Tuesday, 30 December 2014
The Best Tracks of 2014: 50-26
50. The Preatures - Is This How You Feel?
Those of us eagerly awaiting a new HAIM album had our collective limbo soothed by this gem from Australia's hottest new band. The verses are wonderfully restrained, the chorus near-ecstatic.
49. DJ Milktray - Hotel
Rhythm and grime - or R'n'G - made a big comeback this year, and this Cassidy/R. Kelly edit was one of the main players. I lost track of the number of times I listened to the radio rip of 'Hotel', so I was pretty happy when it finally got a proper release.
48. Finn - Keep Calling
The other massive R'n'G tune in 2014 was Finn's excellent Ginuwine/Aaliyah flip. Hearing it played out was always a treat, especially at Boxed, London's best instrumental grime night.
47. Cloud Nothings - I'm Not Part of Me
This indie rock break-up anthem had more hooks than a cloakroom, and was the most immediate and infectious single on an album without a moment of filler. Play loud.
46. Perfect Pussy - Interference Fits
Meredith Graves' intense lyrics are buried under searing distortion, occasionally forcing their way to the surface. Dig deep - there's real poetry under these thrashing waves:
"In the same way that shame changes love and we know it / like your body moves into mine and outgrows it / and splits me from mouth down to thigh like a gun / what am I doing with somebody's son?"
45. Sia - Chandelier
Sia might have done her best to keep out of the limelight, but there was never any holding this song back. The way she belts out that chorus seems totally at odds with her reclusive persona, and it has lost very little of its considerable power through repeated plays.
44. JLSXND7RS + Trends - The Undertaker (feat. Flirta D)
From ciphers to raves, the instrumental of The Undertaker was pretty much inescapable this year, but we loved Flirta D's crazy bars too much to leave his version off the list.
43. Tinashe - 2 On (feat. Schoolboy Q)
Tinashe is a true star in the making. Here she teams up with man of the year DJ Mustard, who softens his trademark snaps and kicks for 2014's best R&B single. Try and ignore that mood-spoiling Q verse, and let yourself float away on the year's softest ode to turning up.
42. Evian Christ - Salt Carousel
The moment when we realised just how much talented young producer Joshua Leary had taken away from his work on the Yeezus sessions. Tearing into the HudMo/Rustie template like a drill through sheet metal.
41. Cheatahs - Fall
Cheatahs combined great songwriting with lessons learnt from all your favourite shoegaze bands to give us a fine debut album. Alternating between ethereal wash, twinkling guitars and a thick, sludgy riff, 'Fall' covered all the bases.
40. Bob Mould - I Don't Know You Anymore
Mould's album Beauty & Ruin left us a little cold this year, but at least he gave us one song that ranks up there with the classics. Like all the best power-pop songs, it sounds like it's been around forever.
39. Bobby Shmurda - Hot Nigga
How many lives has this song had already? The Vine clip that spawned a thousand imitators. The dance seen everywhere from NBA games to late-night TV. A lifeline for DJs everywhere. New York does drill too, it's just more quotable.
38. Hudson Mohawke - Chimes
HudMo by numbers? Not a problem when you're cranking out widescreen trap bangers that sound just as good in an Apple commercial as they do over club sound systems. Everything's tweaked slightly into the red. Ignore the vocal remix and head straight for the instrumental.
37. Nicki Minaj - Anaconda
A novelty song sampling another novelty song, even by Minaj's own admission. I reckon that's selling both 'Anaconda' and 'Baby Got Back' pretty short. Novelty songs haven't got replay value and, well, I couldn't stop listening to either this year. An iconic song with the video to match. Dial 1-900-NICKI.
36. Meridian Dan - German Whip (feat. Big H & JME)
In 2014 felt like grime was flirting with the mainstream for the first time in ages, and this tune was one of the main reasons why. 'German Whip' has been around for well over a year now, but this time it got the push from PMR Records who evidently saw a lot more life in it. They weren't wrong.
35. Future - Benz Friendz (Whatchutola) (feat. André 3000)
'Benz Friendz' is on this list mainly because it's such a treat to hear André rapping over Mr. DJ production once again. That said, Future's call-and-response with 3 Stacks is a welcome reminder of why so many first rushed to dub him the new intergalactic prince of Atlanta.
34. Fekky - Still Sittin' Here (All-Star Remix)
The original with Dizzee is pretty great, but the remix speeds up the beat and, hell, throws ten new MCs on for fun. The chemistry is palpable - the video with everyone larking around in the studio makes it even more apparent. More group efforts like this please!
33. Miss Modular - Reflector Pack (8 Bar)
After PC Music, our favourite new label this year was Her Records. Drawing on everything from grime to ballroom to Jersey club, they put out killer releases from Sudanim and CYPHR, but Miss Modular's 'Reflector Pack' was the MVP. We've gone for the 8 Bar, but the 4/4 version is great too.
32. The Bug - Dirty (feat. Flowdan)
The Bug, aka Kevin Martin, teams up with his most frequent collaborator for this rowdy dancehall tune. Capping off the excellent Angels & Devils album in style, a chorus of muted horns surround Flowdan as he reels off menacing bars like "Someone's gonna get fucked up again so mark these words with a fountain pen."
31. Rustie - Attak (feat. Danny Brown)
The pair's previous collaborations gave us just a hint of what to expect. Rustie's beat is a masterclass in tension and release, while some of Danny's funniest lyrics ("whipping out that Black & Decker / putting lean in my Dr Pepper") are obscured by his frenetic double-time flow. An easy album highlight, Danny and Rustie got the game on lock like they changed the keys.
30. Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang
A proper team effort, with everyone bringing their own style to the track. Nicki momentarily threatens to steal the show with her verse, but then Jessie absolutely nails those high notes going into the last chorus. Hit of the summer.
29. iLoveMakonnen - Club Goin Up on a Tuesday
Drake's valuable co-sign helped to draw attention to Atlanta's newest breakout artist, but Makonnen ultimately won our hearts with his relatable, everyman lyrics. Sonny Digital's woozy beat helped to ensure that Tuesday nights will never be the same again.
28. SOPHIE - LEMONADE
The bane of dull techno-bloggers, LEMONADE more than earns its all-caps treatment. It had been floating around in mixes for ages, but its release this summer spawned a hundred think-pieces about the new pop underground. The sound design is impeccable - the future is fizzy.
27. DJ Rashad - We On 1
Released just days after Rashad Harden's sudden passing, the bleak turn-up mantra of 'We On 1' will be forever tinged with a note of sadness. The track takes his usual production trademarks - heavy bass, 160bpm juke rhythms, an incongruous Steely Dan sample - and executes its ideas perfectly. RIP the footwork king of Chicago.
26. Ariana Grande - Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea)
No matter that the horns seem ripped straight from this or even this, 'Problem' is an undeniable kiss-off. Grande is on top form - seriously, she has one of the strongest and most versatile voices in the charts right now. Oh, and the whispered hook comes courtesy of an uncredited Big Sean...