Top 20 (ish) Best Songs of 2013
Yesterday's list was long, involved, heady, and very pretentious. This list is also pretty pretentious, but I decided to keep my defenses down to 100 words or less, so lucky you. Scroll to the bottom for a Spotify playlist. (Or you can just follow me on Spotify. I hang out on there like a sixteen-year-old with hair in his eyes at a Hot Topic.) The list, just so you know, is in reverse order. (So the best is at the bottom, just like yogurt.) (Good analogies today, Sophie! You were an English major.)
22. CHVRCHES: "We Sink"
You can go ahead and dance to this dark, mean-but-celebratory synthpop song from the crazy-drooled-over really-good-looking band from Scotland that everyone couldn't stop talking about this year.
21. Yo La Tengo: "Is That Enough"
This song sounds like what it would sound like if Jens Lekman got stuck in 1968 and forgot what he wanted to say. In other words, it's a perfectly orchestrated, mumbly lyrical, smartly hazy, Sunday afternoon song to listen to with buttered toast.
20. The Stepkids: "Insecure Troubadour"
This song comes from a really weird album, which is enjoyable because this song launches you into it, with big, heaping harmonies and crazy-scope computer sounds matched up with regular old guitar riffs. It sounds like a sleepy college acoustic pop band got caught up in a futuristic waterfall.
19. Cate le Bon: "Are You With Me Now?"
Cate le Bon is a really adorable, really British singer, and this song is really adorable, and really British. It feels like she's always intentionally just a little bit behind the rhythm; like she's saying, "Hey, this is my song. Don't you forget it."
18. Kanye West: "Bound 2"
Oops. I'm one of those annoying white people who really liked "Yeezus." Sorry. This is one of the best-produced songs that has ever come out in the history of time, because Kanye has the best resources RIGHT AT HIS FINGERTIPS. And he doesn't give a fuck about being politically correct, or about keeping every beat in line with every other beat. Call me pretentious all you want: good luck finding another song that uses the line "I wanna fuck you hard on the sink" in one minute, and then samples one of the greatest soul singers and one of the greatest country singers of all time the next, and then also manages to be a kind of weirdly beautiful love ballad.
17. Neko Case: "Night Still Comes"
So, here's what you can say about Neko Case's 2013 album: it sounds like Neko Case, all the way through. But is that such a bad thing? This track is wonderfully crafted in the way that only Case can craft a song. Personally, I think "you never held it at the right angle" is the best hook of the year.
16. Spirits of the Red City: "Halfway Poem"
Spirits of the Red City's album "Jula" is the kind of album that breaks your heart every time you hear it, slowly, cruelly, and completely. Peaking with "Halfway Poem": "Now there is no one you belong to how I belong to you."
15. The-Dream ft. Gary Clark Jr.: "Too Early"
Roll the windows down, put one hand on the steering wheel (for safety), and put the other one high out the window (for jammin'), and then put this on LOUD. And then GO HAVE SEX. OK?
14. Born Ruffians: "Needle"
Only this Canadian folk-pop outfit could put out a song about watermelons and death and breaking up (?), and have it be the single biggest jam of the summer. This is straight-up wheat fields music, in the best way possible.
13. Hurray for the Riff Raff: "Jealous Guy"
In a year of great cover albums, this is the greatest song off the greatest one. It's as perfect as cover songs get, giving even "Nothing Compares 2 U" a run for its money.
12. Youth Lagoon: "Mute"
Youth Lagoon's album this year was complicated and psychedelic, and so (being easily distracted and not generally doing enough drugs) I dismissed it after listening to it five times. But then a friend put this song on loud to dance to right before we went to see "Gravity," and at first it seemed like a weird choice, but then it became clear that it was THE MOST AWESOME SONG TO DANCE TO IN THE UNIVERSE. Seriously: try it.
11. NONONO: "Pumpin' Blood"
This song opens with whistling. Then a girl whisper-sings over some Lorde-like drum beats. Then at 0:55 the background drops out, and the girl starts singing: "IT'S YOUR HEART. IT'S ALIVE. IT'S PUMPING BLOOD." NONONO? More like "YES YES YES!!!"
10. Ariana Grande: "Honeymoon Avenue"
Look. Ariana Grande is a teenager and she sounds EXACTLY like Mariah Carey. She also had a bunch of teen drama when she was on the stupid Disney Channel show "Victorious," and she had to deal with being ridiculed for being the "talentless" ugly duckling. (This is real. I demand you read her harrowing interview in Seventeen magazine.) All that aside, this is the best pop song, maybe ever, of all time. LISTEN TO IT IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME. YOU WILL IMMEDIATELY AGREE, FOREVER. And you will never forgive Victoria Justice for being so blind.
9. Courtney Barnett: "Avant Gardener"
First of all, this song is called "Avant Gardener." Second of all, it contains the lyric, "The paramedic thinks I'm clever 'cause I play guitar; I think she's clever 'cause she keeps people from dying." Third of all, everything Courtney Barnett touches turns to gold.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jr.: "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On The Dance Floor)"
A lot of people talk about what it means for a song to have a great build. This one has a PERFECT build. It doesn't sound like a dance track when you put it on, but by 1:40 it's obvious that that's what it is. Earnhardt is a genius of production and a master of surprise, which is clear as day here. This whole EP is wonderful.
7. Jay-Z & Justin Timberlake: "Holy Grail"
Every once in a while, a powerhouse (Jay-Z) links arms with another powerhouse (Justin Timberlake), and they ask the best songwriter in the business to write for them (The-Dream), and then they kinda-sample something that everyone thinks they can relate to from high school (Nirvana), and that gets played over and over and over and over again on the radio. You know why? Because that is the perfect storm of a song. And therefore, the constant earwormmyness of the song has been earned.
6. Caitlin Rose: "Waitin'"
No one doesn't like this song.
5. Har Mar Superstar: "Lady You Shot Me"
So I wasn't going to listen to the Har Mar Superstar album because I was bored with his underwear-wearing stupid gimmicky rap songs. Then this came on someone else's playlist, and I learned that it turned out Har Mar Superstar decided this album was going to be just throwback-soul jams. Like this one. TIGHT.
4. Typhoon: "Young Fathers"
The drum line in this song alone earns it a top ten spot. Then pair that with the heartbreaking lyrics, the weird-ass-Portland-girl-boy-vocals, and the instantly-stuck-in-your-head chorus. I want to marry Typhoon. All of them. Right now.
3. Haim: "The Wire"
This song sounds like it belongs in an eighties remake of "Clueless." WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE, because of the way time works. It's that good.
2. Los Campesinos!: "Avocado, Baby!"
So, you should know that Los Campesinos! is one of my top five all time favorite bands (on a list that also includes The Spice Girls, Ben Folds Five, and Rilo Kiley). Their last few albums have not been my favorite albums ever, but this one ("No Blues") was closer, and this song is so perfectly weird and screamy and fun and dark that I scraped my jaw off the floor when I heard it. Then I played it again. And againandagainandagain.
1. Laura Mvula: "That's Alright"
This is one of those songs that takes a few listens, but be patient, because it deserves them. Mvula's voice is deep and dark and smooth, and she sings like a lion standing on a high-up stone (she kind of sings the way Katy Perry's "Roar" video suggests that Katy Perry should be singing). Play this alone in the kitchen, when you have a pot or a pan to bang on along with it. (Especially good if you are annoyed with someone who has wronged you. Which, for me, is all the time. Because I'm great at complaining!)