Best songs of 2013 … so far

We countdown the 30 best tracks of 2013 so far – and it’s already been a vintage year for doom-disco burners, piano-driven torch ballads, Eurasian riffage and heritage pop.

30. Jim James – Know Til Now

Whether he’s fronting My Morning Jacket or putting out solo records based on wordless woodcut novels from 1929, Jim James can’t help but sound like Jim James. But on the six-minute plus ‘Know Til Now’, he becomes his own remixer, wrapping his earthy tenor around a past-meets-present-meets-future sound. – Darren Levin

29. Abbe May – T.R.O.U.B.L.E.

Abbe May’s decision to burn her guitar and head towards the apocalypse with an album of low-slung R&B and synth-pop threw up a few curious tracks (‘Sex Tourette’s’, anyone?), but she also delivered gems like the eerie, slow-burning ‘T.R.O.U.B.L.E.’ And who doesn’t love a good spelling bee? – Tom Mann

28. Vance Joy – Riptide

Melbourne needs new earnest, ukulele-toting troubadours like it needs new single-origin coffee houses, but there’s something about Vance Joy that differentiates him from The Huskys and the Whitleys of this world. Perhaps it’s the casual Michelle Pfeiffer namedrop, or a Flamenco-tinged backing track that sounds a lot like Gipsy Kings. – Darren Levin

27. Austra – Home

Katie Stelmanis’ sub-arctic synth-pop project took a big step forward on ‘Home’, a song of rare scope and ambition. Having found the confidence to step out of the reverb fog of Feel It Break, Stelmanis has gone even further, welding a piano-driven torch song to a house track, replete with flutes and bongos (bongos!). You can see the joins, but who cares? – Edward Sharp-Paul

26. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Devotion

‘Devotion’ just exudes the joy of kicking out the jams for the sheer hell of it. Despite the deceptively grown-up subject matter, it’s Nic and Ben Warnock’s teenage-air-guitar riffs and gleeful imprecision that make ‘Devotion’, like the rest of this Sydney quartet’s debut Ready For Boredom, a total blast. – Edward Sharp-Paul

25. Seja – C’mon

From Vampire Weekend to Pikelet, 2013 looks likely to go down as the year of the arpeggiated synth – and there are few better proponents than former Sekiden/Regurgitator member Seja Vogel. Set your controls for the heart of the sun for this shimmering bit of baroque-pop that’s just as rousing as its title. – Darren Levin

24. Midnight Juggernauts – Ballad Of The War Machine

In which Melbourne’s space-prog progenitors crash-land the Apollo and reinvent themselves as cosmonauts. – Darren Levin

23. Baptism Of Uzi – Stray Current

Melbourne’s Baptism Of Uzi represent the pinnacle of their genre – a genre of one. It’s post-Eddy Current garage, with the relentless drive of Krautrock and an inexplicable trace of lounge stirred in. Playing the genre game misses the point, though – just roll with it. What’s a stray current? No idea. – Edward Sharp-Paul

22. Lorde – Royals

This is just one of the most spot-on pop songs of 2013: A hip-hop-lite beat, an R&B groove and smartarse lyrics penned by a previously unknown 16-year-old from New Zealand. It could/should’ve been written by Beyonce: “Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/We don’t care, we’re aren’t caught up in your love affair.” – Sarah Smith

21. POND – Giant Tortoise

Oh, those riffs are GIANT alright. Like something you might find on the Galapagos Islands, rather than inside your kid brother’s manky fish-tank. If it’s a teaser for POND’s forthcoming Hobo Rocket, we’re in for yet another unhinged psych-rock ride. Perhaps it’ll even put those pesky Tame Impala comparisons to bed? – Darren Levin


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