AudioFemme’s Top 50 Tracks of 2013

In a given year, thousands of records are released, many of them having upwards of ten tracks apiece.  So it’s actually physically impossible to hear them all, and can be downright daunting to wrangle them into some kind of intelligible countdown.  But we certainly have done our best, here cataloging the tunes we just couldn’t stop playing, and stuck fast in our heads when we finally managed to turn them off.  For this list, we tried to reach beyond picking our favorite tracks from our top 50 albums (although some artists did make both lists).  We gave special attention to one-off singles and those featured on EPs (since we only included full-length albums in our year-end rundown).  If you’d rather play them in Spotify, you can access our Top 50 Tracks playlist here.

50. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop (from Bangerz)

Despite the walking shit-show that was Miley Cyrus this past year, people couldn’t deny the slick production on this infectious and weirdly unique track—the response pretty much across the board was a meek “yeah, this is a good song… but don’t quote me on that.” I think it’s about time people just came out and said it: kudos on the song, Miley. – RD

47. Holograms – Lay Us Down (from Forever)

The stirring swan song from the Swedish post-punks’ follow up to their highly-acclaimed 2012 release ends the distinctly darker Forever on a slightly positive note. More refined and restrained than the rest of the album, its razor-sharp riffs and plodding percusssion still pack quite the punch. But there’s an unusual strain of hope in the hollow, echoic vocals, the lyrics offering an unexpected anthem of perseverance, issued almost like a chant. The reverential motif continues with sporadic church gongs and roomy synths, adding to the track’s epic sway. – NP

48. RAC feat. Penguin Prison – Hollywood (from Don’t Talk To)

Andre Allen Anjos’ ability to remix good songs into even better songs is what made RAC a hipster household name, but this year marked his first foray into making entirely original music. His collaboration with Penguin Prison was  the stand-out of his Don’t Talk To EP, with that catchy-as-all-hell bass riff that had me instantly hooked. It’s a little funk, a little Phoenix, and a lot irresistible. – RD

47. Keep Shelly In Athens – Time Only Exists to Betray Us (from At Home)

This song is a force to be reckoned with. It’s powerful, disturbing, and sexy. Lead vocalist Sarah P. stretches from a light murmur to a heady snarl. Its backing samples make reference to trip-hop, while the instrumentation is reminiscent of psych rock. Simultaneously ambient and chaotic, the track is dynamic and fluid, a true show-stopper. When I saw them in October they opened the set with this song and it immediately intoxicated the crowd. – MB

46. Ha Ha Tonka – Lessons (from Lessons)

The fresh-faced and earnest fellows of Ha Ha Tonka mix a healthy dollop of Southern farm boy into their rock ‘n’roll, and this track’s gospel vocal harmonies and antsy, guilt-ridden repetition add depth to the group’s signature stuck-in-your-head, drum-thumping formula. – CL

45. Vondelpark – Always Forever (from Seabed)

This track from Brit trio Vondelpark is only 3 minutes long yet feels erudite and expansive. Melding familiar synth underpinnings and smooth R&B vocals that are stretched and distorted over electro-pop beats and twinkling melodies, the listener is swept into a web of fantasy and romance, in which the lines between dreaming and reality come in and out of focus at the turn of each phrase. It’s simultaneously danceable and ambient simultaneously, a promising direction for electronic music in the coming year. – AW

44. Young Galaxy – New Summer (from Ultramarine)

Oh, the sweetness of a summer fling. Not since the Grease soundtrack have we had such a fitting anthem for seasonally-affected affection, illuminated here by swoony synths and bouncy bass and Catherine McCandless’s yearning cries of “let’s get out of the roooooo–oo-oo-ooom, ooooh”. Optimal listening recommendations come from the lyrics themselves – with the windows down and the stereo loud; basically the perfect way to listen to anything, but maybe even more so with someone you’ll never see after the fall. – LR

43. Haerts – Wings (from Hemiplegia)

On the Brooklyn quartet’s charismatic EP Hemiplegia, Nini Fabi’s resolute intonations soar over infectious beats and dynamic guitars. On “Wings”, the band adopts a sparkling 80’s pop vibe appropriate to the tune’s subject matter of unconditional adoration. While Fabi’s vocal range is technically impressive, it’s the drama she is able to convey within it – the wide range of emotion that comes across on every listen (and on the subsequent tracks from the EP) – that stays with the listener long after the last notes have faded. – LR

42. Albert Hammond, Jr. – St. Justice (from AHJ)

Albert Hammond Jr. has never really bothered to distance his solo self sonically from his work with The Strokes, but he’s often displayed a genius knack for expanding on those simplistic rock themes ever so slightly. His past two records, written and recorded as he struggled with heroin addiction, hinged on subtle production adornments, but the four songs on his AHJ EP eschew those kinds of embellishments altogether in favor of rootsy, infectious grooves and getting back to stripped-down basics. As the first track on that EP, “St. Justice” is a perfect sort of warm-up, with Hammond’s haughty vocals sailing over a needling, catchy guitar line. – JA

41. Denitia and Sene – she’s not the only one. (from his and hers.)

Denitia and Sene’s entire album is a wonderful exchange between the two performers, but this hip-hop infused track is particularly striking. Denitia’s soulful vocals are perfectly sensual over Sene’s old school beat, and the overall effect is a simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic feel that hits all the right spots. – RD

40. DIANA – Born Again (from Perpetual Surrender)

The most exuberant track from the Canadian quartet’s stirring debut Perpetual Surrender, “Born Again” features airy synths, glitzy saxophone (courtesy of Destroyer’s Joseph Shabason) and sees vocalist Carmen Elle’s breathy whispers amped to the open throated demand “Now’s the time for believing / Lay your hands on me, I need healing”. Not since a DJ saved Indeep’s life has such dire import been placed on dance music, but this time the focus is on escape from a tiny town buoyed by the company of a like-minded lover, rather than rescue from a broken heart. It’s a glorious moment that shimmers on a standout album and the dancefloor alike. – LR

39. Cakes da Killa – I Run This Club (from The Eulogy)

Opening with laser fire and maniacal laughter before erupting into a frenzied late-night party anthem accented with frequent air horns, Cakes da Killa proudly represents the onslaught of gay rappers that turn the oft-homophobic genre on its head. Less raunchy than most of the other material on his debut The Eulogy, Cakes’ braggadoccio begs booty bouncing (getting a boost from Philly beat-maker Siyoung), his twisted, clever rhymes on par with like-minded Le1f or Mykki Blanco. – LR

38. Lorde – Royals (from Pure Heroine)

It’s easy to accuse a seventeen year old of being naive about certain things (like the fact that her breakout single might come off as just a tad racist since she skewers a particular brand of consumerism most celebrated through hip-hop) but honestly, in 2013 it’s almost refreshing when a teen pop singer is as unaffected as Lorde. And it’s also refreshing when “pop” refers more to popularity than to any overriding, over-produced sound; the infectious, finger-snapped percussive elements in “Royals” feel more minimal than epic and provide a perfect backdrop for that honeyed, slightly witchy voice. No matter how ubiquitous the single, it’s hard to deny that kind of obvious talent. – LR

37. Jagwar Ma – Come Save Me (from Howlin’)

There’s a lot at play on this Australian duo’s mostly overlooked debut record Howlin’. Rooted in the pop-goes-bizarre vein of Animal Collective’s best Beach Boys imitations, none of the tracks hover there too long before branching into the dubbiness of the sweatiest club anthems. With energy to spare, “Come Save Me” hinges on these elements coming together in dense layers as it channels girl groups of Spector-era fame and moves through kinetic rhythms and bright synths. – LR / MB

36. FKA Twigs – Papi Pacify (from EP2)

There’s been plenty of talk this year about women harnessing sexuality as a means of empowerment, and unfortunately most of it has centered on the clumsiest examples in pop music. Luckily, there’s also Tahliah Barnett, who performs an updated version of trip-hop as FKA Twigs. On the Arca-produced EP2, her breathless vocals lilt sensuously over sparse beats. The videos that accompany each of the songs highlight their dense sexuality in artistic, enigmatic ways, with “Papi Pacify” being the most intense to date. As the minimalist soundscape builds into churning R&B, Twigs calls out for her lover to “clarify” and “pacify”; in the gorgeous black-and-white clip she’s made to look fragile against the outsized landscape of her dominant partner but her gaze rarely leaves the viewer’s, asserting her control and complicity over the situation. It’s liberating in an unflinching way that doesn’t beg any half-assed justifications about who’s in control of her persona as a performer. – LR

35. The Entrance Band – Spider (from Face The Sun)

Having struggled with depression and addiction, the three members of L.A. based Entrance Band are poised to borrow sonically from trance-inducing stoner rock while waxing introspective about their demons. There are plenty of literal examples on Face The Sun, their first studio album since 2009; Guy Blakeslee’s desperate warble is more than convincing on songs like “The Crave” and “Year of the Dragon”. “Spider” takes a less direct approach, unspooling surf rock riffs with bleedingly evil distortion and lyrics that read more like Aesop’s fables. Bassist Paz Lenchantin created an intoxicating stop-motion video to accompany the track that compliments its dark themes with a film noir feel. – CL

34. Anna Calvi – Suddenly (from One Breath)

Anna Calvi brings an almost theatrical rock ‘n’ roll tone to everything she sings, but on slow-burner “Suddenly” she’s unusually commanding. With strong, strummed power chords and rotund vocals, “Suddenly” knocks you on the ground and keeps you there. The verses are lyrically vulnerable but plummet into clattering instrumental leaps when least expected, building the emotional energy of the song to its breaking point and paying off in the release. – RK

33. Gap Dream – Chill Spot (from Shine Your Light)

In his quest to find the most chill of all spots, Gabe Fulvimar moved from Ohio to California to live in a storage space adjunct to Burger Records, the Fullerton imprint known for releasing garage pop and surf punk cassettes. The influence of Burger Records and California cool is all over Gap Dream’s sophomore release Shine Your Light, and “Chill Spot” typifies that shift while describing Fulvimar’s trajectory. In “organizing his mind” we see him mostly ditching the gritty guitar so present on his self-titled debut for warbling synths. In the video he’s proudly repping his label (as well as ABBA), wearing his trademark orange aviators, and slipping across Cali sunsets, down palm-tree lined streets, and though a shimmering neon underground; it’s probably safe to say he’s found the “Chill Spot” he was searching for, and he fits right in. – LR

32. Kim Deal – Are You Mine? (single)

I was disheartened when Kim Deal left The Pixies and underwhelmed by The Breeders’ reunion tour but delighted in Deal’s self-released 7-inch series, recorded with her patented All Wave (no computers, digital recording or “auto-tuning” as defined by Wikipedia) process and issued sporadically throughout 2013. The crowning jewel in what is thus far a trio of releases is this lovelorn lullaby. Just think what the ASPCA could do with this song in those commercials filled with sad-eyed puppies and mangled kittens begging you to donate money to their rescue efforts! Sarah Maclachlan ain’t shit. – LR

31. Sevyn Streeter – It Won’t Stop (single)

I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to me that when Sevyn Streeter’s EP finally dropped “It Won’t Stop” had been remixed and now overbearingly features woman-abuser Chris Brown on the track. I mean, I knew that she had written songs for him and found a home on on his CBE imprint, but I took the fact that the single had been Diplo and Free School produced as at least somewhat redemptive. Luckily, the version of the song that I jammed to all summer (and isn’t co-opted by any Rihanna-beater) is still available thanks to the miracle of the internet. – LR

30. Say Lou Lou – Better In The Dark (single)

A seriously stunning twin sister act from Australia and Sweden, this duo inspires vicious wonder with their dreamy pop. Perfect for the end of the night, after the lights have flickered off and faded out, with a lover or without one, this song feels both epic and internal in scope. The Kilbey sisters exhibit something of an Olsen twins business sensibility, having established their own label for releasing singles after putting out “Maybe You” via Kitsuné; all this has been enough to grab the attention of acts like Twin Shadow, with whom Say Lou Lou toured. We expect big things from their first full-length which will hopefully see release sometime in early 2014.  – JA

29. Foxygen – On Blue Mountain (from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic)

Foxygen’s debut confidently weaves oldies rock influences (including obvious nods to The Beatles and Bob Dylan, among others) with poignant and playful storytelling. This song embodies their curatorial versatility, transforming in a single beat or a lone lyric from weary to lovelorn to rousing and anthemic and back again. It’s a quick-moving and complicated track that manages extreme swings without sounding psychotic; in fact, its movements are downright elegant. In other words, it’s an instant classic. – CL / RD

28. Drake – Hold On, We’re Going Home (from Nothing Was The Same)

With an 80’s feel reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, Drake’s exploring synthy territories he rarely broaches. Drum machine pops and cracks with a retro vibe, the vocals on the bridge more Hall & Oates than traditional Drizzy. Lyrically it shares a line (“you’re a good girl”) with one of 2013’s sleaziest songs, but takes the high road where the other does not, casting Drake as a lovesick knight in shining armour. It’s Nothing Was The Same‘s truest gem, despite having failed to spawn any catch phrases. – TT

27. Local Natives – You & I (from Hummingbird)

At once soothing and emotionally gripping, “You & I” is notable as much for its composition and complexity as it is for the feelings it stirs. The plaintive lyrics (“In all this light / all I feel is dark / had the sun without its warmth”, etc) combined with Taylor Rice’s soaring tenor vocals (stylistically reminiscent of Animal Collective and Fleet Foxes), indeed pull at the heart strings. However the composition itself captivates, with expansive percussions and tight melodies that drive the song forward in a way that lends it happier, more uplifting elements. The subsequent tension between these two contradictions makes “You & I” one of the best tracks on this already exceptional sophmore album. – AW

26. Little Daylight – Overdose (from Tunnel Vision)

You’re gonna hear this in a car commercial or trashy drama eventually, so why not enjoy it fully before Lena Dunham’s music supervisors get ahold of it? This dancefloor-worthy ditty glamorizes the whole caught-up-in-an-endless-cycle-with-someone-who’s-so-so-so-so-bad-for-you thing.  Over a wall of addictive synths and heart-stopping, foot-stomping beats, Nikki Taylor’s AA-inspired confessional spirals from low, sultry verse to manic chorus. – LR

25.  Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener (from The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas)

This song is like Exile in Guyville on acid, a.k.a. the best thing ever. Over guitar distortions and a simple, repetitive bass line, Barnett’s dazed vocals recount the story of a panic attack she has in the middle of some very enjoyable gardening: “I feel proactive, I pull out weeds / All of a sudden, I’m having trouble breathing in”—life can be such a bitch. – RD

24. The Denzels – 222 (from Blow)

This new EP from the Denzels came in juuuust under the wire on 12/1, but packed a huge punch. Each track gives the listener a glimpse of what to expect from their full-length – namely upbeat, irresistibly catchy post punk with retro, drawling vocals and loud, driving drums that hit you over the head. “222” stands out for its ability to sweep you inside of it like it’s some sort of tornado on a destruction path. It starts out with 15 seconds of fuzzy synth before bursting drums and a driving two-chord guitar melody break through the static like an adrenaline mainline. The song feels like a four-minute long marathon, at the end of which you feel exhausted but happy. And as an added bonus, you get the brilliant, oh-so-concise one line chorus as follows: “This little light of mine / will light you on fire.” They should put that on my gravestone. – AW

23. Kate Boy – Northern Lights (from Northern Lights)

In 2011, Kate Akhurst was introduced to the other members of what would become Kate Boy during a visit to Sweden. The first time they met they penned the words “Everything we touch it turns, turns to gold” – a declarative rallying cry to follow smokey-voiced verses draped over elastic bass and an ascendant, bouncy synthline. Akhurst moved to Sweden, and the electro-pop quartet released the single late in 2012, followed by this year’s debut EP of the same that’s every bit as catchy and textured as this first glimpse of magic. – LR

22. Mariah Carey feat. Miguel – #Beautiful (single)

Mariah and Miguel are a match made in hashtag heaven. Somehow managing to recall Motown-era smash hits and sugary sweet 90’s jams at once, the unadorned, fuzzy charm is akin to finding a random summer anthem on FM radio. While the backing beats are tactile and raw, the vocals are buttery and double-tracked at every turn.  Mariah’s signature high octaves are repurposed as cat-call-like whistles – their most appropriate and least grating use to date. Kanye was probably listening to this song nonstop when he envisioned the “Bound 2” video. – LR

21. Queens of the Stone Age – If I Had A Tail (from …Like Clockwork)

“If I Had A Tail” absolutely blindsided me–which is quite the illustrious feat these days. When I first heard it I thought it was some unreleased Talking Heads track.  On the verses, Josh Homme’s voice sounds as if it now inhabits an entirely new register in which he has never sung before, and by the chorus their signature gritty, glitchy guitar underpinnings reveal the song’s roots as a classic Queens Of The Stone Age jam. That they’ve enjoyed such longevity as a band (nearly 20 years old now) by recycling the same electric guitar-dominated alt-rock motifs over and over says quite a bit about their strength as musicians (although I personally lost interest in them after bassist Mark Lanegan left the project). That said, it’s cool to hear them branch out into a newer, more experimental style that lets a bit of idiosyncrasy permeate their sound, all the while maintaining the structural integrity of the music and the elemental aspects that make what they do exceptional. Everytime I listen to this song I find a new layer of complexity, which is what in my estimation separates the quotidian from the great. – AW

20. The Knife – Full of Fire (from Shaking the Habitual)

While music journo went wild over Kanye, most everyone slept on an avant-garde noise epic every bit as political and possibly more sonically harsh. Shaking the Habitual is admittedly difficult to digest as it ambles through creepy abstract soundscapes, and perhaps it could have benefitted from a little distilling to its more ecstatic moments (like the clubby “Stay Out Here”, seething slow-burner “Ready To Lose”, or the airy, tribal “Without You My Life Would Be Boring”). But that would have been “selling out”, and those who can’t sit through the entire gauntlet of bizarro breaks and otherworldly acoustics have an almost party-ready set of Cliff’s Notes in the album’s lead single. – LR

19. Mapei – Don’t Wait (single)

I hate to use the term “worldly influences” but it’s pretty fitting here. Mapei’s killer single draws from her Liberian background, her Swedish upbringing, as well as her time spent living in Tunisia, Portugal, and Brazil. This song is pretty sparse instrumentally, but Mapei’s rich voice comes in like caramel, oozing into all the crevices of your brain. – RD

18. Cass McCombs feat. Karen Black (from Big Wheel and Others)

McCombs’ second collaboration with late singer/actress Karen Black is sweet and bare-bones. Following a simplistic formula that rocks like a lullaby with warm twang and the innocent lyricism of Goodnight Moon, a bevy of entities – from planets to musical instruments – are implored to glow, well… brighter. The song isn’t wholly innocent, occasionally interjecting pops of snap and sass with lines like “Brighter, my ass!” into its casual singsong without losing any of the loveliness. – CL

17. CHVRCHES – Recover (from The Bones of What You Believe)

Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty knew they had great chemistry when they started messing around in the studio, and were pleasantly surprised when the internet took notice of tracks they posted on soundcloud, but certainly weren’t expecting to become one of the most buzzed-about new acts of 2013. “Recover” exemplifies the signature sound that took them to the top – expansive synths, earnest and elfin vocals, unforgettable hooks and glittering production. That the band handled production themselves instead of turning it over to record industry bigwigs shows integrity as well as keen insight and promises many more hits to come. – LR

16. Run the Jewels feat. Big Boi – Banana Clipper (from Run the Jewels)

The latest and greatest from Killer Mike and El-P’s stellar collaboration, made all the better by the presence of Big Boi, this track is bouncy, badass, and a bit eerie with its chopped-up, tinny-sounding samples. It captures the reckless spirit that made the entirety of their collaboration so exciting, presenting the larger-than-life personas of the duo (and guest star) through well-timed, verbose rhymes over a hyperventilating beat. – MB

15. Phosphorescent – Song for Zula (from Muchacho)

It sounds shimmery and pretty, but “Song for Zula” is bitter in the way that makes me feel almost more sorry for the titular trollop than I do for Matthew Houck, who here resolves to move on after getting burned so badly he wanted to kill her with his bare hands. In this scathing who-needs-you-anyway hymn, Houck sings of racing through the desert, wary of fickle love. And the strings present the auditory equivalent of a mirage, see-sawing sweetly through delicate guitar reverb. Perfect for those who’d rather go kick-boxing than on a crying jag in the face of heartbreak. – LR

14. Postiljonen – Supreme (from Skyer)

A few years ago, a couple promising albums from jj and Air France it made it seem like Balearic-tinged Scandinavian pop was about to be huge. The phenomenon kind of died, with acts like M83 (who are actually from France) the only clear successor. Somewhere in the middle are Swedish trio Postiljonen, whose debut record Skyer is laden with ethereal vocals, vibrant synths, and the occasional, but always sweeping saxophone solo. “Supreme” is the band’s anthemic ode to wild love, replete with breathy spoken passages and soaring guitars – a perfect introduction to the band’s brand of slightly nostalgic, beautifully wrought electro-pop. – LR

13. Blood Orange – Chamakay (from Cupid Deluxe)

Dev Hynes’ signature Prince-esque vocals play brilliantly with a guest appearance from Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek on the lead single from Cupid Deluxe. A lithe marimba melody floats over echoey percussion while those bittersweet vocals swirl around the mix, expertly translating the quiet but lacerating essence of heartbreak that permeates this track. Hynes’ production choices are consistently fearless throughout the entirety of the record, but never more bold than when he ends “Chamakay” with a sultry sax solo. – LR

12. King Krule – Easy Easy (from 6 Feet Beneath the Moon)

While Lorde was busy slamming hip-hop for its fantastical excess, Archy Marshall enlists his deep-throated croon to lambaste gang culture (with a decidedly English take). It’s a beautiful moment in the rising artist’s career; in the chorus he’s calming himself down as a means of carrying on, despite his unsatisying life as a pauper. After the release of this year’s phenomenal 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, Marshall won’t be economically downtrodden for long. – LR

11. Wet – You’re the Best (from Wet)

Finally, the ladies have their answer to alternative R&B in Kelly Zutrau, whose American Idol-worthy vocals are the icing on a cake layered with Joe Valle’s popping production and Marty Sulkow’s meandering, sensual guitar. Lyrically, Zutrau deals with the conundrum of wanting what she shouldn’t and doubting what’s best for her (or knowing what isn’t regardless of how good it feels to have) and nowhere is this attitude more prescient than on the Brooklyn trio’s breakout single. – LR

10. Portugal. The Man – Purple Yellow Red and Blue (from Evil Friends)

On Evil Friends (their seventh studio album), Portugal. The Man enlist prolific producer Danger Mouse to punch up tracks like infectious single “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” which has all of the workings to be a shout-along live favorite or club-ready dance anthem. While the drug references could maybe be a bit more subtle, it’s the catchy hooks and singable chorus that are truly addictive. – RK

9. Flume feat. George Maple – Bring You Down (from Flume)

Flume’s particular brand of R&B laden electronic dance music (the kind that works so incredibly well when it’s good and is equally atrocious when done poorly) holds a special place in my heart, as both genres herald from my nominal place of origin, Detroit. And indeed, Flume is of the ilk who do this hybrid really really well. “Bring You Down”, featuring the beautiful Australian songstress/producer, George Maple, beckons the listener in within the first few bars of the track, with the lyrics “Hush now, you’re standing on a landmine”. The opening verse builds, advising the listener not to “tread lightly” and “keep your wits about/ let it bring you down”. – AW

8. Darkside – Paper Trails (from Psychic)

The most accessible track off an impeccable album, “Paper Trails” has a velvety, downtempo beat laced with a Dire Straits-esque guitar line. It expertly adopts blues and funk elements, here given a modern facelift by Dave Harrington and Nicolas Jaar. Jaar’s smoldering vocals add a surprisingly earnest touch to what could easily have been vapid, repetitive club-jam lyrics when he reveals paternal, homesick longings; it’s a hint at the warmth this project manages to convey despite its electronic roots. – RD

7. Kanye West – Black Skinhead (from Yeezus)

The quintessential mission statement from Yeezus, Kanye reminds us where he’s been with a razor sharp focus on where he’s about to go. So much of the anger that fueled Yeezus is in full effect on this track, which tackles black-on-black youth violence, criticism from conservative religious groups, both the embrace and loathing received from white “Middle America”, and entrenched racial stereotypes all in the first verse. The industrial beat is a far cry from Kanye’s usual soul-sampling but an appropriate backdrop for his rabid rapping, complete with heavy panting and screeches echoing throughout, literally gasping to imitate the rappers he calls out in the last verse. Kanye’s flow doesn’t often deliver as wholly as his production skills do, but this blistering track is an assured exception. – TT

6. Lucius – Turn It Around (from Wildewoman)

Brooklyn-based band Lucius reference 1960’s girl groups throughout this year’s debut album, Wildewoman, but never do so more euphorically than on “Turn it Around” thanks to a stretchy bass riff and hand-clapping percussion. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig take turns singing lead and backup vocals, each accenting the other with spirited yelps and yips before eventually coming together in unison for an ultra-catchy chorus. It’s a great ambassador to the quirky, energetic pop that awaits on the rest of the record. – RK

5. Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams – Lose Yourself to Dance (from Random Access Memories)

Goes hand-in-hand with 2013’s best music-related weird twitter tweet:

Daft frowned. "What if we … added a robot voice?" Punk leaned back and grinned. They'd done it again. Their fifth billion dollars.

— Bill Hanstock (@sundownmotel) July 23, 2013

4. David Bowie – Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Remix by James Murphy for DFA) (from The Next Day: Extra)

It’s a simple equation: Bowie vocals over The Rapture’s “Sister Saviour” leftover synth patches circa 2006 times Music for 18 Musicians equals vintage James Murphy genius. But the real reward comes six-and-a-half minutes through when Murphy randomly injects little snippets of Bowie’s 1980 classic “Ashes to Ashes” through all those loops and claps and everyone just goes “Oh, what have you done?”. This is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost level musical trinity at work, brilliantly referenced by DFA’s everlasting production mastermind. – LR

3. Parquet Courts – You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now (from Tally All The Things That You Broke)

Released as a teaser for an EP to follow-up last year’s stellar Light Up Gold, this single embodies everything that’s great about the Brooklyn punks, namely their DIY approach to assembling ramshackle rhythms, relentless guitar riffs, and semi-awkward rants (anyone who caught their ultra-extended diatribe tacked to the end of “Stoned and Starving” at this summer’s 4Knots fest can attest to Andrew Savage’s ability to ramble). While the rest of the EP was remarkable mainly for its mention of Crown Heights (WHAT UP!!!!!!) it hints at about a hundred amazing directions the band might take in 2014. – LR

2. Disclosure – When A Fire Starts To Burn (from Settle)

Combine a skillfully chosen, passionate, and catchy vocal sample with an intoxicating feet-stomping, hip-swinging, hand-clapping beat and you’ve got a basic recipe for a crazy, sweaty dance track (yes, this song sounds sweaty). These youngins had a bang-up year following a popular remix for Jessie Ware and a string of buzzy SXSW performances, ultimately leading to sold-out shows at premier NYC venues and the critically acclaimed release of Settle. – RD

1. Haim – The Wire (from Days Are Gone)

The numbers speak for themselves on this one: in November when Spotify decided to quantify the most-played songs by borough, it confirmed a deep obsession with the sisters that spanned Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.  And that appeal is certainly not limited to NYC; far and wide, it seemed impossible to get sick of this tune, with its fuzzy electric guitars, indisputably catchy beat, and expertly implemented synth. At its heart, it’s basically a no-frills breakup song (with an amazing music video that features three melodramatic dudes crying over the trio), but interestingly it’s not one that places blame on the rejected partner, who’s “gonna be okay anyway”.  All throughout the Haim’s debut, there are examples of that same soul-searching ability, made so accessible by pitch-perfect production and all the right inspirational references.  – RD

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