Only a handful of years are legendary for the amount of game-changing music they spawned. 1967, 1977, 2001…. And you know what? 2013 is one of thos years. It’s had everything: giant comebacks, artistic statments, instant classics. It will go down in history. You can see the full list of our 50 best albums of the year here, and the tracks here, and listen to the 20 tracks we loved the most below.
20. ‘I Am A God’ – Kanye West
Only Kanye would’ve had the stones to attempt a song like this with such poker-faced seriousness, and only he could’ve managed to pull it off. Both sublime and ridiculous.
19. ‘If I Had A Tail’ – QOTSA
The raunchiest number on ‘…Like Clockwork’ saw Josh Homme experimenting with a girl group worthy before proposing all kinds of sinister sucking and licking. Like ’50 Shades Of Grey’ for metalheads.
18. ‘Wild For The Night’ – A$AP Rocky
The pitch-shifted vocals of A$AP Rocky and the intergalactic bass overload of Skrillex were at odds with one another, yet the rapper and producer combined to make 2013’s biggest mongrel banger.
17. ‘After You’ – Pulp Vs Soulwax
16. ‘Smooth Sailin’ – QOTSA
From the pimp roll bounce of the opening bassline to Josh’s falsetto, this was Queens Of The Stone Age at their most irresistibly sleazy.
15. ‘Bloodsports’ – Drenge
The Loveless brothers’ debut single was evidence that the British countryside ain’t all cream teas and quaint village fetes. ‘Bloodsports’ was a feral blues explosion.
14. ‘Where Are We Now?’ – David Bowie
In 2006, David Bowie appeared on Ricky Gervais’ Extras and improvised a song about the comedian’s “pug nosed face”. This year he released essentially the same song swapping comedy insults for the solemn reflections of an ageing man.
13. ‘Falling’ – Haim
Those bombastic drums, the staccato vocal, the slap bass – nothing was left out of ‘Falling’, the track that paved the way for the biggest year of the Haim sisters’ lives. “Never look back, never give up” never sounded more appropriate.
12. ‘Jubilee Street’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Nick Cave explored fear on ‘Jubilee Street’, but the moment belonged to the Bad Seeds; Cave’s self-doubt dissolved in a wave of smoky, elegiac blues.
11. ‘Anxiety’s Door’ – Merchandise
The quintessential example of Merchandise’s ability to transmute basic materials into something transcendent, acoustic guitar and the thunk of a drum machine carried skyward on vaporous plumes of feedback and Cox’s beatific croon.
10. ‘Kanye West’ – Black Skinhead
There isn’t a more fascinating pop star than Kanye West right now. ‘Black Skinhead’ was a microcosm of why that’s the case: three breathless minutes covering the central complexes – ego, messiah and persecution – of his psyche.
9. ‘Royals’ – Lorde
Lorde may have used racial clichés to signify her weariness with wealth obsession on ‘Royals’, but her songwriting was savvy. Her lyrics concerned teenage malaise, but the eye-rolls didn’t carry through to her addictive music.
8. ‘Xanman’ – Pond
If Jesus Christ Superstar had been made entirely on prescription downers, it might’ve sounded like Pond’s psych-prog masterpiece, complete with a middle eight consisting solely of Nick Allbrook speaking in tongues.
7. ‘My Number’ – Foals
The second single to be lifted from ‘Holy Fire’ was an all-caps, in-italics TUNE of the sort we never would have reckoned Yannis Philippakis’ cerebral math-rockematicians capable of.
6. ‘Avant Gardener’ – Courtney Barnett
A story about having a panic attack while gardening, the deadpan, relaxed feel of the track made its narrator sound almost nonchalant, but it was an alarming and highly dramatic tale.
5. ‘Sacrilege’ – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
On which the pioneering New Yorkers realised, 13 years into their career, that they were big enough and bold enough to say, “Yeah, okay, we probably can get away with using a gospel choir”.
4. ‘White Noise’ – Disclosure
‘White Noise’ sprayed garage-house beats and sugary R&B vocals all over the place, and managed to represent underground house music’s past, present and future, while giving the pop world a new ball to play with.
3. ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ – Arctic Monkeys
On this hulking, heaving beast of a song, Arctic Monkeys conjured up one of the all-time great riffs, and a lick even Keith Richards would have to give a deferential grumble of approval to.
2. ‘Reflektor’ – Arcade Fire
The title track from Arcade Fire’s fourth album was a puzzle, wrapped inside an enigma, hidden in a hall of mirrors where Haitian conga-funk played on a seemingly-perpetual loop: no wonder David Bowie wanted it for himself.
1. ‘Get Lucky’ – Daft Punk
Get Lucky brimmed with liquid grooves, silky vocals, robotic breakdowns, cut-glass guitars and a randy hook that infiltrated every cell of the brain. Disco was reborn and was making people dance.