(ZOT Zin Guitar Lessons)
The following is not a list of "the best" or "most significant" tracks of the year. They're simply my personal favorites, those which I played the most or impressed me the most in 2013. Latin alternative and World music (Brazil, Cuba and Africa alone deserve their own list), but I can't choose 10 songs without mentioning these (contributors James Woodard, J.D. Swerzenski and Matthew Stieb have their own personal lists coming up next week in print at the Current).
Please share with us your personal favorite songs, because that's the point of these lists: to share and discover great songs that touch us deep inside, not to see who has "the better taste" or the "best record collection."
Here you go:
#10 Natalie Maines “Mother”
Dixie Chick goes solo, recruits Ben Harper as co-producer and records Mother, a gem of a roots rock album that proves she’s still not ready to make nice. No apologies, dude, and the title track (first released on the West of Memphis doc soundtrack in January) is an underrated Pink Floyd cover that adds tenderness to Roger Waters' marvelously harsh version.
Go to the next page to see # 9.
#9 Mal Blum “Valentine’s Day”
The funniest and most honest Valentine song ever written. New York's Mal Blum (arguably the world's best unsigned lyricist) also released an early demo of the song, but click here to listen to the ultimate studio version included in her highly recommended Tempest in a Teacup.
Go to the next page to see song # 8.
# 8 Mando Saenz “Pocket Change”
Included in his superb Studebaker album, Saenz co-wrote wrote it with Shelly Colvin in Alabama about three years ago, but never recorded it until now. "I’ve been playing it live for a while," Saenz told the Current on Christmas Day. "It all started with 'Studebaker,' which sounded cool. I wrote it in 15 minutes with her and then I wrote the chords on my own. An aggressive song. Well, not too aggressive, but people go crazy with it at the shows."
Go to the next page to see song # 7.
#7 The Julie Ruin “Oh Come On”
Kathleen Hanna's alter ego Julie Ruin (also the name of a 1998 album) is now a band, The Julie Ruin. Run Fast is also Hanna's first album since Le Tigre's This Island (2004) and it comes out swinging: the album opener and first single is a fresh, in-your-face garage-punk anthem that could have perfectly been named "Fuck Lyme Disease." The Bikini Kill girl is still there, but Hanna is far from a nostalgia act: she's still kicking major ass.
Go to the next page to see song # 6.
#6 Parquet Courts “Stoned and Starving”
Brooklyn's coolest 2013 band shows us how it's done: simple, direct and in such a way that you can expand it on a live setting. I wish their songs were longer, but you can always go back to them again and again. Listen to the studio version here.
Go to the next page to see song # 5.
#5 Lorde “Royals”
Thanks, Lorde, for articulating for us all the reasons we couldn't care less about British royalty b.s. What? You actually dig all the royalty crap and the song has nothing to do with it? Instead, "Royals" is an indictment of pop music "royalty" written by a New Zealander who has just turned 17—while other teenagers were busy trying to become famous on YouTube, she was busy writing killer tracks.
Go to the next page to see song # 4.
# 4 Juana Molina “Bicho auto”
My letter to Santa (I don't think he got it): I want Juana Molina in San Antonio in 2014. Sorry, this poor video is the only song link I could find, so jump to 3:10 if you don’t want to hear the Spanish intro where she roughly explains a “bicho auto” (literally “automobile bug,” a term invented by her daughter) is a beautiful firefly-like insect she only saw “four times in my life; it’s a creature of the Lord.” You can listen to the studio version here.
Go to the next page to see song # 3.
#3 Savages “She Will”
Go to the next page to see song # 2.
#2 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Jubilee Street”
I was playing Push the Sky Away in the background when this song stopped me in my tracks and made me revisit and devote my full attention to the album. It was my most played song of the year, until...
Go to the next page to hear my favorite song of the year.
# 1 Eminem “Legacy”
Sorry, Em. Your album only made it into my top 12 or 13, but there is one song there I couldn’t stop listening for weeks: “Legacy,” included somewhere in the depths of The Marshall Mathers LP2. A confessional, heart-wrenching hymn that has him spitting out his anger but all wrapped in the sweetest of hooks.
The song immediately resembles “Stan,” but the story behind "Legacy" couldn’t be more ironic and takes us all the way back to “Without Me,” the song in which Eminem bashed Moby by saying “nobody listens to techno anymore” (needless to say, Em was dead wrong). Polina, a Russian-born, U.S.-based singer-songwriter with a strong EDM background, wrote the song and didn’t know what to do with it. While sitting at Interscope’s Neil Jacobson’s office in LA, she played him the song.
“This is an Eminem record,” said Jacobson, who was working on The Marshall Mathers LP2. “Don’t play this for anyone.” Jacobson added some production and the song was sent to Eminem, who loved it and later added his verses.
“[‘Stan’] was not an influence going in, but now that the album’s out, I’m glad that everyone likes it and is making the comparison,” Polina told doandroidsdance.com. “It’s a great honor to see 'Legacy' compared to that song
Those who know me from my work in the EDM world—especially my collaborations with Steve Aoki, Tiesto and Kaskade—probably think that I’m stepping out of the genre. But in all reality this Eminem song is coming back to where I started as a songwriter. For me, I don’t think Eminem was aware of who I was when I wrote ‘Legacy’ (laughter). It is kind of ironic that I came from that dance world and ended up on this record ... Whether it’s dance music or hip-hop, it all comes down to emotion and the song connecting. I think that something connected to Eminem when he heard it, and at the end of the day it’s definitely all about great music. Whether it’s a banger or a number one commercial ballad, it’s all about [the song] coming from a real place.”