The 75 Best Songs of 2013

by PopMatters Staff

3 January 2014

From the electro-dance of Daft Punk, Disclosure and Rudimental and the boundary-pushing R&B of Janelle Monae and John Newman to the warm sounds of Americana blossoming into the hippest sounds in American music and the always-compelling Kanye West, PopMatters counts down 2013's 75 best songs.


Courtney Barnett
“Avant Gardener”

On the breathless, stream-of-consciousness psych-folk number “Avant Gardener”, Courtney Barnett lets you more into the world of a 20-something Aussie slacker than you ever thought you’d want to be. Yet you never feel it’s a case of TMI with someone who’s as natural and witty a songwriter as Barnett is, as you follow her on a surreal chain of events that makes up her day-to-day. Establishing herself as a sympathetic protagonist, Barnett endears herself by confiding her guilt about her lazy ways, especially waking up late and letting her yard grow into a state of disrepair that makes it look like “we run a meth lab”. Yet her efforts to clean up her garden—and her life—culminate with Barnett in anaphylactic shock, worrying about hospital debt and comparing asthma inhalers to bongs as her mind wanders in the back of an ambulance. In the end, though, what stands out about “Avant Gardener” is that its narrative is as engaging as it is off the beaten path, that Barnett is able to make a connection even when she’s lost in her head. Arnold Pan


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Review [28.Mar.2016]


“A Tout a L’heure”

I don’t know much about Bibio‘s work with Boards of Canada, nor his solo work. In fact before “A Tout a L’heure”, I didn’t know much at all about Bibio. A true testament to musical craftsmanship is the ability to pull in audiences from all directions and have them feel the every being of your prowess in an unbelievably addictive song. With it’s looped arpeggio acoustic guitars, hypnotic vocal treatments, and overlaying synthesizers, “A Tout a l’heure” could literally play on a continuous loop for hours and you would never mind and never want it to end. Enio Chiola


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Mikal Cronin


Mikal Cronin

From the piano intro to the hushed finish and all the climactic moments in between, there were few songs from 2013 that resonated as strongly as “Weight”. Creating genuinely emotive pop isn’t an easy task and several artists have failed miserably in their attempts at it. Mikal Cronin released a record full of them using “Weight” as the introduction. “Weight” itself boasts a soaring vocal recalling power-pop’s heyday and utilizes a vast array of other pop influences spanning back several decades. MCII‘s most thrilling moment will soundtrack a lot more summers than just the one it helped define. Steven Spoerl


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J. Cole

Review [17.Jan.2017]


J. Cole feat. TLC
“Crooked Smile”

That TLC are featured on the hook should be a news headline, but they’re not why this song was a hit. J. Cole takes the same quality he’s criticized for—an unshowy style—and sneaks his way into something deeper. He starts riffing on his own crooked teeth and pressure to cover them up with gold, before realizing his audience members are women who are under worse pressure from the beauty industry to fit an unrealistic mold. So he apologizes to them and proclaims his understanding That leads him thinking more broadly, though, so in the last verse he glides into another thesis: America’s got a crooked smile that’s unfixable. It’s stunning, how carefully constructed the song is, while seeming like casual thoughts. Dave Heaton


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In the endearingly kitschy video for “Holograms”—the highlight of Butterclock’s promising début EP –- singer Laura Clock carries the appearance of a hoody ‘n’ bubblegum, doe-eyed but knuckle tough Mariah Carey relocated to the backstreets. A Pariah Carey if you like. But scratch beneath the knowing, ‘VHS and Adidas’ pouting ‘n’ posturing and there lurks a potentially brilliant, perverse pop star waiting to crack some skulls and bring da ruckus. The haunting “Holograms” is divine, ‘orbiting-genius’ pop. A melting pot of ‘60s girl group melodies, atmospheric electronics and B-girl beats. It’s sassy, cool and you can dance to it but it’s the melancholic ache that cuts deep into your soul. One suspects Butterclock may prove too contrarily elusive to fully embrace her pop destiny but on the evidence of “Holograms” she should really storm the palace. Matt James


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Young Jeezy


Young Jeezy ft. 2 Chainz

DJ Mustard opened his second big year with this mixtape beat, a minimal masterpiece. There’s barely any drums! Just a synth handclap, three glockenspiel notes, a squelchy bassline, and some fist pumping shouts of “HEY!” Sounding like the lowest common denominator of crunk and hyphy, this beat convinced a bunch of people to hop aboard remixes and harness its sinister Rorschach powers. And voila! E-40 sounded even more hilarious, Chris Brown sounded even more like a gay-baiting asshole, and the Yard Down Muzik crew sounded worth knowing. But the stars of the beat remain good old reliable Jeezy and 2 Chainz, the latter of whom warns, “You might need a giraffe when you was counting this cash.” I’m guessing the giraffe would just start eating the cash, but WHATEVER. Josh Langhoff




Rhye‘s vocalist, Mike Milosh, is impressively soft. In any other case, this would be an insult to someone’s masculinity, but here, I mean it as the upmost compliment. I am, of course, referring to his voice, often getting compared to Sade (Robin Hannibal’s arrangements further this). In comparison to say Roxy Music’s crooner Bryan Ferry, who also made sexy music for people to have sex to (see: “More Than This”), Milosh isn’t decadent. Sure, “Open” starts with “I’m a fool for the shake in your thighs”, but the chorus features pleading lines like “I know your faded / But stay, don’t close your eyes” set to his incredibly vulnerable voice. It’s as sensual as it is sexual; a song that celebrates love as much as it celebrates making love, and frankly, the world needs more of those. Marshall Gu



The Knife
“Full of Fire”

Shaking the Habitual didn’t make its length work for it the way, say, Swans’ The Seer did, but it was probably the album the Knife needed to make, and really only a few tracks felt aimless. Luckily they didn’t release those ones as singles. “Full of Fire” is the Swedish duo operating at full strength. There are few nine-minute abrasive, abstract synth jams that are this catchy and few songs this catchy of any length that so convincingly grapple with sonic and political abstraction. The Knife want to talk about gender, narratives, agency, permission, morals, desire, and much more besides. But as long as you’re participating, you might as well dance while you’re doing it. Ian Mathers


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Review [11.Nov.2016]
Review [27.Sep.2016]
Review [17.Aug.2016]



In May of this year, Danish-Canadian electropop artist ÁLI released one of the most stylistically-inventive dance songs I’ve encountered in ages. I’ve been waiting a long time for a musician to successfully bridge the worlds of opera and pop music, and do so in a manner that isn’t cringeworthy. “Cocoon” is that glorious exception, and one of the first recorded instances I can recall, where a vocalist was able to switch between their classical technique and a legit pop voice, and make it sound effortlessly seamless. The song deserves a wider audience and that stunning voice begs to be heard. Download it, give it to your local DJ, crank it up on the dance floor and bathe in the euphoric brilliance of one of the year’s most infectious choruses. Ryan Lathan




Phoenix have never been a band to shy away from big sounds. And in 2013, it didn’t get much bigger than the first single off Bankrupt, “Entertainment” The standout track on a mediocre (for Phoenix standards) album, “Entertainment” twisted an Eastern riff and meshed it with the deafening bass and drum combo the popped bigger than a Chinese firework display. Singer/showman Thomas Mars adds the needed exclamation mark to punch up the band’s message, in case the roar of the keyboards didn’t transmit it well enough: we are here for you, the fans, and we have no problems inhabiting the roles of life-size popstars. If only the rest of the album had followed suit. Scott Elingburg

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