Best Songs of 2013 (So Far): Group 5, The Top FUCKING Ten

And just like that, 2013 is half over. In short, it was an incredible six months of music, and as I do around here, I decided to round up all my favorite songs of the last six months. Instead of putting them all out at once, I’ve decided to group them in five groups of ten(ish), and roll them out one-by-one this week and next. For all of our sakes, I’m going to keep my write ups short and sweet.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve rolled out about 40 excellent tracks, but our final group is reserved for the absolute best-of-the-best. Unlike the other lists, this one is in order.

Just a note, Jai Paul’s “Track 7” (his version of Jennifer Paige’s “Crush”) would have topped the list, but it’s been systematically wiped off the Interwebz in recent months. If you can find the album, find it. It’s fucking brilliant.

Now for the Top 10!

10. Autre Ne Veut
“World War”
Anxiety (out now on Mexican Summer / Software)
Brooklyn, NY

I could have picked a handful of tracks from Arthur Ashin’s dizzying, alternative R&B masterclass, but its confessional closer just rises above. While you can never accuse him of holding anything back, the 30 year-old truly lets it all go here, pouring his heart out over the dissolution of a relationship. Though the first half is an unmistakable dirge, the light creeps out in its spellbinding second movement — perfectly mirroring how, in a break-up, the initial devastation slowly turns to the hope and freedom of moving on.

9. The Weeknd
“Kiss Land”
Kiss Land (out 08/27 on XO/Republic)
Toronto, ON

Sometime last year, the party that Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s kept writing about stopped being fun. The lascivious thrills of 2011’s watershed mixtape, House of Baloons, had descended into clichéd aural demerol. He became Ron Burgundy listlessly singing about “coming to the same party for 12 years now.” And goddamn it, it was depressing.  He just sounded exhausted and completely burnt out, something that three mixtapes in one year will probably do to you. After taking some time away, the 23 year-old is refreshed on this devastating return to form, weaving a trademark salacious soliloquy over an swaggering, sprawling two-part arraignment. His tales still “ain’t nothin’ to relate to,” but at least they are fun to hear about again.

8. Vampire Weekend
“Step”
Modern Vampires of the City (out now on XL)
New York, NY

The NYC quartet’s third album is the sound of a band who has grown up and figured out exactly what they are. Its stand-out, “Step,” shatters any notions that their time has came and went. Rooted in a delicious, cascading harpsichord riff, courtesy of mastermind Rostam Batmanglij, Ezra Koenig unleashes his impossibly sweet croon and waxes lyrical about growing up a music obsessive. It’s the kind of inch-perfect, smart-guy pop song that New York City’s likeliest lads have been flirting with for years, and best of all, it came just in time to soundtrack our summer.

7. Kisses
“Huddle”
Kids in L.A. (out now on Cascine)
Los Angeles, CA

The Angelino duo has long been a TP favorite, and though their second album eschews some of their debut’s Balearic influence, Kids in L.A. still features Jesse Kivel’s rock-solid songwriting chops and a newfound melancholic edge. Its highlight, “Huddle,” boasts one of the earworms of the year, as Kivel — in signature ultra-smooth, Arthur Russel-influenced style — implores girlfriend (and keyboard player) Zinzi Edmunson to meet him “in the huddle.” While it’s unclear what that means, it’s the kind of refrain you can’t get out of your head, thanks, in part, to the neon synth swabs and buoyant bassline that surround it. This is summery pop music at its very best.

6. Ciara
“Body Party”
Ciara (out now on Epic)
Atlanta, GA 

About two years ago, Ciara nearly shut down Twitter. However, it wasn’t because of a hit single or a hot performance; it was due to some knee-length boots and booty shorts that she wore to the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. While it was a testament to her incredible (ahem) talents, it was also a sad indictment of a career that seemed destined to never reach its potential.

Fast forward two years, and CiCi is blowing up the blogosphere for all the right reasons. Her highly-anticipated fifth album was a major success, and its first single is as steamy as anything she’s ever decided to wear on her famous lower body. Though she got assists from scorching producer Mike Will Made It and it-rapper (and boyfriend) Future, “Body Party” is all about the 27 year-old ATLien, who channels Janet to scintillating effect. If this doesn’t make you hot under the collar, you don’t have a pulse.

5. Dornik
“Something About You”
Digital Single (out now on PMR)
London, UK

The best thing about the Londoner’s breakout single is that it absolutely came out of nowhere. Who knew that, in his spare time, Jessie Ware’s drummer had a little bit of MJ in him? I am often a victim of hyperbole, but I can’t help but hear some “Human Nature” (one of my five favorite songs EVER) in “Something About You,” no matter how blasphemous that sounds. Of course, this is just his first song, but as far as first impressions go, this one is pretty fucking special.

4. James Blake
“Retrograde”
Overgrown (out now on Polydor)
London, UK 

Brilliant as it is, James Blake’s 2011 debut LP is as insular an album as you’ll find, with tracks and lyrics that heavily leaned toward the esoteric and ambiguous. It was a fascinating conversation, but one that you were eavesdropping on. On Overgrown, the 24 year-old finally turns to us and speaks in a language that we can truly understand.

For that reason, its lead single, “Retrograde,” is a revelation, as not only does Blake let us into his world, he lets us into the most intimate part of that world: his bedroom. It’s the most vulnerable and accesible he’s ever allowed himself to be, and while there’s no way to tell if it will become a pattern, it provides a fascinating look into one of the most talented young musicians on the planet.

3. Disclosure
“When A Fire Starts to Burn”
Settle (out now on PMR)
London, UK

Seeing Disclosure release a debut album as flawless as Settle is a little bit like watching your kid score the perfect hit trick (for non-sports people, that’s 3 goals) in his first ever soccer game. For a band that I’ve watched grow up to have crafted an album this exciting, consistent, diverse, and undeniably current at such a young age is almost incomprehensible.

I could have picked any number of tracks, but I’ll go with its pulsating opener and that explosive Eric Thomas sample. Guy and Howard Lawrence (aged 22 and 19, respectively) dial up their deep house roots and frame the repetitive vocal with an undulating, too-fucking-hype arraignment. It’s just pure, fucking fire. When it comes to music this year, there is nothing I’m more sure about than Settle being my album of the year…and I’d expect it to stay that way.

 

2. Phosphorescent
“Song for Zula”
Muchacho (out now on Dead Oceans)
Athens, GA 

Admittedly, I’ve found it a bit difficult to get into Muchacho as a whole, but I was truly floored by Matthew Houck’s tumbleweed manifesto about doggedly battling through heartbreak then finding and actualizing your own power. Lyrically, it’s a true masterpiece, as the alt-rock/folk vet ruminates on love and loss in four beautifully-written stanzas. There’s nothing that I can say that will better Huock’s prose, so I’ll leave you you to it. Drink it all in.

1. Lil’ Durk
“Dis Ain’t What U Want”
Signed to the Streets (out later this year on Def Jam/Coke Boys)
Chicago, IL

When Chicago drill broke late last year, the thing that was particularly striking about its teenaged leaders (Chief Keef, Lil’ Reese, Fredo Santana, etc) was their dead-eyed, emotionless delivery. They were describing horrifying conditions — basically a cross between Compton in the 90’s and Afghanistan (hence, the nickname Chiraq) — with the chilling nonchalance and callousness of a 60 year-old Vietnam Vet reporting on a tickle war. In the media, they were widely depicted as maniacs, savages, and idiots, setting their culture back decades, damaging hip-hop, and most alarmingly, being one of the prime causes of Chicago’s most tragic, bloodiest summers ever.

Chief Keef associate Durk “Lil’ Durk” Banks’ breakthrough single (released just before his second gun-related incarceration) is the first honest admission of the heavy burden that these kids bear, day in and day out. Over the twinkling keys of longtime producer Paris Beuller, the 20 year-old deals with the heartbreaking reality of being widely viewed as a menace to your city and being a constant target to police, media, and rivals. The common conception is that these kids are ignorant and stupid — basically beyond repair — but the articulate, affecting “Dis Ain’t What U Want” reminds us that kids who grow up in extreme poverty are just as smart and emotionally competent as those who don’t. Music like this forces us to consider the root of the problems, even though it’s easier to blame and dehumanize the people in the struggle.

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

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