10. M.I.A. – Bad Girls
Even though this song came out in a different version in 2010, and again last year, it was featured one more time on M.I.A.’s 2013 album Matangi and is still one of the best songs of the year with maybe one of the best videos ever. That’s high praise for someone currently embroiled in a legal dispute for flipping off the entire world during the Super Bowl, but that’s what bad girls do (and they do it well).
Src: 2013 © M.I.A. via YouTube
9. Vampire Weekend – Step
Vampire Weekend pulled a neat trick on this baroque pop standout from the universally-acclaimed Modern Vampires in the City. While not actually sampling Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D (but sounding like it), they do sample the opening line from Soul of Mischief’s 1993 hip hop song “Step to My Girl” as well as reimagining the sample on that track from Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Aubrey” into something entirely their own.
Src: 2013 © Vampire Weekend via YouTube
8. Majical Cloudz – Childhood’s End
Following in the footsteps of fellow Canadian and frequent collaborator Grimes after her massive breakthrough in 2012, Montreal-based electronic recording artist Devon Walsh and his producer Matthew Otto scored a more mild-mannered victory in line with their lower key sound by becoming critics’ darlings on everyone’s year end best of lists for their fifth album Impersonator. Their intentionally stripped-down aesthetic relies heavily on Walsh’s booming baritone which, while limited in range, still manages to mesmerize with raw, fragile intensity.
Src: 2013 © Majical Cloudz via YouTube
7. The National – This Is the Last Time
The National lead singer Matt Berninger told Rolling Stone that in the wake of the overwhelming success and sheer goodness of their last album High Violet, this time around, the band didn’t have to prove anything. Still, The National do anything but settle on this album which features Berninger reaching into new vocal registers along with this gem about getting sucked back into the swamp of a bad relationship. The haunting string break two-thirds in with backing harmonies by Sharon Van Etten is one of the most beautiful things they’ve ever recorded.
Src: 2013 © The National via YouTube
6. Jay Z – F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit
Almost two years after Jay and Kanye’s Watch the Throne, Jay appeared in a Samsung commercial during the NBA Finals announcing the release of his epically titled new album Magna Carta Holy Grail for free by mobile app. The move built excitement for the album which earned mixed reviews but featured this standout track. The song creeps up like an Escalade with tinted windows and custom chrome rims in a bad neighborhood. Rick Ross appears and disses Reebok for dropping his contract while providing the hook which Jay Z knocks out of the park with the kind of precision engineered verse that shows he still got it.
Src: 2013 © Jay Z via YouTube
5. Drake – Hold On, We’re Going Home
Drake returned with his third album which attempted to raise the stakes on his “harder” side, but it was cotton candy like this that he will likely be remembered for. The most Stevie Wonder-thing Drake has ever done from a guy whose last album featured creative direction by Stevie Wonder, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” will be played on the radio forever.
Src: 2013 © Drake via YouTube
4. Daft Punk – Get Lucky
Among Thundercat, Arcade Fire, Justin Timberlake and many others, the disco revival was alive and well in 2013, but the best, or at least the best hook, belonged to Daft Punk. Blaring all over the world from loud speakers at bars and clubs, in malls and supermarkets, in your car, at your house, the words “We’re up all night to get lucky” rang all through the night. (And it can’t stop. And it won’t stop.) Producer, guitarist Nile Rodgers who co-wrote the song which inspired “Rappers Delight” also wrote the guitar riff on this instant classic.
Src: 2013 © Daft Punk via YouTube
3. Thundercat – Oh Sheit It’s X
The ultimate real life party song about an actual New Year’s Eve party that went on for two days, where, if we’re to believe the lyrics, somebody ate too many party favors. Like an updated version of the Bee Gee’s “You Should Be Dancing” with production by Flying Lotus, Thundercat plays virtuoso bass and sings in his best disco falsetto, “My friend’s like, you should eat something, but I’m not hungry, just gonna keep dancing in this corner, baby.”
Src: 2013 © Thundercat via YouTube
2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
When rumors surfaced that LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy would be producing Arcade Fire’s new album, we wondered what that meant. Was Arcade Fire making a dance record? Not exactly, but the result was weirder and more wonderful than we could ever imagine. This first single from the new album delivered on the promise of a new sound for the band, a hybrid of the Haitian carnival music from lead singer Régine Chassagne’s ancestral homeland and LCD’s hipster disco. With hints of the Talking Heads and David Bowie, the latter of whom actually appears on the track for a split second, Arcade Fire squeezed all of their influences into a song that was just a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection…
Src: 2013 © Arcade Fire via YouTube
1. Kanye West – Black Skinhead
The best video for Kanye West’s rage-filled screed wasn’t the meticulously designed official interactive film he worked on with British fashion photographer Nick Knight, it was the greed, lust and gluttony of Martin Scorsese’s trailer for Wolf of Wall Street that properly married the song’s bloodthirsty excess to a suitable host.
Src: 2013 © Wolf of Wall Street via YouTube
Src: 2013 © Kanye West via YouTube