It’s time for my favourite tracks of the year, having already given you my worst (there’s a pun here that will become clear by the end).
Indie rock with a Cure vibe that feels as bouncy as it does forlorn. ‘It tastes bittersweet/ beneath the lemon trees’.
19. ‘The Big Big Beat’ – Azealia Banks
This nostalgic house banger has all the ingredients of a good Azealia anthem – glitzy singing, tongue-twister rapping and a big big beat!
With its menacing strings, tribal drums and banshee-warbling, this single is batshit insane and I love it.
Few pop singers can carry such a bold feminist message with such feelgood energy.
16. ‘Spikes’ – Death Grips
Death Grips push their paranoid experimental hip hop sound to new limits with an intensely claustrophobic beat and bafflingly tripped-out lyrics.
A sonically brutal attack on the wasted existence of an office drone. ‘I spent the 12 best years of my life behind a desk’
Smooth smoky lounge bar jazz complete with sax solo that makes you feel like the protagonist from a 70s action movie.
13. ‘Triple Helix’ – Lone
90s video game nostalgia bottled up into an intense drum and bass banger from electronica deity, Lone.
12. ‘Herside Story’ – Hare Squead
Irish hip hoppers release this summery half-trap-half-soul jam with a catchy chorus and beat that rivals the infectiousness of ‘Hotline Bling’.
11. ‘Heir To The Sugar Honey Queen’ - Ehiorobo
The beat that this DIY soul oddity puts together just keeps excitedly evolving, and his chirpy singing and foody lyrics add to the charm.
10. ‘Moving On’ - Babeheaven
The wispy vocals and delicate chords that open this song are beautiful enough, but then the whole thing erupts into a wash of synth and longing chorus that takes it to a whole new level of brilliance.
9. ‘T5’ – Swet Shop Boys
This attack on airport racial profiling is exactly the music movement that the Western Asian community needs, plus the song packs a mean beat.
8. ‘Well Done’ – Idles
Not only is the message of this song punk-as-fuck, the choice to reference Mary Berry of all people is hilarious and the squealing guitar-work is actually quite creative.
7. ‘Regis Rd’ - Creature From Dell Pond
With its tempo-changes, unusual melancholy chord choices and strikingly dark lyricism, this is a rock band with a sound that is entirely their own (which is something rarely heard these days). The video, which I’ve only just seen, meanwhile is hilariously disturbing and joyfully weird.
6. ‘Don’t Feed Me To Them’ – Pool Art
In spite of how creepy the lyrics are, I always let myself get lulled into a false sense of security by the noise rock group’s initially placid verse guitars and tranquil vocals. The abruptly nightmarish outro feels just as ingeniously terrifying upon every listen.
5. ‘Maybe Sweet One You Won’t Have Nightmares Tonight’ – Father John Misty
Similar to the last track, this lullaby by singer-songwriter Father John Misty lyrically and sonically gets more twisted the further that it goes on. It’s the perfect balance of humour and horror, made all the more entertaining by the singer’s unwaveringly calm delivery.
4. ‘Untitled 02’ – Kendrick Lamar
This has to be the most satisfying beat drop of the year – what you at first assume to be jazzy experimentalism shifts into a brooding trap creeper. Kendrick’s flows and delivery shift inventively throughout the song and I love the trash-talking bars towards the end ‘I can put a rapper on life support/ guarantee that’s something none of you want’.
3. ‘Glowed Up’ – Kaytranada ft. Anderson Paak.
Kay’s spacey electronica and Paak.’s uniquely zonked-out rapping delivery form a match made in heaven. It’s like they’ve created a party tune that’s as equally lively as it is soothing. The soulful outro meanwhile serves as a comedown, both artists slipping into their comfort zones, comfort zones that most other artists are still working towards.
2. ‘Dang!’ – Mac Miller ft. Anderson Paak.
As you can tell, I’ve gone crazy for Anderson Paak this year (although I still prefer his features to his solo work). Mac Miller meanwhile plays a convincing romantic and gives one of his most passionate performances. Whilst other tracks on Mac’s latest album felt ruined by the rapper’s boyishness, here he feels sophisticated and adult enough to carry the gorgeous and playful soul beat.
1. ‘Give It Your Worst’ – False Advertising
Whether you’re a cynical defeatist or an optimistic fighter, the sentiment of this song can still apply. The guitars and hook feel phenomenally upbeat. And yet there’s a grungy and moody tone to the rough distortion and vocal tone. It’s the kind of rock single you can jam for whatever temperament you’re in. I’m also in love the male/female vocal combo – it just gives these guys so much more dynamics. Ugh, I love this song!