Top 50 Tracks of 2013 (20-11)

top-50-tracks-of-2013-20-11 copy20. Little Daylight “Overdose”
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2013 seemed to be the year of female synthpop bands. Haerts, CHVRCHES, Polly Scattergood all came out to various levels of accord. None thrilled Surviving the Golden Age writers quite like Little Daylight. The Brooklyn three pieces debut single, “Overdose” showed a clear direction, an understanding of pathos, and a knack for pop songwriting. The real reason it is on the countdown is because its just so damn catchy. – Adam Morgan

19. Disclosure “White Noise”
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This summer, on my ordinary commute to my ordinary job, “White Noise” was my soundtrack — and my vain attempt to make things slightly less ordinary. The grime of the subway didn’t suddenly transform into a dance club upon pressing play, but one still shouldn’t understate the power of Disclosure‘s beats on this track. From the sinister vocal samples at the beginning to the propulsive crescendo, “White Noise” completely transcends the reductive label of dance music, even if it might not even try to. – Mark Steinbach

18. Daft Punk “Lose Yourself to Dance”
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I’ll never forget when I discovered “Lose Yourself to Dance” was the best song on Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories. I had already been drawn to the layered handclaps and Nile Rodgers’ guitar playing, so much so that that is all I focused on. Then one listen, the multilayered vocoder vocals hit me. Halfway through the song, Daft Punk sneakily starts layering autotuned vocal upon vocal in waves and it feels like watching a flower open up. Each layer is beautiful and exciting until it opens up to reveal its entire glorious form. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is what Random Access Memories is all about. – Adam Morgan

17. Pusha T “Nosetalgia”
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“Nosetalgia” came out too late in the year; there wasn’t enough time to let the genius of it settle in before My Name Is My Name dropped and the single appeared to get watered down by some let-down songs on the record. Kanye and Nottz are credited with the production, and the beat is as nasty as it needs to be for Pusha to do what he does best: rap about “25 years of selling Johnson & Johnson.” Kendrick provides the more nostalgic verse, rapping about his father’s use of cocaine and the effect it had on him growing up; somehow, in a year where rap’s competitiveness was deeply affected by Kendrick’s “Control” verse, there haven’t been many discussions about which verse on “Nosetalgia” is the better one. There shouldn’t be. They are both perfect. – Dragos Nica

16. Chance The Rapper featuring Childish Gambino “Favorite Song”
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Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino’s aptly named “Favorite Song” is an upbeat, fast and fun jam. With a super catchy hook and strong, yet artfully done beat makes for a great listening experience. In terms of verses, both of Chance’s are pretty good, and I love his nearly adolescent vibe. Gambino really does steal the show at the end of the song with remarkable flow and signature punny rhymes. One of my personal favorite lines is Gambino’s line “Blast this shit in Abercrombie when your work is finished/ Your mom won’t play it in the car cause its got cursing in it.” “Favorite Song” a strong showing for the young Chicago MC with a promising future, and was my jam for a substantial portion of 2013. – Andrew Garrison

15. Vampire Weekend “Diane Young”
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I’m not a particularly big fan of puns, but this one works because it happens to thread the needle in terms of subtlety. The jolting rockabilly guitars and adventurous vocal modulation are delightfully distracting enough that you barely notice at first the message being delivered. But then you start to pick up on lines like, “Irish and proud baby, naturally/but you’ve got the luck of a Kennedy.” At that point it’s hard not to feel a little grim. But there’s a time to live life in self-defense and there’s a time to go torch a Saab. Now is the latter. – Grady O’Brien

14. Kanye West “Black Skinhead”

Kanye West’s self-righteous Yeezus was destined to make noise. With his guerilla campaign release of “Black Skinhead”, the first single from the album, you could sense that even being rich and famous can be cumbersome. The self-professed God of Rap/Biggest Rock Star in the World states at the open of this track “for my theme song”. It’s no longer about the screams from the haters, this track is Kanye fighting back. That heavy wonky bass line is probably one of the most recognizable jingles of the year, and once those booming war-march drums come in it is near impossible not to become hooked. A seemingly all-star cast of producers including West, Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, Mike Dean, Lupe Fiasco, No ID, Jack Donoghue and Noah Goldstein is just one of the ways you can see how brilliant of a tactician Kanye is. There is so much detail into what he makes musically. That thinking carries over into his branding. Perhaps he may have lost the privilege to rap about how tough it was growing up, but he can sure shine a light on how difficult it is to be black, rich, and talented in this country. – Adam Grabowski

13. Arcade Fire “Afterlife”
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Arcade Fire tries to do many things on Reflektor, with good intentions and mixed results. But on “Afterlife,” the band’s attempt to translate their unapologetically emotive tenor to the Afro-Caribbean sound they appear fixated on comes together beautifully. Yes, “beautiful” feels like such an easy, empty descriptor for a song, yet “Afterlife” ‒ more than almost any other song this year ‒ seems singularly focused on its own beauty. The lyrics and themes are simple, and so the main draws are the gorgeous “oooh”-ing backup vocals and complex tempo shifts. Sometimes pure, in-love-with-itself beauty is underrated. – Mark Steinbach

12. Vampire Weekend “Hannah Hunt”
There’s a brutal honesty in Ezra Koenig’s voice as he sings for the first time, “if I can’t trust you then damn it, Hannah/there’s no future, there’s no answer.” It lacks sorrow, but drips with remorse. However, when the line comes back again its delivered with the kind of dynamic vocals that can give you chills. And that’s the beauty of “Hannah Hunt.” She’s filled with youthful wonderment, but also instability. She’s the ideal road trip companion until the journey ends. She “has her own sense of time.” I dare you not to develop a little crush of your own. – Grady O’Brien

11. Drake “Hold on We’re Going Home”
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“Hold On We’re Going Home” is simply the next step in Drake‘s musical maturation process, following “Marvin’s Room” and perhaps “Girls Love Beyoncé”; instead of being home alone and nostalgic about past relationships, he is actually living in the present and on his way home to foster a budding romance. It also helps that this ride home is soundtracked by Majid Jordan, who have us all bringing out our broken falsettos to let everyone know we’re “gooiing hooome.” On an album where Drake is all about talking through the past in order to put it behind him, “Hold On We’re Going Home” is him reaching across the dock and towards the green light over the water, wondering if something new is indeed possible. – Dragos Nica

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