Friday, December 12, 2014

THE BEST 100 SONGS OF 2014: PART IV (#21--40)...

The penultimate batch of songs...

21. Ben’s My Friend (Sun Kill Moon): one of the funniest, warmest, and most revealing songs ever written about male friendship, especially the complications that arise in relationships where one guy's more successful. Kozelek admits his "meltdown" was mostly due to his competitiveness getting the better of him, and that "Ben's my friend, and I know he gets it." (Pitchfork)

22. Mine (Beyonce feat. Drake): Drake’s best cameo over the year comes in this arms call by Beyonce, who drops the authoritative growls with the requisite panache.

23. 0 To 100 (Drake): Drake's hallmark sentimentality takes a back seat on this single – a powerful bragfest that he opens by proclaiming, "Fuck being on some chill shit!" A gentle, James Blake-sampling outro softens the bravado, but only a little. (Rolling Stone)

24. Pretty Much (Since Last November) (Champs): There’s a fluffy religious sound in Pretty Much (Since Last November), as though Jack White is quietly leading The Ronettes in a gospel march towards the rapture. (The Line Of Best Fit)

25. Close Your Eyes (Run The Jewels feat. Zack La Rocha): It’s easy to get lost in de la Rocha’s brutal vocal hook while each MC delivers a verse or two that challenges the system. Killer Mike calls out the “liars and politicians, profiteers of the prison” while El-P poignantly spits, “We out of order, your honor you’re out of order/ This whole court is unimportant, you fuckers are walking corpses.” Subtlety is thrown to the side as de la Rocha goes for the kill by outright comparing politicians to KKK Grand Dragons. For those who have been outraged by how they’ve seen the system operate in 2014, Run the Jewels have provided a platform to vent their energy. (Consequence Of Sound)

26. Video Girl (FKA Twigs): pleasingly, FKA Twigs makes sex sound as awkward and nerve-racking as it’s always been here in post-Victorian England where we might get Prince but we never really get Prince. Twigs’ music is undeniably sexy, but in a somewhat distracted, apprehensive and paranoid way that flirts with being more frightening/frightened than sensual.. Perhaps Barnett is a phantom. Or an alien, like Prince. Or an imaginary mutant R&B superstar who’s escaped from the radiator inside one of David Lynch’s transcendental nightmares. (Drowned In Sound)

27. The Clean Hand (Blu): no underground rapper can break down a simple jam like Blu—he dissects them then reorganizes their motifs and expands the possibilities into epiphanies of brilliance.

28. Seasons (Waiting On You) (Future Islands): sees a universal experience portrayed with respect for the human condition, and Samuel Herring showcases an even-handed distribution of youthful longing and frustration with mature wisdom and perspective. Herring’s deep, husky and often untamable delivery peppers this spread with personality, sounding like an only son of Dracula raised in an ‘80s disco. (Paste)

29. Cold Day (Black Milk): after a baffling last LP, Black Milk returns to form with a smooth interpolation of current and retro sounds and it’s a stunning big bang winner.

30. Rock N Roll Dementia (Gem Jones); lurches forward with a barely conscious tempo. Gem Jones tries to work through his anxiety and succeeds spectacularly. With an incredibly loose structure it employs a ramshackle funk that works and is at times oddly touching, (Beachsloth)

31. Magic Number (Damien Jurado): a song that introduces a few of his key lyrical themes. He and returning producer Richard Swift continue to find new ways to shift what are essentially folk songs into productions that defy simple categorization. That sort of sonic uncertainty is of a piece with the lyrics’ attention to physical and mental dislocation. (Popmatters)

32. Make It Look Good (Mariah Carey): yes, that’s Stevie Wonder on harmonica but that’s only part of what make this track so fabulous: Mariah wisely doesn’t overcook the vocals, tilting it at just the right levels.

33. We All Went Down With The Ship (Ed Harcourt): a rousing condemnation of bloodshed which stretches from "horrors of the British in the Boer war" to "Kamakazi pilots and virgin assassins, told they would reach paradise" in such vivid fashion you can almost hear the cannons. Terrific stuff. (The Guardian)

34. Digital Witness (St. Vincent): Clarke visits her usual funky formula on this cut: the vocal gymnastics to cleanly jump octaves between syllables, and a densely packed arrangement suggest that St. Vincent’s critique of voyeuristic mass-media culture could pass for the best Tori Amos track in close to 20 years. (Treble)

35. Blue Suede (Vince Staples): the lyrics are even more disturbing, as Staples recounts the turbulent culture of his youth. Staples is quick to polish his own sexist ego (“Half these hoes chauffeurs, half these hoes useless/ Fucked the face toothless, easy, so ruthless”) and is candid about the brutality his peers endured for that type of status, documenting the many scenarios that lead to those bouquets of red roses that adorn young men’s fresh grave stones. (Consequence Of Sound)

36. Black Lantern (Gem Jones): Flying Lotus isn’t the only one who knows himself around with horns, here the band runs blissfully wild with scattershot sounds and vague lyrics.

37. Two Coffins (Against Me): a song perhaps meant for Grace’s daughter, which still focuses on the corporeal but only to drive home deeper connections, between not bodies but people, souls. (Popmatters)

38. In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry In The Tradition Of Passing) (A Sunny Day in Glasgow): Instead of relying on positive thoughts, the song decides to become a schizophrenic battle of ideas that all feel so pleasant but are a bit unsettling when examined with more care. With interruptions of forced laughs (ha) and even scat-provised passages, it’s as if the song isn’t even finished. Musically, it is all over the place as well. Segments start and stop without warning, and yet it all flows together. (Live In Limbo)

39. West Coast (Lana del Rey): she navigates the woozy Dan Auerbach production by effortlessly switching between a half-mumbled baritone and a layered choral harmony. There’s an ease to her vocal delivery on the track that feels stilted on just about every other cut; on West Coast she’s at home among the descending blues riffs and spaghetti neo-noir motif. (A.V. Club)

40. Untying The Knot (Panda Bear): chugs stamping percussion alongside distant, far away samples. It’s a scattered patchwork, undoubtedly a wild selection of many, many strange strands to Panda Bear’s work, but it hints that his upcoming work might be Lennox’s most expansive, ambitious album to date. (DIY)