him in his quest to find out “exactly what this nation represents here.”
71. Stockades – Just Following Orders
Some truly odd descriptive terms get bandied about when talking about music. Perhaps none stranger, however, than within that grey area between indie rock in its traditional sense and emotive hardcore punk. “Twinkle,” “noodle,” “skramz” and “mathy” are just some of the adjectives that one will find along the way. All of these have been applied liberally to Melbourne quintet Stockades, but your time would be better spent looking for the most fitting hyperbole upon actually listening to them. “Orders” will leave you short of breath from its shrill guitar lead-in to its half-time saxophone break and onward to its thrilling conclusion. This is world class, call it what you will.
70. Defeater – Bastards
Sure, some songs sounded sadder. Some songs sounded catchier. Some were just plain better overall. That’s fine. With that said: Few tracks, if any at all, sounded as downright fucking pissed as the opening number to Defeater’s third album did. The gnashing guitars butt heads with drums that sound as though they’re being hit with hammers rather than sticks, while Derek Archambault’s vocals reach fever pitch from the opening line and never drop intensity levels for a moment. Its brisk movement ensures there is never a lull, while its percussive-driven outro was designed to be chanted en-masse at sweaty floor-shows and club matinees. “Bastards” proves that your anger truly is a gift.
69. GROUPLOVE – Borderlines and Aliens
Their name is type-set in all-caps for a reason: these free-spirited Californians do things big, brassy and bouncy. They are like the real-life equivalent of Hooray For Everything, those clean-cut young go-getters who appeared briefly in some classic Simpsons episodes. Here, they pick up right where their 2011 debut, Never Trust a Happy Song, left off: A big, shiny guitar lick leads a headfirst dive into an endorphin rush of left-field pop that requires full-voiced audience participation. Come on, get happy already. If you hadn’t guessed, GROUPLOVE are onto a damn good thing here – HOORAY FOR EVERYTHING!
68. Major Lazer feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga and Mystic – Bubble Butt
Oh, internet. Never change. Particularly that subset among you that are hereby known as “corpsefuckers” – those that are disgusted with modern pop and dance music, wondering out loud what happened to “real” music and bemoaning how the current charts are poisoning the minds of our precious, precious children. “Bubble Butt” is what should be played so that these people cannot be heard – if it sends any message any clearer, it’s that you should shut up and dance. This song, along with its Eric Wareheim-directed video, is as obnoxious and dumb as you would expect. Therein lies its glory.
67. They Might Be Giants – You’re on Fire
It doesn’t matter if the last time you checked in with They Might Be Giants was circa “Dr. Worm,” circa “Boss of Me” or even on their last studio album, 2011’s Join Us. Things don’t change much in John and John’s world – nor do they particularly need to. They’re still making shaky, sardonic and proudly weird tunes like this one, throwing in some horn section stabs and perhaps the only time you’ll ever hear soulful backing vocalists cry out the phrase “Combustible head!” If you’re a Giants fan, you know what you’re in for. We’ve got a good understanding going on.
66. Manor – Architecture
Adelaide grammar nerds Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! scored major support slots and festival appearances in their time, but never garnered the headline status of either. The phoenix from the ashes is Manor, which sports a third of Santa Rosa – vocalist Caitlin Duff and guitarist/producer Nathaniel Morse – and inroads their brand of indie pop towards the glistening, crystallised side of things with truly splendid results. Both members use “Architecture” to flaunt their chops – Duff’s vocals could melt in your mouth, while Morse’s echo-chamber guitar and thick, steely bassline provide substantial weight. It is here that the cream – at long last – begins to rise.
65. Lissie – Sleepwalking
How’s the serenity? Lissie Maurus provided one of the year’s most warm, wholesome slices of vintage pop with the third single from her long-awaited Back to Forever LP. On a groove befitting of Tango in the Night, Maurus soaks up the sun and casts her anxieties into the lurch. Her vocals are of the stop-dead-in-your-tracks variety, showing off some serious pipes towards the end. It’s almost picturesque, the way that she manages to evoke such vivid imagery – from the moment she awakes to what happens when she falls asleep. “Sleepwalking” is the kind of track that always goes down smooth.
64. Panic! At the Disco – Girls/Girls/Boys
There are plenty of songs about heterosexual pleasures; as well as quite a few documenting homosexual ones. It’s rare, however, for the bisexual to get their own number – and that’s where a new-look Panic! At the Disco comes into play. Now featuring new bassist Dallon Weekes, who picks out a sufficiently funky groove here, vocalist Brendon Urie closes in on a love triangle more bizarre than anything New Order could have thought up. They also managed to reel some people in with that bare-all D’Angelo tribute video. That’s not the only reason this has charted, swear…
63. Childish Gambino – 3005
There would have been a time where Donald Glover – aka Childish Gambino – would have delivered the line “Crew at my house/And we party every weekend” with the excitement of a child at Disneyworld. Now that he’s 30 and beginning to question exactly what his interpersonal relationships truly mean, it’s given more of a throwaway feel. “Got a house full of homies,” he observes, before adding: “Why I feel so the opposite?” It’s the start of a new chapter for Glover’s CG project – still clever, introspective and catchy; but maybe more suited to the after-party than the main shindig.
62. The National – Sea of Love
You know what you’re in for by now, surely. The guitars are as sharp as the suits, the vocals put the tone in baritone and the overall vibe is pensive and bittersweet. This is what you signed up for when you first fell for The National, whether that was all the way back at their first album or as recent as their 2010 classic High Violet. It’s always nice to find some surprises in there, though – Bryce Dessner’s suck-blow harmonica break that leads into the first chorus is akin to Jonny Greenwood’s pre-chorus scratches in “Creep” in that they could potentially ruin the song, yet ultimately define them.
61. David Bowie – The Next Day
Not one year before, The Flaming Lips released a song entitled “Is David Bowie Dying?” – and perhaps the worst part about it was that no-one had a real answer. He hadn’t been seen or heard from in years; seemingly retired from performing and recording altogether. What we didn’t know, however, was that the Duke was creating something on the sly – something stylish and career-spanning, equal parts danceable and softly swaying. It all began here, the title track that kicks off the album with a ferocious bang. If there has ever been a definitive moment of an artist punching through their coffin and arising to take over once again, it’s right here.
Download the podcast version of Part Two here.
Read on to Part Three here.