On the second day of Listmas, my true love gave to me…ten more songs from the Top 50 Songs of 2013 list! Yes, in case you missed Part I of this countdown, which featured songs 50-41, you can check that out by going here. In Part II after the jump, you’ll find a couple of relaxing yet beautiful synth pop songs, some small doses of electronica and dance tracks, a pair of wordy singer-songwriters, and just a pinch of R&B for good measure. As with every set of ten songs this week, you’ll find quite a bit of eclecticism. That’s about all I have to say in terms of an intro, so let’s get right to it with songs 40-31!
40. High Highs – Flowers Bloom [Video]
One of the first things I noticed about “Flowers Bloom” was the light static crackle that permeates much of the song. It gives you the impression it’s being played on a vinyl record, no matter what format you listen to it in. There’s a definite warmth radiating off the track as a result, and the ethereal vocals, subdued synths and undulating Beach House-esque guitars only add to that. Throw in a remarkably memorable hook in the chorus and you may find yourself lost in this track for weeks, if not months. To put it another way, the song title perfectly defines what you hear.
39. Washed Out – It All Feels Right [Lyric Video]
Speaking of flowers blooming, the beauty of nature plays a huge role in “It All Feels Right.” Released as the first track off of the Paracosm record, it showed a remarkable leap forwards for Washed Out, with clearer production and live instrumentation rather than a reliance on samples. While the lyrics aren’t really much to write home about, the lush composition of the song paired with visuals depicting an abundance of plant life makes for a powerful aphrodesiac that makes you want to check out from life and go relax in a place where you can truly appreciate the world around you.
38. Mutual Benefit – Advanced Falconry [Video] [MP3]
At first blush, it might seem that both “Advanced Falconry” and Mutual Benefit are a little behind the times, bringing back the delicate folk of Seven Swans-era Sufjan Stevens from nearly a decade ago. That may be true, but who’s to say that sound doesn’t still work in 2013? Anchored by Jordan Lee’s syrupy vocals along with the combination of banjo and violins, there’s so much beauty contained within this song it might just give you goosebumps every time you listen to it. That’s what it does to me. The lyrics too, about falling so completely head over heels in love with someone, only enhance what’s already there.
37. Roosevelt – Elliot [Video]
It’s a little difficult to fully describe the qualities that make “Elliot” such a fantastic dance track. I suppose it starts with the wobbly bass line, followed by a memorable hook and dynamic vocals. The track’s immediacy and intense groove are probably what drove an entire EP to be named after it, and the song also serves as a fantastic introduction to the Cologne-based singer/producer Roosevelt, who looks to have a very promising career ahead of him.
36. Majical Cloudz – Childhood’s End [Video] [MP3]
Majical Cloudz’s entire Impersonator record puts you through the emotional wringer. While it can be a tough listen if you’re not in the right mood, it’s also an extremely powerful one. “Childhood’s End” is the best example of that. Devon Welsh’s deep, commanding vocals dominate over the minimalist arrangement as he recounts the tragedy of a father being shot and killed, and the loss of innocence a child experiences as a result. It’s a near perfect piece of tragipop, and one that certainly wouldn’t have succeeded in lesser hands.
35. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – Bird Balloons
Aly Spaltro composes songs based around some free-form poetry, which basically means there’s quite a lot of impressive wordplay and very little actual structure or traditional style. Her style is her own, and as such “Bird Balloons” goes through about six or seven different “movements” over the course of it’s run time. It chronicles the slow destruction of a relationship, and changes emotional states like somebody with severe bipolarity or schizophrenia – happy and loving one minute, angry and self-destructive the next. The whole thing is an intense roller coaster ride that’s one of the most creative, vulnerable and honest pieces of music I heard this year.
34. Autre Ne Veut – Counting [Video]
When faced with the choice of two big Autre Ne Veut songs, I went with “Counting” over “Play By Play.” Rest assured though, both tracks are gold standard examples of where R&B is at today, and come highly recommended. Why did “Counting” win the battle? In short, because I feel it’s the better constructed of the two. The chorus on “Counting” doesn’t repeat as much, and yet it remains as catchy as ever. Also, despite seeming like a song about a romantic breakup, “Counting” was actually written for his dying grandmother in the hopes she’d stay alive just a little bit longer. I don’t know about you, but that changes the song for me and adds an emotional edge I was unable to tap into prior to learning about the background behind it.
33. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener [Video]
Whether or not the story told through the lyrics of “Avant Gardener” is autobiographical, Melbourne singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett makes the tale all her own. The details of an attempt at gardening gone horribly wrong are told with such vivid wordplay and with incredible allegories and humor that you can’t help but be completely drawn in by it and Barnett’s sing-speak delivery. But beyond everything going on with words and vocals, the instrumental side of things is replete with a psychedelic folk that’s got some fantastic guitar feedback and other delights going for it. There’s a basic hook that’s missing here, but honestly you won’t notice unless you’re really looking for it.
32. King Krule – Neptune Estate
You could call “Neptune Estate” the feel bad song of the year. It’s foundation is depression and desperation, clinging to someone and begging them to stay for just one more night because you don’t want to be alone with your thoughts. The fear of alienation from the world and emotional numbness are also part of this panic, and clinging to sex and intimacy is one way to remedy the situation through connection, even if that connection is based on falsehoods and abuse. The sadness and sexual components are echoed through the somber piano and writhing saxophones, though Archy Marshall’s deep baritone are where those emotions truly live.
31. St. Lucia – Elevate [Video]
One of the key things about “Elevate” is that it’s runtime is longer than five minutes but never once feels like it. It’s a really fun synth pop song with an insanely catchy hook, and that alone would be enough to get people interested, yet it extends itself even further beyond the point of ample return to strive for something more. So somewhere around the halfway point of the song, a bridge comes in that not only lifts (or…elevates) things to the next level, but introduces a horn section that adds a new wrinkle. That’s some next level shit right there.