Best Tracks from 4th Quarter 2014

TV On The Radio, “Quartz”Tunde Adebimpe is passionate and pleading. Thanks to All Songs Considered for playing this on their show.

Hozier, “Someone New” – My true favorite from the much-hyped Hozier record is “Jackie and Wilson” but I don’t want to ruin it. My second favorite is “Someone New”. It’s classic pop drawing from 60s R&B and blues (duh). I love the sudden melancholic turn. Thanks again to All Songs for the introduction.

J.D. McPherson, “A Gentle Awakening” – Most of J.D.’s other songs are not so gentle. I’m still making my way through the working-man’s blues and raw rock jams on the album, but this track stood out for the crisp arrangement. And it sounded good next to the Hozier track.

GRMLN, “Of Nothing” – Can’t get enough of those crushing guitars. Take that all the way back to early obsessions with Weezer. I don’t care that every GRMLN song has the same trick. It’s a good trick. “The John Wayne” throws a little Americana on the same guitars and kills it too. Another All Songs discovery.

Devan Dubois, “Long Live” – Neil Young released an album this year. It’s not on my list. But his presence was all over the stuff I loved all year, from War on Drugs to Strand of Oaks, and rediscovering 1974’s “Déjà Vu” with CSNY. Shout out to Springsteen’s “Nebraska” too. Devan Dubois has a carefully cultivated, weirdo persona that assimilates Neil, California stoner rock and slick LA pop at once. I dig.

Little Green Cars, “The John Wayne” – Disappointed with the album for not including five more songs like this, but it’s a solid jam nonetheless. Shades of Arcade Fire and Mumford here, all on a bed of those crushing guitars.

Bruce Springsteen, “Highway Patrolman” – I have this thing where every few months I pick a Springsteen album to try and get into. This one, I passed over the whole thing and fell asleep on the first listen. Wasn’t until I put it on driving, cruising slow looking for the location of this networking thing that it hit. This and “State Trooper” are the anchors in the album for me and it’s slowly revealing a really rich, really haunted treasure trove.

Asgeir, “Head in the Snow” – A little Postal Service, a lot Icelandic. Really love the atmospheric electronics paired with Asgeir’s voice. Solid songwriting for sure.

Royksopp ft. Robyn, “Monument – The Inevitable End Version” – The original “Monument” came out on the Royksopp & Robyn EP this summer and it’s great too. A slow burning, robo-noir daydream. But you do kind of wonder what would happen if you kicked up the tempo. For this version, aggressive electronic textures and punchier drums turn the daydream into a club-ready groove that isn’t better than the first, but proves it deserves a place on the turntable.

Taemin, “Pretty Boy” – Discovered on Eat Your Kimchi at Panera while I was supposed to be writing a blog post for work (I’m always writing a blog post for work). The whole mini-album’s a gem of fairly ridiculous pop songs, mostly bright and uptempo. I actually love the weird background textures at the intro, reminds me of the weirdness Beyonce’s been up to lately. Lots of fun.

Mary J. Blige, “Nobody But You” – A stylistic departure for new, but natural, destinations. Here, Mary J. Blige works with collaborators to add her voice to house music and it’s perfect.

Liz Vice, “Everything Is Yours” – If you don’t get the Noisetrade emails, sign-up. I delete most of them, but every once in a while something killer comes through. Liz Vice is a gospel singer you just can’t afford to miss. I love the pre-chorus guitar part. It’s jazzy and smooth, bluesy and sweet. And the lyrics speak truth too, so bonus, right?

Bahamas, “Stronger Than That” – I think this is another Noisetrade discovery. You might have heard Bahamas in that one Verizon commercial with James Franco too. I just love the warm sound of this track. The other songs are breezier, without the same guitar, brass and backbone, but the whole album’s a treat as well.

Sam Smith, “I’m Not The Only One” – Sam Smith’s just hitting the mainstream, taking people to church on a straighter path than Hozier maybe, but with a lot of the same appeal. Broken-hearted, golden-voiced, in love with a pop sound that’s studio polished but intimate and soulful.

Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind” – Weirdly, this season I also got into Billy Joel a little. Credit The Week’s podcast for a nice career retrospective and reassessment. I’ve always been a sucker for blues and rock piano and a sucker for good pop songs. And it’s those lines about coming home, skimming around the edges on the freeway, seeing your city come into view. I imagine it’s lit up at night, maybe wet and shining from a little rain the hour before. Something about those lines makes me smile.

Special Mention

Caribou, “Silver” – A great electronic groove, full of cool texture and a great surprise ending. The whole album’s great, it was all I listened to Christmas Day.

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