2013 END-OF-YEAR REVIEW. THE SINGLES: THE TOP-25

Looking back, 2013 was a simply fantastic year for electronic music. I think I covered that pretty well in my previous article as I ran down my top-ten favourite albums of the year. I’d like to take a moment now and focus on the best songs and singles of the year. So if you’ll indulge me, here are the twenty-five songs of 2013 that really blew my mind.

THE CRITERIA:

  • Each song had to be released online or in retail shops between January 1, 2013, and December 1, 2013.
  • The songs had to have a decidedly electronic slant to them, although not all of them are strictly so.

Without further ado, here are the songs that won my ears and my heart in 2013…………

Number 1: Triggerfinger by Donkeyboy

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This Norwegian synth-pop/dance-pop quartet have quickly become one of my favourite bands. Regrettably they’re not well known in the States, which is an absolute crime! With a flair for the retro synth-pop of the 1980s, and a knack for writing tight grooves with knockout melodic hooks, Donkeyboy write some of the catchiest pop I’ve heard in years. Lead singer/synth guru, Kent Sundberg, and guitarist Peter Michelsen, provide some of the most beautiful falsetto harmonies I’ve heard this side of Andy Bell and Morten Harket. 

Donkeyboy are so full of life! I’ve become a massive fan of their music over the past year. They burst onto the international scene in 2009 with their incredible debut single, ‘Ambitions’, which paired them up with the lovely Linnea Dale, a former finalist on Norway’s version of Idol. This new single, ‘Triggerfinger’, pairs them up with another female vocalist, named Kiesza, and she’s equally lovely!

Of all the songs appearing on this list of the top-25 singles of 2013, ‘Triggerfinger’ had the most plays for me, and it’s still in heavy rotation on my iPod, in my studio, and in my car. Donkeyboy are a major success in Norway and Scandinavia, but here in America they’re still very much an indie band. Nevertheless, I’m over-the-moon in love with their sound!

If you haven’t discovered Donkeyboy, don’t let the cheeky name deter you.

Check them out NOW!

Here’s the official promo video for ‘Triggerfinger’ :

While you’re at it, check out ‘Ambitions’, the song that broke them in Norway and all over Europe. Unapologetically retro, and loving every minute of it. Stick around for a hilariously awesome cameo at the end of the video by an 80s television icon.

M’mmmmm……. and did I mention Linnea Dale! 🙂

Heres the promo video for ‘Ambitions’ :

Number 2: There Goes Our Love Again by White Lies

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While not a synth band or electronic artist by nature, this scorching power trio from the UK provided one of the greatest songs of the year, which also features some absolutely DREAMY synth strings and pads. It has a killer sing-a-long chorus, and a rock steady beat that drives the whole thing home. One of my favourite rock bands at the moment for sure. ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ tells a wistful tale of a love struggling to find its place in the world. I love everything about this track. This was one of my go-to songs of the year whenever I needed a quick pick-me-up.

Number 3: The Last Astronaut by Martyn Bailey

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From the greatest pop album of the year, Red Sky Supernova, this track is my clear favourite. It’s a melancholy, piano-driven ballad that tells the tale of a stranded astronaut, drifting towards oblivion in the cold, dark expanse of space. What I love about it is how Bailey finds a way to name-drop Ziggy Stardust, and Major Tom in the same line without sounding cheeky or tacky. The listener is truly taken in by the melodic tale of desolation that Bailey’s lyrics so effortlessly paint. Mr. Bailey has an unearthly amazing voice, with equally freakish range, and ever so effortlessly, he demonstrates that on this track. I’m head-over-heels in love with his album, and this is the track that shines brightest for me.

Number 4: Stay by EmT

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I fell in love with this brilliant new duo from the UK the moment I first listened to this track. With a sultry female lead vocal that evokes the soulful vibes of Lisa Stansfield and Allison Moyet, Ema Walter is in a league of her own here as she knocks this baby outta the park! The music, provided by the brilliant Tony Blue, is reminiscent of groovy synth-pop of the late-80s/early-90s, and it’s an absolute dream to listen to with the headphones on. They’ve yet to release their first album, and even this particular track doesn’t have its own official release yet. But you can check it out here, by simply clicking on the link below:

Number 5: Night Cafe by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

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From the number one album of the year, I give you the most solid track from said album. It’s 100% classic OMD from beginning to end. Paul Humphreys offers up world-class melodic synth backgrounds to Andy McCluskey’s Hopper-inspired lyrics. This is the very definition of a synth-pop smash hit. It deserves mention in the same breath as their classics, Enola Gay and Messages. I played this one non-stop for close to a month.

Night Cafe is a stellar example of what drew me to OMD so many years ago. I find everything about this song inspiring.

Number 6: I’m Your Machine by Alien Skin

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Undeniably my favorite Alien Skin single thus far. Catchy, up-tempo and a frickin AWESOME synth hook that really drives the song forward. Still on my heavy rotation playlist. A bit different from what we normally hear from Alien Skin, as this one is prime dance floor material. This is George at his very best.

Number 7: Lose Yourself To Dance by Daft Punk

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For me, this track showcases what’s so great about Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories album. The style is straight-up disco/funk. Nile Rodgers provides his trademark funk rhythm guitar. Pharrell Williams provides a wonderful, albeit simple falsetto vocal which adds a nice modern sheen to it. And of course, Daft Punk’s vocoder is what really sends it over the top. Need a track to get a party started?

This will do the trick.

Number 8: Nebula by Heliophile

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In a word…… BRILLIANT! The first single from new Dutch phenom, Heliophile, and it’s solid as can be. Beautifully-arranged, and reminiscent of the finest work of De/Vision  and Camouflage. Intelligent lyrics and a simply wonderful guitar lick. One of the finest european synth-pop tracks I’ve heard in years. Still on my heavy rotation playlist.

http://heliophile.bandcamp.com

Number 9: Soothe My Soul by Depeche Mode

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One of Depeche Mode’s most solid dance-oriented singles since ‘It’s No Good’. It’s a classic Depeche Mode song about sexual tension and longing. It evokes the same passionate atmosphere as ‘Stripped’ and ‘In Your Room’, although it’s definitely a more up-tempo track than either. Throbbing bassline, subdued guitar tones, and Dave Gahan’s powerful growl.

By far the best track off Delta Machine.

 

Number 10: Magnetized by Johnny Hates Jazz

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The first new JHJ single in 25 years to feature original lead singer, Clark Datchler. I can’t begin to say how happy I am to see them back on the scene. I was a HUGE fan of their stellar Turn Back The Clock album back in ’88, and this new single, along with their new album, which is also called Magnetized, is just as brilliant. Wonderfully mellow synth-pop. If you haven’t checked out the new album or single, you really should.

A very welcome return after a decades-long absence.

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Here’s how the remainder of my Top-25 singles of 2013 turned out……………..

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Number 11: Helen of Troy by OMD

Classic OMD with McCluskey belting out his best.

Number 12: Little Lie by Martyn Bailey

Stunningly beautiful piano-driven ballad.

Number 13: Recoil by New Order

Eerily similar to Electronic, but undeniably New Order. A wonderful mid-tempo ballad driven home by piano (rare for New Order) and acoustic guitar. And yes…… Hooky’s trademark bass is here too!

Number 14: People at an Exhibition by Jonteknik

One of the best tracks Jonteknik has ever released. Gorgeous electronic music all around. And here’s a fantastic promo video for it from superb indie filmmaker, Trevor Hardy:

Number 15: Orion by Shy Kidx

Folks in the US may recognize this track from a Toyota commercial, but it’s a killer track in its own right. Flirts a bit with dubstep, but it’s a simply fantastic track that’s perfect to listen to in the car…… which is probably explains why Toyota licensed it for their ad. I love it!

Number 16: You Should Be Higher by Depeche Mode

Another standout track from the new Depeche album. This one’s penned by Dave Gahan, and has him doing a bit of vocal gymnastics. Dreamy, this one.

Number 17: Rhythmus by Karl Bartos

Karl Bartos doing what he does best……….

Number 18: Night Fable by Pacific Deep

One of the better synth-pop ballads of the year, delivered by one of the best new groups on the synth-pop scene.

Number 19: Musica Ex-Machina by Karl Bartos

Pure. Electronic. Music. Awesome!

Number 20: Robot Music by Jonteknik

A brilliant tribute to…… well, robot music, by the man who gets this style of electronic music better than ANYBODY.

Number 21: My Secret Garden by Alien Skin

The title track from Alien Skin’s latest album. It’s absolutely beautiful. Reminiscent of OMD with lush and lovely choirs, piano and string arrangements. A must-have.

Number 22: One Summer Dream by Claudia Brucken

Claudia Brucken returns with a lovely single from her 2012 cover album, The Lost Are Found. This old ELO tune is given a new breath of life with a simply stunning arrangement that completely outshines the original in every way.

Number 23: Regret by EmT

The debut single by one of my favorite new synth duos. No regrets here!

Number 24: Stay With Me by OMD

The first OMD ballad to feature Paul Humphreys on lead vocals since 1986’s ‘Forever (Live and Die)’. His angelic voice is like no other. Simply amazing.

Number 25: Beyond Repair by Pacific Deep

One of the first tracks I heard from Pacific Deep, and it’s still one of my faves. I really love the chorus hook in this track.

SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC, SO LITTLE TIME!

Jimm Kjelgaard – January 2014

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