I routinely rank my favorite albums of each year as part of surviving the winter doldrums. It’s been one of my favorite past-times for years. Hell, this site was created with the express purpose of having a place to publish said lists. So when I sat down at my computer last January 2nd, it was with the intention of doing the same thing for 2013 that I had done for many years previous. It was while researching links for a couple of signature tunes from my favorite albums that I fell down the virtual wormhole that is YouTube and before I knew it I had pulled well over 50 songs from the year that I loved. It had never occurred to me to put together a Top Songs list until then, but once I committed to the idea it became my new obsession. I posted a Top 60 beginning that night and expanded it to a full 100 a few weeks later after this site went live. So as I prepare to unleash the monstrous 2014 version (I’m going to 200, that’s happening), I thought I’d start by revisiting the 2013 list.
To see 2013 as it existed then (with commentary), check out the following links:
To see 2013 as it exists now, go here.
I’ve added 7 new songs, moved 8 up from their original slot, and moved 2 down significantly. Everything else stayed in place (obviously sliding down a few notches to account for the risers and debuts). So before I tackle 2014, let’s take a look at the 7 debuts. These are all songs that came out in 2013 but for whatever reason either escaped my ears altogether or just didn’t quite sink in by the time I put the initial ranking together.
#94 – Rachel Taylor “Heartbreak Is For Everyone”
Nothing quite beats seeing a previously unknown artist open for another act you’re already into. Rachel Taylor was the warm-up for Jeffrey Gaines back in the spring and she impressed my lady so much that a copy of the 4-song EP was purchased before intermission was even over. Her sound is a very soothing singer-songwriter/country thing in the classic tradition (torch-like, if you will), and this song is very sweet in a painful way.
#90 – Toad The Wet Sprocket “The Moment”
90’s indie rockers Toad The Wet Sprocket made a rather quiet comeback in 2013, releasing their first studio album since 1997’s Coil thanks mostly to funding acquired through a Kickstarter campaign. I’d forgotten how much I missed the band while they were gone, their laidback approach usually filling the gaps in between my otherwise hard rocking listening habits. Glen Phillips is one of my favorite vocalists, falling in with the likes of Jackson Browne as a smooth yet rich baritone. The album came out late in the year, so it got a bit overlooked by me during the crush of new releases, but this song jumped out at me almost immediately. Classic Toad, it captures their sound perfectly and spins a message of letting go, tinged with their typical “nothing’s perfect” spin.
#59 – Daughtry (feat. Brad Arnold) “In The Air Tonight [Live]”
Daughtry’s 2013 album Baptized was a pretty big disappointment to me, as his albums have become progressively more pop and country since his amazing (and thoroughly rocking) debut. He released a single called “Long Live Rock & Roll” that was so blatantly country that I wanted to strangle him just for misnaming it so horribly (even though I loved the lyrics). So yeah, the album offered nothing. Thankfully this live rendition of the Phil Collins classic, where Chris splits vocal duties with 3 Doors Down’s Brad Arnold, soon made the rounds (the only disappointment being the weak drums on the famous fill), at least showing that he hadn’t completely abandoned the ability to rock a little. Tip of the hat to my local karaoke guy, DJ Todd, for turning me on to this. He played the video one night during last call. It blows away anything on the album.
#55 – The 69 Eyes “Lost Without Love”
The 69 Eyes are a goth rock band from Finland with a lead singer in Jyrki 69 (oh those wacky Fins) who reminds one of Billy Idol. Their usual sound is a sort of a 80’s Sunset Strip sleaze mixed with modern electronics and the aforementioned goth trimmings, very similar to their Finnish brethren HIM. This song is a lot cleaner and more straightforward than most of their stuff, almost reminding me of Simple Minds. I love the way chorus takes off, with the underlying keyboards really lifting it. Tremendous track.
#29 – Asking Alexandria “Moving On”
I wanted to put this stirring power ballad on my 2014 list because it wasn’t really pushed as a single/video until well into the new year, but the album From Death To Destiny came out in August 2013 and by my own (admittedly asinine) rules that makes it a 2013 song, so I back checked it into last year. The band is generally hit or miss with me, mixing modern hard rock with twinges of industrial/dance beats and occasionally screamed vocals, which is usually where I check out. But they play this one straight-up with an absolutely phenomenal vocal performance (although I fear just a *touch* of autotune might be in play; hope I’m wrong). It’s a typical “life on the road” ballad that Motley Crue more or less made popular thanks to the crossover success of “Home Sweet Home”. Almost every band has one in their catalogue, and oddly enough, most of them are really good. This one is fantastic. Love the power. (Look for the random Ice-T cameo about 2 minutes in)
#13 – Sons Of Revelry “Time”
There’s a very mid-90’s college rock sound to this Ontario 4-piece, as when I listen to this track I swear I’m back at Tower Records watching flannel take over the world. And while that genre was never my favorite, I can always get it up for a catchy tune, which this most definitely is. This is another YouTube find, me somehow stumbling onto it through some backwards trip from something that might have been similar. To be honest, their other stuff doesn’t do anything for me, but this song grabbed me big time this summer when I first heard it. The download went straight onto my iPod for repeated listens during the hot nights, hence it’s placement at #13 for the year even though I didn’t actually hear it until 2014 was well underway.
#3 – Vertical Horizon “Lovestruck”
When Vertical Horizon’s Echoes From The Underground album first crossed my path I had almost zero familiarity with the band. It very quickly became a daily listen for me for reasons that I wasn’t ever able to adequately quantify. I finally broke down and bought a copy for the car and it went from daily to almost continuous airplay. I remember a period of about a week or so in the spring of 2014 where I played nothing else. I placed a couple of tracks high on my original 2013 list, but this wasn’t one of them. The album was still too new to me at the time. Now I could probably find a place for every song on the album on my list (and just might!). Over time though this has become my favorite song on the album and very nearly my favorite song of the year. Their sound is so remarkably clean and yet never boring. There’s a Genesis-like economy to what they’re doing here, making sure each instrument used has a purpose and a place. Vocalist/guitarist (and driving force behind the band) Matt Scannell has a wonderfully hypnotic voice. His work on the album is flawless without being flashy. I really wish I could explain better why this album hooked me the way it did, but I simply don’t have the words. This song just kills me.
So there they are, a few misplaced nuggets from 2013. My hope is to go back and expand the list to a full 200 by the end of the year, but that’ll take revisiting a lot of the year’s back catalogue that I either missed or glossed over at the time. We’ll see. Meanwhile, it’s on to 2014, even while the first few songs of 2015 start creeping into my consciousness. Music never ends and thank God for that.