Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Here's The Buzz: Choice Cuts Volume 12

Choice Cuts

In no particular order, I've selected the favorite tracks from 2013's playlists for our twelfth annual Choice Cuts end-of-year mix.

1. Falling -- HAIM

I was a bit late to getting into Haim, and only in the last few months realized that you don't pronounce their name like Corey. But the three sisters from the Valley are now inescapable. "Saturday Night Live" appearance aside, I can't pick up a magazine or read a music blog without encountering some sort of Haim love. And that's just fine by me. Their songs are so incredibly catchy, and the sisters have such a stage presence (especially the weird faces that bassist Este makes) that it's exciting to see them really take off. There were plenty of strong selections from their CD "Days Are Gone," but the lead track, "Falling," is a groove that I don't think I'll tire of.

2. Sonsick -- San Fermin

By sheer coincidence, I just learned that San Fermin composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone wrote the band's first album in Banff, Canada. That just happens to be where the Franklin Avenue family took an awe-inspiring vacation this year. I was hooked on San Fermin's "Sonsick" months ago thanks to the catchy, high pitched vocals. Like the Haim song, "Sonsick" is a infectious lead single that made me want to hear more.

3. Love Don't Go -- The Family Crest

How fascinating is San Francisco-based music collective The Family Crest? Here's how they describe themselves: "We are The Family Crest, a fully independent orchestral rock band made up of people who believe that everyone can be musical when given the opportunity. 
Since we formed in 2010, our mission has been to involve as many people as possible in our music, regardless of their instrument or genre, whether they are professionals, amateurs or have never played music before at all. Presently, we have over 250 members in our Extended Family of artists. We find a place in our sound for everyone, from conservatory-trained orchestral players, to jazz musicians, metal heads and even shower singers. We believe that there's a place in music for everyone, and we've proven it by incorporating artists in hundreds of unique musical configurations." Watch the video for a good idea of how it's done.

4. Was It You -- Joy Kills Sorrow

Who let banjo into our year-end mix? Sorry, Mumford, but the truly captivating bluegrass sounds of this year came from Joy Kills Sorrow. Just listen to vocalist Emma Beaton beat out the lyrics to "Was It You."

5. Kangaroo Court -- Capital Cities

Of course we still can't get enough of Capital Cities' "Safe and Sound," including the wonderful music video shot at downtown's Los Angeles Theatre. But the follow-up, "Kangaroo Court," is catchy in its own right, and Blogger Kid 2.0 is even more enthralled with this video (perhaps it's because of the disturbing end).

6. Trouble (Mr Bird Remix) -- Jose James

Jazz musician Jose James, known for infusing hip-hop into his sounds released his first CD this year on the famed Verve label. Says Billboard: "James grew up in Minneapolis, the son of a Panamanian saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist, and by his early teens was a fixture on the local jazz scene, performing with a variety of lineups and players. He attended the jazz program at the New School, studying with jazz elders Junior Mance and Chico Hamilton. But it was a chance encounter with Gilles Peterson, an influential U.K. radio personality and crate-digger with a knack for discovering raw talent, that helped move his career into high gear."

7. Recover -- CHVRCHES

It was a big year for Chvrches, which hit mainstream alternative big this year with "Recover." Funny enough, they were also known this year for covering Haim's "Falling," another one of our Choice Cuts 2013 selections.

8. Dance Apocalyptic -- Janelle Monáe

Go ahead, get up and dance. Janelle Monáe commands you to.

9. Dreams Of Cannibalism -- Typhoon

Possibly my favorite start to any of the songs on this year's list: "Unhand me, I am not a criminal/
But I've played a guilty part/
in the modern sense that one pretends their life is original..."

10. Chamakay -- Blood Orange

It's hard to pinpoint Dev Hynes, who has produced for everyone from Florence and the Machine, Arctic Monkeys and We Are Scientists to Solange Knowles and Britney Spears. But I know this: I like his sound. (As a matter of fact, his Solange track, "Losing You," wound up on my Best of 2012 "Choice Cuts" mix, so I clearly dig it.) Now recording as Blood Orange, his CD "Cupid Deluxe" is the perfect soundtrack for driving up the coast as the sun sets. Read more about Hynes here.

11. Back To The Way I Was -- Emily Bell

The Austin native mixes rockabilly, R&B and even British soul in this raucous track.

12. Ya Hey -- Vampire Weekend

Perhaps the most mainstream entry on this year's Choice Cuts selection, but that "Ya Hey" chorus is hard to shake.

13. Dissolve Me -- Alt-J

The things you learn from Wikipedia. According to the website's Alt-J entry, the band met at the UK's Leeds University in 2007. "The band's unusual sound stems from the fact that due to living in student halls, noise had to be kept to a minimum and so they were unable to use bass guitars or bass drums." Hey, whatever, it works. Alt-J has become popular with TV music supervisors; in the UK, Alt-J's music can be heard in station IDs for BBC2, while here in the US the group's song "Fitzpleasure" has been heard on "Weeds," "Suits" and "Homeland." I like "Dissolve Me," which was released as a single in 2013.

14. Don't Swallow the Cap -- The National

It's been interesting to watch The National turn into music darlings -- they even guest starred on Fox's "The Mindy Project" this season. "Don't Swallow the Cap" has a smooth, catchy chorus with that trademark haunting National sound.

15. You & I -- Crystal Fighters

Crystal Fighters describes their sound as ""fast, mesmeric and passionate," and I'd have to agree.

16. Galaxy's Skirt -- Emi Meyer

The simple piano opening builds to a powerful conclusion in this ethereal Emi Meyer track.

17. You Know You Like It -- AlunaGeorge

I can't get enough of AlunaGeorge. Aluna Francis and George Reid's "Your Drums, Your Love" made our Choice Cuts 2012 list, and now "You Know You Like It" makes this year's list.

18. Instant Crush -- Daft Punk Feat. Julian Casablancas

It wouldn't be a best of 2013 mix without some Daft Punk, right? I couldn't put "Get Lucky" here, I think we're all a bit tired of that track. Pushing "Instant Crush" over the top to land a slot here may be the rather sad music video, which, believe it or not, the Blogger Toddler 2.0 loves.

19. The Bad Days -- David Ramirez

I wonder if anyone plays this song at their wedding. If so, I give them six months. But seriously, Ramirez's track -- about his life on the road, and leaving his loved one behind -- may be the most emotional song on this year's Choice Cuts roundup.

20. SummerMash '13 -- DJ Earworm

Here's another one that made the Choice Cuts mix because of the Blogger Kids. DJ Earworm's mashup of this summer's pop tracks is just too irresistibly catchy. And yep, both "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" sneak in here. Happy New Year!

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