Top 50 Songs of 2013 :: [40-31]
Welcome to our annual countdown of the 50 best songs of the calendar year. Songs must be from an EP, LP or demo released during 2013 and no band may appear twice. Today, we count down 40 to 31.
40. Challenger - "Back To Bellevue"
The synthesizer work from John Ross remained enormous in 2013, "Back To Bellevue", a single from a forthcoming 2014 LP slamming in and out of a few different movements, never ceasing its desire to traffic in Reading Rainbow aesthetics. The burnt neon of the song's second half, the most intentionally elevating bit of independent music this year, left the listener near the top of the room. It was also about an insane asylum.
39. Salt Cathedral - "Move Along"
Like an ethereal Tune-Yards, Brooklyn's Salt Cathedral presented one of the most compelling cases for the future of "World Music" in the body of single, "Move Along". A series of dreamy modulated pitches, the arrangement lifted off the ground, crackling with energy and insistence. The friscalating guitars chased each other around, but it was ultimately a IDM finishing kick to recall Aphex Twin that transfixed the listener.
38. Magic Man - "Paris
When we wrote about Magic Man in 2010, there was no sense that they would one day attract the eye of Neon Gold and Columbia Records. They were a small band with a tight debut record. Poised to have an enormous 2014, a year where they will likely be pushed to have a Passion Pit-sized debut LP, the band turned in one of the great singles of 2013 with "Paris", the moment after the moment but before The Moment.
37. ALVVAYS - "Adult Diversion"
Like a pumped up Tennis or the reconstituted and cuter Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ALVVAYS stormed out of Toronto with a winking odes a twee and post-punk aesthetic. "Adult Diversion" proved exactly that, a song that lead the listener toward something more adolescent, maybe less serious. Of course, the stakes emerged as higher than expected in the final movement, a doubling of the previous impulses in layers and intent.
36. PAPA - "Young Rut"
It was all Tom Petty for LA's PAPA this year. "Young Rut" held one of those down-stroke guitar patterns that erupted into something explosive in the chorus, Americana with an edge of the coast. It wasn't as simple as "Won't Back Down", but "Young Rut" described some of the atrophy of youth, an underrated trope of the past two generations.
35. GEMS - "Medusa"
A head full of snakes proved an appropriate visual metaphor for the sultry rhythm and blues of DC's GEMS. "Medusa" shared a bit of menace with its low-end, but the essence was in the crystalline and untouchable vocals of Lindsay Pitts. In the second half, she sings, "All the dreams become haunting memories", which sort of sums up the project, the density, beauty and terror of "Medusa".
34. Blood Cultures - "Indian Summer"
No one knew much about Blood Cultures in 2013, a strange and undeniable track, "Indian Summer" from the wilds of New Jersey. The synth-stabs were as good as any since, "Dance Yrself Clean", though the intent here proved vastly different. The essentializing of the lyric, "I'll have to let you go" in the final movement was exactly the departure the listener sought, a recession that was far more explicable than the arrival of "Indian Summer".
33. Fancy Werewolves - "Ghosts of Detroit"
"Shut up, get in," went some of the first lyrics of Fancy Werewolves' "Ghosts of Detroit", one of the best unsigned songs of 2013. The synthesizers showed up for the pre-chorus, just in time for the drum fill that carried the listener to the chorus for the eponymous lyric and one of the refrains from a rock band you hadn't heard of this year.
32. Laura Marling - "Where Can I Go?"
With her obvious love for the folk of the 1960s West Village, Laura Marling, in additon to being an irreconcilable heartbreaker, sounded a lot like cleaned-up, pretty, female Bob Dylan on "Where Can I Go?". However, the initial melody borrowed more from "Afternoon Delight" before spiralling into a full-blown folk trope buffet. The difference was Marling, a vocalist and guitar player of such dignity and power that these old paths felt new again.
31. Wise Blood - "Alarm"
"I can't think," sang Wise Blood on "Alarm" before claiming he needed his "personal space". The arrangement recalled Moby's Play, a soulful piano that plowed along in the background. Of course, the wake-up here was the the horn loop at the top of the arrangement. As news reports, literally, poured in, Wise Blood held the cacophony together with a melody that was as memorable as it was instantly singable.