Best of 2013: The Hottest Jams of 2013

40. Pure Bathing Culture
“Pendulum”
Moon Tides (Memphis Industries)
The lush, dream-pop duo’s second album is full of sweeping highs, but nothing quite touches lead-track, “Pendulum.” Since their inception, the Portland-based duo (Vetiver members Sarah Versprille and Dan Hindman) has displayed a gushing, fully-formed sound formed around Versprille’s full-throated vocals and Hidman’s gushing, reverb-soaked guitar licks. “Pendulum” finds them at their anthemic best — the perfect soundtrack to a long drive up Oregon’s dramatic coastal highway.

39. Dean Blunt
“Papi”
The Redeemer (Hippos in Tanks)
While Dean Blunt’s musical break-up with fellow Hype Williams trickster Inga Copeland was a bummer, both artists seem poised to continue making beguiling, enchanting work on their own. While it maintains the Londoner’s fiercely experimental heart, The Redeemer was the clearest window to the mercurial man behind the music, and its best track  is a remarkably clear-eyed, direct love song from the normally evasive Londoner.

38. Tirzah
“I’m Not Dancing”
I’m Not Dancing (Greco-Roman)
Tirzah’s subtle, sleek gem is one of the most quietly rebellious songs of recent times. A distinct dance track, “I’m Not Dancing” proves that you don’t have to raise your voice to make a powerful, subversive statement. Flanked by characteristically esoteric, bold production from old schoolfriend Mica “Micachu” Levi, the London resident hardly breaks a sweat as she cooly lets the listener know that dancefloor is a battle field reserved for those with heart.

37. Fat Trel
“N**gaz Dying”
SDMG (Self-Released)
Though he remains one of the most underrated MCs on the planet (SOMEONE GET THIS MAN A WIKIPEDIA PAGE), the 23 year-old continues undeterred, growing as a lyricist and gaining credibility incrementally. If he continues to craft work as affecting as the centerpiece of his SDMG mixtape, at some point, people will have to sit up and take notice. The artist born Martrel Reeves takes us on a slow, harrowing ride through the grim D.C. streets that raised him — uncovering the fear, hopelessness, and despair that greet so many on a daily basis. LA-based producer, JGramm Beats, deserves mention too, deftly mirroring the weight of Trel’s lyrics with a druggy, disorienting beat and inch-perfect, rolling hi-hat patterns.

36. CFCF
“Ring”
Music for Objects (Paper Bag/Dummy)
It was a brilliant year for Montreal-based composer/songwriter, Michael Silver. His long-awaited sophomore LP, Outside, was one of the albums of the year, but his best track came at the end of his still-life inspired, all-instrumental EP. “Ring” opens with a gymnastic keyboard flurry before melting into a moody, new-agey succesion of delicate legato chords. Like the best piano composers, Silver has a knack for communicating without words, crafting pocket symphonies that tell lyrical, nuanced stories.

35. Deptford Goth
“Guts No Glory”
Life After Defo (Merok)
Suffolk-native Daniel Woolhouse’s outstanding debut LP is the kind of album that is easy to pass over on first listen. But as the listens add up, the personal, heartfelt lyrics and reserved songwriting of Life After Defo will burrow their little talons deep into all of your hard-to-reach places. Though it’s hard to pick a standout, this crippling break-up jam highlights the depth and power of the vocalist/producer’s disarming, understated mastery.

34. Grouper
“The Man Who Died in His Boat”
The Man Who Died in His Boat (Kranky)
All of my favorite Liz Harris work reminds me of sort of fractured, half-heard lullabies, and the title-track from her exquisite 8th LP is no different. Harris spreads layers of her lithe, far-flung vocals over a wispy, strummed acoustic guitar to devastating effect. As is her wont, she never lifts the veil enough to quite make out what she’s saying, but it doesn’t stop her from making a truly poignant statement.

33. Ian Isiah
“Freak U Down”
The Love Champion (UNO)
The NYC progressive R&B singer’s debut LP is a kitchen-sink type of album, a hodgepodge of influences, top-line producers, and genres. All those cooks make for a fascinating, if uneven listen. Its best moment is its simplest —  Isiah’s auto-tuned soaked tenor emoting longingly over a naked, breathing arraignment. While I understand people’s issues with auto-tune, the processing lends an otherworldly feel to his vocals without compromising any of their humanity, resulting in a direct, pure admission of lust.

32. Phosphorescent
“Song for Zula”
Muchacho (Dead Oceans)
“It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all,” goes the old saying, but Matthew Houck isn’t so sure. He challenges that notion on his sixth album’s soaring, downtrodden centerpiece. He details the pain of having love revealed to you (“it put its face up to my face so I could see) and then ripped away with the touch and acuity of a seasoned poet. However, under it all, there is an undercurrent of hope — that his lost loved could be reclaimed — and that’s what hurts the most.

31. Skin Town
“Abyss”
The Room (Time No Place)

The LA-duo’s highly underrated debut album suffered from widespread blogosphere after-hours R&B fatigue. Unfairly written off as a cheap Weeknd/Jeremih/etc. imitation, The Room is influenced just as much by 80’s pop as it is the 90’s R&B du jour. A track like the glistening ballad, “Abyss,” is a perfect example of their fresh sound and assured, developed songwriting. Alluring vocalist Grace Hall pleads for a second chance over swelling dollops of synth, delivered by Zola Jesus affiliate Nick Turco. The result is a track that is fresh, familiar, and impossible to get out of your head.

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best Of '13, Featured

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