Best Songs of 2013

­­­­5.  “Safe and Sound” – Vitamin String Quartet

If you guys know me, then you also know that it would be impossible for me to admit that a mainstream song like “Safe and Sound” could possibly be any good.  Thus, I wish to abuse a loophole in order to maintain my dignity.  The fifth best song of 2013 goes to “Safe and Sound,” performed by the Vitamin String Quartet.   For those of you who don’t know, the Vitamin String Quartet is an orchestral group that frequently performs covers of big (and not so big) hits in their own unique style.  Many of the songs they choose to cover are huge, and have several instruments playing at once.  One of aspects about VSQ that I love is how they tackle the challenge of condensing all of these sounds down into the four string instruments they have at their disposal.  I believe this particular cover was done masterfully, capturing all of the highlights of the original song while still managing to add their own flair to it.

4.  “Atlas” – Coldplay

Coldplay holds a very special place in my heart, and while this might make me slightly biased, I truly believe this is a very good song.  In the past, Coldplay has seemed to put most of their effort into big, fast-paced songs, and then tacked on a couple slower, less complete acoustic songs at the end of the album.  Certainly this isn’t always the case (viz. “Fix You”) but in general I find this trend holds.  Coming in at number 4, “Atlas” defies this generalization.  Though a slower song, “Atlas” feels complete in a way that other songs like “Up in Flames” or “Us Against the World” never did.  On top of this, Coldplay doesn’t attempt to overwhelm listeners with this song; instead, they maintain a very environmental and non-oppressive atmosphere while still conveying a dark mood.

3.  “Spectra” – Chipzel

Most popularly known for her musical contribution to the game Super Hexagon, Chipzel came out with another album this year that lived up to all of my expectations.  Because of this, the third best song of 2012 has to go to “Spectra.” Done entirely within the musical capabilities available on a Gameboy, Chipzel’s chiptune music is a nice change of pace from the highly auto-tuned and synthesized world of music today.  For me, the best thing about “Spectra” is how the song feels very busy and full, without feeling cluttered or disorganized.  While the overall album itself has inconsistencies in its perfection, “Spectra” is a diamond in the rough, and if you are at all a fan of the 8-bit or chiptune genre, I highly recommend picking this song up now.

2.  “Diane Young” – Vampire Weekend

Let me be perfectly clear here.  It was very difficult for me to put this song on the list, not because it’s a bad song, but because it’s such a good song.  When I heard this single from Vampire Weekend’s new album “Modern Vampires of the City,” I rushed to pre-order the album, being under the impression that “Diane Young” was a good representation of the rest of the album.  It was not.  Coming off their genius albums Vampire Weekend and Contra, I was extremely disappointed by their lack of imagination and spontaneity in the third release.  But I’m not here to rant about a bad album; I’m here to discuss how good our number-two song “Diane Young” is.  How can I put this: it’s as though a song were pulled out of Hairspray, given an amazing update, and then stuck in front of a modern audience.  And it was beautiful.  The song is very light and bouncy, never missing a beat in its joyousness.  Vampire Weekend threw away all of the rules in creating this song, something that they do particularly well.  Ultimately, I could never recommend buying this album as a whole, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t tell you at least to go check out “Diane Young.”

1. “Fractal Wheel” – Ben Prunty

Finally, coming in at number one as the best song of 2013 is…  “Fractal Wheel,” by Ben Prunty.  Best known for his work on the FTL: Faster Than Light music, his most recent album Curious Merchandise is a goldmine of brilliant songs.  However, by far the best song on this album is “Fractal Wheel,” a work that cycles well between a rapid and leisurely pace.  Plucky synths mesh well with the smoother instruments, and even though this song is definitely ambient, it has a strong presence.  New components are introduced and taken out constantly, giving the piece a coherent yet constantly changing composition.  Overall, I love the song, and I heartily recommend you check out not only “Fractal Wheel,” but all of Prunty’s other songs on Bandcamp!

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Categories: Arts & Culture

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