#60 Alive And Amplified’s Top 10 of 2013

I couldn’t shut the door on 2013 before putting out a best of the last 12 months on the blogs. We’ve heard some amazing music from around the globe since last January from the likes of Bloc Party (their short lived, but head turning come back), Gambles, (the American man that is like the Donnie Darko of acoustic emo), and Knytro (a hip hop artist who’s got rhymes as well as a killer beat to get my attention), but there is only space for 10 to be profiled here. Each with a story of discovery and perhaps ones that you’ve enjoyed too!

10. Major Lazer – Jet Blue Jet


Whatever your ‘type’ of music, you’ve got the bass bug off of something. Whether it be that you’re part of the original dance crowd that loves bass and beats, the nu-Limp Bizkit or Hacktivist type who has it subtly thrown in amongst the rock n rave or in my case a Major Lazer convert. Now I work at Radio 1 with Diplo, but I’ve only started paying attention to his music since he released the new album ‘Free The Universe’ with the Major Lazer crew earlier this year. Dancehall and reggae inspired with an added dose of bass this time round. I’m really not a bashment head – I never have been, but I do like what the guys have done with bringing this style of music up to date. No one else is doing this style (not well anyway) and there’s a good 8-10 MJ songs that I really like. I’m a rock head at heart – Reading festival is always a natural August Bank Holiday home, but this summer the Friday night with Major Lazer in the NME tent was an experience I’ll never forget – full of colour and energy and good vibes. None of this dance crowd drugs, grinding and lads shit-  just dancing and good music 🙂

9. Phantogram – Black Out Days


I stumbled across Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel’s new guise ‘Phantogram’ just ahead of going out to New York City. They’d started to be blogged about but I took a particular interest in these guys because there was a good chance I could be seeing them when I went out! I really don’t like female vocals usually; unless they’ve been peppered with a 20 smokes a day habit since their teenage years, but Sarah’s really works for this type of alt. indie-electro that’s doing the business for NYC peers MSMR. Their next track ‘Fall In Love’ made it to the blog earlier this month and the new album is out in Feb.

8. SZA – Ice Moon


Apart from the stand out track, vocals and haunting xylo-style keys in the mix, it was the genre of ‘romantically cryptic pop’ that made this one stick in my head. As I once discussed with Maverick Sabre’s manager, (as you do), it is the genre you sell an artist on that stands out as much as the music these days. Since that post things have gone from strength to strength for the New Jersey songstress with attention from record labels and producers alike to make her new tunes.

7. Clarence Clarity – The Gospel Truth


A little bit of a wild card, WTF, this is quirky moment. But that’s what makes music exciting right? There’s a lot of well-produced, polished artists that do make good music out there, but when something new, raw and artistically on the ball comes out you have to honour it. Tip of the hat to Phil Taggart who brought this tune into work one evening. It was big…what a find.

6. Beck – Defriended


Beck is too underrated on this side of the pond. The Americans know. They respect the years of music he’s delivered; many being outstanding moments in my music collection. For a 40-odd year old guy who’s beginnings laid with country music he’s delivered anthems such as E-Pro, Loser & Devil’s Haircut. Perhaps the latest work is more experimental than the broader taste of the pop crowd but ‘Defriended’ is an incredibly layered and atmospheric tune that he’s performed live with an orchestra. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t see an orchestra normally, but can you imagine this performed live with an 140-piece accompaniment….heaven.

5. Papa – Put Me To Work


Some friends over at KROQ FM in America gave me a heads up to this track at the very end of 2012. Apparently it was doing big business in the L.A. scene and friends who’d seen them live were super-charged with praise and adoration for the live performance. Come January all the blogs were on it and Papa became a name you had to know if you were a fan of the alt. rock scene. With Arcade Fire nowhere to be seen at this point and The Killers on the way out/older style coming through this was exciting! EXCITING! 1min53 into the song things get rather exciting indeed. A track that still sounds killa 12 months on.

4. Bring Me The Horizon – Can You Feel My Heart?


I remember it well – a dark spring evening and I was invited along to a swanky venue in West London, down some backroad and then another alley and then underground. A secret album playback of Bring Me The Horizon’s 4th offering ‘Sempiternal’. Sitting amongst the band themselves and leaders of the rock world such as Dan P. Carter I really felt like this was going to be something special…and I wasn’t wrong. With a strong album from start to finish I was sitting there writing down next to each track name ‘love it’. I think ‘The House Of Wolves’ and ‘Shadow Moses’ were my two favourite at the time. But I think after months of living with it, many performances watched later (including Reading which went down a fucking treat) I think this one really stood out for me.

3. FIDLAR – Awkward


FIDLAR come from LA. They are friends with scuzz punk fun bands like together PANGEA. They are super-cool. They make rad tunes. They created the first mosh pit at a Radio 1 Maida Vale Rocks session in front of me. This track reminds me a bit of Weezer. Which is very good. Everything else they make it good.

2. Dinosaur Pile-Up – Arizona Waiting


I remember hearing a track called ‘My Rock N Roll’ on a Myspace page back in 2008. There was a picture of a dude holding a guitar and a few posts about music and stuff. Turns out clicking listen on that page on a hunch was one of the best decisions I ever made. The band was called Dinosaur Pile Up. They still are to be honest, but they have taken their sound to the next level with album No. 2 (Nature Nurture) five years later. Although this wasn’t the first song I heard off the album it was the first song that made me want to throw myself into a moshpit and generally rock out. It’s a proper feel good riff driven rock anthem. I remember when Zane (Lowe) first heard it and was super excited so played out the first 20/30seconds ahead of it’s world exclusive (with him the next day). And trust me…it’s not just me, Zip knows a killer guitar tune when he hears it.

1. Queens Of The Stone Age – I Appear Missing


If there is a God, he does not want me to see Queens Of The Stone Age live. They came into work and played a Live Lounge & a special hour long fucking epic set at Maida Vale in London. A job I was paid to turn up to. I was sent away to a course in Manchester (I will never get over this and I will whine until the day I die about it). No way out. Whatever. I also found out they were playing the iTunes festival when I was in New York later in the year. On the verge of going slightly ape shit and pulling my hair out I managed to get my hands on the best gig ticket of my life (to date). I originally got up at 4AM in the morning to get a ticket to their Rough Trade gig in London town. About 20 people too slow to actually buy one. All I can say is that two men called Chris & Joe are owed an incredibly big pint for the ticket I managed to get.

I leave you here with the arty 3min radio version (all the …like clockwork videos are worth a watch btw…it’s a story!), but if you do get your ears on the 6minute album version it is worth every second. And one of the best songs I’ve seen performed live ever. Josh Homme & the QOTSA crew are truly legends. No one comes close.



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