So let’s start this year’s end list mania. Looking back on 2013 reveals at first glance that it was a good year for music. The lamenting about the decline of the music industry and what that does to the creative output is over, as the artists as well as the labels have found their new place and new ways of revenue in a (financially) smaller, but now again growing market – 2013 was a year of newfound optimism. The smaller labels, it seems, even thrived under this development, as they were quicker to adapt and were able to profit from the advantage digital distribution or the growing numbers of vinyl collectors present to smaller releases.
The music quality was strong in 2013, with many well known artists delivering good albums and some new artists breaking through to the surface, but it was lacking genre-hypes. But genres are silly anyway, right? So, the same as last year, please take the following list too seriously. By the way: Whatever happened to last year’s genres? Trap was creatively dead since February, the latest, and Seapunk is diluted, but surviving in it’s niche. And Vaporwave? Was publicly humiliated and denounced, but as long as the internet music festival #spf420 is happenening, it lives on in spirit. Most of this year’s genres are much more grown up than those, anyway. Or is that just me?
More than any other genre, 2013 was about Disco. While the year before had some mellow NuDisco (horrible genre tag, btw) by Poolside and Goldroom, coming out of the L.A. dance scene, this year it was the Europeans that set the course. There was Daft Punk, of course, tying up the attention of the music fans for weeks with their late Seventies retro Disco style. Their “Random Access Memories” alone could justify declaring Disco one of the most prominent genres this year, but musically, they were topped by the Norwegian producer Todd Terje and his collab partner Lindstrom. They didn’t release much this year, but what came out was deeply influencial, and last year’s albums still lingered.
Developing out of the Chicago Juke dance scene, footwork gained more and more attention over the past few years, culminating in this year’s release of DJ Rashad’s “Double Cup” on Hyperdub, which received widespread critical acclaim. Without being an expert in what is still pretty much an underground phenomenon, I can tell that it has been a haven for those looking for fresh sounds in 2013. With its fast beat patterns blending into a carpet of tranquility, it is Hip Hop’s equivalent of Liquid Drum and Bass, inviting to dance to it as much as giving the opportunity to chill.
House music was sometimes hard hitting, sometimes cute or ambient in 2013, but almost always deep. With DJ Koze, Axel Boman and other Pampa Records-related acts on the one end of the spectrum and British producers like Daniel Avery, Factory Floor and Lone on the other, House was the most versatile genre this year. It was a very wide and open genre to begin with, to be honest, and anytime you wouldn’t be sure where to put an electronic dance track, you would call it House by default. But this year saw the genre getting even more varied, widespread and, well, deeper. One notable exception was Disclosure, of course, who were floating on the surface of it all.
R&B continued to be strong this year. After Frank Ocean and How To Dress Well last year, it was Autre Ne Veut and Blood Orange that continued the legacy this year, offering a more pop oriented approach that was nontheless pretty interesting, and most of all beautiful to listen to. This genre is far from being a guilty pleasure anymore, even for the indie kids. R&B Vocals are this genre’s strongsuit of course, but those bass lines weren’t too shabby either.
In 2013, there was a contant stream of great electronic music for the more adventurous at heart, as most of the established artists in this field released new albums: Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never, James Ferraro, The Field, Pantha Du Prince, and so on. Not all of them did their best work ever in the past months, but none of them disappointed either. With Jon Hopkins there was one stellar breakthrough artist though, who delivered one of the most immersive experiences of 2013. As he will be featured in our upcoming top lists, here is another favorite of mine who was stronger than ever this year: Dirty Beaches.