Songs Of 2013: 40 – 21
As our attention-deficient digital world pushes us further and further away from long, sprawling albums and closer toward snappy singles, we certainly don’t find ourselves with a shortage of excellent catchy songs in the year 2013. The song is the ruler in contemporary music. With so much focus surrounding the output of singles, ensuring these songs go viral and have repeat listenability, it’s no wonder that I now find myself remembering a band based on a single song they’ve released rather than an album. Name me Lorde’s other songs. Name me those other Haim tracks. Sure, we listened to all of Daft Punk’s album, but what songs do you really remember? It’s tricky, I know.
The power of having a great song has never been more important (you can sell out an entire arena with 1 viral song); and no matter what genre these bands fall into – disco house, neo-classical, stoner rock, psychedelic soul – bands and musicians seem to understand the importance of putting a lot of energy into making sure their songs stick. Needless to say, the year 2013 produced an incredible amount of great singles and God knows a lot of them stuck.
Sure, we’ve had some huge hits take over our radios, YouTube channels and Facebook feeds (Mily, Thicke, Suit & Tie), but let us not forget the exciting and creative underbelly that rose up in our music world as well. We had all kinds of new revivals happen this year – the boozy-garage-rock revivals (The Men, Parquet Courts), to golden-era-hip-hop revivals (Joey Bada$$, Ka, The Underachievers) – but no retro sound seemed to infiltrate our music in 2013 quite like 90′s R&B. No matter where you looked: in Drake’s blend of pop and rap music, in Jim James’ melody of rockin’ soul music, in Nicolas Jaar’s fusion of dark and haunted electronic music or in Justin Vernon’s spaced out indie rock, R&B seemed to filter its way into every crevasse of this year’s music. Regardless of the season and regardless of my mood, it always felt like there was a soulful song in my stereo urging me to roll down the windows and turn up the volume.
Obviously, not everything fit into this R&B bracket. We heard some exciting newcomers and seasoned vets both write timeless folk and country songs in 2013 (Jason Isbell, Neko Case, John Moreland, Kasey Musgraves). While avant-garde ambient electronic music found its way into my headphones more than ever (Nils Frahm, Oneohtrix Point Never, Tim Hecker, Grouper). And a new class of gritty and innovative rappin’ wordsmiths got me more excited for the future of hip hop than I have ever been before (Chance The Rapper, Ka, Earl Sweatshirt). What may be less noticeable and even less surprising was the indie rocker’s undeniable rise into fame. More so than ever did we have catchy “indie rockers” writing easy-going pop tunes that seem to capture a wide and diverse audience. Hipsters, teenie-boppers, mini-van moms and stiff-necked frat boys all found themselves relating over Haim’s, Lorde’s and Arcade Fire’s ageless pop masterpieces – and why wouldn’t they? They all released incredible songs!
As we wrap up this busy year in music, within an era where we can instantly skip from black metal to dub step, I hope we all remember the benefits to having open ears and an open mind towards music we choose or don’t choose to listen to. It is through listening to a diverse catalog of music, and challenging our palates that we can jump into other cultures that allow us to instantly empathize with human emotions that, at one point in time, were inaccessible. It is inside a song we are able to hear individual voices that speak to the masses, voices that sometimes can only be articulated through music.
As we know, no one person is the same and in turn, no one person expresses themselves the same. For the same reason we don’t just take in one style of painting or read just one type of literature, we shouldn’t listen to just one style of music; If you do, you miss out on valuable human commentary that has potential to have a profound impact on our culture. Sure, it’s easy to get comfortable with a certain style of music and I’m guilty of getting stuck in a rut too. Why risk wasting our time on something we might not like, right? But with that kind of attitude we potentially lose sight of what’s truly exciting about modern music.
Today, we have the ability to jump between two completely different styles of music, so quickly. No tape change is necessary, you don’t have to flip a record or even click download. You can travel from the backcountry roads of Arkansas and into the New York City subway, within seconds. That journey is how I’ll remember 2013. That journey is what made 2013 so exciting. So please, take a minute, check some of my favorite songs of 2013 and take a tour through contemporary music with me.
40. Ten Walls – “Gotham”
39. Pusha T & Kendrick Lamar – “Nostalgia”
38. Vancouver Sleep Clinic – “Collapse”
37. Sarah Neufeld – “Forcelessness”
36. Mariah Carey & Miguel – “#Beautiful”
35. Daft Punk & Panda Bear – “Doin’ It Right”
34. Baby Alpaca – “Wild Child”
33. London Grammar – “Hey Now”
32 Phoenix – “Trying To Be Cool”
31. Devandra Banhart – “Fur Hildegard von Bongen”
30 Olafur Arnalds – “Only The Winds”
29. The Range – “Loftmane”
28. Earl Sweatshirt & Frank Ocean – “Sunday”
27. Arcade Fire – “We Exist”
26. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Jubilee Street”
25. Jim James – “State Of The Art – A.E.I.O.U.”
24. Shy Girls – “Under Attack”
23. William Onyeabor – “Body & Soul”