Every year a familiar trend emerges in pop music: Some of the best songs don’t necessarily come from the best albums. Miley Cyrus’s singles were great. Her debut? Not so much.
Here’s a rundown on the 10 songs I couldn’t get out of my head in 2013.
1. MILEY CYRUS
“We Can’t Stop” Let’s forget for a minute that Miley sang this song right before she unleashed the most notorious pop-culture moment this year. Before she twerked up on Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards, Cyrus proved she could roll with a slack, low groove on “We Can’t Stop.” Next up she blew the lid right off of “Wrecking Ball.” (I bet you’ll have that chorus stuck in your head for the next 10 minutes — sorry.)
2. ARCADE FIRE
“Here Comes the Night Time” For those who thought Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” was all head and no heart (myself included), “Here Comes the Night Time” was a perfect example of the magic this Canadian indie-rock band conjures when all the stars align. Influenced by Haitian music, it had a roller-coaster rhythm that circled all around your brain.
3. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
“Mirrors” “The 20/20 Experience” was something of a detour for Timberlake, a swerve into loverman soul and Prince-ly R&B, and “Mirrors” was his most memorable single in years. It was playful, emotional, and scaled for a stadium but somehow still intimate.
4. FRANKIE ROSE
“You for Me”
First you hear the drums, heavy like the knock on a
castle door, and then come the electric guitars that sound like they’ve escaped Joan Jett’s clutches. But behold! Rose’s voice is vaporous and soaked in reverb, something soft to dull the blow of the hard rock surrounding her.
5. JANELLE MONÁE
“PrimeTime” (featuring Miguel)
We already knew Monáe was everywoman — supreme soul sister, gender-bending diva, Broadway belter — but romantic balladeer never figured into her eclectic DNA. On this duet with neo-soul singer Miguel, taken from the aptly titled “The Electric Lady,” she reveals herself to be vulnerable and tender. It suits her.
“Go Home” Lucius’s acclaimed debut, “Wildewoman,” was no match for the band’s electric live shows, but “Go Home” came close to capturing how the Brooklyn, N.Y., indie-rockers send chills down the spine. The entwined voices of singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig might have been the most welcome addition to pop music this year.
7. KIM DEAL
“Are You Mine?” “Are you mine? / Are you my baby? / I have no time / For nothin’ but love.” OK, let’s twist the knife: Deal, making music on her own outside of the Breeders, apparently wrote this song for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s. Go ahead and grab a hanky. I’ll wait here.
8. JOSH RITTER
“Hopeful” Keep that hanky handy. “Hopeful,” the standout track from Ritter’s terrific latest album, “The Beast in Its Tracks,” was an ode to overcoming a broken marriage to realize there’s a whole new world out there — and the forecast is sunny.
9. SKY FERREIRA
“Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)”
A few months before her debut came out, Ferreira had the bad (good?) luck of getting busted for drug possession, along with her boyfriend. Written before all that, the withering “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)” sounded like an obvious commentary on the situation, a clear example of art imitating life.
“Best Be Believing” An addictive listen from start to finish, “Body Music,” the debut by British electro-pop duo AlunaGeorge, was a gold mine for people who wish Kylie Minogue would make an after-hours R&B record. “Best Be Believing” was sweet and slinky, all stuttering beats and the catchiest chorus I heard all year.