What Else Is There?

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When you need something new
When you need some fresh air
When you ask that question
What Else Is There?

#What Else Is There's Top 100 Songs Of 2013
#What Else Is There's Top 100 Songs Of 2012
#What Else Is There's Top 100 Songs Of 2011
#What Else Is There's Top 100 Songs Of 2010

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Rose Quartz
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Anything In Return
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Toro y Moi
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#4. Toro y Moi - Rose Quartz (4:14)

Chaz Bundick has been steadily releasing great tunes under the name Toro y Moi since 2009 (including “Still Sound" and personal favorite "Go With You”), but his latest album, Anything In Return, is his best work to date. It’s here where Chaz has finally transcended the chillwave train and claimed ownership of his own electro-r&b style. The album includes both “Say That" and "So Many Details" which are very good, but "Rose Quartz" is the highlight, where Chaz’s groove creation skills are best showcased. Keys and synths — both frosty and warm — start spinning upwards before getting joined with a light, lounge-y funk that serves to draw everything together. Eventually, Chaz arrives with a hesitant request and admission to his troubled lover. "Don’t let me go, because I feel weak." Well, Chaz, you don’t have anything to worry about from us, because this song is anything but.

Best Moment: The entire opening is just such an incredible way to start a song. From the very beginning where the baseline, synths, and even some tiny snippets of Chaz’s future lyrics float around unconnected until 1:55 when they all magically lock together.

The Album [Anything In Return]: 8/10

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Get Lucky
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Random Access Memories
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Daft Punk
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#5. Daft Punk - Get Lucky (6:09)

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. One of the biggest songs of the year. Did it get overplayed? Yes. Is it still good enough to warrant a top 5 spot on the list? Hell yes. I know it’s hard, but just try to pretend you’re hearing it again for the first time. Do you even remember how they rolled it out? It only took fifteen seconds of that funky Nile Rodgers guitar lick (which is just perfect) to send the internet into a giant frenzy of speculation and anticipation. Not many other groups can do that in today’s age of fractured cultural interests and ten second attention spans. Even the choice for Pharrell as a guest vocalist wasn’t a terrible pick (although I do find it funny that he was featured on both one of the best songs of the year and the worst song of the year) as his smooth vocal resonance is a great fit with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo’s flawless electro-disco framework. Yes, the song was overplayed, but it’s not often that the entire world can collectively agree on something, and for awhile in 2013, the consensus was that yes, “Get Lucky” is effing amazing.

Best Moment: When Pharrell finally chills out for a second and we get a nice, refreshing drink of the robots themselves at 3:29. What’s especially sweet is the way they slow roll it, cutting out halfway at first before finally hitting us with those full, brilliant, bionic voices.

The Album [Random Access Memories]: 7/10

Music Video

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All I Know
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Paracosm
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Washed Out
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#6. Washed Out - All I Know (5:28)

The ubiquitous rise of Chillwave during 2009 left many people feeling pessimistic about the genre’s longevity. Yet here we are, four years later as Washed Out provides us with even more proof that nostalgia based synth-pop is here to stay. "All I Know" begins with an introduction of fluttering chimes before settling into a groove marked by soft guitar strumming, warm organ, and Ernest’s laid back voice. Washed Out’s signature reverb synth-washes are not at the forefront this time, and although it could be easy to think that the band would be stuck relying upon these tricks as a crutch, they only appear in “All I Know” as an occasional flourish or to fill the mood around the edges. The real reason the track sticks is because of Ernest’s deft and wistful songwriting skills and his ability to apply them with his unique sound set. Chillwave may not be the genre everyone needs, but Washed Out is certainly the champion it deserves.

Best Moment: Those warm guitar notes that float overhead at 1:06, helping build that deliciously fuzzy, electric mood toward the chorus.

The Album [Paracosm]: 6/10

Music Video

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Under Cover
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The Flower Lane
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Ducktails
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#7. Ducktails - Under Cover (6:09)

Real Estate's Matthew Mondanile has been hard at work with his side project Ducktails in 2013, taking the time to release not only full length album The Flower Lane but also EP Wish Hotel. This plethora of new tunes made choosing a favorite for the year difficult, as Wish Hotel's title track, “Honey Tiger Eyes”, and The Flower Lane's collaboration with Jessa Farkas, “Letter Of Intent" are all just so very good. But Matthew’s extra special treatment of "Under Cover" has made it my favorite. He could have left it as a standard, three minute, dreamy indie pop song and most people would have been cool with it. But instead, he decided to use it as a springboard to deliver us an extra couple levels of transcendence. Things begin as a simple, intimate invitation, but after the groundwork is laid, Matthew coaxes the song to full bloom. The first time it’s just a floating guitar that stops by but the second time around things get peaked by this tandem electric guitar/saxophone solo. Who knew bedroom pop could be so next level?

Best Moment: It’s a tie between the way Matthew squeezes those extra syllables in on the ‘in the middle of the night’s (first appearing at 1:03) and the way the first guitar solo just melts off of his fingers and into our ears at 1:43.

The Album [The Flower Lane]: 7/10

Music Video

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Dominoes
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Hanging Gardens
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Classixx
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#8. Classixx - Dominoes (4:13)

Classixx is composed of childhood friends Michael David and Tyler Blake and while the LA duo has been getting a bit of recognition for their remixes over the last few years, in May they finally released their own debut Hanging Gardens. The album is full of shimmering, disco infused electro-pop, and at times reminds me of one of my all time favorite electronic albums, Mylo’s Destroy Rock & Roll (which sadly, has still not received a follow up). The album has quite a few addicting songs, including the sample based “Holding On" and "A Stranger Love" which features guest vocals by Sarah Chernoff, but the biggest highlight of Hanging Gardens is on "Dominoes". The song begins with a simple piano line but as it progresses a smattering of electronic chimes and synths help build toward a shimmering peak. As we get closer to the top, a set of bass synths arrive and a child choir begins ‘ooh yeah’ing to coax us even higher while the electro-chimes continue smashing into each other up above like a bundles of colorful fireworks.

Best Moment: Both the build, starting at 1:42, and resulting peak at 2:48 are equally important and impressive, as we can’t have one without the other. Bonus moment: That final little sparkle at 3:41, we see you!

The Album [Hanging Gardens]: 8/10

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Clean Up
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Old
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Danny Brown
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#9. Danny Brown - Clean Up (3:01)

Detroit’s Danny Brown sports one of the most unique voices in hip-hop today. And while he can normally be found proclaiming his love for drugs with his high pitched party yap on songs such as “Dip" or "Blunt After Blunt”, on “Clean Up” he takes a more somber approach in both the sound of his delivery and the content of his message. The song is a confession of sorts, where he admits to all his debaucherous habits and then comes to the rather mature realization that if he wants to continue being successful (or even being alive), he needs to clean it up. Danny’s flow is as solid as ever (even without the aid of his yelping), but the song is pushed to another level by Paul White’s amazing production. The backing track is borrowed from The Alan Parsons Project’s “The Raven”, and not only is it one of the most addictive beats I’ve ever heard, but it perfectly conveys the feeling of regret, guilt, and uneasiness that Danny is attempting to share with us here about his past, present, and future.

Best Moment: The first time The Raven sample kicks in and sinks its teeth into us at 0:18.

The Album [Old]: 9/10

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Eros And Apollo
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Studio Killers
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Studio Killers
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#10. Studio Killers - Eros And Apollo (3:28)

Why the long face? Sad that your favorite cartoon band, Gorillaz, are no more? Say hello to the newest gang of animated music makers, Studio Killers! Like Gorillaz, Studio Killers are based in the UK, and they’re composed of Goldie Foxx, Dyna Mink, and Cherry. Their first single “Ode To The Bouncer" has been bouncing around the internet for awhile now (and if you haven’t seen it yet, now is a great time to do so), but the cartoon crew just recently released their first album and "Eros And Apollo" is my favorite track. If you’re not immediately entranced by the opening piano line, maybe you’ll appreciate the way the Cherry’s melancholic, bittersweet voice contrasts with Goldie and Dyna’s immaculate production. Or perhaps you’ll smile at the way she equates hearts to cereals (plural!) while warning young lovers about a potentially dangerous romantic situation. In any case, if you’re a fan of sparkling, shiny electro-pop with a bit of a cute twist, Studio Killers is a concoction you should give a test drive.

Best Moment: Each time Cherry goes over the top in the chorus for “Señorita’s” and “Sweet Lolita’s”, first showing up at 0:55.

The Album [Studio Killers]: 8/10

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I Was A Fool
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Heartthrob
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Tegan And Sara
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#11. Tegan And Sara - I Was A Fool (3:24)

Twin sisters Tegan And Sara have been singer-songwriting indie pop gems for years now, and although they’ve been hinting at a genre shift with their previous two albums, their latest is where they’ve finally gone and traded in their guitars for synthesizers. Yes, Heartthrob is a full on synth-pop album, but that doesn’t mean the girls have lost any of their ability to weasel their way into my heart. Lead single “Closer" is a hell of a karaoke jam, but "I Was A Fool" is my favorite moment of the album. Tegan tells us that familiar story of being completely unable to do what your brain is telling you when your heart is in charge while Sara occasionally drops by to lend a backup voice. Don’t worry about the haters ladies, you can genre-hop all you want. Your true fans aren’t going anywhere.

Best Moment: Those 3rd and 4th “I was a fooooool’s” in each chorus (first appearing at 0:48) totally peak out like none other.

The Album [Heartthrob]: 7/10

Music Video

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Step
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Modern Vampires Of The City
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Vampire Weekend
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#12. Vampire Weekend - Step (4:11)

New York’s Ivy League indie rockers may be growing up, but they certainly haven’t grown old. Modern Vampires Of The City contains more mature themes than we’re used to hearing from the band and one of the most breathtakingly lush moments is “Step”. The song borrows its melody from Pachelbel’s Canon and a line from Souls Of Mischief but once you hear Ezra Koenig’s voice there’s no mistaking this for anything but Vampire Weekend. As the band plinks away on a toy piano Ezra takes the opportunity to cleverly reflect upon his ongoing relationship with his “girl” (aka music). This includes not only music that he enjoys or has been influenced by, but also his own. The verses find him expounding in a syncopated cadence before returning to a more dreamy (or even dropped/screwed) tone for the chorus. So, is it official? Is Vampire Weekend three for three? My vote would have to be a resounding yes.

Best Moment: Right at 0:37 where Ezra hops up a few notes in the first verse for “New York”, “disco”, “LA”, and “San Francisco”.

The Album [Modern Vampires Of The City]: 9/10

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We Exist
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Reflektor
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Arcade Fire
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#13. Arcade Fire - We Exist (5:43)

Arcade Fire have emerged as the defining indie band of the 2000’s, mastering the Herculean task of impressing hardened critics while simultaneously winning over new casual fans, and with the release of their fourth album Reflektor, they show no signs of slowing down. Each album has been able to build upon the previous one without anything feeling recycled or rehashed. Their fourth album coasts along nicely after the momentous success of The Suburbs, and my favorite song is “We Exist”. As usual, the band leaves no stone unturned, laying down many subtle moments throughout the track that reveal themselves after multiple listens, like the guitar picking at 1:51 or the bass tone change at 3:28. And, of course, just when we might feel like things might be turning predictable, the band ratchets things up for the second half of the song, blowing us away with an incredible culmination of vocals, strings, piano, and like eight other instruments along with that ever present bassline.

Best Moment: While the final go around at 4:41 is good, the best part is actually at 2:23 when the bassline first goes up instead of down.

The Album [Reflektor]: 8/10

Music Video

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Sparks
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On Oni Pond
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Man Man
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#14. Man Man - Sparks (3:34)

Followers of What Else Is There? may remember that a Man Man song claimed the #1 spot on 2011’s list, so it should come as no surprise that the band’s latest album has another song placing near the top. In fact, Man Man has been on an incredible tear lately, with both 2011’s Life Fantastic and 2013’s On Oni Pond landing in that 9/10, just-about-perfect territory. The latter houses so many peak moments (including “King Shiv" and "Pyramids”) that it made choosing a favorite very difficult. The band is one of the few around today able to be incredibly unique and consistent without feeling stale or “samey” in the slightest. Frontman Honus Honus is able to master both high energy, ruckus-rousing freak-outs (like “Pyramids” or Life Fantastic's “Dark Arts”) and more introspective tunes that go straight for the feels like “Sparks”. Within, he reassures us that we’re not the only people who’ve had to deal with becoming over-protective of our psyche after dealing with one too many heartbreaks. I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel better knowing that Honus has been there before, and being able to commiserate with him about it via “Sparks” goes a long way toward helping me let that flame back in my heart.

Best Moment: The final two time-bomb tick-tick-tick’s that arrive at 2:18 and 3:12.

The Album [On Oni Pond]: 9/10

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Just My Kind
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Run Fast
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The Julie Ruin
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#15. The Julie Ruin - Just My Kind (3:51)

It’s been awhile since our favorite riot grrrl Kathleen Hannah has released any music. Bikini Kill’s final album was in 1996 and the last we’ve heard from Le Tigre was 2004. This puts her at about ten years absent from the scene, so her return as The Julie Ruin is a welcome one. Run Fast certainly has a few songs reminiscent of her rowdy past like “Kids In NY" and "Party City”, but my favorite moment on the album is a slower one. “Just My Kind” is where Kathleen lays out the feelings she has for her other half and it’s hands down the best courtship mix-tape cut of the year. Hearing Kathleen’s unmistakable voice spearhead such a tender moment is just so endearing and it’s obviously meant to be placed between the ears of a new crush (or old flame). 

Best Moment: The tension that lights up for the final “I’m gunna yell it out, ah, ah, I’m gunna scream it out” at 2:52.

The Album [Run Fast]: 7/10

Music Video

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History Eraser
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The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas
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Courtney Barnett
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#16. Courtney Barnett - History Eraser (3:28)

I have been so into Courtney Barnett lately. Who’s this Courntey Barnett character, you ask? Well, if Jenny Lewis was Australian and contained a couple extra helpings of nonchalance you’d be pretty darn close. Courtney recently hit the scene and even though her first full album is actually just two EPs stitched together it doesn’t make the collection any less amazing. It houses an incredible late night slow jam in “Anonymous Club" and the very cute and clever single "Avant Gardener" but "History Eraser" just edges them out as my favorite. It’s a dusty alt-country tune where Courtney’s stream of consciousness wordplay recounts a spontaneous weekend with a lover or group of friends (or both?) in such a way that makes me wish I was around to experience it with them.

Best Moment: The way the hypnotic, recurring chorus (first appearing at 0:35) always manages to spill back into Courtney’s story with a splash.

The Album [The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas]: 8/10

Music Video

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Belle Glade Missionaries
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Lousy With Sylvianbriar
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of Montreal
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#17. of Montreal - Belle Glade Missionaries (5:54)

of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes is an incredible artist, as evidenced by the depth and quality of work he’s been able to produce over the past sixteen years. One way he’s been able to keep things fresh during this long career has been his willingness to slightly change gears and dip his toe into different genres, shifting his band’s sound from lo-fi indie rock to glam-infused eletropop. His newest creation, Lousy With Sylvianbriar, is another change in direction, this time born of folk-rock influences such as Grateful Dead, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. My favorite song of the bunch, “Belle Glade Missionaries”, features a contoured, walking guitar riff that strolls along with Kevin as he cynically muses upon a creeping and inescapable feeling of narcissistic ignorance that technology seems to have been unleashing upon the world.

Best Moment: On this one we have a tie between 3:00 when Kevin rapid-fires his way back from the bridge and 4:10 till the end of the song where we get some final rhymes and an echoing, twangy guitar outro.

The Album [Lousy With Sylvianbriar]: 7/10

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State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)
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Regions Of Light And Sound Of God
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Jim James
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#18. Jim James - State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.) (5:17)

My Morning Jacket has always been great at starting their albums with mysterious, moody openers - see “Victory Dance" from Circuital for a good example - and that trend continues on Jim James’ latest solo release. “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” is the kind of song I could see kicking off a festival set with such a potent, slow burning energy that concert-goers nearby would have no choice but to be pied piper’d over to their stage to see what was going on. Jim quietly begins the journey with just piano and his gentle voice, but then he drops a set of syncopated vowels along with a drum beat, bass (and even some triangle), and suddenly he’s got us all doing a rain dance together before the power finally goes out.

Best Moment: The exact spot where the bass and that triangle join the dance at 3:05.

The Album [Regions Of Light And Sound Of God]: 5/10