Top Austin Songs of 2013: 50-41


Over the course of 2013, we’ve reviewed over 100 EPs, LPs and singles. We’ve covered dozens of live shows, premiered a handful of new videos and interviewed some of our favorite local artists. All in the name of making the Austin music scene accessible to as many of you as possible. Culled from hundreds of submissions over the course of the year, these are our 50 favorite Austin songs (limit: one per artist) of the last year.

50. Love Inks – ‘Secret Tattoo’

“Secret Tattoo” is like the quintessential Love Inks song. It isn’t complicated, but it’s powerful. The lyrics consist mostly of “I’ve got your name / Tattooed on my brain,” along with a few iterations of “My heart is dyin'” for good measure. The spare arrangement matches the lyrics in terms of its surprising depth, and Sherry LeBlanc’s voices coos over all of it, pretending like tremendous heartbreak is the most casual thing you could encounter. “Secret Tattoo” may last only a minute and 45 seconds, but it tattoos itself onto our brains for much longer than that. – Carter Delloro

49. Maryann – ‘Bakersfield’

Over the course of two LPs this year, Maryann released their “Outlaw Opry,” but their rootsy country never hit as well as it did on this exposition-filled opus-opener. You can follow along the different singers and characters, if you’d like, and you won’t be disappointed. But the real draw here is the carefree country groove from the driving rhythm section. You could never listen to a single word and just let the music infiltrate your bones. Before you know it, you’ll be on the run right alongside the main characters. – Carter Delloro

48. Sons of Fathers – ‘Roots & Vine’

Beck and Cauthen’s superb harmonies ring clearly through each track on their sophomore LP, but stand out tremendously in “Roots and Vine.” The song begins with a beat that gathers quickly into a fun, danceable rhythm with lyrics “You’re the roots and I’m the vine / together we can make wine / drink it up, feel just fine,” Beck and Cauthen suggest their own opposites-attract, symbiotic rhythm; one of them provides the sturdy roots that ground them and their beat while the other extends it, as the vine, into a beautiful and creative flurry of authentic Texas sound. – Bailey Cool

47. Brothers Or Not – ‘Talk All Day’

Everything about “Talk All Day” is cool. Check out the way that churning rhythm section breaks through the chiming guitars in the opening seconds. Or the creeping sense of dread that is only enhanced by the barely-whispered vocals in the verses. Or the 90s emo guitar crunch in the chorus. The four musicians in Brothers Or Not somehow perfectly combine Fugazi, The Dismemberment Plan, and Fall Out Boy. In a scant two-and-a-half minutes, “Talk All Day” illustrates what 2000’s mainstream rock should have sounded like. – Carter Delloro

46. Lord Buffalo – ‘Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin’

While every Lord Buffalo song is structured around sustaining a specific mood and atmosphere, the group’s most recent release “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin” is perhaps the most extreme atmospheric build-up they’ve committed themselves to, from the way its intro seemingly isolates John Cale’s legendary single note piano line for “I Wanna Be Your Dog” only to throw it into a song that provides a glimpse of a bizarro world where Can was fronted by a deranged cowboy instead of a trippy Japanese busker. “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin” is a repetitive dirge, full of phantom choral figures punching holes through its sonic cloth and sinister break downs that prove quieter moments are almost always far scarier than loud ones. It’s either something you’re game for or you aren’t, but as far as Lord Buffalo is concerned, this is the new dark future of freak Americana. – Nick Hanover

45. Royal Forest – ‘Everyone Who Knows You’

Leading off their debut LP, “Everyone Who Knows You” is the latest volley from the ever-evolving musical arsenal of Royal Forest. Built on a heavily syncopated beat and full of the kind of metallic echo one expects when recording a song in a submarine, there’s a claustrophobic, but dream-like quality to “Everyone Who Knows You” that’s further reinforced by Cody Ground’s repetitious vocals. The end result is a progressive pop single the likes of which a band like Radiohead would even be proud of. – Brian Audette

44. Knifight – ‘In the Fire’

“In the Fire” starts out with a jungle-esque 80s-style beat that gains both strength and synths as it drives on. Soon enough, the rich and dark vocals come in. This song plays out as a call-and-response synth-drenched jam, with the lead singer deeply crooning each one of his lines, while a back-up female vocalist follows him. The driving beat keeps the track running as the vocals build up tension – but no climax ever really comes. Instead, the lyrics just get darker and darker – “As we fall to our knees, pray to the night / We reach to the bottom to escape the light” – and the song erupts into nothingness. – Brittany Bartos

43. Migrant Kids – ‘Canvas of Me’

The centerpiece of Migrant Kids’ debut LP (and concept breakup album) is the magnificent “Canvas of Me.” The refrain in “Canvas” is the brilliant line, “I’ve drawn myself out of your blood; you can’t stop this from drying,” a line which has so many interpretations and implications that it alone is a great stand-in for the themes of the whole record. In that one line is relief, resignation, fear, sorrow, and so much more. And John Zakoor delivers the line by wrapping it around the melodic structure in a way that is initially unfamiliar, but eventually feels completely natural. Form meeting function in an amazing song. – Carter Delloro

42. Sweet Talk – ‘Never Alone’

Like so many lost power pop classics, Sweet Talk’s “Never Alone” begins with an unshakeable beat, the kind of drumming that defies the very nature of drumming. It’s a perfect promise for the smart songcraft that’s about to hit your ears, a succinct three minutes of Fountains of Wayne-style ’70s FM pillaging. Sweet Talk pack “Never Alone” with enough hooky detours and counter melodies to last other bands entire years, but because they love you they’ve wrapped it all up in a tidy little package. This is power pop done right and what could be better? – Nick Hanover

41. The Boxing Lesson – ‘Endless Possibilities’

The Boxing Lesson create atmospheres. Even in their compact pop songs, they are supremely concerned with the sonic possibilities they can forge with their instruments. Which is why, when they stretch out to nine minutes here, the possibilities truly are endless. There is no rush as this power-psych-rock trio warps as many sounds as they can. Ben Redman’s steady drumming is trance-inducing, and provides the anchor for Paul Waclawsky’s soaring guitar solo and Jaylinn Davidson’s epic synth orchestrations. – Carter Delloro

Tomahawk Playlist

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