20. “Royals” – Lorde
Like the rest of the civilized world, I fell for “Royals” the first time I heard it. I heard it on top 40 FM radio surrounded by a surreal level of excess and pomp. Fresh and imaginative, “Royals” is a triumph of unassuming minimalism and youthful swagger.
19. “My Number” – Foals
The dance floor may not be the natural habit for Foals but they do a pretty remarkable job of convincing you otherwise on “My Number”.
18. “Retrograde” – James Blake
Starting slow and hypnotic, this electro-soul grind takes its time getting to the drop. After looping a saccharine vocal melody and delicately working in minimal percussion and bass, James Blake shouts “Suddenly I’m HIT!” and unleashes a bone rattling wall of synths. Though his sophomore album is a bit uneven, this track shines.
17. “Walking On Air” – Katy Perry
Katy Perry is not an innovator but the savvy pop star has always had impeccable taste and an impressive roster of influences. I think its no coincidence that shortly after Disclosure brings the sounds of 90s house music back into style, Katy Perry releases a massive, glittering club anthem that could have easily been a hit when “Pump Up The Jam” and “Rhythm Is A Dancer” ruled the airwaves. But where Disclosure approaches a similar aesthetic with an understated expertise, Perry uses her underrated vocal chops to sell the song with charismatic gusto.
16. “Do What U Want” – Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly
This is undoubtedly the most entertaining pop collaboration of 2013 and honestly, its not even close. Both of these gifted weirdos bring their A-Game to “Do What U Want” and the world is better place for of it. Side note: I genuinely thought R. Kelly was singing “I could be the cream in your butt” and it despite my amusement, it really didn’t seem that far fetched. Its disappointing to know the real lyrics isn’t nearly as hilarious: “I could be the green in your blunt”. Still a great song though.
15. “Hannah Hunt” – Vampire Weekend
Its hard not to fall in love with a song that mentions your home town. Not that its a bias we have to deal with too often here in Phoenix, Arizona but the mention of our fair desert city is only one little detail that makes this song so wonderful. The build is relaxed, the melodies are gorgeous, and cathartic crescendo that it all leads to is tremendously satisfying.
14. “Black Skinhead” – Kanye West
Kanye’s bleak vision for Yeezus is in its purest form on “Black Skinhead”. Heavy rhythms and heavier bass riffs violently charge through Kanye’s self proclaimed theme song. Long live Kanye West, America’s reigning mad genius of rap music.
13. “Sacrilege” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Sacrilege” is irrefutable evidence that sometimes a savagely disappointing album can still produce an absolutely great single.
12. “Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus
Ignore the tabloids, forget the headlines and for pop’s sake don’t let yourself be shocked by the antics of young pop stars doing what we expect young pop stars to do. Haters gonna hate but trust me: “Wrecking Ball” is the real deal. Miley Cyrus may be an abomination, a punchline, or a hero depending who you ask but lets not forget that she is also a singer with a surprisingly impressive voice. Side note: two years in a row a song called “Wrecking Ball” has made my top songs list. Wondering who made last years’s “Wrecking Ball”? That would be The Boss himself: Bruce Springsteen.
11. “Inhaler” – Foals
It starts as an upbeat stomp and then swells through a massive bridge before dropping the years most awe inspiring barrage of heavy guitar riffs as lead singer Yannis Philippakis howls “I can’t get enough space”. Lucky for Yannis, “Inhaler” has enough power to topple just about anything that gets in its way.
10. “Unbelievers” – Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend’s superb 2013 album Modern Vampires of the City is infectious, compelling, and ultimately irresistible and “Unbelievers” is the album’s most infectious, compelling, and ultimately irresistible song.
9. “Ingenue” – Atoms For Peace
While much of Atoms For Peace’s debut album is pleasant but forgettable, this one weird little synthy bass driven track got stuck in my head last February and never really left. Plus, any year we get to see Thom Yorke dance is a good year in my book.
8. “Global Concepts” – Robert DeLong
With a stack of laptops, synths and a modded Wii controllers to boot, Robert DeLong is pioneering his own brand of EDM fueled singer-songwriter tunes. Innovative and experimental but still enjoyable and accessible, his music shows promise but “Global Concepts” is a powerhouse track. Listen to this song and tell me truthfully: did he make you f***king dance?
7. “Peaches” – In The Valley Below
SoCal based In The Valley Below’s “Peaches” is the best hidden treasure from 2013. Learn more about In The Valley Below here.
6. “Reflektor” – Arcade Fire
Just when I fear I’ve played this song too many times, perhaps finally having worn off all the newness and joy that comes with new music from Arcade Fire, the heavy guitars come in at 2 minutes and 54 seconds and a moment later I’m shouting “JUST A REFLECTION OF A REFLECTION OF A REFLECTION OF A REFLECTION” with every ounce of fervor I posses. This song won’t wear out. Classics never do.
5. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake feat. Majid Jordan
Drake has always been and will always be significantly better at R&B than he is at rap. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is stunning proof that the world could seriously benefit from a little more So Far Gone and a little less “Started From The Bottom”.
4. “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
Eight-minute pop singles are pretty rare in the 21st century. Eight-minute pop singles this bold and genuine are all but extinct and thats what makes “Mirrors” such a treat. Its not every day one of planet Earth’s most famous human beings makes an love anthem/ballad that is massively accessible and still so endearingly intimate.
3. “Latch” – Disclosure feat. Sam Smith
It may have taken me a while to warm up to Disclosure’s debut album Settle but this song got its hooks in me the first time I heard it. Its an infectious booty shaking jam that will latch on to you if you get the chance. Sam Smith does some masterful falsetto work during the chorus and its been a pleasure to spend much of 2013 trying to sing along in my car.
2. “Afterlife” – Arcade Fire
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Win Butler was asked whether he would prefer their audiences to focus on the lyrics or just “shake that ass”. His response: “I guess ideally you’d be shaking your ass with a little tear in your eye”. Mission accomplished, Win. Elation and heartbreak have never collided so beautifully as they do on this utterly triumphant track. And if the song somehow doesn’t hit you in the gut, the music video certainly will.
1. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
2013 will always be The Year of Daft Punk or at the very least The Year of Get Lucky. After hearing this colossal single one sweaty, hungover morning at Coachella on an iPhone speaker, I spent the better part of the summer requesting “Get Lucky” at weddings, bowling alley’s, etc., and from April to September I was inexplicably shut down everywhere I went. Then at a friend’s wedding in October, it finally happened. After months of permeating radio, Spotify, and the Internet at large, I finally saw “Get Lucky” do what it was made to do: make a sweaty, joyous crowd of a hundred people dance like it was the only thing they were born to do. “Get Lucky” is bliss.