We've told you plenty about our selections for the best of 2013 — everything from the year's awesome records you didn't hear to the greatest DJ mixes — but what did the folks who actually made our favorite records think ruled this year? Rolling Stone rang up everyone from Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig to Danny Brown to Avicii to get professional opinions on the past 12 months' songs and albums.
Pick: Drake's Nothing Was the Same
I like soul-baring music, and there are some tasty jams on this album. There aren't that many dudes in Drake's position that are so emo. He does those moments of "I'm fucking this beautiful woman, but I'm so sad!" so well. You expect that from him. I saw heaps of funny things about him on Twitter, like, "When it's raining, that means they're listening to Drake in heaven."
Pick: Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop"
This song is undeniable. Miley's like, "We can't stop" — in that sense, it's a typical party song. It's minimal. But there's this melancholy running through it, which is one of my favorite types of pop song. You could easily write a straight-up sad song over that beat. I like that hint of sadness. It's like, "Why can't you stop? What's going to happen if you do stop?"
Tegan Quin's Pick: Chvrches' The Bones of What You Believe
The record I listened to start to finish milions of times was the Chvrches record. It really grew on me. A song like "Gun," there's four or five hooks in a row. There's just one amazing section after another, which is dangerous, you can overload your listener, but the production is so good that it doesn't matter that there's a new exciting section coming every 35 seconds. The writing, the lyrics, it's just a very well tied-together record. We should continue to expect great things from this band.
Sara Quin's Pick: Kelela's Cut 4 Me
I really love that record because for me it's not a perfect record but it's so interesting and it made me so excited to see what else she does. I loved all of the producers that she collaborated with. I love that it's a record of collaborations with different production teams and her, and that to me is very exciting and very modern. Everybody's so obsessed with just maing a record themselves, and this is a ery hip, cool and cohesive sounding record made with a gazillion different people involved.
Pick: Ashley Wallbridge's "Crush"
I'm a member of the generation that goes crazy over a song, not a whole album. This one was my favorite this year. I like it beause of the massive drop. It's a track that always works when I play it live. I also really liked Jay Z's song "Holy Grail" — the entire vibe of the track, from the lyrics to the beat, is great.
Pick: Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap
Each year, you get a few artists in hip-hop that push the genre and challenge the listener. Chance was that guy this year. He incorporated all these elements that stood out sonically. His cadences were different, his melodies were different, his flow, his inflection — everything about this mixtape is left-field from what people are doing nowadays. At the same time, it's all really cohesive. It just feels os refreshing and new, with a perspective that's just different from anything else in 2013. And I really like that.
Pick: Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves"
It's so hard to pick a favorite song from Yeezus, but the Haim sisters agree this one is our favorite. It could have gone terribly wrong by sampling "Strange Fruit" by Nina Simone. It's sacred — one of the all-time greats. But Kanye did it in a tasteful way, and he made it sound effortless. The lyrics are so poingnant. I'm not going to lie — it's a heavy song.
Pick: Black Sabbath's 13
This album was amazing — especially considering how long it had been since they made a record together. The first time I listened to it, I was with my band in Rick Rubin's studio — it was amazing to hear a record that was made this year that sounds like that. I love the lyric "I don't want to live forever, but I don't want to die." It's the biggest dilemma. And I quite like "God Is Dead?" — with a question mark! Because it is a question, isn't it? You can feel that they mean it, no matter how old they are.
Pick: Katy Perry's "Roar"
The world was really excited to hear what Katy would have to hear next, me included. "Roar," to me, was so moving — it had a good message but just felt good to listen to. It's a super simple message but those are some of my favorites. It's empowering. I think that's always awesome.
Pick: Blood Orange's Cupid Deluxe
I listen to a lot of electronic music, and this album really enlightens the game. My wife [Nicole Kidman] turned me on to it. I love the atmosphere and ambience; it takes the best of Frank Ocean and Prince and even New Radicals — I can hear so many of my favorite artists, all in one album. It's amazing. I like to listen to this one while I'm driving around Nashville. It just sounds great in the car.
Pick: Kurt Vile's Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile creates an atmosphere that no one else does, and he sounds like no one else, and the way he plays the guitar is like no one else, and the way he sings and phrases and strings his thoughts together is both beautiful and completely of its own. I feel like I’m in a special and unique place whenever I listen to his records. I also love how effortless his songs and his deliveries feel. Kurt Vile is a very loosely unwound coil, and for some reason listening to his music, my muscles and my shoulders feel less tense or something. They aren’t explicit songs that have fully flushed out characters and events. They are little fragments. It’s honed, crafted, but it allows a lot of space and it doesn’t connect all of the dots.
Pick: Young Thug
The first time I heard him, he was on this song with Jose Guapo called "Fuck My Tattoos." I actually got on the phone with him while I was in Australia right after XXX came out. I was meeting with one of the promoters and I heard him. And his name sounded so clichéd, it just stuck with me. Like, Young Thug? How am I gonna find this in Google? [Laughs] I remember I searched it and I came across the song. Now, to see where he’s at now — that’s tight, you know?