Another year draws to a close, and as I always do this time of year, I’ve been reflecting on the last twelve months and concocting overambitious, grandiose plans for the next. (“In 2014, I will learn Spanish. Hell, I’ll become fluent in Spanish. By God, I’ll write a novel in Spanish! I am going to write an award-winning Spanish bestseller in 2014!”)
Before January 2nd and its inevitable self-loathing arrive, I think I’ll spend 2013’s last days highlighting its soundtrack, which is probably the most crystal-clear of any year’s in recent memory. I’m confident that even in my hazy old age, these songs will always bring me back to this year’s roller coaster ride.
The Year Begins: “Some Nights” – fun.
“Some Nights” was released in 2012, which suited 2013’s beginning perfectly for me: a total 2012 holdover. This song’s frustrated cry for change struck a chord in me — man, was I sick of the same old shit. Surely there was more out there for me, but what? Some part of me must have known, because I had this song playing on repeat for weeks before Fate and good friends intervened and presented me this LA adventure.
Welcome to The Jungle: “I Don’t Care” – Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX
A month or two later, I had landed in LA and was pluckily trying to orient myself. As part of my acclimation to West Coast culture, I began listening to pop radio, and Icona Pop’s party anthem “I Don’t Care” was nothing short of ubiquitous. I overheard people singing it to themselves at Target, for crying out loud. In a sense, this song perfectly represented the overstimulation of my first month or two here. This place is a lot to drink in, y’all, and fully half the people living here are batshit insane. Good bearings can be hard to find.
It’s On: “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
It didn’t take too long to figure out which holds to grab onto, and as spring sprung, I got comfortable. If “I Don’t Care” was the first couple months’ chaos, then “Get Lucky,” for all its throwback style, was the establishing of a routine, the formation of a crew, the finding of a spot, and all of the other accompaniments of settling into a new place. Even though it had felt like summer outside since I arrived, that familiar giddy excitement that builds in anticipation of the season’s arrival made its appearance nonetheless, and “Get Lucky” made me feel like there was plenty of heat to look forward to.
Summertime, And The Livin’s Easy: “Safe and Sound” – Capital Cities
Come on, you knew it was going to be on this list. More than anything, this song brings to mind the awesome summer and autumn concert season I had the privilege of covering, including the incomparable Capital Cities themselves. I saw some fantastic contemporary acts — fun., Passion Pit, Foals, the talented musical comedians of Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme — and plenty of my beloved favorites, including Styx, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Matchbox 20, and Alkaline Trio.
Seeing these great bands at such an incredible variety of LA venues — from the Staples Center’s elegant Hyde Lounge, to the legendary Greek Theatre, to the gorgeous Walt Disney Concert Hall, all the way to the Orange County Fairgrounds — was nothing less than exhilarating. Even now, after hearing it hundreds of times, “Safe and Sound” still puts me right in touch with that feeling, and I think it always will.
The Plot Thicke-ns: “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell and T.I.
It’s probably just my sickeningly overinflated ego talking, but living here in LA (and writing for this blog, in large part) makes me feel like I’m part of the action in a way that I never was when I lived back east. Maybe that’s why the “Blurred Lines” controversy caught my eye this year, when normally I’d pay no attention to that sort of thing, preferring instead to dwell on my continuing interpretation of the spoken word lyrics on Dark Side of The Moon.
My interest in that song and the rapey-or-not-rapey debate it inspired marked my official crossing into the pop musicsphere in 2013. This year, I realized that I had a previously-unknown interest in what makes popular music. What is a hit song? What is universal appeal? What does it take to be a star? What goes on behind the scenes to make it all happen? These are questions to which I’ll continue to seek answers in 2014, and frankly, I can’t wait. I can see how people become addicted to this industry. P.S. I will not apologize for the pun in this section’s title, so put it out of your mind.
Wrapping It Up: “Pompeii” – Bastille
“But if you close your eyes/does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?”
No — because not one single thing about my everyday life resembles a year ago in the slightest. From the unceasingly gorgeous weather to the unprecedented freedom and opportunity that lie around every corner in LA, my circumstances are nearly opposite what they were a year ago. Instead of flatlining, I’m accelerating. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades, and not in the icky sarcastic way that Dire Straits meant it. And of course, as the immortal Def Leppard and many others have said, the best is yet to come. 2014 is going to be killer, and don’t you forget it.
“And if you close your eyes/does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?”
Yes — upon reflection, sometimes it does feel like nothing changed at all. I’m fortunate enough to always love and be loved by the same people, those I know I can count on year after year. Where I am or what’s different in my life doesn’t matter as long as they stay constant, and I know they will. That’s why I love them. That’s what this song brings to mind, and that’s why it’s my new ultajam. It’s actually damn near taken over my life. I haven’t even listened to the album because I’m not done listening to this song yet. I love it that much.
Thanks to everyone for reading this year, and I can’t wait to keep sharing my favorite music with you in 2014. It’s a real privilege and an honest pleasure. Here’s to all of our dreams coming true in the new year.