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12 Best Album Tracks of 2013

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2013 has been a good year for the album, with several 'event' records dominating the news agenda this year, proving that reports of its demise are, perhaps, a little hasty.

And we think that's a good thing, as if we didn't have albums, we wouldn't have great album tracks - those hidden nuggets that weren't singles, so avoided being overplayed on the radio, and remained treasures for fans to dig out.

We've selected 12 of our favourite unheralded tracks for your enjoyment. Consider this the best 'alternative' album of 2013: read the stories behind the songs below and listen to the whole thing on Spotify.

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Johnny Marr - Right Thing Right

Johnny's debut solo album The Messenger, released in February, proved that as well as being a master guitar player, songwriter and collaborator, he was a nifty singer too. This was the album opener and highlight: an irresistible punky call-to-arms.



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Pet Shop Boys - The Last To Die

The Stuart Price-produced album Electric, which arrived in July, was the Pets' most critically-acclaimed and biggest-selling record in years. And, as they have done so often in the past, one of the highlights was a fantastic unlikely cover version - this time Bruce Springsteen's The Last To Die. Not something you'd expect to work, yet it's a genuinely moving track, with the original's guitar riff seamlessly translating to electronica.



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David Bowie - I'd Rather Be High

For a man who’s had more reinventions than the bloke from Quantum Leap, it’s testament to Bowie’s eternal genius that The Next Day ranks as one of his finest albums, with few tracks capturing his wistful tones as much as I’d Rather Be High. Bowie's done a host of essential album tracks, and this is one to add to the canon.



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Daft Punk - Giorgio By Moroder

Get Lucky obviously took the lion's share of the considerable attention that May's Random Access Memories received, but the heart of the record was this track. While Daft Punk eschewed the electronics that they made their name with, in favour of live musicians, they didn't forget the man that started it all, with this astonishing opus dedicated to the godfather of electronic music, Giorgio Moroder. 9 minutes long and worth every second, the drop into the arpeggiator following the click track break was one of the most euphoric moments of the year.



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Kanye West - Send It Up

Everyone went mad for the croissant-based punchlines and Kimye oversharing on Yeezus but this track, with its blaring siren and bashment-ready beat, is probably the most coherent thing on it. Dark, unrelenting and unmissable.



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Tegan & Sara - Now I'm All Messed Up

In other hands this piece of emotional wreckage would just be a wreck. But this downtrodden ballad off the Canadian twins' otherwise pop-friendly Heartthrob disc - the 'alternative' pop album of the year by a distance - is a winner. Reminiscent of the cinematic melodrama of late-'80s Roxette - and we can all agree that that is a great thing. Listen To Your Heartthrob, as it were.



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Sigur Rós - Rafstraumur

Having released the incredibly introverted and ambient Valtari in 2012, then losing founder member Kjartan Sveinsson in January this year, many were unsure whether Sigur Rós would survive to make another record. They needn't have worried, as the remaining members regrouped and unleashed Kveikur - an 'anti-Valtari' - which saw them debut focussed songwriting and, at times, a far heavier sound than previously heard. This track, though, was the emotional heart of the record, doing, simply, what Sigur Rós do better than anyone else: skyscraping, beautiful, emotionally-charged music seemingly sent from another planet.



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Pure Bathing Culture - Scotty

One of the underground records of the year; in a perfect world Portland's Pure Bathing Culture would be huge. Moon Tides gave us beautiful melodies from singer Sarah Versprille, fascinating lyrics, dextrous production and Lindsay Buckingham-esque guitar work from Daniel Hindman. The album highlight, and mystifyingly not a single, was this track Scotty, a beautifully atmospheric track which, strangely, called to mind the very best elements of an imperial-era (No Jacket Required et al) Phil Collins ballad. Magnificent.



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Disclosure - Defeated No More

Without question the year's dance breakthrough act was Disclosure, formed of the Lawrence brothers - aged just 22 and 19 - with their album Settle. There were singles a-plenty that got all the attention, but the highlight for us was this track, featuring Friendly Fires vocalist Ed Macfarlane and a host of futuristic sounds and production touches: the perfect 21st-century house track.



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Arctic Monkeys - Fireside

The Monkeys seemingly get better with every record, with AM being very much a modern classic. Not a weak track on the whole disc, and this is our favourite - simply because the reverb drum on the opening reminds us of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Hopefully they can all get cocaine habits and record their Rumours for the next one.



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Lorde - A World Alone

Lorde, a precociously talented 17-year-old from New Zealand, was undoubtedly the year's breakout new cool-pop act. Royals was the hit and got the attention, while the album largely stuck to the same minimal-hop with clever observational lyrics format. No bad thing, of course, but album closer A World Alone, hinted at another side to her writing: atmospheric, sad and haunting, this was our favourite cut on the record.



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Foals - Stepson

Holy Fire was a beast of a record, as Foals finally fulfilled their huge potential. Widescreen yet intricate production, fantastic songwriting and pop hooks mixed with dark moments, it hung together beautifully as a whole. Our choice of best album track, though, is its most delicate and tender moment: Stepson; if you can make it through without at least one shiver down the spine, then you're probably dead.



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