12. How To Dress Well, "& It Was U"
I love the sparseness of this song, the best track off of How To Dress Well's>"/>
12. How To Dress Well, "& It Was U"
I love the sparseness of this song, the best track off of How To Dress Well's exquisite Total Loss album; a series of beats and snaps come together with Tom Krell's shivering vocal harmonies to create an incredibly sexy, modern new jack swing sound.
11. Fiona Apple, "Hot Knife"
It took me some time to choose just one favorite song from Fiona Apple's extraordinary new album, The Idler Wheel... "Every Single Night" is one of her most memorable singles, and it's hard to overlook the startling rage of "Daredevil." But I kept coming back around the album's closer, "Hot Knife," the song I missed the most when Apple performed at the Paramount last July. The ringing vocal harmonies she performs with her sister, Maude Maggart, are hypnotic, and although the song sounds different than anything else Apple has ever done, the fiery, demanding, imagistic lyrics--"I'm a hot knife if he's a pad of butter/If I get a chance, I'm gonna show him that/He's never gonna need, never need another"--are classic Fiona.
10. Deep Sea Diver, "NWO"
Deep Sea Diver's debut album History Speaks was, by leaps and bounds, my favorite local album of the year. "NWO" was the perfect choice for its first single--it's an unforgettably dramatic song that encapsulates all the precision and elegance that characterizes this band. (PS. Acoustic bonus).
9. Grizzly Bear, "Yet Again"
This might be the catchiest song Grizzly Bear's ever released; being a pop fan, that pleases me. The singalong chorus combines with robust guitar and jittery keyboards, resulting in a beautifully mystic sound. It was one of many highlights at Grizzly Bear's set at the Paramount last October.
8. Frank Ocean, "Thinkin Bout You"
When it comes to me and channel ORANGE, "Pyramids" was infectious, but "Thinkin Bout You" touched me on a deep level that a Top 40 song hasn't in a long time. Ocean's falsetto shimmers like clean water, and the ache that comes from listening to him singing the rapturous words is proof that this song is a work of art.
7. Father John Misty, "Only Son of The Ladiesman"
For its innovation, color, and memorability, Fear Fun was my number one album of the year. Its gapless string of great songs, songs that reverberate with truth and cheek, also makes it difficult to pick just one favorite. I went with "Only Son of The Ladiesman" on the merit of the above, game-changing performance alone.
6. Miguel, "Do You..."
Miguel's honey-sweet breakout single, "Adorn," is a fabulous song. But his album Kaleidoscope Dream contains another track that hooked me even more. "Do You..." is a wooing love song (I love the imagistic lines "What about matinee movies and pointless secrets/Midnight summers, swim private beaches?") that flirtatiously asks questions with obvious answers ("Do you like hugs? Do you like love?"), and Miguel's smooth, subtle swagger is so appealing that a line like "I wanna do you like drugs tonight" comes off as audacious instead of offensive.
5. Jessie Ware, "Wildest Moments"
Jessie Ware's Devotion was the year's most sensual record, and the poignancy of "Wildest Moments" still takes my breath away. Ware's warm, rich voice conveys the song's intimacy--"You and I/Bloodlines/We come together every time"--and the struggling optimism of its chorus--"Baby, in our wildest moments/We could be the greatest/We could be the greatest." By capturing both close love and sorrow, the song tells an honest story of true romance.
4. Solange, "Losing You"
Solange Knowles, an R&B singer whose older sister happens to be the world's greatest R&B singer, is in something of a tough position in terms of living in shadows, making her own name, etc. None of that shows in her brilliant, exuberant single "Losing You." The song fuses a funky beat, handclaps, a weird squawking sound, and Solange's even, calm vocals into something moving, tinged with melancholy, and utterly fresh. My favorite dance track of the year.
3. Pure Bathing Culture, "Lucky One"
Pure Bathing Culture was the best new band I discovered this year and also probably the band I saw live the most times this year. My favorite of their songs is one that is unreleased--they perform it live, it's called "Dream the Dare," and it will hopefully surface on a full-length album--but every song on their self-titled EP is gorgeous. "Ivory Coast," the single, got the most plays on my iPod--its easy rhythm, swooning guitar, glittering vocals, and super-romantic lyrics ("I know that you will love me 'til my eyes do close/You're what I love the most") make for pure magic. Can't wait for that album.
2. Sky Ferreira, "Everything Is Embarrassing"
Sky Ferreira has been due for pop stardom for sometime--she's got a great voice, she's from LA, she grew up around close family friend Michael Jackson, she caught the attention of the Swedish songwriting duo Bloodshy & Avant when she was just 14. Ferreira is now 20, and on her new EP Ghost, she tries on many hats--there's a folksy ballad ("Sad Dream"), a Hole-reminiscent rocker ("Red Lips"). They're good songs, but they're overshadowed by "Everything Is Embarrassing," the incandescent electro-pop track that should mark the start of a noteworthy career for Ferreira. The song's icy beat and wistful verses lead into a heated, tumbling chorus that manages to be simultaneously flippant and heartfelt ("I've been hating everything/Everything that could have been/Could have been my anything/Now everything's embarrassing"), like they're being sung by a person who's been burned and is now holding you at arm's length. "Everything Is Embarrassing" is fluid, alluring, and begs for repeat listens--it's a gold standard of pop songs. (PS. Live!)
1. Dum Dum Girls, "Lord Knows"
All of my breakups have had soundtracks. When I split with my college boyfriend, I walked around for a good while listening to Fiona Apple's "Sleep To Dream" on repeat on my iPod. (I was angry). This year, I went through a breakup, but I wasn't angry. I was just sort of flooded with sadness, the way you might feel at a funeral--I felt like I was mourning the loss of something dead. Dum Dum Girls' End of Daze--which I've lauded on this blog--almost exactly crystallized that sentiment. It's a series of breakup songs, but it's not bitter or mean-spirited. It plays like a lovely, thoughtful funeral elegy. The solemn, echoing atmosphere, the siren-song vocals, and the radiant chorus of "Lord Knows" all coalesced into something that acted as a cleansing agent for me. I adopted the song's opening lines as something of a personal mantra--"I want to live a pure life/I'd say that it's about time." And the song's transformation of sadness into something poetic and wondrously beautiful made me believe in what one line promises: "The day we wake up feeling clear." It was an act of music as transcendence.