WITH best of lists for this year already being posted left, right and centre (and in the run up to our own best of list) Joe Fairweather takes a look back at some of his favourite songs of the year.
To be quite honest, this year has been pretty bad when it comes to music. I have found very little worth listening to and a lot of ‘acclaimed’ albums just haven’t appealed to me at all. Maybe I am becoming more close minded in my musical tastes, but even in the genres I love (Rap, Rock, R&B etc) a lot of projects have disappointed me.
Regardless of my opinions on whole albums, there have been some diamonds in the rough. So I have decided to do a top 10 songs of the year:
10. ‘Paranoid’ by Ty Dolla $ign feat. B.o.B.
DJ Mustard ruled 2014. Almost every rapper worth a damn, although not everyone thank God, had one of his beats on their album. Now, one can accuse DJ Mustard of being a lot of things (uncreative is probably one of them) but damn he makes some catchy ass beats and ‘Paranoid’ is, in my opinion, one of his best this year. Then you add Ty $ign’s weird drawl and B.o.B.’s ridiculous verse and you have a serious banger that is almost addictive to listen to, despite its sleaziness.
9. ‘Chandelier’ by Sia
This song is all about the chorus. Despite 1000 Forms of Fear being awful, I love this song. Nobody does crazy powerful choruses like Sia and this is her best. Much like last year’s ‘Elastic Heart’; when Sia lets loose that phenomenal voice of hers and combines it with a wall of sound from the production, magic happens.
8. ‘Studio’ by Schoolboy Q Feat. BJ The Chicargo Kid
Oxymoron was not a good album, but ‘Studio’, ‘Collard Greens’ and ‘Man of The Year’ are fantastic songs. It took me a long time to work out which I preferred…ultimately Schoolboy Q imitating cunnilingus mid-verse, and for it to simultaneously actually work in context and be hilarious swung it for me. Shout out to BJ The Chicargo Kid for, once again, great singing on the chorus. He should be in more songs!
7. ‘A Power’ by How To Dress Well
What is Heart? by How To Dress Well was a cool album. I feel that Tom Krell, How To Dress Well’s real name, is one or two projects away from making an amazing album that gets the mainstream recognition that he deserves. There was something about What Is Heart? that just didn’t grab me like his previous album, Total Loss, did. Saying that, ‘A Power’ is incredible. How To Dress Well’s singing can often be described as whiney, but when he uses his lower range, it can be pretty awesome. I also love the lush production, especially the contrasting piano sections.
6. ‘Never Catch Me’ by Flying Lotus (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)
I have a hard time listening to instrumentals, especially hip-hop instrumentals. That is probably the reason You’re Dead! didn’t appeal to me, even if I can appreciate the skill and quality of the music – it just wasn’t for me. Luckily, ‘Never Catch Me’ has rapping over it and what rapping by Kendrick Lamar. He goes off like a greyhound and actually keeps up with the jittery, downright weird beat Flying Lotus created. It was very impressive and I liked that the subject was all about death in a philosophical way, not in the typical “I will kill you/was nearly killed/saw someone killed” like most rappers do (looking at you, Wu Tang Clan)
5. ‘Love Me Harder’ by Ariana Grande (Feat. The Weeknd)
I know I am pissing someone off-putting Ariana Grande this high, and over geniuses like Flying Lotus no less, but I don’t care. I fucking loved this song. I just found it appealing; the throbbing baseline, Ariana Grande’s fantastic voice, the great chorus and the fact that it didn’t sound like The Weeknd was just pasted in-between Grande’s verses. It actually felt like a duet, something that very rarely happens in pop music these days.
4. ‘Bomb’ by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib (Feat. Raekwon)
This was the first song I heard from Piñata by Freddie Gibb & Madlib (MadGibbs?) and it immediately clicked with me, even though I have never listened to any Freddie Gibbs in the past. Something about the production by the legendary Madlib, probably his best since Madvillany, and its weird ass electronic xylophone(?) melody combined with Gibbs’ low – almost 2Pac sounding – voice just struck a chord. Then Raekwon jumps in with a verse that is almost without any references to cocaine and instead talks about his wife and family. Not exactly new ground for Rae, but damn if he doesn’t sound amazing. I hope he uses Madlib on the inevitable Only Build For Cuban Linx 3.
3. ‘Give Up’ by FKA Twigs.
I have a confession to make, if The Needledrop and Pitchfork didn’t give LP1 by FKA Twigs glowing reviews, I probably wouldn’t have listened to it. And man, what a mistake that would’ve been. LP1 is up there as one of my favourite albums of the year. And ‘Give up’ is, I feel, the cream of the crop. Twigs sings in a higher pitch than normal about dominating (maybe?) over a man in their relationship, asking him to “nod your head and give up.” It is all high-strung and sexual, like all of FKA Twigs’ music. But there are two parts that I just find indelible: when she sings “ok so I have done it before” (?) at the beginning and near the middle. The way her voices quickens, in combination with her sing, just clicked with me. I also love the change that occurs in the final third. This song goes places man.
2. ‘Break Free’ by Ariana Grande (Feat. Zedd)
Yep. Deal with it.
In all seriousness, ‘Break Free’ is just a fucking TUUUUUUUUUUUUUNE that I can both enjoy in a club setting and at home
drinking whiskey by the fireplace. Which is very rare for a pop song, especially one so obviously targeted to play in a club – it is almost quaint and retro in how old school “David Guetta circa 2008-9” the beat is. Plus, like I said with ‘Love Me Harder’, Ariana Grande’s voice lifts the song above a cheesy banger into something far more enjoyable. Yes, her pronunciation is spotty at best, but man when the chorus kicks in I am hard pressed not to find the song enjoyable. Also, the music video is great.
1. ‘Jeopardy’ by Run The Jewels
When people pick out a song from Run The Jewels 2 to laud, I bet it won’t be this one. But I feel that since this is the first song of the album, it is the most important. It sets the stage for what to expect in subsequent songs. So when Killer Mike shouts “I’M FINNA BANG THIS BITCH THE FUCK OUT” and other nonsense before the beat kicks in…and when it does it turns out to be this huge bassy beat you know what type of album Run The Jewels 2 is going to be: angry, gritty and fucking awesome. When I started listening to the album for the first time, bearing in mind I listened to the previous album a lot in 2013, something about the end of the song – when El -P gets all distorted at the end as he shouts “Run the Jewels is WHAT’S POPPING” – I immediately had to stop everything I was doing and continue listening to Run The Jewels 2 until it finished. THAT is how good of an album opener ‘Jeopardy’ is.
Honourable Mentions (in no particular order):‘Man Of The Year’ by Schoolboy Q, ‘Collard Greens’ by School Boy Q Feat. Kendrick Lamar, ‘3005’ by Childish Gambino, ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’ by Run The Jewels Feat. Zach De La Rocha, ‘Left, Right’ by YG Feat. DJ Mustard, ‘Real’ by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, ‘Dead Air’ By Chvrches, ‘Down On My Luck’ by Vic Mensa, ‘Go’ by Grimes Feat. Blood Diamond,‘Kicks’ by FKA Twigs and ‘Chasing Time’ by Azelia Banks