Top 50 Songs of 2013

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Record spinning one of the top 50 songs of 2013

Neko Case - Man30. Neko Case
from The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-)
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Of course, alt-country’s favorite fire-maned chanteuse is not a man despite the first few words of “Man” from her latest release, The Worse Things Get… On an album of slow-to-mid-tempo numbers, “Man” stands out as the one that rocks the hardest. Punctuated with fuzz, snare rolls and lead guitar licks, this is as close to punk as Neko is going to get, and it suits her. She’s pissed off and makes sure you know all about it. She sings, “And if I’m dipshit drunk on the pink perfume / I am in the man in the fucking moon,” with such authority that you can’t help but be intimidated. Ultimately, what she’s saying is hard to miss: back up, let her do her thing, and stay out of her way. That’s fine; the best view is from the front row. – Chad Gorn

Pusha T - Nosetalgia29. Pusha T
Nosetalgia” [feat. Kendrick Lamar] from My Name Is My Name (G.O.O.D./Def Jam)
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On an album named for a quote from The Wire, produced by an artist that also recently deemed himself a God, enhanced with a sample of Boogie Down Productions’ “The Bridge Is Over” made significantly more more unsettling, “Nosetalgia” somehow ended up one of the most warm-blooded of Pusha T’s tracks. The man’s always sounded as if he had ice in his veins, a detachment and distance in his voice that carries far more menace than outright aggression. But here he feeds a narration of rising up in the drug game against through the strangely affecting filter of yearbook photos, Minute Steak and diaper rash. There’s another blow to the gut when Kendrick Lamar shows up to flip the narrative and fill in the grimy details on the other side of the transaction. “Wanna see a dead body?” he asks before going H.A.M. about a repeatedly stolen Sega Genesis, a traumatic Christmas party and coke-addicted loved ones. There’s a playfulness about it that keeps “Nosetalgia” from going as dark as it could — and it’s definitely on the cusp. These aren’t reminiscences of the good times so much as two survivors comparing their scars. Dee dee dee dah-dee dah-dee dee-dee dah-dee day.   – Jeff Terich

King Krule - Neptune Estate28. King Krule
Neptune Estate
from 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (True Panther/XL)
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The guy in “Neptune Estate” is full of questions but whoever’s supposed to be at the lectern just stepped away. There’s opportunity in his reach, but he’s not that thrilled about it. Before he moves any further he’s got to determine where his footprints went. He wants to “lay inside” his companion – I’d say “lover” but people this uncertain rarely call them “lovers” – but any interaction at all would be fine, just to cement the fact of his existence, even if he just gets “used.” In fact he wants to be used. There’s a steady, muted hip-hop drum figure that instills his physicality, but a series of complex jazz chords hint at the convolution of an adult future. Maturity, which could happen any second now, may just represent a series of manual options that he’ll have to select, a few buckets he’ll have to fill. Emotional fulfillment might happen, but it may only be a by-product. So for now he’s lying in repose, measuring the tactile equations of his lover (excuse me), whether his need to bond is real or will eventually become illusory, whether this is going to fuck up his eternal reference point, or whether there will even be the need to collect evidence in the future.

When King Krule made this song he was no more than 18. He just turned 19 last summer. You should feel much better about the younger generation’s prospects now. – Paul Pearson

Elvis Costello and The Roots - "Walk us Uptown"27. Elvis Costello and The Roots
from Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)
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I have no idea who committed the twin sins of (a.) greenlighting this track for the playlist of collaborative album Wise Up Ghost and (b.) making it the first single. Sins, you say? Well, anybody with even a marginal musical ear can identify the elephant in the studio, which is that Elvis Costello ends up singing comically, terribly flat by the end of the song. [If you want to hear a much better rendition, check out the live version from Vevo.] I’m not sure what saves it. It could be the sheer largesse of the pairing on the marquee: Teaming up with either Elvis or The Roots is normally critical and downloadable gold, but having them both on this one Blue Note piece surely made a few heads explode. It could be the subject matter, with Costello taking a page out of the band’s lyrical playbook and stylishly critiquing a failure of leadership. Or it could be that ?uestlove and Co. successfully force upon Costello a measure of previously unheard funkiness, wrapping him up in dub echoes and staccato organ. You’re gonna have this on repeat, vocal flubs be damned. – Adam Blyweiss

AlunaGeorge - Attracting Flies26. AlunaGeorge
Attracting Flies
from Body Music (Island/Vagrant)
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Treble was convinced about AlunaGeorge even before they released their debut, Body Music, this year. Now, it’s hard to imagine a reason why somebody would still be unconvinced. “Attracting Flies” is honestly just one of an abundance of stellar tracks on Body Music, but it shows exactly what the group is about: careful, minimalist, yet groovy production from George (Reid) and an absurd amount of charisma from Aluna (Francis). With George’s bouncy beat behind her here, Aluna takes liars to task — “everything you exhale is attracting flies” — and simultaneously delivers one of the catchiest hooks of the year. That takes talent and, luckily for us, AlunaGeorge is just beginning to capitalize on that talent. – Connor Brown

Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap25. Chance The Rapper
Good Ass Intro
from Acid Rap (Self-released)

Chance the Rapper never left — hell, he’s only just arrived on the scene — but “Good Ass Intro” is one of the most exciting, energetic comeback tracks in recent memory. Those seeing Chance’s overly obvious stage name and expecting disaffected irony would be sorely mistaken; backed by a gospel-tinged piano and a choir of R&B singers, the 20-year-old Chicago native ecstatically announces the beginning of his second mixtape, Acid Rap, with an ebullient tornado of fast-paced, clever lyrics. His voice, which carries a bit of a whine that is somehow endearing instead of grating, effortlessly blurs the line between rapping and singing. Chance’s confidence in his own skills (“This your favorite fucking album and I ain’t even fucking done”) is only surpassed by how clearly happy he is to be there: when the song’s production soars to its brass-horn heights and Chance has run out of verses, he wordlessly starts scatting and shouting, like he can’t believe how talented he is himself. “I’m gonna be even better than I was,” he warbles, and if “Good Ass Intro” is any indication, he’s already on his way. – Sam Prickett

Run the Jewels - Banana Clipper24. Run the Jewels
Banana Clipper” [feat. Big Boi] from Run the Jewels (Fool’s Gold)

After releasing two great collaborative albums last year, it only made sense for Killer Mike and El-P to maintain their partnership in 2013 — one that has already yielded a handful of classics in the making. The first taste of their new project, Run The Jewels, came in April with a preview of “Banana Clipper,” which was brief but gave glimpse of something amazing. Only a month later, the full track would arrive, featuring a guest verse from Outkast alum Big and embodying the character of Killer and El’s previous two release. Run The Jewels have arrived in full force, ready to take down adversaries with vicious rhymes and hard-hitting production. The highlights are numerous: El-P’s vicious threat, “You take a slice of my portion/I’ll take a piece of your profit”; Big Boi’s insult “My bank account is obese as fuck while yours is on a diet”; and Killer Mike’s endless display of skills and clever references. It’s yet another key piece of evidence that when Killer Mike and El-P make music together, incredible things happen. – Giovanni Martinez

Drake - Hold On, We're Going Home23. Drake
Hold On, We’re Going Home
from Nothing Was The Same (Cash Money/Republic)

It may or may not be a mere coincidence that the standout tracks on both Take Care and Nothing Was the Same contain no rapping whatsoever. But if “Marvin’s Room” was a downtempo R&B stunner recounting loneliness, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” may be the smoothest pop song in his catalog to date and it’s a love song at that. Aesthetically, with their echoing synths and sparse beats, the two songs are cut from the same cloth; “Hold On” is just the other side of the coin. You’ve got to hand it to Drake, rather than counter detractors who joke about his sensitivity, he sings “I can’t get over you/You’ve left your mark on me,” completely rising above the cynics. – Chris Karman

Neko Case - The Worse Things Get...22. Neko Case
Night Still Comes
from The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-)
Buy at iTunes

It’s not hard to love Neko Case. Her voice is incredible, and her sense of humor balances out her dark songwriting. “Night Still Comes” is softly disguised with an insanely catchy chorus gently revealing heartbreak and uncertainty. She fearlessly exposes her poetic darkness by putting it all on the line: “‘Cause I revenge myself all over myself/ There’s nothing you can do to me.” Case inserts a perfect blend of attitude and charm in her songwriting and the touch of lyrical mystery makes The Worse Things Get… a fantastic album. Of course her forte is melodic cohesion and she delivers several gorgeous tunes on her sixth album, but the melancholic graciousness in “Night Still Comes” makes it one of the album’s major standouts. – Dan Pritchett

Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance21. Daft Punk
Lose Yourself to Dance” [feat. Pharrell Williams] from Random Access Memories (Columbia)
Buy at iTunes

Daft Punk didn’t please everybody with Random Access Memories, but the ones they did win over were dancing their hearts out to the first two singles all summer long. In “Lose Yourself To Dance,” Niles Rodgers brings the funk with his smooth guitar grooves to a song not about the night’s hopeful happy ending, but the present moment on the dancefloor. Pharrell’s role as lead vocalist makes this feel a little fluffier as opposed to the signature Daft Punk style seen in previous songs dating back to “One More Time,” but who really cares? Bringing a vintage disco sound back to pop music culture — and capture everyone’s attention in doing so — is not something just any group can pull off. Daft Punk’s music has always seemed like it belonged in a different time period anyway, and with RAM they go to the past for influences rather than the future. Also, I don’t think there was a song more fun to clap along to all year. – Dan Pritchett

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