Best of 2013: The Best Tracks of 2013 (Honorable Mention)

It’s the time again — time to pick over the bones of an incredible year of music. Over the next few days, I’ll roll out my favorite tracks of the year. Let’s kick things off with 10 songs that didn’t quite make it out of the incredibly crowded field. That said, they absolutely deserve your attention.

Willis Earl Beal: “Too Dry to Cry” from Nobody Knows (XL)
While I’ll never claim to be a great blues historian, I do know that the Chicago-native’s sophomore LP felt as authentic as anything out nowadays. Listening to Beal sing is like watching someone lift a car; it’s a physical experience. You can feel him straining every sinew as he pours his heart into every ravenous come-on, perfectly verbalizing human nature’s most visceral, virile instinct.

Darkside: “Golden Arrow” from Psychic (Other People)
Picking one song off Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington’s excellent debut LP feels idiotic, as (like their debut EP) Psychic demands to be heard in one immersive sitting. That said, its 11-minute opener sets a spooky, emulsifying tone for the whole record. Harrington’s delicious, palm-muted guitar line wraps itself around a forlorn falsetto, resulting in a track that is both alluring and unsettling.

Washed Out: “Weightless” from Paracosm (Sub Pop)
Ernest Greene’s second LP was one of the unreported victories of 2013. Four long years since defining a (now defunct) genre with the still-perfect, “Feel it All Around,” the South Carolina native stayed relevant by crafting gauzy, romantic Balearic-influenced LP that moved past his chillwave roots without eschewing the sound he spearheaded.

King Krule: “Baby Blue” from 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (True Panther)
For the first time in three years, Archy “King Krule” Marshall doesn’t make my Top 10, but I’m sure he won’t get too down about it. His long-awaited debut LP lived up to all expectations and cemented him as one of the most fascinating young artists of the year. The meandering guitar-part on “Baby Blue” sounds like a lost Jeff Buckley demo, forming a fertile canvas for Marshall’s warbling.

Kisses: “Huddle” from Kids in LA (Cascine)
The key single from the married Angelinos second LP is the kind of song that just sticks to you, like that strand of dog hair you can’t get off your glove. While all of Kisses’ melodic trademarks are in full-effect — Kivel’s flighty vocals, a slinky guitar line, a driving beat — it’s Zinzi Edmundson’s often-secondary synths that really steal the show here, adding some bite to their usually polite sound.

Shy Girls: “Under Attack” from Timeshare (HIT USA)
The Portland R&B outfit’s velvet, schmaltzy debut single was one of the slow jams of the year. While many of their bedroom R&B peers opt for stark arraignments, Shy Girls compliment vocalist Dan Vidmar’s falsetto with a full, jazzy sound, capped off by a sax solo that would make George Michael blush.

Azekel: “That Feeling” from The Feeling x A Song To An Unborn Child (Generator)
It’s hard not to hear Frank Ocean in the 24 year-old East Londoner. While that might be unfair on an artist who is just getting started, it only takes a couple spins of his two criminally underrated 2013 releases  — an EP, Circa, and this single — too see his massive potential and ability. “That Feeling” has the innocent-yet-flirty vibe of something from Nostalgia, ULTRA, and the Nigerian-born vocalist shares Ocean’s easy, graceful tenor. One to watch out for in 2014.

Evian Christ: “Salt Carousel” from Waterfall (out early 2014 on Tri Angle)
Discussing this track feels premature, as the Liverpudlian’s follow-up to 2012’s stunning Kings and Them doesn’t drop until next year. The Yeezus collaborator (and recent signee to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music) is in for a monster 2014, and if the rest of Waterfall bangs as hard as its lead single, I’ll be writing a lot more about him this time next year.

Mutya Keisha Siobhan: “Flatline” from upcoming 2014 LP
The Sugababies are back! With a little help from Dev Hynes, the fly-ass Londoners unleashed a storming comeback single this year. While it didn’t chart as well as they would have liked, it (along with their delightful, Kendrick Lamar re-work, “Lay Down in Swimming Pools”) signaled that the ex-Babies were back and ready to make the most progressive music of their career.

Justin Bieber: “PYD” (f/ R Kelly) from Journals (Island)
The Biebs has always been kinda dope, but it took a steamy slow-jam with Kellz for all us to realize it.

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