Well, folks, here we are again. It’s the end of 2013 and time for our 3rd annual end of the year lists. We’ll start with songs and then do our top 10 albums of the year. This year was an incredible year for music, with more and more emerging artists releasing stellar debuts, follow ups and adding to their already incredible catalogs. Last year was the year of the sophomore releases and this year is the year of the unknowns, with many of our top songs and albums coming from some artists you may not have heard before. So, without further ado, here are my top 20 songs of 2013, starting with #20-11.
20 – Rodanthe – Tyler Lyle
Tyler Lyle continues to show why he is one of the best singer songwriters in the business today with this gem from his EP, Expatriates. This is a song about lost love, about growing up and growing apart and if this song doesn’t make you look back and think about past relationships, I’m not sure what will.
19 – Shall We Go On – The White Buffalo
The White Buffalo is the perfect moniker for this country twinged singer songwriter. His newest album is the story of Jolene and Joe, something of a typical country western theme, but done perfectly with the style and gruff and beautiful voice of The White Buffalo.
18 – Heaven – The Milk Carton Kids
The Milk Carton Kids are one of our personal favorites here at Ear To The Ground. This song, off of The Ash and Clay, is a really upbeat and fast-paced song and a tongue in cheek reflection on religion. “Stomp the drum good and loud shake the walls down./ Scream and holler jump about all together now./ Ain’t nothing like a lie to gather ’round./ They promised me heaven, I was hoping for so much more.”
17 – Looking Back – Hey Marseilles
“Looking Back” is a song by Hey Marseilles, a Seattle band that’s very reminiscent of Death Cab, and it’s a song about remembering the past, but not living there. It’s clearly a song that was written for and will be easily understood by everyone, one that reminds you that the only way to move forward is to stop looking back.
16 – Wheels of the World – Song Preservation Society
This song starts “Running up and down the wall,/ Probably gonna have a fall./ I’m never gonna sleep again.” It’s a haunting song, it sounds like Fleet Foxes and it’s the best track on a very solid debut EP from Song Preservation Society. We’re very much looking forward to a full length debut from these guys and this song is the evidence why.
15- Mister, Mister – Bronze Radio Return
Bronze Radio Return was a big surprise for me this year, a band that showed up out of nowhere and delivered a fun, upbeat, perfect album for summer. “Mister, Mister”, a piano driven song, best appreciated with the windows down on the interstate. This song is written for people who don’t enjoy their jobs, who can’t wait to get home and relax. Maybe that’s why it’s best enjoyed in the summer.
14 – I Need a Change – The Shouting Matches
“I Need a Change” is perhaps the most mellow, but most well done of the tracks on Grown Ass Man. Justin Vernon’s side project, The Shouting Matches, has crafted a nearly perfect blues album. “I Need a Change” shows off a different side of Vernon’s vocals, one that he should use more often. His falsetto is very good, but his voice is amazing.
13 – Into Place – JD Eicher and the Goodnights
Into Place and it’s title track are the culmination of 3 albums’ and 5 year’s worth of work. When combined with the titles of Eicher’s first two albums, this track produces maybe the best line of the year when he sings, “We are the shape of things shifting into place.” If that doesn’t speak to you, give these 40 songs a listen and grow up with Eicher and the rest of us and then you’ll understand.
12 – Agape – Bear’s Den
“Agape” is pure folky goodness. Three guys, a guitar, a banjo, and some drums. When you sing about unrequited love, it should sound like this. “You say let it go, but I can’t let it go./ I want to believe every word you say.” It’s a heartbreaking song in the tradition of all the great folk songs.
11 – Roll Me, Tumble Me – The Deadly Gentlemen
The Deadly Gentlemen are one of the coolest and most unique bands making music today. It’s bluegrass to be sure, but it’s different than that. It’s harmonic, it’s chaotic, but it’s always spot on. It’s nearly impossible to describe. This song, “Roll Me, Tumble Me”, is about being so in love that you’d give yourself completely to another person.