Favorite Songs of 2013 — Part 2
We pick up with our hero in the nail-biting conclusion of our journey, weathered and torn over the decisions of his favorite songs of the year. It’s life or death for these tunes: The ones that don’t make the list will certainly perish and be forgotten about for all of history. The humanity. It’s disgusting, really.
5. Cheyenne Mize — “Among the Grey”
I was a fan of Cheyenne’s from the start, but never blown away as much as when I first heard this, the title track to her latest record. Not only was it a sonic leap from her folksy beginnings, it also showed songwriting growth beyond even her last EP. It’s an album with depth that still carries enough hooks to make her accessible to a wider audience. She took a lot of time on it, and it shows. With time, there’s no reason why Cheyenne can’t be as celebrated as someone like St. Vincent, and if she keeps going down this path, it won’t be long until she is.
4. The Dismemberment Plan — “Invisible”
The Dismember Plan didn’t have a ton of fans on their first go-round, but their legacy grew tremendously throughout the last decade, and their songs finally found an audience that didn’t exist pre-blog era. This song is not from the band I remember, and thank goodness. There is enough of Travis Morrison’s wordplay to call it a touchstone, but he’s found a way to grow up while still keeping a toe in the waters of his youth. Couple that with the pulsing strings carrying the song, and you have a track that doesn’t sound anything like anything else this year.
3. Pearl Jam — “Lightning Bolt”
PJ’s best Chapter Two record has everything us super-fans wanted, from the punk blitz of “Mind Your Manners” to the sing-along balladry of “Sleeping By Myself.” But my favorite version will always be the side of them that unleashes the epic, guitar solo-heavy anthems like this title track. You could call “Lightning Bolt” the “Alive” of this record. It’s got a sound building to four of the most exciting minutes they’ve ever created. On an LP that has little filler, “Lightning Bolt” is a triumph in an already legendary catalog.
2. Wax Fang — “The Blonde Leading the Blonde”
Scott Carney is beginning to seem like the mad scientist who has been mysteriously holed up in his laboratory longer than we’re comfortable with. What’s he building in there? After the mind-blowing part one of his Astronaut masterpiece, we got a song built more for a greatest-hits record, and boy, is it! After the band’s sound-tracking of that episode of “American Dad,” it’s hard not to hear this one-off as a sonic three-ring circus from a different universe. It has enough theatrical glam guitar awesomeness to put any Slade song to shame.
1. Jim James — “A New Life”
It’s my No. 1 for a handful of reasons. The imagery that’s created in the intro by using one simple word — stardust — puts any listener in a dreamy mindset. Then there’s that live version he did on “Fallon,” with The Roots playing with him. When Questlove comes in on that snare, his head bobbing in a groove that shows how much undeniable fun he’s having, it became one of the best musical moments in 2013 television. And then Jim takes off on that lift right before that once moooooore line at the end!? Amazing. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s the song to my relationship. By a little luck in timing, “A New Life” had come out just as I was meeting my girlfriend (we’re now engaged!), every word telling our story.
Isn’t that how most songs make our personal Best Of lists? The little moments that make up our lives always seem to have the most perfect soundtracks, and this year was no different. All of these songs (and many more) will always be engrained in my head as a time and place, which is a great way to have a relationship with music. If you’re the type who says, “This year wasn’t a good year for music,” you just need to dig more. It’s there, and with any luck, it’ll hit you at just the right time.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.