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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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

Music Video

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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
30
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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
72
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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

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Gasoline
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A Is For Alpine
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Alpine
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#19. Alpine - Gasoline (3:23)

Alpine is an Australian band powered by the vocal harmonies of Phoebe Baker and Lou James, and while a lot of their debut album A Is For Alpine happens to float harmlessly by without making much of an impact, “Gasoline” shows up in the middle as a giant flare of color and energy. The song begins with a set of bright guitar notes that quickly bloom upwards while Phoebe and Lou’s synchronized voices tell us about their new-found chemical connection. Apparently it only seems to be sparking during the night time, and that just isn’t enough for them. Eventually a synth rhythm joins them while the girls devolve into some “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah”s. While the whole album wasn’t a winner for me, the strength of “Gasoline” has me excited to see what Alpine is able to cook up in the future.

Best Moment: When the song settles into it’s “I wish it wasn’t just the night time” groove at 0:44, 1:28, and 2:53.

The Album [A Is For Alpine]: 5/10

Music Video

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I Blame Myself
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Night Time, My Time
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Sky Ferreira
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#20. Sky Ferreira - I Blame Myself (3:57)

This is one that I cheated a bit on. I remember listening to Night Time, My Time a couple times earlier in the year but nothing on it really clicked for me. Then while perusing the Pitchfork’s end of year list, I noticed they had this song on it and it piqued my curiosity. Finally, after that re-listen I actually got it. “I Blame Myself” is a moment of extreme vulnerability, but also a moment of extreme strength. The beat clicks and stutters and a synth line bops around while Sky tries to explain to us that her own biggest critic is - you guessed it - herself. It’s pretty impressive that one of the best pop songs of the year was penned by someone only 21 years old. And that’s at least one thing that Sky should be proud to be blamed for.

Best Moment: The accent she drops in each chorus during “You think you know me SO well”, first appearing at 0:45.

The Album [Night Time, My Time]: 6/10

Music Video

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Don't Try
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Arc
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Everything Everything
11
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#21. Everything Everything - Don’t Try (4:13)

Are goofy, British indie bands with falsetto, theatrical vocals a “thing” now? I’m pretty sure they are. Wild Beasts, alt-J and Everything Everything (who landed in the #7 spot on 2011’s list with “MY KZ, YR BF”) have been doing a fairly successful job of holding down this particular corner of the indie-verse for the last few years. On “Don’t Try”, Jonathan Higgs and company get a chance to exercise quite a few different styles, including (but not limited to) anxious builds, euphoric releases, rapid-fire vocal gymnastics, choir-like backup harmonies, jagged guitars, and bursts of whizzing electronics. They’re all here, and somehow, Everything Everything makes them sound good together.

Best Moment: When we finally get to the long form iteration of the chorus from 2:10 to 2:53.

The Album [Arc]: 5/10

Music Video

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Creep In A T-Shirt
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Evil Friends
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Portugal. The Man
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#22. Portugal. The Man - Creep In A T-Shirt (3:54)

I’m kind of surprised that Portugal. The Man aren’t more popular than they currently are. They certainly deserve it. John Gourley and Zachary Carothers are incredible songwriters, capable of creating songs spanning many different types of styles and moods, all while retaining a certain charm and infectiousness. And did I mention they were hardworking? It turns out Evil Friends is already their seventh full length album. Wow! Anyway, it comes as no surprise that their newest collection has plenty of good stuff, including “Modern Jesus”, “Atomic Man”, and my favorite, “Creep In A T-Shirt”. The song is insanely catchy and puts John’s falsetto to great use. The real payoff is the multifaceted chorus which includes so many great things it’s hard to understand how they managed to squeeze them all in there. That “you-ooh-ooh” swoop. The “get it, get it, get it, get it’s”. The horns that show up afterward with the main melody to play us off. GET IT? Thanks P.TM, Don’t mind if I do.

Best Moment: The chorus, of course, appearing at 1:20 and 2:27.

The Album [Evil Friends]: 7/10

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Take Me Higher
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Free Your Mind
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Cut Copy
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#23. Cut Copy - Take Me Higher (5:51)

Cut Copy are a band that have been successfully soundtracking indie kid dance parties ever since their breakout sophomore album in 2008 and even though the new album Free Your Mind was released to significantly less fanfare than their last two, I believe it’s their most consistent one yet. Free Your Mind doesn’t find the band taking any giant leaps - it’s mostly features them just refining their established craft - but Cut Copy already had a good thing going, so this is a logical progression for them. “Take Me Higher” is the best of many good songs on the album, and while it might not have quite the adrenaline pumping energy of Lights And Music" or Hearts On Fire”, it is every bit as good as the In Ghost Colours hits. Instead of dropping an infectious hook and biding time through the verses until we get back to the chorus, “Take Me Higher” is more about the long game. It’s slow build and arc lead to an incredible release, the likes of which should make even some of the most intense EDM drops of the world rather jealous.

Best Moment: The final peak at 4:31 which the whole song builds towards, where the main piano line, a bird call chirp, a set of “yeah, yeah, yeah’s”, and even this little 8-bit wiggle all combine to lift us right off the face of the planet.

The Album [Free Your Mind]: 7/10

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Better
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Hit Vibes
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SAINT PEPSI
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#24. SAINT PEPSI - Better (3:46)

SAINT PEPSI may only be a 20 year old kid from NYC, but he seems to be one of the biggest rising stars in a new genre called vaporwave. Vaporwave is generally created by collecting old, forgotten, mass produced tunes (stuff like elevator music or telephone hold music) and turning them into things someone might actually wanna listen to. (Check this MACINTOSH PLUS cut for an example). On his first true album Hit Vibes, however, SAINT PEPSI has unleashed a hotter on par with things established instrumental hip-hop/glitch-hop artists like Star Slinger have been putting out. Things kick off with what sounds like Toad of Mario Kart fame droppin’ a couple yeow’s before some throbbing disco bass and horns propels us into an incredible groove. This forward momentum never lets up, only pausing occasionally to spin us around for two beats in a revolving door shaped organ, and then voices show up to remind us not to settle for second best. Things can be made better. Keep those hit vibes coming, saint of red & blue cola. You keep them coming and we’ll work on staying thirsty.

Best Moment: That spinning organ thing that first appears at 0:22 and 0:30 is so good, it’s the one noise I’m always listening for.

The Album [Hit Vibes]: 5/10