(photo taken at Repo Records, Philadelphia, PA)
This year has been a great year for music, and lots of great songs have come out of it. Here are Deep Fried, Certified’s Top 40 Songs of 2013.
40. Toro Y Moi – “Harm In Change”
This is the leadoff track off Toro Y Moi’s 2013 album, Anything In Return. While its parent album wasn’t necessarily one of my favorite records this year (for many reasons), its first track is probably the album’s finest. It features lots of female vocal samples scattered throughout, as well as some very groovy keyboard-and-drum syncopation.
39. Drake – “Tuscan Leather”
This track is the first on Nothing Was The Same, and it’s a sure surprise for listeners, coming off his last few releases. The track begins with a strange, high-pitched vocal sample below a banger beat, but it then transitions into an even harder beat, with much better execution of the samples. Drake flows for six minutes straight – making it the longest song on the album.
38. Night Beds – “22”
This track appears on Night Beds’ latest album, Country Sleep. Right from the first few seconds of the song, beautifully-layered strings and guitars combine for atmospheric nirvana. The song then builds in emotion and beauty to a falsetto-sung chorus. It’s a track of pure beauty.
37. The Internet – “Dontcha”
“Dontcha” is the lead single off the Odd Future-related project’s new album, Feel Good. This song makes you feel good, indeed. The drums are sharp, the bass is groovy, and Syd tha Kid’s voice is as smooth as ever. It’s a large improvement from their last record.
36. Classixx feat. Nancy Whang – “All You’re Waiting For”
I mean, seriously: who better to have sing on your dance track than a former LCD Soundsystem member? Besides the great feature of Nancy Whang, the instrumental is absolutely irresistible. The synths are extremely catchy, and the hook is infectious. Classixx really wears their influences on their sleeves with this track. It’s almost impossible to sit through this song completely still.
35. Kings of Leon – “Don’t Matter”
Kings of Leon have been recently known for their formulaic sound and radio-friendly approach, but this track breaks that mold. “Don’t Matter” is booming out the speakers. It’s a ferocious, fun, and exciting rock n’ roll bonanza. The chords are thick, Caleb Followill’s voice is on point, and the guitar solo is to die for. This song alone blows all of Mechanical Bull out of the water.
34. Kanye West – “Hold My Liquor”
Kanye has put together a track with abstract vocals, autotuned raps, and unexpected twists and turns. That track is “Hold My Liquor”. Like most, if not all the songs on Yeezus, the sounds are far from traditional. Dark, ambient sounds surround this track. The beat gets high in tension, especially when the Ratatat-esque guitars come in. Although Yeezus wasn’t a favorite of mine this year, this song is a winner. An exception though: who wants to hear Chief Keef sing, anyway?
33. Jon Hopkins – “Open Eye Signal”
“Open Eye Signal” is a bass track. Lots and lots of bass. It pretty much is the focus throughout the song. It all starts off pretty calm, with a steady beat, and later the synths build and build. A few ambient sounds enter the mix to keep the song interesting throughout the way. It rarely gets boring or old throughout its running time, which is pretty impressive.
32. Mount Kimbie feat. King Krule – “You Took Your Time”
Mount Kimbie incorporated lots of live instrumentation into their latest album, and this is truly evident on this track. Live drums are definitely audible, especially at the middle of the track. King Krule’s vocals are very deep and condescending, and his lyrics are as dark as ever. The instrumental and vocal parts clash to form a great combination.
31. Local Natives – “Ceilings”
“Ceilings” immediately hits you with a catchy riff at the start. The song gradually builds with emotionally-fueled, harmonized vocals, and reminiscing lyrics. The song gets even more engaging when footstomps come into the equation. This track is a very satisfying, yet short one.
30. MellowHigh – “Extinguisher”
This track is the fourth song off the Odd Future project’s self-titled album. Throughout the track, members Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis spit ferociously back and forth, sometimes even finishing each other’s sentences. Hearing these two rapping back and forth off of each other is bliss. On top of that, producer Left Brain delivers with a simple yet amazingly loud beat that complements Hodgy and Domo’s rapping perfectly.
The song has not been released in full on YouTube as of now. Stream below on Spotify.
29. The National – “I Need My Girl”
“I Need My Girl” is a track that has been kicking around for a while now, dating back to 2011 and the High Violet era. It got its official release this year. This song is very mournful, with lyrics about longing for a lost love. The guitar riff is also very engaging at the beginning, and throughout the song. Aside from soft drums and gently-plucked guitars, the track incorporates lots of synthesizers into the mix. It’s a very emotional track that is sure to move its listeners.
28. Ariana Grande feat. Mac Miller – “The Way”
“The Way” is a very surprising choice on my Top Songs of 2013 list, but it’s a great song nonetheless. Yeah, everyone can agree that Mac Miller’s verses on this song are nothing short of laughable, but Ariana’s performance and the production is what takes the spotlight. Ariana’s voice is on point, and she is able to hit every note without a flaw. As far as production is concerned, it calls back to 90s golden age R&B music. A very satisfying piece of pop music, even for the snobbiest music fans.
27. Eminem – “Bad Guy”
Marshall Mathers returned this year for a sequel to his critically-acclaimed record, The Marshall Mathers LP. He also made a sequel to his song “Stan” off the original record. “Stan” left such a huge legacy on rap music, and Em was able to follow it up with “Bad Guy”. It’s a 7-minute monster that directly addresses “Stan”, as well as criticizing himself indirectlythrough a character, Matthew. The last verse is very climactic, with a booming instrumental, and a ferocius, angry flow. Any hardcore Eminem fan would drool over this track for sure.
26. Justin Timberlake – “Don’t Hold The Wall”
Although Justin and his partner Timbaland chant “dance” throughout the song, “Don’t Hold The Wall” isn’t really a great dancing song. The rhythm is very strange in the first part of the track, and strange samples float beneath the percussion. Timberlake’s vocals are smooth (as expected), and the harmonies are killer. The beat switches up to a more quick and rapid one in the second half of the song, giving the track more variety over its 7-minute running time.
25. Bonobo – “Cirrus”
Bonobo creates a very serene yet engaging set of sounds on the lead single off his latest album. The groove on here is easy-going, and it’s complemented by several ear-pleasing chime samples. These chime samples are a key part of this track, and it loops until a heavier drum finish.
25. Pusha T feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Nosetalgia”
Pusha T is a very complex lyricist, and that shows on “Nosetalgia” Bar after bar, Pusha delivers impressive ideas and lines. And on top of an already great song, he brings along Kendrick Lamar, who serves as a perfect collaboration choice for this track. The instrumental is very odd, and it fits in well with Pusha and Kendrick’s impressive rhymes and flows.
23. Drake feat. Majid Jordan – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
This Drake tune has probably been unavoidable for the past month or two, and it’s easy to see why. The track is doused in 1980s new-wave nostalgia. The production is poppy, very light and above all, catchy. It’s probably the catchiest song Drake has ever put together. The vocal melody is infectious, and the hook will become integrated in your mind (if it hasn’t already done so). It’s everything a track like this should be.
22. Darkside – “Golden Arrow”
This 11-minute monster opens up Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s new LP. The song is largely based on synthesizers, and dark moods and ambient sounds that dominate the entire length on this track. Harrington’s haunting falsetto gives the track a very abstract experience. Throughout the entire length of “Golden Arrow”, there is barely a boring moment to pick out. It’s the definition of a trip.
21. Atoms For Peace – “Stuck Together Pieces”
Out of all the tracks on Amok, “Stuck Together Pieces” is perhaps the best example of a full-band experience. Band members are frequently heard playing off each other. Flea’s bassline is slick as the word, and the guitar outro is simply funky as hell. The repetitive yet groovy percussion is another highlight. Also, Thom Yorke’s voice is sharp, as expected. Above all, this track is a very fun ride to experience for different reasons on each listen.
20. Foals – “Milk and Black Spiders”
On this track, Foals create a very atmospheric and pleasant atmosphere. Muted guitars, which are a staple in Foals’ sound, appear all over this track. Layers upon layers of guitars are bathed in delay. The song’s hook is very heartfelt and catchy, and it all builds to a climactic finish by the end of the song. Singer Yannis Philippakis’ vocals are soaring over all the atmosphere and add to an already beautiful soundscape. It all sounds very wide and grand, which is a quality Foals have perfected in recent years.
19. Tycho – “Awake”
This track doesn’t even have a parent album released yet, and it still manages to make my list. Tycho follows up his last record, Dive, with this great new single. This song is instantly infectious. The groove is undeniable, and the guitar riffs pull you in almost from first listen. It’s something that Tycho has definitely done before. It’s a track that’s easier to bob your head to, and it’s a great track to get people excited for the new album.
18. Savages – “She Will”
This all-female post-punk group clearly wear their influences on their sleeves on this track. It’s a song that surely makes you feel like it’s 1979 all over again. The vocals are very emotive, and the guitar riffs are great. The chorus on this song is attention-grabbing, with loud hi-hats and shouted vocals. And also, the lyrics are just as interesting. “She Will” is a great example of good punk music this year.
17. Boards of Canada – “Reach For The Dead”
Boards of Canada have revolutionized ambient music and even electronic music in general with their releases. This track is a sure sign of their brilliance. The track is very soft and quiet in the beginning, but slowly builds towards a rewarding finish with processed drums and synth arpeggios going up and down throughout. It’s really no surprise that Boards of Canada delivered such a satisfying track.
16. Earl Sweatshirt feat. Casey Veggies and Vince Staples – “Hive”
Earl is known by many to be the best lyricist out of all the Odd Future members, and “Hive” is perhaps one of the best examples of this. Strange references and metaphors are scattered all over his verse. Most of the time, it takes thought to decipher some of his lyrics. Former OF member Casey Veggies is on the hook, and Vince Staples delivers a fantastic verse of his own. The dark and simple production greatly matches the decoded lyricism and great flows.
15. Melt Yourself Down – “Fix My Life”
At first glance, this track is very strange. It has lots of very nontraditional sounds, mixing high-pitched synths with horns. But with repeated listens, it’s a very fun track with lots of energy. The song is very entertaining to listen to, not just because of its eccentric instrument combinations, but for its knack for surprises at certain parts of the track. And to add to the strange fun, very weird vocals are added in the middle of the track, making “Fix My Life” a head-scratching roller coaster ride.
14. Tom Hummer – “Drifting Out To Sea”
This track is probably the most simple on Pairs, and that’s why it’s one of the best ones. Vocals and guitar are the only instruments, and they are both double-tracked in a very strange manner. The lyrics evoke a sense of desperation and confusion in a relationship. The transition from the chord variation to the chorus is great, and the vocal melody complements the guitar chords in a strong way. This track shows that even the simplest moments can be recognized.
The song has not been uploaded to YouTube yet. Stream via Spotify below.
13. King Krule – “Easy Easy”
King Krule has a very deep and crooning voice that may turn off listeners initially. Looking past his voice, he has put together a beautifully-written track. “Easy Easy” deals with the struggle of growing up and emotional struggles. It is also a lesson of optimism for the listener: “Cause if you going through hell/We just keep going” It’s one of the few moments on King Krule’s debut where he embraces optimism, and it’s fantastic.
12. Deafheaven – “Dream House”
Deafheaven definitely isn’t your average metal band. In “Dream House”, influences from post-rock, experimental rock, and screamo are evident. They are able to create a surprisingly uplifting mood and atmosphere among loud chords and viciously screamed vocals. It’s a recurring feeling throughout Sunbather, but on “Dream House”, it is executed best.
11. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – “Latch”
“Latch” is perhaps one of 2013’s hottest singles. Disclosure bring their nostalgic blend of 1990s house sounds and form a very hip atmosphere. Sam Smith comes on this track to perform a great vocal cut. His voice never fails, and it is a perfect combination for the bouncy house instrumental. The hook is so infectious that it’s almost near impossible to not sing along when it comes up.
10. Queens of the Stone Age – “I Sat By The Ocean”
The prolific California stoner rock band has put together a fantastic track that appears second on …Like Clockwork. From the opening of the track onward, “I Sat By The Ocean” is an amazing riff trip. Riffs are the main point of this entire track. The hook on this track was meant to sing at the top of your lungs. It’s one of those songs you have to start singing along to, no matter what you’re doing.
9. The Strokes – “Tap Out”
“Tap Out” serves as the opening track on Comedown Machine. It’s a very exciting track that delves into 1980s dance-pop goodness. The guitar riffs sound like they could have been ripped from Off The Wall. Julian Casablancas’ falsetto glides over a dance beat and double-tracked guitars. The chorus is also a highlight, and the guitar solo makes the song a lot more engaging than it already was.
8. Daft Punk – “Giorgio By Moroder”
Who better to have on a disco revival record than Giorgio? He helped redefine dance music and electronic music for the future, as well as a pioneer of the Moog modular synthesizer. Having him share his experiences on a track like this is a rewarding experience. After the interview with Giorgio is done, the track goes on for another eight minutes. Along the way, you get arpeggiating synthesizers and some smooth keyboard and guitar solos. This track is the definition of the mission Daft Punk put forth on Random Access Memories.
7. Vampire Weekend – “Ya Hey”
One of the main themes of Modern Vampires of the City is religion. On “Ya Hey”, this theme is expressed in its most honest and greatest fashion on the record. The song describes the narrator directly having a conversation with God, with also addressing struggles with religion and the questions they leave unanswered. The track is truly intellectual as the word.
6. Run The Jewels feat. Big Boi – “Banana Clipper”
On Run The Jewels, the newly-formed rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P spit back and forth with impressive lyrics and fast, nasty flows. These two really mean business, and a shining moment of that is on “Banana Clipper”. The two spit clever and fast rhymes back and forth on their verses, and then Big Boi comes in and caps it all off with his expected great verse. In the end, “Banana Clipper” is a prime example of two rapper friends who are able to create perfect chemistry between each other.
5. James Blake – “Retrograde”
“Retrograde” is a great example of the term “less is more”. The song is incredibly simple, with barely any other instruments than a minimal drum beat, piano, and synths in the chorus. Blake uses a vocal loop with a great melody to use as a backbone for the song. The minimal instrumentation clears the way for James’ voice, which is always on point. The exploding chorus is the icing on the cake, and this track shows that beauty can be found even in the most simple places.
4. A$AP Rocky feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T. – “1Train”
A$AP Rocky really put together a miracle with “1Train”. It features most of the most acclaimed and popular rappers of the underground. They all deliver fantastic verses on this track, each one being better than the last. It’s a heavenly track that any hip-hop fan will adore. The track has no hook, which gives the MCs lots more room to spit freely. Every rapper brings something different to the table, whether it be personal lyrics about dedication, or clever lines about food and pussy. 1Train has something for every hip-hop fan to enjoy, and it’s a song that will keep hip-hop DJs busy for a while.
3. Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”
Arcade Fire did something a bit risky with their latest release: experiment with dance music. They courted dance music mogul James Murphy(of LCD Soundsytem) to produce their new album. And on the record’s title track and lead single, that LCD Soundystem influence is very evident. Disco beats, throbbing synths, and double-tracked, echoing vocals dominate “Reflektor”. It’s a 7-minute opening track that pulls you to the dance floor. As the song progresses, it gets increasingly catchier to the point where the hook is cemented into your brain. While its parent album isn’t nearly as good as intended, its title track surely hits it out of the park.
2. Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers – “Get Lucky”
This song has been hyped up to be the most amazing song of 2013. It appeared in three mysterious Saturday Night Live commercials in promotion of the new single. It already had been remixed, even before the song was fully released. The massive amount of hype surrounding “Get Lucky” was so enormous, it broke Spotify’s record for the most-streamed track of all-time. And what about the music? Does it live up to the hype? Turns out, it actually does. Disco legend Nile Rodgers was recruited to play guitar on this track, and his signature strumming patterns appear throughout the track. And Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes has vocal duties, and his voice perfectly complements the mood of this track. It is currently Daft Punk’s most successful single, and it perfectly takes the listener back to Studio 54. “Get Lucky” showed the world that Daft Punk are back, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.
1. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
Kurt Vile created a sure monster with the lead track off his latest studio effort, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. The track is nearly 10 minutes in length, but despite the overwhelming length, Vile easily pulls off one of the best lead songs off any album in years. (Yes, that’s right, I said it.) From the start, the song is already intersting, being that the album’s title is a slight play on the title of this track, evoking a sense of dreaminess, a daze. The track is extremely mellow, and its sounds evoke feelings of floating on a cloud on a bright and sunny day. The lyrics are instantly captivating (“Phone ringing off the shelf/guess it wanted to kill itself”), and the melody is absolutely irresistible. If great lyrics and killer melodies weren’t enough, Vile pulls in some great guitar solos and goosebump-giving switch-ups. Although the song repeats some of the same chord progressions throughout, Vile makes sure to keep things interesting, with great lyrics and incredibly mellow, dreamy guitar solos. Wakin on a Pretty Day is essential listening for sunny days and warm mornings. But even if the sun isn’t shining – this song never loses its impact. It’s a track that you can listen to anytime and still be amazed at its sheer beauty.
Thanks for reading this long, comprehensive list. If you liked what you saw, comment your thoughts below. Also take a listen to a Spotify playlist of all 40 songs below.