This is a more informal version of my usual favorite tracks list, since I feel like ranking individual tracks as just one person is a little too impersonal and lacking common sense. Especially if there were 100 tracks, or 102 like there were last year. There was a ton of good music coming out this year and there could have easily been more than 100 songs on this list, but I opted to go for quality rather than quantity. There are still 40 songs here, which is a lot, but they’ve survived the cuts from 100, down to 70, to you know, 40. 40 great songs that really changed my year and made me think about what I’m exactly listening to in the year 2013, as compared to other years.
These songs have helped illustrate moments within my life in 2013, have them be soundtracking some stray thoughts in moments of boredom or allowing me to be completely obsessed with them for several weeks, if not months. Songs like these always come each year, but I always feel as though it’s important to highlight them, as a way to present them with some sort of prestigious award in my own mind. Even though I’m done with school and other work related things for about a month, I’m going to try and write a small blurb for each song, because they deserve it.
The * next to the song name notes that it’s in the Top 10 songs out of this bunch. They are the ones that you MUST listen to. MUST. They also won silly awards.
- Anamanaguchi – Planet*
This song gets the “Unknown Nostalgia of 2013” award. This is due to the fact that it sounds like the theme music for the end of a 8-bit video game that took about 60 hours worth of gameplay and beating a near-impossible boss to reach the dramatic finale, where the main character and rescued fair maiden or lad ride off into the pixelated sunset on magical dolphins. Just a thought.
- Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Putting this out as the first single from the prolific indie band was a smooth move; with James Murphy flexing his production glitz and David Bowie providing backup vocals, there was no way this track could lose.
- Ariel Pink & Jorge Albrecht – Hang On to Life
UNF. That chorus tho. A slippery, smarmy cut of pop goodness, served up the only way Ariel Pink knows how. The extra telephone dialogue at the midpoint in the song really brings it all home, though.
- Beach Fossils – Shallow
The guitar tone is so sharp and contains so much depth, and then the vocals, bass, and melody guitar line come in and add even more depth- creating layers upon layers of interlocking instrumentals that harken back to a similar sound to Diiv’s “Doused.” Coincidentally, they both have water-related song names.
- Beck – Defriended*
This song gets the “The Main Man” Award, because Beck is the main man. After putting out an album only accessible through sheet music (a unique, not pretentious, move), he sneaks this new track out taking plays from an Animal Collective/Radiohead playbook with heavily sequenced drums and disorienting reverb but keeps the thing quintessentially Beck, which is his specialty. This track is superb and if this were a ranked list, it’d probably be number one.
- Bibio – A Tout A L’heure
Probably the happiest, purest tones put forth in a Bibio song since his breakout hit “Lover’s Carvings,” this song squeezes the dopamine out of the crevices of the cerebral cortex with its groovy bassline, bright synth melody, and of course the warm acoustic guitar.
- Big Black Delta – Side of the Road
M83/Muse ripoff? Nah man, this is some thick, catchy electro pop. Like many songs in this list, the chorus really makes this song stand out among the other songs, especially with the super theatrical vocals and throbbing synth line in the back.
- Chelsea Wolfe – Sick*
This song gets the “Song I’ve Imagined My Own Death the Most To of 2013” award, a much contested prize. I’ve written many paragraphs about this song, but I’ll try and keep it to a minimum. This song is massive, comprising of an orchestra, immense percussion, eerie synths, and two versions of Wolfe’s bellowing yet smoky vocals: one pitch shifted down and one normal pitch. The song embodies despair and has given many goosebumps. Wooooof.
- Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
Lyrics have never been a strong suit of mine, but on songs like these it makes me want to pay attention to other songs with equally as quirky, loveable, and hilarious lyrics. The song is about Barnett’s allergic episode in 100˚F heat, and the lyrics let the story play out wonderfully, always one-upping the next quotable phrase.
- Crying – Bodega Run
Chiptune influenced pop punk sounds like it could be terrible, but this fuckin’ rules. The instrumentals are super basic and ultra catchy and the lyrics are impossible not to love. It’s basically a story of people going to a bodega and buying snacks. With lines like “Lil’ Debbie is giving me the eye, down the aisle,” and “but they don’t got them dank doritos or those jalapeño cheetos” there’s no way this song can lose.
- Daft Punk – Doin’ It Right (ft. Panda Bear)*
This song wins the award “Favorite Alarm Clock Song of 2013.” The only electronically based song on Daft Punk’s newest album turns out to be my favorite, even though choosing one is almost an impossible task. The grooves on this are immaculate and the layering of Panda Bear’s vocals with the robot vocals of the punks is perfection. This was my alarm clock song for the majority of the summer, too, so its gotten a serious amount of play from me.
- Deafheaven – Dreamhouse*
This song wins the “Probably My Girlfriend’s Least Favorite Song on This List” Award. Dare I say that this song is the perfect introduction to black metal, blackgaze, post metal, post rock, or shoegaze to someone who is unfamiliar? Potentially yes, but it’s the sheer emotion put through in these wretching vocals and the thunderous guitars that really punch this song through the roof. There’s a reason why it’s been embraced by metal and non-metal fans alike. Definitely in the Top 10 for me for this year. That simple guitar line around 2:30, tho.
- Dean Blunt – Demon
I read an about a listening party experience with Blunt’s album The Redeemer where the album was played at deafening volumes in a pitch black room where the listeners were situated. The experience was intense, but extremely satisfying. I tried it out for myself, and found the same results. The thundering percussion and sequenced cello is messily juxtaposed with unprompted sound effects of shattering glass and car horns while Blunt’s vocals chant over the chaotic instrumental really is disorienting but sum up the album brilliantly. Check the whole thing out if you can.
- Delorean – Unhold (ft. Caroline Polachek)
I crafted a theory the other day when I was listening to this song, which was the reason that I like this song as much is because I can picture my 8th grade self Dance Dance Revolution’ing to it. The ultimate praise. It has a catchy beat, slick bassline, and Caroline Polachek’s vocals are amazing as always.
- Diarrhea Planet – Lite Dream
This song definitely gets the award “The Song I Air-Guitared To Most of 2013.” The song is a straight up face ripper! Diarrhea Planet’s four guitarists really have a field day on this one, absolutely shredding the listener’s inhibitions throughout three melody changes, each becoming more radical than the last. Basically it will rock your entire world every single time.
- Disclosure – Voices (ft. Kaeble)
A simple house influenced pop tune? Nah mayne, think again. Kaeble rocks this track with a killer performance, effortlessly sliding in and out of the bouncy beats laid down by the Lawrence bros, while still standing out among the incredibly attractive bass.
- DJ Rashad – Rollin
The year of 2013 was the year of DJ Rashad, and out of his three releases, I found that this song was my favorite of the bunch. It crams so much into around four minutes: three or so different vocal samples, multi-channel jumping, and all the other essential elements of footwork fill this track with endless entertainment.
- FaltyDL – She Sleeps (ft. Ed Macfarlane)
Earlier in the year I compared this song to visions of a beautiful ballerina dancer or figure skater gliding on air, pirouetting through the clouds, with big snowflakes delicately falling all around her into some sort of crystalline winter cathedral. The instrumental is gentle but keeps the tempo with a simple, solid beat while Friendly Fires’ vocalist Ed Macfarlane lays down a vocal line that might just define the word “smooth.” Later I found that the music video featured rollerbladers showing off their stuff, so I wasn’t too far gone.
- FKA twigs – How’s That
Tormented, sexy, and dark, FKA Twigs’ opener for her EP2 sets the mood perfectly for the tone of the rest of the work. Arca’s production is top-notch here, with the clacking wood blocks and shuttering bass aligning with Twigs’ supple vocals. Also one of the best music videos of 2013.
- Iceage – Morals
Probably the most unique Iceage song ever, this one utilizes piano and really leaves the lead singer’s unique vocals room to breathe, but also allowing them to be at the helm of emotion in the track. It’s an electrifying track that would be a monster of a hit live.
- Infinity Shred – Void Ripper
Mixing elements of hip hop/pop instrumentals and chiptune into electronic post rock, this song is motivating as much as it is $wagged out. There are intense build ups, climactic finishes, and the melody is great. They’re also really good live and super cool dudes, which is a big plus!
- Jai Paul – Genevieve
I couldn’t find a clip of this track, but damn it’s good. It instantly hooks the listener in with off kilter bass, groovy guitars and that classic Jai Paul synth texture. Thrown in some random stops and extra guitar fills and you’ve got yourself an earworm that will slither all over the place in your brain. That’s gross.
- James Blake – Retrograde
The first single released from Blake’s sophomore album was a good one. His jazzy, ethereal vocals guide the song along effortlessly, and then when that synth part comes in around the midpoint MMMM girl that’s the stuff. So much emotion!
- Julianna Barwick – Pyrrhic*
This gets the “Celestial Revelation Award” due to its beauty. One of the first Barwick songs that incorporate other instruments into the song other than her voice is such a classic. This one has dramatic strings and piano added in, giving the track a new dimension to work with. The heavy strings give the song land for the cloudy vocals to walk on and eventually fly from. Also, Jonsi from Sigur Ros donates his pipes to the mist, which is really cool. The whole track just feels like it’s part of something bigger than this whole mortal life… it makes you think.
- The Knife – Full of Fire
The first single from The Knife was a bit of a curveball, but the sheer intensity of the industrial synths and the morphing song structure made this an early favorite for me this year. Let’s talk about gender, baby.
- Kurt Vile – Wakin’ On A Pretty Day
This song wins the award for “Chillest Song of 2013,” but honestly, who else would pick a song other than the President of Cool, Kurt Vile? This dude is so cool, that has a day devoted to him in his native hometown Philadelphia. The guitar tone sounds like it was made to massage the tension right out of your shoulders and is able to put a glare from the sun in your eyes, even on the cloudiest days.
- Laura Cortese – Life Is Good Blues (Laura Veirs cover)
Fun fact: Laura Cortese is one of my friend’s roommates and it was pure coincidence that her CD came through to WHUS. It was not coincidence, however, for me to love this song so much. I was practically raised with fiddling like in this song, and it reminds me of all the good memories I had in high school playing with my teacher and peers. The mix on this is also stellar, everything is so clear! Killer chops, too.
- Majical Cloudz – Turns Turns Turns
Technically this song came out in 2012, but whatever right? Like most of Impersonator, songs are rippling with emotion through the deep, honest vocals. The subtle instrumentals really pull all the energy out from the crevices, and just melts me whenever I hear it.
- Merchandise – Anxiety’s Door
Going into 2013, Merchandise was one of my all-time obsessed over bands. I was so hyped for their new album, Totale Nite, which was great, but this song was definitely the winner. It even has a guitar solo. It fits into the mold that previous Merchandise songs made like “Time” and “Become What You Are,” in that they’re new wave killers, ripe with emotion and some kind of angst. Really, really good.
- My Bloody Valentine – If I Am
The song that reaffirmed me in My Bloody Valentine. It’s almost halfway through the album and I was into it, but not sure if it’s for sure My Bloody Valentine. Then, the whirlpools of guitar noise and Belinda Butcher’s feathery vocals told me otherwise. A great soundtrack to trekking through a snowy, unforgiving campus on the way to class.
- Shlohmo – Later*
This song gets the award for “First Song of 2013 That I Geeked Out To Hardcore.” The vocal sample on this track is insane, and Shlohmo’s laid back beats compared to the really hyped up ones is a great foil… the whole track is just so damn good and goes hard, without getting ignorant.
- Slava – Girl Like Me
The chopped, looping vocals paired with the quick clicking beat reminds me of footwork, but I can’t quite call it footwork. Sure it has footwork elements, but it slaps on some house tags in there, and all sorts of good stuff.
- Sophie – Bipp
This is like bubblegum pop hyped up on either pure cane sugar or some kind of upper. The beat on this is absolutely insane: it pops and bubbles and… bipps, for lack of a better word. Crazy catchy and smooth but still weird enough to not be Top40.
- Still Corners – Berlin Lovers
This record didn’t really wow me that much, but this song really made moments for me in 2013. The simple, oscillating synth line with the dripping female vocals, stuffed with romanticism really swooned me over. What a gorgeous song.
- Tirzah – Inside Out*
This song wins the award “Most People Asking Me ‘Woah What’s This Song Called?’ While Playing It of 2013” Lowkey, electronic-led RnB with unique synth textures. Tirzah’s voice is comparable to popular pop singers and Micachu’s production really shines through. There are some moments in this song where I am totally blown away with how well every piece fits together, creating such a killer groove. Also, at least three different people came into the booth asking me what this song was once. It was awesome.
- Vampire Weekend – Diane Young
There are so many good songs on Modern Vampires but there are so many parts of this song that just kill me: the saxophone, the pitch shifting, infectious beat, simple lyrics, the overflowing fun… the whole thing is possibly the formula for a perfect pop song.
- Yo La Tengo – Ohm
There are so many Yo La Tengo songs that feel like life anthems, and this one is no exception. The whole thing just feels so reliable, like a great, old friend.