Darren’s Top 10 Songs of 2013 That Weren’t On His Top 10 Albums

As you’ll find out tomorrow, 2013 was full of great albums and it took quite some time for me to narrow down my favorites of the year. Some albums were solid throughout, whereas others had songs that I kept coming back to even if I didn’t get too into the album as a whole. This countdown is for the latter category.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Despair
Album: Mosquito

The fourth album by Yeah Yeah Yeahs turned out to be their most eclectic one yet, with some tracks rocking hard like Fever To Tell, some songs having the basement jam session appeal of Show Your Bones,, and others having the electronic tinge of It’s Blitz! Yet I use these album categorizations loosely, since for better or for worse, much of the album sounded nothing like what the band had done before. The song “Despair” represents this in a good way, with its gradual crescendo throughout and Karen O going between singing and belting its heartfelt lyrics. It’s a very good Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, and is one of the better takeaways from Mosquito.

9. Phoenix – Trying To Be Cool
Album: Bankrupt!

Phoenix can always be depended on to make great, accessible, indie rock songs, and Bankrupt! is no exception to this. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking album like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, yet is it a really enjoyable listen. It was hard to choose a favorite track off the album, yet I ultimately gravitated towards the somewhat funky “Trying To Be Cool.” Phoenix experiments a lot with synthesizer melodies on the album, and while they overdo it on a few tracks, this song keeps things subtle and within the realm of what they do best.

8. Sigur Rós – Stormur
Album: Kveikur

It’s pretty hard to put Sigur Rós’s music in words, especially with them being an Icelandic post-rock band known to sometimes sing in a made-up language. In my opinion, their best stuff is when they get really orchestral (see Takk), yet Kveikur managed to be partially industrial yet kept their super happy-go-lucky sound in other parts. Don’t get me wrong, the album is definitely good, yet I truthfully didn’t find myself going back to it with the exception of “Stormur.” This song is easily the most reminiscent of early Sigur Rós on the album, and its place between the glooming and grinding of some songs and the hyper pep of the others make it a real standout track.

7. Empire of the Sun – DNA
Album: Ice On The Dune

I was probably a little too giddy when Empire of the Sun’s second album Ice On The Dune came out, and will admit that I was easily swayed by its simple dance tunes and ridiculously awesome album cover. However, the entire album is one of the most energetic I’ve heard all year, and I’m not complaining that the band made the switch from more experimental electronic music to straightforward dance music. “DNA” is among the many great songs on the album along with “Concert Pitch” and “Old Favours,” yet sticks out as it follows the dramatic intro “Lux” and the acoustic strumming at the beginning hides its thumping drum beats. Like I said initially, the album may be mindless and I can understand it not receiving much critical acclaim, but damn is it fun.

6. Starfucker – Beach Monster
Album: Miracle Mile

Starfucker’s Miracle Mile was a diverse tour de force of 15 indie pop ditties that ranged from 53 seconds to over 7 minutes long. Half of the songs are dance numbers reminiscent of their second album, while the other half are simpler, psychedelic songs more like their debut. As expected, not all of the songs are winners, yet “Beach Monster” sticks out among the better half for being a brief, cutesy-sounding acoustic song that honestly reminds me a little of Panda Bear. It’s quick, trippy, to the point, and has a great accompanying video. I also only recently found out that the singer is actually singing actual words.

5. Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love
Album: Beta Love

While Ra Ra Riot can sometimes get a little predictable with their blend of indie pop, they can still put out damn good singles. Sure, the beautiful baroque pop song “Can You Tell?” comes to mind there, but Beta Love dropped the strings in favor of synthesizers. The results were mixed for sure, but some songs such as “Binary Mind,” “I Shut Off” and this title track all worked out great. “Beta Love” really hams it up with the retro synthesizer melody, and ends up sounding like something done by singer Wes Miles’s electronic side project “Discovery.” Despite this being one of the first albums I acquired in 2013, “Beta Love” continued to be a song I kept coming back to.

4. Cut Copy – We Are Explorers
Album: Free Your Mind

Cut Copy are known for making great dance songs, and truth be told their albumFree Your Mind does deliver on this front. It’s a more or less nonstop thumping dance beat pierced by high-pitched synthesizer melodies with a hint of psychedelia. I fell in love with the six-note hook of “We Are Explorers” almost instantly, even if it is a fairly simple song with less-than-profound lyrics. It’s a great dance track, and the general sound reminds me a little of New Order. The rest of the album is equally danceable, yet it does get repetitive fast and this track turns out to be one of the more distinctive moments.

3.Islands – Wave Forms
Album: Ski Mask

After Islands came out with the electronic-tinged Vapours and the sad, mellow A Sleep & A Forgetting, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the band and was honestly losing some interest. Fortunately, Ski Mask got me back on the bandwagon, since it shows Islands somewhat returning to the style that initially made them popular. But they seem to do this begrudgingly, as singer Nick Diamonds said this album is “really about being angry.” This is exemplified in the track “Wave Forms,” a song all about the band’s frustrating experience with fame. If the chorus of “In the golden hour, holding onto burning embers” doesn’t make this clear, the marimba playing meant to evoke their early “tropical” style should really hammer it in. The album may not be top-10 good, but it definitely was considered for a long time.

2. Foals – My Number
Album: Holy Fire

I guess I should start out by saying that this song is tied with “Inhaler” for my favorite off Holy Fire, yet was ultimately chosen because there’s no boobs in the music video. “My Number” might just be the most straightforward song that Foals have done, yet it actually really works for the band. Sure it’s more pop-oriented and catchy, but it still has the Foals trademark guitar harmonics and dynamic changes. It’s also a welcome break from the quieter, dramatic songs that mark the rest of the album.

1. !!! – One Girl/One Boy
Album: THR!!!ER

Confession: Dance rock, especially disco rock, is secretly my favorite genre. There seem to be very few bands that do it well, with most being either too rock-heavy or too dance-heavy. Fortunately, !!! finds that perfect happy medium with this song, something the band has shown they can do time and time again. I loved this song right from when I first heard the opening guitar riff, and the dance beat that kicks in with the intermittent guitar melody solidifies it as a great dance rock song. However, the guest vocals by band friend Sonia Moore are the real standout factor here, who injects the song with its disco and soul feel. Sure, the rest of the album pales in comparison to this song, and !!! make their usual mistake of letting songs go on a little too long, but this track off THR!!!ER is definitely one of my most-listened to of 2013.
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