In no particular order and almost guaranteed to have songs missing. I’m not good at authority, even if that authority is my own.
Let’s do this.
“Lemonade” – Nicole Dollanganger
This is what Lana Del Rey wanted to convey with “Video Games” and fell short of. Transports you to a pink suburban bedroom and the creep of desperate isolation instantly.
“Figure 8” – FKA Twigs
Is this the best song from the M3L155X (pronounced “Melissa”) EP? Maybe not.
Does it stand out even on the flawless 16 minutes of beauty and perfection that is M3L155X? Yup.
Am I totally enthralled by Twigs, her every breakdown, every manicured flick of her fingers, every sibilant hiss-whisper? Sure.
I mean, why fight it?
“Jellyfish” – Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson was kind of known for her gentle (and meticulously crafted) singer-songwriter approach to guitar rock, and then she released an album called Cocksure, and this was the first single from it, and all of a sudden Laura Stevenson was introducing us to a different Laura Stevenson, one that put all of her flaws and asshole-y provocations on display and was upfront about being a misanthropic wretch, accompanied by some of the sunniest alterna-pop of the year, and it worked brilliantly and she never sounded more like herself.
“On Fire” – Angel Haze
Dirty Gold (Angel Haze’s first full-length record, released in 2013) was kind of a mess, but Haze came back three months ago with mixtape Back To The Woods. It reclaims the ferociousness that first caught listeners’ ears at the beginning of their career, and it reclaims and makes powerful what was, by all accounts, a brutal year in their life.
It transfers that power and swagger to the listener. I can’t stop listening to it, anyway.
“Tilted” – Christine and The Queens
I only fell for this song two weeks ago, but wow, did I fall HARD. What catalyzed the process was this video – I had heard the song before then, never listening very attentively, but when I sought out and watched this music video, suddenly it had my complete attention.
Some people might argue that’s the sign of a bad song but a good clip, and up to a point they might be right. However, there are some songs that open up to you by way of their visual accompaniment, and this is one of them. The spare, poetic choreography, for one, but also the minimalism, the suit and loafers as statement of intent/uniform, the spaciousness of the music as reflected in the visuals. This has an impact far beyond the sum of its parts.
“In For The Kill” – Shamir
We all want to hang out with Shamir, right?
Ratchet caught me off-guard with its awesomeness and the sheer fun that Shamir sounds like they’re having. I love the maximalism, the throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks approach, the perfect pop songwriting, the cheeky delivery.
And anyone who declares “…I have no gender, no sexuality, and no fucks to give” is truly a hero in my eyes.
“A New Name” – Pleasure Leftists
Pleasure Leftists caught me by surprise this year too. I was at a La Luna gig, and they were one of two opening bands.
Singer Haley Morris (I didn’t realize who she was at the time) was skulking around the stage between sets, looking a little sketchy, wearing an early ’90s-style windbreaker and generally seeming a bit out of place.
Then she shed the jacket, took the stage with her bandmates, and belted out a set that reminded me of the best late-’70s post punk in the most freshly modern way.
“Hinterland” – LoneLady
LoneLady (aka Julie Campbell) still really flies under the post-punk revival radar, and it’s hard to work out why.
Hinterland, her second solo album, builds brilliantly on the spare grooves of 2010’s Nerve Up. She’s really found her niche here – the music is as funky as the lyrics are exploratory and industrial. And I mean industrial literally – as homage to Manchester’s crumbling, derelict architecture and vacant factory spaces, it’s a walking tour with an addictive beat.
“Hell You Talmbout” – Janelle Monáe and Wondaland Records
I’m not actually sure that a protest song belongs on this list, as its gravity and social relevance doesn’t really befit a best-of-whatever style listicle. This format is way too crass for this song.
THAT SAID, I wanted to include this to get people to listen to it and because, even among protest songs, it is outstanding.
Obviously the song that gave me the most bone-deep shivers this year.
“The Answer” – Savages
SAVAGES ARE MY VERY VERY FAVOURITE BAND RIGHT NOW AND I’M SEEING THEM IN APRIL I MIGHT EXPLODE.
If the show is even slightly like the shoot for this video I will die, and die exquisitely happy.