Top 50 Songs of 2013 :: [30-21]

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 30 to 21.

30. Prides - "Out of the Blue"

At the moment when you're reading this in March or June of 2014 and you've Google searched "new Glasgow band Prides" and you're realizing the "Out of the Blue" was one of the best songs of the previous year, don't feel guilty or ashamed. "Out of the Blue", like its title, came from nowhere and crushed the listening public at the point of its release in early 2013, a public still likely drunk on the success of CHVRCHES, and provided a slamming and singable synth symphony to dance yourself clean. That's the word from the future and the past.

29. Local Natives - "Heavy Feet"

In a year that Vampire Weekend thoroughly dominated the mainstream indie rock World Music scene, it was unfortunately easy to forget the dense success of Local Natives' second LP. "Heavy Feet", an alternatively plaintive and storming treatise, rode the back of friscalating drum riff and the soaring vocals of two lead vocalists. The hook lyric, "After everything", though "Heavy Feet" was much more about the present than anything else.

28. The Zolas - "Invisible"

"Invisible" emerged as a yippy and misbehaved single, a one-off from Vancouver power-poppers, the Zolas. Of course, like their other work, the chorus stabbed you in the chest and demanded utter complicity. It wasn't necessarily about Gyges' ring, but it did concern itself with the collapsing architecture of modernity. An incomplete but beautiful treatise on destruction, the listener found themselves singing, "When you need some oxygen, jump into the fire with us", an implication that burning it all down was a collective project.

27. Frightened Rabbit - "Backyard Skulls"

Frightened Rabbit, what else could they possibly have to offer? Listeners rode the misery plane into the hillside, absolute CFIT, on Midnight Organ Fight, before the band told us they weren't "miserable now" on the subsequent LP. It was a head-spinner as we arrived at their latest and its best track, "Backyard Skulls". Were we here to be destroyed or not? The lyrics concerned themselves with the things, the bodies, buried in our metaphorical backyards. Someone always finds these terrible memorials, "a long lost soul, like a skull beneath the ground". The pathos was turned to 11 even if we all, band and listener, knew we didn't feel feelings like that anymore.

26. Smith Westerns - "Varsity"

It was necessarily regrettable that the Smith Westerns best ever song, "Varsity" didn't merit more positive press. The record from which it originated was, unfortunately, poor. Containing only two good songs, "Varsity" was left nearly alone to fend for the band's credible and critical future. "I guess it's a point of view", they sang like relativists in the pre-chorus. The arrangement recalled a high school experience no one ever lived, a remembered self that never existed and a world that was only in dreams.

25. Junip - "Walking Lightly"

The menace of the drums belied the lyrics of "Walking Lightly", which largely concerned the responsible tread with which we collectively traipse the land. Jose Gonzalez whispered his whispering best, ushering the listener into a world, self-contained and complete, where he suggested something and nothing at once. It was one of the great and forgotten songs of 2013. Gonzalez, likely, wanted it this way.

24. Waxahatchee - "Brother Bryan"

If you didn't much care for Liz Phair, despite the endorsement of NPR, you weren't much for Waxahatchee in 2013. If Phair made you uncomfortable, if the hooks were too irremovable, Waxahatchee was a derivative version of a difficult thing. But if you loved Phair, this was as close as you could come to 1993. "Brother Bryan", the best song off a transcendent record, isolated a lonely bass riff and a few splashy drums beneath the singular vocal of Katie Crutchfield. The last lyric that shuts everything down, "In this place I think about you", one more measure and it was over.

23. Small Black - "Free At Dawn"

It didn't make a lot of sense, and it didn't need to. Like most great pop, "Free At Dawn" rooted itself in an initial loop, expanding the idea in imperial fashion, adding a down-beat and then storming through an echoing chorus that never totally got its due in 2013. The substance proved ethereal - "I was feeling as reckless as rain" - and the final movement, an invigorated low-end and a doubling of the first impulse suggested a celebration this describing the freedom of the morning.

22. Phantogram - "Black Out Days"

Phantogram never find themselves far from a huge loop, and "Black Out Days" did not disappoint. Buzzing synths competed with the fecund vocals of the lead singer, who sang things like, "I don't ever recognize your face", before the the chorus exploded into a sky of unrecognizable sounds. While they surely lifted the initial loop from Freelance Whales' "Generator", no one knew and no one cared. It was about the explosion of the short term memory, a discursiveness on modernity that sounded destructive and was.

21. Sky Ferreria - "You're Not The One"

Everyone loved the Sky album - even if it was dark, NSFW and needlessly devoid of hooks in places - and "You're Not The One" surged as lead single and one of the best songs of the year. The pre-chorus ("It's the middle of the night ...") was good enough to be a hook on most other songs but here it merely set up Ferreria at the top of the room on the title lyric. It was a John Hughes slam for an era that barely knows who John Hughes is, a Breakfast Club for a generation that never went to detention for anything. Suffice it to say, negation is the new affirmative and, "You're Not The One".

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