There was certainly no shortage of awesome songs this year to sing along in the car to, cry alone in your bedroom to, or reflect on the meaning of life to. That’s a good thing. The curious and awesome part about this year’s plethora of great songs is how many played a role in making the album they appeared on complete. It’s one thing to write a great song and a completely different thing to make that song tell part of a greater story.
Many of the songs on our end-of-the-year list are songs that told a chapter of their album’s story or helped tie it all together. They dug deep and spoke to something greater. Check out our list, take a listen to the songs and share your own favorite songs of 2013 with us in the replies!
10. The Super Happy Fun Club – “Okay Okay”
Super Happy Fun Club is the newest project from the singer of Lucky Boys Confusion and includes some of Chicago’s best. “Okay Okay” is one of the band’s finest, surging forward with gritty melodic punk and featuring extremely prominent gang vocals and shouting lyrics while providing choir-like backing. Stuby Pandav’s singing pushes the vocalist to his limits with a graveled undertone that bites through the chorus. The strength of the guitar chords propels the song’s pop with slight hints towards ska in the breakdowns. – Kyle Schultz
9. Eisley – “Currents”
Eisley has been known for some time to toe the line between indie pop and rock with dreamlike sounds and ambiguous lyrics, and this year’s Currents is a return to form, kicked off by the title track. Stacey King takes the lead vocals on this opener, and sets off the course of the album, which gives an underwater, oceanic feel. Her opening lines of “I would part the waters if you said so / I would shift the currents if you had to row” blend into the fluid backdrop, creating a perfect combination. The song is melodic and light, but forceful when it needs to be, driven by Sherri DuPree-Bemis’ guitar. “Currents” is a refreshing kick-off to one of the year’s most unsung albums. – Kiel Hauck
8. AFI – “The Conductor”
“The Conductor” is a force of rock that defines the sound of Burials. Davy Havok sings the illustration of love through electricity and shows off the force of his singing ability, but the real beauty at work here is Jade Puget’s guitar. The simple melody that plays throughout the song feels effortless, as though it just slides off of the guitar. But as soon as the chords kick in for the chorus, they’re hard and vicious, standing strong against anything the band has put out amidst a wall of bass. “The Conductor” is a song that slows down the sound AFI is known for and presents it on their own terms. – KS
7. Deafheaven – “Dream House”
Deafheaven’s “Dream House” is nine breathtaking minutes – an introductory ride into their fantastic record, Sunbather. The song is simultaneously furious and light, transitioning through multiple phases, capturing the emotion of a man fighting for meaning amidst the monotony and triviality of the American dream. Sunbather excels because of its painful beauty, perhaps displayed best by this swirling and wandering track. In what are perhaps the most haunting lines of 2013, George Clark wails, “’I’m dying’ / ‘Is it blissful?’ / ‘It’s like a dream’ / ‘I want to dream’”. – KH
6. letlive. – “White America’s Beautiful Black Market”
Picking a favorite song from The Blackest Beautiful isn’t an easy task, but “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” is the song that really stood out to me. Letlive. are a viciously bitter band, based in hardcore but wreathed in tempo changes and an almost bipolar switch in sound and tone at a moment’s notice. This band is taking a stand against what they feel is unjust in the purest way possible, and “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” tackles the healthcare system of America. For most bands, this would be an impossible task, but letlive. attack the issue head on, calling out the parties they find responsible and tearing away at the issue with a hauntingly bouncy melody and vicious chorus. – KS
5. CHVRCHES – “Gun”
If you’re attracted to the bouncy, melodic vocals of Lauren Mayberry, don’t be caught off guard when you listen closer. Not only is “Gun” one of the poppiest and catchiest songs from CHVRCHES’ debut The Bones of What You Believe, but it’s also a look into the fierceness of Mayberry. Her lines of “You had better run from me / with everything you own / Cause I am gonna come for you / With all that I have” and “I will be a gun, and it’s you I’ll come for” speak of deep scars that propel the singer throughout much of this debut. What makes The Bones of What You Believe so brilliant is its ability to juxtapose the electronic pop of it’s music against the often-edgy and pointed lyrics of its frontwoman. “Gun” will make you dance, even when it hurts. – KH
4. Saves The Day – “In the In Between”
Saves The Day’s self-titled album was a return to form for the band and includes one of the best songs of the group’s career. “In the In Between” is a classic sounding STD song with an incredibly catchy melody and chorus that continuously builds to a powerful guitar solo that demands your attention. Saves The Day may be the face of emo pop, but the fact of the matter is that simply no one can write a pop song like this band. They have an established sound and style, and if you need a song to represent it, “In the In Between” does it beautifully. With lyrics curiously weaving the idea of love with a detailed car crash, this is a song that boasts the experience of one of the most respected bands in the scene. – KS
3. Paramore – “Ain’t It Fun”
On Paramore’s self-titled album, the band appeared to throw out the rulebook that had defined their previous pop-punk output and opened a new chapter for the band. Nowhere else is this more obvious than on their explosive single, “Ain’t it Fun”. The song is a kitchen sink of sorts, a building rock number complete with smooth guitars, a fantastic chorus and a backing church choir. Whether the song is directed at the Farro brothers or is more generalized is up to interpretation, but the song is certainly driven by a feisty Hayley Williams, who sings, “You’re not the big fish in the pond no more / You are what they’re feeding on”. At any rate, Paramore has become a force to be reckoned with in the pop world and has outdone themselves with this instant classic. – KH
2. The Wonder Years – “Passing Through a Screen Door”
The Greatest Generation is easily one of the best records this year and filled with songs that qualify for this list, but it’s their first single, “Passing Through a Screen Door” that makes it. This is currently the magnum opus of the band’s career: absolutely perfect song writing that is both catchy and biting with incredibly intrusive and personal lyrics that stand vibrantly illustrated with a clear story of loneliness, regret and hope. This is not only the definition of The Wonder Years as a whole throughout their discography, it’s the essence of punk, emo and pop, as well as the anthem for anyone in their twenties who isn’t sure about the road they’re on. “Jesus Christ, I’m 26 / All the people I graduated with / All have kids, all have wives/ All have people who care if they come home at night / Well Jesus Christ, did I fuck up?” “Passing Through a Screen Door” is the reason we listen to music in the first place. – KS
1. Letlive. – “27 Club”
The Blackest Beautiful hits the height of its crescendo with this album closer, a raucous and passionate affair fueled by the collision of fast-paced punk rock and furious hardcore. Jason Aalon Butler shrieks and shouts, caught in a whirlwind of emotion. While the album itself fitfully storms through a barrage of socially-relevant topics, “27 Club” collapses under the weight, as Butler focuses in on his own shortcomings and his search for hope. His repeated refrain of “He talks like a Christian but walks like an atheist” becomes intelligible as emotion overtakes his voice. The song finds Butler wresting with faith and self-doubt before the final spoken words of the strength found in unity, despite our flaws. “27 Club” is a conglomeration of everything that makes letlive. so special and is arguably the best track of the year. – KH
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.