Now on hiatus, we looked at one band each day through the lens of a single song to distill the canon of an assortment of subgenres of contemporary popular music. Some entries were unequivocal best song entries, others were merely be the most representative of a band’s output, and still others were selected for resonating in peculiar or interesting ways. Hope you enjoy!

YouTube NSS Playlist

Best of 2013 Supplement

1) Autre Ne Veut — Play By Play

2) CHVRCHES — The Mother We Share

3) Daft Punk (f. Julian Casablancas) — Instant Crush

4) Disclosure (f. Sam Smith) — Latch

5) Kanye West — New Slaves

6) Kurt Vile — Never Run Away

7) The National — Graceless

8) Savages — She Will

9) Vampire Weekend — Ya Hey

10) The 1975 — Sex

Best of 2013 (My — Z)

My favorite tracks of 2013. Dropbox available here.

26) My Bloody Valentine — only tomorrow

27) My Darling Fury — Blots in the Margin

28) Neko Case — Man

29) Okkervil River — Down Down The Deep River

30) Paramore — Still Into You

31) Parquet Courts — Stoned and Starving

32) Phosphorescent — Song For Zula

33) Pusha T (f. Kendrick Lamar) — Nosetalgia

34) The Range — Metal Swing

35) Rhye — Open

36) Rich Homie Quan — Type of Way

37) Robert DeLong — Global Concepts

38) Rokia Traore — Lalla

39) Run The Jewels — Run The Jewels

40) Schoolboy Q (f. Kendrick Lamar) — Collared Greens

41) Sky Ferreira — I Blame Myself

42) Superchunk — Me & You & Jackie Mittoo

43) Tim Hecker — Virginal II

44) Toro y Moi — Rose Quartz

45) Ty Segall — She Don’t Care

46) Volcano Choir — Comrade

47) The War On Drugs — Red Eyes

48) Wavves — Demon To Lean On

49) Waxahatchee — Swan Dive

50) Yuck — Middle Sea

Best of 2013 (A – Mo)

My favorite tracks from 2013. Dropbox available here.

1) Arcade Fire — Reflektor

2) Bassekou Kouyate Ngoni Ba

3) Beyonce (f. Frank Ocean) — Superpower

4) Blood Orange — You’re Not Good Enough

5) Caitlin Rose — Only A Clown

6) Califone — Frosted Tips

7) Cat Power (f. Angel Haze) (Hemsworth Remix) — Manhattan

8) Charli XCX — You (Ha Ha Ha)

9) Classixx — Holding On

10) Cloud Control — Dojo Rising

11) Courtney Barnett — Avant Gardener

12) Danny Brown — Dope Song (Side B)

13) Duke DuMont f. A*M*E* — Need U (100%)

14) Earl Sweatshirt (f. Vince Staples & Casey Veggies) — Hive

15) FKA Twigs — Water Me

16) Glasser — Shape

17) HAERTS — Wings

18) HAIM — The Wire

19) Jenny Hval — Mephisto In The Water

20) The Knife — Full of Fire

21) Lady Lamb The Beekeeper — Hair to the Ferris Wheel

22) Local Natives — Breakers

23) Majical Cloudz — Bugs Don’t Buzz

24) Mikal Cronin — Weight

25) MØ (f. Diplo) — XXX 88

Summer 2013

My Summer 2013 Mix, available on Dropbox here.

1) Autre Ne Veut — Counting

2) CHVRCHES — Recover

3) Disclosure (f. AlunaGeorge) — White Noise

4) A$AP (f. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar) — Fuckin’ Problems

5) Ace Hood (f. Future & Rick Ross) — Bugatti

6) Tegan and Sara — Closer

7) Palma Violets — Best of Friends

8) Fuck Buttons — Red Wing (edit)

9) J. Cole (f. Miguel) — Power Trip

10) Phoenix — Entertainment

11) Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Sacrilege

12) Vampire Weekend — Step

13) Torres — Honey

14) Kurt Vile — KV Crimes

15) Savages — Shut Up

16) Frightened Rabbit — The Woodpile

17) Chance The Rapper — Chain Smoker

18) Daft Punk (f. Panda Bear) — Doin’ It Right

19) Youth Lagoon — Dropla

20) The National — I Need My Girl

21) Laura Marling — Where Can I Go

22) James Blake — Retrograde

23) YOUNG GALAXY — New Summer

24) Grouper — Living Room

25) Kanye West (f. Tony Williams) — Blood On The Leaves

We Were Promised Jetpacks

March 28, 2013

139) We Were Promised Jetpacks — Quiet Little Voices (These Four Walls) (2009)


I’m on an airplane with spotty Internet service, so I’ve decided to pick a short, kinda-perfect song from a band about whom I have little else to say.  We Were Promised Jetpacks are a part of that post-Arab Strap collective of Scottish bands who do not fear letting their brogue flare out (a la Frightened Rabbit and the Twilight Sad).  This song is best listened to loud and in a place where you can sing along.  The rest of their output is fine if immemorable and their live show is supposed to be legit, but I haven’t had the pleasure. 





Wye Oak

March 27, 2013

138) Wye Oak — Holy Holy (Civilian) (2011)


Jenn Wasner is the big, badass force behind Wye Oak, snarling through her guitar and looping intricate imagery through her forceful but delicate voice.  And her lyrics are similar: strong and independent, but vulnerable.  She’s been hurt but she’s callous now.  “Holy Holy” is their best song for its great lyrics and its perfect use of volume.  (The loud/soft distinction is a pervasive theme throughout their work; contrast with the tender “Doubt.”)  “Civilian” is also a great song that explores the vulnerability and is beautiful, but lacks the immediacy and force of the above.*  And yes, Jenn is the force behind the band, but it is a band because of Andy Stack’s underrated drumming, synth, and harmony work, which is simply exquisite.  One of my favorite bands of recent years, who seem to be only growing in their comfort with their sound.


* I abolsutely love their cover of The Kinks’ “Strangers” from The A.V. Club’s Undercover series, which is back for its third run.


March 26, 2013

137) Björk — Jóga (Homogenic) (1997)

I’ve been struggling with this one for weeks now.  I find Björk’s music too intense to revisit frequently, but when I do I always find it profound, meaningful, and exotic.  Her vocal dexterity is magnificent, truly radiating the grandeur of the pop music she makes.  And each track seems to pull from diverse elements, whether Baroque composition or traditional Icelandic folk.  While traveling the well-worn pop tropes of love (falling in and out) and relationships, Björk manages to find keen, unique insights nonetheless (whether that’s in the quirky intimacy of “Hyperballad” or the erotic preparation of “Pagan Poetry“).   I find “Unravel” to be the most unequivocally beautiful song and “I’ve Seen It All” the most heartbreaking and moving.  I think “Jóga” is the standard-bearer for her work, though, because it features her most impressive vocal work,* and it combines some of the best of the electronic production with traditional compositional elements.**  It is missing some of that majesty (in spades in early 90’s club banger “Big Time Sensuality” and angry fist-pumper “Army Of Me“).***  And it’s hard to think of Björk in terms of her purely musical output when so much amazing collaboration has gone into her edgy and gorgeous music vidoes (in addition to those songs already mentioned, I’d point to “Bachelorette,” “All Is Full Of Love,” “Human Behaviour,” among others.)  She’s eccentric and inscrutable at times, but has made so much interesting, beautiful, and powerful music.****


* I find the vocals on Medúlla to be incredibly impressive (see, e.g., “Pleasure Is All Mine,” “Show me Forgiveness,” and “Who Is It?“) but in a far more technical, academic respect.  The songs seem to be missing some of the raw emotion and aesthetic of her earlier works.

** I am also partial to Ben Gibbard’s lovely cover.

*** Of course, no song in her oeuvre is going to be totally exemplary when she dabbles in so many genres and tones, from the utterly subdued “Possibly Maybe” — which I can’t hear without recalling VH1’s late night theme for “Insomniac Music Theater” — to the musical theater of “It’s Oh So Quiet” to the haunting “Hunter” to the fragile, sincere “Hidden Place” to those including all manner of instrumentation (“Crystalline“) or audio effects (“Earth Intruders“).

**** Unrelated, but the Björk stalker story is a totally crazy and compelling look into celebrity obsession.*****

***** And after that depressing note, watch this:

The Cave Singers

March 25, 2013

136) The Cave Singers — Seeds of Night (Invitation Songs) (2007)


Formed from former members of the disbanded Pretty Girls Make Graves (NSS 104), the Cave Singers have a very different sound, anchored by Pete Quirk’s unique, nasal voice and their rustic, backyard drink-and-play vibe.  Even as they’ve honed and tightened their sound and production (and moved from Matador to Jagjaguwar) my favorite track of theirs has been their very first one.  It’s got this tremendous knee-slapping energy that works whether you’re in a late night porch singalong or mustarding south on I-whatever-5.  It’s loose and shaggy, just like the band itself.  Seeing the Cave Singers back in Seattle was always fun because it had the feeling of going to see the best band at a high school battle of the bands just kill it.  Seeing them years later in New York was still fun (and they’d continued to make some great tunes, most notably “Beach House” and “Swim Club“) but it all felt a little more grown up and serious.  At the end of the day, with this sort of roots-revival music that gaine prominence in the late aughts in Seattle, we’re not looking for something as innovative and exploratory as we are in something that takes us to a place of comfort and peace.