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The 50 Best Songs of 2013

December 4, 2013  |  10:31am
The 50 Best Songs of 2013
30. Cayucas – “High School Lover”
Cayucas provided us with a perfect California pop album to take us back to our teenage years with their debut, Bigfoot. One of the standouts, “High School Lover,” is an infectious pop track that will make you want to drop everything and head out to Cali. It follows a tale of friend-zoning and heartache between frontman Zach Yudin and some girl named Elizabeth. Think of it as a more enjoyable way to reminisce about that girl (or boy) from high school that you were always too scared to express your true feelings to.—Eric Gossett

29. Jason Isbell – “Cover Me Up”
Evoking the sparest wafts of “Norwegian Woods,” Jason tumbles into a bed of strummed acoustic guitar, swirls of acrid slide and the ragged tenor of a man battered but still standing. “Cover Me Up” is about being broken—but willing, saved, but still dizzy from hitting bottom—and its witness is an artist at wits end finding refuge. “Girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leaving this room/Til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom…” he sings, exhausted, found and aware. This isn’t sexual healing, but surrender into a greater whole—and for those seeking salvation, faith in living or love worth fighting for, the high plains yearning is a prayer to embrace.—Holly Gleason

28. The Lone Bellow – “You Never Need Nobody”
Few new acts emerged in 2013 that are as uniquely soulful as Brooklyn’s The Lone Bellow. “You Never Need Nobody” begins simply but beautifully, an ode to the unrequited with tight harmonies over piano. But what starts out as controlled pining unfurls suddenly and desperately into an ever-more-insistent plea, expansive gospel-style harmonies hitting you unexpectedly — an insistent “please, please” that never stops being affecting. The Lone Bellow demands our attention and our affection, and they’ve got both.—Casey Daline

27. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
Kurt Vile’s music seems effortless, as the former War On Drugs frontman coos his words over flanged guitar strums. He may be the coolest cat to come out of Philadelphia since Wilt Chamberlain. Wakin On A Pretty Daze opens with a nine-and-a-half minute psychedelic jam that shows there’s a love of classic rock here, but no fear of what comes next.—Josh Jackson

26. Phoenix – “Entertainment”
“Entertainment” was Phoenix’s glorious return to music following the release of its breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, in 2009. Serving as the opening track for Bankrupt, “Entertainment” kicks off the album with a bang. Beginning with a staccato synth riff, the rest of the song is followed by broad, powerful harmonies. It’s an uplifting track that rises from start to finish, making it easily one of the best and most fun tracks on the album.—Eric Gossett

25. Jim James – “A New Life”
With Regions of Light and Sounds of God, the central Jim James fingerprint is his voice. It permeates every track on the record, and it’s just as angelic and powerful as ever on “A New Life.” Sonically speaking, the album draws more from the down-tempo grooves of James’ oeuvre rather than the bombastic stadium rock often associated with his work with My Morning Jacket.—Wyndham Wyeth

24. Jay Z – “Holy Grail” (Feat. Justin Timberlake)
Lyrically, it’s pretty fitting to have Justin Timberlake and and Jay-Z lamenting the drawbacks of fame, but the now that the track has dominated the airwaves with its earwormy chorus and witty rhymes, it’s just as easy to sing along—and no matter how many times you listen to the track or maybe even try to whine out the Timberlake hook yourself, it’s probably not going anywhere.—Dacey Orr

23. Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
“Hold On, We’re Going Home” is Drake’s best song; while “Take Care” and “Make Me Proud” and “HYFR” are maybe on-par, those past triumphs belong to Rihanna (and Jamie xx), Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. This one belongs entirely to the little well-connected actor that could, and his jaw-droppingly plainspoken and irresistible plea for “your hot love and emotion.” Or does it? Play the guessing game all day where the immaculate, liquid-sauna production is stolen from: Luther Vandross meets Toto?—Dan Weiss

22. Disclosure – “Latch”
Disclosure released one of the best electronic/house albums of 2013 with their debut LP Settle. The English duo of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence gave fans a refreshing dance record to make some noise in the over-saturated market of house DJs and electronic producers. With fiercely catchy melodies and euphoric hooks, Settle standout “Latch” is easily one of the strongest tracks on the album. The track features British singer/songwriter Sam Smith crooning to the beat of Disclosure’s calming, serene composition: “Now I got you in my space / I won’t let go of you (never) / Got you shackled in my embrace, I’m latching on to you.”—Eric Gossett

21. Josh Ritter – “New Lover”
In the wake of a heart-wrenching divorce, Josh Ritter has given us one of the best kiss-off songs of all time. The fact that he’s trying to forgive the woman who broke his heart makes the twist at the end all the more potent. “I hope you’ve got a lover now, hope you’ve got somebody who / Can give you what you need like I couldn’t seem to do / But if you’re sad and you are lonesome and you’ve got nobody true / I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy too.”—Josh Jackson

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