Electronica. Indie pop. Synth pop. Experimental pop. Punk rock. Psych rock. Indie rock. R&B. You can find all of these genres and more in this next installment of Faronheit’s Top 50 Songs of 2014! Thus far, we’ve journeyed through three previous sets of 10 songs, and should you have missed them, why all you have to do is click these individual links to be taken there instantly: [#50-41] [#40-31] [#30-21]
Of course if you’d like to see all of the Top 50 Songs posts with a single click, simply choose this link. We’ve got two more rounds left, including this one right here, so follow me even further down the rabbit hole as digging continues toward the Top 10 Songs of the year. For the moment, click past the jump for #20-11!
20. Mas Ysa – Why [Video]
“Why” was the first Mas Ysa (Thomas Arsenault) song uploaded to Soundcloud last fall for consumption by anyone willing to listen, and the nearly 6.5 minute epic drew quite a bit of the right kind of attention. Given its boundary pushing, devil may care mixture of techno, synth pop, folk and other sounds, it was a breath of fresh air and one hell of a first impression. It’s been more than a year since then, and the only reason why this track didn’t make the “Top Songs of 2013” list was because it’s official release came as part of a debut EP that came out in February. That it’s managed to continue to sound fresh and original as well as snag such a prime spot on this list should say a lot about “Why”‘s merits. Pay close enough attention, and this song will not only run the gamut on styles but emotion too. So here’s to feeling happy and sad, loved and unloved, and dancing celebrate the good times and forget about the bad times.
19. Caribou – Can’t Do Without You
Is this supposed to be a happy or sad song? We don’t have enough context, nor are there enough lyrics to properly discern the answer. The song title repeats over and over again like an echo inside of a void, as Dan Snaith either makes the declaration out of love to continue strengthening the bond with someone, or out of desperation to try and salvage what’s already been lost. So we let the music itself be our guide. It starts quietly with drum pads, synths and a looped vocal sample, and slowly swells as more elements get added and others become louder and more insistent. Just as we reach max power, with your glowsticks out and your feet moving, all of the instruments cut out and we’re left alone with a quivering vocal. Interpret that however you like, but what I’m hearing is to love others fully and completely. It’s worth the risk, even if it ends in pain. Okay, that’s probably a bit much.
18. The New Pornographers – Dancehall Domine
Like any good band that’s been around for 15 years and is on their sixth album, The New Pornographers have made some changes to their style over the years. Some have been good decisions, while others…not so much. My personal favorite record of theirs is 2003’s Electric Version, which is about the sonic equivalent of a sugar rush with hooks galore flying past at breakneck speed. Which explains my fondness for “Dancehall Domine,” because it comes from a similar (but not exactly the same) place. It manages to turn a classic sound into something that feels fresh and new, which is no easy task to accomplish. Perhaps the key lies in taking such a celebratory energy and applying it to lyrics about the pitfalls of fame and celebrity while at the exact same time sympathizing with the overwhelming nature of the beast.
17. Perfect Pussy – Interference Fits
Of all the tracks on Perfect Pussy’s debut album Say Yes to Love, “Interference Fits” is the easiest to enjoy. With all of their intense, hardcore punk collages pummeling your ears and sense of sanity with brute force, this song feels a little like an island in a storm because it’s not as loud and actually quite beautiful on many different levels. The guitars dig in with the gravity of Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, while Meredith Graves’ vocals are often completely obscured, first via feedback squelches and then via her own voice as she has a simultaneous shouting match with herself. The only words uttered with full clarity on the entire track are, “Since when do we say yes to love?” Yet it’s also of the utmost importance to look up a lyric sheet, because what you’re missing underneath all the noise is perfectly written prose about staring down the barrel of your late 20s and the complete sea change that occurs with all of your friends and lovers as one by one they become the very things they loathed and rebelled against only years earlier. It’s about staying free and true to yourself even as everyone around you doesn’t.
16. Ty Segall – Feel
Depending on how familiar you are with Ty Segall’s material and whether or not you’ve seen him perform live, it’s entirely possible you might not be aware that the guy is one incredible guitar player. He’s probably at a similar level to Jack White or Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, only a whole lot louder. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the song “Feel,” which for my money offers up the best guitar solo of 2014. Just for good measure, this is also the only song in the entire countdown with a drum solo, and a pretty kick-ass one at that. There are lyrics and a chorus, something about creeps who watch us, but you can probably just ignore all of that and let the instruments do all the heavy lifting. You don’t analyze a song like this, you do as the title instructs and just FEEL it.
15. How to Dress Well – Repeat Pleasure [Video]
As much as I love How to Dress Well, Tom Krell’s project of experimental R%B has always come off as very introverted, somber and meek. So imagine my great surprise the first time I heard “Repeat Pleasure,” with its sun-kissed acoustic guitars and bubbling rhythms. Not only is the song beautiful and danceable, but it’s also a tremendously upbeat celebration of love anchored by confident and powerful vocal work from Krell. To my mind, it’s HTDW’s auditory equivalent of a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly, which is also sort of funny because the song is about change and transformation. The proof is in the pudding, and when Krell reaches into his upper register near the end of the song to belt out, “Even broken, my heart will go on,” it should send shivers down your spine.
14. Spoon – Do You
After the rather dour affair that was Transference, Spoon’s return to their more classic sound and structure on this year’s They Want My Soul was welcomed with open arms. No other song best epitomized this than “Do You,” with its bouncy, propulsive rhythm and vocalized do-do’s/whoa whoa’s. While the overall construction of the track is probably most reminiscent of Spoon’s work from 10+ years ago, it’s produced in the style their most recent records, effectively bringing a new twist on an old favorite. As tremendously fun as it can sound and as easy as it is to sing along, there’s depth and meaning behind the words too, as Britt Daniel poses questions like, “Do you wanna get understood?” and “Do you run when it’s just getting good?” You might as well just add this track to the pantheon of Spoon’s best and brightest.
13. St. Vincent – Prince Johnny
This year’s self-titled St. Vincent album was essentially a walk through the many evolutions of Annie Clark this last decade. While singles like “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse” may be more memorable and have their own unique quirks, it’s “Prince Johnny” that ultimately stands out from the rest of the record as one of the best things Clark has ever crafted. The reason why is because of the many hats that it juggles. Lyrically it’s a song about feeling sad yet compassionate for a self-destructive friend, and being unable to help or pass judgment on him because you possess many of those same self-destructive qualities. This character study is also about fighting for your own independence to avoid succumbing to the same tragic end. It’s poetic, fiercely intelligent, darkly funny, beautiful and pretty poppy too, much like Clark herself.
12. Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting on You) [Video]
It’s important not to forget the little things, like Future Islands’ Letterman performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You)” this past March. Okay, that wasn’t really little, particularly since it went viral and brought the band all kinds of attention. But once you get past Samuel T. Herring’s dance moves, it may surprise you to learn that this song is spectacular on its own merits. Beyond the catchy synth-pop melody, it leaves you with a wealth of emotions too, as all great songs do. In order for any relationship to truly work, there needs to be some give and take from both sides. If you’re willing to change to help or save a romance but your partner isn’t, perhaps after enough seasons pass you’ll stop waiting for him or her and find somebody who understands the concept.
11. A.G. Cook – Keri Baby (ft. Hannah Diamond) [MP3]
“Give it to the girl! Give it to the girl! Give it to the cutest girl!” A.G. Cook is a producer who is the reported mastermind behind PC Music, a London-based digital label that’s been around for nearly two years now. Yet 2014 is when PC Music finally started to catch on, and way back in January Cook released this gem of a pop song with singer Hannah Diamond on vocals. “Keri Baby” isn’t just a pop song, it’s an ADHD-addled sound collage that might as well have been chopped up and pieced together by some form of evolved artificial intelligence. But the humanity is intended to be completely stripped from the song, because it’s about a virtual presence wishing to turn into a physical being. “I don’t want to be an mp3/Three two oh k-b-p-s, you know that I feel/Kinda real, Kinda oooh,” she says in the second verse. Just like all the sounds you hear are pulled from a myriad of genres and styles, so too are the vocals meant to blur the lines between pop singing, rap and R&B until you’re not completely sure which way is up. The first time I heard it I knew it was a game changer, and cook along with his PC Music cohorts haven’t really had a bad single all year.
Check out all of the Listmas 2014 posts by clicking here.