10 Best Songs of 2013
Our list of the 10 Best Songs of 2013 could have been all neo-Aaliyah chillwave R&B and noisy grunge redux, as plenty of artists partial to those strains of ’90s nostalgia made great records this year. Heck, Arctic Monkeys combined the two and swung back with one of their finest LPs. But those sounds don’t tell the whole story. The last 12 months saw the return of disco, David Bowie and freestyle, as well as the continued cross-pollination of genres that’s been going on since at least ‘Hey Ya.’ In 2013, you might say, we stayed up all year to get lucky, and no one with two ears and a heart was liable to be disappointed. Scroll down to see the tunes that kept us counting our blessings in 2013.
'Where Are We Now?'
For about a decade, people asked, "Where is David Bowie now?" Turns out he had the same question. On his surprise comeback single -- dropped back in January on his 66th b-day -- rock's greatest chameleon lays it out plain: He's feeling old and nostalgic for his glory days in Berlin, and now that he's way closer to 70 than he is to the '70s, he worries he's "walking the dead." Fortunately, 'Where Are We Now' is graceful and powerful and completely devoid of self-pity. For a somber piano-driven meditation on mortality, it's full of life.
The Surfaris' 'Wipeout' meets Operation Ivy's 'Bankshot' as these Brooklyn punks thrash about in all directions, making the year's most joyous rock 'n' roll racket. There's rinky-dink organ, shredding guitar and an infectious surf riff, and best of all, it doesn't go over three minutes.
Now, as in 1991, the world is filled with little Kim Deals -- groovy chicks who hang out in record stores and know more about cool bands than the boys do -- and even if Kim Deal isn't in the Pixies anymore, Black Francis wants them to like his band. The standout track on 'EP-1' may be a love letter to said demographic or a plea for post-Deal validation, or since it's a Pixies song, it may be about Saturn or surrealist art. Either way, it's the best Hold Steady song of 2013.
The album is called 'Woman,' but the soul singer stirring up this quiet storm is actually a man: Canadian singer and producer Mike Milosh. Any song on the duo's debut LP could have made our list of the 10 best songs of 2013, but 'Open' embodies the simple sensuality heard throughout. It's Sade's 'Kiss of Life' replanted tenderly on the ears of indie kids reared on far more aggressive R&B.
How had no one thought to indie-fy Latin freestyle, the infectious style of synthed-out, strangely bittersweet dance music popularized in the '80s by the likes of Debbie Deb and Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam? Kudos to Kisses for pulling it off -- and for doing so while creating a song cycle based on the novels of Bret Easton Ellis. The combination of 'Head to Toe' and 'Less Than Zero' is sexier than Jami Gertz circa 1987.
'Best of Friends'
Not since Prince's 'I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man' has a guy tried this hard to not get with a girl, and not since the Libertines has a pack of scraggly British lads kicked out Clashy-y garage jams with such ramshackle glee.
Ware's debut album, 'Devotion,' landed in 2012 in her native U.K., so as usual, we yanks are playing catch-up. 'Wildest Moments' is the place to start. Although Ware sounds cool and self-assured -- think Whitney Houston after an xx kick -- the lyrics center on the uncertainty of being young and in love. Interestingly, she uses the words "blurred lines" and "wrecking ball," but this thing's about as far from Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus as it gets.
Anyone who says they're sick of this song is either a robot or a dick. The official summer jam of 2013 is feel-good disco with a feel-good back-story, as the MVP here is Nile Rodgers, back after a successful cancer battle and still Chic with a capital C. In the year that brought us endless bickering over Obamacare and bloody uprisings across the Middle East, it's nice the world could agree on something.
Regardless of what stick-in-the-mud critics may tell you, it's possible to question hip-hop's brash materialism and iffy gender politics while fantasizing about sipping Cris and tooling around in Escalades. It's even possible for a 17-year-old white girl from New Zealand to have it both ways in the span of a single pop song. She's having her cake and eating it, too. All hail the queen bee.
James Murphy co-produces and David Bowie sings on this 7:42 art-house groover, and even with the Arcade Fire's dozen or so regular players jamming away on their instruments, there are just the right number of cooks in this kitchen. Spiritual voyagers Win Butler and Regine Chassagne go looking for transcendence and find a disco ball, and their loss is everyone's gain.