Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Best of 2013

It's that time again, folks! I've spent literally months sequencing this selection and I think it may just be the best one yet. It's quite Japan-centric this year, but there's still the usual eclectic mix of genres and languages you've come to expect and love. The selection may be downloaded here. Plug in with an open mind, play and enjoy!

1. "Forbidden Love" by Abel Korzeniowski, from the album "Romeo and Juliet"
The greatest love story ever told finally has the soundtrack it deserves thanks to Polish wunderkind Korzeniowski, who, when movie legend James Horner's completed and fully recorded score was inexplicably rejected at the last minute by the film's producers, stepped in and – in just six weeks – wrote this sweeping, indescribably beautiful replacement.

2. "Mou Nakanai to Sora ni Chikatta Hi" ("The Day I Swore by the Heavens That I Would Weep No More") by Gakido, from the album "'s Note"

The now tragically defunct Tokyo band's epic tribute to their late bandmate Piyo, who died in a car crash in 2010, is replete with duelling vocal harmonies, insanely rubbery bass skills and probably the only use ever of the harmonica in a visual kei song.

3. "Music" by Sakanaction, from their self-titled album

Amazing retro-futurist disco-funk epic from one of Japan's best-kept secrets, superstars in their homeland but virtually unknown in the West.

4. "17 Crimes" by AFI, from the album "Burials"

The Californian death-punks blast back with this thrilling anthem to doomed youth, arguably the most immediately accessible track they have ever recorded.

5. "Alone" by Falling in Reverse, from the album "Fashionably Late"

Frontman and band mastermind Ronnie Radke gleefully tears up the rulebook and flushes the pieces down the toilet, calling out his "haters" on this truly unique, utterly original, foulmouthed and frequently hilarious fusion of electro, metalcore and gangsta rap.

6. "Breakaway" by Celine Dion, from the album "Loved Me Back to Life"

The Québecoise pop diva with the voice once described as "like an iron fist in a velvet glove" blasts back with her best song in more than a decade, a heart-wrenching ode to self-doubt and longed-for emancipation.

7. "Alchemist" by Acidman, from the album "Shinsekai"

The enduring Saitama indie rockers turn in this absolutely gorgeous, transcendent anthem inspired by Paulo Coelho's allegorical novel of the same name.

8. "Xanadu" by Screw, from their self-titled album

Major debut single from the dark-hued, hard-rocking visual band who this year were finally and justly rewarded with a ticket to the big time after four underground albums.

9. "Gunshotta" by Machinedrum, from the album "Vapor City"

American-born Berliner Travis Stewart is at the absolute bleeding edge of electronic music with this ultra-futuristic "slowfast" mélange of jungle, ragga and RnB.

10. "Uns Gehört die Nacht" ("The Night Belongs to Us") by Blutengel, from the album "Monument"

The vampire-obsessed Berliners tear up the floor with this almost impossibly epic, 80s-influenced futurepop anthem.

11. "I Wanna Be a Warhol" by Alkaline Trio, from the album "My Shame Is True"

Thrilling return to form from the gothic pop-punk heroes, a yearning paean to obsession with a chorus that unfortunately, and highly amusingly, sounds like "I wanna be a warthog".

12. "First Sight" by The Devil Wears Prada, from the album "8:18"

Ensuring that metalcore remains relevant in the 21st century, the Ohioan quintet show why they are the best band in the scene today with this gut-ripping yet melodic display of aggression.

13. "Passion Theme" by Pino Donaggio, from the album "Passion"

Giallo veteran Donaggio's stunningly gorgeous orchestral score for campmeister Brian de Palma's latest lurid straight-to-video shocker is one of the best things about the movie.

14. "Teeny-Tiny Star" by Baroque, from the album "Non-Fiction"

The seminal oshare band sometimes known as Kannivalism return after a eight-year hiatus with this effervescent, life-affirming nugget guaranteed to plaster a smile on any face.

15. "Seasons" by Div, from the album "Zero One"

The young Tokyo quintet demonstrate why they are the best oshare act in the scene right now with this incredibly lush, openhearted, instant pop-rock classic.

16. "Vanilla" by Haruka to Miyuki, from the album "Cyanotype"

An astonishing, incendiary racket made by two tiny Japanese girls with childlike voices who look about fifteen but who clearly have old, world-weary souls.

17. "Taigh an Uillt" ("Taynuilt") by Joy Dunlop, from the album "Faileasan"

This love letter to the Argyllshire town of Taynuilt and its people, complete with Disneyesque interludes of flute and violin, is stirring, stunning, preposterously beautiful – music to stand atop a mountain to, arms outstretched. Were there any justice, this would have been the theme song from "Brave".

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