Nine Directors Who Should Direct Star Wars: Episode IX

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With the announcement that Looper’s Rian Johnson is directing Star Wars: Episode VIII, it looks like Disney/Lucasfilm are open to making risky moves in the development of their reinvigorated franchise (even though J.J. Abrams, an obvious choice, is directing the seventh installment). The announcement got my imagination running, and I can’t help but think about the future of the series post-Episode VIII…Episode IX, of course. Here’s nine directors I wouldn’t mind seeing travel to a galaxy far, far away.

9. James Gunn

Gunn may be higher on the list after I see Guardians of the Galaxy (or not on it at all, but I feel like Guardians will be a treat), but for now, I’ll hold off on that. However, Guardians looks like a blast, the perfect summer film, a surprise hit, and a refreshing take on the Marvel cinematic Universe. With Disney owning Marvel and Star Wars, Gunn already has an in with the company. It may just be a matter of whether Guardians does well financially on whether they consider him for such a huge franchise.

8. Drew Goddard

An unlikely choice, but with the Rian Johnson announcement, it feels like anything unlikely could indeed happen. Goddard is responsible for 2012’s surprise hit The Cabin in the Woods, which was his directorial debut. While that “lack of experience” may sound worrisome, fear not: Cabin in the Woods is a great film, jam-packed with the kind of thrilling energy a Star Wars movie desires. Goddard is set-up as the director of the Amazing Spider-Man spinoff Sinister Six, but that should be wrapped up by the time the conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy had to get underway.

7. Doug Liman

Liman is the director of The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jumper and most recently, Edge of Tomorrow. While Jumper didn’t fare well critically, Edge of Tomorrow is the surprise of the summer, an entertaining-as-hell and creative effort, with even some nice character work, that speaks to his potential to create a Star Wars film. The only problem may be that we didn’t have expectations set for Edge, while Star Wars would have plenty to live up to.

6. Neill Blomkamp

In 2009, I would have said Blomkamp can direct anything he wants to, because at the time District 9 had wowed us. Since then, his reputation has declined a little. Not much, but enough where he’s not at the top of this list. Last year’s Elysium, his follow up to District 9, proved to be a tad disappointing. A good film, but an overall forgettable one, thanks to its setting that resembled District 9 a little too much and characters that well, we didn’t really give a shit about. But I’m still putting Blomkamp on the list. It’s probably mostly due to the fact I still believe in the guy, but if he were to direct a Star Wars film, I’d be at least intrigued. It would be a much different style than Abrams, but so will Johnson I think we can expect.

5. Brad Bird

Bird is the director of some of the best family-friendly, but mature, animated features out there: The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. He already has more than an in with Disney with the latter film mentioned and Ratatouille. He also directed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a high-octane joy ride that showed he can direct live-action with the best of ’em. He already has a couple projects lined up, but maybe by the time he had to direct Star Wars 9, his schedule would be free. The Star Wars films have always been family-friendly in nature, but with mature themes. Bird’s style would fit that mold quite well.

4. Matthew Vaughn

Vaughn made waves with his comic book adaptation Kick-Ass, which proved to be the little engine that could. His next project was another super hero film, but this time he toned down the violence and suggestive content and took on the X-Men universe with X-Men: First Class. It was a movie that reinvigorated life into a series that needed it after abysmal movies like X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Both of these movies show Vaughn’s knack for high-energy and excitement, and also his ability to create fun and engrossing characters, something the Star Wars franchise (used to be) all about.

3. Matt Reeves

At first, Reeves may seem like he would be out of his element if he directed a Star Wars film. But I’m sure we’ve thought that of Johnson as well, and I’m sure he’ll bring a creative vision to the series. Reeves sprung onto the scene with Cloverfield, which, love it or hate it, was at least a unique (at the time) take on the monster genre. Then came Let Me In, a film that had so much going against it (being the American remake of the beloved vampire Swedish film Let the Right One In), only to shock critics when it turned out to actually be pretty damn good. Now Reeves is releasing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes soon. It remains to be seen whether the film will be good, but it looks promising and shows Reeves may be able to handle an effects-heavy sequel in a popular franchise. While some would say his style may be too “dark” for a Star Wars film, I think he could bring a unique take on the franchise.

2. Alfonso Curaon

So yes, Cuaron seems like the obvious pick at the moment, having just won the Oscar for best director for Gravity. But think about it: if Cuaron got his hands on a Star Wars movie, it would be unlike any Star Wars movie we’ve ever seen. Cuaron’s vision for things is uncanny, and there’s no doubting the film would be a visual spectacle. And if you’re worried it would be style over substance, remember he also directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which many say is still the best in the series. Depending on the direction they take this new trilogy, Cuaron would be an excellent addition to the array of Star Wars directors. Oh, and tracking shots. Those tracking shots.

1. Michael Bay

Yes, I know what you’re going to say. “What?? That hack? No way!” But hear me out. Bay, despite being known for his explosive, special effects-riddled tendencies that are devoid of plot, has made plenty of memorable movies. The Transformers trilogy shows he can handle an entertaining franchise and–

Okay ya got me. Yes, I am joking. Can you imagine what this shit stain would be like if Michael Bay directed it? Pearl Harbor with space ships. No thank you.

Well, there you have it. Who do YOU think should direct the ninth Star Wars movie following Abrams and Johnson? Sound off in the comments below.

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2014 Oscar Predictions

BEST PICTURE: 12 Years A Slave If you thought last year’s race was unpredictable, think again. It was pretty certain that despite its snub of a best director nomination for Ben Affleck, that “Argo” was going to win best picture. This year, though, there are still categories that could be anyone’s for the taking. And while I’m very certain that “12 Years” will win the big award come Sunday night, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have competition. “Gravity” is hot on its heels…

Could Win: Gravity; Should Win: 12 Years A Slave (even though I won’t be dissatisfied if Gravity takes it)

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron …but it has a better chance of winning Best Director than picture. One will find similarities in this year’s winners, primarily in the fact that the director of the visual spectacle (last year it was Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”) will win over the director of the epic historical drama (this year sees Steve McQueen with “12 Years;” last year we had Spielberg’s “Lincoln”). Cuaron is more than deserving, though; “Gravity” has to be seen to be believed.

Could Win: Steve McQueen; Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Matthew McConoughey McConoughey has completely transformed his career within just a year. We saw him briefly in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and even then he stole every scene he was in. But the real stand-outs are his turns in “Dallas Buyers Club” and HBO’s “True Detective.” Is it possible that he could win both an Oscar and Emmy in the same year? Yes, you best believe it is. 

Could Win: Chiwetal Ejiofor; Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio (if only to stop the memes)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Cate Blanchett She’s won pretty much every award there is to win at this point. Not even the Woody Allen controversy will stop her from taking home her second Oscar Sunday night (she won for 2004’s “The Aviator”). This is a no-brainer in a contest that is lacking them.

Should Have Been Nominated: Emma Thompson

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto It might be strange to see “Dallas Buyers Club” take home two Acting awards Sunday night even though it doesn’t have any chance of winning Best Picture, but it will happen. 

Could Win: Barkhad Abdi; Should Win: Michael Fassbender

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o And here we are. The most competitive race of the year. Will the beloved Jennifer Lawrence take home her second Oscar in a row, or will the break-out star Lupita Nyong’o steal it away? It’s rare for an actor to win two years in a row, but it’s also rare for one to win both the BAFTA and Globe and not win the Oscar. Lawrence falls into both categories. However, Lupita won the SAG and the Critic’s Choice award, and in such a competitive race, I think those mean more than a British award and the Oscar’s little brother. 

Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence; Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Her Another highly competitive category, it comes down to “American Hustle” and “Her.” Will the Academy finally reward David O’Russell or will the creative “Her” take it home? “Her” won the WGA and the Globe, and while “Hustle” may have won the BAFTA, “Her” wasn’t nominated. I think “Her” edges it out, if only slightly. In fact, I feel “Hustle” has been slightly losing its edge as of late. 

Could Win: American Hustle; Should Win: Her

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years A Slave If “12 Years” is Best Picture bound, then it will have to win the adapted screenplay award. If anything else wins this Sunday night, then the game will change dramatically, and I will be biting my nails in anticipation for what will take home Best Pic.

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty

Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom

Best Cinematography: Gravity

Best Costume Design: American Hustle

Best Film Editing: Captain Phillips

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club

Best Original Score: Gravity

Best Original Song: “Let It Go”

Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby

Best Sound Editing: Gravity

Best Sound Mixing: Gravity

Best Visual Effects: Gravity

Best Documentary Short: The Lady In Number 6

Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem

Best Animated Short: Get A Horse

2014 Oscar Nominations Predictions

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Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow morning. Here’s the names I think we’ll be hearing. Keep in mind, this is not an indication of my “best of the year” list (I still have yet to see some of these movies) nor is it a list of winner predictions. That will come later. 

BEST PICTURE:  12 Years a Slave, Gravity, American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dallas Buyers Club, Philomena; Possible alternates: Her, Saving Mr. Banks, Blue Jasmine

Like last year, I see the Academy only going with 9 candidates this year when there could easily be the full 10. I predict Her and Saving Mr. Banks will be snubbed, but those are also the two I see having the best chance of proving me wrong. 

BEST DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), David O’Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorcese (Wolf of Wall Street), Alexander Payne {Nebraska); Possible alternates: Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Spike Jonze (Her), the Coen Bros. (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Again, Her has a chance of sneaking in there, but I see Jonze having a better shot at the original screenplay category than directing. Last year’s director noms were quite surprising, but the only surprise I’m predicting this year is Payne for Nebraska. If anyone has a shot of proving me wrong, it’s Greengrass and the Coens. 

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BEST ACTOR: Chewetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Robert Redford (All Is Lost); Possible alternates: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Joequin Phoenix (Her), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Forrest Whittacker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

By far the hardest category to call this year. It’s both frustrating and extremely exciting. So much talent this year boiled down to five nominees. Ejiofor, DiCaprio, McConaughey, Dern, and Redford are my five, and it was extremely difficult to leave Hanks out of the picture.

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks); Possible alternates: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Lead actress is more solid than lead actor this year, with Streep being the only possible upset that I can see. But even that’s a long shot.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips); Possible alternates: Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Will Forte (Nebraska), Collin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks)

I don’t see my five being in jeopardy. Bruhl is only a possibility because of the Globe nom and Farrell is a personal favorite, likely not getting any recognition come tomorrow morning. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), June Squibb (Philomena), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street); Possible alternates: Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Okay, so Robbie is a HUGE dark horse but she was great in Wolf. I get one really big surprise, and that’s mine. 

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years a Slave, Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips, Philomena, Before Midnight; Possible alternates: August: Osage County, The Spectacular Now, 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Her, American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis; Possible alternates: Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity

Not a lot of room for error in the writing categories this year, but we’ll see if Dallas Buyers Club can possibly sneak in there.

Well, that does it. Did you think I was going to do every award? I took some chances with some picks but we’ll see if it paid off tomorrow morning. 

Best Singles of 2013

2013 was an up-and-down year of both great and less than stellar music. To narrow it down to the best singles of the year is tough. The list is based on critical reception, personal preference and even popularity, as long as their was a solid (or addictingly controversial) enough reason for that popularity. Dance-music made waves, a modern pop-icon made a comeback, a 16-year-old took us all by surprise, and more. These are the best singles of the year.

15. Jay-Z feat. Rick Ross “Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit” Producers Vinylz, Boi-1da, and Timbland all lend a helping hand to this track, perfecting a hypnotic beat that Jay and Rick Ross both wanted on their albums. It ended up on Hov’s “Magna Carta” but don’t fuck with either of them.

14. The Lonely Island feat. Adam Levine & Kendrick LamarYOLO” An SNL digital short from the boys of Lonely Island, it twists the “battle cry of a generation” into n anthem for sheltering yourself from the dangers of the world. Hilarious, witty, and satirical in the best way.

13. Martin Garrix Animals” It was the year of dance music. Daft Punk, Disclosure, Krewella, and more bombarded dance clubs all over, and “Animals” is no different. It’s a song that cherishes the art of dropping the beat.

12. Big Sean feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica “Control” While it’s Big Sean’s song (it was meant to appear on his “Hall of Fame” album but ended up being released as a promotional single instead), it’s Kendrick Lamar that truly kills it with one of the best rap verses of the year.

11. Disclosure “When A Fire Starts to Burn” As far as dance music go, it can’t get much simpler, and that’s the magic of this track off Disclosure’s debut “Settle.” What makes it even better is it’s hilariously fun music video.

10. Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” Miley was the most talked about artist of the year. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up for you to decide. But once you get past the ridiculous twerking and other antics, Miley can actually sing. It’s only the absurdity of her music videos that overshadow that.

9. Eminem “Rap God” No one was really doubting Eminem’s rapping abilities, but now it’s hard to contest that he’s a rap god. Eminem takes the full 6 minutes of the song to cement that.

8. Drake feat. Majid Jordan “Hold On, We’re Going Home” It would have been easy to include Drake’s first single off “Nothing was the Same, “Started From the Bottom,” but “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is both expected and unexpected from the artist that Rolling Stone called “the people’s rapper.” It’s hard to argue with that listening to this 80s styled jam.

7. Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly “Do What U Want” Gaga’s “Artpop” album may not have been received well by critics, but the stand out track, “Do What U Want,” is a standout single thanks to an assist from R. Kelly.

6. Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know” The lyrics and instrumental are mesmerizing. Just listen to it.

5. Lorde “Team” The hit single “Royals” shot 17 year old Lorde to super stardom this year, but it’s on “Team” that I felt her youthful (not quite) innocence. With lyrics like “I’m kinda over getting told to throw my hands up in the air” it’s hard to believe she’s so young. It’s even harder when you take into account how talented she is.

4. Arcade Fire “Afterlife” The best track off of Arcade Fire’s epic “Reflektor” is also one of their most powerful songs. “Afterlife”…it’s such an “awful word.” But it’s a fantastic song.

3. Kanye West “Blood on the Leaves” Only Kanye would be able to sample “Strange Fruit” so impressively.

2. Daft Punk feat. Pharrell & Nile Rodgers “Get Lucky” “Blurred Lines?” Forget that. This was the definite song of the summer, a groovy pop/dance-jam.

1. Justin Timberlake “Mirrors” JT made a comeback this year with “The 20/20 Experience” and the best song on those combined albums is absolutely “Mirrors.” And it’s best song of the year. Say what you want about JT’s “Experience” it’s hard to deny how good this song is, an epic pop love song that Timbaland’s production surprisingly heightens rather than burdens.

Best Albums of 2013

The masters of dance music returned to the throne, ‘Ye proclaimed himself a God (as if that’s surprising), a 16-year-old took pop music unexpectedly by storm,  and JT made a highly anticipated comeback. These are the albums of the year, based on both critical reception (taking into account professional lists) and personal preference. I’m sure there were other albums that you think deserve to be on the list–but these are my top 10. 

10. Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience-1 of 2 Timberlake made a comeback this year after not releasing a solo album in seven years. How did he make it up to his fans? By surprising us with not one, but two albums in one year. He called it The 20/20 Experience. This is “music you can see” exclaimed the pop artist. Bold? Maybe. But the first half of JT’s experience is a soulful return, the hit single “Mirrors” being a stand out track. If you can’t see the music, you can at least enjoy listening to it-and feel the romance. Best tracks: Pusher Love Girl, Mirrors

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9. Childish Gambino because the internet It may have been released at the tail-end of the year, but that doesn’t make it unworthy. because the internet finds an often conflicted Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, a man who probably owes his career to the very thing he seems to be condemning. The comedian’s troubled personality isn’t masked by one liners and punch lines this time around; he sounds genuinely irritated. But maybe the internet isn’t the problem at all. Childish sounds like he’s just scared about his future. He shouldn’t be. Best tracks:  crawl, 3005

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8. Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City It’s hard to like Vampire Weekend, but it’s also hard to deny their talent. And taking into account their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City, they have a deep philosophy in their lyrics that’s hard to come by. Some may call it pretentious, and in a lot of ways it is; it’s depressing, moody, and likes to raise questions it doesn’t seem to have the answer to. But on the flip side, the album touches on aspects we all think about: faith, life, death, growing old, and what it all means. It all leads to a penultimate track that paints a picture of an apocalyptic time, and ends on a surprisingly uplifting note; no one ever said they had to have it all figured out, and it’s better because of it. Best tracks: Diane Young, Hannah Hunt

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7. Disclosure Settle Much like Daft Punk, Disclosure is a dance-pop music duo; the band’s made up of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence. What makes them different is that they’re young. At 22 and 19, the pair is making music that peers their own age will be dancing to in the clubs, and they’re triumphing in it. Daft Punk made a comeback in a year where dance-music was bigger than ever; these two are just getting started. Settle marks their debut studio album, and one can guess they won’t be slowing down; you won’t when listening to their music. The album is funky, poppy, catchy, and everything you’d want in a club playlist–and it’s done the right way. The smart way. Best tracks: When A Fire Starts to Burn, Latch

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6. Drake Nothing Was The Same Drake’s third album is a more mature effort than his debut Thank Me Later and a more focused one than 2011’s Take Care. It may be hard to pinpoint what exactly changed for Drake–he went from TV heartthrob to one of the biggest rappers in the game–but if it compels him to make more records like this, then so be it. Granted, the Drake of old is still fully alive: he raps about failed flings and fame. But what’s changed is that he’s focused his craft, maybe mostly due to the fact he seems more aggressive. Just listen to “Worst Behavior.” A more aggressive Drake, you say? Don’t worry. He still has a soft side on “Hold On We’re Going Home.” Best tracks: The Language, Too Much

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5. Arctic Monkeys AM The Arctic Monkeys’ latest is full of heartache, a mediation on a breakup and lost love. Even a song called “No. 1 Party Anthem” is a slow jam dedicated to finding the right time to strike up a conversation with that beautiful girl across the bar…that never happens. But underneath the substantial amount of sadness is an awfully relatable journey and a solid listen if you’re feeling like you miss that special someone. It may just take the pain away. There’s even a track about it (“Mad Sounds”). They may not make you want to get up and dance, but you’ll sit down and reflect, and it’s the rare kind of sound that can make you feel better about that. Best tracks: Do I Wanna Know?, No. 1 Party Anthem

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4. Arcade Fire Reflektor Arcade Fire ruled the Grammys a couple years back with their superb album The Suburbs. Now they’re back, with an album that is completely different but no less fantastic. Reflektor is a product of the band’s Haitian roots and is split into two discs. It’s a 70-minute behemoth of rock-n-roll dance anthems on the first disc and a more emotional track listing on the second; “Afterlife” is especially powerful, maybe one of their most powerful. It’s an album that probably could have fit on one disc. But it’s Arcade Fire. They can do what they want. Best tracks: Afterlife, Supersymmetry

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3. Lorde Pure Heroine Not many 16-year-olds can say they’ve ruled the pop charts. More importantly, not many if any can say they’ve done it with a classy edginess as graceful as Pure Heroine. Lorde unexpectedly came onto the scene with the dominating single “Royals,” a song that sticks the middle finger to an industry in which she is now rocking with a young sophistication that is rarely found. Her sound is both haunting and addicting, teenage angst masked by clear passion and a mature voice. No pop-music in 2013 was quite like it. Best tracks: Tennis Court, Team

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2. Kanye West Yeezus Only someone like Kanye West would have the balls to call himself a God. But at this point, we’ve come to expect that sort of behavior from the rapper. But what we never expect is what he has in store for us next. Yeezus is the ultimate embodiment of the artist’s ego and rage, and the end result is a pulverizing album, beginning with a Daft Punk-produced electronic banger “On Sight” and ending with the awkwardly beautiful “Bound 2.” And everything in between is even better, especially the “Strange Fruit”-sampling “Blood on the Leaves.” Who knows what Kanye has in store for us next, but what we do know is that it won’t be anything like Yeezus. Best tracks: Black Skinhead, Blood on the Leaves

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1. Daft Punk Random Access Memories At a time when electronic dance music is making its comeback, the time seemed perfect for Daft Punk to cut through the masses as well. The French duo infuses a seventies-style groove (which also seemed to be all the rage in 2013) with their dance jams that are equal parts catchy and moving on their latest album. Leave it to them to let the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas take the lead on “Instant Crush.” And while Daft Punk has always been innovative and imaginative, they prove they’re still fun with the song of the summer, “Get Lucky.” EDM may be the current fascination, but Daft Punk is the past, present and future. They’re a league of their own. Best tracks: Get Lucky, Instant Crush

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Agree? Disagree? What’s your favorite music of 2013? Sound off in the comments below or follow me @traviesclark.

And stay tuned for the top 20 singles of the year, coming soon.