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Monday, 23 December 2013 12:00

Best of 2013: 88.1 KDHX DJs' 'Songs of the Year'

Best of 2013: 88.1 KDHX DJs' 'Songs of the Year'
Written by KDHX

The DJs of 88.1 KDHX have picked their "Songs of the Year," and the resulting list -- spanning all manner of sounds and styles, ranging from radio hitmakers to local heroes -- forms a pretty comprehensive (and thoroughly enjoyable) look back at the year in music that was 2013.

Don't miss the rest of our Best of 2013 coverage, including our list of DJs' top 10 albums of the year, the 88.1 KDHX top album spins, both local and national, and a whole lot more. There's always more great music to discover.

And feel free to leave a comment with your pick for song of the year!

Nominating DJ is listed after the comments for each song.


"How Long" by Raashan Ahmad featuring Geoffrey Oryema

With the feel of a protest song, the guitar track invites the listener to be moved by the lyrics. The two verses reflect two outlooks, one of hope and the other of hopelessness, yet they both come to the same conclusion: the world needs a change. Delivered with an impassioned, poetic style, "How Long" is a superb example of how magnificent hip-hop can be. Wil Wander, Elevated Rhymestate

"Waiting for Margaret to Go" by Chumbawamba

Recorded a few years ago, packaged and unsent to pre-orders until Maggie Thatcher died this spring. They thought (hoped) they'd be shipping them sooner. bobEE Sweet, Uncontrollable Urge

"Every Time" by Natalia Clavier

The song begins with a mellow roll of drum, snare and cymbals, then a baritone sax comes and the heavy bass line, moving the song at a slow pace, once the vocals come in. That's what makes it very smooth, and Clavier follows through out the track with her rich supple voice. Piano and keys match the pace of the sax, step by step, as if you are walking through a thick, smoggy night. When the guitar kicks in, it glues the rest of the track with a distant-sounding drive that creates groove. This song (and Clavier's whole 2013 album "Lumen") was produced by Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Echnocentrics, Ocote Soul Sounds, Brownout). Drummer John Speice has been with G.F. on their last couple albums and plays on this track. Carlos, Latin Hemispheres

"Still Fighting the War" by Slaid Cleaves

Slaid nails the experiences of the veterans I work with and hear the stories of each day. There are services in place for these men and women who make huge sacrifices for our freedom, but sadly, quite often those services fall short of meeting the need and demand. Stacy, Backroads

"Get Lucky" by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

"Reflektor" by Arcade Fire

Both of these songs share too many similarities to be able to count the similarities or even choose between them as a best song of the year. So let me break it down: They both clock in at over six minutes and are packed with hooky, dancable repetition with juicy, synthy solos. Both of these artists are noted forward-thinkers and these two songs in particular are leaps ahead of their last few albums. Both songs sound familiar and original and fresh. Both songs exploded internationally and can be heard everywhere all of the time. They boast celebrity vocalists. Pharrell Williams sings on the former; David Bowie sings a part on the latter. I'll stop there, but it is a fun game. Can you find other similarities?

Honestly, I've heard these songs so many times this year, as many of you have, that I really expected to be sick of them by now. But I'm not. I still love them. That's the testament to a good and timelesss song, especially when the song is exceptionally popular. It's that instant disappointment of "Ooooh no; this song again" to seconds later feeling that "Oh yeah, this song again! This is a really good song, really." Songs with that duality don't come along often, but this year for me these are the two standouts. Nick Acquisto, The Space Parlour

"Stay Strong" by Jesse Dee

For the second year in a row my favorite song of the year does not come from one of my top 10 albums. This song just gets me moving and wanting to dance. Dee was great in concert at the Gramophone this year. Doug McKay, The Juke Joint

"Saskatchewan to Chicago" by Dolly Varden

The first song I fell in love with in 2013 is still the song I love most. In recent years, Steve Dawson, the principal singer and songwriter behind Dolly Varden, has taken to teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and the lessons he has learned and shared there runs through this tale of a family's journey and of life's journey. The places could be anywhere because the story is everyone's. Roy Kasten, Feel Like Going Home

"A Silent Moment" by Elephant Stone

This is a beautiful, mid-tempo psych ballad on inward reflection, the first three minutes of which are strong enough to make it great. But the final two minutes make this song amazing. The melody is stripped down to a Hindi chant accompanied only by guitar, as hand drums and then the rest of the band eventually join, escalating the energy and spiraling upward, inspiring the kind of spiritual contemplation that the first half refers to. Chris Bay, Gold Soundz

"Chillin'" by Brinsley Forde featuring David Hinds

Brinsley Forde, forming member of Aswad teams up with David Hinds of Steel Pulse on "Chillin'" off Forde's debut solo release "Urban Jungle." These two reggae greats combine soulful vocals and a hard rockers' rhythm with intense lyrics concerning the African diaspora to create not only my favorite tune from this disc but my favorite 2013 release. Mr. Roots, The Night Shift

"They Called It Music" by the Gibson Brothers

Three things: (1) The Gibson Brothers sing the truth in every song in harmonies so close and pure that they could make any song "Song of the Year." (2) They write songs like this one because, despite earning their wages as hired musicians, they know songs aren't just widgets to be cranked out on an assembly line at the music factory. They know there is a reason to music, meaning to melody. (3) Since bow was first struck to fiddle string, folks have been arguing about what to call the sound when fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin sing together. Country? Bluegrass? Old-time? Ask the Gibsons. They'll tell you. "They called it music / In the church house, in the fields / It was honest, it was simple / And it helped the hard times heal / It was music / They sang it deep down in the mines / In dark and lonesome prison cells / And behind battle lines / They called it music." Keith Dudding, Down Yonder

"This River" by JJ Grey & Mofro

JJ's song writing just keeps getting better and better. This song really showcases his voice, which also keeps getting richer and fuller with age. The lyrics express the depth of emotion in his voice. Jim Bruce, Higher Ground

"Dontcha" by the Internet

I love this record because of the undeniable groove laid down by the band and Sid the Kid's airy, soulful vocals throughout. It's a danceable uptempo number that I find myself playing in almost all my live sets. Needles, Rawthentic

"Elephant" by Jason Isbell

It's rare that a song tells a perfect story, albeit, in this case a sad one. The narrator, Andy, watching his friend suffer from cancer and not be able to help other than to sweep her hair from the floor and sing her classic country songs. It's a poignant tale, one that has amazing music to accompany it. Allen Dahm, Bittersweet Melody

"Central Time" by Pokey LaFarge

Since Pokey has gained national and international attention, particularly on "Late Night with David Letterman," this song has done much to make Pokey our ambassador of Midwest music. Plus it's a good song, played well by a group of great St. Louis musicians. Fred Gumaer, Mid-Day Jamboree

Pokey LaFarge was never meant to be St. Louis' best-kept secret: the transplant's ambition was apparent from the start. But as this year's self-titled record and its attendant press, late-night television performances and overseas tours mounted, LaFarge and co. kicked off their charm offensive with a single about the Midwest that contained an underlying message: make your art in your community and screw the tastemakers. Christian Schaeffer, Collector's Edition

"Royals" by Lorde

At first it was refreshing to hear someone turning Lana Del Rey's sex/drugs/Hollywood/death-wish trip on its head -- rejecting materialism with a minimalist backing track, a sing-song chorus mocking pop-star excesses, a distinctive voice and a cool, smart vibe. Then it crept into the mainstream. Then I found out its creator was only 16. Then it topped the pop charts for nine weeks (and counting). I don't understand the backlash; I'm still proud I was (apparently) the first to play it in St. Louis. Darren Snow, Rocket 88

"Pink Rabbits" by the National

This is such a beautifully evocative song. The sentiment and imagery are compelling, immediate and relatable. Caron House, Wax Lyrical

"One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks)" by One Direction

While I can't adequately explain why they mined my teenaged years for this single, One Direction jubilantly mashed up Blondie's hit with the Undertones' ode to youthful adventures, the jaunty result receiving the endorsement of both senior bands. It reached the #1 position on my iTunes 25 Most Played list, which is enough evidence for me to make it my "Song of the Year." Cat Pick, Emotional Rescue

"Malachi's Mode" by William Parker Quartet

William is a gifted melodist. Ever since his quartet played this at Mad Art Gallery in October, I can't seem to get it out of my head -- and I don't want to. I find myself singing, whistling and playing it often. My 5-year-old daughter loves to sing it too. It is a very simple song: 24 bars long, in 3/4 time with an AABB form. It is charming, buoyant, fun and uplifting. Josh Weinstein, All Soul No Borders

"You Know I Won't" by Sam Phillips

It seems that Sam has taken a pinch of inspiration from every album she's released up to this point -- boiled it all down and served up a feast for the ears. The voice is still as melodic as ever with enough grit to keep the sweet from overwhelming -- and she harmonizes with herself so well. She charges through this one at a brisk skiffle clip as she describes her determination at how she'll never give up on love: "You can start fires all over town and corner me until I run around...but I'm not giving up on know I won't." A simple effective lyric that cuts to the heart of the matter. Rich Reese, Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst

"Movin'" by Gregory Porter

This song has been on my lips and in my head since I first heard it. Incredibly catchy and beautifully performed, it is a favorite from one of the best releases of 2013. A great discovery. Chris Lawyer, Hip City

"Some Days" by Sturgill Simpson

Great lyrics about fair-weather friends, hypocrisy and the state of country music today, and if the backbeat and upfront mix of former Waylor Robby Turner's steel guitar don't conjure the spirit of Waylon Jennings, then you're no outlaw. Jeff Corbin, The Back Country

"Bus Station" by Patrick Sweany

A beautiful yet powerful melody riding waves of tension and release, with lyrics expressing the heartbreak and melancholy experienced surrounding the death of a family member...yet not at all maudlin. A musical excursion into the soul. East Side Slim, Rhythm Highways

"Bill" by Eric Taylor

Eric's tribute to his friend, the late songwriter and performer, Bill Morrissey. A chilling and sad first-person account of Bill's last tour and death, alone, in a roadside Motel in Dalton, Ga. Ed Becker, Songwriters Showcase

"Marigold Life" by the Trophy Mules

Every time I put this in a CD player at the station I literally have to force myself not to play this cut every single time. Corey Saathoff's plaintive vocals, lovely harmony vocals by Larry Rosenhoffer and top-notch pedal steel playing by Scott Swartz make this an easy choice for my "Song of the Year." Pat Wolfe, Interstate

"Last Conversation" by Veronica Falls

Brilliant closing track on an album full of indie-pop gems. Matt Distelrath, Hindsight

"Paranoia Visions" by Voight Kampff

With revelations of NSA spying spewing from the newly formed cracks in our government, a little paranoia seems in order. The repetitive and unusual arrangement is dark, catchy and completely satisfying. This song is a cockroach that will skitter through your ear canal and lay a million eggs into your brain; you will never get them all outta your head. Voight Kampff shares members with artists from St. Louis and Minneapolis. The band's new self-titled album came out this year on Deranged Records. Jenn DeRose, Non-Alignment Pact


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