Best of 2013: The Hottest Jams of 2013

30. A$AP Ferg
Trap Lord (RCA)
The downside to playing on a really good team is that it’s often hard to get noticed individually. After spending the last year or so politely knocking, A$AP Ferg (né Darold Ferguson, Jr.) kicked the fucking door down with his explosive debut LP, proving he was a hell of a lot more than Rocky’s friend. The bubbly Harlem-native matches impressive, memorable bars with an adhesive personality and a real ear for a beat. Trap Lord‘s lead single is the 25s-year-old in all his flamboyant glory, slaloming expertly through a staccato earworm of a beat.

29. Flume x How to Dress Well
Flume: Deluxe Edition (LABEL)
By enlisting the vocal talents of TP-fave How to Dress Well, the young Aussie took his tasty original to the next level. Krell gets his Artist Formerly Known As on, over Harley “Flume” Streten’s swinging, buoyant backtrack. The result is the winner of this year’s prestigious “Best Song to Strut Around The City After Something Fucking Awesome Happens” Award, narrowly edging out Katy Perry’s triumphant “Birthday.”

28. Chief Keef
Finally Rich (Deluxe Edition) (Glory Boyz Entertainment)

Besides Gucci, there isn’t a more fascinating figure in hip-hop than the 18 year-old former crown prince of drill. Just six months removed from finding fame in the imposing, post-Lex Luger boom of drill, the erratic Chicagoan turned his back on the sound — opting to immerse himself in an auto-tuned, druggy, psychedelic magical mystery world. “Citgo” is a trillion miles away from the whomping deluge of “I Don’t Like,” as Keef warbles incoherently over a sparse, Clams Casino-y synth pattern, courtesy of unknown Polish teen producer (seriously), Young Ravisu. It isn’t surprising that Keef’s gone this way; it’s just shocking that it’s happened so quickly. It’s a bit like the Beatles following up Please Please Me with The White Album; you would have thought he’d have stuck around and enjoyed the glow for a while.

27. Local Natives
Hummingbird (Frenchkiss)
The death of a parent is simultaneously one of the most personal and communal tragedies one goes through. It’s something that nearly everybody experiences, yet in an entirely individual way. Kelcey Ayer’s crushing homage to his mother captures this dichotomy beautifully, as “Colombia” pays tribute to the individual while raising a question that all of us should ponder — whether we are getting the most out of our limited time on this planet.

26. Cloud Boat
Book of Hours (R&S)
While this song has been floating around for a couple years, its insertion in the reflective Londoners’ outstanding debut LP gives it new life. Tom Clarke’s stately lament hangs over a sparse, aqueous acoustic guitar-kissed arraignment. Clarke outlines his desire for someone who he can grow with, while admitting that he may not be ready for the love he seeks. If James Blake was more of a folkie, this is what it might sound like.

25. Wet
“Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl”

Wet (Neon Gold)
I hate to do this to them, but I’ve got to. Wet is going to be huge next year; I’m calling it. While that is probably the kiss of death, the subtle brilliance of the un-Googleable Brooklyn trio recalls everything we loved about the XX without really sounding like them. Vocalist Kelly Zutrau’s plaintiff, direct delivery and the careful, delicate arraignments that surround it make for affecting cuts that work as well in the bedroom as on the bus ride home. Their 4-song debut EP’s best moment is “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl,” a crushing ballad that beautifully captures that decisive moment where you realize that the thing you thought you wanted more than anything wasn’t what you wanted at all.

24. FKA Twigs
“Water Me”
EP2 (Young Turks)
Arca’s exquisite, off-kilter production. The glitchy, unforgettably faraway tone of her voice. The unsettling intimacy of the video. All of these things help make Tahliah Barnett’s “Water Me” the kind of song you can’t shake off, but, if you really get down to it, it’s the brutally simple lyrics that make it so special. If the London resident’s couplets don’t make you feel something, you might want to check your pulse. “He told me I was so small. I told him water me.” I just…

23. Dornik
“Something About You”
Forthcoming Release from PMR
Nobody takes pictures of the drummer, but perhaps they should. Out of the blue, Disclosure dropped this gorgeous, neon-light soaked slow jam on one of their essential BBC radio mixes. Turns out, it was the debut single from (fellow PMR artist) Jessie Ware’s drummer Dornik Leigh, and while I’d heard him sing “Valentine” with Ware earlier that year, I never expected a vocal star-turn like this. The Londoner possesses the kind of effortless falsetto that makes it sound like he’s (moon)walking on air, and the hot-and-bothered “Something About You” (and follow-up single, “Rebound”) firmly places his debut as one of the most anticipated of next year. It also means that the lovely Ms. Jessie might be in the market for a new touring drummer soon.

22. French Montana
“Ain’t Worried Bout Nothin”
Pardon My French (Coke Boys)
Here are four things we know about French Montana.
1. He’s in an “It’s Complicated” relationship with Trina.
2. He lost 10k in a 3-point shooting contest against DJ Khaled.
3. He inspired a Ying Yang Twins diss track.
4. He made Lil’ Durk a multi-millionaire.

Exactly what else does Frenchie have to do to convince you he’s an American hero? If that wasn’t enough, he took the time to record the most deliriously fun rap song of the year, detailing how little he cares about the shit that bugs you (including the notion that rap verses should rhyme). If it sounds like I’m damning him with fake praise or trying to be ironic, I’m not; there aren’t many artists who can nail a feeling this hard and make it feel this good.

21. Blood Orange
Cupid Deluxe (Domino)
It must have been an incredibly memorable year for Dev Hynes, filled with soaring highs and unimaginable lows. While his professional success may not outweigh the personal turmoil, Hynes has musically reinvented himself in the last 18 months, and his beautiful second LP put the perfect cap on that transformation. Its bouncy, lovelorn centerpiece, “Chosen,” highlights Hynes’ versatility as an artist — his affecting voice wandering longingly over an elastic bass-line and an unshakable beat. It’s always seemed to me that Hynes has written his best songs for other people (ie Solange’s “Losing You,” Sky Ferriera’s “Everything is Embarassing”), but Cupid Deluxe is full of gold, and this is the best of it.

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