Tom Odell – Hold Me
To be a successful singer-songwriter these days, you have to put your own spin on the classic one-man singing guitar/piano ballads. Ben Howard did it with addictive folk sensibilities and complex guitar parts, Jake Bugg did it with nostalgic rock n roll vibes and production that reminds fans of the good ol’ days of the Stones and Dylan. Ed Sheeran did it with an annoying knack for song structure and incredibly catchy choruses. Ever since I first heard Tom Odell on a radio alarm about this time last year, my respect for him as a songwriter and musician has continued to grow. He crafts brilliant songs, performs them with conviction and really does sound like he believes every word that he belts above his incredibly competent band. Odell described a desire for ‘utter joy to come through’ when writing Hold Me. It’s the Hottest Record of the Year because it’s an explosion of noise that sounds both incredibly familiar and fresh at the same time. A single should always have a monster of a chorus, far too often though a songwriter’s desire for an addictive melody takes away from the rest of the song. This isn’t the case here. Hold Me is a classic single that should stand the test of time. The most exciting thing is that it’s probably only the beginning for Tom Odell.
Drake ft. Sampha – Too Much
I’m choosing Drake ft. Sampha – ‘Too Much’ for my pick to win Hottest Record of the Year 2013. It’s a sensitive and beautiful piano ballad, featuring a promising Londoner who has done great work on SBTRKT’s debut album and is now doing great work alongside Drake. He represents exactly the kind of innovation and freshness that we should be commending in new music.
I’m also choosing this track because that pick is quite antithetical to Arctic Monkeys’ Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, which I think has one of the best chances of winning the overall title. Consider my pick a protest vote against what I think is a diabolical trend of humouring derivative, navel-gazing egotists spouting what they think is the most innovative thing in the world. That incredible innovation is in fact just a rearranged and reworded Oasis song that wasn’t great to begin with. Alex Turner only exhibits what used to be talent and is now stale arrogance without legitimacy. He’s an idiot; stop giving him attention, awards and praise.
Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
There’s a certain predicament one must grapple with when defending the Arctic Monkeys in their current form. As a friend of mine put it, Alex Turner sounds like ‘he’s trying to have sex with your ear’, and with the slick, crooning delivery that epitomises Turner’s vocals in AM, it’s difficult not to disagree with this point. In spite of this, I urge you not to dismiss the Arctic Monkeys’ recent work as a shallow attempt to get their fangirls to swoon. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? is a prime example of a band who still have it, as the four-piece swap the boorish riffs of their other recent singles for a creeping bassline that perfectly compliments Turner’s svelt vocals. The track is an extremely absorbing listen. Yet perhaps the greatest selling point of Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? is its lyrics – a marked return to the level that Turner set himself in the band’s first two albums. For in narrating a series of late night phone calls in an intoxicated haze, the Arctic Monkeys have captured an instantly relatable experience. It was this alchemic quality of the transformation of the everyday into the profound and sublime that characterised the Arctic Monkeys’ first two albums, and in rediscovering this process, Alex Turner and co. have created the Hottest Single of 2013.
James Blake – Retrograde
Few begrudged James Blake his recent Mercury Prize. His latest album, Overgrown, signified a proverbial coming of age for the London-based producer. The album’s crowning glory is undoubtedly Retrograde, in which Blake utilises his phenomenal vocal range to best express his unique style. Lauded by many for the instrumental nature of his vocals, the way in which Retrograde emerges is simply stunning. Beginning with Blake’s stripped back hook, it builds layer upon layer with striking synth and a crawling beat, whilst the lyrics roll on over the top, until it once again returns to the hypnotic melody. Whilst there’s undoubtedly a mesmerising calm and symmetry to the small interludes at either end of the track, this contrasts beautifully with the chaotic yet nourishing intensity of the chorus. The sound Blake achieves in much of his music is something truly unique, and for him to do what he does as a solo artist makes Retrograde all the more personable and meaningful.
Jagwar Ma – Man I Need
Many people won’t have even heard of Jagwar Ma, and indeed this is one of Zane Lowe’s more obscure cuts in his 100 hottest singles. Kudos to him for including it, if nothing else just to highlight why Noel Gallagher’s hyperbolic assertion that ‘the future of the galaxy’ depended on the Australian trio was not completely laughable. Man I Need grows from a hazy synth hook into an amazingly catchy combination of big beat, and drunk Beach Boy vocals which coo lines like “I’m about to submerge the ocean, and resurrect the sky” (but somehow don’t sound cheesy), and some weird psychedelic effects. Trippy and melodic in equal measure, the song seems to develop and mutate with every listen. If – in the ever-growing world of the Neo-Psychedelic movement – 2012 was the year of Tame Impala, 2013 must surely be Jagwar Ma’s turn. Be certain to check out Man I Need and their debut album, Howlin’.
John Newman – Love Me Again
In a list of many brilliant records from a remarkably strong year in British music, John Newman’s pop classic was by no means an easy choice for my vote. My decision was possibly influenced by the fact that it’s a rare day that this track isn’t playing in my kitchen as part of the Fifa 13 soundtrack. Either way, Love Me Again is a sublimely constructed pop record, with an indisputably massive chorus that has no doubt inspired many an inebriated sing-a-long across the country. There’s an awesome piano riff as well, and having charted at Number 1 in July, racking up 60 million views on YouYube and some stellar remixes from Kove and Love Thy Brother, it’s hard to go wrong with a vote for John Newman. Cheating and his breakthough single with Rudimental, Feel The Love, are fantastic tunes as well. Hopefully more is on the way soon!
The 1975 – Chocolate
The 1975 blew everyone away with their extremely catchy debut song, Chocolate. Its main attribute is that it’s immediately likeable from the first time you ever listen to it. A catchy guitar riff, straightforward lyrics to sing along to, and a retro 1980s vibe all combine together to create a Wow factor; the type of song that will go down a treat at festivals for years to come. Countless covers of it will inevitably follow further down the line too. Furthermore, The 1975 set a standard with Chocolate that they subsequently succeeded to live up to with further hits like The City and Girls. In spite of this, the reason why Chocolate deserves to take the crown for Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record of the Year is because you don’t even have to know who The 1975 are to appreciate it; it is a classic in its own right. Whatever the future may or not hold for The 1975 one thing’s for sure: that Chocolate will always be looked upon in a fond manner.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sacrilege
2013 has been one hell of a year for James Murphy. Arcade Fire have been resurrected under his gloriously fuzzy sound, and everyone is still talking about his Love Is Lost remix from David Bowie’s last album. But his greatest victory is etched in Mosquito, the fourth album from this millennium’s rock veterans, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And Sacrilege, its first single released way back in April of this year, is a stormer. Karen O whispers to us, screams at us, and then gets all of her mates together in one epic gospel choir to bully us into falling in love with this song. Every listen just makes the record more powerful, until you can’t help but throw yourself around, wishing you were another member in that unstoppable chorus. And the influence of Murphy stands out like a haystack on fire. Hottest single of the year? Try denying it whilst actually listening to it. You’ll change your mind.
Haim – The Wire
Californian trio Haim seemed to burst onto the music scene this year; they were named as BBC’s Sound of 2013 and certainly lived up to the title with the release of their debut album, Days Are Gone. The Wire, the fourth single released from the album, solidified Haim’s spot in the mainstream with its quirky guitar riffs and catchy chorus. It’s clear to see that Haim are influenced by Fleetwood Mac, and Danielle’s Nicks-esque vocals are a delight. Haim’s signature sound of flawless harmonies over 80s sounding guitars and ambient percussion is the perfect breath of fresh air that 2013 needed in order to save the increasingly stale music scene from generic dance anthems and your usual dull indie crooners. The Wire is a perfect example of how accomplished these girls’ sound is after just one album – a commendable achievement that should certainly be recognised by naming this track the Hottest Record of the Year.