While I put up my regular top five album list earlier, this year was more of a song year overall. It made sense for the compiling of a playlist, of course, so here it is for your ear’s pleasure. It has songs from the top albums along with the honorable mentions, as well as others that came from different areas. Here’s the list, and small description of my favorites from the playlist.
Sia – “Chandelier” – I am really enjoying this new transformation of Ms. Furler. This also includes her semi-inconspicuous aesthetic, but what makes this song great is in how she made it hers. A lot of her songwriting has gone to a lot of other artists (Rihanna, Beyonce, etc.) and it you can tell in this song it’s from that same vein. Delicious to finally hear it come from her amazing voice.
Action Bronson – “Easy Rider” – This has all the keys of a Bronsolini song on high levels, ripping out on a chopper from the church doors filled to the gills on acid. He’s spitting bars on riding with horses, landing planes on Roosevelt Ave, and eating eels. Yeah, it’s that ill.
D’Angelo – “1000 Deaths” – So I just found out as I write this that Questlove provided the glorious drumbeat on this. Yes, the first single heralded the greatness of Black Messiah, but good lordy, this is a Prince cut set to 13. Actually, forget Prince, this is D’Angelo, and only D’Angelo, getting heavy as fuck on the funk.
Shabazz Palaces – “They Come In Gold”– With a beat switching from something that is somewhere between weird slasher flick and acid trippiness, Ishmael Butler pushed his abstract rap into a mellow beat that was emblematic of the sound of the album.
Rustie – “Attak (Ft. Danny Brown)”– This I have to thank Jeph Jacques for, as I had never heard of Rustie, but after listening to his list, the entire album really opened up his entire work to me. There is an almost-axiom that EDM and rap don’t mix, like that one thing Biggie said in that one song. Rustie, in the pauses of the staccato electro-house, let every verse of the Detroit lunatic go and proved that rule very much wrong.
Hudson Mohawke – “Chimes” – I heard this live the summer of 2013, so it was great finally hearing the single on my speakers as opposed to a massive sound-system discombobulating my stomach from the bass and trumpets. Still, if I upped the bass on my system, There was still a rumble in my esophagus.
2. Top Five Supplemental
EMA – “Satellites”– A clap and static, with an industrial beat leading to strings and dissonance, EMA’s voice breaking the connection, linking to the whatever-is-left. This is not about past lives of martyred saints, but demons trapped in orbit.
Run The Jewels – “Love Again (Akinyele Back) (Ft. Gangsta Boo)”– Did any of you listen to “Put It My Mouth” or “My Neck My Back?” back in the day? Well yeah, this is that circa 2010s. El-P and Killer Mike go in on fucking with the raunchiest of hooks, but Gangsta Boo saves the song from your average rap misogyny and makes the man in question on her bars into a goddamn slave, flipping the song to her will like a hood dominatrix.
St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”- The change of pace on this song brings out the rest of the album, because the difference is so deep it holds onto you. and the “oh-oh-ohs” in her choruses really stick.
Azealia Banks – “Ice Princess”– This is Azealia at her realest, delivering a nice flow that goes into a house beat-backed chorus. Ladies and gents, what’s cooler than cool? This chill rap royal.
Caribou – “Silver” – Super-relax song meant for an ambient room in a house party, or a drive leaving the city heading out into the upstate forest. I don’t pay attention to the lyrics when I listen to it, I just hold onto the longing in the words.
3. From the Honorables
Sharon Van Etten- “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” – Van Etten’s entire album is my number 6 – so many great songs from Are We There that deserve mentioning but here is the best.There is a country sentiment reminiscent of Neko Case. Her voice lingers, weathered on the twangs of chords.
Banks – “Drowning” – I’m going “Shot Fired” on this – I really don’t get the appeal of FKA Twigs and her abstract R&B/trip-hop, it comes off as it misses on both marks. Banks’ Weeknd-esque modernity with tinge of 90s R&B fits with the sultriness of her voice really well, and is a lot superior to Twigs because of it.
Sturgill Simpson – “It Ain’t All Flowers” – The Metamodern Sounds in Country Music album was the only country album that grabbed me this year. The psychedelic undertones inherent in some of the songs elevate it past the southern plane into something metaphysical. This song is emblemic of that in the breakdown halfway.
Christian Löffler – “Mt. Grace”– A techno-shamanic hymn prepping your journey up misty lands in yelps and a relentless cadence of synths and drums. True emblem to the title of the album, in my opinion.
RATKING – “Puerto Rican Judo (ft. Wavy Spice)” – Someone I met at Governors Ball suggested I check out the hip-hop group’s set and I got there right as thee song came on. Even on the grass of Randalls Island it felt like running through grimy Harlem streets in the summer.
Phantogram – “Fall In Love”– I saw Phantogram with my friend Rob a few months before Voices was released, so we were lucky and heard the song earlier. Granted, a lot of their songs show up on TV commercials and shows now, but this one is honestly on arena-level, compared to the ones from previous albums.