Top 50 Tracks of 2013 (10-01)

top-50-tracks-of-2013-10-0110. Kanye West “Blood on the Leaves”
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The beauty of “Blood On The Leaves” starts off with Kanye’s haunting sampling of “Strange Fruit,” which, on the first listen, makes sense following shortly after “New Slaves.” Slowly, you begin to realize the difference between the songs; “Blood On The Leaves” is about a failed relationship, but before you have time to think about the potential bathos of combining the two themes, Kanye says, “Let’s get on with it” and TNGHT’s beat drops in to make you get out of your chair. Now you are dancing to “Strange Fruit,” or to the beat, or to the song itself, and you want to run naked down the lobby because nothing is making any sense to you. This song is about that feeling, and about the anxiety of expected fatherhood (“all that cocaine on the table you can’t snort that”), and about doubt and regret, and when it is sung by a man who has been proclaiming himself God for half of the album, it all becomes beautifully affecting. – Dragos Nica

09. Arctic Monkeys “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”
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Arctic Monkeys asked some great questions this year: “R U Mine?” “Do I Wanna Know?” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” The last question being the longest and the most intriguing. Who is calling who? How often are they calling? What do they want when they call? All is revealed over a surprisingly sexy beat and grooving bassline, which is really the way all questions should be answered. – Adam Morgan

08. Kanye West “Bound 2”

On an album that is endlessly serious and tightly wound, “Bound 2” comes through at the end like a breath of fresh, delightfully messy air. Soulful, playful, and loose, “Bound 2” is Kanye at his most fun and effortless. It’s a strange Kanye-type of fun that is still intricate and still takes itself extremely seriously. Sure, the video may have briefly hogged the attention away from the song, but I still can’t think of a better way to cap off one of the year’s boldest, most triumphant records. – Mark Steinbach

07. Vampire Weekend “Step”

“Every time I see you in the world/you always step to my girl.” These lyrics were the hook from YZ’s “Whos’s That Girl”. Vampire Weekend thanked YZ in the liner notes for borrowing his words to open the track “Step”. When Ezra Koenig begins the first verse with “Back, back, back” he is giving a shout out to Souls of Mischief and their song “Step to My Girl” which interestingly enough does sample YZ’s original hook, as well. Lyrically, this song is hip hop with its clever word and rhyme play. Musically, it’s part chamber music with its take on “Pachebel’s Canon”, part waltz with its drums, part 70’s soft rock with its melodic influence from Bread’s “Aubrey” on the chorus. Properly showing that all categories of music have value and can come together “Step” is a sophisticated piece that proves this band isn’t fronting. They are properly educated in the ways of music and have put together a well-blended musical style cocktail that is quietly one of the top tracks of 2013. – Adam Grabowski

06. Janelle Monae “Dance Apocalyptic”
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Last year, Juicy J entered the phrase “bandz a make her dance” into the American lexicon. By adding one simple word, Janelle Monae took the misogynistic phrase and made it her own. “Dance Apocalyptic” is part of Monae’s concept record The Electric Lady so it is hard to understand the future meets end of the world lyrics out of context. What is not hard to understand is the shuffling gospel beat accompanied by acoustic guitar strumming and Monae’s exquisite voice cementing her as the new leader of neo-soul. – Adam Morgan

05. Tegan and Sara “Closer”
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Tegan and Sara‘s first foray into synth pop was a doozy. From the epic pop opening to the uplifting synth-filled chorus, “Closer” almost seemed too polished for indie pop sisters. Were they sellouts? Maybe a little but no one can begrudge them for writing one of the first truly anthemic songs of 2013. – Adam Morgan

04. Haim “The Wire”
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So, let me get this straight: Haim consists of three sisters who all have strong, unique voices, and they write absolutely infectious pop songs? No wonder there’s been backlash. “The Wire,” and Haim as unit have just about everything working in their favor, and so it’s apparently easiest to lob random, vaguely sexist criticism. The reality is that “The Wire” manages to seem completely current and new while building off of a much older, classic sound. In the end, “The Wire” is one of the most convincing showcases by a new band in recent memory. – Mark Steinbach

03. Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know?”

Arctic Monkeys take us along the fine line between crush and obsession in this edgy track. This song does double duty: the pounding drums make this song work as well played in an arena as it does played in a lonely bedroom when you’re pining away. The lyrics capture all the feelings of drunk creeping your crush yet makes it sound so seductive with low guitar and pulsing percussion. – Colleen Walsh-Jervis

02. Lorde “Royals”
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I first heard “Royals” when my roommate stumbled across Lorde’s Love Club EP before it was getting a lot of airplay. My roommate had the biggest speakers in our house and played it on loop for a solid two weeks straight. And I was totally okay with that. In one fell swoop, Lorde thoughtfully critiques the culture of excess generally associated with pop/rap music and does so in such a catchy and simplistic way. “Royals” drew some criticism by some agenda driven bloggers for alleged racism, which is patently wrong. And, if you can make an awesome song and ruffle some feathers across the internet, I am all for it. Pop music is overwhelmingly superficial and it is refreshing to have Lorde, a 17 year old New Zealand girl, give us and the music chart/airplay czars the kick in the ass we desperately needed. With “Royals” Lorde requests to be our ruler, and I for one, am a loyal subject. Long live Lorde! – Andrew Garrison

01. Daft Punk “Get Lucky”

Like the legend of the phoenix…

Does any line appropriately summarize a band’s year quite like “Get Lucky”‘s opening?

With no real “hits” since 2000’s “One More Time,” Daft Punk seemed to have settled into peeking their head of obscurity every once and a while for a live album or soundtrack but their best music making days seemed behind them. Then with no accord, a commercial appeared on Saturday Night Live. It was fifteen seconds of music with the words Daft Punk. For a band formed in the early 90s, the tactic played right into the modern viral culture. Twitter was abuzz. With questions of “what was that?” “will we see that again?” “are Daft Punk back?” The answer was a resounding yes. With 15 seconds of Nile Rodgers’ classic disco guitar intro from “Get Lucky”, Daft Punk had made a monstrous comeback and no one even knew all of what the comeback would entail.

The legend only grew from there with “Get Lucky” becoming the band’s best selling single to date. While sales don’t always equate the greatness of a record, in this instance it did. Daft Punk’s tour du force of light disco mixed with Pharrell’s smooth lyrics about staying up late to find sex was the hit of the year and perhaps the hit of Daft Punk’s career. – Adam Morgan

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