Top 50 Songs of 2014
Matt McMahon | Monday, December 1, 2014
The term “interference fit” refers to a fastening between two parts that is achieved by friction after the parts are pushed together, rather than by any other means of connection. “Interference Fits,” then, is by far the most beautifully poetic name for a song in which lead singer Meredith Graves details her modern conception of marriage and monogamy. Graves envisions a life of uncompromising solitude for herself, yet all around her she sees her peers aging and compromising — in her eyes, giving up. Her soul-baring performance and brutally personal lyricism spark imagery of burning wedding rings and messily fused relationships built on love’s conventions. Dissonant guitars, fuzzy production and stumbling drums only heighten the already close similarities between bulldozers plowing orchids and love gruesomely manipulating Graves inside and out. This deeply intimate exhibition is not only stunningly written, but also confidently expressed with a conviction no other song reached this year.
2.) “Wonderful Everyday: Arthur” — Chance The Rapper
Chancellor Bennett is an extremely gifted individual, equipped with the talent, wisdom, experience and understanding to influence and affect an entire generation to promote positivity. Synonymous with the “Outstanding Youth of the Year” award the city of Chicago presented to the 21-year-old in November, Chance handles his popularity hand-in-hand with his anti-violence, peace-for-all activism. Ingeniously, he repurposed a ubiquitously recognized theme song from a similarly toned children’s show for his generation to virally instigate his message. The song is naturally strong lyrically, but with help from his Chicago #SaveMoney cohorts and stars like Wyclef Jean, it flourishes sonically. The lushness of the production, the epicness of the song’s booming second half and the outward giddiness of each contributing singer make the song incredibly important for the present time.
3.) “Man Of The Year” — ScHoolboy Q
ScHoolboy Q has precognition. In “Man Of The Year,” the California rapper predicted exactly what he’d be doing once his debut major label album blew up. The entire song is laden with every euphemism and entendre for a year’s worth of partying. Yet, with the Chromatics’ chilly, ominous sample riding out the duration of the song, some of Q’s phrases take on an air of cinematic finality, like this one is the climax in a long line of blowouts. Yeah, Schoolboy Q may be the man of the year, but what happens after? His awareness is never more present than in the penultimate line: “This verse straight from the morgue.” Coupled with the haunt of an added layer to the “Cherry” sample about 3-minutes in, “Man Of The Year” is way more complex than the club in which you first heard it.
4.) “Prince Johnny” — St. Vincent
Annie Clark is the queen of pop — on this planet, and surely on whichever planet her otherworldly persona St. Vincent hails from. With the boundary-pushing “Prince Johnny,” she produced one of the most intelligent, sexy and, somehow, human songs of her career, all while maintaining it as chiefly pop in orientation. Over an alternatingly quick, crunching verse guitar clutch and swaggering, strutting choral guitar riff, Clark details the dangers of sociopathic tendencies involved with a mutually self-destructive relationship. Her inflection at the end of the line “And bragged of when and where and who you gonna bed next” communicates such a delicate, complex range of emotions, lilting to show concern, but pronouncing “next” as if each letter is its own syllable in a remarkably sensual manner. Other phrases end in similar hyper-emotive form, signifying St. Vincent’s deft command and control over her art.
5.) “Two Weeks” — FKA twigs
FKA twigs represents the future of pop music. “Two Weeks” features a magnificent blend of pop, electronics and the new R&B that has been hinted at on the radio, but FKA twigs is about two dial clicks ahead of any other artist. She’s more advanced instrumentally, vocally and content-wise. Her wispy, sexual delivery reminds one of a stronger Britney Spears, but her unabashed poise positioned on a track as huge as “Two Weeks” transcends typical pop star performances.
6.) “Mr Noah” — Panda Bear
When Animal Collective’s co-founding member Avey Tare established the side project Avery Tare’s Slasher Flicks, his intention was to create an album celebrating his love for horror movies with a campy, carnival-after-dark tone through the kaleidoscopic lens of his experimental indie pop. But it’s the other Animal Collective founder Panda Bear’s 2014 release that — whether intentionally or not — hits all the beats Tare set out to cover and raises the “Ring the Bell” strongman game bar to its maximum. Panda Bear’s warped mirror-maze soundtracking synth and merry-go-round harmonies hit as immediately as they enter “Mr Noah,” scoring one of the year’s, and Panda Bear’s, most abrasively catchy pop songs.
7.) “Blue Suede” — Vince Staples
It’s hard enough living in the projects dealing with police and racism, but Vince Staples’ depiction of the all-too-present in-violence between youth over material as seemingly trivial as new Jordans speaks to a different, deeper concern. Relevant as ever, “Blue Suede” pushes a sentiment raised over and over again toward a new demographic. Yeezus-like production in the form of a wincing, theremin-esque sample stretches the song from EDM to hip-hop and contextualizes it with a roughness necessary for the unnerving subject material.
8.) “Today More Than Any Other Day” — Ought
“Today More Than Any Other Day” may not be the loudest, sharpest or strongest track on Ought’s debut “More Than Any Other Day”; however, it is the most emblematic of the post-punk quartet’s aesthetic. The song has an extended, crescendoing intro, brazen wit, a simultaneously skeptical and uplifting message and lead singer Tim Beeler’s spastic, passionate mood swings. When Beeler states, “I am prepared to make a decision between 2% and whole milk,” grocery shopping has never seemed so immediate and necessary.
9.) “Queen” — Perfume Genius
“Queen” is an anthem for anyone in the margins. It’s an affront to the status quo that assaults with a piercing, staccato keyboard line found in classic glam rock and distorted to fit today’s more industrious standards. Even more arresting, though, is the commanding presence of the maker of “Queen,” Perfume Genius. “No family is safe when I sashay,” he struts on the chorus, warning anyone who may get in his way before he woofs and bucks in their direction. His voice might break momentarily on “safe,” but it’s not in fear for himself. No, in that moment he surely is thinking about what would happen to this family should they interfere with him.
10.) “Bored In The USA” — Father John Misty
Father John Misty’s performance of “Bored In The USA” on The Late Show With David Letterman may have been the funniest thing seen on the program in years. The disenchantment with the American Dream so central to Joshua Tillman’s constructed persona Father John Misty has never been more realized than on this track. Misty is a product of middle-class America. He’s got a useless education, a craftsman home and prescriptions that help him “kind of deal” even though they make it so he can’t get off. In many more and much more articulate words he asks, “What else?” of this, continuing to make detached music in search for a better meaning.
11.) “Youth” — Ben Khan
The first time I heard this song, I played it on repeat during the same sitting about eight times in a row. “Youth” features all the kitschy tropes of an 80s pop R&B tune and multiplies them by about one hundred. The track begins with a bare bones, highway-sprawling intro, longingly yearning for a neon billboard to boast its vaguely pastiche verbiage across. When it reaches its boiling point, the song explodes into a cacophony of genre staples: cocked gunshots emphasizing crashes, a myriad of woops and yelps, short bongo rolls. Every single element plays to the “Youth”’s benefit, a gathering of what has become clichés to pile them together and bring back their importance—after all, Khan is young and despite his advice to “beware of your youth,” he doesn’t know any better, yet.
12.) “Never Catch Me” — Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar
“Never Catch Me” is the track that Kendrick Lamar’s lead single “i” should have been. Where “i” has Lamar straddling a line somewhere between Pharrell and Chance The Rapper and ending up on the cusps of Sheryl Crow, “Never Catch Me” shows once again that Lamar can jump onto any other hip-hop leader’s style and match or better them from within. Flying Lotus brings out Lamar’s conscience persona heard on “Swimming Pools” and throws it through loop after loop of breakneck jazz riffs and more snare and bass hits than some entire hip-hop albums. Both producer and rapper exhibit an assuredness that “i” only tells you exists, rather than showing you. “Never Catch Me” is a sprint that only Lamar can keep up for as long as he does, elevating himself and the source material at once.
13.) “Huey Newton” — St. Vincent
St. Vincent’s band shuffles through the first half of “Huey Newton” showcasing amazing restraint. Provided they know what’s to come, they hold back and let her wax poetic about the emotionless future that a life behind screens will afford us. Along the way she name checks the titular Black Panther, quotes David Foster Wallace and belittles the technologically savvy, letting the tension rise with a climbing synth line. About two beats later then expected, St. Vincent unleashes a sludgy, heavy metal guitar riff that producer John Congleton deserves a Grammy for, alone. St. Vincent’s harder side could not have picked a more appropriate time to reveal itself on an album, accenting the thick, consonant laden snarl Clark carries through the song’s twisted second half.
14.) “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F**k)” — Run the Jewels ft. Zack De La Rocha
“Run the jewels fast.” If Killer Mike and El-P were only ordering listeners around on their first album, Zack De La Rocha’s quickly laid vocal sample is a surefire threat. The serendipitous collaboration between Run The Jewels and the former Rage Against The Machine frontman could not be better fitting. De La Rocha always had a penchant for East Coast leaning hip-hop, and El-P’s fast paced, futuristic boom bap suits him perfectly. Killer Mike and El-P trade typically bloody, pulpy verses, ripe for soundbiting. But its De La Rocha himself who caps off the track with a killer verse of his own, able to spread his 20 year old cause to a whole new, but certainly likeminded, fan base.
15.) “Water Fountain” — tUnE-yArDs
Since Merrill Garbus enlisted bassist Nate Brenner for her world-infused, afro-pop project tUnE-yArDs, the two have put together some of the sharpest politically active messages over unrelenting grooves. “Water Fountain” amplifies every facet, launching a deep bassline into a dizzying nursery rhyme, playground-jump-rope chant bouncing from government ownership and degradation of amenities to environmental racism and the disparity of international economies.
16.) “Hey Mami” — Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso represents perhaps the most telling indicator of the state of music in 2014. That two folk artists from different groups can share deep synthpop material over the internet and become more famous as a part of their side project is still extremely novel. It doesn’t hurt that both Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have such a fondness for the genre and have even more respect for each other’s talents. On their finest track, “Hey Mami,” they manage to create an absolute jam that no less tackles catcalling, all from a soft but powerful women’s voice and perspective. It’s completely unexpected, but the duo owns it so much and “Hey Mami” bumps soundsystems more than any EDM artist does.
17.) “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” — Sun Kil Moon
Prior to his months-long, one-sided beef and violent verbal outbursts, Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek experienced a heck of a lot in 2014. He demonstrates all he has felt and experienced through his intimate songwriting across “Benji.” While the context clues in “I Watched The Song Remains The Same” don’t excuse his actions later in the year, perhaps they at least help to explain them. Kozelek has faced more tragedy than a Coen brother’s protagonist and is reminded of it in practically everything he sees. His conversational, tangential writing style on “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” could prove to be a precursor to a new form in the genre, while his beautifully searching guitar work amplifies his heart-wrenching tales.
18.) “Move That Dope” — Future ft. Pharrell Williams, Pusha T, Casino
Move That Dope” plays like the warped, scrappy younger brother to Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Niggas In Paris.” Mike Will Made It takes cues from Hit Boy’s simple but forceful technique and Future lays down one of the most memorable hooks of the year, letting his collaborates dance around in the background with wild improvs. Meanwhile, Pharrell takes a break from producing every hit from the past year and focuses a verse chief to his chic, while nonetheless fitting in with his grittier peers. And Casino goes in with a beat-matching flow that makes each stellar verse before somehow forgettable.
19.) “Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth” — Parquet Courts
Parquet Courts’ Southern roots never bare their teeth more than on the band’s slower tracks. Not so coincidentally, as punchy as their quick hitting tirades often are, it’s on these slow songs that Parquet Courts achieve their full potential. See “Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth,” the band’s best release in the slow category. Sluggish drums accompany a drawling guitar lick for six minutes, allowing lead singer Andrew Savage to unfurl a dense, verbose tale of Southern inhospitality. The coda does hit as hard as other Parquet Court’s songs, but the twangy fade out and Savage’s conclusion offer a much richer payoff.
20.) “White Fire” — Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen is from a bygone era. She showcases her antique aesthetic in her simmering, “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” album centerpiece “White Fire.” With phrasing that reminds of folk rock epics “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Master of War” and nuanced guitar line undercurrents, Olsen uses the medium to reflect on a relationship falling apart. She has such an acute way of portraying these sentiments—the earnest beauty to her songwriting and her expertise at conveying her emotions pits her in the ranks of a leading actress. She allows her audience not only to understand, but also empathize with her outlooks. With honesty, with starkness Olsen masterfully evokes deep connections, in a way that has her joining the ranks of Springsteen and Dylan.
21.) “Hot Dreams” — Timber Timbre
In the hands of Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk, intimate fantasies sound incredibly base and simplistic. Whether it be about a sweaty fever dream or an imagining of retaliation, “Hot Dreams” runs the gamut and assures that you aren’t alone in your uninhibited but unspoken ambitions. Timber Timbre’s fuller, bluesy composition opens an inclusory dialog that refuses to close at the song’s end. The sultry horn cap, one of the most gratifying musical accompaniments from the past year, false stops about two or three times more than can be anticipated, an act in self-indulgence Kirk and his bandmates so champion just minutes earlier.
22.) “Avant Gardener” — Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett bears a lot in “Avant Gardener”’s account of a panic attack at had at the hands of testing out a hobby. Prompted by a “Hate it Here” point of view, Barnett’s narration is equipped with razor sharp wit and sharper, unsettling detail that deepens the at first listen surface level “I’m having trouble breathing in” hook. The song checks 60s electric folk in its rumbling rhythm and 90s alt rock in Barnett’s wry monotonous vocals. Despite the similarities, “Avant Gardener” progresses beyond the aforementioned through its story-centric structure that doesn’t have to neglect instrumentation.
23.) “Old English” — Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs, A$AP Ferg
It’s difficult to put into words the proper praise for “Old English.” Anything short of hyperbolic gobbledygook just doesn’t seem to cut it. Maybe Mass Appeal drafted their own rag tag team from the streets of three major cities to best Future. Young Thug slimes through a more drastic hook about Molly for higher street cred. Then Thug, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs and Harlem’s A$AP Ferg all go in one, raising the stakes as the song goes on.
24.) “minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]” — Aphex Twin
Richard D. James, the man behind Aphex Twin, somehow returned with a single that amassed all that he observed between his last studio album release in 2001 and now, all while keeping it squarely Aphex Twin. He compiled the best elements from each of his prior works and added tinges from music’s newest developments. Sprawling across 5 minutes, “minipops” jumps and stumbles beautifully, finding Aphex Twin exploring a wide ranging landscape of melodies and effects.
25.) “Club Going Up (On A Tuesday) [Remix]” — ILOVEMAKONNEN ft. Drake
The “Tuesday” remix is yet another example of success in the digital age of music. Megastar Drake contacted the song’s producer, Sonny Digital, after hearing the track and wanting to provide a guest verse on it. From there, ILOVEMAKONNEN got a deal with Drake’s label OVO, and his song took off. “Tuesday” denotes the mentality of a workaholic who has to find time to party whenever he can get away. The easy whir and ILOVEMAKONNEN’s slightly off-kilter affectation provide just the soundtrack for the man who has found his moment. When Drake comes to you, jumps on your song and conforms to your vocal style, that’s the type of respect garnered by an A$AP Rocky or Kendrick Lamar.
26.) “Bigger Party” — Speedy Ortiz
After spending the whole song making amends for transgressions and poetically representing her insecurities, Dupuis flips the script with her final hook — actually, she is not THAT sorry. With the sentiment bluntly echoed by a bunch of disenchanted partygoers, the confidence on display is universal. All of Speedy Ortiz won’t change their actions for anyone, so get over it.
27.) “Grid” — Perfume Genius
If “Queen” proved Perfume Genius could command with a sashay, “Grid” cements that he can do just the same in a waltz. “Grid” is just as much a tour de force as “Queen,” with screeching siren calls and repeated chants driving Perfume Genuis’s unapologetic glam.
28.) “Talking Backwards” — Real Estate
Three albums in, Real Estate have mastered their technique—it’s that simple. Or, it’s not that simple, but they make it sound like it is. The genius in “Talking Backwards” is how effortless they make what’s bound to be one of the most enduring songs from 2014 seem. The ethereal mood, the floating harmonies, the jangly guitar tones, the perfectly punchy drums, everything comes across so easily that the band is destined to undercut its compositional efforts. If only communicating were as easy as song making.
29.) “Hi-Five” — Angel Olsen
When Angel Olsen subjects “Are you lonely, too?” on “Hi-Five,” she shines in front of her newly formed band and their fleshed out sound. Employing John Congleton for production helped Olsen explore her fascination with old-timey fuzzy recording and brought about garage rock tinges to accentuate Olsen’s already hardened persona. The singer-songwriter knows what it feels like to find new, exciting love. She is, however, also fully aware of how loneliness feels. Above everything, though, she knows how to celebrate both, or joke about both. “Hi-Five” may talk about being lonely, and Olsen may have recruited more people to work on her latest album, but she didn’t do it to satisfy her loneliness; she has already and can in the future make it on her own.
30.) “Do You” — Spoon
After taking four years to gather from their middling 2010 “Transference,” the bafflingly consistent Spoon did not return with noise or fanfare. Rather, they let their songwriting do their talking for them. “Do You” is such an amazing pop song in a time when guitar driven indie often struggles to gain widespread appeal, but Spoon just continue with their knack for success in the area like its nothing. The song challenges “Talking Backwards” as another shimmering example of how we will remember 2014 as a bright spot for this sometimes weary—at least recently—genre.
31.) “Drunk In Love” — Beyoncé
Who said marriage had to be dull? One baby later—speculation and conspiracy theories aside, we know that Beyoncé at least definitely birthed “Surfbort”—“Drunk In Love” proved hip-hop’s royal couple can still hang.
32.) “Attak” — Rustie ft. Danny Brown
In seven simple notes, Rustie changed music listeners’ standard for what should be considered a synth hook. The alarm-like riff signals something grand and is the only appropriate introduction for Danny Brown’s cliffhanging delivery. Reciprocally, Brown extends on his tiptoes to reach a cadence just for the Scottish DJ’s bombastic grime, assuredly demonstrating that he’d have any guy’s blessing to have a night with his girl.
33.) “Instant Disassembly” — Parquet Courts
Looky here, another slow burner from the post-punk, art-rocking dudes of Parquet Courts. All the same praise for “Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth” applies to it’s mere months-older brother “Instant Disassembly.” Less complex but just as forceful as the former, “Instant Disassembly” inverts “Uncast Shadow”’s formula, leading with an infectious guitar bend instead of Savage’s captivating prose. Still, both the instruments and words combine for seven repetitious minutes that could go on for the length of an album and not feel overstayed.
34.) “Can’t Do Without You” — Caribou
“Can’t Do Without You” opens producer Dan Snaith’s sixth album under the moniker Caribou. The album is more straightforward than usual Caribou fare and the song provides the perfect introduction for the rest of the album. It’s subtle in its growth as an echo-y vocal sample reverberates and slowly builds. When the percussion kicks in and the dynamics rise, you get the full sense of R&B and hip-hop elements Snaith brought to his new batch of songs. Its post-chillwave feel mimics turns taken by artists like Toro Y Moi towards more earnest songcrafting, and Snaith’s personal fusion foretells a unique step for the blending of many popular genres.
35.) “Fancy” — Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX
It took another producer mimicking his calculated, minimalist, club-hit beat-making to solidify DJ Mustard’s “ratchet music” production as the thing of the now in pop music. “Fancy” and its no more than four-part composition has become DJ Mustard’s biggest hit, and he didn’t even produce it. Still, the song’s popularity and “song of the summer” status are undeniably justified and signal a beacon for DJ Mustard, whoever The Invisible Men and The Arcade are, and anyone who was grabbed as soon as they learned the first thing about Iggy Azalea.
36.) “I Love You All” — The Soronprfbs
The closing action to this year’s Irish comedy “Frank” sees the titular character achieving his film-long sought after pop moment. The built-on-the-spot “I Love You All,” comes together in a merger of experimentalism and catchiness informed by all that came before it in the movie. The pitch-perfect Captain Beefheart recreations finally come to a head with “I Love You All.” And while the song is definitely enhanced in the context of the movie, it is so good standing alone that it’s not even necessary to know “Frank” to enjoy it—certainly a big feat for the made-up Soronprfbs.
37.) “Plateau” — Zelooperz
With “Plateau,” Zelooperz revealed that Danny Brown is only the second craziest member of Bruiser Brigade. The Detroit rapper spits ferociously for three minutes only breaking to take it one step further and scream in your face. Zelooperz begins with the same intensity he finishes with, before the beat he’s rapping over is fully formed. That he is able to maintain such a bizarre structure for so many bars prior to the percussion coming in to make his flow comprehensible is a miracle. But once it all does come together Zelooperz does not relent, share genius lines like “Rapping bout being broke got me balling in the future,” putting one over anybody who’s sleeping on him.
38.) “Salad Days” — Mac Demarco
The rule of threes has prevailed so much throughout history that it cannot possibly be mere superstition or chance. Coupled with “Talking Backwards” and “Do You,” Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days” completes a triad of summery hits released in 2014. It, like DeMarco himself, is the lo-fi psychedelic stepchild of the other two’s mature crispness. Still, the jaunty tune, fit with a singalong chorus and airy levels deserves to be mentioned alongside the previous songs, rounding out today’s guitar pop.
39.) “Childs Play” — SZA ft. Chance The Rapper
“Childs Play” exudes such a gorgeous mellowness. SZA sways through an excellent extended metaphor using childhood toys specifically a product of her and her audience’s past and recontextualizes them for a very grown up theme. SZA turns relationship issues into relatable nuggets from her adolescence through references to Street Fighter and Barbie. Chance fits exactly into the weepy, loading-screen sound seeping his “Lost” acidrap pastiche into a deliberate, over enunciated verse punctuating the same mentality SZA magnetically puts forth.
40.) “Platoon” — Jungle
“Platoon”’s disco drumbeat invokes a circular rotation that’s trance inducing. It’s not hard to get fixated on the shuffling hi-hat and picture the song spinning around, enclosing you in a soulful consommé, simmering away for hours on end. The funky leads, falsetto vocals and calm bass all contribute to a heartier bisque of sorts. With how much R&B has penetrated pop it’s necessary for modern soul groups like Jungle to crop up and make an impression.
41.) “Benz Friends (Whatchutola)” — Future ft. André 3000
How many times can André 3000 guest on a track form a critically acclaimed hip-hop artist and completely take it over. He can’t even be considered an ace in the hole anymore because there’s no hiding his consistent genius. He can afford to pick and choose his battles, his audience anticipating with bated breath just hoping for another sixteen bars anywhere they can get them to satiate their ears. This time the relief comes from Future’s great “Benz Friends (Whatchutola).” At points André even sounds like he’s sending up his old partner Big Boi’s flow from “International Players Anthem” and the whip theme doesn’t shy away from that either. Still, André takes Future and producer Organized Noise’s already epic ideas and runs with them, eventually taking both the hook master and frequent conspirators with him, spiraling the song out like a condensed version of Dré 13 minute freak out on “DoYaThing” and Outkast’s best material.
42.) “Brill Bruisers” — The New Pornographers
The power pop supergroup never seems to falter, ever. They are so finely in tune with each other and their musical ambitions that they never fail. Singer and founding member A.C. Newman has described “Brill Bruisers” as a celebration album. Evoking the neon cursive script featured prominently on the album’s cover art, title song “Brill Bruisers” represents his claims most acutely. Practically all The New Pornographer’s members join in to guide the “do do” hook and the grandeur of the instrumentation combine for a bright celebration.
43.) “Sanctified” — Rick Ross ft. Kanye West and Big Sean
From his first breakout—Talib Kweli’s “Get By”—to his most recent hit—“Bound 2” off “Yeezus”—Kanye West has made his living being a master of sampling soulful vocals. Here, West dials back his latest venture into agro industrialism, to turn towards something more radio-friendly, but retains a deep bass backing to grab ears. Big Sean does his usual thing surrogating West’s ego’s desires with an immediate, swaggery hook that eventually each rapper trades off. Rick Ross bragged about his grilled cheese making ability and Kanye reinvented the word handkerchief and we all listened, mouths agape.
44.) “I’m Not Part of Me” — Cloud Nothings
Dylan Baldi vocalizes something we’ve all felt or realized in “I’m Not Part of Me.” The nature of a one-sided relationship is just that, extremely one-sided. With his performance on the track, Baldi’s signature snarl now sounds required for words of this nature. People hold onto things they loved, often having to deal with it on their own terms. No one said it more succinctly or accurately than Cloud Nothings this past year.
45.) “Go”- Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds
45.) “Go” — Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds
When Rihanna rejected Grimes’ offering, “Go,” Grimes didn’t falter or get dejected. Instead, she turned around, recorded and released it for herself. After the fact, nobody is left wondering how it would sound with Rihanna on the vocals because Grimes owns it. From the eastern arpeggios to her airy voice and use of pop’s new R&B leanings, to the necessary dub drop, Grimes crafted a great pop song that still completely captures her signature style.
46.) “Red Eyes” — The War On Drugs
“Red Eyes” feels like a long, hazy drive across a Midwestern highway you’ve driven down a hundred times before. You lose yourself within the drone, a highway hypnosis for the aural sense. Familiarity to the landscape comes in through overt recollections of Bruce Springsteen, of Tom Petty, of all the heartland rockers on the radio in the 80s. A fog builds up in and around the car and the only choice is to plow through like the incessant percussion, taking in all of the song’s dense layers for a clarity only found at its conclusion.
47.) “Tolerated” — Girl Talk & Freeway ft. Waka Flocka Flame
Girl Talk’s return to music was perhaps his least ambitious project in many years, ditching album long, 300-plus song mash-ups for an EP with fellow Pennsylvania native, rapper Freeway. The EP still boasts a lengthy list of sampled musicians, but Girl Talk shows restraint in constructing his nostalgia-triggering songs for a rapper of Freeway’s caliber to excel on top of. “Tolerated” is the finest example, recalling any number of ultra catchy radio hip-hop mainstays, while innovating along the way.
48.) “Don’t Wanna Lose” — Ex Hex
Rock and Roll will never die. And from Savages to White Lung, Upset and Swearing, a bunch of girls are leading the pack for the genre’s revival. However, no band in 2014 is more emblematic of Rock’s newest wave than Ex Hex. Fronted by Wild Flag’s Mary Timony, Ex Hex is bringing Joan Jett inspired, power chord fueled jams back into the current musical vernacular. “Don’t Wanna Lose” shreds with an angular lead that gives faith back to your cynical parents who time after time make foolish claims like “Rock is dead.” No wonder Sleater-Kinney want to get back together for a reunion tour in 2015.
49.) “Shut Up” — Posse
The previous track on Posse’s “Soft Openings” establishes a yakking character that won’t see past their own mouth over dreary, bedroom guitars having their own conversation in “Talk.” “Talk” eventually lifts above its meandering pace, but it’s on the follow-up song, the album centerpiece “Shut Up” where the real payoff shapes. The response track, perhaps from the perspective of the aforementioned gabber, or from a third party looking to have a say in the matter, chugs along for 6 blissful minutes of catharsis. It’s a simple phrase, but Posse knows there is something inherently gratifying about uttering those two words, “Shut Up,” even when self-awareness rears its head and you direct them towards yourself.
50.) “Down On My Luck” — Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa was named to XXL Magazine’s Freshman Class of 2014. Why, then, is he signing over deep house on his first studio single? Well, before recording he toured with dance phenomenon Disclosure and prior to carving out a solo career Mensa provided vocals in the band Kids These Days. Add in his Chicago origin, and his venture into house stylings make a hell of a lot of sense. Not to mention, Mensa can more than hold his on doing double duty of rapping and singing on the track. His smooth ebb and flow delivery is infectious while providing earworm after earworm of varying hooks, which could each easily find popularity on their own standalone track. Yet, here Mensa holds nothing back for later, taking a cue from the Groundhog Day-inspired music video, trying to make the most of the now.
Listen to this playlist on Spotify: