Top 100 songs of 2013.

Last year I discovered (for myself, that is) enough good new music to do my first serious annual music ranking, listing my top 40 songs of 2012, a list that I originally intended to just go to 20 titles but that kept expanding as I kept writing and exploring. This year, I started the exploring a little sooner, and also ended up on a few promotional lists that exposed me to even more new stuff, so by midyear it was very clear to me that I’d have more than enough songs to get to 100. I had over 150 candidates if you count all of the album tracks I liked enough to consider, but forced it down to 100 (which didn’t work out that well, as you’ll see shortly).

As with my list of the top albums of 2013, this list is my personal preference. If I don’t like a song, it’s not here. That wipes out some critically-acclaimed artists entirely, including Daft Punk, Haim, Vampire Weekend, Deafheaven (and please, people, death metal and black metal are not the same thing), Rhye, the Lumineers (more like Ho Hum), American Authors, James Blake, Foxygen, Majikal Cloudz, Phosphorescent, Jason Isbell (I just do not like country music), and My Bloody Valentine. Other folks liked that stuff. I didn’t.

Some songs that were among the last ones I cut from my list, in no particular order, looking just at artists that didn’t make it: Birds of Tokyo – “Lanterns;” Midlake – “Antiphon;” Harrison Hudson – “Curious;” Cumulus – “Do You Remember;” Young Galaxy – “Pretty Boy;” The 1975 – “Chocolate;” Blondfire – “Waves.” The last two got the axe for lyrics too stupid for me to abide. I’ve mentioned several other songs I liked, but not enough to get them into the top 100, within the comments below.

I’m going to start with two extra tracks that were the final two cuts from the list, ones I actually wrote up at first before realizing I’d forgotten two other tracks that belonged on here.

Wild Nothing – Dancing Shell. One of my biggest misses from my 2012 list was Wild Nothing’s Nocturne, which I picked up in January on the recommendations of several readers and loved for its dream-pop leanings with experimental twists – but with more guitar than most bands in this subgenre employ. “Dancing Shell” is more dance/electronic than straight-ahead rock but showcases the creativity of Jack Tatum, who records all of Wild Nothing’s music himself, with other members joining him just for live shows. His 2013 EP wasn’t as good as Nocturne but including this song lets me mention again how badly I whiffed by not including the album on my list from last year.

Ejecta – Jeremiah (The Denier). A side project for Neon Indian’s keyboardist Leanne Macomber, Ejecta offers spacey electro-pop, although I think they’ve received more press for their debut album’s cover, which features a nude Macomber posing as if one of the great Renaissance masters was about to paint her. That might just be overshadowing the music, which has the early-80s New Wave leanings of most electro-pop but pairs it with Macomber’s languorous, breathy vocals to temper its brightness. “It’s Only Love” is also worth checking out.

And now, to the top 100. This entire list, including both of those bonus tracks, is available as a Spotify playlist, in order. Amazon and iTunes links go to full albums, where you can just buy the specific song I mentioned (this reduced the number of links I had to create).

I’ve also created a second playlist of songs that just missed this list, while readers also created top 100 playlists for Rdio and Xbox music.

100. Drenge – Gun Crazy. Released in the UK already but not yet in the US (it’s on Spotify), the debut album by this brother duo combines White Stripes minimalism with New Wave of British Heavy Metal riffing, with this track one of three standouts for its punk-like energy and disaffection.

99. Teeth of the Sea – Black Strategy. (amazoniTunes) Teeth of the Sea’s 2013 album Master is insane, but I mean that in a good way, mostly. It’s highly experimental, post-industrial weirdness, strewn across expansive eight-minute canvases, and not always coalescing into discrete tracks as we’ve been trained to expect from modern albums. The seven-minute “Black Strategy” is the most accessible track, with hints of early Ministry but in a more menacing register, driving toward an apocalyptic, layered conclusion like the climax of a Cirque du Soleil show.

98. Everything Everything – Don’t Try. (amazoniTunes) Everything Everything’s 2013 album Arc might be my nominee for “most overlooked album of the year,” as it barely earned any airplay even on alternative outlets in the U.S. Paul Boyé, better known to many of you by his old Twitter handle @Phrontiersman, first brought this to my attention and was spot-on with the suggestion, as this kind of over-the-top expression in four-minute tracks, built around strong melodies, is right up my alley. They’ve got two tracks much further up this list as well.

97. Superchunk – Me & You & Jackie Mittoo. (amazoniTunes) When Superchunk says “I hate music,” it’s not all that surprising, as the industry has never treated these indie-rock heroes all that well, but they obviously don’t hate it enough to stop churning out reliable power-pop anthems like this one. There were a lot of comeback albums this year from bands that were big (or medium) in the 1990s, but only a few actually worked as well as Superchunk’s.

96. Temples – Colours to Life. (amazoniTunes) “Shelter Song” got more airplay, but that song has a dated sound that wore on me too quickly, whereas “Colours to Life” keeps one foot planted in the 2010s without surrendering Temples’ signature throwback style. Both are available on a $1.98 single through those links.

95. Arctic Monkeys – Fireside. (amazoniTunes) My favorite album of the year was full of hard, energetic rockers, but Alex Turner showed a few times that he can turn off the distortion and still produce a memorable song, much as he did with his side project the Last Shadow Puppets. “Fireside” also dials down the tempo a little bit but loses none of Turner’s lyrical inventiveness while maintaining his incredible knack for crafting bittersweet melodic lines that burrow deep into your brain like a mindworm from Aornis Hades.

94. The Mowgli’s – Great Divide. (amazoniTunes) It seemed like 2013 was a good year for bands that reached back to Woodstock-era music, especially for big harmonies like those the Mowgli’s, an eight-member band from southern California that released an album on its own in 2012, only to re-record several of the tracks, including this one, for their major-label debut this past June. They had one much better (and more famous) song, further up the list, but I just generally like their everyone-join-in ethos as long as they keep the songs upbeat.

93. CHVRCHES – Recover. (amazoniTunes) I first caught wind of CHVRCHES on a promotional sampler last winter, and every new song I heard by them right up till their album’s release in September was a new revelation. By the time the album, The Bones of What You Believe, dropped, “Recover” had slipped a little in my estimation, as it lacks some of the complexity of their better tracks, sticking more on the poppy/sweet side of the spectrum without the same sonic layering underneath singer Lauren Mayberry’s sharp vocals … but a mediocre CHVRCHES song is still a good one, and I adore hearing Mayberry’s Scottish brogue slip through in the chorus here.

92. Suede – Barriers. (amazoniTunes) Suede’s first new studio track in a decade was a shocking return to form, maybe their best single since 1996’s “The Beautiful Ones,” the band’s first without founding guitarist Bernard Butler. Built over a haunting six-note guitar riff that repeats through the entire song except the choruses, it infuses singer Brett Anderson’s (no, not that one) vocals with a melancholy tinge that harkens back to Suede’s first two albums, when they were among the hottest new acts in the world and seemed destined for a major breakthrough in the U.S., only to see Butler leave and the band lose its edge. “Barriers” may not be the new “Metal Mickey,” but it was the one of the best comeback tracks in a year of disappointing returns from grunge and Britpop icons.

91. Divine Fits – Ain’t That the Way. (amazoniTunes) I assumed Divine Fits’ solid, if unspectacular, 2012 album was a one-time deal, as it’s a side project for Spoon lead singer Britt Daniel and former Wolf Parade leader Dan Boeckner, but the band dropped two more songs in 2013, including this one … which sounds just like everything from their first album, actually. That’s fine, but at some point it would be nice to hear these guys break their own molds a little and see if the collaboration can yield something more novel than pleasant mid-tempo rock.

90. Papa – Put Me to Work. (amazoniTunes) I don’t really get all the Bruce Springsteen comparisons Papa earns, mostly because I have never enjoyed Springsteen’s music at all and would infer that I’d dislike Papa’s as well. There’s a blue-collar vibe to their entire album, which might be where the comparisons come from, but that’s lazy, as Papa draws less from country or roots-rock than Springsteen does, coming across more like a band you’d expect to hear in a popular bar on a Thursday night.

89. Leagues – You Belong Here. (amazoniTunes) The newest project from Tyler Burkum, who won a pair of Grammy awards in the rock-gospel category with Audio Adrenaline, Leagues is based in Nashville but it’s very much based on a foundation of classic rock, with a little garage-rock quality to the guitars but with cleaner production. Their bigger hit is higher up this list but I liked this title track from their debut album, bringing the same sunny power-pop approach but at a slower pace.

88. Rogue Wave – No Magnatone. (amazoniTunes) I was disappointed overall by Rogue Wave’s 2013 album Nightengale Floors, but there were two tracks worth checking out, including this one, the album’s opener that makes use of 12/8 time* – unsurprising for a band whose biggest hit, “Lake Michigan,” is essentially a rock-waltz – to keep the listener off-kilter for its brief three-minute roll that feels like a tumble down a forested hillside. (*I may be wrong on the time signature; I’m twenty years removed from the last time I took a music class.)

87. Twin Peaks – Stand in the Sand. (amazoniTunes) I’d like to think the band named itself after the groundbreaking David Lynch TV series, but since the members of Twin Peaks are all 19 or 20 years old that seems a bit unlikely. It’s the kind of slightly obnoxious, highly-distorted college rock you might expect given the members’ ages, but underneath the panel of noise here is a shimmering two-minute pop song that bursts with the blind enthusiasm of youth.

86. Au Revoir Simone – Crazy. (amazoniTunes) This all-female trio has been around since 2003, although they’ve only had some minor mainstream exposure prior to the expanded airplay their 2013 album, Move in Spectrums received, resulting in their highest chart position yet. “Crazy” is yet another track on this list that reaches way back for its pop influence, this time bringing to mind surf-rock melodies from the early 1960s, with less of the electronic elements that mark most of ARS’ work. You can add this to the ranks of bands who’ve been overlooked, unjustly, while the musical press was busy falling all over itself to praise the boring-as-anything Haim.

85. These New Puritans – Organ Eternal. (amazoniTunes) Definitely the weirdest album I listened to in 2013, These New Puritans’ Field of Reeds left me struggling to describe it in adjectives or comparisons, eventually leaving me pointing at Talk Talk’s Laughing Stalk and wandering away muttering to myself. There were just two tracks on the album that stood well on their own as something like singles, this being the first of the pair on this list, drawing you in with the repeated organ line like a sharp intake of breath before suddenly dropping you with no warning for the vocals to begin.

84. Bleached – Dead in Your Head. (amazoniTunes) Another sibling act, this one two sisters from SoCal who specialize in garage-rock anthems but found a new level with this slo-fi track that still boasts a strong hook but could use a little help with the lyrics.

83. The Neighbourhood – Female Robbery. (amazoniTunes) Their other big hit this year, “Afraid,” is pure garbage, so I’m almost embarrassed to include “Female Robbery” even though it is in every respect a better song: tighter, creepier, with more soul and far stronger lyrics, expressing a deep paranoia about … um, alien abductions, maybe. There’s a trip-hop element to the tempo along with the rapped/sung lyrics and the use of samples throughout the track, but it is built on a classic-rock foundation.

82. Rogue Wave – College. (amazoniTunes) After these two tracks, which led off Rogue Wave’s Nightengale Floors, the album was forgettable at best and painful at worst, but this track brought back some memories of “Lake Michigan” despite coming in at about twice the velocity, in part because of the descending guitar line that opens the song and in part because of the off-beat drum loops in the chorus.

81. Sky Ferreira – You’re Not the One. (amazoniTunes) Ferreira’s been in the headlines for lots of non-music reasons, which might make you skeptical about whether she has any actual musical ability, but the 21-year-old can sing and her music is a sort of smart-pop hybrid that weaves in a faint industrial motif in the percussion (think early Depeche Mode) and the screeching guitar line over the chorus. She may end up another disposable pop star, and she may end up dead of a drug overdose before she ends up any kind of star, but there’s at least some promise here for a groundbreaking career.

80. White Denim – Pretty Green. (amazoniTunes) Not to be confused with Whitesnake, the White Stripes, Black Keys, Black Crowes, or Black Lips, White Denim are yet another psychedelic/blues-rock band that quaffed deeply on the music of the late 1960s and early 1970s and produced something that sounds … well, a lot like the music of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I imagine this four-minute track takes a quarter of an hour when played live, with extended guitar solos that seem to never end.

79. Of Monsters and Men – Silhouettes. (amazoniTunes) This track, from the soundtrack to Catching Fire, would have fit perfectly on My Head is an Animal and doesn’t give me great comfort that Of Monsters and Men are going to expand their horizons on their sophomore album. That said, their defining sound is one I enjoy without reservation, especially their use of broadly-crafted crescendoes on slower tracks (like this one) to create tension that they never fully resolve.

78. Radkey – Cat and Mouse. (amazoniTunes) Radkey is a three-piece punk act from Missouri featuring three African-American brothers from age 20 to age 16, but their sound, including the vocals, is more mature than that. They’re undeniably punk but bring across hard rock elements that bring down influences from their father’s record collection, which stretched back to classic rock, New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and of course early punk. I imagine they’ll get a lot of Bad Brains comps, but Radkey is their own band, often just as angry but without Dr. Know’s machine-gun guitar riffing, producing a more accessible result.

77. HAERTS – All the Days. (amazoniTunes) I admit that the spelling of their name irks me, to the point that I want to call them “hairts” or “hay-erts” just on principle, but their songs are pretty good, with this one and “Wings” both standing out from their debut EP, produced by the man who records on his own as St. Lucia. It’s dark, atmospheric electronic-pop, anchored by German-born vocalist Nini Fabi’s plaintive delivery.

76. The National – Don’t Swallow the Cap. (amazoniTunes) I’m on record as a fierce opponent of The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger’s indolent mumblecore vocal delivery, so putting any song by the band on this list is a serious concession that, in this case, “Don’t Swallow the Cap” is a gorgeous track, so heart-wrenching with a sense of loss and despair that I can forgive the way Berninger sounds like he couldn’t care less about his life falling apart.

75. Washed Out – All I Know. (amazoniTunes) Can I just ask why solo artists no longer want to record under their own names? “Washed Out” barely even sounds like the name of a band, much less one guy recording all his own stuff. Is this just another symptom of our societal tendency to shy away from social connections? Or is it just a stupid trend? Anyway, I didn’t like Washed Out’s previous single, the boring “It All Feels Right,” which felt like it went on forever (and thus felt wrong), but “All I Know” has a better tempo and swaps out some of the earlier track’s sound effects for clearer vocals and more musical elements, resulting in a much more sophisticated end product.

74. Polvo – Total Immersion. (amazoniTunes) Another of the year’s great comebacks from a ’90s act, Polvo were never quite that huge to begin with, putting out four albums in that decade to strong reviews and minimal sales. They reformed in 2009, and this year’s Siberia is the second album of their new era, a noise-rock opus with unexpected twists and turns, complex song structures, and lyrics that dance on the edge of making absolutely no sense. This song, the album’s opener, starts out with a dissonant guitar riff combining the distorted sounds of the grunge era with the power-pop leanings of Urge Overkill … but then it goes on for six more minutes through multiple moods and movements before arriving somewhere in the rough vicinity of where it started. It’s delightfully weird, like the rest of Siberia.

73. Mona – Goons (Baby I Need It All). (amazoniTunes) Dopey alt-rockers who were the flavor of the half-minute briefly in 2011 return with slightly less dopey sophomore album that features one good, catchy, still slightly dopey track in “Goons,” which reminded me of the Fratellis or Harvey Danger for its memorable shout-along chorus destined to be screamed by drunk frat-boys if it’s not forgotten entirely. Also, I kind of liked it.

72. Fitz and the Tantrums – Spark. (amazoniTunes) This album (More than Just a Dream) as a whole was a disappointment after their genre-twisting debut, which brought blue-eyed soul into the alternative era, mostly because Fitz and the Tantrums decided to play it safe the second time around, which left us with nothing close to their breakout hit “Moneygrabber.” “More than Just a Dream” got the airplay but “Spark” was the album’s best track for me, with more energy, better contributions from Noelle Scaggs (underutilized on this album), and something other than their usual romance-themed lyrics.

71. Heavy English – 21 Flights. (amazoniTunes) Formed by former members of Envy on the Coast, Heavy English threw one song out there, the heavily soul-influenced “21 Flights” (Little Caesar would be proud), and their debut album should be one of the more anticipated releases of 2014 if this song is any indication. I’m hoping the rest of the album isn’t quite as bright and poppy, given their post-hardcore roots, but I appreciate the sense of melody here and the expansion beyond their old genre. Heavy English’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is worth a listen too.

70. CHVRCHES – Lungs. (amazoniTunes) Lauren Mayberry at her angriest, although her little voice sounds more indignant than rageful. The breakdown here is the heaviest moment on The Bones of What You Believe, and when I saw them live it was the musical high point of the show and a necessary break from the glowing synth-pop feel of so much of their music. I’ve said elsewhere that Mayberry has a future beyond CHVRCHES, as she’s too talented to last in a band that is so musically constrained, and this track is the best glimpse of where else she might go for her next move.

69. Arcade Fire – Normal Person. (iTunesiTunes) I was disappointed by Reflektor, expecting another masterpiece and instead just getting a good album with as many low points as high ones. “Normal Person” was among the high points, with a dissonant garage-rock riff worth of Polvo, Helium, or Pavement, and less of the bloat that infected the entire album.

68. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends. (amazoniTunes) I liked the previous album from these guys, who might as well have called themselves Douche. The Bag, but this year’s release, also titled Evil Friends, was uneven and by turns seemed to aim for more commercial territory without reaching it. The title track has their trademark weirdness and rapid tempo shifts, but is fundamentally a straight-up album rock song that never tries to be something more – once you get past the soft intro, the twin guitars take over with lots of handclaps and overdubbed choruses and other stuff to get the arena on its feet.

67. St. Lucia – Elevate. (amazoniTunes) If St. Lucia is to have a hit single, this will likely be it, a small confection on top of a Caribbean rhythm and drum backing that ran the risk of turning saccharine with just another 30 seconds of the same motif. It’s a little lightweight, as is much of the album, kind of like a savory dish that needs a little more acid, but St. Lucia’s incorporation of those “tropical” sounds (he’s actually from South Africa) provides some balance to the bright melodies of most of the album.

66. Night Terrors of 1927 – Dust and Bones. (amazoniTunes) Bearing possibly the worst new band name of the year, Night Terrors of 1927 – as opposed to those of, say, 1926, which were an entirely different animal – is the new project from former Rilo Kiley guitarist (and Boy Meets World actor) Blake Sennett. Their music is spacier and more atmospheric than Rilo Kiley’s was, but still has a strong melodic element that makes their depressing lyrics sound almost appealing. Their debut EP came out in November, with “Dust and Bones” its best track.

65. Broken Bells – Holding on for Life. (amazoniTunes) I assumed the self-titled 2010 album from this duo, a side project of Danger Mouse (aka Danger Doom, aka half of Gnarls Barkley) and James Mercer of the Shins, would be one-and-done, but the album was successful enough that they released an EP in 2011 and now have their second album coming out in January of 2014. This is the lead single, not quite as good as “The High Road” but comparable to “The Ghost Inside,” with Mercer doing his usual high/low vocals thing and Danger Mouse providing the trip-hoppy synth lines behind it.

64. Terraplane Sun – Get Me Golden. (amazoniTunes) There was a bit of a revival this year of 1960s-style harmonies and sounds beyond the lo-fi/garage-rock movement of the last half-decade, with tinges of psychedelia rather than loud, distorted guitar soungs, including bands like Temples, Jagwar Ma, Bleached, and Terraplane Sun, whose “Get Me Golden” was the hand-clappingest song of the bunch. It sounds like southern California and not just because I’m sitting here staring at snow and ice in my front yard.

63. Arctic Monkeys – Snap Out of It. (amazoniTunes) AM was such a great album in large part because the Monkeys’ lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner showed off his ability to produce great hooks whether the track was fast or slow, loud or quiet, shouted or actually sung. Here we get one of several of Turner’s falsetto turns, set over a throbbing drum and bass line before we get to the earworm chorus, among the album’s catchiest moments. The Monkeys tend more toward rock, but this is a straight-up pop nugget that comes as a huge surprise late in an album where you already think you’ve heard all Turner has to offer.

62. Wavves – Sail to the Sun. (amazoniTunes) The album was more of the same, and I could do without the silly intro where we get what sounds like Christmas music behind the voice of a preacher exhorting his flock to “get up close to God,” but once the guitars show up it’s a potent two-minute post-punk song driven by the obscured bass line, with Nathan Williams’ typical bummed-out lyrics sung at high speed so you don’t realize you’re actually singing “in a gra-a-aaaaa-ve.”

61. Queens of the Stone Age – My God is the Sun. (amazoniTunes) …Like Clockwork was one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me, with just two tracks, this one and “I Sat by the Ocean,” earning any consideration for this list. The rest of the disc felt generic and a little tired, which is even more shocking given how capable Josh Homme has proven himself as a songwriter since the dissolution of Kyuss. Even “My God is the Sun” is more akin to “Go With the Flow” than to their best singles, heavy and grinding but without a strong hook as you’d expect from anything Homme has written. He may be ready to try something entirely new if he’s reached the boundaries of what he can do with stoner-rock.

60. Portugal. The Man – Hip Hop Kids. (amazoniTunes) Sort of the more obnoxious cousin to the Limousines’ “Internet Killed the Video Star,” this foul-mouthed track starts with another annoying vocal line from John Gourley but turns into a rock song with tongue-in-cheek anti-rock lyrics. Danger Mouse’s production wasn’t so evident on the album’s better tracks, which surprises me as his style is usually so distinctive – other than ditching some of the bombastic notes from their previous album, Portugal. The Man don’t sound different here than they did on In the Mountain In the Cloud.

59. CHVRCHES – We Sink. (amazoniTunes) The one new single to emerge from CHVRCHES after their album dropped in September, “We Sink” is Lauren Mayberry at her lyrical best, using that pixie voice to swear she’ll be “a thorn in your side/till you die.” Although much of the CHVRCHES disc works best when Mayberry is backed by minimalist arrangements, “We Sink” and “Lungs” both show she can hang even when there are more layers of keyboards behind her.

58. Beach Fossils – Clash the Truth. (amazoniTunes) I have a feeling Beach Fossils will eventually be remembered as the band that Zachary Cole Smith left to form DIIV (and to get arrested with girlfriend Sky Ferreira), which would undersell his former mates as they have their own distinctive, more toned-down sound, like surfer rock on Quaaludes. I do kind of wish the album didn’t sound like it was recorded in an actual garage, though.

57. Phoenix – Entertainment. (amazoniTunes) The other major album disappointment of the year for me was Phoenix’s Bankrupt!, which should have been subtitled “Of New Ideas,” as it felt mostly like discarded B-sides from the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix sessions. The one exception was “Entertainment,” which sounded like a discarded A-side from the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix sessions but didn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s still no “Lisztomania” but it has their usual tight, circus-like sound and sharp melody lines.

56. Jagwar Ma – Come Save Me. (amazoniTunes)It’s three minutes of mid- to late 1960s psychedelic-tinged folk-pop, followed by two minutes of pointless noodling at the end. I’m good with the retro thing, but if I wanted to hear extended jam sessions I wouldn’t always skip over XM 29. They may eventually find they have to decide whether they want to be a radio-friendly three-and-a-half-minute-track band or to pursue their interest in experimental psychedelic rock, but based on their debut album, Howlin’, I actually think I’d prefer it if they went with the former.

55. Polvo – Water Wheel. (amazoniTunes) Clocking in at just under eight minutes, “Water Wheel” is the longest song on this list and probably the weirdest, with the two main guitar lines often sounding like they’re playing two different songs, or that they’re playing the same song but are a half-measure apart. I usually hate songs of this length, but Polvo’s great trick on Siberia is making great use of the extra minutes to incorporate new ideas or hooks into each song that expand the story that each tells through its music. “Water Wheel” benefits from more coherence than most tracks on the album by returning more than once to its original motif even as the guitarists seem to diverge even farther from their original starting points.

54. Regina Spektor – You’ve Got Time. (amazoniTunes) Spektor got a big boost when Orange is the New Black used this as its theme song, although I have since learned she had a solid buzz going dating back at least to her 2006 album Begin to Hope, when her style was more mellow and “anti-folk,” whatever that means. Her earlier work reminds me more of Tori Amos, but “You’ve Got Time” brings her gorgeous voice and endearing enunciation to a frenetic 80 mph song that lets up with one brief bridge only to stand on the accelerator again once the light turns green.

53. St. Lucia – September. (amazoniTunes) The darkest track, by a wide margin, on When the Night, “September” was actually first released as a single in 2012 along with four remixes, but like everything Jean-Philip Grobler released before 2013 it ended up on his debut album. Most of his songs are sunny, lightly tropical pop tracks, but “September” delves more into trance and even darkwave, with its only drawback the disconnect between Grobler’s higher pitch and the sinister, pulsating keyboard lines beneath him.

52. Okkervil River – Stay Young. (amazoniTunes) An indie folk/roots-rock outfit from Austin that’s been around since 1998, Okkervil River always produced pleasant but not terribly interesting (to my ears) music, but this year’s “Stay Young” had them sounding not quite like themselves – in a good way. It’s raw and emotional and almost a little messy, the kind of track you’d imagine hearing at the end of a raucous live show to bring down the curtain and the house at the same time.

51. Panama – Always. (amazoniTunes) It was a good year for Australian alternative music, what with Jagwar Ma, Cut Copy, Beaches, and Panama releasing new albums or EPs, plus leftover singles from Tame Impala, Atlas Genius, and Temper Trap getting plenty of airplay; I hope the Go-Betweens are at least a little pleased with what they’ve wrought. This trio’s three-song EP, also titled Always, features this stunning track that sounds like a harder-edged Erasure, taking the latter’s sense of melody, with a piano lick that sounds like vintage Vince Clarke, but adding real percussion and a more pronounced rhythm section.

50. Local Natives – Heavy Feet. (amazoniTunes) Another critically-acclaimed album I just couldn’t get into, Local Natives’ Hummingbird left me cold because it was just too slow and quiet; I’d listen to it, finish it, and remember nothing of what I’d heart. “Heavy Feet” is the exception, with a little faster tempo and the album’s best hook in its chorus.

49. Drowners – Long Hair. (amazoniTunes) These guys remind me in many ways of the late, lamented British act The Libertines, whose two albums overflowed with all short, punchy, devil-may-care pop nuggets before Pete Doherty decided he’d rather get high than make more music. (But who am I to judge.) Anyway, “Long Hair” is perfect even if it’s kind of insubstantial, under two minutes of glorious jangle-pop from a band named after a Suede song. Their latest single, “Luv, Hold Me Down” was among the titles I cut to get this list down to 100.

48. Arcade Fire – It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus). (iTunesiTunes) The best song on Reflektor‘s overreaching second disc, “It’s Never Over” thrives on the energy of its descending guitar riff and multiple repeated vocal lines, some shouted, some sung in falsetto harmony, enough that you forgive the fact that it goes on about 90 seconds too long. This could have been a much better album if anyone in the room had suggested that maybe these ideas weren’t good enough to sustain seven-minute songs.

47. Wild Cub – Thunder Clatter. (amazoniTunes) I didn’t like this song the first time I heard it because it felt so similar to a dozen other songs I’d heard already this year, but repeated listens (damn you, Alt Nation) had me singing it when it wasn’t even on the radio. I surrender to the nine-note guitar line, the incessant “You’re the love of my life” chorus, to the fact that the song is so poppy you could put it on a bagel and sell it in Manhattan.

46. Volcano Choir – Comrade. (amazoniTunes) I’ve got four tracks on this list from three acts that I’d call “experimental” because they pursue non-traditional song structures and/or use unusual instrumentation – These New Puritans (twice), Teeth of the Sea, and Volcano Choir, this one a side project of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon along with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees (of whom, I concede, I had never previously heard). Wikipedia tags the band as “post-rock,” but I might even go for “anti-rock” for the way this song seems so uncomfortable hewing to even the barest bones of traditional rock song structure. It’s haunting and un-gorgeous in an endearing, hypnotic way.

45. The Wombats – Your Body is a Weapon. (amazoniTunes) I adored The Wombats’ debut track, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” for its combination of high- and lowbrow humor and, well, its joyous screamalong lyrics (everything is going wrong/but we’re so happy!), but everything that came after was so dismal that I’d written them off for good. Their newest single is a welcome return to form, featuring the same lyrical style, including what I believe is a crude (yet funny) double-entendre in its conclusion, and bouncy guitar lines to balance the dry wit of the vocals.

44. Lemâitre – Iron Pyrite. (amazoniTunes) I wish I knew why this Norwegian electronica duo got so little affection in the U.S. when inferior acts like, well, Daft Punk grabbed all the headlines. (Maybe Lemâitre should have tried to record a track with Pharrell for more indie cred.) The first time I heard the track, the little mid-70s funk guitar line grabbed me; in a year of “post-rock” bands (see Volcano Choir) Lemâitre gave us “post-disco” and deserved more airplay.

43. The Orwells – Who Needs You? (amazoniTunes) Obnoxious rock bands have a delicate balance to strike – you want to be obnoxious enough to stand out and make people laugh without making them want to change the station or throw rotten fruit at the stage. Their minor hit “Mallrats” obliterated the barrier between those two points, going for full-on snot-rock without regard to whether anyone would find it worth listening to, but “Who Needs You?” is probably more pointed lyrically without sacrificing the quality of the music. Obnoxious can be thought-provoking when it doesn’t try so hard to sound immature.

42. Drenge – Backwaters. The song drives like doom rock, the guitars groove like grunge, and the lyrics only add more menace (never seen blood and milk mix so divine/never seen such beauty so malign) to an already baleful track. Drenge bring so many bands and eras to their music as influences that the White Strips comparisons may hold even if they’re made for the wrong reason.

41. Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? (amazoniTunes) Of all of the tracks on AM, this one probably harkens back the most to the band’s earliest work, when Alex Turner was already lyrically gifted but offered takes like the one here of a romance gone awry because, well, you can figure that part out yourself.

40. St. Lucia – The Night Comes Again. (amazoniTunes) The opener to St. Lucia’s album bookends with the closing track, “When the Night,” so perhaps Mr. Grobler is a fan of Finnegan’s Wake. “September” is the more complex track, but I preferred this song for its greater use of guitars and tumbling vocal lines, with hints of early ’80s Roxy Music or David Bowie in the rhythm section.

39. The Head and the Heart – Shake. (amazoniTunes) The first single from this folk-rock act’s second album was more uptempo than most of their stuff, the rest of which is clear and earnest and just a little too lugubrious for my tastes. This song starts rocking from the first moment and never lets up, drawing in influences from folk and rock, of course, but also classic country and bluegrass along the way.

38. RAC featuring Kele and MNDR – Let Go. (amazoniTunes) This song has now popped up in a commercial for a retail shopping site, which will probably ruin it for all of us, but RAC (Remix Artist Collective) have crafted a contagious electronica track that is nearly derailed by the dopey lyrics sung by Bloc Party lead singer Kele. Rather than going for dubstep or a heavy club-remix vibe, the instrumentation here on RAC’s second original song (most of their work is, naturally, remixes) is sparse and crisp, which for me produces a better end result.

37. The Naked and Famous – Hearts Like Ours. (amazoniTunes) The second album from this New Zealand group was more nuanced than their debut, trading off fewer standout singles for a more consistent listen from start to finish. “Hearts Like Ours” is the best individual track, with the same atmospheric alt-rock feel as their first album but more sense of loss from the music as well as the lyrics. I don’t know why the phrase “half-awake and almost dead” stuck with me as it did, but that’s an image I find hard to escape.

36. Disclosure – When a Fire Starts to Burn. (amazoniTunes) I would take this over the sum of all tracks on the Daft Punk album. The repetition of the lyrics is annoying, but the music is so much better and more original than anything those French guys in costumes put out on this record that this feels like the worthier successor to Daft’s earlier work. The album has earned accolades on both sides of the Atlantic, but I didn’t find the rest of it close to this compelling.

35. Lord Huron – Time to Run. (amazoniTunes) This is as close as any song on this list will come to country music, as the Civil Wars’ “The One That Got Away” was among the tracks I cut to get down to 100. This song first appeared on an EP in 2012, and then on their debut album, Lonesome Dreams, which came out last October, but I’m bending the rules to include it because 1) I didn’t hear the song until after I produced last year’s list and 2) it didn’t get much if any airplay until 2013 and 3) it’s my list, dammit, and this is a really good song that I want to tell everyone about.

34. Savages – Shut Up. (amazoniTunes) The opener to their tremendous debut album, Silence Yourself, begins with about a minute of almost inaudible samples and noise, only to kick in with a punked-up Romeo Void riff that serves as the perfect entree to an album full of feminist rage and frustration. Lead singer Jehnny Beth gives this constant sense of barely-contained indignation, whether the pace is fast (here, “She Will,” “City’s Full”) or slow (“Strife,” “Dead Nature”), making Savages one of the most compelling new acts of the year.

33. Lorde – Royals. (amazoniTunes) The New Zealand teenager is very much the flavor of the year, although it’s well-deserved for this song, a surprisingly mature, semi-satirical look at pop music’s unquestioning embrace of conspicuous consumption and vacuous lyrics. If this doesn’t win the Grammy for Record of the Year, well, who cares because the Grammys are shite anyway. But seeing this lose to a song about date rape would annoy my face off.

32. Frank Turner – Recovery. (amazoniTunes) Folk-punk? Anti-folk? English drinking music about getting sober? All of the above, I’d say, as Turner’s 2013 album Tape Deck Heart will have you thinking you’re in pub in east London well past closing time, with many strong tracks led by this one, the opener about the narrator trying and largely failing to get and stay clean before drink and drugs destroy his life.

31. Atlas Genius – If So. (amazoniTunes) “Trojans” was #40 on my list last year, which only went 40 deep, but that was just the teaser for this song, which featured stronger vocals (the delivery on “Trojans” was a little laconic, almost whiny at points) and the best hook to be found on their debut album, the February release When It Was Now. It was later appropriated by HGTV for the commercials for the show Cousins Undercover, which is an improvement over their ripoff of the Arctic Monkeys for the old theme to Income Property but did bring about some Atlas Genius fatigue in this household.

30. Leagues – Spotlight. (amazoniTunes) More bright power-pop with hints of gospel/neo-soul mixed into the vocals, unsurprising given Tyler Burkum’s background with Audio Adrenaline. “Spotlight” earned the most airplay off Leagues’ debut album, thanks to a chorus that almost sounds inspired by Bruno Mars over the staccato guitar riff that provides the power to the vocal lines’ pop.

29. Everything Everything – Kemosabe. (amazoniTunes) This English act’s brand of insane, dense, lyrically twisted music might be best described as “histrionica;” how else can you summarize a song that runs synth lines designed to keep you off balance and features lines like “I’ve genuflected in a penitent way?” They might be too weird for their own good, but that formula worked for alt-J (who produced my favorite song and album of 2012) and it works, if somewhat less consistently, for Everything Everything.

28. Cayucas – High School Lover. (amazoniTunes) Another lo-fi track that sounds like it was recorded in a concrete box, although much of that is due to the understated sung/talked vocals about teenage romance and jealousy, “High School Lover” is goofy and fun even though it feels like a novelty hit (and I haven’t heard anything else from Cayucas this good). Its bouncy bass/drum section seems to mimic the feeling of riding on a bicycle over uneven pavement, fitting given how riding on a bike appears in the lyrics too, and perhaps that dry production quality is designed to add a sense of wistfulness to the song too.

27. Speedy Ortiz – Tiger Tank. (amazoniTunes) It’s fitting that in a year when Polvo returned to the scene and former Helium frontwoman Mary Timony announced she’s in a new band called Ex Hex that Speedy Ortiz emerged with Major Arcana, a disc that sounds more like Helium than anything I’ve heard since that group broke up in 1998. The quartet Speedy Ortiz, like Helium formed from a college scene in Massachusetts, grew out of lead singer Sadie Dupuis’ former solo project under the same name, and she’s drawing heavily from noise-rock outfits like Helium, Polvo, Superchunk, and Pavement, with dissonant chords, moments of atonality, and lots of white space all over the record. I prefer “Tiger Tank” above all other songs on the record for its tighter feel and the abrupt stops that prevent the listener from ever feeling stable while listening to Dupuis and company hammer away at their guitars.

26. Said the Whale – I Love You. (amazoniTunes) The Canadian power-pop outfit hit #1 on their country’s alternative charts with this song, a sub-three-minute bit of pop sugar that might run you back to Teenage Fanclub, Sugar, or even Jellyfish, but mixing that with slightly obnoxious lyrics that the Orwells might approve of.

25. Jake Bugg – What Doesn’t Kill You. (amazoniTunes) Bugg was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize for his debut album, released in 2012, but dropped his sophomore album just weeks after losing the award to English-Irish singer/songerwiter James Blake, who couldn’t hold Bugg’s tuning fork. Bugg won’t even turn 20 until late February and is earning comparisons to a young Bob Dylan – with merit, given his lyrics (check out “Lightning Bolt” from his first album) and delivery, but Dylan never rocked out like this. Simon Cowell’s comment about Jake Bugg (“What’s that?”) wasn’t demeaning to Bugg, but embarrassing for Cowell given how high-profile Bugg already is in Europe, appearing at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremoy, and how talented he is at such a young age. Cowell only wishes someone half this good would show up on one of his reality shows. Bugg’s whole second album, Shangri La, is strong, including this song, “Slumville Sunrise,” “Me and You,” and “Messed Up Kids.”

24. Ceremonies – Land of Gathering. (amazoniTunes) Forget Haim; Ceremonies are the sibling act of the year, a trio of brothers from Los Angeles who marry explosive harmonies to rock and electronic elements that harken back to English alternative acts like the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen. Perhaps there will be more hype when Ceremonies releases a full-length album in 2014, but this song’s gigantic chorus and tribal drums should have earned them a bigger fraction of the hype Haim has received for lesser music.

23. Bastille – Pompeii. (amazoniTunes) This song, unlike many on this list, was a huge commercial success across the English-speaking world, reaching #2 in the UK, #1 on the American alternative chart, and just reaching #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 mainstream singles chart, already passing half a million in sales in the U.S. and still rising. It’s a peculiar subject for a hit song, a reflection on the final moments of a pair of lovers as Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of the song’s title, but it’s laden with so many perfectly-crafted vocal lines – how am I gonna be an optimist about this, indeed – that I’m not the least bit surprised to see it find a wider audience.

22. Autoheart – The Sailor Song. (amazoniTunes) I’m bending the rules again here, as “The Sailor Song” first appeared in 2009 as a one-off single, earning some airplay in the UK, but didn’t appear on an album until Autoheart released their full-length debut, Punch, in July of 2013. Also, I didn’t hear this song until the album came out, so there. I don’t go in much for pretty piano music, but “The Sailor Song” manages to move to a different rhythm, more like that of rolling waves from the vacillating piano line, with a compact earworm for its chorus that grabbed me on first listen.

21. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. (iTunesiTunes) The title track from their overlong October album, “Reflektor” matches what’s right and what’s wrong with the new disc. It also runs far too long, over seven and a half minutes, without enough ideas to fill the allotted space. But it also works off an undeniable hook, one that heralds the resurfacing of the band’s disco tendencies that were absent on The Suburbs, and addresses big, intriguing subjects in its lyrics, here about the nature of fame and isolation in modern society. They aimed high, but in many ways overshot the mark, with “Reflektor” one of the tracks where the positives outweighed the excess.

20. Smallpools – Dreaming. (amazoniTunes) As you move up the list you’ll probably notice a general (if inconsistent) increase in songs that feature big hooks – catchier, poppier, whatever you want to call it, these are songs that grabbed me immediately and never let go. Smallpools’ “Dreaming” did that, irritating me when I heard it on Sirius XM and couldn’t buy the mp3 right away because it hadn’t been released yet. There’s a major American New Wave element to this track, with lyrics that pretty well describe the “spy dreams” I often have (I have no idea why this is, as I’d be lousy at the job) in their setting and incoherence.

19. Royal Teeth – Wild. (amazoniTunes) Bending the rules one more time for this 2012 single release, which appeared as part of a full-length album in August that couldn’t measure up to the standard set by this gem. The plaintive, whingeing male lyric gets crushed by the stronger female line from Nora Patterson, even though all she ever says on her own is “I believe I can make you scream.” (I believe it too.) The backing music has a slight jungle/tropical feel to it, but with heavy reverb on the guitars to give the sense of a shower in a rain forest. It’s a little sad to say, but I doubt the band ever produces anything quite this good again.

18. San Cisco – Awkward. (amazoniTunes) The most annoyingly-catchy song of the year, at least on the positive side of the ledger (I still don’t care what the damn fox says), and with darkly comic lyrics to boot. You can add this quartet to the list of Australian groups making an impact on the American music scene this year, although I bent the rules a little here too since their debut album came out right around Thanksgiving of 2012. “Fred Astaire” is also worth checking out – it has the same sort of tight, jangly guitar riff and also employs a call-and-response vocal style, but slows it down for the chorus to give it that extra touch of complexity.

17. The Mowgli’s – San Francisco. (amazoniTunes) There’s no way you’re not singing along with this song, because you know you feel the love. Come on, come on. Let’s start it up.

16. CHVRCHES – Gun. (amazoniTunes) I’m running out of superlatives to describe Lauren Mayberry, so I’ll point out that this track, like “Lungs” and “Night Sky,” features her dancing between tough and vulnerable voices, including yet another threat to a current or former lover (“I will be a gun/and it’s you I’ll come for”). Given that Mayberry also wrote the editorial of the year, I’m pretty sure I won’t even send negative thoughts in her direction.

15. Foals – Inhaler. (amazoniTunes)I actually don’t care for most of Foals’ music, as it’s too lightweight and dance-oriented, but on “Inhaler” they went way out of their comfort zone and crafted a song with a well-defined groove that also borrows the heavy, grinding guitars of extreme metal for the chorus, resulting in one of the most innovative mainstream(-ish) songs of the year. If you thought “My Number” was too ephemeral, check out this track instead.

14. Drenge – Bloodsports. If “Gun Crazy” was the angry high-speed punk song, and “Backwaters” was the grunge-tinged menacing track (with Meat Puppets allusion), “Bloodsports” splits it right down the middle, trading some tempo for darkness without fully sacrificing either. It’s among the weaker tracks on the album lyrically, mostly because it has so few words in it, but the decision to eschew a chorus in favor of a huge guitar lick ends up the song’s greatest attribute.

13. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know? (amazoniTunes) This song feels subversive, like Alex Turner decided to take down the traditional rock ballad by crawling into its center and eviscerating it from within, but in the process created something far more authentic to the central conceit of one person’s uncertanity about the romantic feelings of another. “But have you got the guts/Been wonderin’ if your heart’s still open/and if so I wanna know what time it shuts” might be the lyric of the year for me, although Turner filled the whole album with pearls like that one.

12. The Boxer Rebellion – Diamonds. (amazoniTunes) I bought their album after hearing just this song, which turned out to be a slight mistake as nothing else on the disc measured up to this luxurious opener, which sounds like a song by The National but sung with a touch more enthusiasm. It amazes me how potent a single guitar line that has nine notes, eight of which are identical, can bem but that’s the riff that powers this song.

11. These New Puritans – Fragment Two. (amazoniTunes) I doubt it’s a coincidence that the most traditional song, at least by structure, on Field of Reeds is title a “fragment;” it felt to me like the most cohesive song on the record, not a subject in search of a verb. I wish the producer had turned the vocals up a little bit, but the way all elements are so understated – this could be the intro to the next season of PBS’s Masterpiece: Mystery – just gives the listener the challenge of putting all the pieces together on his own.

10. Beware of Darkness – Howl. (amazoniTunes) They look like the Black Crowes but sound more like Black Sabbath until singer Kyle Nicolaides’ high baritone enters the fray, followed by a bluesy (not blues) bridge to the head-banging Bonham-esque chorus, which brings us back to the massive opening riff that called Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore to mind. This was the best hard-rock or album-oriented rock song of the year for me, a track that brought something new to a subgenre that was kind of old and busted. The PA folks played this track between innings at the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco last August, which I appreciated greatly since we were also treated to a fair amount of top 40 pablum.

9. The Colourist – Little Games. (amazoniTunes) It’s too short; that’s my only complaint with this otherwise spotless gem, contrasting the sparse alt-pop verse with the verdant electronic chorus, throwing out hooks all over the place. The Colourist played in Philly with Naked and Famous when I was out of town on business earlier this fall, one show I am still very disappointed I missed. I liked “Pompeii” and “Dreaming,” similar songs further down this list, but for alt-pop tracks this year “Little Games” was my favorite.

8. Kid Astray – The Mess. (amazoniTunes) The video for this very offbeat track from a Norwegian quintet is beyond weird, almost to the point of being unwatchable, but that fits the song’s bizarre structure – leading with the bang-on-a-can chorus, dropping that for a funk/dance feel to the verse, back to the chorus, and so on until the bridge drops in out of nowhere as if from an entirely different song. How this works with three different motifs all mashed together is still a point of confusion for me, but it does work, maybe because you’ll spend the rest of the day singing “She will never/answer your calls, babe/just let it go now” to yourself after hearing it.

7. Savages – She Will. (amazoniTunes) One of the best opening riffs of the year starts off this track, with a slightly distorted, precise guitar line that also has a hollow sound to add a layer of isolation to Jehnny’s Beth’s lyrics about a search for or loss of identity, culminating in a cymbal-crashing chorus that sounds like it’s a wet saw ripping through tile. Punk was originally an outlet for feelings of anger and disaffection, but was quickly co-opted into something labels could sell (coughGreenDaycough) to the masses as fake-edgy garbage. Savages, whether you call them punk or post-punk, are direct descendants of that first generation, bringing raw outrage back to music that was built to hold it.

6. CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share. (amazoniTunes) The first CHVRCHES song I heard remains the best, with extra Lauren in it because they sampled her voice and replay it in the background, with some of her strongest lyrics and the little-girl-lost delivery in the final verse that is her stock in trade. They were on my watch list as far back as January and they delivered on every promise contained in this song.

5. Everything Everything – Cough Cough. (amazoniTunes) If you’re going balls-out, this is the way to do it – the lyrics, the harmonies, the falsettos, the drums, the keys, everything here is turned up to 11 and it’s the most stunning mess imaginable. “And that eureka moment hits you like a cop car” … I mean, there’s a metaphor we can all appreciate, right?

4. TV on the Radio – Mercy. (amazoniTunes) When these guys want to rock, they can churn out a gusher like no one else – it’s not their main style, but “Mercy,” like “Wolf Like Me,” will make you want to hit the open road and stand on the accelerator. It’s nice to hear Tunde Adebimpe’s vocals mixed more in front of the music, especially when he’s singing about “professional evil” and “seeing tons of people/looking lost and lethal,” which sounds a lot like your typical day in Manhattan. The song was a one-off single, like Arctic Monkeys’ 2012 hit “R U Mine?,” giving me hope that TV on the Radio will produce their own AM in 2014.

3. Arctic Monkeys – Arabella. (amazoniTunes) Speaking of the Monkeys, this song, borrowing from Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” as it does, grabs you by the throat from the beginning and only lets go after your life has flashed before your eyes. The images are strong, as is the syncopation, but it’s that massive guitar riff – and Turner’s rapid-fire singing on top of it – that makes you go back for more, and more, and more. Plus he mentions Mexican Coke in the lyrics, because he’s just the coolest.

2. New Politics – Harlem. (amazoniTunes) I’ll admit to a bit of bias here, as my daughter also adores this song and we have been singing it together in the car for months. It’s still a great song, a little twisted but almost entirely upbeat, with some fun if not entirely logical imagery and a chorus worth shouting at the top of your lungs with your seven-year-old.

1. Little Green Cars – Harper Lee. (amazoniTunes) The best song of 2013 came from an Irish folk-rock act I’d never heard before this year, and who didn’t place another song on or that close to this list. It’s an incredible track, like sticking the Mamas and the Papas in a time machine and spitting them out in 2013 so that the times have changed but their reliance on soaring coed harmonies hadn’t. Harper Lee herself just gets a passing mention in one of the funnier similes you’ll hear in any song, and the whole set of images in the outro paints such a bleak yet ridiculous picture that you can’t help but laugh. This deserved far more attention in the U.S. than it got, but I could say that for half the songs on this list. It’s my pick for song of the year.


  1. No Jason Isbell?

  2. Very cool. I enjoy reading lists that document personal journey’s in music over attempts to mirror the critical consensus of good music. Harlem and Wild were two of my favorite songs as well. I’m surprised you didn’t connect with the Deafheaven record but liked Inhaler. I totally disagree that Foals’ songs are “lightweight”. Spanish Sahara, Miami, The French Open, Electric Bloom, Late Night, etc are all bangers and they are relentless in concert. I chuckled trying to understand how you were bored by Local Natives’ Hummingbird but liked the Volcano Choir, which I’d agree is more subdued than the former. Just my thoughts. This list gave me a lot of think about so thanks for sharing it.

    I’d recommend listening to Frightened Rabbit. The writing is top-notch.

  3. Nice list. Shocked to see The National on there but really enjoy their latest album. Liked to see both Volcano Choir and Local Natives make the list.

    I’m with Wes (just above), Jason Isbell put out one of my favorite albums this year. FANTASTIC album.

    One album I think you’d really enjoy is Typhoon’s “White Lighter”. Excellent.

  4. Surprised to see no James Blake–Retrograde is one of my favorite songs of the year, even though I found the album as a whole to be underwhelming.

    Any thoughts on this year’s Mercury Prize winner, Keith?

  5. Seriously though no Har Mar Superstar? Half of bye bye 17 would make my top 100 list.

  6. Hoped Cayucas “Will the Thrill” would make it just because of the brief Will Clark reference. Top song vaguely mentioning baseball of the year?

  7. +1 on Har Mar Superstar, also check out San Fermin’s “Sonsick”

  8. Not sure if you meant it this way, but that wasn’t Superchunk’s comeback album. They released Majesty Shredding in 2010 and it is fantastic.

  9. Since everyone is casting a vote, let me throw out “Talon of the Hawk” from The Front Bottoms.

    One of those rare albums I’ve continued to come back to over the past 6 months.

  10. Keith, I’m interested in your take on metal. Your list is largely devoid of some of the more popular metal acts (and I know that popular != good). I know of this can be chalked up to personal preference as you mentioned in your intro, but you made a few comments about complexity which got me thinking.

    I always tell people that it is my belief that if Mozart and other great classical greats were alive today, they’d write metal songs. I know they were composers rather than musicians, but my point is the music is the most similar. They wrote complex melodies that in their best form resolved like a mathematical equation.

    I’m wondering if you’ve checked out acts such as Avenged Sevenfold or Slash this year. They both had new albums and imo some of the songs are amazing. Corey Taylor writes lyrics with depth and his new Stone Sour album has a lot of quality.

    I’d also love your opinion on punk acts like Social Distortion and Offspring. You seem to skew more towards indie rock, so was wondering how far you drift towards the heavier/faster stuff.

  11. Hey Keith, have you listened to Janelle Monae at all? Thought that was one of the best albums of the year with lots of great individual songs

  12. Hey Keith,

    Keegan DeWitt–Wild Cub frontman and songwriter–also has produced several wonderful film scores for some excellent indie/art house films.

    You might want to check out COLD WEATHER a 2011 IFC Films release he scored. Not sure if it’d be up your alley but it does include some loving sherlock holmes reference, as well a few to baseball, and Carcasssonne.

    The filmmakers are are big baseball fans I believe, I recall hearing them a few times on the old Up and In Podcast with Kevin and Jason.

  13. Definitely second Typhoon — all of their stuff is great, and I think it lands solidly on the Of Monsters and Men side of the neo-folk movement that you seem to prefer. “Morton’s Fork” seems to be the “single” I guess, but I think “Dreams of Cannibalism” and “Hunger and Thirst” are unstoppable. 8-WAR songs, for sure.

    And if it’s power pop you’re into, you have to listen to “Go” by Valley Lodge, off the Use Your Weapons album. (youtube; also available on Spotify) It’s the song I can’t stop listening to from this year.

    (And I’m not sure if you’re pro- or anti- Tegan and Sara, but this year’s album Heartthrob seems like it would be too your liking, in the same neighborhood as CHVRCHES and, maybe less so, Phoenix. “Closer” might be my song of the year.)

  14. So… who’s gonna step up and make the Spotify playlist like last year?

    I get why some people are out on DaftPunk. I’ve largely been for much of their career. But I thought RAM was mind-blowing and enjoyed it far more than I expected.

    I also didn’t see anything from Kanye’s “Yeezus”. It didn’t even get a mention. Most of the writing I’ve seen you done on hip hop focused on much earlier stuff. Are you not a fan of Kanye? Not a fan of the album? Didn’t hear it? I didn’t love it as I much prefer the louder and bigger sounds of MBDTF, but know it got a ton of huge critical acclaim.

  15. First off, thank you for the first Yeezus-free top 100 of the year, Keith.

    Have you listened to Dan Croll? He’s a personal favorite of mine that may fit your musical interests.

  16. Keith- love your work and a big fan of your musical tastes. Glad to see Pompeii making the list, but would strongly recommend more off of their album “Bad Blood” – the songs “Bad Blood” and “Flaws” remain two of my favorites.

    Kazzy- Spotify list was made by Keith himself, read the whole post and you’ll see it’s at the top.

  17. Thanks, Ted. Totally missed that.

  18. Saw someone offer you an “alternative” view on Kanye in Klawchat and thought I’d expand…

    For so long, mainstream rap has been about machismo and bravado. Kanye tossed that aside when he was willing to rap about his fears, insecurities, and weaknesses as a man. You hear that and are like, “Whaaaaaaat?” That just doesn’t exist in the rap game. But he is willing to explore complex issues in a way no one has really done mainstream since probably 2pac (not that his rapping is anywhere close to that level). Yet he still has an enourmous ego which — given his musical abilities — isn’t unreasonable. His rap skills can be wanting but he has always seen himself as more Michael Jackson than Rakim, though judging him by the latter’s standards are unfair. His ability to make music is what stands out: it is why everyone wants to work with him and why his house is littered with Grammys. I personally didn’t love Yeezus because it was less about music and more about rap… With heavily stripped down, minimalist beats and his best rapping to date. I put more emphasis on the music than the rhyme, often seeing the voice as more of an instrument than a lyric delivery system. But critics saw it as a huge and positive evolution for him. None of this means you have to like him, but might offer you a different lense to view/hear/judge him.

    As for eliter rappers, Kendrick Lamar is easily the best in the game right now and definitely worth checkig out if you haven’t already.

  19. Sorry to flood your comments for a second time, but just wanted to thank you for the Spotify playist (what, no Rdio?). I’ve been listening through and making my own subset of the ones I like, and the number’s getting pretty big.

    If you like Fitz & The Tantrums, have you tried JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound? (“Rouse Yourself” on youtube) They’re even touring together it seems.

  20. How do you have time to keep up with new music (and new games)?
    When I turned 25, I realized it was getting tougher and tougher, considering I still loved the 70s music and still wanted to listen to the new stuff. And by 35, I basically gave up, save small pockets where I was doing a lot of driving and would listen to alt radio.


  1. […] Top 100 songs of 2013. – Keith Law folks liked that stuff. I didn't. Some songs that were among the last ones I cut from my list, in no particular order, looking just at artists that didn't make it: Birds of Tokyo – “Lanterns;” Midlake – “Antiphon;” Harrison Hudson – “Curious;” …. so I'm almost embarrassed to include “Female Robbery” even though it is in every respect a better song: tighter, creepier, with more soul and far stronger lyrics, expressing a deep paranoia about … um, alien abductions, maybe. […]