Top 50 Albums of 2016

Sure it may be a full week into 2017, and about two weeks after my songs list, but I finally completed my top 50 albums of 2016 list.

I’ve also put together a playlist of all the recommended tracks, so if you’re feeling like wasting 12 and a half hours, here is a link to the Spotify playlist. 

Enjoy


* Denotes that an album is not on Spotify for some bullshit reason

50. Local Natives – Sunlit Youth

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A solid follow-up album, but nothing spectacular. Almost works better as background coffee-shop music than something to sit down and listen to.

Recommended Tracks: Villainy, Past Lives, Coins

49. Gonjasufi – Callus

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Calling this lo-fi would be generous. Gonjasufi has gone darker and more distorted than his past work, creating an lengthy album with some moments of brilliance but also many moments that fall flat.

Recommended Tracks: Maniac Depressant, The Conspiracy, The Kill

48. Tim Hecker – Love Streams

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Tim Hecker sure has a style. His complex orchestration of mini-layers create an album that teases cohesion but never fully reaches it.

Recommended Tracks: Castrati Stack, Music of the Air, Up Red Bull Creek

47. BADBADNOTGOOD – IV

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Since they started, BADBADNOTGOOD have always let their guests take over the sound of a song. Rather than forcing the guest into the style of a BBNG song, the Colin Stetson / Samuel Herring songs sound like Colin Stetson / Future Island songs, but they still manage to lay down solid tracks with no features.

Recommended Tracks: Confessions Pt II, Time Moves Slow, IV

46. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Soundtrack

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Much like the TV show it backs, this album is nothing revolutionary, but just a very well executed take on a familiar concept.

Recommended Tracks: Kids, Biking To School, Fresh Blood

45. LNZNDRF – LNZNDRF

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The other brothers of The National put together a solid record, one that creates hazy atmospheres from track to track without a need for massive climaxes.

Recommended Tracks: Beneath the Black Sea, Future You, Hypno-Skate

44. Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust

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There are some beautiful concepts on this album, I just wish Kishi Bashi would stop ruining songs with the word ‘lover’ and stop writing songs about board games.

Recommended Tracks: Can’t Let Go Juno, Hey Big Star, Flame on Flame (a Slow Dirge)

43. Wild Nothing – Life of Pause

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Every single song that Wild Nothing creates makes me feel like I’m driving with my windows down through nature in the summer.

Recommended Tracks: Reichpop, Life of Pause, To Know You

42. Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack

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Frightened Rabbit can still write a sad song, but the variations are close to running out.

Recommended Tracks: Woke Up Hurting, Death Dream, An Otherwise Disappointing Life

41. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

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Yup, still sounds like Bushwick.

Recommended Tracks: Human Performance, Dust, Berlin Got Blurry

40. James Blake – The Colour In Anything

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The main recurring knock for albums in 2016 is that many of them are bloated with excess songs. After releases with 10 and 12 songs on them, James Blake comes back with a 17 track behemoth. While many selections on this album are worthy, the album would be far better if he were to cut about 5 songs worth of chaff.

Recommended Tracks: I Need A Forest Fire, Radio Silence, My Willing Heart

39. White Lung  – Paradise

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Similar to White Lung’s previous effort, this album excels in its brevity. This quick and fast paced punk offering is in-and-out in the perfect length of just under 30 minutes.

Recommended Tracks: Dead Weight, Kiss Me When I Bleed, Sister

38. KAYTRANADA – 99.9%

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Kaytranada does a fantastic job of mixing some electronic sounds in with the soul and funk themes throughout the whole album.

Recommended Tracks: GLOWED UP, TRACK UNO, GOT IT GOOD

37. Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat

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I happened to see Xenia Rubinos open for Battles a little more than a year ago, and was looking forward to her new album ever since. Usually the tracks just consist of drums, a synth and vocals, but she somehow makes each part feel grander than it is.

Recommended Tracks: Mexican Chef, Right?, Lonely Lover

36. The Weeknd – Starboy

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Another bloated album by a good artist. There is absolutely no reason this should be 18 songs long, especially since it falls off tremendously in the second half. However, the top 8 songs on this album are some of The Weeknd’s best work in years.

Recommended Tracks: I Feel It Coming, Party Monster, Six Feet Under

35. Nicolas Jaar – Sirens

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The most impactful songs on this album are the 6+ minute long tracks that Nicolas Jaar gives time to evolve and grow with time.

Recommended Tracks: Wildflowers*, No, Three Sides of Nazareth

34. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP

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At only 4 songs, Ritual Spirit is a true EP, and a fantastic one at that. Each cut of this EP is wholly different from the last, but still maintains a cohesive feel throughout.

Recommended Tracks: Voodoo In My Blood, Dead Editors, Ritual Spirit

33. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

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I loved half of this album and didn’t mind the other half (with the exception of California, that song is an abomination). Donald Glover tries his hand at soul with a Funkadelic-influence sound, and on Awaken, My Love! he succeeds more often than not.

Recommended Tracks: Redbone, Me and Your Mama, Baby Boy

32. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

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Another album where I genuinely enjoy the top cuts, but some songs just don’t do it for me. While lush with gospel vocal arrangements, Coloring Book excels when Chance is having fun, rather than preaching.

Recommended Tracks: Angels, No Problem, Summer Friends

31. The Avalanches – Wildflower

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A welcome return from an extended hibernation. The main difference between this and Since I Left You is the addition of guest vocalists. There’s nothing transformative here, but I’m also not sure if that’s what The Avalanches were going for. Its an extremely fun record that could have been released in 2001 and would have fit right in.

Recommended Tracks: Colours, Because I’m Me, The Wozard of Iz

30. Wilco – Schmilco

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By far Wilco’s simplest album. Even though they’re older and less experimental, Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline can still write impactful music.

Recommended Tracks: If I Ever Was a Child, Normal American Kids, Someone to Lose

29. Gordi – Clever Disguise EP

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Gordi was a pleasant surprise of an discovery in 2016. Her five song EP shows her capability of writing engaging but sparse arrangements to compliment her voice. I’m looking forward to her full LP hopefully coming soon.

Recommended Tracks: Can We Work It Out, Wanting, So Here We Are

28. Beyoncé – LEMONADE*

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Beyonce tried on every style of music within 12 tracks, and most of them succeeded. Her work with Jack White, James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, and The Weeknd all are all successes, but the middle section of the album falls flat during the DADDY LESSONS, LOVE DROUGHT, and SANDCASTLES stretch.

Recommended Tracks: FREEDOM, HOLD UP, SORRY

27. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered. 

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This album of castoffs and loosies is better than the majority of rap albums released this year. It’s a clear continuation of his sound on TPAB and Kendrick can still bring it.

Recommended Tracks: untitled 03 | 05.28.2013., untitled 02 | 06.30.2014., untitled 07 | 2014-2016

26. Preoccupations – Preoccupations

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Name change controversy aside, Preoccupations is a incredibly solid follow-up. There is nothing mindblowingly unique about it, but each and every song captivates attention even with their driving and drone-y length.

Recommended Tracks: Zodiac, Memory, Anxiety

25. Injury Reserve – Floss

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One of the last entries of 2016, Injury Reserve came through with a more mature effort on their sophomore album. Along with the surprise RTJ3, December was a fantastic month for hip-hop.

Recommended Tracks: All This Money, Oh Shit!, Keep on Slippin, Look Mama I Did It

24. Steve Hauschilds – Strands

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Arpeggios. Arpeggios everywhere.

Recommended Tracks: Same River Twice, Ketracel, Time We Have, Strands

23. Pinegrove – Cardinal

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One of the few indie rock records released this year that actually left an impact. I can easily foresee Pinegrove becoming the next indie darling in the years to come.

Recommended Tracks: Old Friends, Cadmium, Visiting, New Friends

22. Mitski – Puberty 2

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Mitski is the master of being as quiet or as loud as is perfectly needed.

Recommended Tracks: Your Best American Girl, I Bet on Losing Dogs, Fireworks, Crack Baby

21. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

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Is there anybody that puts out more quality music than Will Toledo? Teens of Denial has some fantastic indie-rock moments, but it could also afford some heavy editing.

Recommended Tracks: Vincent, Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales, Fill In The Blank, Destroyed By Hippie Powers

20. Jesu / Sun Kil Moon – Jesu / Sun Kil Moon

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Sun Kil Moon clearly isn’t for everybody. The best songs on this album are the quieter songs, with ambient or acoustic guitar backings, and Mark Kozelek doing what he does best and rambling about everything and nothing at all.

Recommended Tracks: Beautiful You, Father’s Day, America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek, Exodus

19. Vince Staples – Prima Donna

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Could Vince Staples make bad music if he tried?

Recommended Tracks: War Ready, Pimp Hand, Prima Donna, Big Time

18. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

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If 2016 had an MVP award, it might go to Anderson .Paak. Not just for his excellent release Malibu, but for his guest work on other albums. Expect to hear Anderson on 15 chart topping songs in 2017.

Recommended Tracks: Get Down, Heart Don’t Stand A Chance, The Season / Carry Me, Am I Wrong

17. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

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Bullshit will-they-won’t-they-release-it semantics aside, they delivered with Bottomless Pit. It has the signature Death Grips sound, but as weird as it is to say, it might be their most accessible album to date.

Recommended Tracks: BB Poison, Bubbles Buried In This Jungle, Houdini, Ring A Bell

16. Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION Side B

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With the exception of Store (mainly the grating chorus), each one of these tracks could easily have made the final cut of E-MO-TION. The 80’s still ooze out of each song, with lush synths adding the finishing touches. Carly Rae Jepsen is still making the best pop music right now.

Recommended Tracks: Fever, Roses, First Time, Cry

15. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP

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If this album was 6 songs shorter, it might be 10 places higher. Schoolboy Q’s aggressive vibe is matched by his beat choice. Also, can we all agree in 2017 to stop letting E-40 as a guest rapper on songs? He ruins every single track he is on.

Recommended Tracks: Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane, Str8 Ballin, Tookie Knows II, By Any Means

14. Solange – A Seat at the Table

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I usually don’t like skits, but on A Seat at the Table they actually serve a purpose creating a cohesive narrative. Solange wrote the whole album as a story, and succeeds perfectly. An immaculately crafted record.

Recommended Tracks: Cranes In The Sky, Don’t You Wait, Don’t Touch My Hair, Don’t Wish Me Well

13. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

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As I’ve written time and time again this year, this album could have been better if it was edited down a bit. Some of Blood Orange’s best songs are buried within the 17 songs. Dev Hynes is so damn good at creating a feeling of warmth with his songwriting.

Recommended Tracks: Hands Up, Augustine, E.V.P., Better Than Me

12. David Bowie – Blackstar

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A beautiful and fitting farewell to one of the music’s most important pioneers.

Recommended Tracks: Lazarus, Blackstar, I Can’t Give Everything Away, Dollar Days

11. Noname – Telefone

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Such a fantastic debut album. Noname knows she has a nailed a sound and nearly perfects it on her first attempt. He style is low key, soulful, and buttery smooth. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Recommended Tracks: Yesterday, Diddy Bop, All I Need, Bye Bye Baby

10. DEAKIN – SLEEP CYCLE

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Since Painting With was such a unmitigated disaster, I’m considering this the real Animal Collective release of the year. Deakin puts forth his much anticipated solo-effort, one that matches the heights that Animal Collective reached while he was a contributing member.

Recommended Tracks: JUST AM, GOLDEN CHORDS, GOOD HOUSE, FOOTY

9. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

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This album has the best and most out-there beats on any hip-hop record this year. What other rapper picks the beat for Dance in the Water or Ain’t It Funny? Also, Really Doe might be the best group track released this year, although Ab-Soul is still garbage. Danny Brown is only getting better.

Recommended Tracks: When It Rain, Really Doe, Pneumonia, Dance In The Water

8. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

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While this album can be a bit of a mess and confusing at times, its highs are some of the best of the year. The Sister Nancy sample at the end of Famous, Chance’s verse on Ultralight Beam, the icy synths on Freestyle 4, the first three minutes of 30 hours, the Kanye and Kendrick trade off on No More Parties in LA, and the beat drop on Father Stretch My Hands are all incredible. I just wish he could have removed some of the nonsense and made a more concise album.

Recommended Tracks: Ultralight Beam, Famous, No More Parties in LA, Real Friends

7. William Tyler – Modern Country

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This is my most played album of the year. William Tyler is so damn talented at creating an atmosphere made for a long road trip and getting lost. Sure he may have creepy long fingernails, but he couldn’t create songs with his trademark finger-plucked style without them.

Recommended Tracks: Highway Anxiety, Gone Clear, I’m Gonna Live Forever (If It Kills Me), Kingdom of Jones

6. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3

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What an unexpected but wonderful Christmas present. The opening five tracks to this record could not start the record on a better note with the best production El-P has ever done. The bad-cop / bad-cop style is one that RTJ has mastered completely. I’m still not sure how they manage to produce songs that hit like a brick and don’t get stale.

Recommended Tracks: Call Ticketron, Talk To Me, Thursday In The Danger Room, A Report To The Shareholders : Kill Your Masters

 

5. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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Not many artists really evolve their sound quicker than Bon Iver. With each album, Justin Vernon has added more instruments and more recording tweaks. If you told me when For Emma, Forever Ago was released that just two albums later he would write a song like 715 – CRΣΣKS, there was no possible way I would have believed it. Not only has he added these tricks, but he’s still writing compelling music.

Recommended Tracks: 29 #Strafford APTS, 33 “GOD”, 715 – CRΣΣKS, 8 (circle)

4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

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This record has weight. It’s heavy. It hurts. Nick Cave conveys emotion through his voice better than anybody. He doesn’t need more than some light backing to let his voice power through. If you watch him play these songs pull off his movie One More Time With Feeling you understand just how much of himself he poured into these songs.

Recommended Tracks: I Need You, Girl In Amber, Jesus Alone, Skeleton Tree

3. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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If this happens to be Radiohead’s final album, finally releasing a studio version of True Love Waits would be the way to do it. What began as almost a myth of a song, to having a studio live version with an acoustic guitar, to the final version with icy keys, is the ideal ending to either an album or a career. What a ride it’s been.

Recommended Tracks: Daydreaming, True Love Waits, The Numbers, Decks Dark

2. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

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After a nearly 20 year wait, and the far too soon passing of Phife Dawg, ATCQ could not have come back stronger. It’s almost unbelievable how incredible this record is. On top of hearing Q-Tip, Jarobi, and Phife all on the same track again, the next best thing that we get some prime Busta verses. 2016 wasn’t all bad after all.

Recommended Tracks: Dis Generation, The Space Program, Enough!, Lost Somebody

1. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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I loved channel ORANGE. It was my favorite album of 2012. So when I first listened through blonde I was a bit underwhelmed. It didn’t have the same immediacy or the same initial impact that I first felt listening to channel ORANGE. I took a break, waited a day, and then tried again. The second listen I liked it a bit more, and with each subsequent listen blonde got better and better. The subtly that Frank plays with on this album is so impressive. Songs like White Ferrari and Solo are barely anything more than Frank’s voice and one instrument, and they’re some of the most engaging songs of the year. I keep coming back to this album and I keep finding a new favorite moment. I railed against the overlong album often in these rankings, but Frank is the only one who delivered with each and every track. I have a feeling that this album will stick in my rotation for many more years.

Recommended Tracks: White Ferrari, Siegfried, Nights, Pink + White, Self Control

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Top 50 Songs of 2016

If I’ve learned one thing in 2016, it’s that trying to fill 100 slots with songs and albums that I like is next to impossible. I don’t like that many things. I’m back down to 50, which seems like it is far more manageable for both me and anybody reading this post. Leave a comment, text me, or yell at me in person if you think I’ve missed your favorite song this year. I can almost promise I didn’t do it on purpose.

Follow these links for the Spotify and Apple Music playlists of all the songs.

Enjoy,

~Zach


* Denotes that a song is not on Spotify for some bullshit reason

50. Rihanna – Desperado

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Rihanna’s voice melds so perfectly with the slow meandering beat.

49. Dinosaur Jr. – Be A Part

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J. Mascis’ voice may forever sound like he has cement in his nose when he sings, but he can still craft great rock songs with unbelievable solos.

48. Yeasayer – Gerson’s Whistle

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Amen & Goodbye was a bit of a mess at points, but Gerson’s Whistle is proof that Yeasayer can still write songs that are up to par with their past work.

47. Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die

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As a notable sucker for overtly depressing song lyrics, this song is right up my alley.

46. Frightened Rabbit – Woke Up Hurting

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Just like the Dawes song, but with an upbeat backing track!

45. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

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Human Performance is a bit more sing-songy than their past work, but they managed to make the style fit.

44. clipping. – Wriggle

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I’m just happy Daveed Diggs took time out of his day portraying one of America’s founding fathers in the most popular musical on the planet to produce a song about S&M.

43. Crystal Castles – Kept* 

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I thought Alice Glass’ departure would completely destroy Crystal Castles, and for the most part it did. However, this one song off the album is worth the listen. It’s an unique mix to Crystal Castle’s typical sound, with the vocal chopping and sampling over a house beat.

42. Jóhann Jóhannsson –  Heptapod B

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This might be on here because of how much I loved Arrival, but Jóhann Jóhannsson managed to craft a damn fine song with warping drums and non-lyrical vocals that fits this movie so well.

41. Wilco – If I Ever Was A Child

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Even when Wilco is playing it easy with simplistic songs, they are still able to create memorable and fully fleshed out ideas. The backing noodling guitar makes this song for me.

40. Mac Miller (feat. Anderson .Paak) – Dang!

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Trust me, this will not be the last time you see Anderson .Paak on this list. His style of singing really fits with this beat. The Mac Miller part is there too, I guess.

39. BADBADNOTGOOD (feat. Colin Stetson) – Confessions Pt. II

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This is another predictable outcome given my affinity for Colin Stetson. He’s my second favorite saxophonist working right now.

38. Beyoncé (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – FREEDOM* 

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Lemonade was an experiment in styles for Beyoncé. This one worked, and having Kendrick Lamar on a track never hurts. The drumline style drums adds a perfect punch to this beat.

37. Childish Gambino – Redbone

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This song sounds nothing like anything Donald Glover has made in the past. This is good news, because I couldn’t stand his past work.

36. Pinegrove – Old Friends

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Lead singer Evan Stephens Hall has a wonderfully lazy style to his voice. This is the best version of your local hometown garage band.

35. Injury Reserve – All This Money

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Injury Reserve is constantly making some of the best underground hip-hop right now.

34. Laura Marling – Soothing

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The minimal finger-plucked bass pairs so intimatley with Laura Marling’s voice. This song makes Semper Femina one of my most anticipated albums of 2017.

33. Portugal. The Man (feat. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Manville) – Noise Pollution

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Portugal. The Man comes back from their longest hiatus yet with a song that sounds familiar but slightly tweaked. Also Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a feature for some reason. Still not sure about why that is.

32. Massive Attack – Voodoo In My Blood

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Driving heavy drums kick off this song, and persist almost entirely through, giving this song an incredibly uneasy feel.

31. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me

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The way Angel Olsen sings the main title to this song might be my favorite little vocal delivery of 2016.

30. Kishi Bashi – Can’t Let Go, Juno

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This song does sound like it could be in a Samsung ad, and I’ll be honest it might make me buy the product. As long as they promise it won’t explode this time.

29. Francis and the Lights (feat. Bon Iver) – Friends

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Let’s be honest. This song would be better if it were all just Bon Iver singing.

28. The Weeknd (feat. Daft Punk) – I Feel It Coming

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I’m so happy The Weeknd and Daft Punk decided to team up, but I wish it had happened sooner. Can you imagine if it was The Weeknd singing Get Lucky instead of old ass Pharrell. He could actually hit the high notes in that song.

27. Gordi – Can We Work It Out

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I had no idea who Gordi was until I saw her open for Bon Iver. She killed it live, and I was happy since it introduced me to her EP. One of the most pleasant surprises of 2016.

26. Carly Rae Jepsen – Fever

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I’m glad Carly Rae Jepsen kept with her 80’s vibe on her B-Sides compilation. Fever could easily have been one of the best tracks off E-MO-TION.

25. Clams Casino (feat. Vince Staples) – All Night

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Vince is the absolute king of rapping over these minimal and space beats.

24. Death Grips – Houdini

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I’m just as shocked as you are that Death Grips made an actually catchy chorus.

23. James Blake (feat. Bon Iver) – I Need A Forest Fire 

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James Blake’s production and songwriting style really fits with Bon Iver’s vocal style. The looped background vocal sets the stage for Justin Vernon’s soaring falsetto to take over.

22. Kendrick Lamar – untitled 03 | 05.28.2013.

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I’m just thrilled that this song got a proper release after he debuted it out of nowhere on Colbert. This studio version completely lives up to its live debut.

21. Kaytranada (feat. Anderson .Paak) – Glowed Up

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The first 3 minutes of this song could easily be it’s own standalone track. While I do like the final 2 minutes, I just don’t think it matches the first half of the song.

20. Solange – Cranes In The Sky

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A wonderfully soulful arrangement from the Knowles sister you know less about. All of the little string flourishes in the background really complete the sound of this song.

19. Noname – Yesterday

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Noname is my favorite debut artist of the year. She has a natural ability to create a smooth flow over soulful keys. I can’t wait to hear more from her in the future.

18. William Tyler – Highway Anxiety

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Nobody creates a soundscape with finger-picked guitars better than William Tyler. This might be my most played song of the year, just purely based on how many times I’ve put it on while working, driving, or zoning out on the subway. He effortlessly paints a serene and calming atmosphere warped over bends like a river for the full 9 minutes.

17. Car Seat Headrest – Vincent

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Layered guitars, teenage angst, and gifted songwriting are the Car Seat Headrest calling card, and they’re at their best in Vincent.

16. DEAKIN – JUST AM

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This is the style I wished that Animal Collective would have come out with. Short samples, meandering verses, and slightly echoed vocals. Reminds me of something that would have fit perfectly on the Fall Be Kind EP.

15. Anderson .Paak – Get Down

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I told you that you would see more Anderson .Paak on this list. Is there anybody who’s style and performance brings more of a smile to your face?

14. Chance The Rapper (feat. Saba) – Angels

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There is, and its Chance The Rapper. His smile and exuberance for his craft bleed into this song. It’s gospel for the current hip-hop scene, and on this song he’s perfected it.

13. Danny Brown – When It Rain

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On the other side of hip-hop, you’ll find Danny Brown. When It Rain is dark, driving, and neurotic. There isn’t much low end to this song, but it doesn’t need it. The slow, uneasy build is just accentuated by Danny’s frantic style.

12. Jesu / Sun Kil Moon – Beautiful You

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This is a 14 minute song about nothing. For some unknown reason I love it. It’s one of the most atmospheric and ambient backing tracks that Sun Kil Moon has used, and he turns it into an almost trance-like performance. His rambling style is accentuated by the slow chanty vocals that come in during the latter half. It’s a perfect song for a late night drive.

11. Mitski – Your Best American Girl

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Mitski sure as hell knows to how to write a song with a payoff. The climax of this track might be the best lead-up to a big moment in a song in 2016.

10. A Tribe Called Quest – Dis Generation

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Welcome back. There are innumerable hip-hop songs that try and pull off the mid-verse back and forth, but Dis Generation nails it. It also contains one hell of a Busta resurgence that America desperately needed.

9. Blood Orange – Hands Up

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Dev Hynes has the rare ability to make a song about a terribly serious topic, but turn it into its most beautiful form. Hands Up sounds like a love song, but reads like a cautionary tale. Just incredible songwriting.

8. Schoolboy Q (feat. Jadakiss) – Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane

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Schoolboy Q is clearly at his best when he’s dirty, grimy, and angry. Groovy Tony’s beat is just the perfect pair for Q’s voice. Also Jadakiss’ delivery on the line “Getting high watching NBA league pass” is low-key my favorite music moment of the year.

7. Run The Jewels – Call Tickerton

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I don’t think I can love a beat more than this one. RTJ3 only came out a whopping 3 days ago, but this had skyrocketed up my list. It’s a 3 minute panic attack, and has one of Killer Mike’s best ever verses toward the end. It also incorporates a sample as the chorus better than just about any song I’ve heard.

6. David Bowie – Lazarus

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You can’t help but think of the context that David Bowie wrote this song in every time you hear it. It’s a last hurrah, a swan song, and a fitting end if that is even possible. The saxophone layers with the distorted guitars and walking bass line make a fantastic arrangement. It’s a 6 minute track that gets better the entire time.

5. Frank Ocean – White Ferrari

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On Blonde, Frank Ocean toyed around with minimal orchestration, and perfects it on White Ferrari. Rarely do you hear anything more than his voice, a held synth or acoustic guitar, and some backing percussion. He somehow creates a lush song without ever using more than 3 or 4 tracks. The last minute is raw and emotional, and shows why he’s one of the best songwriters right now.

4. Bon Iver – 29 #Strafford APTS

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This song is the perfect mix of past, present, and future Bon Iver. He incorporates the finger-picked guitars of his first album, the saxophone group of his second, and the autotune and audio glitches of his latest, all while maintaining his signature sound. One of his most complete and fleshed out songs to date.

3. Kanye West (feat. The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, & Chance The Rapper) – Ultralight Beam

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Some of the best Kanye songs are when he cedes the floor to somebody else. While Kanye starts off this song, he quickly passes it off, and each feature builds on the soundscape of gospel choir and 808’s. Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, and Chance The Rapper each effectively deliver their version of a sermon. You can practically hear Kanye grinning from ear to ear as Chance preaches his verse. This is everything.

2. Radiohead – Daydreaming

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Radiohead can make phenomenal music with polyrhythms, odd time signatures, and in unusual keys, yet they still excel at the basics. Daydreaming is nothing more than some slow arpeggios at the core, but all the small additional layers make this song a masterpiece. The twinkling keys, ghastly vocals snippets, building strings, and synth layers flesh out the full orchestration. It also doesn’t hurt to have Thom Yorke’s emotive voice in addition to all of that. Jonny Greenwood’s experience scoring films sure as hell pays off on this fully immersive song.

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Need You

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2016 was a tough year for many people. The reasons may vary, but most of the world’s population can empathize over that common theme. That pain is so clear in Nick Cave’s cracking voice. The unexpected loss of his son is inseparable from the track, creating a powerful and heart-wrenching experience. The song is a simple concept, and every single part of it contributes to the feeling of loss, sorrow, helplessness, and pain. I Need You relates specifically for Nick Cave, but feels so relatable to the listener. As this unique and trying years ends, there’s no better advice than to just breathe.

Top 100 Songs of 2015

Since 2010, I’ve been compiling my end of the year thoughts on my favorite musical releases. It started off as a simple post on my friend Chris Gere’s Facebook wall about my favorite 25 songs and albums of that year. For some unknown reason, each year the list has grown larger and larger. It ballooned from 25, to 50, to 60, to 75, and now finally this year, 100. I don’t think my taste has gotten better or more refined, it’s just become more of a self-challenge to find, listen, and catalog what music I find enjoyable.

This year, I’ve also created a Spotify playlist for 94/100 songs on this list. The one’s that aren’t on there will be marked with an *, because I’m sure you all care terribly about my completionist tendencies.

You can follow the link for the Spotify Playlist of my Top 100 Songs of 2015.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

~Zach


 

100. Toro Y Moi – Benjiminz*

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Surprisingly, my favorite off this Toro Y Moi mixtape is a straight hip-hop song without any of Chaz’s vocals on it at all.

99. Billy Woods – Warmachines

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Low-key jazzy beats are always a good thing.

98. The Arcs – Outta My Mind

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While this sounds like it could be a b-side of a recent Black Keys project, it is a pretty good b-side.

97. Santigold – Radio

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If this song were only the pre-chorus, it would be about 80 spots higher. Fantastic build up to a slightly disappointing actual chorus.

96. Young Fathers – Shame

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TV On The Radio, now available in a lite version!

95. Christopher Owens – Another Loser Fuck Up

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While not as bad as Lysandre, Christopher Owens basically just wrote Lust for Life. He still has not yet hit the same quality he once did with Girls on any of his side projects.

94. FIDLAR – West Coast

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This song would fit perfectly on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack between Superman and Committed.

93. Nicolas Jaar – Swim

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Even as a sucker for extravagantly long songs, this one had all the makings for a remarkable track, but didn’t quite develop them enough to warrant the 13 minute run time.

92. Alex G – Kicker

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A simple indie ballad. I really enjoy the vocals mimicking the guitar line in this song.

91.Wavves X Cloud Nothings – Come Down

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You can’t really tell whose influence comes in stronger in this song. Both bands have their distinctive style which melds together seamlessly on this collaborative track.

90. Disclosure – Holding On

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A classic sounding Disclosure song. Bass hits on the quarters, a slightly chopped vocal sample, and a bouncy synth filling out the mix.

89. Fetty Wap – Trap Queen

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This song is just fun. So what if Fetty wrote basically the same song TWENTY FUCKING TIMES on his debut album? When this formula works, it works.

88. Oneohtrix Point Never – Child of Rage

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One of the more musical tracks on the latest Oneohtrix Point Never release. The twinkling sounds in the background play off the main synth line the best out of any of the tracks on the album.

87. Earl Sweatshirt  – AM // Radio

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My favorite beat by far on the album where everything is minimal and a bit grimy. Wiki’s verse isn’t the best, but Earl definitely brings it.

86. Hot Chip – Started Right

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There aren’t many bands consistently writing better and funkier synth and baselines than Hot Chip. Started Right is a perfect summation of the entire album.

85. Thunderbitch – Closer

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2015 seemed to be the year of the side-project. Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard releases an off-shoot album that, basically, sounds exactly the same as many Alabama Shakes’ songs. Again, not like that’s a bad thing.

84. DJ Paypall – Awakening

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The pulsing bass and sax don’t seem to pair right at first, but as the track develops further and further, they seem to come into a closer balance.

83. Passion Pit – Where The Sky Hangs

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One of the few songs off of Kindred that isn’t too sickly sweet. This hearkens back to the earlier Passion Pit releases that aren’t just totally sugarcoated.

82. Waxahatchee – Air

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This songs does it right when it comes to building instrumentals towards a more powerful chorus, while not overdoing it.

81. The Dead Weather – Buzzkill(er)

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Surprise! Another side project! You can always count on Jack White to help write a great and rich guitar riff.

80. DIIV – Under the Sun

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One of the seemingly infinite singles off the upcoming DIIV release. Under the Sun is the band at its best, writing uptempo layered guitar songs that have a strong pulse.

79. Tallest Man On Earth – Sagres

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At this point you know what you’re going to get from a Tallest Man On Earth song. Sagres is not change of pace for the artist, just a well executed idea.

78. Mac Miller – 100 Grandkids

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Mac has really grown as an artist over the last couple of years. It shows in his songwriting as well as his beat choice. The switch-up halfway through this track is top notch.

77. CHVRCHES – Leave A Trace

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Please see the description for #79, but replace ‘Tallest Man On Earth’ with ‘CHVRCHES’ and ‘Sagres’ with ‘Leave A Trace’. 

76. She Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood, and The Rajasthan Express – Roked

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This song will put you into a trance, but in a good way, if that’s possible.

75. Drake & Future – Big Rings

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Somehow this is the first of THREE appearances by Drake. I’m not sure how that happened but you’ve been warned. Anyway, this beat is fantastic, Drake brings a typical Drake verse, and Future is, well, just fine I guess.

74. Dr. Dre – Talking To My Diary*

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The only song off of Compton that truly sounds like a Dr. Dre song. It may not have the best beat or the best verse on the album, but it is by far the most complete song on the record.

73. Miguel – coffee

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Nothing off this album quite reaches the heights that ‘Adorn‘ did, but coffee is a well written R&B track that moves, has an interesting beat, and top tier vocals to add on.

72. Thee Oh Sees – Web*

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I love the pacing on this song. It starts out slowly, has a plodding drum and guitar, then it hits double time and really gets into the meat of the song. Perfect example of how to write an intro.

71. Dan Deacon – When I Was Done Dying 

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Distorted and manipulated vocals are a staple of most Dan Deacon songs, When I Was Done Dying is no different. It also builds tremendously as the song goes on with classic Deacon-sounding drums and synths.

70. Panda Bear – Boys Latin

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Not many people do the single-person call-and-response echo better than Panda Bear.

69. Mac DeMarco – The Way You’d Love Her 

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Please see the description for #77, but replace ‘CHVRCHES’ with ‘Mac DeMarco’ and ‘Leave A Trace’ with ‘The Way You’d Love Her‘. 

68. Wilco – You Satellite

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The layering and building of the down-stroke guitar riffs on this song are done exceptionally well. The push the pace forward without adding any loudness to the song.

67. Wavves – Way Too Much

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Wavves at their best. Simple songs, probably about surfing somehow, that are upbeat and fun.

66. Adele – When We Were Young*

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Everybody knows that Adele has a fantastic voice; its a shame that most of the songs she uses them on are kinda safe and not terribly well written.

65. Titus Andronicus – Dimed Out

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Please see the description for #69, but replace ‘Mac DeMarco’ with ‘Titus Andronicus’ and ‘The Way You’d Love Her‘ with ‘Dimed Out‘. 

64. Alabama Shakes – Give Me All Your Love

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The best Alabama Shakes songs are the ones written where Brittany’s voice takes center stage. She can belt out these choruses with the best of them. I just hope they keep writing songs that showcase her talents.

63. Ratatat – Abrasive

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The title is misleading, this song is not abrasive in any way, but it is catchy. Don’t you ever lie to me again, Ratatat.

62. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Sunday Candy

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So many tracks on Surf didn’t quite come together as a whole, but Sunday Candy is a welcome exception. Its happy, upbeat, and gives a platform for Chance to show off both his singing and rapping talents.

61. Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – The Sun Roars Into View

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As a well-known Colin Stetson fan, Sarah Neufeld’s string arrangements add a complementary layer to Colin’s constantly fluctuating sax. The pairing works perfectly, and I hope to see more from them in the future.

60. HEALTH – STONEFIST

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The opening hits you like a ton of bricks. The airy vocals serve as a good complement to a track that could very easily become too much with over-the-top vocals.

59. Shamir – Demon

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I honestly think this is a better showcase for Shamir’s high and thin vocals. Some of the beats are better on other songs off Ratchet, but Demon is the most complete.

58. Blur – Go Out

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I love the off-kilter background chanting that persists throughout Go Out, I can’t fully explain why, but it completely makes the song for me. Plus, the bass line ain’t half bad.

57. BOOF – Just on the Swings

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I like this song as much as I hate the album title and cover.

56. Jay Rock – Vice City

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Like all Black Hippy posse cuts, this song would be infinitely better if somebody didn’t let Ab-Soul touch it with a 39 and a half foot pole.

55. Action Bronson – Easy Rider

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By far and away the best beat on Mr. Wonderful. This album certainly had its highs and lows, but Easy Rider is one of the most complete songs Action Bronson has ever written.

54. Drake – Back To Back

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The second of Drake’s three appearances. Right now only Drake can make a diss track that gets nominated for a Grammy.

53. Grimes – Flesh Without Blood

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This is a good pop song. While I find a lot of Grimes’ songs more style than substance, Flesh Without Blood is original, upbeat, catchy, and well written.

52. St. Vincent – Teenage Talk

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A rare straightforward ballad for St. Vincent. Even when she’s writing a song for an HBO show, she still does it better than almost anybody else.

51. Joanna Newsom – Leaving The City*

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I’m still not sure that I’m 100% sold on Joanna’s voice, but Leaving The City is a song with meaningful dynamic shifts and separate sections that don’t feel forced together.

50. Sleater-Kinney – Fangless

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There are so many great riffs on this album, Fangless is no exception.

49. Animal Collective – FloriDada

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The lead upcoming single for Animal Collective’s forthcoming new album Painting With. FloriDada sounds like a natural marriage of Merriweather Post Pavilion, Strawberry Jam, and Sung Tongs, and I am definitely happy with that.

48. Modest Mouse – The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box

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This song is so much better than almost everything else on Strangers to Ourselves. It’s almost a shame that it has to be on the same album as the abomination that is Pistol. 

47. Thundercat – Them Changes

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I sincerely wish every song that’s ever been written included Thundercat’s six string bass. It would make the world a better place.

46. Carly Rae Jepsen – Warm Blood

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This album was my biggest pleasant surprise of 2015. Warm Blood is a song I would never in a million years expect from the same person that released Call Me Maybe. Carly’s voice is incredibly dynamic on this track, and fits in well with the pulsing nature of the beat.

45. BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah – Mind Playing Tricks

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This sounds like a better version of most of the songs on Blakroc; the pairing of BBNG and Ghost are a match made in jazzy hip-hop heaven.

44. Wolf Alice – Bros

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This is my second favorite songs called Bros in the last 10 years. Also, it reminds me of The Cranberries, which is never a bad thing.

43. Metz – Acetate

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Please see the description for #65, but replace ‘Titus Andronicus’ with ‘Metz’ and ‘Dimed Out’ with ‘Acetate’. 

42. Tobias Jesso Jr. – How Could You Babe

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He’s like Randy Newman, except he wasn’t born on another alien planet.

41. Big Grams – Born To Shine

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The pairing of Run The Jewels and Big Boi will never turn out poorly.

40. Bully – I Remember

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I’m still not fully sure why I like this track so much. Its pretty straightforward simple indie-rock, but I just keep coming back to it and liking it more each time.

39. Viet Cong – Continental Shelf 

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Distorted, dark, and murky, this track cleverly transitions between its three main sections. It’s almost a typical verse-chorus style, but with just a little twist.

38. Kamasi Washington – Re Run Home

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It’s tough to pick a favorite song on a three hour long album, but Re Run Home encompasses everything that makes The Epic so great. Unbelievable solos from multiple instruments, a driving drum and bass line, and constant change and manipulation throughout. A behemoth of a track that only gets better as it evolves.

37. Steve Hauschildt – Arpeggiare

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Its odd to have two instrumental songs back-to-back of such different styles. Arpeggiare is completely synth focused, with (you probably could have guessed) arpeggios moving the track along. It’s soothing and creates full environment for the song to exist in.

36. Freddie Gibbs – Pronto

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Freddie’s beat selection as of late has been nearly perfect. Every verse he spits just rides the beat so naturally. He’s cementing himself firmly as one of the most consistent MCs in the game.

35. Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better

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This song dropped probably 15 spots purely for the lyric “She was holding hands with Trevor, not the greatest feeling ever.”

34. Speedy Ortiz – Raising The Skate

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This track hits a few of my favorite little dynamics in songwriting; mimicking between the guitar and vocals, drums that are inventive, and a main guitar riff that captivates attention.

33. Foals – London Thunder

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The guitar noodling inserted during the verses is expertly done. It’s also another song that builds with additional instruments toward a more grand chorus but doesn’t overdo it.

32. Pusha T – Crutches, Crosses, Caskets

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The world will end as soon as Pusha T runs out of ways to say he sells cocaine.

31. Beach House – Space Song

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Please see the description for #43, but replace ‘Metz’ with ‘Beach House’ and ‘Acetate‘ with ‘Space Song‘. 

30. Chelsea Wolfe – Grey Days

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The drums on this track just sound so rich and whole. The entire song has a weight that is normally difficult to capture. Chelsea Wolfe does an exquisite job forging a track that has so many layers and different heavy instruments without feeling the least bit cluttered.

29. Drake – No Tellin’

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The third and final Drake track on my list. I’m still not quite sure how all three ended up here. The more ethereal beats on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late fit Drake’s rapping style so well. No Tellin’ is a perfect example of this, especially on the outro.

28. Holly Herndon – Morning Sun

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Holly Herndon has the ability to create actual good songs using atypical sounds, stuttering samples, and rebounding vocals between channels. Most of the time, these elements don’t work at all, but somehow she manages to pull it off over and over.

27. Injury Reserve – Yo

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Probably my favorite new hip-hop artist I found this year. Yo has an incredibly inventive, controlled-but-scattered beat and two MCs spitting different but equally great verses.

26. Roman GianArthur – H:GH&DRY*

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Seriously, what’s not to love about a cover of Radiohead with heavy D’Angelo influences?

25. Julia Holter – Feel You

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Julia Holter comes through with a grand and full sounding lead single for her new album, while incorporating complex instrumentation without making the song sound overly-complex. The whole thing sounds downright heavenly.

24. Freddie Gibbs – Fuckin’ Up the Count

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Oh what a surprise, Freddie Gibbs came out with ANOTHER fantastic lead single for his new project. He is quickly entering the “can do no wrong” stage of his career.

23. Torres – New Skin 

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As I’ve harped on many times before, any song that can successfully pair together multiple different sounding sections into one coherent song always gets my vote of approval.

22. Kurt Vile – Stand Inside

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A typical Kurt sounding song, but Stand Inside separates itself from the pack with its ability to keep pace without much help. The songs is a gentle drift, and floats weightlessly along with ease.

21. Neon Indian – Annie

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This song wins the award for “Album Art That Best Reflects The Music You’re About To Hear.”

20. Deerhunter – Breaker

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A soundtrack to a dream sequence. Breaker sits squarely in Deerhunter’s natural evolution as a band. While it’s not quite adventurous as the best cuts from Halycon Digest, it’s an extremely successful track in its own way.

19. Sun Kil Moon – Birds of Films

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When I wrote about Benji last year, I talked about how it sounded like an old man reading his diary. This is ACTUALLY an old man reading his diary. These songs are less stories as they are a recollection of mundane events. Yet somehow I find myself hanging on every meaningless word about what bullshit he ate while on the set of his movie in the Alps.

18. A$AP Rocky – Excuse Me

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When given the right platform to show off his talents, Rocky consistently proves that he has one of the smoothest flows in the game. The ethereal and airy beat allows for some of the best ‘softer’ verses that Rocky has laid down on a track.

17. Laura Marling – Gurdjieff’s Daughter

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Usually Laura Marling’s more laid back tracks end up as her better ones, but Gurdjieff’s Daughter is the exception off of the stellar Short Movie. The main chorus is one of, if not my favorite, from 2015. I just nestles down in my head and I find my self silently repeating “I do sometimes” without fully knowing why.

16. EL VY – I’m The Man To Be

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The year of side projects continues! While I clearly adore The National, EL VY is one of the few side projects that actually sounds like a different idea from the main group. I’m The Man To Be is a wacky, off kilter, dick-filled song. It gives Matt an avenue for fun that he probably doesn’t really get in his main band.

15. Lianne La Havas – Green and Gold

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While What You Won’t Do was the lead single that got the most airtime from this excellent album, Green and Gold really captured a fantastic sound that Lianne’s voice melds with perfectly. The slow and low plucked stings and a jazzy drum beat complement her voice, as well as the occasional trumpets and brass.

14. Beach House – Elegy to the Void

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Please see the description for #31, but replace ‘Beach House’ with… uhh… ‘Beach House’ and ‘Space Song‘ with ‘Elegy to the Void‘. 

13. Haitus Kaiyote – Breathing Underwater

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While I may not love every song that Haitus Kaiyote puts out, when they hit, they really hit. Breathing Underwater immediately pairs the title of the song with the feeling of the instrumentation. You can never fully predict where the song will take you next, but it always ends up better than you expected.

12. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Can’t Keep Checking My Phone

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Thank you to Nate for turning me on to this song. The groove quickly sets in and makes you instantly want to get up and move. You can’t help but start tapping to the beat and singing along to the chorus. Also, the bass line during the chorus might be my favorite mini-section of music for the year.

11. Vince Staples – Norf Norf

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This beat is so damn simple but Vince kills it. It’s a bit haunting, and Vince plays that up with his lyricism. He utilizes his classic short and repeated chorus, but I think “I ain’t never ran from nothing but the police” is his most powerful and effective one of the album.

10. Father John Misty – Holy Shit

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This album was probably the most difficult to pull a favorite song off. There are four or five out of the 11 that could be argued as the best, which shows the equal quality of the whole thing. Holy Shit gets the slight edge based off of the outstandingly executed key change.

9. Joey Bada$$ – Paper Trail$

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Joey really goes in on this beat, and it’s a perfect one for it. It oozes an older sound, and Joey absolutely kills everything about the track. If only every song on the album was at this level it would be a classic.

8. Sufjan Stevens – The Only Thing

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One of the most emotionally vulnerable songs on an album exclusively full of vulnerable songs. It’s simple and blunt and doesn’t need to be anything more.

7. The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face

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This song has been played endlessly in every bar, club, radio station, and house party since it was released in June. Somehow, someway, I still like it just as much when I listen to it now as I did when I first heard it.

6. Death Grips – Turned Off

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Distorted and aggressive. This is everything I want from a Death Grips song. It has a full band backing rather than just a drum beat and synths, and it has an actually audible MC Ride verse. It’s the most complete song they have released in their last couple of albums.

5. Courtney Barnett – Depreston

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Clean and vulnerable. As close to the opposite of the last song as possible. Almost everybody can relate to driving out to a new place, seeing the sights, being utterly underwhelmed by what you see, but still trying to find the bright side. “Aren’t depressed metal ceilings great?” It’s a song about so many emotions all at once: depression, acceptance, and hope all placed into one road trip.

4. Destroyer – Times Square

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Times Square is the pinnacle of Destroyer’s songwriting, but in a more condensed version than usual. The lounge vocals, saxophones that come and go, hand percussion that moves the song along, and the soaring guitar solo; they all pair up to make a song that makes you feel as if you’re experiencing something sunny and new.

3. Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry

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I don’t need to be the 10,000th person to remark on how important and influential Kendrick has been, not only the musical landscape, but to the general political and social landscape as well. The Blacker the Berry is all of Kendrick’s messages, but in a more upfront and clear format. Kendrick is angry and he shows it. Alright and King Kunta might get more radio play and press, but The Blacker the Berry is his best work on his masterpiece.

2. Battles – The Yabba 

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Battles said this whole new album would be without any sort of vocals, and would focus on repetition and layering. The Yabba creates a groove that nestles down in the deep crevices of your brain where you can’t get it out. The unbelievably precise drumming, the fluttering synths, and the driving guitar combine in perfect repetitious harmony. Who needs vocals?

1. Jamie xx – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)

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It’s a pretty common trend that my favorite song of the summer ends up being one of my favorite songs of the year. Guess what, 2015 is no different. This song is the epitome of fun. Jamie xx clearly doesn’t take this track too seriously (I mean how can you when one of your lyrics is “I’ma ride in that pussy like a stroller”?). When this song comes on,  I can’t help but smile from ear to ear and really hope that nobody hears me sing along. Good times.

Top Albums of 2014

 

This list was supposed to be finished a few days after my top 75 songs list, but D’Angelo suddenly releasing his first album in 14 years + Christmas killed that plan. Anyway, enjoy!

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

A$AP Ferg – Ferg Forever

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Akin to most mix-tapes, there is too much chaff and not enough wheat.

Recommended Tracks: Fergsomnia, Perfume, Reloaded To Let It Go 2

Alt J – This Is All Yours

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A decent follow-up album to An Awesome Wave, but ultimately falls under the dreaded sophomore slump category.

Recommended Tracks: Hunger Of The Pine, Every Other Freckle, Bloodflood Pt. II

Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else

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A catchy, upbeat indie rock record that satisfies, but doesn’t insist you come back for more.

Recommended Tracks: I’m Not A Part Of Me, Now Hear In

Broken Bells – After The Disco

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A decent sophomore effort from Danger Mouse and James Mercer, but not notably different or better than the first.

Recommended Tracks: After The Disco, The Changing Lights

The Roots – … and then you shoot your cousin

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When you really sit down and listen to the album, you quickly discover that it is an EP’s worth of music cleverly disguised as an LP.

Recommended Tracks: Never, When The People Cheer 

Sisyphus – Sisyphus

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A solid but underwhelming album from the collaborative efforts of Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux, and Serengeti.

Recommended Tracks: Alcohol, Calm It Down, Take Me

SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land

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Hit or miss throughout, specifically some of the guest features.

Recommended Tracks: NEW DORP NEW YORK, The Light

Speedy Ortiz – Real Hair EP

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The collection of four songs for this EP are all pretty good, but fails to meet the same standard as Speedy Ortiz set on Major Arcana.

Recommended Tracks: American Horror, Everything’s Bigger

The Black Keys – Turn Blue

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Danger Mouse now has two albums he helped create in the Honorable Mentions section and none in the full countdown. I wonder if those are related…

Recommended Tracks: The Weight Of Love, Bullet In The Brain

TV On The Radio – Seeds

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I fail to understand how TVOTR can write a song as thought-out and layered as Quartz, and on the same album put a song that sounds like it should be played during the resolution scene of a straight-to-TV (no pun intended) Lifetime movie.

Recommended Tracks: Quartz, Careful You

 

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2014

 

50: Rubblebucket – Survival Sounds

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While a few of the songs on Survival Sounds are some of the best that Rubblebucket has written, a good number on the album fail to stick to your ribs.

Recommended Tracks: Carousel Ride, On The Ground, Young And Old

49: Big K.R.I.T – Cadillactica

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Cadillactica is mainly so low due to the uncocionable decision to leave off the far superior version of Mt. Olympus in favor of a highly neutered version.

Recommended Tracks: Mt. Olympus, King Of The South, Cadillactica

48: Jack White – Lazaretto

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I’m beginning to fear that I enjoy the memory of Jack White’s music more than the music itself.

Recommended Tracks: Lazaretto, High Ball Stepper, Black Bat Licorice

47: John Frusciante – Enclosure

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John is still producing the best music from any RHCP related member, including the full band.

Recommended Tracks: Fanfare, Stage, Cinch

46: Aphex Twin – Syro

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I’ll admit that I wasn’t the most ardent follower of Aphex Twin before this album dropped, so this release was more of a pleasant surprise than a long-awaited gift.

Recommended Tracks: Asiatsana, Minipops 67 (Source Field Mix) 

45: Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused

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Clocking in at 50 minutes and only 5 songs, Soused is an odd mixture of an opera and halloween soundtrack that somehow works incredibly.

Recommended Tracks: Brando, Fetish

44: Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

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A sadly constant theme on You’re Dead is beautiful tracks being cut short before they have time to fully form.

Recommended Tracks: Never Catch Me, Cold Dead, Coronous, The Terminator 

43: Death Grips – Niggas On The Moon

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The most style consistent album that Death Grips has put out to date. While it still has the same chaotic backing beats and angry hobo vocals, NOTM didn’t grab me quite as instantly as their past discography.

Recommended Tracks: Black Quarterback, Up My Sleeves, Fuck Me Out

42: Tobacco – Ultima II Massage

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Dirty, lo-fi, and just plain fun.

Recommended Tracks: Streaker, Eruption (Gonna Get My Hair Cut At The End Of The Summer), Lipstick Destroyer

41: Beck – Morning Phase 

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Every Beck album has its own theme, and much like Sea Change, his 2014 effort focuses on the calmer side of his songwriting.

Recommended Tracks: Blue Moon, Morning, Wave

40: FKA twigs – LP1

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As great as Tahliah’s vocals are of her first full length, many of the beats on this album left a slightly sour taste in my mouth.

Recommended Tracks: Two Weeks, Lights On, Video Girl

39: Brian Eno / Karl Hyde – High Life

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I discovered this album during my mop-up period in December where I go back and see if I missed any albums that could make the list. I’m extremely happy I decided to give it a listen, Karl Hyde is a perfect compliment to the more upbeat side of Eno.

Recommended Tracks: Who Rings The Bell, The Satellites, Witness

38: Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

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Thom Yorke’s second full length solo effort, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, is a logical follow up to his 2006 entry The Eraser. A drum machine, deliberately minimal synths, and crooning vocals create Thom’s distinctive style.

Recommended Tracks: The Mother Lode, A Brain In A Bottle, There Is No Ice (For My Drink)

37: Swans – To Be Kind

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In the same time, you could either listen to this album in entirety or watch the new Annie movie. Do yourself a favor and choose To Be Kind.

Recommended Tracks: A Little God In My Hands, Oxygen, Nathalie Neal

36: Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea

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One of the two LPs that Parquet Courts / Parkay Quarts released in 2014. This particular release had some very high high’s and quite a few mediocre low’s.

Recommended Tracks: Pretty Machines, Content Nausea, Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth

35: J. Mascis – Tied To A Star

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I sat next to J Mascis in a bar in Amherst over Thanksgiving break. I was too nervous to go up and say how much I appreciated him and his music. That shows how much I appreciate him and his music.

Recommended Tracks: Me Again, Wide Awake, And Then

34: Real Estate – Atlas

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The last two Real Estate albums have been very similar. Usually for most bands, I count that as a fault, however, there a few where I don’t think much variation is needed between each album. Real Estate falls firmly into that category. Atlas is a very solid album for a very consistently solid band.

Recommended Tracks: Talking Backwards, April’s Song, The Bend

33: Leon Vynehall – Music For The Uninvited

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This album came recommended with very high praise from my buddy Carl. I don’t hate Carl, so I gave it a listen, and tuns out, I enjoyed it very much as well. Thanks Carl!

Recommended Tracks: Goodthing, Inside The Deku Tree, It’s Just (House Of Dupree)

32: Alvvays – Alvvays

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One of the best indie-pop albums of the year. With an incredibly strong single in Archie, Marry Me, the entire album encapsulates summertime love in a fictional city which bares an uncanny resemblance to New York.

Recommended Tracks: Archie, Marry Me, Next Of Kin, Dives

31: Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait EP

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I had almost zero intention on listening to this EP based off my past run in’s with Vince’s releases. Lucky, I don’t have much else to do other than listen to music, and gave this short EP a listen. Vince picks his beats masterfully on this album; they’re unique, but not too unique just for the sake of being different.

Recommended Tracks: Limos, Blue Suede, 65 Hunnid

30: Panda Bear – Mr. Noah

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Panda Bear is another artist where you pretty much know what you’re going to get with his releases. You’re going to get elongated, echoey, layered vocals over pulsing and repetitive beats. They’re going to be equal parts weird and uncannily catchy. Hopefully his full length next year can surpass the quality he produces on Mr. Noah.

Recommended Tracks: Mr. Noah, Untying The Knot

29: Owl John – Owl John

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Yet another release from Scott Hutchison (of Frightened Rabbits fame) that pulls at the heartstrings. He has managed to release quality material year after year, and Owl John is no different.

Recommended Tracks: Ten Tons Of Silence, Los Angeles, Be Kind, Cold Creeps

28: ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron

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“My Daddy A Gansta” is the first line on this LP, spoken by ScHoolboy Q’s adolescent daughter. For the most part, he lives up to that title on Oxymoron. This album had what seemed like unlimited pre-release singles, but some of the best tracks are the the deeper cuts. Also, to be fair, some of the deeper cuts would serve better back on the cutting floor.

Recommended Tracks: Prescription/Oxymoron, Man Of The Year, Collard Greens, Fuck L.A.

27: Jungle – Jungle

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Jungle’s self-titled album is a throwback to the 70’s with just enough modern day influence. Sometimes, you don’t need to break the mold to create a quality album.

Recommended Tracks: Time, Busy Earnin’, Platoon

26: Chromeo – White Women

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Chromeo perfectly tiptoed the line between their machismo and pop appeal. This is an album laden with singles that are perfect for both Top-40 and college radio. Also, I’m just going to pretend that Frequent Flyer isn’t on this album.

Recommended Tracks: Jealous (I Ain’t With It), Sexy Socialite, Old 45’s

25: Arcade Fire & Owen Pallet – Her (Soundtrack)

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As I said in my top 75 singles list, I think I may enjoy this album partly because of how much I enjoyed the movie Her. That being said, this soundtrack is a perfect mix of simple piano, orchestra, and electronics. One of the most emotional albums of 2014 without a word sung.

Recommended Tracks: Photograph, Morning  Talk / Supersymmetry, Sleepwalker

24: Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

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The better of the two release by Parquet Courts / Parkay Quarts this year. While neither match the mastery that was Light Up Gold, Sunbathing Animal contains some of the best songs written by the band. Even though there is a bit of filler on the album, the overall result is a record clever lyrics, catchy hooks, and quality songwriting.

Recommended Tracks: Sunbathing Animal, Instant Disassembly, Black And White

23: Caribou – Our Love

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Caribou has built a career of using short, repetitive loops and pairing them with slowly building backing instrumental. Our Love is no different. My favorite full length of his to date, the five song stretch from Can’t Do Without You to Our Love has to be his best work yet.

Recommended Tracks: Can’t Do Without You, Our Love, Julia Brightly

22: The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave

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The second horribly depressing Scottish band on the list. With song titles such as “Drown So I Can Watch” and “Pills I Swallow” how can you not fall in love with the album?

Recommended Tracks: Last January, It Was Never The Same, Theres’s A Girl In The Corner

21: clipping. – CLPPNG

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If Death Grips are the king of horribly abrasive hip-hop vocals, clipping. are the king of horribly abrasive hip-hop beats. I mean, one of the beats on this song is literally just the eardrum-piercing sound of a $5 alarm clock, yet they somehow make that work. They also incorporate an electric drill into a beat that somehow doesn’t throw the whole thing off. By far one of the most unique and dark hip-hop albums of the year.

Recommended Tracks: Body And Blood, Work Work, Wake Up, Story 2

20: The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream

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If I ever need to relax, this is the album I’ll put on. There is a decent amount of Bruce Springsteen prevalent in the songwriting style of The War On Drugs, but they manage to make sure not to stray too close to the sun, and crash and burn in an Daedalus and Icarus style plagiarism case.

Recommended Tracks: An Ocean In Between The Waves, Burning, Under The Pressure 

19: Future Islands – Singles

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If only every song on Singles was as good as Seasons (Waiting On You). This albums has either great songs, or ‘eh’ songs, and nothing else.

Recommended Tracks: Season (Waiting On You), Spirit, Light House

18: Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty

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Even though Lese Majesty isn’t as ground-breaking as Black Up was, it is just as impressive of an album. While the album does overstay its welcome just a little bit, Shabazz Palace’s sophomore effort is well worth the listen.

Recommended Tracks: Forerunner Foray, Dawn In Luxor, Ishmael 

17: Grouper – Ruins

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It’s incredible how much Grouper can do with just piano and breathy vocals. The title Ruins perfectly describes the record, its the skeletal remains of something more.

Recommended Tracks: Clearing, Call Across Rooms, Lighthouse

16: White Lung  – Deep Fantasy

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Deep Fantasy is a flurry of drums and reverb-heavy guitar from front to finish. It doesn’t give you a chance to breathe before its done in an extremely enjoyable and passionate 22 minutes.

Recommended Tracks: Down It Goes, I Believe You, Face Down

15: Tune-Yards  – Nikki Nack

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The most colorful and playful album of 2014. The entire album has the spirit of a young child, screaming and yelling to create chaos in the middle of a beautiful scene. It wouldn’t shock me if the lyrics to this album were written in technicolor crayon.

Recommended Tracks: Wait For A Minute, Real Thing, Water Fountain

14: How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?

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This album is as enjoyable as the album cover is terrible. I mean, come on, you look like Manu Ginobili after Game 6 of the 2013 NBA finals.

Recommended Tracks: Words I Don’t Remember, Face Again, Pour Cyril

13: Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

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It only took a full decade, but DFA1979 finally released their much anticipated sophomore album. Even though it isn’t as raw as their mind-blowing debut album, The Physical World still delivers the same quality of driving bass riffs. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another 10 years for the follow-up this time.

Recommended Tracks: Right On, Frankenstein!, Government Trash, The Physical World

12: Mac Demarco – Salad Days

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This album sounds like the personification of a lazy summer afternoon that you spend drinking beers while sitting in lawn chairs in the backyard.

Recommended Tracks: Salad Days, Blue Boy, Let Her Go

11: Liars – Mess

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Yet another album that fits its title perfectly. At points it’s separately angry, creepy, somber, and downright weird. It is the only album that can start with “Take my pants off” and end on an actually personal and sad moment. One of the few records of the year that successfully pulls off multiple styles without those songs feeling forced unnecessarily into the mix.

Recommended Tracks: Mask Maker, Mess On A Mission, Left Speaker Blown

10: Spoon – They Want My Soul

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Is there any band over the last 15 years that has put out as much quality music as Spoon? Every release the come through with a high quality record, and every year they seem to be forgotten about come year end. Spoon still holds the title for “Most Underrated Yet Still Incredibly Popular Band.”

Recommended Tracks: Do You, Inside Out, Let Me Be Mine

9: Julian Casablancas + The Voidz – Tyranny

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As I wrote in my Top 75 Songs of 2014 list, I still cant believe that Julian Casablancas came out with some of my favorite music this year after his past output. This album was everything I wished the past few Strokes release would have been. It’s adventurous, abrasive, unique, yet still has enough of his own personal style. You can buy this album via both cassette and USB implanted lighter, because why the fuck not.

Recommended Tracks: Human Sadness, Where No Eagles Fly, Johan Van Bronx

8: Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

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It’s sounds as if 1950’s Cuba and 2014’s Norway had a music baby. This is the style of electronic release I never knew I wanted to hear, but now that I have, I can’t stop listening.

Recommended Tracks: Delorean Dynamite, Inspector Norse, Svensk Sas

7: Perfume Genius – Too Bright

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Perfume Genius is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. After a debut album I just could not get into because of the vocal processing, he has released two personal top 10 albums in his last two releases. On Too Bright he ventures outside of his normally basic piano and vocal structure and adds in more instrumentation and completely hits the balance perfectly. He still has the emotional weight that made Put Your Back N 2 It so heavy, but added more range in song structure.

Recommended Tracks: Fool, Queen, Grid, Too Bright

6: Run The Jewels – RTJ2

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Somehow El-P and Killer Mike have steadily improved over the past few years, even though their previous production was some of the best out there. RTJ2 is no different; it is the rightful next step after the first time the twosome paired up. It’s angrier, brasher, more egotistical, and more absurd. If they could just keep releasing an album a year that would be great.

Recommended Tracks: Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck), Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Lie, Cheat, Steal, Love Again

5: Ariel Pink – pom pom

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I was hesitant going into this album based off of my experiences with Ariel Pink’s past work, however this record completely changed my mind on his music. The record clearly references multiple different styles throughout history, yet each of them have their own unique ‘Pink’ hue. Every time I re-listen to the album I find a new part to focus on, which makes me keep coming back for more.

Recommended Tracks: Put Your Number In My Phone, Black Ballerina, White Freckles, Picture Me Gone

4: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

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This record contains 17 songs and none of them are filler. The coupling of Freddie’s smooth and deep flow with Madlib’s beats are a match made in Gary, Indiana. One of the best qualities of this album is that the songs which only have Freddie rapping are just as good as the tracks that have features. Whether he’s rapping about eating wings with mild sauce, basketball, or his life, Freddie creates an intricately detailed picture.

Recommended Tracks: High, Thuggin’, Harold’s, Knicks, Piñata

3: D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah

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This fucking album through my whole fucking list off. I had everything set and was ready to start writing, but noooooooo, D’Angelo decided to suddenly come off his 14 year hiatus and release a masterpiece out of nowhere (if you count nowhere as years and years of teasing new music without anything actually materializing). It was well worth the wait. Black Messiah maintains the ideal balance between D’Angelos’ famous early 2000’s R&B vibe and his insane songwriting ability. Every song is so meticulously layered with drums, piano, bass, guitar, and vocals that with each listen you can find something new. Throughout the album, when D’Angelo plays guitar, it sounds as if he has a melody that he intends to play, but cuts in and out, creating a unique style that works better than I could have imagined. Welcome back D’Angelo.

Recommended Tracks: Sugah Daddy, Really Love, The Charade, Another Life

2: St. Vincent – St. Vincent

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Everything that Annie Clark touches turns to gold. In her fourth full length album, St. Vincent has slowly changed styles, yet has created memorable album after memorable album. It is very clear on that her collaborative LP with David Byrne had an impact on her songwriting style, specifically on the single Digital Witness. On her self-titled release, Annie churns out some of her most angled and of kilter music. The opening track begins with a distorted synth rhythm that persists throughout the song and sets the tone for the rest of the record. The heavy distortion led guitar is the signature on the record. The distortion comes in with most weight on Huey Newton, a bisected song with a fantastic payoff. I can’t wait to see where Annie takes her music from here.

Recommended Tracks: Huey Newton, Digital Witness, Rattlesnake, Birth In Reverse, Severely Crossed Fingers

1: Sun Kil Moon – Benji

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Benji consists of acoustic guitar and death. With each mindless detail, Mark Kozelek slowly forms a portrait of an old man who has been through a great deal. In order, the songs focus on; a death in the family, an eventual death in the family, a death in the family, losing your virginity, mass murder, assisted suicide, a troubled father-son relationship, sad tales from Mark’s youth, a serial killer dying, friends dying, and jealousy between friends. The rambling, unnecessarily detailed style of Mark’s writing creates the emotional base for the album. No detail is too small; what’s on the walls at a sports bar, what movie he watched with his grandma, what time his second cousin got off her RN shift. Each piece in the puzzle, no matter how insignificant, adds to the weight of each song. There hasn’t been an album in my recent memory that has the same emotional resonance that this one did.

Recommended Tracks: Ben’s My Friend, Micheline, Jim Wise, Carissa, I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same

Top 75 Songs of 2014

For the last five years, for some reason or another, I’ve posted a personal list of my favorite songs and albums. This year, as opposed to my normal spreadsheet, I decided to pretty it up, add some artwork, and explain just a little bit about my choices and thought process.

Enjoy.

75: Jenny Lewis – She’s Not Me

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Direct lyricism focusing on heartbreak, regret, and jealousy, coupled with a memorable hook.

74: Broken Bells – After The Disco

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The second single off the sophomore pop/disco album from James Mercer & Dangermouse, catch and upbeat, sadly not as engaging as many of the songs off the first album.

73: Ty Segall – The Singer

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A seemingly straightforward ballad featuring some simple bass, drums, a melody with a soaring falsetto throughout, and lets not forget Ty’s signature gritty solo.

72: Cloud Nothings – I’m Not Part Of Me

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The closing track of Here And Nowhere Else, the anthemic “I’m not telling you all I’m going through” echoes as words of clarity for everybody trying to push through their mid/middle-school life crisis.

71: A$AP Ferg feat. Twista – Fergsomnia

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Fergsomnia comes with the trademark weirdness that Ferg has become known for. An off kilter hook, bass led beat, and horns to fill it out. It doesn’t hurt that Twista delivers his signature 5,000 words a minute flow on his quality guest verse.

70: The Roots – Never

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There need to be more live drums in rap. Also, Black Thought is by far the most underrated MC in the game.

69: Father John Misty – Bored In The USA

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Social commentary now comes accompanied by player piano!

68: Sisyphus – Alcohol

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Thank god this project isn’t called s/s/s anymore, that was the most un-googleable name possible.

67: Kendrick Lamar – i

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Everybody is waiting with bated breath to see how Kendrick follows the incredible Good Kid m.A.A.D. City. i was a pretty good start, but hopefully not what the entire album will sound like.

66: A$AP Rocky – Multiply

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Any song that samples Stay Fly is alright in my book.

65: Speedy Ortiz – American Horror

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This song would fit perfectly on Major Arcana, plus, everybody has to support their hometown bands.

64: TV On The Radio – Quartz

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Begins abruptly and a bit abrasively, but once you get used to it, the odd melody becomes addicting.

63: The Black Keys – Weight of Love

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By far the best song off of Turn Blue. A wandering track which starts with a classic multi-minute solo but still manages to finish as strong as it begins.

62: Leon Vynehall – Goodthing

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An engaging yet relaxing trance song off  of an equally solid debut album from Leon Vynehall.

61: Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers

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It’s rare to hear a dub song incorporate vocals as well as this track, but it keeps with the unique nature of Andy’s previous songwriting.

60: Death Grips – Black Quarterback

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Death Grips managed to make an album where they sampled Bjork on EVERY SINGLE TRACK yet I still enjoy it. Tough task.

59: Drake – 0-100 / The Catch Up

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Now that Drake is a fan of Cleveland, I’m a fan of him.

58: Real Estate – Talking Backwards

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While this may sound like a typical Real Estate song, it encapsulates how likable their music can be.

57: The Decemberists – Make You Better

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See the Real Estate write-up, but replace Real Estate with The Decemberists.

56: Alt J – Hunger of the Pine

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This is the kind of song I hope Alt J continues to write, specifically the ones that sample Miley Cyrus.

55: Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – Who Rings The Bells

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Everything that Brian Eno touches turns to gold, except for, you know, those 15 albums between 1983-present that weren’t anything special.

54: Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends

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One of the best simplistic riffs of the year. A great lead single to what is sure to be one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2015.

53: Sun Kil Moon – The Possum

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A typical Sun Kil Moon song; something dies, it’s just Mark talking about his day, and he does that weird vocal overdub thing that works surprisingly well for him.

52: John Frusciante – Fanfare

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Enclosure may have fallen short, both in quality and oddity, of his EP Letur Lefr and LP PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone, but it still contained some fantastic tracks such as Fanfare.

51: Beck – Blue Moon

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Beck is sad again. Who made Beck sad again? Was it you, Scientology?

50: Calvin Harris feat. Haim – Pray To God

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This song is more Haim feat. Calvin Harris than Calvin Harris feat. Hiam. That is a very good thing.

49: Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Brando

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Half operatic crooning, half drone, all fucking weird.

48: Owl John – Ten Tons of Silence

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The solo debut album of Frightened Rabbit front-man Scott Hutchison, Ten Tons of Silence is in the same vein as the full band’s music, and would be perfectly in place in any of the most recent Frightened Rabbit albums.

47: Usher – Good Kisser

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This is the type of Usher I’ve been wanting for quite some time now. Drum led beat, R&B stylings, and a quality hook round out this fantastic pop song.

46: FKA twigs – Two Weeks

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A dark and ominous beat contrasted by FKA twigs beautiful voice soaring above, the standout single from her debut album hopefully pushes more R&B singers into this style.

45: SBTRKT (feat. Ezra Koenig) – New Dorp, New York

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I still have no idea what New Dorp in New York means and I’m beginning to feel as if I never will.

44: Rubblebucket – Carousel Ride

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While this song is great and all, I’d highly recommend everybody reading this to try and go see Rubblebucket live. They put on an incredible, enthusiastic, and fun-as-hell live show.

43: Swans – A Little God in My Hands

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Starts slow, brooding, and deliberate, and like so many Swans tracks, slowly ratchets up the instrumentation until it culminates in a wall of glorious sound.

42: Jack White – Lazaretto

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This is the type of Jack White song that I love. It has a very basic and forceful melody, simple instrumentation, and a dirty guitar solo. Even though it has added sounds that most of his White Stripes work did not, this song comes closer to the quality of that work than much of Jack’s recent work.

41: Tobacco feat. Notrabel – Streaker

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I still haven’t figured out how to describe Tobacco’s music, but I still like it.

40: Thom Yorke – The Mother Lode

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A beat that could play in a club, vocals that could play at a funeral.

39: Parkay Quarts – Pretty Machines

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Is it Parquet Courts or Parkay Quarts? Make up your mind.

38: Aphex Twin – Aisatsana

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I feel like I’m cheating taking the only piano track off of Syro as my favorite, but Aisatsana is just gorgeous. Aphex Twin always has an ability to create beautiful and minimal piano tracks, and this song just further reinforces that ability.

37: Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar- Never Catch Me

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The best verse that Kendrick drops all year, and its not even on his own song. It helps that he’s rapping over an insane jazz-influenced instrumental.

36: Vince Staples – Limos

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I’ll admit it, I completely slept on this album based off of Vince’s past (in my opinion) lackluster output with Odd Future, but Limos proved me dead wrong. Vince’s flow works perfectly with the beat and the female led hook doesn’t get sappy or overpower as it often happens.

35: Shabazz Palaces – Forerunner Foray

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It’s hard to pick a favorite from any Shabazz Palaces album given their nature to flow songs into one another, but Forerunner Foray can stand on its own. The laid-back flow melds perfectly with the spacey instrumentation and echoey backing vocals.

34: Panda Bear – Mr. Noah

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Is that a sample of a dog crying? Weren’t you the one who sampled vomit on your last album? Stop making weird ass samples work so well, it’s making me uncomfortable.

33: Caribou – Can’t Do Without You

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It’s not often that a four word sample can sustain almost an entire song, but Caribou makes it work amazingly on this track. The slow build pays off in a way that is not only satisfying, but sustainable for multiple bars.

32: Yung Thug feat. A$AP Ferg, Freddie Gibbs – Old English

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I’m a sucker for stupid group tracks, especially when they have both A$AP Ferg and Freddie Gibbs.

31: clipping. – Body And Blood

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Another clipping. song that manages to incorporate a unique sound into the beat. Its not often a group that can incorporate the grating sound of a drill into their beat and have it match the mood they’re going for perfectly, but clipping. pulled it off here.

30: Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me

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Simple and catchy as all hell indie-pop that is incredibly easy to sing along with, Archie, Marry Me will lead off the “Summertime Jams” playlist of 75% of Williamsburg in a few months.

29: White Lung – Down It Goes

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This song doesn’t wait for the starter’s pistol. The entire 2:23 flies by in a flurry of layered guitar and pounding drums. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

28: The War On Drugs – An Ocean In Between The Waves

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The first 5 seconds of this song sounds exactly the same as Take On Me. No seriously, listen to them both back to back.

27: Schoolboy Q – Prescription/Oxymoron

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Apparently you’re not allowed to put the same song on two years in a row, so Man of the Year was not allowed on this 2014 list. Prescription/Oxymoron is an equally stellar track in its own right. In 7 minutes, it manages to show both sides of drug addiction; the introspective, self-isolating, harmful side, and the bombastic, in your face, down your throat side. The vocal additions of Schoolboy Q’s daughter add an incredible layer to the meaning.

26: Arcade Fire & Owen Pallet – Photograph

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This song might be as high as it is mostly because of how much I loved the movie Her and the how well the soundtrack paired with the film. But even on its own, Photograph is a stunning, emotive piece of music.

25: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – High

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Again, apparently you can’t list songs released in the past in a 2014 list. While Thuggin’ is clearly the standout song off Piñata, High is incredible in its own right. The contrast between Freddie’s smooth, low flow, and Danny Brown’s high nasally delivery somehow works on the track.

24: Ariel Pink – Put Your Number In My Phone

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Since pom pom has 17 songs and 17 different genres, it was tough to pick a favorite. Put Your Number In My Phone harkens back to British pop, and the soft guitars set mood that carries though the song. It also wouldn’t be an Ariel Pink song with a bit of oddity, so he throws in a voice mail of a girl he stood up at the Taco Truck for good measure.

23: The Twilight Sad – Last January

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This is a song the national would write if they were Scottish, and I mean that in only the best way possible.

22: Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

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Guys, what did I say?! Make up your mind!

21: Holly Herndon – Chorus

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Holly Herndon has the ability to create chorus from chaos.

20: Tune-Yards – Wait For A Minute

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The closest thing to R&B on Nikki Nack, but not without Merril Garbus’ signature color. The vocal glitches on the chorus are something that would never happen in a typical R&B song, and while they may be a bit off-putting at first, they create a working contrast with the verses.

19: Grouper – Clearing

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Hauntingly simple.

18: Spoon – Do You

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Spoon delivers yet again with a indie-rock single that gets stuck in your teeth. This song manages to pull off a bridge of only do0-do0’s without managing to be abrasive, which is a feat in and of itself.

17: Death From Above 1979 – Right On, Frankenstein!

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Welcome back DFA1979. A song that would fit perfectly on You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. This song has the added maturity of the bass-centric outro which makes the track whole.

16: Liars – Mask Maker

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Take my pants off,
Use my socks
Smell my socks
Eat my face off
Take my face
Get me your face
Gimme your face
Touch my face off
I like your face
Touch my face off
I like your face
Eat my face off
Touch my face off
Get me your face
I like your face
Take it off

15: Jungle – Time

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If the Bee Gees were still alive and attended Wesleyan, they would have formed Jungle.

14: Big K.R.I.T. – Mt. Olympus

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This is NOT the reprise version. That version is a shell of the phenomenal original of Mt. Olympus. K.R.I.T.’s second verse might be the best verse of the year.

13: Perfume Genius – Fool

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At first, I was nervous that Perfume Genius was adding more instrumentation into his music, only because I enjoyed ‘Put Yr Back N 2 It’ for its minimal style of songwriting. Fool proved me wrong. Perfume Genius can write equally as evocative music with extra instruments as with his usual bare bones.

12: Rustie (feat. Danny Brown) – Attak

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While, in my eyes, Green Language was a massive disappointment, Attak was the clear one and only standout from the album. This is probably because I’m a huge Danny Brown fan, but something about Rustie’s production matching Danny’s flow works perfectly with this track.

11: Mac Demarco – Salad Days

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Mac Demarco’s thin, noodly style of guitar, and boyish falsetto pair perfectly on the opening track of his third album Salad Days. The theme continues throughout the album, but where it begins is where Mac is at his best.

10: Chromeo – Jealous (I Ain’t With It)

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Jealous is the perfect mixture of Chromeo’s 80’s-style songwriting and Katy Perry-style riffs. It’s so good  that it almost convinced me to buy a Redd’s Apple Ale. Almost.

9: Todd Terje – Delorean Dynamite

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If I hadn’t been an idiot and didn’t completely miss Inspector Norse being released in 2012 that may have been my song of the year. However, I am an idiot, I did miss it, and I have to make do with the almost as good Delorean Dynamite. The guitar riff entering mid song might be my favorite low key song moment of the year.

8: J. Mascis – Me Again

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Even though his vocal style is less-than-classical, J Mascis has always held the ability to be emotive. Most of his best songs, either solo or with Dinosaur Jr., have focused on his brilliant guitar talents. This song contains both.  He manages to get the most out of his vocal range and pair that with one of the best acoustic guitar riffs of the year.

7: St. Vincent – Huey Newton

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I was not ready for this song the first time I heard it. I had my volume at max and was almost forced out of my chair when the meat of this song hit. St. Vincent could have easily written one song in the complete style of the first half and one for the second, but the duality between them is what makes it such an memorable experience.

6: How To Dress Well – Words I Don’t Remember

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This song is one long slow swell, beginning with a synth and a voice, adding drums, guitar, and more looping vocals, until it culminates with as much emotion that is allowed without lyrics.

5: Bon Iver – Heavenly Father

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This track sits perfectly in-between the best styles of Volcano Choir and Bon Iver. The looping vocals scream the former, while the verses and chorus sit closer with the latter. The mesh creates one of Justin Vernon’s best songs, even if it was made for Zach Braff’s just above mediocre movie.

4: Run The Jewels – Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)

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This song hits you like Dick Cheney out quail hunting. It doesn’t stop until you publicly apologize for getting in its way days later with your face in bandages.

3: Sun Kil Moon – Ben’s My Friend

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Believe it or not, but nobody dies in this song. Instead, the song takes you along the daily life of a pseudo-successful middle-aged man. It’s spares no detail, focusing on what he ate, what he bought, what sports bar shit was on the wall. It slowly pushes past the inane details and lands on something far more important, jealously, self-value, and acceptance. All that captured in one song about one shitty day.

2: Julian Casablancas + The Voidz – Human Sadness

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If you had told me one year ago that an 11 minute song by Julian Casablancas would be my second favorite song of the year, I would have called you insane. All the stagnation of the most recent Strokes albums is all but a distant shadow on Tyranny. Human Sadness, the epic in the middle, contains more interesting moments than the last two Strokes albums put together. Julian’s signature style, where the main guitar matches the vocals note-for-note, leads the track, and it slowly devolves into a flurry of electronics, drums, and guitars. Even with all the chaos in the middle, the song bookends on similarly unique theme as it started.

1: Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)

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Far and away the most fun song of the year. There hasn’t been a single time where I’ve listened to this song and not either hummed or sang along. You just can’t help it. It’s so damn infectious. You want to do the lead singer’s stupid swaying dance that he did on Letterman. You want to pound your chest. You want to growl the same way. After you hear it, you can’t get it out of your head, and let’s be honest, you know you don’t want to. You like it stuck in there.