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Top 50 Songs of 2013

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    It’s Friday, which means the first week in our 2013 Annual Report has wrapped up. But, what better way to start the weekend than with our Top 50 Songs of 2013? For this list, we zeroed in on the tracks that waved ears around in 2013, pieces of work that grasped the growth of each respective artist, engaging their mind, genre, and sound. No need to reach for Enya or Moby, the spiritualism ends there.

    Feel free to let us know what you think, including some tracks you’ll take into 2014 with you. Also, stay tuned as our 2013 Annual Report continues next week with our picks for Live Acts of the Year, Artist of the Year, Band of the Year, Music Festival of the Year, and Top 50 Albums of the Year.


    Deap Vally Sistrionix50. Deap Vally – “Lies”

    Sistrionix

    That the Californian blues rock combo of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards shares a love of knitwear may be less than apparent at first glance. Having met up at a crochet class, the duo has gone on to beat a familiar denim ‘n’ leather path with a big splash of hot pants ‘n’ fishnets glamour and good looks to counter the masculinity typically associated with these sounds. “Lies”, from debut album Sistrionix, channels vitriol at male mistreatment into positively giving the woman the upper hand through sheer, raucous, raging energy. “These legs are closed to you,” screams Troy. And you better believe it. —Tony Hardy

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    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

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    cage the elephant come a little closer49. Cage the Elephant – “Come a Little Closer”

    Melophobia

    Kentucky quintet Cage the Elephant used this fall’s Melophobia as a means of separating themselves from previous releases. And this dirty jewel of a track — which roared to the top of the Billboard Alternative Charts — proves their efforts were not in vain. Lead singer and guitarist Matthew Schultz was inspired to write “Come a Little Closer” after waking up in a São Paulo hotel. He noticed the favelas across the way looked like anthills packed with people who each went about their own isolated lives while internally clutching an anonymous bounty of thoughts and desires. This stunning realization rings clear in Schultz’s vocals, which beg us to come together and bridge our emotional distance before it’s too late. The empowering chorus is also one of the year’s most inviting sing-alongs, so much so that it even roused David Letterman to greet Cage the Elephant with this ovation: “I mean, my God, really, that’s it, no more calls, we have a winner! What do you want? This is all you need! For God’s sake, come on you guys! Let’s go out there and do something! Let’s go get in fights or something!” —Dan Pfleegor

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon


    Chamakay++Single+Chamakay+cover48. Blood Orange – “Chamakay”

    Cupid Deluxe

    Soaked in tropical vibes, Blood Orange’s “Chamakay” transports you to the island environment in which Dev Hynes shot the song’s video. Joining him is Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, whose gentle background vocals swell and swirl along with the lush, rhythmic drumming and very, very light synth use. It’s the vocals from the two that dominate the summery track, proving that both artists are due for their time in the spotlight after years of stacking up indie credibility. As well as being the lead single from Blood Orange’s Cupid Deluxe, “Chamakay” is by far the strongest track on the album, showcasing the soulful singer’s effortless ability to make some of the sexiest songs of this century. –Pat Levy

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon


    disclosure-featuring-london-grammar-help-me-lose-my-mind-paul-woolford-remix47. Disclosure – “Help Me Lose My Mind” (feat. London Grammar)

    Settle

    Settle worked so well as a debut not only because it showcased Howard and Guy Lawrence’s songwriting and production skills, but also because it featured tons of spectacular UK-centric guest vocals. Though Sam Smith and AlunaGeorge get the airplay for singing on hit singles “Latch” and “White Noise” respectively, London Grammar’s Hannah Reid co-wrote and dazzles on closer “Help Me Lose My Mind”. Her unearthly, soothing alto is punctuated by a throbbing retro dance beat, making for a mesmerizing ending to the masterful debut. Though “Help Me Lose My Mind” didn’t take off commercially like the other singles on Settle, Reid’s voice soaring in the chorus is one of the best moments on the album. –Josh Terry

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    asapfergshabba_COVER_THUNB46. ASAP Ferg feat. ASAP Rocky –  “Shabba”

    Trap Lord

    What’s amusing about “Shabba” is how it takes everything the ASAP Mob is criticized for and contorts it into hedonistic, trunk-rattling goodness. Southern influences a little too on-the-sleeve? Well, what about reaching even farther down south — as in Jamaica. Rhyming isn’t technical enough? Well, here’s ASAP Ferg rapping out of beat, switching flows, and slipping in ad-libs while making time to sneak in a Batman reference. All the parts should clash, but they manage to work together to teach a lesson: a banger is a banger. “Work” established ASAP Ferg as the next potential star in the ASAP camp, but it was “Shabba” that solidified him as one of rap’s most entertaining up-and-coming personalities. —Brian Josephs

    Listen: SoundCloud

    Buy: Amazon

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    Drake - Hold On, We're Going Home45. Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”

    Nothing Was the Same

    Drake’s career has centered on maintaining a dichotomy between hardened MC and romantic crooner. Thus far, he’s had plenty of success, but nothing quite like “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. By momentarily abandoning his pursuit of street cred, Drake frees himself to truly indulge his sentimental side, crafting a synth-heavy slice of ’80s R&B that sounds as progressive as it does a straight Phil Collins homage. More than that, though, he helped further legitimize his own career path by proving that even after the testosterone-fueled “Started from the Bottom”, you can still offer something emotionally visceral. While subsequent singles continued the search for that balance, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” raised all sorts of questions about just which half of Drake is the most intriguing and viable. —Chris Coplan

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon


    Yung-Lean44. Yung Lean – “Ginseng Strip 2002”

    Lavender EP

    Sometimes there are songs or artists that defy classification, emerging from some dark corner of the Internet and immediately deserving their own sub-sub-genre. Yung Lean is such an artist, and “Ginseng Strip 2002” is such a song. Before anyone knew who the 16-year-old Swede and his Sad Boys clique were, the spacey single dropped on YouTube and helped to spawn the sadwave movement that continues to move through the recesses of the Internet thanks to cosigns from artists like Earl Sweatshirt and websites like Vice. Each and every bar is quotable, from “Poppin’ pills like zits/ While someone vomits on your mosquito tits” to “Fuck fat hoes like Adele/ Get my dick stuck inside a lamp shell,” and paints a vivid picture of what goes on inside the mind of an emotional Swedish kid who spends his time smoking weed with his two friends/producers and playing Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon Stadium on N64. –Pat Levy

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    big sean hall of fame electronica kendrick43. Big Sean – “Control (HOF)” (feat. Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica)

    The moment Kendrick Lamar finished his vivid, verbose, voracious, visceral bomb, Big Sean knew that “Control” was never going to make his album. Rappers have been loath to be shown up on their own songs at least since Nas told Jay Z that “Eminem murdered you on your own shit.” Kendrick, then — with his Jeopardy-level references, his “King of New York” braggadocio, his assassination of every rapper on his footing, including rappers on the same song — doomed “Control” to non-album status. Which is a shame, and not just because of that verse. It’s a shame because of legendary producer No I.D.’s warped and woozy organs, his layers of laser beam gospel vocals, his channel-swapping snares. It’s a shame because, while a technically competent verse from Jay was to be expected, Big Sean’s verse on “Control” is his best moment as a rapper. Basically, Kendrick’s impressive verse was just a microcosm of how everyone involved in “Control” came correct. –Chris Bosman

    Listen: SoundCloud


    Jamie Lidell 201342. Jamie Lidell – “why_ya_why”

    Jamie Lidell

    Compared to Jamie Lidell’s romantic past, “why_ya_why” is a haunted nightmare that twists the typical R&B track into a wonderland fit for experimental legends like Tom Waits. It’s an odd product considering his goal, really. Many genres have experimented with adapting EDM/house electronic influences, but Lidell makes sharp, jagged rhythms and vocals pounded through a megaphone sound jarring. His torn-up croons shed addicting melodies that bring the likes Cee Lo Green and Andre 3000 to life, but with a freakier shock factor. R&B becomes as dance-y as ever on Jamie Lidell, and “why_ya_why” forcefully throws this new experimentation into nasty overdrive. —Sam Willett

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    deerhunter monomania41. Deerhunter – “Monomania”

    Monomania

    Bradford Cox has always been transparent about his insecurities, aurally and sonically transforming them into something old, something new, something cathartic, but, mostly, something true. The title track of Deerhunter’s 2013 release is a meditative reflection on the concept of monomania, a pathological obsession with a singular idea that Cox himself identifies with. By making the track “Monomania” the primary conceptual focus of the record — a work already laden with many scuzzy avant-punk gems — Cox sharply critiques, in his self-depreciating own way, the pathologizing nature of our society. The abrasive swells of “mono-mono mania” become much more than a mantra here. “Monomania” is at once a demonic hymn, a self-reflexive exercise that forces the listener to reflect on the importance of ideas, a sign of the times and, most of all, a unifying concept. –Paula Mejia

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon



    jim_james_regions_of_light_and_sound_of_god40. Jim James – “A New Life”

    Regions of Light and Sound of God

    Jim James is the bushy-haired leader of the psychedelic southern rock outfit My Morning Jacket. But, this heap of responsibilities has not prevented him from pursuing a prolific solo career. And thank god for that, because “A New Life” stands proud as one of the most heartfelt and romantic songs of the year. James’ soft, hymnal vocals (“Babe, let’s get one thing clear/ There’s much more stardust when you’re near”) make the first third of the tune feel like a reluctant preacher down on his hands and knees, pleading for the favor of his future love. There’s a subtle optimism to it all, offset by a quiet desperation. But, as the song builds, the church pews begin to swell and an uproarious congregation of saxophones, pianos, and holy handclaps join in to create a rapturous sock hop that’s sure to leave true believers smiling in praise of him. –Dan Pfleegor

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon

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    bestoffriends39. Palma Violets – “Best of Friends”

    180

    Palma Violets’ debut, 180, just sounds great, plain and simple. It’s not a record that’s prone to severe psychoanalysis, but rather a fun, unapologetically tuneful stab at ’70s punk, garage rock, and psychedelia. It also helps that it’s propelled by a rock solid single that encapsulates its best attributes. “Best of Friends” has a lot of shit working in its favor, namely the hollowed out guitar parts, stomping drums, and devilishly catchy chorus. When wildman Chilli Jesson bellows how he wants to be your best friend, it’s a hard invitation to turn away. –Ryan Bray

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    thewire38. HAIM – “The Wire”

    Days Are Gone

    HAIM slowly worked their way into the hearts of under-the-radar music lovers as early as 2012, but it wasn’t until the release of “The Wire” that the sisters started their steady march into the mainstream. Far poppier than earlier live performances but no less potent, Days Are Gones fourth single showcases all three sisters, each given a verse to bid adieu to their respective lovers, with the as-expected excellent harmonies to boot. “The Wire” followed through on the promise of early singles and EPs, doing nothing to disprove the belief that the story is just beginning for HAIM and that the future is sure to be full of slick, intelligent, multi-faceted pop rock for years to come. But, no pressure. –Justin Gerber

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

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    arcticcall37. Arctic Monkeys – “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

    AM

    Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys made an album full of borderline R&B rock, and standout single “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” is the slinkiest R&B/funk track in the bunch. Singing about the protagonist’s problem of late-night booty calls, Turner adopts a clean falsetto that flits along on top of fuzzy bass, Black Keys-esque guitar, and a drumbeat delivered with machine-like precision. Turner’s unreal talent for vocal melody is on full display as he sings the verses and one of the catchiest choruses of the year. The whole song sounds like a 3 a.m. lamp-lit street corner when all you want is a warm bed. —Nick Freed

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    mo-waste36. MØ – “Waste of Time”

    No Mythologies to Follow

    Danish singer , whose real name is Karen Marie Ørsted, turned heads with her first three singles, “Pilgrim”, “Glass”, and “Never Wanna Know”. Often compared to Purity Ring, Twin Shadow, and Grimes, her personal blend of R&B-tinged vocal delivery and glitchy electronic beats is more abrasive, but just as infectious. With her fourth track, “Waste of Time”, she gives a dramatic kiss off to a scorned lover, complete with frenetic drum machine blasts and skittering guitars. Now that she has her own Diplo-produced track on her recent Bikini Daze EP and a prominent vocal feature on Aviici’s hit “Dear Boy”, look for MØ to blow up even bigger in 2014. –Josh Terry

    Listen: SoundCloud


    pusha t my name is my name35. Pusha T – “King Push”

    My Name is My Name

    Perhaps it’s better that Joaquin Phoenix didn’t actually produce “King Push” as originally reported. Pusha T needed this album-opening moment to himself after spending so much time playing the seasoned second man to Kanye West’s egotistical ambitions. “King Push” isn’t Pusha T calling back to his We Got It for CheapHell Hath No Fury peak. He’s carving out a haunting, more ominous new space. “I rap nigga, ’bout trap niggas/ I don’t sing hooks,” Pusha decrees, while female vocals chirp in the background as if they’re bowing for his coronation. “King Push” is Pusha T’s compelling mission statement before he brings the doors down on the next track: “Numbers on the Board”. —Brian Josephs

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon

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    Eleanor Friedberger - Personal Record34. Eleanor Friedberger – “Stare at the Sun”

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    Personal Record

    Personal Record, Eleanor Friedberger’s latest aptly titled pivot away from her (former?) band Fiery Furnaces and towards the confessional territory of 1970s singer-songwriters, reaches a gleeful sort of fever pitch on the jittery, loose-limbed “Stare at the Sun”. Only one track prior the heroine bemoaned that she would “never be happy again” and cursed love as “an exquisite kind of pain”; here she sounds positively intoxicated by it, finding herself “far from town, in the suburbs of your pleasure” as a jaunty, power pop progression beats out that ephemeral bliss. It’s hard, of course, to track the individual threads of Friedberger’s romantic exploits on Personal Record — whether fictional or otherwise — but it’s the feelings they summon that count, and in all its blooming warmth, “Stare at the Sun” feels a long way from the Fiery Furnaces’ willfully tangled obfuscations. —Zach Schonfeld

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon

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    charli xcx true romance33. Charli XCX – “You – Ha Ha Ha”

    True Romance

    It’s easy to recognize Charli XCX’s similarity to music icons from past decades, with her ’80s preppy-punk style, ’90s pop band tendencies, and ’10s electronic sound, but she also epitomizes female millennial culture of 2013 by way of her frequently updated Tumblr and Instagram, which are saturated with sparkly GIFs and heavily filtered selfies. In “You – Ha Ha Ha”, she throws her modernity right in your face by declaring, “You were old-school, I was on the new shit.” The track admirably juxtaposes Charli’s sultry-sweet vocals with a sample of Gold Panda’s frenzied electro jam “You”, but it conveys the same post-breakup rally message used by many of the pop musicians Charli has been compared to. The distinction lies in the sincerity of the song. Given the accessibility of musicians to their fans via social media, people expect more honesty and parallels from their pop stars. With the blunt lyrics and natural talk-singing on the track, Charli delivers the candor everyone’s been craving. –Danielle Janota

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    Speedy-Ortiz-Major-Arcana32. Speedy Ortiz – “No Below”

    Major Arcana

    Major Arcana, the biting debut album from Speedy Ortiz, blended the fuzz of Dinosaur Jr., the sardonic wit of Pavement, and the aggressive energy of Superchunk to craft a remarkable record that shouldn’t be dismissed as ’90s indie rock pastiche. Lead singer/songwriter Sadie Dupuis is Speedy’s strongest asset, and on “No Below” she trades the sarcasm and one-liners for frank vulnerability. Her voice cracks when she talks of being teased as a kid, aching with the tough memories of adolescence. The band kicks in, bringing home the depressing refrain “I was better off just being dead” and making it an unlikely earworm. –Josh Terry

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon


    daft punk random access memories31. Daft Punk – “Doin’ It Right” (feat. Panda Bear)

    Random Access Memories

    Part of Random Access Memories’ grand design was that no two songs can play the same role. “Get Lucky” was conceived as “the one”; centerpiece “Touch” was always meant to be its clear epic. But “Doin’ It Right” is the master class. Taught by two mutually respected artists of contemporary soundcraft who tend to hold down opposite ends of the body/head spectrum, it’s essentially a clinic in economy, a demonstration that even two incongruous minds, if they’re good enough, can find collaborative pop gold by taking it down to a single element – in their case, interweaving four-bar mantras about simply doin’ it right – and building from there. If you still identify with the class of listeners who contend that anyone with their resources can do what Daft Punk or Panda Bear do, only “Doin’ It Right” can convince you that you’re doing it wrong. –Steven Arroyo

    Listen: Spotify | Rdio

    Buy: Amazon


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