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Top Songs of 2013: #7 – “Ways to Go” by Grouplove

16 Dec


Grouplove popped onto the Indie music scene in 2011 after the release of its incipient album Never Trust a Happy Song, which featured a track list of effervescent pop/electronic hits that included the earwig singles “Colors” and “Tongue Tied.” Prior to the release of its first full-length album, Grouplove had already started spreading its unique blend of love throughout the U.S. with tours with Florence and the Machine and Joy Formidable and a self-titled EP that propelled the band of accomplished musicians onto the radar of numerous music lovers. They have yet to disappoint.

On the heels of a successful U.S. tour in 2012, which included stops at Coachella and Bonnaroo, Grouplove’s sophomore release hit the music world almost two years to the day of its debut. Released in September of this year, the album reached #21 on the charts and has since featured two singles, one of which is featured in this post.

“Ways to Go” is about as bubbly as bubbly can get. More impressive, it is distinctive. One of the reasons why Grouplove has found a special place in my music-saturated heart is its ability to separate itself from a plethora of other Indie Pop/Rock bands. One cannot overstate this quality – it is quite impressive. In some ways this genre of music is like shells on a beach, most look the same but there are a few that hold unique shapes and colors. Grouplove is a rare shell – when you hear the music you know it is Grouplove.

In typical Grouplove fashion, “Ways to Go” sticks to you like krazy glue. It’s hook could catch even the most stubborn fish. Christian Zucconi’s vocal is infectious and it doesn’t hurt that it sits above a cheery rhythm and concordant instrumentation. The call-and-response chorus will be implanted in your head of hours, and the contrasting message of “I got a little bit longer” and “I got a ways to go” reminds me of the Beatles’ proclamation that “It’s getting better all the time … it can’t get much worse.” The lyric, which also plays on the theme of dreams, meshes well with the eccentric video with a hopelessly optimistic message – especially with recent current events.

One thing is for sure with Grouplove … they don’t have a ways to go; they are already here. The band is still relatively young, but it is reaching the pinnacle of its variegated Indie sound – a hip combination of fizzy instrumentals and unconventional vocals.

Top Songs of 2013: #9 – “Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys

11 Dec

Arctic Monkeys

Do I Wanna Know? is sexy. It’s every word and reverb-filled guitar strum are trying to seduce you.

Like an artful lover, it never loses control. The whole song is purposefully restrained – teasing, if you will. Rather than blow all their ideas in the first song, Do I Wanna Know is the sound of the Arctic Monkeys inviting you to explore the deeper, darker ideas further within AM. The brooding sound is even more frustrating when you know it’s followed by the powerhouse of rock that is R U Mine?

Been wondering if your heart’s still open and if so what time it shuts,” Alex Turner crones after the first chorus. It’s the sound of an awkward young band from Sheffield grown up and matured. “Simmer down and pucker up…”

Don’t mistake the slang in the title as dumbing down ‘for the kids.’ They’re just feeling comfortable in their own skins. The song is practically seething sexuality, celebrating the early hours of the morning when anything can happen. Lyrics slip like half-formed thoughts or drunken comments from Alex Turner’s lips. Obsession seems to be a perfect muse for him.

Appropriately, the video for this song shows sound waves vibrating into a range of shapes including the form of beautiful women like the beginning of a Bond film. It finally changes into the letters ‘AM.’ They might as well have left their number and a note saying ‘Call me.’

Tune in Friday for #8 on the list.

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #10 – “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend

9 Dec

Vampire Weekend

And the list begins. Vampire Weekend released its third studio album in May of this year, and it immediately received laudation from many mainstream/underground music critics. Heralded as an ode to bildungsroman, Vampire Weekend certainly put out a comprehensive and potent release that played on themes of growth, religion, and relationships. The album, Modern Vampires of the City, has found its way into the top five of Stereogum and Spin’s end-of-the-year top albums chart and has reached number one on Rolling Stone’s top 2013 albums chart. It was a good year for Columbia-educated English major Ezra Koenig and his band of undead brothers.

While many who are familiar with the album might be surprised that I did not choose the effervescent Yahweh-inspired pop piece, “Ya Hey,” which pulsates with a taciturn MGMT rhythm, I hold firm that it is not the best song on the album, and thus not on this list. “Unbelievers,” the new album’s third single, is a bubbly track that effortlessly combines early rockabilly with cogent lyrics, and because of its musical diversity and thought-provoking lyric it earned a spot on the countdown.

The song was written by Koenig and produced by record producer Ariel Rechtshaid and vampire multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij. The persistent rhythm that carries the song sounds like a modernized version of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue.” The repetitive 2-chord verse follows a consistent 4-bar chorus that is carried by pounding percussion and classic Vampire Weekend harmonies. The strongest melody of this song falls at the ending diapason that combines the instrumentals into a crashing, harmonious 20 seconds that crushes listeners with a wave of indie-pop sound. It is a song that feigns simplicity and does it well. It also features some pretty top notch lyrics:

We know the fire awaits unbelievers
All of the sinners, the same
Girl you and I will die unbelievers 
bound to the tracks of the train 

Koenig goes on to question whether holy water contains “a little drop for me.” It’s a concise portrait of an individual who is bound to die an unbeliever (without religion). This explicit religious bent may serve as broad symbolism of an album-wide theme of relationship. Nice, philosophical words from Koenig.

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New to the Music Court’s annual Top 10 Songs countdowns? Check out the full-song in-review of The Top 10 Songs of 2010 and The Top 10 Songs of 2011. Tune in Wednesday for song #9.

The Top 10 Songs of 2013 – Preview

5 Dec


Rejoice! The Music Court is bringing back the end-of-the-year Top 10 song list. Hooray. It’s the highlight of any holiday season! Ok … maybe it’s just some reading fodder that you can scoff at when you binge on holiday leftovers. For the rest of December, the Music Court will feature our list of the top 10 songs of 2013.

Check out the full-song in-review of The Top 10 Songs of 2010 and The Top 10 Songs of 2011 by clicking on those links, or click on the subcategories on the right-hand side of this page to view individual posts. There is no 2012 list (sorry!)

First, some logistics prior to previewing the list. In order to be considered for this list, the song must have been released in 2013. Yes, this seems obvious. But when I say 2013, I mean that the song may have been released as a single in 2013, or if it was not released as a single, it must have appeared on an album released in 2013. Often songs are released on albums the year prior to when the song is released as a single. This simply provides us with more options.

This list is clearly subjective. It is completely biased to the taste of those at the Music Court. That being said, you can certainly berate us for getting everything wrong. That’s the fun part of these lists. Comment on rankings you disagree with. Give us your top 10! We want to hear from you. Also, please understand that I (Matt) am not the biggest rap/hip-hop fan. Thus, the list is skewed towards pop/folk/rock (my beloved genres). There is a rap song on the list, though. I promise.

So … what songs almost made it on to the list but couldn’t quite supplant any of the top 10 songs? Here is the list leading up to the top 10:

19. “A Song about Love” by Jake Bugg

18. “Afterlife” by Arcade Fire

17. “Southern United States” by Leif Vollebekk

16. “Winter Road” by Bill Callahan

15. “New” by Paul McCartney

14. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke

13. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk

12. “365 Days” by ZZ Ward



But, how? “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” were arguably the two most popular songs in 2013. They should most certainly appear on the top 10 list. You must have something against Pharrell Williams, who is featured in both songs. Credit to Pharrell, by the way. What an amazing year! In June he became the 12th musician in history to hold the #1 and #2 spot on the Billboard Top 100 at the same time … and for two COMPLETELY different songs. Incredible. But, while both songs fall close to the top 10, I do not just go by mainstream success. Both songs are as infectious as chocolate-covered pretzels, but, to me, the top 10 songs all have more enlightened qualities.

And … just missing the top 10. The #11 song of 2013:


Know the lyric? It is “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, which many of you know because of it was overplayed on mostly all rock stations since it was released as an official single in October of this year. The lyric of the song is powerful; a clear depiction of a protagonist with pernicious flaws. It is somewhat hidden behind the crashing melodies and dramatic harmonies, but the music is just so good. Imagine Dragons certainly knows how to intertwine a catchy melody with hard rock sentiments. It’s a great song. Can you imagine the excellent stuff on the top 10 list?

Be Tuned in on Monday, Dec. 9 for the #10 song on the list! 

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