Here are my favorite songs of 2013. There is probably more variety in my list this year, which is a good thing, but also some returning faves as well (Washed Out, Kate Rogers). And per usual, there are some 2013 late releases that will probably show up on my list next year.
15. Lorde – “Royals.” Radio commits murder on a daily basis, slowly choking the life out of memorable songs. But “Royals,” despite airplay that gave new meaning to the phrase “heavy rotation,” will live on in no small part because it was unlike anything on mainstream radio this year. Or last.
14. Arctic Monkeys – “Why Do You Always Call Me When You’re High?” Thundering drums and bass push the band’s trademark guitar sound to the backseat for this ode to looking for love after a late night at the clubs. The video is a must-see as well.
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dance Floor).” This catchy indie popster is likely not on many playlists of racing fans. And, ironically, it’s not a song you would likely hear on the dance floor.
12. Haim – “The Wire.” Drawing from the sun-soaked sounds of early ’70s rock, this California trio of sisters cranks up the guitars, vocal harmonies, and a backbeat from the Eagles for a refreshing slice of guitar-based power pop.
11. Black Sabbath – “God Is Dead.” By all rights, Black Sabbath’s first record with Ozzy in 30+ years should not have worked. But it did, very well. Ozzy’s voice may have lost a step, but Tony Iommi is still the riff master and Geezer Butler’s bass lines are as nimble as they were in the 1970s.
10. Rae and Christian (feat. Kate Rogers) – “Still Life Freefall.” From the first album in over a decade by Rae and Christian, they again team up with the incomparable Kate Rogers for this excellent downtempo(ish) track. Rogers draws out every word, slinking across the beat for that smoky nightclub feel.
9. Volbeat – “Room 24.” Volbeat paired with fellow Dane, and master of dark metal, King Diamond, for this nod to classic metal. There are traces of Mercyful Fate all over “24.” Lyrically it’s about ghosts and “the smell of rotten breath and blasphemy.” What, you were expecting otherwise?
8. Washed Out – “All I Know.” Moving into real instruments and away from sample loops and synths did not in any way diminish the band’s eclectic and atmospheric appeal. “All I Know” is an upbeat song, by Washed Out standards, and is a perfect companion to a long afternoon drive.
7. Amon Amarth – “Deceiver of the Gods.” “Deceiver” starts off with a Maiden/Lizzy twin guitar line, before smashing your face with a dose of brutality, albeit very melodic brutality. Viking metal’s finest, at their finest.
6. Janelle Monae – “We Were Only Rock and Roll.” This is a super-charged deep cut off the excellent The Electric Lady. Monae continues to push the boundaries of contemporary R&B while keeping her feet firmly planted in the genre’s roots.
5. Memory Tapes – “Sheila.” This song came out in late 2012, but it takes time to peel back the many layers. At first listen, “Shelia” sounds accessible, yet it’s arcane and complex. It’s a pastiche of effects, temperaments, moods, heavy synths, and haunting vocals.
4. Daft Punk – “Lose Yourself to Dance.“ “Get Lucky” was the big hit, and “Instant Crush” has a catchier chorus, but “Lose Yourself to Dance” is the best cut on Random Access Memories. It’s a thick slab of vintage funk, propelled by Nile Rodgers’ trademark guitar.
3. Chvrches – “The Mother We Share.” This Glaswegian trio broke through with this indie pop ear candy. The lyrics are obtuse, the chorus unbelievably catchy, and there’s just enough dream pop infusion to bring a slight ethereal sense of place to the whole thing.
2. Toro Y Moi – “Say That.” There are a lot of stylistic nuances on “Say That.” The elements gel superbly in a warm glow washing over the melody line and Chaz Bundick’s airy vocals. All of this is anchored by a tight bassline and slightly dissonant backbeat keeping the song infused with high energy.
1. Tegan and Sara – “Closer”/”I Was a Fool.” 2013 was Tegan and Sara’s year. After 15 years, and a tremendous body of indie rock, the Canadian sisters hit it big with their album Heartthrob. First single “Closer” and follow-up single “I Was a Fool” were paired on my yearly playlist. I rarely listened to one without the other. “Closer” is upbeat and club-ready, while “Fool” is a straight-ahead ballad. Both songs are perfect, and clearly illustrate what makes Tegan and Sara two of the best artists of the past decade – perfect harmonies, clever lyrics, and a brash attitude that cuts through every song.Powered by Sidelines