Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite Songs of 2014

Here begins my list of favorite songs of the year passed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.