20) Say That - Toro Y Moi
Chillwave is alive and well thanks to Chaz Bundick and his band, Toro Y Moi. With “Say That,” he keeps the R&B influences thriving on what is the most upbeat number on the 2013 album, Anything in Return.
19) Comrade - Volcano Choir
Damn Justin Vernon and his endless talent to write tranquil music. His falsetto is in full force on “Comrade,” channeling some of the vibes that were left over from his fantastic Bon Iver album in 2011, which earned a Grammy for doppelgänger, Bonny Bear. Volcano Choir is much more rock than Bon Iver, but, no matter the project, Vernon is an expert in the crescendo and decrescendo, and can execute them flawlessly, be it with acoustic, soft rock, or more forceful emotive rock.
18) Bring the Noize - M.I.A.
M.I.A. is back with authority. Mantangi is an album as focused and socially charged as her masterpiece, Kala, and that is not more noticeable than on the rapid fire of “Bring the Noize.” Her flow is furious, and her rhymes are intelligent, whether she’s focused on political upheaval in Sri Lanka, or dealing with record label dinosaur bosses that tried to prevent this album from seeing the light of day.
17) Holding On - Classixx
L.A. producers Classixx released their excellent Hanging Gardens album at a tough time. It was right around the same time that Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Disclosure’s Settle came out, causing them to unfortunately get lost in the shuffle. It’s a shame because these guys fused the electronica, R&B and disco styles that are so prominent on Daft Punk’s albums. But Classixx has created the best of both worlds by combining the disco/R&B with the soft house/loung genres, creating a sound unique to their name. “Holding On” provides the best example of that fusion.
16) Down Down the Deep River - Okkervil River
As passionately as Bruce Springsteen sings about New Jersey is how Will Sheff sings about his home state of New Hampshire. Okkervil River’s The Silver Gymnasium is an ode to Sheff’s childhood growing up in the colonial region of New England and it makes for excellent story telling. Down Down the Deep River is my favorite example, but you can’t go wrong with any song on the album.
15) It All Feels Right - Washed Out
Gone are Ernest Greene’s bedroom writing sessions for Washed Out. In their place is a stockpile of detailed instrumentation, carefully layered to create the dream-like landscapes that he’s been known to craft since 2010’s “Feel It All Around.” Greene said he used over 50 different instruments when recording Paracosm, and “It All Feels Right” allows you to hear what that sound like. It certainly lives up to what Greene describes as, “daytime psychedelia.”
14) Four - Jagwar Ma
Good luck trying to pigeon-hole these Aussies. One minute they’re playing 60’s-inspired psych-rock, the next they’re bumping a catchy house track and then they’re throwing you completely for a loop with an 80’s style dream-pop sound. “Four” falls under the dance/house style, but give their album a Howlin a listen to see which song will be your favorite. It’s truly an album that has something for everyone.
13) Blues to Black - Owen
Mike Kinsella was a busy man in 2013. A new album as his pseudonym Owen, a collaboration with Into It. Over It. to create the project Their/They’re/There and dealing with what the indie music press is dubbing as the resurrection of the emo genre. But Owen didn’t need a resurrection or salvation. Kinsella has been plugging away since the 90’s, building a steady and loyal following thanks to his work with Owen, American Football, Cap N’ Jazz and Owls. “Blues to Black” is Kinsella song writing at it’s best—refreshingly honest and relieving, while bringing it a little more electric guitar than usual. He’s a seasoned professional, so it’s best to let him do his thing and enjoy the results.
12) Instant Crush - Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas
Sure, “Get Lucky” was pretty much the Song of the Year, and “Lose Yourself to Dance” allowed you to do just that, but Daft Punk pulled off the impossible with this track—allowed me to enjoy a song with Julian Casablancas on it. Leave it to Daft Punk to pull off the impossible.
11) Drove Me Wild - Tegan And Sara
Two Canadian sisters were sick of their folk albums not being heard due to rise in popularity of dance music, so decided, “Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Not only did Tegan And Sara join the crowd, but crushed them all in the process. Heartthrob is a blast of an album and “Drove Me Wild” could easily be replaced by a few other outstanding tracks. “Closer,” “Goodbye, Goodbye,” “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend,”—, but I went with this one.
10) Well Absolutely - Body Language
I was thrilled when Body Language released their new album Grammar back in September. Their first album was very good, but felt to be lacking in the hook department. Grammar fixed all that and then some. The band kicked up the tempo, thumped on the bass and cranked the synths to levels not seen on their previous work. “Well Absolutely” is the example that shows the band at their best.
9) The Shaking of Leaves - Into It. Over It.
Emo is alive and well in America and we have acts like Into It. Over It. to thank. I’m extremely thankful, because listening to “The Shaking of Leaves” makes me feel like I’m back in high school, listening to my American Football and Owen albums while walking to and from school. It’s technical, it’s emotional (duh.), it’s infectious and most important, it’s enjoyable.
8) When a Fire Starts to Burn - Disclosure
If bands like Into It. Over It. summoned an emo revival, Disclosure would be the band leading the one for soft house/lounge music. In an age where electronic dance music (EDM) is sickeningly redundant and unimaginative, Disclosure harken back to the influences of scenes from Chicago and Detroit in the late 80’s/early-90’s. “When a Fire Starts to Burn” is the anthem proving that minimalism in electronic music can be more effective and catchy than listening to the same over-mixed synth hook over and over and over and over and over and over…
7) Wait for Love - St. Lucia
There’s many songs to choose from on St. Lucia’s excellent When the Night album, but half the songs were actually released in 2013. “Wait for Love,” is a catchy track that as directly from the album—not part of a 2012 EP, and not released as a single months before When the Night was finally released. It has they tropics vibe that resonates throughout the entire album, and a hook that will stay in your head for days.
6) Pretty Green - White Denim
I was so happy when I first heard this song because it meant that White Denim was releasing new music. And boy, did they create some new music. Blues, psych-rock, improvisational tendencies, this Austin outfit is without a doubt one of the most talented acts around today, and Pretty Green was their entry into dominating 2013.
5) Footsteps - Cut Copy
I limited myself to picking only one song off of Cut Copy’s Free Your Mind album. I could’ve easily picked four or five, but I didn’t want to clog the list. “Footsteps” is the song that most accurately portrays the vibes and sound of the second Summer of Love sound the band was going for on the album. The hooks and synths are plentiful, and as usual, it’s impossible to not nod your head and tap your foot to a Cut Copy song.
4) FOH - Superchunk
"Go with what works" is Superchunk’s motto. The band has been using the same song-writing formula since the mid-90s and have continued that pattern on 2013’s I Hate Music. "FOH"is a rocker in the truest sense of the word—nothing but driving rhythms, power chords and a catchy sing-along chorus. Superchunk doing what Superchunk does best.
3) My Number - Foals
A bit more technical than Superchunk, but Foals wins in the catchiness category. From the staccato plinko sounds in the intro to the rousing chorus, “My Number” proves that a band that can go from hypnotically chill to full-blown rock ‘n’ roll can also write the radio-friendly pop song. You listen to “My Number” once, and before you know it, you’re on a private Spotify session because you’re just listening to the song on repeat 20 times in a row like I did multiple times this year.
2) Heavy Feet - Local Natives
Hummingbird is, from start to finish, one of 2013’s greatest pieces of work. Nowhere is that more evident than on “Heavy Feet.” The emotional chorus, the hand claps, the eclectic snare beats and minimal guitar work all combine to create a song that demands your attention.
1) Gun - CHVRCHES
Easily one of 2013’s most popular acts, Scotland’s CHVRCHES received praise from music critics across the board. Indie sites like Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, mainstream music outlets like Rolling Stone and Spin, and national news outlets such as NPR, all praised the band, and a for good reason. “Recover” and “The Mother We Share” were the big singles that received the most attention, but “Gun” found the band at its most energetic. The biting, razor-sharp synths, the thunderous drums and the powerful vocals from Lauren Mayberry are what kept me coming back throughout the year. The first time I heard “Gun,” I knew this song was going to get a lot of playing time, and it certainly did. The album, The Bones of What You Believe, is fantastic, but “Gun” was the song that kept me coming back for more each time.