The 25 Best Songs of 2013 (So Far)

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The 25 Best Songs of 2013 (So Far)

With a quarter of the year in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to take that first look at the best songs of 2013 released so far. With some passionate lobbying from the rest of the Paste staff, I’ve put together a playlist of 25 of my favorites. I was surprised to see how many brand new acts made my list. It’s been a great year for new artists.

Not all these albums are out yet, but the singles are available online. This is by no means comprehensive—there’s plenty I haven’t yet heard—and it’s simply based on my personal tastes. Please add your picks in the comments section, and hopefully we’ll all discover a few new favorites.

25. Telekinesis – “Ghosts and Creatures”
From the album Dormarion
I’m not sure that Dormarion is the album that sees Telekinesis finally get their due, but the Doves-like choruses that sound like choirs on “Ghosts and Creatures” should certainly help.

24. Foals – “Inhaler”
From the album Holy Fire
I love the pounding low end on this song and the way it anchors the falsetto vocals of Foals’ frontman Yannis Philippakes. Who else is mining the the particular caverns of post-punk where The Cult found its gold?

23. Young Summer – “Fever Dream”
I never know what to expect from Nashville’s Trent Dabbs. His last project, Sugar The Hi-Lows recalled early-’60s pop and R&B. Now, he’s collaborated with Washington, D.C., singer Bobbie Allen (aka Young Summer) on an electropop gem that sounds more like Florence The Machine.

22. Holly Williams – “Drinkin’”
Every so often I’m reminded just how good country music can be—and then depressed remembering how unlikely it’ll be for country radio to actually play it.

21. Frightened Rabbit – “Late March, Death March”
From the album Pedestrian Verse
Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit might be best known for emotionally climactic ballads that work well soundtracking equally emotionally climactic scenes in movies and film. But on Pedestrian Verse, they cut loose on tracks like “Holy” and “Late March, Death March,” the latter of which sounds downright joyful despite Scott Hutchison’s characteristically miserable lyrics.

20. Caveman – “In the City”
From the album Caveman
Music doesn’t get much dreamier than “In the City” on the brand new spaced-out, self-titled album from New York five-piece Caveman.

19. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
From the album Old Yellow Moon
Two legends of Americana are reunited on this lovely duets record. The harmonies on “Bluebird Wine” are appropriately intoxicating. Plus, is that a jawharp?

18. CHVRCHES – “Recover”
From the album Recover EP
Lauren Mayberry has the voice of an ‘80s pop star, but the Scottish electropop band will resonate with fans of acts like Robyn or even Grimes—catchy vocals over layers of synth.

17. Great Peacock – “Take Me to the Mountain”
From the Great Peacock EP
The Nashville duo of Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd play rootsy rock, kind of like Ryan Adams when he’s not bored. But the giant swelling chorus and bridge of “Take Me to the Mountain” will also resonate with fans of bands like Dawes and Fanfarlo.

16. Local Natives – “Ceilings”
From the album Hummingbird
Local Natives’ polyrhythms take a back seat to Taylor Rice’s happily meandering vocal melodies on this track from the Silver Lake, Calif. band’s sophomore release. It was a tough call between this and the more upbeat “Wooly Mammoth,” though.

15. Mikal Cronin – “Weight”
It seems like forever that I’ve been tempted to trot out the “Beatle-esque” cliché to describe a band, and the bouncy melodies here are above such a tired trope. But this song from San Francisco singer/songwriter Mikal Cronin—who’s yet to release his Merge Records debut—is pretty fab.

14. Max Frost – “White Lies”
This genre-blending single release from Austin, Texas’ Max Frost plays like a jolt of energy. Soulful vocals float atop a “Hey Ya” kind of groove.

13. Haim – “Falling”
From the album Haim
If we’re going to have a do-over on the 1980s, the Haim sisters Este, Danielle and Alana are among those adding something constructive to the synth-pop of yore, including a very 2013 groove and gigantic hooks. Nü-New Wave?

With a quarter of the year in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to take that first look at the best songs of 2013 released so far. With some passionate lobbying from the rest of the Paste staff, I’ve put together a playlist of 25 of my favorites. I was surprised to see how many brand new acts made my list. It’s been a great year for new artists.

Not all these albums are out yet, but the singles are available online. This is by no means comprehensive—there’s plenty I haven’t yet heard—and it’s simply based on my personal tastes. Please add your picks in the comments section, and hopefully we’ll all discover a few new favorites.

12. Rhye – “Open”
From the album Woman
The half-Canadian, half-Danish, L.A.-based duo Rhye remind us that soft-and-sweet love songs will always have their place, especially when they make us feel this good.

11. Charles Bradley – “Confusion!”
From the album Victim of Love
If you’ve never seen Charles Bradley live, go ahead and write that down on your bucket list. This soulful, psychedelic track off the sexagenarian’s sophomore release has become a central part of that show.

10. The Lone Bellow – “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold”
From the album The Lone Bellow
Three Brooklyn friends and neighbors—Zachary Williams, Kanene Doheney Pipkin and Brian Elmquist—sing lovely country harmonies over driving folk rock in this epic opening track from the band’s self-titled debut.

9. Yo La Tengo – “Ohm”
From the album Fade
Yo La Tengo  have earned their place as elder statesmen and stateswoman of the indie rock scene, following their own muse for almost three decades. The music has never stopped evolving and “Ohm,” the lead track off their latest album “Fade” is as good as anything in their impressive (and massive) catalog with its crunchy wall of guitars.

8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
From the album Mosquito
This may be the grooviest song the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have ever recorded and the style fits Karen O.’s vocals wonderfully, backing them up with a full-on gospel choir.

7. Jim James – “Of The Mother Again”
From the album Regions of Light and Sound of God
Jim James  has finally released a collection of songs under his proper name, and it’s a cut above anything he did as Yim Yames, particularly this track with a comfortable groove, a tasty guitar riff and, of course, James’ trademark reverb-drenched vocals.

6. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “From the Sun”
From the album II
The enigmatic band released a second album of trippy lo-fi rock, this time on Jagjaguwar, and its laid-back lead track just feels so good.

5. Foxygen – “On Blue Mountain”
From the album The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peach & Magic
Foxygen’s The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peach & Magic is the best Rolling Stones album since Some Girls. That was 35 years ago if you’re keeping score. Lead singer Sam France may have inherited the temperament of ‘70s rock stars as well as their theatrics on stage, but this Richard Swift-produced album is special from beginning to end.

4. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)”
From the album We the Common
Thao has given us one of the catchiest songs of the year. I’m a little surprised that music supervisors haven’t already put this in a half-dozen commercials and romantic comedies. Enjoy it without the accompanying car-driving-through-the-countryside or getting-over-the-boyfriend montages while you can.

3. Leagues – “Spotlight”
From the album Leauges
The new project from Thad Cockrell and friends is as infectious as anything released this year thanks to tasty guitar licks from Tyler Burkum (lead guitarist for Audio Adrenaline) and Cockrell’s rock-star falsetto. This should be a hit at radio.

2. Josh Ritter – “New Lover”
From the album The Beast in its Tracks
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.”

1. Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula”
From the album Muchacho
There’s no true chorus in Phosphorescent’s “Song For Zula,” but every verse has the effect of one. Matthew Houck has created a masterwork with swelling strings, wide-open atmospherics, an echoing bass line and lyrics that beg to be unpacked. It’s a song of heartbreak from the perspective on someone trying to steel themselves from opening themselves back up to the hurt. He sings: “Some say love is a burning thing / That it makes a fiery ring / All that I know love a caging thing / Just a killer come to call from some awful dream.” Like the best songs of lost love, there’s beauty in the brokenness.

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