Ladies and gents, these are the tracks that got us all worked up in a tizzy in 2013. Strap on your headphones and have a tumultuous tumble down the musical time tunnel that is the AIAIAI Best of 2013 Playlist!
So 2013 was yet another active if not turbulent year for our Copenhagen-based company. Four big headphone releases were at the center of our attention and while the office was overflowing with merry audio banter, the office stereo was filled to the brim with the sounds of now, some good and some bad.
Our end-of-year list usually starts with an introduction that rounds up what we’ve been up to in the past year. But this year, we’ll do things differently and give you an insight into the collective AIAIAI brain, as it were. In no particular order, here are the most frequently debated topics at AIAIAI HQ during 2013:
- Trap music
- Andy’s ponytail
- Fish day at lunch
- The Young Guru headphones
- The Launch and marketing of the TMA-1 X
- The new TMA-1 Carhartt Edition
- The Tracks Kitsuné Edition
- Boiler Room
- Music snobbery
- Game of Thrones
- Breaking Bad
- Tom’s past as a trance producer
- The summer office party karaoke jam
Maybe this helps explain what kind of mood we were in when listening to the preceding year’s greatest hits. Then again, maybe it doesn’t? In any case, here are the AIAIAI picks for 2013. In the words of now defunct 90s hip hop group, House of Pain: It’s time to get down.
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Congas, 80s vocals and an indie-disco bassline intermittently pierced by casual saxophone riffs; sounds a lot like the early to mid-noughties golden age of DFA, doesn’t it? That is, of course, down to the production of one James Murphy whose signature sound coupled with the grand, heartfelt intimacy of Arcade Fire created an unforgettable song that had us hitting the repeat button.
FKA Twigs – Papi Pacify
The big dude is pretty creepy. Still, this otherworldy septum-ringed pixie seems pretty content with the situation. In fact, she seems more than capable of holding her own despite what on the face of it are pretty dire circumstances. Maybe that’s the point? In any case, the track is incredible. All grand, soaring soundscapes, middle-Eastern strings accented by cooing vocals. One to watch in 2014.
Banks – This is what it Feels like
Was this the year of Middle-Eastern-tinged female pop? Probably not. But there is something decidedly Saharan about this sultry English rose and her sensual mannerisms. It was almost as if ‘This is What it Feels Like’ told Miley Cyrus and her omnipresent tongue: ‘ THIS is how you do ‘sexy’ . Teetering delightfully close to but never overstepping the edge that leads to a precipitous tumble into a sea of schmaltz, this is extremely well-crafted pop fronted by beautiful, talented songstress.
Darkside – Paper Trails
One of those tracks that grows exponentially with every listen. The Narcotic, dubby, cavernous future blues from everyone’s favorite electronic posterboy and his old college buddy Dave Harrington, hits all the right spots through a soft yet firm massage of your sonic palette.
Daniel Avery – All I need
Ah, Daniel Avery. You had us all in the palm of your hand this year. It doesn’t take a lot of listens to determine the obvious: ‘All I Need’ is a HIT. Throw in a classy, black/white video featuring beautiful half-naked people and we’re ready to do your bidding, Lord Avery, dark wizard of the mysterious drum machine. ‘All I need’ is the sound of getting gloriously lost at a 90s warehouse rave and we still haven’t yet tired of it despite excessive and obsessive listening.
Lorde – Royals
Two words: INCREDIBLE VOICE. It was only a matter of time before the advertising agencies would wise up to the rampant charm of this young songstress....and put her song in an ad that everyone gets sick of. That said, despite the overexposure we still like it enough to include it in this year's list, which we guess is a testament to its enduring greatness.
Factory Floor – Fall Back
You know what they say: blondes have more fun. This quaint, somewhat sexist saying is vaguely applicable only because the video features a blonde model, an unexpected turn of events, which underground post-industrial outfit, Factory Floor took a bit of flack for in certain tastemaker circles. That little anecdote notwithstanding, the track itself came crashing into 2013 at the start of January and made us all anticipate the year in music with girlish glee.
When Saints Go Machine - Iodine
Great track from a great album by a talented bunch of dudes. On their latest full-length, the ever adventurous and capable Danes pushed their sound into remarkable new territory. The synths were sharp, the beats were dusty and trip hop-y and Nikolaj’s vocal was the incandescent glue that provided continuity while binding the disjointed aural kaleidoscope together. All of which is exemplified rather brilliantly on ‘Iodine.’
Connan Mockasin – Do I Make You Feel Shy
An enticing clusterfuck of syrupy strings, sentimentality and accomplished songwriting, Connan Mockasin’s channeling of early Prince and Fleetwood Mac was a very welcome subtle psychedelic curveball in the otherwise loud playing field of 2013.
Kurt Vile – Never Run Away
No one does that whole ‘stoned-on-a-beach’ space rock thing quite like Kurt Vile. A firm favorite with the ageing, rock-loving part of the office.
Shut Up – Savages
To be honest, the opening monologue on ‘Shut Up’ initially made us want to whip out our own can of STFU on Savages. But we didn’t because it actually makes a lot of sense when you listen to it. We ARE distracted and IT IS a problem. Politics aside, this is pure, powerful and thrilling rock ‘n roll played by a bunch of intense ladies you probably shouldn’t mess with unless you're looking to get slapped around a bit.
Vår - The World Fell
Last year it was ‘Brodermordet’ and this year it’s the bleakly uplifting cacophony of early Kraftwerk and Ian Curtis AKA 'The World Fell' that Vår gets us all hot under the collar with.
Bonobo – Transits
There’s something disarmingly confident about ‘Transits.’ It gives you the sense that Bonobo, the quintessential Ninjatune artist, has seen a few trends come and go. He doesn’t have to try very hard to be ‘different’. And thus focuses on making lush, atmospheric soundscapes that you sort of whish was a forest lake you could take a swim in under the luminous twilight of a rapidly approaching summer evening. Or something.
MØ - XXX 88 feat. Diplo
When we first interviewed MØ back in 2012, we had an inkling that she could go far, but didn’t expect that we would go on to work with Diplo let alone become the talk of the World Wide Web. XXX is the result of different, but like-minded artists and producers working together and creating a perfect, focused balance between two sensibilities.
Jagwar Ma – The Throw
Irresistible indie with hints of kraut-rave, worthy of chanting from the rooftops of inner city skyscrapers like an unconstrained fool.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - We No Who U R
We can never ever get enough of this ageless king of aching gravitas. Nick Cave is one of those artists that just keeps perfecting his own perfectly imperfect sound.
Jon Hopkins – Open Eye Signal
We can all agree that the word ‘epic’ is overused these days, but we’re struggling to find a better word to describe the building, writhing, shuffling odyssey that is Open Eye Signal. Electronic maverick John Hopkins had a vintage year and ‘Open Eye Signal’ was without a doubt one of his finest efforts.
Girl Band – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under my Garage
An abrasive noise-rock version of Blawan’s dark, techno banger? Yes please.
Bob Moses - Far from the Tree
There’s a lot of debate over what ‘deep’ means when applied to a dance music context. To us it pretty much means the dubby, subterranean and ultimately beckoning call of ‘Far from the Tree.’ Strap on a good pair of headphones (hint, nudge) and let Bob Moses go to work on your eardrums.
Spids Nøgenhat - Lolland Falster
Echoing the trippy weed-infused pathos of legendary Danish psychedelic rock band Alrune Rod, Spids Nøgenhat come in peace and seem hell-bent on getting you high. Consider this the Danish answer to Sweden’s Dungen only dirtier, smellier and better.
Daft Punk Feat. Panda Bear – ‘Doing it Right’
Mirroring the rest of the world’s response, the AIAIAI office was divided into two entrenched camps by Daft Punk’s new album: the incredulous haters and the worshipping lovers. For those with a low tolerance of cheese, Random Access Memories was the musical equivalent of spraying canned whipped cream directly into your mouth. For the rest of us, it was everything we hoped it would be and so much more. The collaboration with Panda Bear was the one track that we could all (sort of) agree on.
Yung Lean – Solarflare
‘Molecules expand, molecules exist.’ No argument there, Yung Lean. Moreover, your music makes us feel really old and very young at the same time. Old because, we’re somewhat mystified by your whole ‘sad boys, emotional boys’ shtick. Young, because your music has so many uplifting, weird elements that listening to it is like rediscovering the 8-year-old deep inside us.
King Midas Sound – Aroo
More Ninjatune heat in the form this King Midas Sound banger.’ The stadium-shaking force is strong in this one. Have a listen. We dare you not to scream I’M GETTING CLOSE TO YOUUUUUU!
Nine Inch Nails - Copy of A
AIAIAI's graphic designers are, as mentioned previously on this blog, fervent NIN fan boys.
Shigeto - Perfect crime
Shigeto comes correct with a mood-altering track released on one of our favorite labels. Once again, we're left tipping our headphones to the mighty Ghostly International.
Run the Jewels – Banana Clipper Feat. Big Boi
Released on Fool’s Gold, Run the Jewels, the collaboration between Killer Mike and EL-P landed with the force of a Godzilla foot and this hook up with Big Boi is pretty hard to mess with. You can’t really go wrong when the first rhyme of your track is: ‘I move with the elegance of an African elephant.’
Tagwell Woods – Spa
The perfect track for the morning after your 10th wedding anniversary party on the moon. Spa is music that prompts the outburst: ‘fuck dance – Let’s trance.’ Plus, it has acid in it.
Tirzah – I’m not Dancing
Produced by classically trained wunderkind Micachu, this is one hefty, percussive number. The soulful vocals drift smoothly over the dry, austere beats and the flute (!) weaves itself in and out of the delectable racket. Music for steampunk snakecharmers.
Rizzla – Batty Jack:
Time to don your dayglo, leopard tights and twerk like a lunatic to this ‘Mr- Vain’-sounding batty jam from the very interesting Rizzla DJ. Hope to see a lot more of this guy in 2014.
Tinashe feat. Travis Scott – Vulnerable:
Bassy, sexy, dreamy. No, that’s not the title of the TLC reunion tour, it’s our description what the best RnB sounded like in 2013. Tinashe’s slow, sizzurpy ‘Vulnerable’ is, as Ron Burgundy put it, baby-making music.
Lords of Midnite – Drown in Ur Love
Danny Wolfers AKA legowelt in fine form under one of his countless aliases on the amazing Unknown to the Unknown label. When we first laid ears on the track this summer our reaction was: ‘This is basically the aural equivalent of macheting your way through a mysterious, impenetrable Amazon wilderness on the heels of a local guide scared out of his wits and a pack of carriers fearful of the wrath of their local deity.’
Real Lies – Deeper
The melancholy sound of being wasted in London at 6AM after a painful break up with the love of your life. Newcomers Real Lies provide fodder for all the world’s anglophile romantics. And possibly for fans of the Pet Shop Boys.
Rustie – Slasherr
Much ado has been made about Russell Whyte’s talent for creating maximalist dance music, but, in our opinion, not enough attention has been focused on his incredible knack for merging disparate sonic textures. Slasherr has a gazillion different things going on in it, but still manages to be a coherent effort that effortlessly destroys everything in its wake.
Sophie – Bipp
We heart the Numbers label to death. This weird and warped helium-powered electronic lullaby, was the fuel for the fire that might result in a restraining order (just kidding).
Dam-Funk & Snoopzilla – Hit Da Pavement
Just when you thought the Stones Throw label could not possibly get any doper, they unveil one of the most monumental mega jams in recent memory. The hook up between Snoop and Dâm-Funk is one of those collaborations that makes you go:’ why hasn’t this happened before? And the answer to that question is quite obviously that the stars had to be aligned just right, so that the celestial shine from Planet Funk could focus a twofold beam of iridescent cosmic energy at Snoop’s sizable blunt and Dam-funk’s opulent ‘do - the force of which has pulled these seasoned Caesars of the groove together in the one of most delicious, synthed-out love-ins of all time.
Mendoza – Love Druggie
Would it be totally out of whack to call Mendoza the Danish Grimes? If we had penny for every time we’d listened to this criminally addictive track we’d have…a lof of pennies. The Piano, the voice, the face, the production. That chorus. It’s hard to say excactly what it is that makes ‘Love Druggie’ such an enticing proposition. Think we’ll just have another listen and find out…
And that concludes our list of picks from 2013, thanks for listening. Here's to 2014 being the year that Andy's ponytail gets longer, that we finally have that all-in Game of Thrones dress-up party and that the latest, ambitious AIAIAI projects come to their full fruition.
And as for the rest of you, we hope you have a spectacular year.
Happy New Year from all of AIAIAI!