Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Previously on our Favorite Song Adventures:
Alas...The Top 10.
You'd think it would be difficult narrowing down the 10 most essential tracks in such a year, but it was surprisingly cut and dry for me, for the most part. There were many tracks that were "Top 10 worthy," but these ten tracks were the absolutes. The ones that blew me away on first listen, and still deliver after the hundredth time. I was a little surprised how poptimistic my tastes were this year. But it was a good year for mainstream pop, after all.
Most truly great songs have at least one "goosebumps" inducing moment. The singer nails an impossible note, the guitars soar into space or melt your face, or maybe the chorus just knocks your brains down the drain. You find yourself rewinding it just to make sure you really did hear what you think you did. Each of these posses such moments, and they shall be made known.
And here we go...
10. TO THE LAST | James Blake
Mr. Blake does more with very little than most artists do with a lot. He's a genius minimalist of soul and "dub-step" (whatever that means these days). "To The Last" is a representation of everything James Blake does right, the perfect antithesis to the horror vacui of mainstream pop and R&B. And he tops it off with one of the most breathtaking vocal performances of the year.
Moment of Glory: 34 second mark. Just after Blake opens up with his falsetto to the skies, he brings it back down and the bass drops right with him. Make sure you have proper listening accommodations, kids.
9. TAP OUT | The Strokes
When are people going to stop writing off this band? Sure, their recent albums haven't quite lived up to the early classics. But every time they release an album, I get at least one top ten song out of it. This year, we get the perfect soundtrack to cruisin' in your Ferrari convertible. Every element of this tune is clicking together in perfect harmony. And for the first time in a couple albums, they sound confident in their sound again. Swagger means a lot to this band, after all.
Moment of Glory: 56 second mark. The groove itself was chilling enough, on first listen, but specifically that moment when the guitars roll up and down in unison with surgical precision. Badass.
8. NEW YOU | my bloody valentine
Buddy Greg and I had our own little online listening party to mbv the moment we got a hold of the download (it was pretty late at night). I was a song or two ahead of him, and when I hit track 6, I about wet myself with delight and waited anxiously for Greg to catch up. A hypnotic loop with Belinda Butcher's classically understated voice sounding just like it did 2o years ago. Like the rest of the album, it fits just as perfectly in 2013 as it would have in 1993. Amazing how something so simple is so perfect.
Moment of Glory: 1:53 mark. Belinda's angelic sighs fuse into a perfect harmony, then reunite again around the 3:00 minute mark to ride it to the end. I could listen to that last two minutes for an entire album.
7. STRAWBERRY BUBBLEGUM | Justin Timberlake
I usually detest songs with food symbolism. Especially when it leads to awkward innuendo. But something about JT's beeeeauuutifully constructed 8 minutes of "Strawberry Bubblegum" makes complete sense. Perhaps the sensual melody and flawless production makes up for it. And remembering JT on all those SNL episodes gives it a sly tongue-in-cheek humor. A little bit of all of that. But most of all, it's that second half. I'm a sucker for phenomenal vocal arrangements, and the last few minutes of this one is nothing but. Which reminds me...
Moment of Glory: 6:16 mark. And all the way to the end. The first time I heard that bit I was pulling in from a drive, and I couldn't help but sit in my car those final few minutes, reveling in the complete bliss that is JT's voice multiplied. (I also thought, "Blueberry lollipop...?)
6. ROYALS | Lorde
One night, my wife leans over and says, "Wanna hear a cool song?" She played this video for me, and I was floored. She claimed she heard it on the radio and my response was "Since when does the radio play something this good?" I was stunned that such a minimal beat, incredible melody, and sharp lyrics could exist in one song and still be a mainstream hit. A few months later, she exploded. I know you've all heard it, and many of you are probably sick of it (which means you listen to the radio too much). But I still think this is one of the best vocal melodies and arrangements I've heard in a long time. I'm interested to see where this kid goes.
Moment of Glory: around the 1:25 mark (1:46 in linked video). I was already taken by the chorus, but those harmonies in the second verse solidified it for me. Tis magical.
Bonus: THE LOVE CLUB
I usually hate ties, but I decided this spot needs to also include mention of her song from the EP of the same name. I was almost as enamored by this one's swirl of harmonies when I first heard it, and think it's better than any other song on her full length debut. So there's that.
5. THE WIRE | Haim
It was almost hard to decide which Haim song I liked the most. Them chicas know how to bust a tune. It came down to "The Wire" because, in the end, this was the one I just could not get out of my head. I also think it is the quintessential Haim song. All three take turns on lead vocal, it's got the most independently powerful lyrics in an album full of them, and it just rocks all sorts of socks. They make so much better use of that beat than the Eagles did.
Moment of Glory: about the 21 second mark. The first riff of "Well I know, I know I know, that you're gonna be ok anyway" without any backing instrumentation, and the moment that bass rolls right back in with the beat...hot damn. That's when I knew this was the sheeyit.
4. STILL INTO YOU | Paramore
I've tried to hide my respect for Paramore over the years. I secretly loved the hell out of nearly every radio single I've ever heard of theirs, but sometimes felt like maybe that's not something to necessarily be proud of. But the moment I heard this thing I said, "Ah, screw it." Hayley Williams has an amazing set of pipes, and she works them for all they're worth on "Still Into You." The lyrics are simple, sure, but not stupid. And that chorus, sweet sassy molassy, that chorus. This is a flawless (and harmless) pop masterpiece. It's useless pretending this isn't incredible. So I won't. Just one thing though, Hayley - please grow your bangs back out.
Moment of Glory: 1:53 mark. I love when that second chorus starts up, this time with some great back up harmonies to go along with that insanely epic melody. That's what I'm talkin' about.
3. WHITE NOISE | Disclosure
I was caught off guard when Disclosure dropped on the scene. Somehow I hadn't even noticed the hype surrounding them. When I finally did a little research, I came upon "White Noise." What...the...hell??? It's been awhile since a song by an artist I knew nothing about before hand knocked me on my ass quite like that. I've been craving that early 90's house sound for a few years, and artists like Hercules and Love Affair offered a taste of the old days. But this song is Grade A 100% certified nostalgic beef. Obviously it's contemporary enough to stay fresh, but let's just be honest with ourselves: This sounds an awful lot like 1992. And at the moment, that is a very good thing in my book.
Moment of Glory: 1:36 mark. That electro-riff carries you along nicely through the first bit, but once that bass drops for the chorus (and the dude starts busting moves in the video), that's when Aluna Francis takes off. Suddenly you're dancing in space.
2. ONLY TOMORROW | my bloody valentine
Let me just mention how hard it is to find a good, modern picture of these guys. I swear they haven't taken a photo in 20 years either (hard to find good youtube clips of their songs too, incidentally). Anyway...
After the soothing opener "She Found Now" fades out, "Only Tomorrow" introduces you to some overdue face melting. It chugs along without a break, looping chords and melodies in typical MBV fashion, while Belinda Butcher tames the beast from within. What Kevin Shields does with these guitars is mesmerizing. The grinding screech of the rhythm sounds like it could take paint off of a wall. In fact, I don't doubt that it probably could if you played it loud enough. And loud is the only way to go, of course. Shield's purposely mixes his songs at a lower volume to give the listener room to raise the roof. So, if you are listening to this song for the first time, just know you probably aren't doing it right unless it hurts a tad.
Moment of Glory: 1:28 mark. After Belinda finishes her first round at the mic, it sounds like take-off is initiated, and suddenly it all DROPS. The guitars fall, the drums pound and for a full minute (almost exactly), the listener is assaulted by a barrage of distortion and audio sandpaper. And it sounds wonderful.
1. GET LUCKY | Daft Punk
We've all heard this one by now. No need to hash out the details. You know it's amazing. And if you say otherwise, you're lying. Remember where you were the first time you heard those bits shared during SNL? I must've played this one hundreds of times. I was like a kid at Christmas hearing the Bots lay out their return, bit by bit. The marketing was fantastic. Not enough of that these days. The excitement was palpable. When the radio edit finally dropped, I downloaded it around midnight and listened to it on repeat for about an hour or so. I couldn't get enough of it. The album version is even tastier, a little more build, a little more reward. It has never gotten old to me, and is one of the best tunes in a stellar catalog. It is a perfect pop juggernaut, and deserves every bit of it's success this year in conquering the world. And it is my favorite song from one of the best musical years in recent memory.
Moment of Glory: 2:20 mark (linked radio edit) or 3:26 (album cut). You probably know exactly what this is without tracking to it. The first time I heard those Robots stutter to life on this track, I kept playing it back over and over. It was DAFT PUNK! They were back! I still hear those electric harmonies and get goosebumps.
Well, that's it, kids. I'll be posting my favorite albums over at TheRadioCure.com along with those hooligans. So stay tuned.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Ok, now we're getting to the meaty morsels.
This is getting more in depth than I intended, so from here on resides 25-11. Top 10 to come soon.
Don't spoil the fun by reading ahead! Click here for 50-26
25. THE GAME OF LOVE | Daft Punk
Sometimes the best examples of pure production prowess hide within the slow jams. This thing is pure ear candy. Every sonic element clicking with razor sharp precision. And on top of it, for the first time there is a surprising emotional weight to The Robots. Is this a song about a lovesick android? You bet it is.
24. RECOVER | Chvrches
One of the best spritely melodies dancing around this year. I liked it so much I found myself disappointed that the album itself didn't have as many like it. But I sure do adore this one. And it has nothing to do with how adorable Lauren Mayberry is. (Although, let's be honest, it helps.)
23. LATCH | Disclosure
(feat. Sam Smith)
The fact that a song like this is merely #28 on this list is a testament to the sheer quantity of quality tunes that came out this year. Listen to Sam Smith belt the hell out of that chorus! Dayum. DAY-UM.
22. IF I HAD A TAIL | Queens of the Stone Age
Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to really soak in the album this hails from. All I know is this here blazer rocks me sideways. Hot damn. The gnarly guitars, Dave Grohl's kit banging... I can't help but do this face listening.
21. OVERGROWN | James Blake
It should be mentioned that one has absolutely no business listening to James Blake without proper bass capabilities in whatever sound system or headphone you are utilizing. Sure, you can appreciate Blake's soulful croon, but if you can't feel that bass...you are missing the point. You need to be better at life.
20. THAT GIRL | Justin Timberlake
JT and the Tennessee Kids bring you some old school soul goodness. Fantastic harmonies, and some of JT's finest vocal work on the album. The larynx acrobatics featured in the second verse make me swoon.
19. INGENUE | Atoms For Peace
That's some nasty synth goin' down. Nothing to hate here. And it sure is fun to watch Thom dance, is it not? It is. Don't forget the incredible (for completely different reasons) live version. Thom, my soul delights in you.
18. SHE FOUND NOW | my bloody valentine
Before you click this link, I hope you turn up your sound as loud as you can comfortably manage. As opening track to the flawless mbv, it was a perfect "welcome back." Fuzzy, dreamy, sexy, PERFECT. I can't help but be reminded of "Sometimes" from Loveless, and that is never a bad thing.
17. IF I COULD CHANGE YOUR MIND | Haim
Haim was able to channel quite a few voices of the past on their debut, lyrically and musically. Amy Grant is the first one to come to mind with this track. One of a handful of perfect pop songs they blessed us with this year.
16. INVADER INVADER | Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
If I haven't converted you up to this point, it's probably safe to say this won't help matters. But take an honest listen to this song (with the video, of course), and just imagine this blasting in a club of some sort. You can't tell me this wouldn't blow your mind. How about that faux-dubstep interlude at 2:25? It's a straight up bar burner. The song is about taking over the world. With beams from her eyes and missles from her ears. It's gonna happen. Deal with it.
15. BRENNISTEINN | Sigur Rós
The title means "brimstone." That alone should give you an idea of what to expect. When that cello bowed guitar roars to life, it could basically double as Smaug's theme song. Bilbo would shite in his suspenders if her heard this song. An unexpected journey, indeed.
14. ROAR | Katy Perry
Yes, you are reading that right. Don't argue with me. This song is pop gold. Katy has never been known for great lyrics, but what she does have is a sense of awareness and some of the best damn melodies on the radio, or anywhere. Plain and simple. Don't hate. Just turn off your radio.
13. 24 HOURS | Sky Ferreira
It's been said everywhere on the blogosphere, but this is the best John Hughes song of the year. Similar to Katy's "Roar," it's a simple pop song with an epic chorus. But what this has that "Roar" doesn't is a little more "hip" and a lot more genuine emotion. Sky is singing her heart out. And it's lovely.
12. MIDDLE SEA | Yuck
I'm going to be completely open with you guys and admit that when I blast this song and sing along, I almost want to cry. It's an anthem. It's "Roar" for a more discerning soul. It sounds like junior high. It sounds like anything is possible. It's got horns. It's so choice.
11. DON'T SAVE ME | Haim
The last three tracks before this have been emotional anthems in different degrees. If we're holding to that small trend for the time being, this is definitely the greatest of that collective. The video shows the Haim sisters holding their own against some ballaz. It's that kind of song. But it also has "Takemeback, take-take-takemeback." And that means it wins.
to be concluded...
my very favorite songs of this year passed. A few things to consider...
Of the 1500+ tracks I digested this year, these are my favorite 50. I rarely do a list this large, but 2013 was just asking for it. There was simply way too much tasty tuneage that rocked my world, and leaving out any of these just felt like a sin. I still had to leave out some scorchers, so it very easily could have been longer.
Also, the usual dilemma when putting together a favorite songs list stands with including multiples of any certain artist/album. Obviously, certain artists had more than one great song this year. Including them all risks sacrificing variety, and is perhaps less interesting. But, not including them is lying to myself. So, while one of my goals is to share good tunes with you, it is not my intent to give you a list of YOUR favorites. These are MY favorites. And my favorites include multiple songs from a handful of artists. So, I figure if anyone has a problem with that, they can suck it.
With that said...here is 50-26 (I'll at least do you the service of breaking it up. You're welcome.) Each track name is linked to a video of the song itself. So, clicky.
50. RAMPAGE | Kavinksy
The appeal of this tune, for me, is 98% nostalgic shock. It's basically no more than a danced-up sample of some Dragonball Z music (Japanese version, of course). Wonder how many people noticed that...?
49. YA HEY | Vampire Weekend
Lotta catchy goodness coming from V-Dubya this year, but this bit of philosophical melancholy was my fav.
48. DANCE APOCALYPTIC | Janelle Monáe
Hard to go wrong with The Electric Lady herself. Doin' her thang all sorts of right on this one. The video really adds to the awesome.
47. HERE COMES THE NIGHT TIME | Arcade Fire
A crushing dub groove, some nasty bass noises, and sharp frustration aimed at self-righteous religious hypocrisy make for some good listening here.
46. BLACK SKINHEAD | Kanye West (Explicit)
It's no secret that I'm no fan of Kanye. But despite that, he manages to hook me with at least a track or two every time he releases an album. This beat is just too tasty. Damn him.
45. SKIPPING | Milosh
Most of his tracks are pretty subtle and understated. But when those synths swirl to life around the 36 second mark, this sucker takes off floating on Milosh's airy vocals all the way home.
44. A DANCING SHELL | Wild Nothing
This funky standout from Wild Nothing's fantastic Empty Estate EP is best heard in context of that release, or while watching the fabulously trippy video. Go ahead. You're welcome.
43. PULL YOU DOWN | Washed Out
My first listen of the breezy Paracosm was through an NPR stream. I enjoyed the album, but it was the final track and it's spacey reggae bounce that really stood out to me. It wasn't until I bought the album myself that I realized it was actually a non-album "bonus track." Go figure!
42. PROOF | Paramore
Lemme tell ya somethin'... Paramore know how to write them a catchy chorus. Just listen to this pop-rockin' gem and try not to nod your head to that cherry groove.
41. À TOUT À L'HEURE | Bibio
This light summertime jam is a bit of an anomaly on a mostly low-key instrumental album. That's probably why it stands out so nicely. I sure do miss warm weather right about now.
40. SUIT & TIE | Justin Timberlake
When JT dropped this, his first single in many a year, the blatant MJ-ness of it was just too much to resist. Even though I could do without HOVA's rap interlude, it's still one sweet bit o' honey.
39. LOSE MY BREATH | Yuck
Yuck really wants us all to remember just how killer the early 90's were. And for those that weren't around, just watch this video and get a full dose of audio-visual nostalgia. Yuck knows where it's at.
38. CALIFORNIA | Mazzy Star
Very 90's in a completely different way, this hypnotic lullabye is nothing much more than acoustic guitar and Hope Sandoval's soothing sigh. I swear I can hear raindrops fall as this song progresses. And that whispering guitar outro...sshhh. Time to sleep.
37. HELP ME LOSE MY MIND | Disclosure
(feat. London Grammar)
More 90's throwback goodness (a lot of that this year). This song reminds me of my favorite movie soundtracks as a kid. The ones that all seemed to have great dance driven power ballads. Makes me wish I paid more attention to London Grammar themselves this year. Maybe I'll do that right now...
36. CHLOROFORM | Phoenix
I kind of thought Bankrupt! was a little light on straight up bangers. The grooves were there, but they just seemed light. Except for "Chloroform." This sucker's beat takes it's time. Phoenix's best songs tend to be emotional chameleons, songs that might be happy or sad depending on your mood. This is no exception.
35. FURISODATION | Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
The 20 year old Japanese pop diva is singing about coming of age in this wonderfully jazzy schizophrenic number. And if the video is any indication, her party was quite the event. This song and the video (like everything she does) is ridiculously contagious. It must be seen to be believed.
34. THE FALL | Rhye
Sometimes there is just too much sultry goodness in one song. This is one such song. Mike Milosh has such a wonderfully androgynous voice and that rolling piano groove is so silky smoov. Is it legal to have this much sexy in one song? Don't know. Don't care.
33. IT IS WHAT IT IS | Blood Orange
Dev Hynes, you saucy minx. There are a handful of similarly juicy tracks on Cupid Delux that could've fit on this list somewhere, but that lovely chorus sung by Samantha Urbani puts this one on a pedestal. And Dev's "Time Will Tell" reprise that closes the album gives this track a bit more weight in the grand scheme of things.
32. BYGONE | Volcano Choir
This is a builder. It just builds. Until suddenly guitars chime and Justin Vernon shouts "SET SAAAAIL!" I have no idea what the rest of lyrics mean. But belting "set sail" just works. With the wind and the sky and everything. Ahoy.
31. FUTURE WARRIOR | Palms
Chino Moreno is no stranger to sexy metal. And it would seem that teaming with some of the Isis fellows was a good idea. Hence, this lush little ditty. Not sure I dig the fireball eyes at the end of the video...but I guess the perdy lady he's creepin' on was just too much woman for him to handle.
30. DOIN' IT RIGHT | Daft Punk
(feat. Panda Bear)
You almost forget Random Access Memories was made after 1981 until suddenly a song like this pops up. Panda Bear sounds as amazing as he ever has riding a light hip-hop groove alongside The Robots Daft. What a sound. My mom said it's her favorite.
29. FASHION MONSTER | Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
I actually heard this one last year, long before the album's official release. It almost made an appearance on my 2012 list, but a little simmering and some album context shot it up my list for this year. Melodically infectious, and completely absurd. Check out the rabbit man and his keytar.
28. A TOOTH FOR AN EYE | The Knife
The Knife were being difficult on purpose this year. But it didn't stop them from pumping out this tribal chunk of audio candy. When Karin Dreijer screaches "I'm telling stories trust meeeeeeeeeeee," you know it's official. Trust is all you can do.
27. WHO SEES YOU | my bloody valentine
Eight beats of the drum, and suddenly a tidal wave of guitar envelopes you. No use fighting the tide, just ride it home. There is no band in the world that sounds like this, try as they may. Listen to that chord progression. Rarely does anything sound so soothing and loud at the same time. Could this be how babies feel in the womb?
26. HOW'S IT WRONG | Toro y Moi
There's some old school fusion going on here. Somehow those synths remind me of Warren G mixed with Sonic the Hedgehog. And that imagery is just too magical. What else is there to say?
to be continued...
Monday, February 11, 2013
I have recently joined forces with the good people over at The Radio Cure and shall be a regular contributor henceforth. As a bit of a kick off (and as a remedy to those confused Grammy folk), we have finally begun the listing of our favorite albums of 2012. So head on over to The Radio Cure and bask.
I do intend to post my own personal things of randomness here still, so if you are one of maybe two people that care, keep caring.
Here's my LIST.
Do let us know what you think.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
The year hath ended.
I have displayed my favorite songs of the year.
And here for your tasting is the final mix of 2012 goodness that was.
I think it's deliciously psychedelic. And long.
It also houses some of the grittier bands that tickled my fancy this year.
Better learn to love it, because I have a feeling trends are getting heavier.
Better learn to love it, because I have a feeling trends are getting heavier.