In this second installment of OTM’s Top 30 Tracks of 2013, we dive into the middle of the list and find a blend of breakout artists and indies flying under the radar of the mainstream media lists (their loss). What’s consistent: these are songs that have been on frequent repeat behind the scenes at OTM.
Enjoy, and be sure to check out the top ten, as well as our Top Albums list to come!
20. “We Can Never Have It All” – Old English
Toronto band Old English delivered a strong album early this year, blending shoegaze, electronic and synth-pop sensibilities with clever lyrics that delve more into wordplay and pun than many artists manage these days. On “We Can Never Have It All”, lead vocalist and songwriter Henderson delivers poignant metaphor that lingers just this side of defeat: “ignore all the warnings scribbled on the washroom stalls/as they mumble like a storm cloud ‘we can never have it all’“. Paradoxically cheery in melody, it’s a brilliant track that exemplifies the band at their best.
19. “Thirst” – City And Colour
Dallas Green has one of those voices that simply resonates to your very core. From the moment he demonstrated the evocative side of his pipes on Neverending White Lights’ “The Grace”, I was drawn to further exploration of that range. On City and Colour’s latest outing, The Hurry and The Harm, Green delivers several strong performances, one of them being “Thirst”. A gritty, bluesy tune brimming with rage beneath the riffs, the “done wrong” theme shines in Green’s capable hands.
18. “Royals” – Lorde
New Zealand teen sensation Lorde exploded onto the scene in 2013, garnering a neat four Grammy nominations for her debut full-length release, Pure Heroine. Aside from a sultry voice and infectious hooks, what makes Lorde so endearing is how easily many of us can relate to her subject matter. Whether we’re reminded of our youth and the way it echoes into our adult lives or still teens, tracks like “Royals” strike a deep nerve. The sincerity makes this track stellar, and a rare instance of the Grammys getting it unquestionably right as of late.
17. “Savanna” – The Cliks
On The Cliks’ latest album, Black Tie Elevator, frontman Lucas Silveira has taken the band even further into the realm of rockabilly and blues than before. It’s a perfect match for the gritty vocals of Silveira, and “Savanna” is a shining example of how right things are. Sassy and strutting, the track delivers a punchy rhythm that is impossible to ignore. Retro enough to feel timeless; fresh enough to keep pace with the modern scene.
16. “Reflektor” – Arcade Fire
Oh, Arcade Fire. When you’re good — as in the lead single and title track off your latest release — you’re very, very good. But when you bury your heads up your own asses… Well, at least we have this stunner right here. “Reflektor” delivers everything: a disco-rock fusion, intense breakdown sequence, and a David Bowie cameo for extra bad-assery. The video is also a mind-warping sort of perfection. In the end, the fusion of the thematic elements of The Suburbs and the indulgence of the 70’s makes this track a memorable one.
15. “The Remedy” – Noel Johnson
Know that feeling you get when a song literally makes you forget to breathe? Calgary transplant, now Toronto-based folk artist Noel Johnson manages such a feat with the title track of his latest album, The Remedy. A haunting, layered piece that speaks to finding hope in the bleakest of moments through love, “The Remedy” has a chorus that lingers in mind for hours and a sincerity that strikes the heart and refuses to leave. One of Johnson’s best, hands down.
14. “Jet Set” – The Honeyrunners
Toronto band The Honeyrunners are a bit of an enigma in the best of ways. Fusing indie rock with classic Motown soul, their songs are a tapestry of jammed solos and catchy refrains, harmonized for full effect. “Jet Set” manages to take their sound to a whole other level by exploring the notions of what it is to be alive versus merely living in a perfect package of the crunchy and whiskey smooth, with a sing-along worthy chorus. Inspirational and big-hearted, “Jet Set” soars.
13. “Synesthesia” – Andrew McMahon
From the garage punk-pop of Something Corporate to the pop-rock of Jack’s Mannequin, one could say that Andrew McMahon has spent his career evolving towards a truer sense of musical self. On his latest outing, all monikers are dropped in favour of his name and with the shift comes a lightness. Given his recent Emmy nomination for his work on the TV series Smash, I’d say that McMahon’s found his groove. Speaking of, “Synesthesia” has frequently ended up on a loop in my head. There’s an atmospheric vibe to this one, a true evocation of the night sky peppered with stars. There’s also a strong message of embracing what we have and enjoying our imperfect perfection.
12. “Strange Feeling” – City and the Sea
From our review of the Action Figures EP: “Strange Feeling” [is] a track [that] epitomizes the band’s sound and personality in a single package. The influence of alt-grunge rockers like Foo Fighters is readily apparent from the driving guitar and heavy-without-being-heavy drums lending support to Nick Cino’s vocals as they drift from a softer blues to outright belting. The slightly off-kilter lyrics will remind old school I Mother Earth fans of “Another Sunday”. Call it blasphemy, but I like this track better.
11. “Love Fortress #9” – Goodnight, Sunrise
From previous reviews: I first met my destiny at NXNE 2012, where Rancho Relaxo beckoned me out for one final night on the town. Exhausted, scarcely able to stand, I found myself crowding near the stage, utterly enthralled by a band with the proverbial balls to bust out a keytar and rock the joint senseless. Part Heart circa “Magic Man”, part ZZ Top, all brilliance and insight, Goodnight, Sunrise beckons forth the night and unleashes their own brand of sunshine.
From the “sampled in reverse” intro that thrusts us into the War Of The Roses call-and-response opener “Love Fortress #9″, Goodnight, Sunrise explores the ways we build up and destroy ourselves [on their album, Create/Destroy/Create]. “Love Fortress #9″ sounds like a groovy time warp where Ann Wilson and Tom Petty get drunk and try to top Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” – and succeed in spades.