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by Seth Colter Walls

December 14, 2013

Best Of 2013

Seth Colter Walls' Top 50 Tracks of 2013

by Seth Colter Walls  |  December 14, 2013

Here's a mix that's no good for a party, unless you're throwing a party at which the object is for revelers to collectively muse on the wild range of creative sound practices. Classical cuts, old and new, mix here with hip-hop, country, indie, world-music accents -- the works. Oh, and we've got a good bit of new jazz, too.

Why create a playlist that gleefully pairs up tech-metal visionaries (say, Voivod) with a movement from Charles Ives' most experimental symphony ("Symphony No. 4: II. Allegretto")? Let the word "gleeful" be your hint. To my ear, it's a joy to move outside strict stylistic boundary lines (which are mostly of use to music marketers, anyway). Do you think the beat-nuts in Dawn of Midi -- a group that used acoustic jazz trio instrumentation to write a through-composed suite of music so thumping that it actually hit the iTunes electronic chart -- care about genre definitions? Or that Wayne Shorter -- a veteran of Miles Davis' Second Classic Quintet -- cares whether you file his tone poem "Pegasus" under jazz or classical? (It's both, for the record.) This mix is offered in a similar spirit.

Check its logic for yourself: A new piece for violinist Hilary Hahn ("Ford's Farm") blends down-home harmonies with minimalist energy and leads into my favorite cut from the latest Pistol Annies record. And doesn't the beat on a new one-off single by Beck ("It Won't Be Long") go nicely with the percussive slap of the band supporting Latin jazz pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa on "Cimarrón"? The digital-montage grind of M.I.A.'s "Only 1 U" feels like a choice appetizer when placed before the electro-metal flute concerto "Luciform," written by Mario Diaz de Leon (and played by flautist Claire Chase).

So click play, and start off with Danny Brown's "Wonderbread" before moving on to a new rendition, by a killer jazz trio, of one of the very first dance-craze tunes: James P. Johnson's "The Charleston." Follow that up with an uptempo number by Omar Souleyman ("Ya Yumma"), and you've got a trilogy of experimental-but-approachable tunes that, despite spanning continents and centuries, all promote a similar mood. Hey, maybe this mix is good for a party, after all. Just invite folks who are willing to keep an open mind.

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