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The 50 Best Songs of 2013

December 4, 2013  |  10:31am
The 50 Best Songs of 2013

Selecting our favorite songs of the year wasn’t a hard task just because of the number of votes we sorted through. Yes, the tallies for 453 different songs between 19 Paste writers and editors made it hard to trim this list down. But notably, 2013 has been a great year for music—especially the single. Just look at how we foamed at the mouth for clips of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and then debated their legitimacy when the actual single leaked. Or take note of how a few newcomers like Haim and Lorde covered the worldwide quota for sugary hooks alone.

Below, we’ve listed our 50 favorite songs of the year. Without a doubt, we didn’t get everyone’s favorite, so please share your own in the comment section below.

50. The Dismemberment Plan – “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer”
When The Dismemberment Plan returned with its first album in over a decade, the band stepped back with all the wry charm it was known for. Lyrically Uncanney Valley’s “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer” saw the band right at home, spinning up a touching reflection on the early loss of a father. But what sets Uncanney Valley aside from earlier Plan releases was its musical directness, which sees the band trading off-kilter time signatures and hot-wired synths for straightforward rhythms and slide guitar. Sure, it’s not immediately The Plan we knew from the ‘90s, but hopefully you’ve changed a bit since then, too.—Tyler Kane

49. Savages – “She Will”
Opening with a ferocious clatter of drums and eerie guitar hooks, Savages’ “She Will” is one of the more electrifying cuts from their commanding debut, Silence Yourself. The foursome delivers a primal tribute to female empowerment that drives on with a no-holds-barred intensity. Punctuated by singer Jehnny Beth’s snarls about a woman who will “choose to ignite” and “forget her pain,” it’s a powerful anthemic track which challenges expectations of women and pushes them to reclaim their sexuality. —Lori Keong

48. Polica – “Tift” (Feat. Justin Vernon)
The first single off the Minnesota synth-pop’s second LP features, but is not defined by, Justin Vernon of Gayngs (and Bon Iver). Vernon’s falsetto contests against and co-mingles with front lady Channy Leaneagh’s warm soprano and as the tension in the song rises, they wail together, “Go ahead and play for keeps.” It’s a funk-like dirge—at once violently antagonistic and then suddenly soothing—detailing how woman’s worst enemy can be herself.—Hilary Saunders

47. Deerhunter – “Monomania”
In the land of countless bland late-night performances, Bradford Cox and co.’s perfect Fallon performance last April stuck out like a sore—er, bandaged thumb. Not only did the members of Deerhunter make an exceptional appearance, they were letting the world in on the title track of their new album, Monomania, just a month’s before its release. And from that performance you could correctly assume a few things: Deerhunter’s return would be grittier and more fierce than we saw them last, and the full-length would obviously satisfy.—Tyler Kane

46. Laura Marling – “Master Hunter”
This single from Laura Marling’s fourth album Once I Was an Eagle is driven by powerful guitar and a repetitive proclamation: “I am a master hunter”. And while it’s a powerfully crafted tune, the song also shows Marling taking heavy steps away from a genre in which critics have pigeonholed her for much of her career.—Stephanie Fang

45. Ashley Monroe – “Two Weeks Late”
One of the best country songs of the year portrays Monroe’s honky tonk blues as some kind of Nashville Liz Lemon. She’s forced to admit everyone was right about the man who didn’t give her a ring, and by the way, her landlord needs that late rent and oh, her mom asks, have you put on weight? “What a damn cliché,” she sighs. Yet in her clever hands and tensile voice, it’s anything but.-Dan Weiss

44. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – “One”
There’s a lot to like about arty Canadian two-piece Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, even without hearing a single note. The group’s core members—vocalist Ruby Kato Attwood and drummer Alaska B—are striking, and their vision for this project is refreshingly laser-focused: The kabuki face paint, costumes, elaborate stage shows and an ancestral narrative. UZU’s first single, “One,” is the record’s heaviest track, with its tribal vocals and a heavy bass riff that throbs throughout. It’s the song that best represents the band’s sound and concept.—Mark Lore

43. Waxahatchee – “Swan Dive”
This was a banner year for breakout artist Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield). After playing in several other projects (P.S. Elliot, The Ackleys) with her twin sister Allison, the two parted ways to pursue separate endeavors. Both are now signed to U.K.-based Wichita Recordings, Katie with Waxahatchee and Allison with Swearin’. It’s hard to pick one track off Katie’s major debut Cerulean Salt that stands out among the others. A deeper cut, “Swan Dive” serves as a favorite on the album, highlighting the best parts of Katie’s matured songwriting.—Eric Gossett

42. Robin Thicke – “Blurred Lines”
“Blurred Lines” might not have been your favorite song this year, and Robin Thicke might not be your favorite guy, but you know when you hear that weird “woo!” on the speakers, you’re “woo”ing right along with it. With a video just shy of 225 million views and inspiring almost as many parodies, angry think-pieces and listicles, Thicke completely saturated popular culture in 2013. Say what you will about Dr. Seaver Jr (er…Thicke) — “Blurred Lines” is a standout pop track. And when this song comes on the radio, we’re singing.—Casey Daline

41. PJ Harvey – “Shaker Aamer”
Somehow buried in the morass was PJ Harvey’s finest song in 13 years, a sincere and plainspoken protest song the way they should be done. With “Shaker Aamer,” Harvey humanizes the title Guantanamo prisoner (“your friend Shaker”), his horrifying conditions (“cannot sleep or stay awake,” “Four months, hunger strike/ Am I dead or am I alive”) and explaining the predicament (“In camp five, 11 years, never charged, six years clear”). It’s impossible for anyone who hears and registers this song to not be more informed about an ongoing horror. And the brilliant chord changes make it worth passing on.-Dan Weiss

40. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – “Jubilee Street”
At the center of Push the Sky Away lies “Jubilee Street,” a narrative track reflecting on hypocrisy and moral ambiguity. We go through hardship and emotional drain, but just as the track drags us into somewhere dark and inescapable, Cave, buoyed by the music, finds himself caught in a transformation into something “glowing” and “flying,” as if Nelson Algren morphed into Flannery O’Connor. The music brightens and spiral inverts, pointing up to something more.—Justin Cober-Lake

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