Chris Todd’s top 8 of 2013


Tis the season of the end of year list. Top 10 straight to box set DVDs. Top 1000 digital deep house labels. Etc. We’ve decided to go for Top 8 Whatevers. The Top 8 things of the year – be them bacon sandwiches; the top 8 times you stubbed your toe against the f*cking boxes full of useless sh*t your girlfriend insists on leaving in the hallway; and so on and so forth. Each week until the new year, we’ll be publishing the Top 8s of the various R$N scribes.

Here are Chris Todd’s (12, does nobody listen to a simple request anymore?!) selections:

Younghusband – Reunion Message

Produced by Nicolas Vernhe (Deerhunter, Wild Nothing), Dromes, the long awaited debut from London four piece Younghusband, shared the same kind of organised chaos of Bradford Cox’s outfit – but with the amount of restraint you’d expect from any self-respecting shoegaze band. This highlight from the album is as aggressive as they get, metronomic rock drums are given a dreamier shade with blackened Wurlitzer sounds, a nagging one note bassline and Bilinda Butcher-esque vocal cooing which culminate in a satisfying thrash of guitars – it could almost be a long lost Chapterhouse track. Fans of The Horrors and TOY will find much to love from these guys.

Pet Shop Boys – The Last to Die / Inside a Dream

After last year’s underwhelming Elysium’ album it would have been easy to assume that the Pet Shop Boys’ well of good stuff had finally run dry. A quick follow up came in this year’s Stuart Price produced Electric’ album, choosing Price made total sense; he’s cut from the same cloth. The track indicates how Neil Tennant & Chris Lowe remain genius in song arranging. Originally a Bruce Springsteen track, this is a rendition done in the style of Day & Age’ era Killers, an album which is The Killers at their most Pet Shop Boyish, the follow up to their Springsteen album. Inside A Dream’ is equally as effervescent, a genuine electro stomper with analogue synth aplenty, the tune nods to their past with a synth line that samples their own classic, 1987’s What have I done to Deserve this?’

Coma – Cycle

This Cologne based duo dropped their debut album In Technicolour’ early in 2013 and had a healthy disregard for musical pigeon holes. Primarily a techno act, the album shows off a skill for many other genres. When they wanted to make a krautrock track, a punk funker, a number of devastating techno tracks, they did. The highlight was this euphoric and propulsive trance influenced electro track, all those EDM losers should take note of this, how to build and build and create a hands in the air moment without losing any integrity or having to colab with sucker DJs such as Avicci/Harris/Afrojack etc .

Kanye West – New Slaves

Kanye continues to be as divisive as he always ever was. Whenever his name crops up in conversation it regularly gets followed with “he’s a right dick”. This may be the casbusybodyut as this track proclaims, he’d rather be a dick than a swallower. For every instance where he can be accused of idiotic behaviour, he can luckily come up with the goods, even ones as ridiculous as having conversations with Jesus about counting his millions. As contrary as ever, on this highlight of this year’s ‘Yeezus’ album, he criticizes the city boy money obsessed culture of The Hamptons, it’s only ok for Kanye to make money obviously. This is Kanye at his most indignant, the lyrical flow and general filth making it an irresistible listen. “Meanwhile the DEA teamed up with the CCA, They tryna lock niggas up, they tryna make new slaves, See that’s that privately owned prison, get your piece today, they probly all in the Hamptons bragging ’bout what they made. Fuck you and your Hampton house, I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse, came on her Hampton blouse and in her Hampton mouth. Y’all ’bout to turn shit up, I’m ’bout to tear shit down, I’m ’bout to air shit out, now what the fuck they gon’ say now? This devastating rhyme is followed by Frank Ocean singing over some forgotten European rock track from the 1960s, yenius.

Kamp! – Melt

Kamp!, a Polish electro-pop trio are signed to one of the best nuevo house music labels in Europe, Lisboa’s D.i.s.c.o.Texas. This second release for the label is a 4 minute pop gem of filtered house basslines, crisp electro beats and a chorus crammed full of joy which cuts the cheese just before it gets too whiffy. Similar in vibe to Cut Copy and Friendly Fires, if you wanted pure sunshine via lush Portuguese beaches poured into your filthy lugholes, this is the perfect way to do it

Primal Scream – Hit Void

After a decade of mediocre albums from The Scream it was obviously time to call in the friends to help them regain some kind of vitality, wow, it worked. With David Holmes back on production for the first time since 1999s ‘xtrmntr’ album, Kevin Shields, Mark Stewart and hairy old rocker Robert Plant lurk amongst the sprawling 70 minutes of this track’s parent album, ‘More Light’. The reintroduction of Holmes makes total sense, his 2008 album ‘The Holy Pictures’ is an exemplary exploration of electronica through metronomic krautrock and this influence lives throughout More Light, especially through this track. A cross between Neu! and PIL ending with a solo of wailing sax, it’s a lesson in how to create musical devastation and proves how foolish it is to even consider writing off Gillespie & Co.

Darkness Falls – The Void (Clueless mix)

Danish two-piece released the original of this back in 2011. Produced by electronic genius Trentmoeller, it oozed the kind of sophistication one expects from his work. This year so the album return in remix form, featuring noteworthy renditions by Com Truise, Tom demand & Terje Bakke. This introspective mix of insistent beats, soaring strings and New Order miserablism is swoonsome and enticing.

Trentmoeller – Come Undone

2013 was the year that Danish producer Trentmoeller came up with the long playing goods with his third album, ‘Lost’. The highlight is stunning. Come Undone (featuring Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead) is a swooning piano led hyper ballad. Synths that sound like the musical equivalent of the tears of a sad whale with Makino putting in the kind of vocal performance that could break a thousand hearts, its a show stopping moment of musical majesty that will enrich the ears of all lucky enough to hear it.

Black Hearted Brother – My Baby Just Sailed Away

Neil Halstead, ex lead guitarist of 90s shoegaze act Slowdive, came up with the scuzzy goods here. Alongside Mark Van Hoen of Locust and Nick Holton of Holtons Opulent Oog produced a moment of sublime tripped out psych-gaze on this track. Combining enticing Moroder-influenced throbbing with washes of dreamy synths and swaggering guitar riffs as if Ladytron and Miss Kittin had jammed with Martin Gore circa 1990. As the track goes on it twists itself into a doomy sneer whilst getting more intense, and loud guitar fuzz is smeared over pristine beats, making it even darker. Then the beats break down into a crescendo of synth dysfunction before cranking the guitars back in for one last fuck you before it all comes to an end. Its a shattering example of how, even after all these years, rock still has the ability to create such pandemonium and make it sound so jaw-dropping.

Scntst – Self Therapy

At just twenty years of age, Berlin based Bryan Muller understands the workings of such an important label (he’s signed to Alex Ridha’s Boys Noize Recordings), he also managed to crack producing something which embodies the ethos of the label whilst sounding nothing at all like a typical artist you’d expect to hear from them. This track alone revists 90s era Aphex Twin while nodding towards Kruder & Dorfmeister as well as other Warp acts such as Autechre, Black Dog and Boards of Canada. There’s a strain of melancholy through this track that’s incredibly enticing, the disconsolate despair of it all sounding like it was recorded in the middle of the night after struggling for inspiration during a ten hour studio session. It was worth the angst he found it, its beautiful.

Donna Summer – Sunset People (Hot Chip mix) 

This year’s stinker of a remix compilation of Donna Summer’s work was a massive fail, really bad mixes from the likes of the awful Audio jack and the like couldn’t give Donna the send off she deserved, it ended up being more like a blatant cash on of Donna Summer’s death and the re-evaluation of Giorgio Moroder thanks to Daft Punk commissioned by people who stopped buying dance music in 2004. This classy mix by Hot Chip is the only mix (alongside a cheeky Chromeo mix) contained of any true worth, it delves deep into the essence of disco, fuses 80s synth pop with electro bleeps and late 80s house music. Like all classic disco tracks, they spend the first three minutes concentrating on instrumentation and using Donna sparingly whilst building the track, then let rip with one of Summers most erotic croons. Its a master class in the art of the remix.

John Grant – Sensitive New Age Guy

Album of the year with ease, John Grant’s second album had him leaving the countryish warmth of his previous material backed by Midlake and cranked up the electronic beats. Still unashamedly confessional, Pale Green Ghosts is so personal at times it’s as uncomfortable as reading someone’s personal diary. Backed by a pounding electro beat and 80s synths, this is Grant’s bizarre approach to hip hop, the end result is deceptively camp sounding fun, beyond this facade lie some of most scathing lyrics.