Our 20 Favorite Songs of 2014

Although we’re already a few days into the New Year, we’ve been asked to select our top 20 songs for the past year. We’ve been pretty happy with the choices of indie music of 2014, which has been arguably the best year since 2009.

So for all the goodness without a lot of loquaciousness, here’s our Favorite 20 of 2014 (in no particular order).

1.  Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

This is the number-one song on Sirius XMU‘s Top 41 of 2014, and for good reason.  This up-beat indie gem has all the chord-changes in exactly the right spots, a powerful chorus, and one head-scratchin’ ironic video to accompany it. This should be destined to be a classic.

2.  Perfume Genius – “Queen”

Dark, brooding, and absolutely beautiful, Perfect Genius came up with the perfect angst-anthem of the year.

3.  Che-Val – “My Beat”

We are completely smitten with the debut song we found on Twitter from husband-and-wife duo Kenny and Laura Cash from Connecticut. Che-Val‘s fun retro romp harkening back to ebullient pop of the ’80s is an impressive way to bust out of the gate.

4.  TV On The Radio – “Happy Idiot”
5.  TV On The Radio – “Careful You”

Synth-pop is rarely better than what TV On The Radio has put out in the past year on their sixth album “Seeds.” They knocked two out of the park with the perky “Happy Idiot” and the hypnotic “Careful You.”

6.  tUnE-yArDs – “Water Fountain”

This is truly Merrill Garbus‘s world we’re living in, and we’re okay with that. The Connecticut puppeteer has come up with an eclectic, eccentric, and completely original sound filled with intense passion and hilarity. While the album is great, tUnE-yArDs must be seen live to fully appreciate.

7.  Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”

We first heard Sylvan Esso when they opened for tUnE-yArDs at the Republic New Orleans.  Singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn were rather scruffy, looking like they stopped by the venue to play a few tunes between loads of laundry.  Regardless, the North Carolina duo were thoroughly mesmerizing, and their song about our favorite beverage only made us love them more.

8.  Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”

There’s something seriously ’60s about Alvvay‘s “Archie, Marry Me.” Is she singing about Riverdale’s favorite red-headed doofus? Probably not, but we’d like to think it’s Betty Cooper pining over Archie Andrews while gazing out the window into a warm afternoon rain and holding her Pee-Chee close to her sweatered breast. Ah, innocence…

9.  Empathy Test – “Throwing Stones”

Simply gorgeous. The debut single from Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf of Brooklyn’s Stars & Letters label is reminiscent of delicious ’80s synth pop like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Depeche Mode. We look forward to great things from this London-based duo in the years to come.

10.  We Are Temporary featuring Misfit Mod – “Machine Love”

We’re mad for this dark thriller that’s a collaboration of two severely underrated Stars & Letters acts, We Are Temporary and Misfit Mod (stage name for Sarah Kelleher). You should be, too.

11.  Foxygen – “How Can You Really”

Break out the go-go boots and hot pants, the sounds of the late ’60s/early ’70s is back! California-based Jonathan Rado and Sam France‘s sound conjures up long-lost audio images of Haight-Ashbury salad days pop at its finest.

12.  BABYMETAL – “Death”

Nobody, and we mean absolutely nobody, knows what to make of Japanese death metal act, BABYMETAL.  Fronted by three super-cute teenage girls (Suzuka Nakamoto as “Su-metal,” Yui Mizuno as “Yuimetal,” and Moa Kikuchi as “Moametal“) and backed by the hardcore grind of exceptionally good death metal riffs, you just don’t know how to react when you experience what is being slapped across your face. This genre is ordinary ruled by hairy ghouls who sound like Cookie Monster and look like one of Satan‘s minions, not fresh-faced angels in pig tails. BABYMETAL is a great novelty bringing a breath of fresh air to a rigid genre not known for irony, but it will only last as long as the girls are teens.

13.  Saint Pepsi – “Fiona Coyne”

If you hail from some snowy areas like most of us here, you may have childhood memories of riding in your parents’ car on sunny winter Saturday afternoons listening to really cool songs on the local radio station, and everything in Kid-dom is perfect. This song reminds us of that.

14.  Sleater-Kinney – “Bury Our Friends”

The Portland trio Sleater-Kinney is back. Wow, are they ever back. This teaser was released just before the year’s end in advance of their Jan. 20 release of their new album No Cities To Love.

15.  Interpol – “All The Rage Back Home”

That Jimmy Finnerty really knew his bands. For those who don’t remember, he was the Interpol-loving middle child played by Griffin Frazen in the underrated, off-beat ’00s TV show Grounded For Life. Interpol hasn’t lost a single step from their earlier days, and this masterpiece juxtaposed with dark and upbeat riffs is evidence of that fact.

16.  Phantogram – “Fall In Love”

How can anyone not fall in love with this tasty bit of synthpop? The only thing we didn’t fall in love with was Phantogram‘s overuse of strobe lights at their live shows, but they hit the mark perfectly with this dreamy tune.

17.  Sun Kil Moon – “Ben’s My Friend”

Perfect song for a summer road trip.  It made us want to be 20 and irresponsible again so we could drive our crappy cars across Jack Kerouac‘s America discovering angel-headed hipsters and cool jazz kicks.

18.  SBTRKT/Ezra Koenig – “New Dorp, New York”

So New Dorp is actually a place in New York. Who knew? I want to go there. Is it just me, or does anyone else think this would fit nicely on a Paul Simon album?

19.  Chelsea Light Moving – “Groovy and Linda”

We always thought the hippies of the ’60s were mostly posers along for the ride, but they seemed to have a great time regardless. Thurston Moore, formerly of the legendary art-noise band Sonic Youth, captures that pretty well in his own uniquely dissonant way.

20.  Spoon – “Do You”

A great comeback, a great song, and a great way to end a Top 20 list.

BABYMETAL indication of new hardcore genre?

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Japan’s oddest super-girl band BABYMETAL is garnering a lot of attention from music fans and the media with more than 3.7 million views on YouTube of its Gimme Chocolate video and several articles in the press about the group’s growing phenomenon.  Is a trio of cutsy Japanese teens (Suzuka Nakamoto, 16; Moa Kikuchi Kawai, 14; and Yui Mizuno, 14) signing sugary sweet pop lyrics over surprisingly hardcore death metal a sign of Kawaii Metal coming of age, or are they just a novelty act that will be largely forgotten in the next few years?

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Dom Lawson of The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. is unsure, but opines that “BABYMETAL are as demented and perverse a pop confection as anything in living memory, and yet the whole thing is delivered with such vitality and verve that resistance is effectively futile.”

FRIDAY 5 ACROSS THE LIPS: Awesome Sub-genres You Never Knew Exsisted

sanford The Friday 5 Across the Lips will showcase a different theme every week, and highlight five songs within that theme. This week: Awesome sub-genres you never knew existed…

1.  Kawaii Metal

Japan does weird much better than we do here in the United States.  For such a disciplined, repressed culture, they have an uncanny ability to take their pop culture to the outer limits.  Kawaii is an aspect of Japanese culture that celebrates the cute, cuddly, and adorable (Hello Kitty and Pikachu didn’t happen by accident).  So only in Japan does it make sense to combine cutesy and death metal.  The result is Babymetal, a band that features three teenage girls bouncing around the stage belting out pop lyrics to dark, grinding heavy metal, (such as the song above, “Gimme Chocolate,” which extols the yumminess of chocolate to pounding death metal riffs).

2.  Crazy Cat Lady Jazz

Some believe there is a place between brilliant and bonkers, and it’s apparently Karen Mantler.  Jazz musician and singer Mantler has built a whole career based on four albums completely dedicated to her cat Arnold, including 1988’s My Cat Arnold; 1990’s Karen Mantler and Her Cat Arnold Get the Flu; 1996’s Farewell (a tribute to Arnold’s death), and finally 1999’s Karen Mantler’s Pet Project. Despite the eccentricities filtered through her bizarre and pervasive sense of humor, Mantler has a keen sense of song structure, and a dark affinity for minor keys.  Regardless, Mantler single-handedly created a meaningful, deeply personal subgenre of music for a misunderstood demographic.

3.  Puppet Hip-Hop

Perhaps the most amazing of all hip hop.  Back in the ’80s, the hip-hop genre was relatively new and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, including puppets.  Rapping is difficult enough when you have flesh and blood mouth, but puppets busting rhymes with their wooden lips are otherworldly. Biological science tells us flesh and muscles work best for rapping; however, these brilliant puppets must use soft, pliable wood such as pine or balsam.  Regardless, it’s freaking awesome. Many times I’ve tried to mimic Eminem and ended up sounding like Mushmouth from Fat Albert.  This makes Mr. Wood here from MC 900 Ft. Jesus all the more astounding.

4.  Cowpunk

Sometime in the late ’70s I heard a comedy bit about a new genre of music called Punk Country where a cheeky, twangy singer crooned “I wanna do your cow/Show me how/I wanna see her moo/So do you.”  Punk was relatively new at the time, and the prospect of angry music from the working class sections of cities making its way to the sounds of rural America seemed hilariously absurd.  Fast forward a few years when I discovered a psychobilly band calling themselves simply X who mashed up high-energy country music with deliciously ironic punk lyrics.  It wasn’t long before I found other bands blasting cowpunk/psychobilly, such as Mojo Nixon, The Beat Farmers, and The Blasters.  Punk was no longer confined to the industrial sections of major cities as angry, ironic working-class country kids now had a voice.

5.  Math Rock

Math Rock is truly a sub-genre for those who just think too damned much.  Most people believe Math Rock is something they watched on Saturday mornings back in the ’70s, but it’s actually an offshoot of progressive and hardcore music of the late ’80s.  Eschewing the traditional 4/4 meter, Math Rockers usually aim for more asymmetric time signatures such as  7/8, 11/8, or 13/8.  No, I’m not making that up.  I actually researched it and typed what I found.  Being as I’m not a musician, I have no idea what the hell any of that means, but I do know that Math Rock differs from most music in that it uses irregular rhythms, unusual guitar fragments, and exceptionally complex composition.  So nerd-up if you can handle the C8H18 + O2 —>CO2 + H2O, bro.