My 30 Favorite Songs of 2013
1. Lorde, “Bravado”
find it on The Love Club EP
Anyone who’s ever talked pop music with me knows that I hold ABBA’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You” up as the pinnacle of perfect pop. The sheer genius of it lies in the epic chorus, one that’s a tight drum of pop catchiness while seeming neverending, constantly upping the hooks just when you think it couldn’t get any better.
"Bravado" is the 2013 version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You". The verses are aimless and moody, but then the chorus hits—"it’s a switch flipped, it’s a pill tipped back"—and the hooks pile on, one after the other: the initial, surprising hook gives way to a spectacular "woah" which leads to harmonies and then explodes into something that exists almost as a second chorus. It’s breathtaking, as are the lyrics, which are both exactly what you’d expect from a 16 year old and far beyond it. It’s thrilling to have someone like Lorde on the scene, and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do next.
2. Mikal Cronin, “Weight”
find it on MC II.
Winner of the “Nobody Writes Them Like They Used To So It May As Well Be Me” award for 2013. In a single song, Mikal Cronin gives an anthem of fuzz guitar rock, arena rock, big music, and indie pop. It’s movement and parts are absolutely stunning, climaxing with a gorgeous falsetto croon followed by a triumphant blast of guitar. I could just set this on repeat for several hours and never get tired of it.
3. Veronica Falls, “Falling Out”
find it on Waiting For Something To Happen
"Falling Out" is the Veronica Falls’ formula down perfectly, but that’s probably why I love it so much. I’m so much a sucker for their harmonies, chiming guitars and general wistfulness: "every seed’s a flower and every second’s an hour". I know they’ll have to shake up their sound one of these days, but I’ll be happy if they keep churning out songs just like this.
4. Phosphorescent, “Muchacho’s Tune”
find it on Muchacho
Matthew Houck’s turn to burbling synths means that Muchacho isn’t as immediate a listen as Here’s To Taking It Easy (one of my favorite albums of 2010), but when songs are as heartfelt and emotionally wrecked as “Muchacho’s Tune”, it shouldn’t matter what the backing is. This track crumbles me in the best possible way.
5. Savages, “Husbands”
find it on Silence Yourself
It’s less that I’ve gotten over Savages’ spectacular self-seriousness and more that “Husbands” is too kickass of a song to not love. Between “AY! AY! AY!”, the slinking guitar line, and the sound of that poor crash cymbal having the everloving shit beaten out of it, it’s irresistible.
6. Big Black Delta, “Side Of The Road”
find it on Big Black Delta
Big Black Delta’s self-titled record was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable of the year. It was catchy in an incredibly varied way, but hit the mark most solidly when it sounds like the love child of ELO and LCD Soundsystem.
7. Bibio, “À tout à l’heure”
find it on Silver Wilkinson
You know those film moments of sun-dappled lens flare that are always used to show perfect love in the springtime, with flowers and light shining on smiles? That’s what this song sounds like.
8. CHVRCHES, “We Sink”
find it on The Bones Of What You Believe
Suckers for smart pop had a pretty great year all around, but it was the constant pop jewels released by CHVRCHES that united us all in swoonery. Just when I thought they couldn’t get any better, they give “We Sink”. It’s as immediate as choruses get.
9. The National, “Slipped”
find it on Trouble Will Find Me
There were a lot of National fans who didn’t really click with the new album, and I can see that. But “Slipped” is why they’re both reviled and loved. It’s almost self-parody levels of miserable and self-serious, but it’s also just flat out gorgeous, especially the “ha-ah-ah-ah”s (did I get that right?) in the choruses.
10. Smith Westerns, “Varsity”
find it on Soft Will
Like if Oasis were smart. Put your hands in the air…
11. Lorde, “Royals”
find it on Pure Heroine
If there was any justice in the world, this would be a massive worldwide hit. So…justice served. Good work, everybody.
12. Lightning Dust, “Diamond”
find it on Fantasy
Comes about as close as any other I can think of to nailing the modern soft rock bullseye.
13. Cayucas, “Will ‘The Thrill’”
find it on Bigfoot
Cayucas are like Vampire Weekend if they were frat boys at an ACC school instead of intellectuals at an Ivy League school. The lyrics are silly and stoned out, but damn if the infectiousness of this chorus and the laid-back pseudo-bossa nova vibe didn’t make it my jammy jam of the summer.
14. Jagwar Ma, “That Loneliness”
find it on Howlin
Speaking of summer jams…
15. Arctic Monkeys, “No. 1 Party Anthem”
find it on AM
This is what you get when you cross a James Bond theme with Morrissey’s “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”. Plus, the clever lyrics (“call off the search for your soul”) that AM never seem to get credit for.
16. Alpine, “Gasoline”
find it on A Is For Alpine
This song has “beer commercial” written all over it, and I mean that in the best possible way, like you hear it and reach for Shazam, ‘cause DAMN!
17. Volcano Choir, “Comrade”
find it on Repave
Bon Iver’s stuff has never really stuck with me, but when you add music this huge behind him, it’s irresistible. Climb every mountain, etc.
18. CHVRCHES, “Gun”
find it on The Bones Of What You Believe
I didn’t find this as immediate as their other songs the first time I heard it, but then I put it in the car in the summertime, and it clicked. The 80s wish they were this good.
19. Sky Ferreira, “I Will”
find it on Night Time, My Time
Bearing a wonderful resemblance to “Kids In America” is this ruling representative from Sky Ferreira’s fantastic new album of smart pop. Highly recommended.
20. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “So Good At Being In Trouble”
find it on II
Beneath the somewhat clunky delivery is an absolutely fabulous soul song. Song Most Likely To Get Stuck In My Head for 2013, easily.
21. Palma Violets, “Best Of Friends”
find it on 180
The latest British supposed saviors of rock may not have been as shockingly great as Arctic Monkeys were at their debut, but this Clash-ish anthem sure scratches that rock ‘n’ roll itch.
22. Big Black Delta, “Into The Night”
find it on Big Black Delta
If you haven’t gone out and gotten the Big Black Delta album since hearing “Side Of The Road” up above, this should get you going.
23. Autre Ne Veut, “Play By Play”
find it on Anxiety
The first half of this song is kind of a mess, but it more than makes up for it with soulful awesomeness of “I just called you up to get the play by play” second half.
24. Iron & Wine, “Joy”
find it on Ghost On Ghost
A song that would sound perfectly comfortable on George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice, and that’s a huge compliment.
25. Julianna Barwick, “One Half”
find it on Nepenthe
A golden song off of one of the most beautiful albums of the year.
26. Mutual Benefit, “Advanced Falconry”
find it on Love’s Crushing Diamond
Twinkling and shadowy, this was a favorite to listen to when I was giving my newborn daughter a 2 am bottle.
27. Local Natives, “Ceilings”
find it on Hummingbird
Ultimately forgettable, but still a lovely listen while it’s on.
28. Foxygen, “San Francisco”
find it on We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
All goofiness in Foxygen’s borrowed nostalgia for the unknown 60s is forgiven in the divine tradeoff vocals in this song’s chorus.
29. !!!, “One Girl/One Boy”
find it on Thr!!!er
Some songs you have to hear on a dance floor to fully appreciate, but anywhere you hear this song is a dancefloor.
30. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
find it on Random Access Memories
Winner of the Fantastic Song That I Need A Break From For A Year Or Two award.