Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: 100 Most Excellent Songs of 2014, 51-75

Now we're really hitting our stride.  A knife-wielding Taylor Swift - who this year scored three places on this list - welcomes you to part three of my obsessive four part series.  This portion of the list includes some of the biggest, brightest pop tracks alongside some serious business.  Get ready, and hit play on the 8Tracks mix as you read on.

51. Run the Jewels ft. Zack De La Rocha/ "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)"  A sort of mission statement for their second album, this track picks up the pace and goes hard.

52. Royksopp & Robyn / "Do It Again"  My feeling on "Do It Again" is that it's the most like a pure Robyn song off the collaborative EP and therefore made the biggest, most immediate splash with fans. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, and "Do It Again" runs in circles it crests at its most Royksoppian moment with Robyn's breakdown of the situation..."we should not be friends / we'll just do it again."  Perfect.

53. ScHoolboy Q / "Man of the Year"  The lyrics are a bit absurd, but its conviction is solid, basically, the song manages to convince the listener that it's a banger even as it runs over a beat that sounds like Q should be delivering an important speech...

54. Lykke Li / "Gunshot" Lykke Li has been sad, guys, and a little bit angry too, but "Gunshot" has a curious way of building its mumbled despair into a big pop hook.  Proof again that Sweden wins the game.

55. Ballet School / "Cherish"  I broke out the Cocteau Twins comparison once already on this list, but, I mean, the roots here are undeniable. This Berlin-based group is drowning in its twinkly, synthy push for an 80s-touched high romance.

56. Miguel / "nwa" Miguel brings the heat on this slow-burner.  The beat treads heavy, the vocals tread light, and works.

57. Ms. Lauryn Hill / "Black Rage (Sketch)" Lauryn Hill emerges from the shadows to provide us a crushing protest song to the tune of "My Favorite Things."  The contrast is striking, melodic, and deeply, deeply upsetting; and she knows just how to point to how firmly these problems are entrenched.

58. She Keeps Bees / "Owl" Sharon Van Etten lends some guest vocals to the duo's venture into the slow jam, and all I'm saying measured use of the saxophone this year?

59. How To Dress Well / "Words I Don't Remember" I'd sort of given up on How To Dress Well, but "Words..." feels clearer, cleaner, and less like another lo-fi bedroom recording than past efforts.  It finds its groove in a layered chorus, but barely resolves the tension it seems to be building.
60. Taylor Swift / "Blank Space"  An easily misheard chorus that's also one of the most earwormy. Swift turns away from her past pop naivety and learns about irony. It sounds good on her.

61. Jennifer Lopez ft. French Montana / "I Luh Ya Papi"  Count this as a thing I never would have imagined on this list, and something I'm kind of still amazed I'm willing to upvote this far.  It's massively repetitive, impossibly simple, and occasionally a bit irritating.  Yet, there's something sweet and kind of wonderful about it.

62. Shamir / "On the Regular" A hybrid of disco and old school, Shamir provides us with the most playful way of telling people off of the year.

63. Leon Vynehall / "Goodthing"  Wobble treble. Is that a thing? It's kind of a thing. And then that hi-hat loop kicks in. And then the vocal sample. And then the backbeat.

64. Todd Terje / "Delorean Dynamite"  A classic disco builder, fresh even as so many of the sounds it relies on are about as old as it gets.
65. Perfume Genius / "Grid"  There are points on this where Mike Hadreas begins to sound like he's channeling Suicide, and the song builds like a battle cry backed by occasional long demonic shrieks, garbled chants, and a beat that picks up steadily.

66.  BRONCHO / "Class Historian"  Can you resist the hook? I cannot. This is pop-rock at its most infectious.

67. Taylor Swift / "Shake It Off"  Let's be honest, there was at least one day this year where you found yourself suddenly adopting "Shake It Off" as a fight song.  The best case for embracing poptimism and rolling with it this year.

68. Jungle / "Busy Earnin'"  A dance track from a group that specializes in dance visuals. There's nothing much to it, but throw it on in just about any situation and watch it morph accordingly.

69. Kitty / "Last Minute"  I'm a little embarrassed about putting internet rapper Kitty (formerly Kitty Pryde) on this list, but I liked her bright, sparkly Frostbite EP far more than I perhaps should have, and "Last Minute" is its best representative. This is dreamy dance pop for locking yourself in your bedroom and idly drawing hearts and stars in the margins of your homework (or diary entry).

70. Beyonce / "XO"  The video's visuals match the feeling of "XO" perfectly, as the thing swoops and soars like a memorable night out in a beautiful place.  It's the song that plays when you feel suddenly and immediately connected to the people around you, when you know that something matters.

71. Vince Staples ft. James Fauntleroy / "Nate"  Staples is a rapper on the brink of some kind of major success, in the vein of Kendrick Lamar.  "Nate" is a track about childhood and coming to terms with what he'd wanted, who his father was, and who he is.

72. Caribou / "Back Home" It rises out of the shallows, the volume slowly increases, and though you may think you're in its clutches at the outset, it hits the 1:10 mark and ups the ante.

73. Nicki Minaj / "Four Door Aventador"  As much as I kind of love "Anaconda" for its absurd qualities, I'd have a hard time putting it officially on this list as it sort of spins into nothingness in its third act.  So, we have Nicki as Biggie off The Pinkprint, a surefire way of announcing her intentions to go hard (in her own way) and combat critics who've claimed she's too poppy.

74. Sharon Van Etten / "Taking Chances"  Van Etten's music always speaks to a kind of anxiety to me, or, at least, something too cynical to really grow into a love song. "Taking Chances" is beautiful even as it feels like a premature end.

75. Leon Bridges / "Coming Home" As far as I can tell, Leon Bridges has released all of two songs (both available for download on SoundCloud), but I'll be damned if this isn't stunning bit of throwback soul that plays like a well worn vinyl memory.

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