Artist: James Blake
Label: Polydor, Republic Records
Released: April 5, 2013
James Blake is easily my favourite artist this year, everything he’s released has been gold, and “Retrogade” is absolute proof of that. The track starts off prettily with a Sam-Cooke-influenced humming over a simple yet effective chord progression on piano. From there, layers of sounds and rhythms are added to this loop, building up to the chorus where a siren-like heavy synth sound, one more in line with the sound on his self-titled debut, appears and creates an overwhelming impression on the listener. Despite the complexity of sounds, James Blake doesn’t allow his voice to get lost in the mix and demonstrates his vocal maturity, showcasing his low range to his beautiful falsettos.
Song: You & Me (Flume remix)
Album: Flume Deluxe Edition
Released: November 8, 2013
On its own, Disclosure’s “You & me” is already a garage house banger worthy of critical acclaim. But ARIA’s 2013 Producer of the Year, Flume, managed to find a way to reinvent the track and make it even better than the original. Slowing down Eliza Doolittle’s vocals and adding a heavy orchestral/synth soundscape with hard hitting percussion, the song builds up to incredibly moving drops that cannot be described with any adjective other than epic (and I really don’t like to use that word to describe anything).
Song: Hold On, We’re Going Home
Artist: Drake [ft. Majid Jordan]
Album: Nothing was the Same
Label: OVO Sound, Young Money, Cash Money, Republic
Released: September 20, 2013
There is something really endearing about this ‘80s-synthpop/disco-esque track produced by Nineteen85, 40, and newly signed OVO talent, Majid Jordan. Drake channels his inner romantic and takes on a very different direction from the other tracks on Nothing was the Same, on this simplistically melodic jam. While the cameo-heavy Miami Vice-influenced music video may be slightly on the cheesy side, the track definitely has staying power (in a good way). There was always some skepticism regarding Drake’s singing capabilities, this extremely well produced track is definitely one for Drake against his critics.
Song: Doin’ it right
Artist: Daft Punk
Album: Random Access Memories
Label: Daft Life, Columbia
Released: May 17, 2013
While the first two singles featuring Pharrell from the French duo’s latest album, Random Access Memories seemed to have a more mainstream aesthetic, the stand out track on the album is the solely electronic “Doin’ it right”. With Panda Bear from Animal Collective lending his vocals to a simple bass-and-snare beat layered on with a signature Daft Punk vocoder loop, the track is a welcome contrast to the disco-heavy album. The construct of the song is simple yet bearing more resemblance to the Daft Punk that we all know and love, making it the most understated track on the album.
Artist: Chance the Rapper
Album: Acid Rap
Released: April 30, 2013
What is most fantastic about Chance the Rapper on this track is his versatility in rap-singing and floating between the two without force. “Juice” is a catchy, cartoonish, hip-hop track that really showcases his talents as a storyteller. His wordplay is clever (“Never tasted paper, tripped, always chasing paper”), and the hook is infectious and memorable. The 20 year old from Chicago is definitely someone to keep on your radar in the years to come.