I know, I know, it’s February 2014, and I still haven’t finished my best of 2013. It’s almost done, I promise. Here are my favorite tracks of the year. This list draws heavily on songs & artists that were prominent on Those Who Dig, because ultimately that was the music I spent the most time with last year. It probably is not 100% reflective of my favorite songs of 2013 because I chose not to repeat anything shared elsewhere that were might have been similarly important, whether pop songs, covers, or songs in the music video countdown. Anyways, let’s get to it.
20. Lucius – Turn It Around (Live)
My favorite track from a band I found myself sharing frequently throughout the year. Their harmonies are killer as always, and I like how this live version is a little more ragged.
19. Belle Mare – The Boat of the Fragile Mind
“Dreamy” or “dreamlike” seem to get overused as a descriptor for music, but Belle Mare really nails the feeling of drifting off as your subconscious begins to swirl.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=2818778054 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=3]
18. Aly Tadros with Ben Balmer – Whim
A great portrait of loving the wrong person delivered though a great melody and both the male and female perspective, which make it all the more universal. And all the more painful.
17. Lady Lazarus – Lapsarian
Many of my favorite tracks this year had very evocative moods, and this track, with its languid and expansive accordion and resonant, drone-like lyrics, was one that really enfolded me.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=1086782235 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=1]
16. Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving
If you replace “walking” with “sitting,” “Ridgewood, Queens” with “Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” “flipping through magazines” with “writing a blog post,” “stoned” with “not stoned,” and “starving” with “full,” then this song describes me. All joking aside, the song does demonstrate why Parquet Courts deserved all the buzz they got last year. I dig the guitars.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=2771242743 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=10]
15. Mal Blum – With Samson in Washington State
Other songs on her album were funnier, other songs were catchier, others might have been more vivid depictions of situations I myself had gone through, but none were more beautiful than this. Mal is an amazing songwriter and even better, an amazing person.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=2897379641 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=7]
14. Pressed And – Bored on a Lam
At just over eight minutes, this is probably the longest song on the list. Yet with its awesome groove and deft fusion of electronic elements and live instruments, it sometimes doesn’t seem long enough.
13. Field Mouse – Tomorrow Is Yesterday
This single adds a little energy and edge to Field Mouse’s signature sound. It came out while the band worked on their full length and somehow made me even more excited for that release.
12. Will Schwartz – Strangers
One of the best written songs I heard all year. Will has an incredible ability to capture moments and details and convey them as musical stories.
11. Frog – Nancy Kerrigan
Just in time for Sochi 2014, Frog used Nancy Kerrigan and the 1994 Olympics to craft a song of surprising emotional poignancy.
10. Hey Anna – Pia
It was a pleasure getting to know Hey Anna in 2013, musically and in person. They are talented and full of joy, which makes listening to everything they do delightful and riveting in equal measure.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=3119402118 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=3]
9. Little Daylight – Glitter and Gold
Little Daylight was a band that owned 2013, transitioning from remixes to releasing their own red hot singles. This was my favorite, it’s an unabashed rush. I can only imagine where this band will go next, their future is bright for certain.
8. Okkervil River – Down Down the Deep River
After getting really into them circa 2007-2008, I had lost touch with Okkervil River. They came back into my life in a big way with a great new album, a good live show, and this killer tune.
7. Melaena Cadiz – Animal
I’m always a fan of interesting projects, and Melaena’s Singles Project, where she released a new song each month in 2013 accompanied by a new piece of art, certainly fit the bill. The resultant body of work is diverse and compelling. The one I loved most was February’s bluesy romp “Animal.” It definitely put its claws in me.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=4161040937 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=11]
6. Waxahatchee – You’re Damaged
One of my favorite new voices of the year was Allison Crutchfield’s (and also sister Katie of Swearin’). There is something about the way she sounds that demands my complete attention. Her album was stunning, and I couldn’t believe that it kept cresting into this wonderful final song.
5. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – Bird Balloons
I fell hard for Lady Lamb’s mixture of poetic observation and unbridled, frenetic emotion. The tense opening seconds of feedback before the jagged guitar cuts in on “Bird Balloons” portend the coming storm of Aly’s voice. When she sings, it is thunder, it is lightning, it is an absolute artistic force of nature announcing itself.
4. Way Yes – Colerain
The best art helps us understand ourselves, the world, and each other better. “Colerain” hit me on a gut level from the first time I heard it, and many subsequent repeat listens allowed me to put into words so many things I had felt about the loss of a friend to suicide.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=2213133529 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=1]
3. Hop Along – Sister Cities
Sometimes you just fucking love a song from the jump and trying to explain it can never fully capture the giddy, powerful rush it provides. “Sister Cities” is one of those songs. Press play.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=3947534193 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=5]
2. Beat Radio – Hurricanes, XO
Along with Mal Blum and the members of Hey Anna, meeting the Brians of Beat Radio was a true pleasure. You always hope the music you love is made by people who are as great as it is, and in all these cases, any expectations were far exceeded. On its own “Hurricanes, XO,” is one of those musical gifts which taps directly into your DNA as a music lover and as a person, but which also propels you forward and reveals a little bit more of the great unknown.
[bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=2279288864 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small t=1]
1. Phosphorescent – Song for Zula
In some ways, this countdown is a sham because I heard “Song for Zula” very early in the year and it pretty much locked up the number one spot right then. It was ever present, the musical wall paper of the 2013 room in my memory. It became a bonding experience, it popped up in unexpected places like the closing credits of The Spectacular Now, and it capped the year, too, via the transcendent live rendition at Music Hall of Williamsburg in late December. It’s a song I would live inside if that were possible.