Top Tracks 2013: October

After considering abandoning this series for a number of reasons, it turns out my desire to finish what I start trumps all else. So while this post may be a little out of date amongst the flood of best-of lists for the year, it at least keeps me happy in being one step closer to my original plan.

Omar Souleyman
“Wenu Wenu”

From: Wenu Wenu
Genre: Dabke
Time: 7:00
Listen: SoundCloud | YouTube | Spotify
Syrian musician and popular wedding singer Omar Souleyman brings the characteristic and highly infectious Arabic folk dance music known as dabke to a wider audience with a little help from producer Four Tet (who also happened to release an album in October; Beautiful Rewind).

The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
“Briel”

From: A Playlist Without Borders
Genre: Classical Crossover
Time: 3:58
Listen: SpotifyFamed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his loose ensemble of musicians celebrate the 15th anniversary of the nonprofit Silk Road Project by staying true to their vision to “connect the world’s neighbourhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe”.

Boogarins
“Erre”

From: As Plantas Que Curam
Genre: Tropicália
Time: 3:48
Listen: SoundCloud | YouTube | SpotifyBrazilian teenagers Boogarins deliver a modern and thoroughly playful homage to all things tropicália and the psychedelic music of the ’60s and ’70s in general on their lushly self-recorded debut album As Plantas Que Curam.

Courtney Barnett
“Avant Gardener”

From: How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose
Genre: Folk Rock
Time: 5:12
Listen: Bandcamp | SoundCloud | YouTube | Spotify
Sharing a similarly anecdotal lyrical style with Jens Lekman, Melbourne-based singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett quickly recovers from an overblown controversy to deliver a strong EP and perhaps the best Australian song of the year “Avant Gardener”.

Tim Hecker
“Live Room” / “Live Room Out”

From: Virgins
Genre: Experimental Ambient
Time: 7:02 / 2:37
Listen: SoundCloud | YouTube | Spotify
Unsurprisingly, Canadian electronic sound artist Tim Hecker delivers one of the most sonically interesting albums of the year with Virgins, which features more live instrumentation than ever before and extensive use of the harpsichord-like virginals.

Bardo Pond
“Chance”

From: Peace on Venus
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Time: 10:37
Listen: Spotify
Despite being around for over two decades, this is the first I’ve heard of US psychedelic rock band Bardo Pond. If the flute in “Chance” was replaced by violin, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a song by Australian instrumental rock band the Dirty Three. Addictive.

Earthless
“From the Ages”

From: From the Ages
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Time: 30:55
Listen: Spotify
This month’s lengthy feature song is the half-hour jam “From the Ages” by Earthless. Whereas September’s equally long “Boleskin” was a slow-burning sludge epic, this song is utterly relentless for most of its runtime (apart from a spacey mid-section breather).

Matana Roberts
“Thanks Be You” / “Humility Draws Down New” / “Benediction”

From: Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Time: 4:24 / 0:47 / 1:58
Listen: YouTube | Spotify
Saxophonist and composer Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter One was easily my favourite album from 2011. Chapter Two (of a projected twelve) is an entirely different beast featuring a much smaller group of musicians (including unexpected operatic vocals) and is presented as a single flowing piece of music with little distinction of where one song ends and another begins. Matana’s arresting spoken-word vocal sections taken mostly from interviews with her grandmother are the main highlights of this chapter and they paint a mixed portrait of life in segregated Mississippi; contrasting her grandmother’s memories of Mississippi as a beautiful place with a striking excerpt from Fannie Lou Hamer‘s testimony of the beating of Miss Ivesta Simpson. “There’s some things I just can’t tell you about honey…”

Of course, the most notable release of October 2013 was Arcade Fire‘s divisive double album Reflektor. Singer/songwriter Cass McCombs also released a double album called Big Wheel and Others which may be a mess of ideas but enjoyable nonetheless. A special mention should also go to No Poison No Paradise by Black Milk for being one of the few hip hop records I’ve enjoyed this year.

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