No Exceptions: The Best Songs of 2013

Originals 2

Following a look back at my favourite cover songs of the year earlier in the week, it’s now time for me to focus on twelve songs from 2013 that have the potential to be cover versions someday. I listened to an awful lot of both new and old music this year and I have to admit that most of it was not awful at all. Nearly all the new music I heard came from albums that I listened to in their entirety, a few more I heard at gigs, but most of the ones below I came across on other blogs. I used to hear a lot of new stuff on the radio in the past, but I’m afraid I never listen to that medium anymore. I’m sure I’m missing out on lots of great music, but at least I don’t have to waste time listening to DJs or advertisements

I first came across Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds on this entertaining summer mix from the I Am Fuel You Are Friends blog. Like the blog, Mike is based in Colorado¬†and is also a member of The Haunted Windchimes, The Jack Trades, Crow Flies, and The Ghost of Michael Clark! Summer Girls is just over two minutes long and its scratchy guitar, soulful vocals and many hooks would not sound out of place on anyone’s radio

Dublin’s Skelocrats and their No Exceptions track are also made for the radio and it’s another slice of power pop that comes in at under three minutes. Skelocrats are part of a musical collective in Ireland’s capital city that goes by the name of Popical Island. Members of Skelocrats also play in other bands such as Deputy Fuzz, Ginnels, Grand Pocket Orchestra, Groom, Land Lovers, Lie Ins and No Monster Club. No Exceptions was actually released as part of another project, a European label called EardrumsPop that releases free EPs by different European groups every month. The Skelocrats entry is here and you can browse the site for loads more indie pop while you’re there

dREA is a songwriter from Limerick who was previously lead singer of Vesta Varro. He released the excellent Hunting EP this year as well as another song called Animal that’s bound to appear on his forthcoming debut solo album that’s scheduled for release in 2014. This atmospheric song builds slowly upon dREA’s vocals and piano which are joined by the rest of the instruments before reaching a satisfying conclusion

The Coathangers are four female punks from Atlanta, Georgia, who’ve been going since 2006 and have released three albums so far. Adderall doesn’t appear on any of those albums, but was on a split 7″ with the band Audacity that was released on Suicide Squeeze records. Adderall is the brand name of an amphetamine used as a prescription drug to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. The song’s musical backing and throaty vocals also have a stimulating effect and should wake you from your slumber and hold your attention for its nearly three minutes running time

Willie Nile is a 65-year-old songwriter from New York who released his first album back in 1980. American Ride is his ninth long-player and features a wonderful title track that was co-written with Mike Peters of The Alarm. The song belongs to the fine tradition of American road songs such as Bobby Troupe’s Route 66 and Chuck Berry’s Promised Land. The ghosts of Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and even Joe Strummer pervade this excellent number that was the best song I heard in 2013

My Bloody Valentine finally returned to the fray this year, though bands are still being influenced by the sound of their first two records. Bands like Ride and Swervedriver were also part of the shoegaze movement that made more of an impression on the eastern side of the Atlantic than in the USA. However, Withershins from the town of Champaign in Illinois put out a sparkling slice of shoegaze in July called A Patient Boy. The track rewards patience as it starts off slowly before erupting in a Champaign supernova of beautiful noise. Withershins have already released two albums and a third is scheduled for release in 2014. Check out A Patient Boy below and head over to their Bandcamp page for more

Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith turns 50 next month and continues to add to his already considerable body of work. 2013’s Forever Endeavour compared unfavourably to its immediate predecessor, but still contained some great songs. Sneak Out the Back Door and Me, Myself & Wine were my two favourites on the record, with the latter just about shading it. The audio’s not too bad on this live acoustic version of a song about listening to records while sampling a few glasses of wine

The Family Rain, ahem, hail from the English town of Bath and are composed of the three Walter brothers, Ollie, Timothy and William. Their debut LP is due next year and Friction is taken from the band’s Pushing It EP. Their music seems to blend blues and dance elements, though that might be because this version is remixed by a guy called Chester Watson. The guitar is choppy and there’s friction in the vocals

Pond are from Perth and Xanman was the second single off their fifth album, Hobo Rocket. The band includes former and current members of fellow Perthies, Tame Impala. Xanman is pretty intense throughout and its heavy sound and insistent vocals are accompanied by a mad music video

Also from down under, Sydney’s Jagwar Ma have one album to their name and Man I Need is the title of the third single from Howlin’. This song is more danceable and psychedelic than the one above and features backwards guitar, a nice groove and trippy vocals, man

Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula is from Birmingham in England and she released her Sing to the Moon LP this year. The influences of soul and gospel are especially present on That’s Alright, the most recent single from her only album. I first saw her perform live on Later with Jools Holland on the BBC and then at Glastonbury. I was impressed by her voice and stage presence both times and this song in particular stood out

Wake Me Up! by Swedish DJ Avicii is one of the few songs on this list that was actually a hit single. I would’ve missed if it hadn’t been for my friend Thomas playing it for me. I immediately liked the guitar and vocals on the track and also its lyrics. Mike Einziger from Incubus plays guitar and Aloe Blacc sings and the two of them along with Tim Bergling (Avicii) wrote the song. I’m not normally into dance music, but perhaps the presence of Einziger and Blacc on Wake Me Up! aroused something within me. Tune in soon for the first part of my favourite albums of the year