The Best Noise Tracks of 2013

Categories: Year In Review

Another year, another list: noise roars on, freakier and spikier and gnarlier than before, furthering tinnitus cases and confusing loved ones and improving the quality of life for the thousands, or maybe dozens of people for whom pop music doesn't translate into a satisfying drive to work or night on the town. There are always more cassettes to unwrap, more bandcamp streams to freak out over, more ways to tweak an already tweaked signal to suggest total societal collapse, more ways to make a cracked beat twerk harder than Miley Cyrus on a crystal meth binge; some of our favorite noise cuts of 2013 got that sorted, while others edged into or close to the realm of melody or found solace in swamps. (Speaking of which, has anybody seen Khate lately?) The genre is alive and well, and we hope you'll celebrate along with us by unplugging from the headphone jack, turning up the volume, and running the risk of getting canned from your dead-end job a couple weeks prior to Christmas.

See also: 12 Artists to Catch at Ende Tymes Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation

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A Windmilli: 2012 in Dutch Rap

Categories: Year In Review

Vevo throwin' salt in your Dutch rap game.
In 2008, I heard a decent rap track called "Non Stop" by an MC named Brainpower. About halfway through, I realized I could only understand about every tenth word. After a lot of repeat spins, head scratching and late-night calls to my smarter friends, I determined that the track was actually in Dutch, a language that sounds uncannily like English, but slightly sillier. Like, imagine a German guy speaking fake English, and he's specifically trying to be funny.

See Also:
- How to Stop Masturbating to 50 Cent
- Why Scott Stapp Hated God and Other Revelations in His New Book Sinner's Creed

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2011: The Year In Kanye

Remember the time?
Does Kanye West exist because the world gives him so much attention? Or does the world exist because he gives it something to pay attention to? Heavy stuff, man. Whatever the answer is, the rapper-cum-producer has both dominated critics' best-ofs and been a celebrity-news staple—and he hasn't taken a year off to chill hard on his gold-threaded Versace leopard-fur mattress since the 2004 release of The College Dropout. Last year, the self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don worked harder than ever; let's celebrate that by taking a stroll through Kanye West Memory Lane, where the houses are pricey and the shrubbery is exquisitely manicured.

Note: In the past, Kanye has compared himself to God, Jesus, Elvis, Michael Jordan, Pharaoh, and Hitler. This piece will rate the merit of Kanye's grandest 2011 moments in that order, with "God" being the highest form of praise, and "Hitler" being the lowest.

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The Top 20 12-Inches Of 2011

Benoit & Sergio: Finishing 2011 strong, poised to rule 2012.
The debate between digital digging and its analog analogue is the same useless arguing as the one pitting digital playback against the analog kind. In 2011, if it sounded good, it was worth listening to. The resulting stew was a mix of past and present where classic house met nu-disco and created a future sound of the old school.

The rules guiding the making of this list of the year's best 12-inches are quite simple: If a release was pressed onto flat, somewhat circular vinyl that could to be played on a turntable sometime during 2011, it was eligible, whether official, unofficial or reissue. The local leanings of the list are unintentional; New York may have quite a past, but it just also happens to know how to look toward the future.

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Sound Of The City's 11 Clickiest Posts Of 2011

Have you told someone that you think Nickelback sucks today?
We're about to close up shop here until 2012, and what better way to send out the year that birthed trollgaze than to run down the 11 posts on Sound of the City that generated the most pageviews over the course of the past 52 weeks? Enjoy this look back on the psyche of our readers, and have a happy beginning to your new year.

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53 More Great Songs From 2011

Every day we're... ahh forget it.
Earlier today, Maura offered a list of the 47 songs on her "2011 Awesomeness" Spotify playlist; to complement that, here are the 53 songs from my less cleverly named playlist, "2011." As is the usually the case with these mega-lists, I compiled mine a bit haphazardly, throwing together a substantial portion of it over the last couple of hours; some of the older selections were likely based around inside jokes that I've already forgotten. Either way, because we only had three overlaps (predictably, Azealia Banks's "212" and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass"; oddly, Das Racist's "Girl") you now have 97 songs to take with you as exit 2011, which, it seems, wasn't so bad after all.

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47 Great Songs From 2011

In which our heroine takes on jerky overmoneyed dudes with the support of André 3000.
Now that I've run down the worst songs to grace my ears over the past year, it's time to look back on the musical year in a fonder way. To that end, here's the list of songs that made my "2011 awesomeness" playlist on Spotify, a running tally of songs that I couldn't stop listening to that I populated as the year went on (I started naming my playlists containing the year's best songs that all the way back in 2006—miss you, JC Chasez!—and the name just stuck). The 47 songs are listed below in addition to being Spotify-collected; enjoy, feel free to try and guess which ten made my Pazz & Jop ballot (that'll be made public on January 18)!

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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 1: Jessie J Featuring B.o.B, "Price Tag"

The Song: Jessie J, "Price Tag"
The Crimes: Using what might be the entirety of her label's marketing budget to convince the world that she actually functions on a higher, post-capitalistic level; "video hos"; "ch-chang-cha-chang"; "bla-bling-bla-bling."

The year's most grueling pop personality was, without a doubt, the BRIT School-bred British yelper known as Jessie J. Born Jessica Cornish and known before 2011 as one of the people who helped birth Miley Cyrus's "Party In The USA," Jessie drop-kicked herself into the American consciousness earlier this year with one of those "big in the UK, but unknown here" Saturday Night Live performances, then stuck around, thanks in large part to her handlers booking her in any venue—the MTV Video Music Awards, VH1 Divas Live, your mom's 65th-birthday party—that might help up her Q rating.

While it's true that she could hold a note or two here and there, Jessie's barky voice and insistence on indulging every vocal trick in the book (stuttering, scatting, fake patois) turned her debut Who You Are (Universal Republic) into one of the year's most excruciating albums to sit through, a Katy Perry-like bludgeoning through pop that lacked even the scant amount of charm or self-awareness possessed by that singer. No song on Who You Are was more aggravating than the Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly-penned "Price Tag," a schlocky bit of lite reggae during which Miss J tries to be down with the recessionary populace she's shoved herself in front of by claiming that "we don't need your money, money, money" because "we just wanna make the world dance." Wait, does that mean those Vevo ads for your new video were paid for in hip-shakes?

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She's Not There: WU LYF, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, And The Value Of Absence

Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Every year, ambitious young bands find new ways—fascinating, puerile, ingenious—to play the Internet, and in 2011, one of the most captivating, effective ways to do so involved near-silence. A cluster of breakthrough bands, WU LYF and Unknown Mortal Orchestra among them, caused a huge publicity ripple online by pointedly refusing to exist there—or deciding to have an online presence so cryptic as to frustrate any desire for even the most basic information. In this scenario, a band's lack of Google hits are a direct measure of its tantalizing mysteriousness. If the Internet is a musical instrument, this was its version of John Cage's "4:33."

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, The Finale: Jay-Z And Kanye West Fiddle While The Underground Gets Wasted

Smell that money burning.
This concludes Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, a conversation about pop music in 2011 between Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph. Read it all again.

Thanks for the handoff, Nick, and thanks to Katherine, Tom and especially Maura for the great conversation over the past few days. I'll try and wrap this thing up with the rigor and candor you all have displayed so far. Quickly, to Tom's question about Skrillex: he is a big deal, and we should be talking more about him. I was just having a conversation about the fact that, yet again, hi-NRG dance music is making important inroads into American dance culture—for the first time since the "electronica" moment of the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, then the Big Beat microsecond of Fatboy Slim and Moby, which we quickly learned worked best on this side of the Atlantic in car commercials and movie trailers.

Skrillex's (and Canadian contemporary Deadmau5) most immediate predecessor—in terms of function, not form—is clearly Girl Talk, who taught American college and high school kids that it's okay to wild the fuck out now and again. Yet whereas Greg Gillis seems like an accidental hero who started making music off Limewire downloads after getting home from work, Skrillex strikes me as much more of a musician's musician—an ex-emo kid who saw an opportunity he couldn't pass up. As some of my smart esteemed colleagues (including Tom—hi Tom!) were discussing on Twitter yesterday, critics need to pay attention to this new wave of party-starters. It's very likely to be a passing fad holding us over until Rock Comes To Reclaim The Fist-Pumping Throne, but maybe—just maybe—it'll trigger the rise of an entirely guitar-free musical culture for the next decade.

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