We've come to the end of another year and it's time once again to count down my favorite songs of the year. There was a lot of good music in 2013 and it was difficult to narrow it down to just 20 songs (one per artist). But here they are and I'm quite happy with this set of songs. Let's see what 2014 has to offer!
If you missed this week's show, where I counted down these songs and played a few honorable mentions, you can listen online at http://wruv.org/thisweek?2013-12-18_2000h_Wed-Flight_of_the_Squawkatiel_with_McSquawk.m3u or http://wruv.org/schedule/wednesday
Here are my Top 20 songs of 2013:
Ducktails - "Letter of Intent"
Ducktails (the project of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile) gave us plenty of new music this year, first the full length The Flower Lane and then the Wish Hotel EP, and put out one of my favorite dream pop songs from this year, which features guest vocals from Jessa Farkas.
Tera Melos - "Sunburn"
On Tera Melos' 2013 album X'ed Out, they delivered a winning blend of math rock & punk, and "Sunburn" was easily my favorite song on the album.
Frightened Rabbit - "Housing (In)" / "Housing (Out)"
Yes, I am counting two songs as one. Frightened Rabbits's latest album Pedestrian Verse had many great songs including "The Woodpile", "Late March, Death March" and "Holy" but the real standout to me was "Housing" which is split into two parts throughout the album. "Housing (In)" appears halfway through the album, and "Housing (Out)" is the second to last track. The chorus that ties these songs together "You can't carry me away now, please don't steal me from my house" is one that just gets stuck in your head. The pair of songs also has lyrics you can relate to; the first part is about returning home to where you grew up and the second part is about that moment when you have to leave.
Listen: Housing (In) Housing (Out)
Frank Turner - "We Shall Not Overcome"
Frank Turner's album was the one my girlfriend Althea and I were looking forward to the most this year, after 2011's excellent England Keep My Bones. This year's Tape Deck Heart wasn't one of my favorite Frank Turner albums, but even one of Frank Turner's lesser albums is better than a lot of the stuff that is out there. My favorite song of his this year was one that only appears on the deluxe version of Tape Deck Heart (although Althea would have picked this song instead)
Wild Nothing - "A Dancing Shell"
Wild Nothing had my #1 song and #1 album of 2012 with Nocturne (both the album and the song), and released the Empty Estate EP this spring. This EP was more experimental and tried some new things and while I didn't enjoy Empty Estate quite as much as the other Wild Nothing releases, it was still good enough to get one of its songs into my Top 20. I had to go with the lead single from the EP, mostly because this video is so awesome.
Beach Fossils - "Taking Off"
Beach Fossils went through some lineup changes since their debut album, with their guitarist and bassist moving on to other projects (DIIV and Heavenly Beat, respectively) Their 2013 album Clash the Truth didn't seem to get as great of a critical reception as their debut and their What a Pleasure EP, but it was an album I enjoyed a lot. It was hard to choose a favorite song from this album but I thought this one, which is one of the more emotional tracks on the album, was the standout.
This Town Needs Guns - "+3 Awesomeness Repels Water"
I was excited to hear a new release from This Town Needs Guns this year, since their debut 2009 album Animals was one of my favorites from my college days. Since that album, they had to find a new lead singer but came back strong with their new album 126.96.36.199.0. The song "+3 Awesomeness Repels Water" is the most powerful moment on the album (in addition to having a hilarious title).
Foals - "Out of the Woods"
Foals returned this year with another great album, Holy Fire. The lead single "Inhaler" narrowly missed my Top 20 from last year (but made the Top 25) The standout from the new album for me was "Out of the Woods" which is very melodic and has a unique rhythm and mood.
My Body - "New Cat"
My Body are a duo from Brooklyn who have yet to release an album but have recorded a few singles. This song seemingly came out of nowhere - I found it on my Soundcloud stream (posted by promoter Danger Village) The whole song is really powerful - it has a bittersweet melody with a slowed down hip hop beat and synths that sound like a cat meowing, with lyrics that take a different approach to the typical breakup song, including a dead cat metaphor for a failed relationship. Technically, this song came out in 2012 but didn't really receive any promotion until this year.
Delorean - "Inspire"
Delorean had one of my favorite albums of 2010 with Subiza (and that's saying a lot since that was one of my favorite years for music) so I was excited for them to release their follow up this year. While there weren't any singles as awesome as "Simple Graces" or "Stay Close" from their last album, there were many good songs and it was hard to choose just one for the list. But I had to go with "Inspire" because it has an excellent mood, mysterious and slightly dark, yet upbeat. The other songs that came close were "Destitute Time", "Dominion" and "Walk High".
Listen to "Inspire" on Spotify (sorry, couldn't find a Soundcloud or Youtube for this one)
Minks - "Painted Indian"
The label Captured Tracks has produced some of my favorite artists of the last few years, including Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, and DIIV. But this year's highest placing artist from Captured Tracks was a bit of a surprise. This song proves that sometimes the smallest detail can make or break a song, and it's the five notes that mark the transition from the verse to chorus that make this good song a great song.
Surfer Blood - "Weird Shapes"
Surfer Blood returned with their sophomore album Pythons which has more of a polished sound than their debut Astro Coast. "Weird Shapes" is one of my favorite straight up rock songs of the year, and has a bit of a 90's vibe with equally great hooks in the verse and chorus.
Mint Julep - "Soon the Sea"
Mint Julep are a duo from Portland, OR. I discovered them on Soundcloud and featured them as my Soundcloud Artist of the Week in June. They were supposed to release an EP this year called Broken Devotion but that never happened. They did but put out this beautiful song. It pairs the chilled out synth sounds of Neon Indian and Washed Out with dreamy female vocals, and reminds me of Beach House a little bit (and not just because she mentions a beach house in the lyrics). This song is available as a free download below.
Generationals - "Spinoza"
Several songs from the new Generationals album Heza were played on my show and in my playlists this year, but "Spinoza" was definitely on of my favorite summer songs. It's a great surf rock song with jangly guitars that remind me a little of Beach Fossils.
Youth Lagoon - "Mute"
Youth Lagoon is an artist I hadn't paid much attention to, but they got my interest first when they released the single "Dropla" and then the album Wondrous Bughouse, which features this epic song. It has interesting lyrics that seem to describe a dream-like scene. But my real favorite thing about this song is how it slowly builds up to that guitar solo which is one of the most memorable moments in music in 2013 for me.
Home by Hovercraft - "Zoo Lion"
My favorite new artist I discovered in 2013 was Home By Hovercraft, a group from Texas. I first came across this song on Soundcloud, then I got to review their CD for WRUV. There is no guitar or bass on this album; instead their members play piano, violin, glockenspiel and even have a tap dancer to provide extra percussion. It would be hard to find another band that uses this combination of instruments. I'm not really sure what this song is about or why it's called "Zoo Lion" but the lyrics are very poetic and seem to describe a dream. Do you remember the chariot that took you to Central Station? Well, do you?
Vasco Da Gama - "Brigadiers"
I discovered this song through the Soundcloud stream of Art Rocker Magazine, who have a great collection of free MP3s from mostly British bands. This song was my favorite Soundcloud find of the year, very heavy but at the same time catchy and melodic, with unique time signatures. Reminds me a bit of the now defunct band Damiera. There isn't a whole lot of music like this coming out these days.
Veronica Falls - "Teenage"
Veronica Falls have become my favorite artist on Slumberland Records for the moment (as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are no longer on that label). They put out an excellent album at the beginning of this year Waiting For Something to Happen. Though this song has very simple lyrics, it is a perfect guitar pop song and definitely one of my favorites of the year. Honorable mention goes to "Falling Out", which I enjoyed just as much, but I chose "Teenage" since it was the lead single and made more of an impact.
Enter the Haggis - "Letters"
Enter the Haggis have been one of my favorite bands for a while, and I've seen them live a bunch of times. This year they released "The Modest Revolution", a concept album where all the songs are inspired by different articles from one day's newspaper. This concept worked well for them. Though this album strays from their Celtic roots, it makes up for it with some of their best songwriting to date. By far my favorite song on the album was "Letters", which tells the story of a man whose car broke down in the desert and wrote a letter to his wife for each day he was stuck there.
Adrian Roye & the Exiles - "The Calling"
Adrian Roye & the Exiles are a band not many people know about, but should. They are from London and describe their music as "afro-folk". I discovered them one night a couple years ago when I went to Radio Bean with Althea and they were playing. (They happened to be in Vermont recording their album). We bought their EP Telephones & Traffic Lights and ended up listening to it a lot. They finally released their debut full-length Reclaimed this year and it was well worth the wait. Sadly, they seem to be having troubles with getting the album distributed, so right now Reclaimed is only available by ordering the CD from their website. Reclaimed is even better than the EP and is just a great listen from beginning to end. It was tough choosing just one song from the album for this list; there were five really great songs I could have chosen (the others being "Seven Hours", "Warning Shot", "Cold War" and "I Claim You"), but I had to go with "The Calling" because I feel it best represents the soul of this album. You can listen to full album here (I highly recommend it!)
As a bonus, here's a video of them performing the song live:
Of course, there was much more great music that didn't quite make it into my Top 20, so here are some Honorable Mentions:
Sigur Ros - "Isjaki"
Typhoon - "Young Fathers"
The Melodic - "Plunge"
Pretty & Nice - "Q_Q"
Frankie Rose - "Sorrow"
Loveskills - "We Say Love"
Cayucas - "Cayucos"
Kitten - "Like a Stranger"
Broken Bells - "Holding On For Life"
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "Young Presidents" and "Unearth"
Run River North - "Fight to Keep"
Manicanparty - "It's In Her Eyes"
Bibio - "A Tout A L'Heure"
Tycho - "Awake"
Shout Out Louds - "Walking In Your Footsteps"
Pick a Piper - "All Her Colours"
Also, check out my Top 20s of previous years: