Now Hear This: The 25 Best Singles of 2013 (NSFW)

Our year-end countdown begins.
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Our year-end countdown begins.
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Overall, 2013 was a pretty damn good year for music. What's interesting, though, is that as musical trends go it was a bit of a placeholder year, in that most of what we'd seen before either held steady or dropped off the radar with nothing noteworthy to replace it. Sure, EDM was big, but it truly broke wide for the masses last year; the whole neo-folk thing, with its bright and shiny veneer of artificial authenticity, remained powerful in both alt and pop circles; in hip-hop, despite a few exceptional albums, what we saw was more of the same. Only synth-pop made real gains as a movement in 2013. It was also an exceptional year for women in music, both as singer-songwriters and in bands. Oh, and then there's Pharrell, who, in addition to his usual production ubiquity, made an appearance in two of the biggest singles of the year.

And that's an important distinction, because what we'll be looking at here over the next several days aren't just songs, they're specifically singles. So let's begin our look back now at the Best of 2013.

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25. Joanna Gruesome -- Sugarcrush

There is no Joanna Gruesome, at least no person named that, but there's a whole lot of ferocious energy in this Welsh unit. From the powerful attack of the Gruesomes' guitars to the straight-ahead punk beat that powers it all, what the band gave us was one of the most exhilarating albums of the year and certainly the most entertaining thing noise-pop produced. At the center of it was singer Alanna McArdle, who can sound like your sweet elementary school crush one second then suddenly grab you by the throat and wail in your face like a banshee the next. She managed to personify Joanna Gruesome's entire sound: like a tour bus crash between My Bloody Valentine and Mudhoney.

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24. Justin Timberlake (ft. Jay Z) -- Suit & Tie

Look, let's face it -- if you're folding your arms across your chest and sneering disapprovingly at Justin Timberlake at this point you're probably just a contrarian asshole. Over the past several years the kid has proven himself to be, without question, one of the most impressive talents of his generation. He released not one but two full albums this year, but it was this song, the first single from The 20/20 Experience (Pt. 1), that defined irresistible. It was sexy blue-eyed soul at its finest, with layered, spacey production by Timbaland, no small amount of infectious swagger by Jay Z, and a glowing love for the greatness of the source material.

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23. Foals -- Late Night

There wasn't a more fitting song-title this year. Late Night was indeed a journey through the dark. From its droning drumbeat, to its slow burn into a climax that felt every bit like the world being taken apart, to its sly resolution, it was brooding, dramatic, powerful stuff.

Tomorrow: 22-20