Monday, January 5, 2015

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: 100 Most Excellent Songs of 2014, 76-100

Here we are.  The end. At long last. The final set of 2014 songs, with more than a few noteworthy exclusions, I'm sure.  There are some songs I like but just can't throw down on a best list, there are others I understand the importance of but just can't upvote onto my personal list.  And, of course, in the process of making this list there are the things I put on, took off, put on, took off, and finally threw one way or the other.  The long list had been just that, and the final 100 seem like an accurate representation of the year in sounds.  From the weird over-processed internet pop slowly seeping into our atmosphere to idiosyncratic one-offs, recycled throwbacks, and glitchy R&B; I have tried to collect them all.  There will likely be a short pure pop recap to come, but for now, hope you enjoyed looking over the list (or listening to it, or rolling your eyes, or finding something you didn't know about before).  Happy 2015, folks.

76. Azealia Banks / "Chasing Time"  As past lists have documented, I'm a fan of Azealia Banks.  So, maybe this is a bit biased, but in the Iggy Azalia vs. Banks argument, it seems to me that anyone who doesn't know who Banks is shouldn't even be participating in the conversation.  She is a true iconoclast and a sonic pioneer on the level of Missy Elliott, and "Chasing Time" is just one of many examples of her odd, textured layering of genres and sounds.  No one pushes 90s house and hip hop together better.

77. FKA Twigs / "Lights On"  Her music tends to make me nervous, really. It's as pretty as it is sinister, and the sputtering breakdowns are like Bjork ripped off a bunch of Sade albums and stuck them in a blender.  "Lights On" creeps along to a luxe chorus, then falls back to its old tricks.

78. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross / "The Way He Looks at Me"  From the fabulously atmospheric score of Gone Girl, if you listen to this track in any situation it will automatically force you to expect the worst.  Beautiful, terrifying electro-industrial.

79. Mac DeMarco / "Chamber of Reflection"  I'm half on board with DeMarco and half not interested, but have to admit that "Chamber of Reflection" has that swoony, gauzey yacht rock thing happening that makes it hard to turn off once it starts up. It grows on you, is what I'm saying.

80. Parquet Courts / "Instant Disassembly"  An atypically low-energy walk and talker for the band, appropriately riddled with lines about being too tired to speak.

81. Angel Olsen / "High & Wild" Though nothing on this album packed the same wailing Roy Orbison gut-punch as "Sweet Dreams" did for me, "High & Wild" is a twinkly bit of indie rock monotone with just the right accents.

82. Ex Hex / "Don't Wanna Lose"  Garage-pop girl bands forever, basically. This is a hyper polished bit of rock pop caught somewhere between Riot Grrrl tracks and the Runaways.

83. Alt-J / "Every Other Freckle"  There are points where this song sounds like a parody of its kind. It's a fanatic love song written and performed by some sort of ADHD nerd who has been to as many Ren Faire's as he's been to rock concerts, which is my way of saying it's about as dorky as it is awesome. Do high marks in both categories make it a paradox?

84. Jack White / "Would You Fight For My Love"  I liked Lazaretto significantly more than White's past solo efforts, if only because the collision of sounds from track to track (or within a single song) was something so purely identifiable as deriving from him...and yet still operational as a merger of styles.  This song - in addition to having a rather fabulous video - is just plain weird. It struts in places, haunts in others, drones in places, and then throws down.

85. Brian Eno & Karl Hyde / "DBF"  What do we have here?  Brian Eno in another collaboration, you say?  It's hard to guess if you hear the track first, but in fact, it is.  Eno and Hyde experiment with West African pop beats.

86. St. Vincent / "Digital Witness" In her final appearance on the list, all hail Annie Clark: our robot rock overload and speaker of truths.

87. Run the Jewels ft. Gangsta Boo / "Love Again (Akinyele Back)"  The second part of the title pays homage to notoriously filthy rapper Akinyele, and appropriately so.  "Love Again" is hilariously, gloriously, stupidly over the top -- but knowingly so.  Consequently, it pulls off the act. El-P, Killer Mike, and Gangsta Boo brag about their conquests, and the result is the catchiest song you can basically never sing in public.

88. Shamir / "If It Wasn't True"  What else can I say? I got really into this Shamir EP.

89. Kero Kero Bonito / "Sick Beat"  In a clash of Japanese and English, Sarah Bonito brags about her ability to dominate in all games.  It's simple, poppy, and sugary; debatably like both Cibo Matto and a track riffed off the cuff by Adventure Time's BMO.

90. Hannah Diamond / "Every Night"  We're calling this subcategory "PC Music" apparently, and man, it's a bit of a tough swallow.  "Every Night" boasts the usual overprocessed, plasticized synth loops and sugar-rush vocals cranked up to helium levels.  Like others in its field ("Hey QT" did not make the cut here), it's hard to tell whether it's critiquing the state of pop or taking it further.  Whatever the case may be, it's sort of irresistible even as it makes you question everything you thought you knew as "good."  You will hate it, you will love it, you may not want to tell your friends either way.

91. Azealia Banks / "Soda"  Remember all that stuff I said about Azealia Banks and her sonics?  Seriously, listen the ambient thunder roll this track opens with and the patterning of her vocals.

92. Caribou / "Our Love"  Like you didn't know there'd be one more, right?  If you were holding your breath, you may stop now. It's this one. Why? Because by the time it's mid-track I'm talking to myself and saying, well, yeah, of course it's on the list. I have to put it on the list.

93. FKA Twigs / "Give Up"  There are some similarities to "Lights On" here, though "Give Up" has a touch more brightness (in spite of the title/theme).  Still eerie. Still haunted.

94. Mr. Twin Sister / "Blush"  Remember trip hop? Remember the Ultra Chilled compilations (ok, you probably don't)?  Remember Supreme Beings of Leisure?  Context for this track's inclusion is, I was pretty into all of those things growing up. This fits right in. Trust me.

95. Tove Lo / "Habits (Stay High)"  One of the only repeated Top 40 tracks that didn't cause me to immediately change stations, Sweden's Tove Lo chronicles a wonderfully sloppy path of love-driven self-destruction that rings truer than most things.

96. Perfect Pussy / "Interference Fits"  The key to this song really comes when you crack the lyrics. It's a feedback heavy punk rock song, but listen closely and you'll hear singer Meredith Graves describe the confusing, difficult paths of adult responsibilities and the weird shit that entails.  Suddenly, the noise is a perfect match.

97. EMA / "So Blonde"  EMA reaches back into 90s girl grunge and finds a killer primal scream. It's great.

98. Kool A.D. ft. Talib Kweli and Boots Riley / "Hickory"  Because sometimes you just need a sunny, slightly stoned hip hop song, and sometimes Das Racist's Kool A.D. is willing to provide it, with lines like "Peace to the ocean, and shit, pacific specifically / but it's all the same ocean, literally."

99. Sia / "Chandelier"  Man, sometimes I really don't like this song.  Like, it's actually a little irritating.  That said, I respect it, and what I'm always a fan of the dissonance created when a very sad song (this is, if you haven't paid attention, about some pretty heavy business) gets picked up as a sort of party/feel good anthem.  Oh man. Awkward.

100. Savages / "Fuckers" + "Dream Baby Dream"  Two songs, technically, and two long songs. The set makes for a 17-minute, highly repetitive single - but they cannot be split up for the purpose of this list. One leads directly into the other, with the first one acting as the listener's trial by fire conversion to the gospel of Jehnny Beth, and the second a euphoric affirmation.  This band is a force of nature. If you're still not paying attention to them, it's time to wake up.

Honorable Mentions:
Jessica Pratt / "Back, Baby"
The War on Drugs / "Red Eyes"
Michael Jackson / "Love Never Felt So Good"
Future / "Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)"

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