I am no kind of authority on any of these things, but that is sort of the point, or it should be. Lists are fun and I still do (sort of?) look forward to doing these, a neat little summary of the culture I’ve eaten this year and the exercise of trying to arrange it and toss out things I didn’t like and order things I did.
The world is so big and it feels like there is not really that much here. But here is a try.
(Singles are much better than albums. This is the main list. The albums list is the secondary list.)
20. “This Summer,” Brad Paisley
19. “People Mover,” James T. Cotton
18. “Timber,” Pitbull feat. Ke$ha
17. “Nosetalgia,” Pusha T feat. Kendrick Lamar
16. “Cruise,” Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly
15. “You Song,” Lil Wayne feat. Chance the Rapper
14. “Mirrors,” Justin Timberlake
13. “The Wire,” Haim
12. “She Will,” Savages
11. “Merry Go Round,” Kacey Musgraves
10. “Birds,” Death Grips
9. “Hive,” Earl Sweatshirt
8. “New Slaves,” Kanye West
7. “Get Lucky,” Daft Punk
6. “Pusha Man/Paranoia,” Chance the Rapper
5. “We Can’t Stop,” Miley Cyrus
4. “Counting,” Autre Ne Veut
3. “Grown Woman,” Beyonce
2. “Diane Young,” Vampire Weekend
1. “Royals,” Lorde
So. “Royals.” What a cool song. Just badass, massively confident its sparseness. It managed to be the song of the fall, which I did not even know was a thing but which fits this song perfectly, it is so slinky and bright.
"Grown Woman" was the song I was most excited about when it came out, the kwaito Beyonce, the killer beat.
Chance the Rapper had the best, most haunting couplet of the year in “Pusha Man,” about life on Chicago’s south side: “Everybody dies in the summer/ So pray to God for a little more spring.”
I notice I liked the “wrong” singles compared to many other people’s year-end lists — I picked “New Slaves” over “Black Skinhead,” “We Can’t Stop” over “Wrecking Ball” and “Hive” over “Chum.” WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??
And while I guess I think the Death Grips album is a bit of a slog (though worth listening to once!) the song “Birds” is really cool.
Also “Diane Young” by Vampire Weekend and “Counting” by Autre Ne Veut are weird-pop perfection. They are great.
8. Tim Hecker, Virgins
7. Kanye West, Yeezus
6. Beyoncé, Beyoncé (probably, I mean I will need to listen to it more but I think so)
5. Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap
4. Savages, Silence Yourself
3. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
2. Danny Brown, Old
1. Rhye, Woman
So smooth, so mysterious, so like Sade, the short first album Woman by Rhye was my most played record and probably the most pure enjoyment I got out of music this year. I loved the super-raw honking vocals of Danny Brown’s XXX in 2011; Old is more technically accomplished and slightly more mature, luckily only slightly.
I liked Yeezus and I loved the two singles but I think a lot of people are going to be looking back at 2013 and saying, “Yeah, we overrated that somewhat interesting EDM rap album Kanye made.” No offense anybody. Something can be both really good and also possibly overrated.
Also, shout out Transcendental Youth by The Mountain Goats, which came out in late 2012 but which I enjoyed a lot in 2013.
10. Game of Thrones (HBO)
9. Vice (HBO)
8. Mad Men (AMC)
7. Family Tree (HBO)
6. Veep (HBO)
5. Mysteries at the Museum (History)
4. House of Cards (Netflix)
3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
2. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
1. Drunk History (Comedy Central)
Well there was no show that I looked forward to as much or enjoyed as much as “Drunk History,” at which I laughed until I cried multiple times and from which I actually learned a little bit of history. “Orange is the New Black” was a tour de force and exciting because of the ways it did not follow all the now-well-worn prestige-TV tropes.
The same cannot really be said of “Breaking Bad,” but damn it was taut as hell, despite the ridiculous wish fulfillment of the final episode (or was that the point?). I think “Family Tree,” a Christopher Guest joint, was a little slept on but it was very funny and subtle.
And you guys, “Mysteries at the Museum” is such great basic-cable fun.
5. 56 Up
4. Happy People
3. Behind the Candelabra
2. 12 Years a Slave
1. Much Ado about Nothing
I don’t watch many movies but these are good ones. As someone who lives in a cold place I enjoyed the Herzogified Siberia documentary “Happy People,” which is simple but beautiful and includes a scene of a man making a canoe out of a tree trunk.
Five good books I read, one of which I haven’t quite finished.
5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie
4. Very Recent History by Choire Sicha
3. Tenth of December by George Saunders
2. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
1. Good Lord Bird by James McBride
P.S. The book I most wish I’d read this year was the Scientology book “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright. I would read it but now it is too late to put it on my list so, you know, what is the point.