Here at Faronheit, nothing is ever truly off limits. Musically, I mean. The primary goal is to help you uncover the absolute best that music has to offer. Sometimes that takes things to a really obscure, underground place, and sometimes it’s the opposite and revels in the mainstream. Listen closely before passing judgment on anything, no matter if it’s a local band you’ve never heard of or a new Katy Perry song. Even an artist you actively dislike might somehow release something that catches your ear and makes you question everything you’ve ever known. For example, a few years back I heard a brand new song on the radio that to my ears sounded halfway decent. Imagine my shock upon being told it was a Hanson song. Not like a 1996 Hanson song, but a 2010 Hanson song. Do I like Hanson more now as a result? Not really, but I suppose I respect them more than I did before. So keep (or start) listening to any and all kinds of music that you can get your hands on, because even the darkest corners may contain some hidden gems. With that, I’m pleased to introduce the final installment of The Top 50 Songs of 2014. The first 40 songs were all fantastic, but what’s below is the cream of the crop. What you see and discover here could very well confound your expectations and disturb you to your very core. Or perhaps after listening to all of these songs you’ll give an understanding nod. There’s a little something for lovers of just about any music genre, but of course feel free to disagree with any or all of the choices as this is totally subjective. In case you missed them, here are links to all the other parts of the countdown:
And so without further ado, please join me past the jump for my Top 10 Songs of 2014.
10. Sia – Chandelier [Video]
We all know people who party just a little too hard. If they had a superpower, it would be doing lots of crazy things after consuming large quantities of alcohol. Sometimes that means jumping off a rooftop into a pool, making out/having sex with a stranger, or literally swinging from a chandelier. It all seems like goofy fun at the time, but with morning comes hangovers and regrets. Sia’s “Chandelier” is about all of that, and the self destructive tendencies and emotions that lead a person there in the first place. As sad as this song might be in parts, it’s equally a gigantic pop anthem. The chorus positively soars with Sia’s powerful vocal celebrating the freedom that comes from drunkenly forgetting about your troubles and your inhibitions. The video, perhaps 2014’s best, plays up this dichotomy by having a young blonde girl dance wildly inside a grey, run down apartment. It earned a lot of attention, as did Sia, who after years of writing hit songs for people like Katy Perry and Rihanna has finally gotten her due.
9. Saint Pepsi – Fiona Coyne
In February 2014, Saint Pepsi (aka Ryan DeRobertis) released Gin City, his latest in a series of EPs, albums and mini albums. It felt very much like a continuation of the disco-pop revivalist sound he’d spent the last few years cultivating. By July DeRobertis had signed to Carpark Records, and announced the 7″ single “Fiona Coyne/Fall Harder.” Everything changed because of that single. Murky, often lo-fi production became pristine and clear. The vocals, which had been primarily mild-mannered and calm, suddenly surged to the top of the mix and were teeming with confidence and passion like never before. It represented the auditory equivalent of My Fair Lady, in which a peasant put on some fancy new clothes and discovered a whole new world of opportunities right at her fingertips. While “Fiona Coyne” doesn’t really travel in any new stylistic directions for Saint Pepsi, the improvements that have been made are truly next level. More than anything else, I just want to dance to this song over and over and over again while allowing that chorus/hook to live inside of my brain. This song brings me such exuberant joy, I hope it does the same for you.
8. Taylor Swift – Blank Space
In case you didn’t already know it, Taylor Swift has a very good sense of humor. She also has a few ex-boyfriends, most of whom she’s written songs about. Combine those two statements and you get “Blank Space,” a wry and pretty hilarious song about how she’s in her mid-20s and is searching for the right guy, but her collection of failed relationships has imbued her with a sense of cynicism and lowered expectations, which is why she goes after a “bad boy.” That might not seem like a funny concept on paper, but throw in some playful vocals and lines like, “Oh my God, look at that face/You look like my next mistake,” and it’s a little tough to avoid chuckling just a little bit. And while “Blank Space” is fraught with double meanings and playfully pokes fun at Swift’s romantic reputation in the tabloids, it is also a really good, really catchy pop song that somehow manages to find universality in the details. This song is far and away her best achievement to date.
7. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
If you want to learn a little bit about addiction, listen to Röyksopp & Robyn’s “Do It Again,” the title track from their mini-album collaboration. The concept is rather simple: repetition breeds addiction. If you have a pleasurable experience, be it with drugs, sex, food or anything else, you’re going to want it over and over again no matter what the consequences. It becomes a cycle of pleasure and pain, illustrated in this case by an unhealthy relationship that Robyn just can’t seem to quit. Of course Röyksopp do their best to soften the blow by composing some hard-driving electro-pop with synths that positively fizzle. Both Robyn and Röyksopp are at their best when their individual songs get your blood pumping and make you forget your problems out on the dance floor. On “Do It Again” they push each other to new heights, and only leave the listener wanting more of the same. Is it possible to become addicted to a song about addiction? Asking for a friend.
6. Panda Bear – Mr. Noah
Noah Lennox has always had a knack for turning sound collages into something truly unique and future-leaning, but a song like “Mr. Noah” tries to push that aesthetic further than ever before. If you were to ignore the vocals and focus solely on the instrumentation, the main melody is anchored by sounds that might best be described as a robot puking on a windy night while surrounded by flies. The point being, there’s so much going on it’s tremendously difficult to take it all in through one listen. I’d argue that’s a good thing, because it keeps you coming back to notice something different each time. Lennox’s vocals and harmonies are there to ground the track, but thanks to a circular hook you wind up spun around and around until you’re not sure which way is up. It’s easy (and tempting) to turn on repeat and stay locked into this song for an hour or so, but like any fun carnival ride it’s probably best digested in moderation.
5. Perfume Genius – Queen
“No family is safe, when I sashay,” Mike Hadreas sings as the chorus of “Queen.” He’s referencing and essentially poking fun at those who view homosexuals and the homosexual community in general as “cracked, peeling, riddled with disease,” and threats to heteronormative families. And while there’s plenty of implied winks to show that he’s got a great sense of humor about the whole thing, this track is also a statement of defiance. He is completely unashamed of who he is, and refuses to let anybody or anything make him feel otherwise. In a world where inequality is still a serious issue and those perceived as “different” continue to be persecuted in one way or another every single day, a song like “Queen,” which takes ownership and celebrates those types of traits, is just the sort of avant-garde pop anthem needed to help inspire others and move our society forward down a more positive and accepting path.
4. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes [Video]
“Red Eyes” was the first taste of what The War on Drugs were going to offer us in 2014, and it shocked me to my very core the first time I heard it (and many, many times after that). Here’s a band that seemed to maintain a calm, largely introspective folk sound over the course of their last couple of records suddenly wake up and decide that they wanted to write something that invigorates as much as it inspires. The title alludes to some of the emotional struggles that Adam Granduciel was dealing with throughout the writing of the Lost in the Dream record, and how his blind faith enabled him to push past those difficulties and ultimately triumph. The song chugs along with that in mind, racing to the finish line and fully soaring into the stratosphere during the chorus. You can’t quite make out what Granduciel is singing for most of it, but the melody, guitar solos and a couple of “yeah”‘s and “woo”‘s tell you everything you need to know.
3. Run the Jewels – Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) [ft. Zack de la Rocha]
Of all the hip hop tracks that I heard in 2014, none got my blood pumping and brain thinking as much as “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck).” Just from the song title you can tell it’s going to be interesting, and it absolutely is as Killer Mike and El-P trade verses about leading a rebellion against the justice system (specifically prisons and courts) to help stop (often racially motivated) injustice and violence. There are plenty of smart and clever lines, as we’ve come to expect from Run the Jewels, and I’d go so far as to argue that El’s hard-hitting production is just as noteworthy here. Not only that, but a guest appearance by Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha in both the chorus and via a final guest verse pushes an already great track into the rarefied air of one of the year’s absolute best.
2. QT – Hey QT
QT is a collaborative project between PC Music leader A.G. Cook and London producer Sophie. Their debut single “Hey QT” is a slice of pop perfection that’s not quite like anything else crafted this year. It blends styles and sounds with such sugar-coated energy that you might be completely overwhelmed and need to sit down instead of dancing like crazy. It has EDM-lke build-ups. It has it’s feet firmly planted in K-pop and J-pop influences. The vocals are overly modulated to sound high-pitched and female, yet also come across as alien or the work of some computer program, which is exactly the point. The intention behind this is twofold: to act as a response to and in some ways parody how current pop music is composed and current pop stars behave. There’s more than one way to make a high energy, joyous and completely silly pop song, and “Hey QT” is proof of that. Also, best of luck trying to get that main hook out of your head. It’s crazy addictive.
1. FKA twigs – Two Weeks
“You say you want me/I say you’ll live without it,” FKA twigs quietly sneers somewhere around the middle of “Two Weeks.” At some point during the song it becomes abundantly clear that this is almost as much of a hostile takeover as it is a seduction, playing with the listener like a puppet attached to strings. She says jump, you say how high. It wasn’t always this way, but such is the price to be paid for the ultimate pleasure that comes with being her lover. She desperately wants you and promises you’ll get high from her sexual energy, but only if you’re willing to give her that same level of heightened passion in return. It may ultimately be the sort of detailed fantasy you would read about in a trashy romance novel, but her intense style and approach is so carefully nuanced that you can’t help but wish it were real.
The primal emotions in most of twigs’ songs come through via carefully composed ambiance and the intimacy of her almost whisper-like vocals. “Two Weeks” stands out from all of her other offerings by placing greater focus on a more traditional melody and highly specific lyrics. Thrown it all together, and it becomes a supernova of depth and charisma. The track skates the line between R&B and outright pop, but does so in such a subtle fashion that you have no idea what sort of overwhelming listening experience this will be until it’s too late. That kind of compelling and addictive song craft is not an easy thing to pull off for any artist. In a society and a music industry that has often shown resistance toward female artists who are open and explicit about their sexual needs and desires, “Two Weeks” is the perfect example of a song that goes against that grain and succeeds on every possible level. One can only hope that it encourages a whole lot of others to do the same moving forward.
Check out all of the Listmas 2014 posts by clicking here.