Friday, January 2, 2015
Wait... Top "14?!" Sure! Why not?
Now, this might look like a simple gimmick to correspond with the year. And while it is a happy coincidence, that fact was not involved in my decision to include a few extra morsels in my official "Top 10 Songs" this time around.
A top 10 has so much power to it. I mean, let's face it, most people don't give an elephant's haunch about what's beyond it. This is the hallowed ground of any list - an elite club reserved only for those special few that are truly worthy of spotlight.
Unfortunately, by definition, only 10 items can exist within a top 10. Because "math" and whatever. But the truth is, there are usually more than 10 that deserve the honor associated with being in the coveted, reverenced "Top 10." For this reason, I have also crowned four more tracks that to me just "felt" like they deserved it. Because they kicked that much buttock, and never left my head.
So, without further ado... my Top 14 Songs of 2014.
(Links to each track in the names)
Go here for 50-13
14. TOUCH | Shura
I almost lost this one. I found it by accident early in the year, but no album or EP exists, and iTunes didn't carry it. It almost got pushed aside, until I luckily rediscovered its glory later. Hovering synths and an honest, soft spoken lyric of longing and >BAM!< you've got yourself some gold. It's very European in the best way. I don't know where this girl came from and why she only has a handful of tracks circling the internet (all fantastic by the way), but she needs to put an album out. NOW.
13. MINIPOPS 67 [120.2] | Aphex Twin
You'd think it would be hard to pinpoint a single moment that absolutely stood out on an album like Syro. But for me, it wasn't even a question. Sure, "aisatsana" stands out for being the only piano track on an album full of intricate electro-genius. And while it is pretty, that's not the one. "Minipops 67" takes the cake for a few reasons: a) being the first "single," it was the first any of us officially heard from Aphex Twin in 13 years. And it...was...glorious. b) it's a perfect storm of Richard D. James at his best, almost like a greatest hits all in one track. And c) I love hearing Richard's voice manipulated at the end. The man, the legend, back in full force, and vocalizing on a track! Something about that gave me goosebumps. And it still does.
12. FAMOUS | Charli XCX (scroll down to player for song)
Hot damn. While Sucker as a whole took a few spins to really get into, this song took no time at all. That jangly guitar intro, the thundering percussion, and Ms. Charlotte taking it to space in the chorus just like she's famous. I mean, HOT DAMN! I can't help but feel like it's both a celebration and a farce all at once. Almost like Lorde's "Royals," or Sophia Coppola's Bling Ring. Mocking the excess while blissfully enjoying it. Either way, it's pure pop bliss. The girl is legit.
11. SILVER | Caribou
Is it possible for something to sound like it both came from space and also the depths of the ocean? That's kind of what Dan Snaith has done here. He took your basic break-up pop song premise, and turned it into a watery space epic. I suppose it doesn't really matter, because I feel like I'm floating while listening, which works either way. It can be hard to sound "original" in electronic music these days, but Caribou pulls it off with style here.
10. MORNING | Beck
For the record, this song must needs be played with the lush, heavenly intro track "Cycle," or it doesn't count. But, if you're a good person and have a soul you should already know that. Beck is a master at many sounds. He's a chameleon. But somehow he's always at his best when he's strummin' at a guitar and singing to the heavens. This track is the perfect opener to Morning Phase, and aptly titled, it sounds like a perfect sunrise.
9. CALM IT DOWN | Sisyphus
First time I heard this thing I was at work, and I found myself unable to function for a few minutes as I re-listened and shared it with some co-workers. The production, the groove, the lyrics, the emotion. It makes me laugh, and it makes me kinda sad too. It's an epic song with multiple movements, starting with Serengeti's positivity rap, and capped with some soft introspection from the ever reliable Sufjan Stevens. In fact, Suf's lyrical spread on the end of this song just might be my favorite of any this year. "Shall I account for peace?/ Shall I resist it my way?/ Mine is the glory/ Mine is the praise." Such a diverse, surprising, and epic tune.
8. SICK TALK | Wye Oak
I'm a sucker for a few things. Two of them are great synths, and great bass lines. This song kicks my ass with both. It's so light and fluffy, but somehow so incredibly funky. And when that chorus comes to life...I can see fireworks. The lyrics are so subtle but effective and Wasner's voice is quickly becoming one of my favorites in the biddness. Incidentally, she also plays the bass and synths here from what I understand. So, basically, she's cooler than you. Anyway, such a simple but blissful few minutes of audio heaven. Puts me in dream mode.
7. PRETTY GIRLS | Little Dragon
I said it on a blurb from another track of theirs, but Little Dragon are the epitome of cool to me right now. Their songs radiate with an effortless charisma. "Pretty Girls" is a song that got stuck in my head as I wondered around Shibuya Tokyo with my wife this past summer. The jittery pop of the beat and the dreamy synths just fit the fashionable, hyper-futurism of the city while strolling across the busiest crosswalk on the planet. Fittingly, Yukimi sings about not getting stuck in the glory of the big life. It's a chill but grand piece of music that I've attached to some of my fondest moments of the year.
6. BITCHES BREW | †††
I wasn't sure what to expect of Chino Moreno's next side project. I enjoyed Palms from last year, but the side projects hardly ever match the highs of Deftones. But when I heard "Bitches Brew," I threw my hands in the air. This man is a damn genius no matter where he's at. The gritty energy of this track was unmatched for me this year, and it's easily the most "rockin'" tune in my list, let alone the album it hails from. Because of that, it's not the best representation of the album, but it's easily the best song on it. When Chino howls that first "From the flames/of the fiiiiiiiire!" like a warlock possessed, it sends chills up my spine. Also... I met Chino at the ††† show, and I may have pee'd a little.
5. BOOM CLAP | Charli XCX
I knew very little of Charli XCX before I fully heard this song. I even saw Fault In Our Stars and didn't remember this song was in it. But when she released a Tokyo version of the video for it's Japan release, I decided to take a gander. BOOM. CLAP. I fell in love. One of the greatest pop songs I've heard in ages. Charli isn't afraid to lean on the side of cheese and pull it back just short of going over board, which makes for pop perfection. And this right here is the prime example of that approach firing on all cylinders. Carefree, mindless (in a good way), and impossibly fun. And when you feel like a party, that's all you need.
4. BUTTERFLY/SATTELITE | Kidkanevil
(ft. Cuushe and submerse)
I laid down one night, listening to this song for the first time as I drifted to sleep. The beginning is nothing particularly fancy, although a good mix of bleeps and bloops. Suddenly, the bloops faded away, a dog started barking, and LIFTOFF. I kid you not, as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, I suddenly felt like I was soaring through space. Then the sprite-like Japanese vocals of Cuushe start swirling around, and I realized I was hearing something really special. When music can give you that out-of-body experience, there is nothing like it. As the song slowly drifted to an end, I felt my body float back down to Earth. I literally laid there with my eyes wide open, thinking about what I had just experienced.
3. PENDULUM | FKA twigs
Every once in a while, a song will come around that sounds like nothing else you've ever heard in your life. I think back to songs by Radiohead, Bjork, Animal Collective, Sigur Ros. I also think back to my favorite song of 2011, James Blake's "Lindisfarne I/II"– a minimalist, post-R&B/soul song that sounds like it came from the future. Most of LP1 sounds like it's from the future, but "Pendulum" shares a similar aesthetic as "Lindisfarne" by reveling in it's deliberate pacing, it's open space, and heart wrenching emotion. It's really a straight forward love song, but the damn thing sounds like it came from 3014. The moment that gets me every time: at 4:20 the backing vocals take over the refrain "So lonely trying to be yours" and you can hear the heart breaking, the soul longing. A perfect song.
2. MAGIC | Coldplay
I've had a soft spot for Coldplay for these past 14 years. Through good, through bad, I'll always give them a chance. The investment doesn't always lead to reward these days, but I'll be damned if "Magic" isn't one of the greatest songs they've ever put to record. It's bravely minimal, it's surprisingly funky, and above all, it's irresistibly heartbreaking. Chris Martin is one of those nerdy dudes you just can't help but like. And hearing his heart break on this song is almost unbearable. I feel like I'm hearing an old friend cry about how he still believes in love despite his feel-goods being kicked in the ass. It's a simple, sad love song in a completely different way than "Pendulum," but I think it's the "bro to bro" empathy that has it edging Twigs by a hair. I just wanna give Chris a big ole hug.
1. LOVE NEVER FELT SO GOOD | Michael Jackson
(ft. Justin Timberlake)
Ok, I'll admit something right here. I fully concede this isn't the "best" song on this list. But there are a few facts that just set my being to flame - its an old school, unshelved MJ tune (which is refreshingly amazing, considering), and it's a duet with Justin-friggin-Timberlake. It's the former King of Pop on the same track with the current King of Pop! That right there is enough to get me giddy as a school girl in summer. When I first saw the video for this I nearly cried it was so glorious. But let's give the original tune itself some credit, because it is fantastic. This is vintage Thriller-era MJ, and it was only a leftover demo. MJ in his prime, putting a track to tape for someone else that he figured was just a placeholder. But, listening to it now is the sound of homage. A shrine to one of the most incredible entertainers the world has ever known. I like remembering him this way.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
This is the extra meat, for those that just love seeing big long lists from someone not that important at all. I enjoy so much music over the course of a year, well over a thousand songs. And, I just enjoy lists. So here, in all its glory, is my Top 50 songs (the "Top 10" will get its own prettier, more official post). May it warm your soul and kindle a flame in your heart.
Every song included in the list was a diddy that truly impressed me this year. Songs that were stuck in my head for extended periods of time, songs that I went back to over and over. Sure, there were more than 50, but it has to stop somewhere.
I tend to give a word or two about why each song made me tingle. The better the songs get, the more wordy the explanation. Read them, or don't. Whatever.
So put some headphones on, and hear what I hear.
50. SUFFERING | The War on Drugs
The subtle and sad guitar line is what hooked me to the rolling melancholia of this tune. Makes suffering sound so good.
49. TIBERIUS | The Smashing Pumpkins
Corgan's reliable chugging brings this one home with nostalgia. He's still got it.
48. HOURS | FKA twigs
Might be the sexiest song of the year. A deliciously warped groove to soundtrack your next make-out sesh.
47. FELLOW FEELING | Porter Robinson
Half Hans Zimmer, half Skrillex, all awesome. Kinda schizophrenic, but the most beautiful and forward thinking track on it's respective album.
46. FOOL | Perfume Genius
Some great white boy soul going down here. Sorta found myself wishing more tracks on Too Bright had a similar groove.
45. THE EPILOGUE | †††
A surprisingly light offering, as far as Chino is concerned. Very Depeche Mode, in all the right ways.
44. KILLING ME | Little Dragon
It's imperative this song be blasted as loud as possible when listening. That monstrous synth obliterates you so pleasantly.
43. ANIMALS | The GOASTT
(WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS NUDITY)
Rocked up psychedelia directly from the mind of pop royalty. John would be proud. So would Tame Impala, for that matter.
42. SHRIEK | Wye Oak
Probably the most "Beach House" sounding tune on the album by the same name. Which is, of course, a very good thing. Jenn Wasner's voice soars to perfection.
41. ZOMBIE MORNING | Saku
This song was playing on a huge screen at Tower Records in Tokyo while I was there this summer. No better way to permanently embed a song into your psyche.
40. DO YOU FEEL THE SAME? | Hercules and Love Affair
Throwing it back to early 90's house will almost always hook me. The incredible vocal performance puts it above the other cuts from this album.
39. INAKUNARU | Kidkanevil (ft. Phasma)
The title translates as "to become naught," often used as a euphemism for death in Japanese. There is a subtle sadness to it, emphasized by the lonely, ghostly vocal.
38. TWO WEEKS | FKA twigs
No beating around the bush here. Half insistent obsession, half confident declaration, Twigs is sure she's the one, and the emotive vocal and scattered beat definitely back her up.
37. BIGGY | Warpaint
Warpaint's strongest tunes lie in a realm of ominous tensity, just like this. That dark synth and simple drum beat set the tone, and it all builds from there. So thick you could cut it.
36. BIRTH IN REVERSE | St. Vincent
Perfectly quirky, Annie Clark finally convinced me to pay attention a little more with the uptempo, face melting acrobatics of this'n. Rock on, Annie.
35. ALPENGLOW | S. Carey
This beautifully soft number sort of snuck up on me as a surprise stand-out. For whatever reason, there's not a lot of quietness to my list this year. A nice respite.
34. UPTOWN FUNK | Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars)
Not a huge fan of Bruno generally, but hot damn does this one bounce. James Brown and MJ alive and well here. Don't believe me? Just watch.
33. YUME NO HAJIMA RING RING | Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
A disappointing lack of wacky barn-burners from Kyary this year, but I was quite pleased with this light-hearted pop number.
32. UNDER THE PRESSURE | The War on Drugs
Such a breezy melody, you hardly realize it's an 8 minute track. If you're wondering, this one sounds fantastic while chillin' out by the waves on Newport Beach.
31. KLAPP KLAPP | Little Dragon
It's pretty euphoric when that fat synth takes over the groove. And it just keeps on rollin'. Prepare for takeoff.
30. NOSE GROWS SOME | Thom Yorke
Having messed with Radiohead's PolyFauna app a bit (which features much of the music found on Tomorrow's Modern Boxes), the otherworldly atmosphere of this track was magnified substantially.
29. IT WILL END IN TEARS | Philip Selway
A lovely, but deceptively sad Beatle-esque piano ballad that expands into a spacey gospel chorus by the end. Simple, but very satisfying.
28. KELLY | The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
POBPAH always have the jangly goodness, but a wonderfully bubbly vocal by A Sunny Day In Glasgow's Jen Goma put this one over the top. Fantastic and dreamy.
27. HISTORY OF A CHEATING HEART | Damon Albarn
The most deliberately stripped down track on Everyday Robots, which makes it stand out particularly well. Swells of strings wrap around Damon's sad self-reflection, and it's beautifully heartbreaking.
26. BREAKING UP | Charli XCX
Tracks like this give Charli a good case for not only being one of 2014's brightest pop stars, but one of the year's best rock stars as well. Simple, teen-pop lyrics, but pure adrenaline.
25. DIG | Nothing
The best Pumpkins song to come out this year (sorry, Billy). Perfectly fuzzy shoegaze pop.
24. ISN'T IT SO | X priest X
I literally came upon this song for the first time as I was constructing this list. It might be jumping the gun a bit to throw it so high so soon, but can you blame me? Nothing fancy, just an adorable, addicting synth-pop gem.
23. RHYTHM OF DEVOTION | Sisyphus
Quite a few interesting things going on in this track. After rapper Serengeti angrily vents a bit, he ends his verse repeating the mantra "I feel more comfortable now" as if he just had to get that wacky hip hop rant off his shoulder. Then Sufjan chimes in with some synth-pop sensitivity and it all boils to a wall of sound finale. It makes for one helluva listen, and a definite highlight on a very interesting album.
22. I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE | Sam Smith
I was actually disappointed in the lack of solid songwriting to showcase Sam's talent on his debut album. Too often the songs were over cooked, which didn't do him any favors as he had to over compensate in his voice. But there were a few bright spots, namely this little ditty. A soulful gospel groove that let's Sam charge his voice with believable emotion.
21. MIDNIGHT | Coldplay
They might not pump out front to back classic albums quite as well as they used to, but I'll be damned if they don't surprise me with at least a song or two every time out. I've heard plenty of other artists create similar sounding tunes, but hearing Coldplay tackle a song like "Midnight" while still making it their own left me slow clapping in the wind. Well done, boys.
20. PARIS | Little Dragon
There is something so natural about how Yukimi flows her lyrics over the subtle grooves of this track. So effortlessly cool, so stylishly slick. The perfect song to dance to in your dreams. Sounds great on a bullet train to Kyoto, by the way.
19. HI | Warpaint
Another brooding number from the ladies of Warpaint. I'd be happy with just that bass line and the swinging beat behind it, but the thing keeps building and growing and soon sexy becomes scary and vice versa... and then they've got ya. So choice.
18. SEASONS (WAITING ON YOU) | Future Islands
I'll be honest, I still haven't heard more than one or two songs from this band. But this one is a doozy. And it's all because of singer Samuel Herring. The dude belts the hell out of this thing with such a nicotine drenched earnestness. Anyone else singing and it might fall on its face. (You have seen that Letterman appearance, right? WATCH IT.)
17. XANADU | The GOASTT
It is incredible how much Sean Lennon sounds just like his dad. But that's not all that makes this tune great. It's the brazen psychedelia, the Middle Eastern melodies, the wispy backing vocals and rolling bass of the beautiful Charlotte Kemp Muhl. It's a lot of things. And I don't know who made this video, but it's a wonderfully appropriate sensory overload.
16. LONELY PRESS PLAY | Damon Albarn
The found sound collage of this tune blurs the line between electronic and organic. It could just as easily be a live band as a programmed tune. And I love that. I also love the inherent detachment of it all. Damon sings of a loneliness soothed only by the superficial pressing of a button. Is technology the savior or detractor? Again, electronic and organic beautifully blurred.
15. GUESS AGAIN! | Thom Yorke
One of the best non-Radiohead tunes Yorke has produced. An eerie piano lulls over choppy beats and whirling ambience, and then the bass drops in. Up and down it goes, while Thom softly whispers a typically ominous melody. I don't say this about a lot of Thom's solo work, but it's almost Radiohead worthy. Which is a compliment considering it's probably just a doodle.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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...