Another year, another barrage of Best-Of Lists for you, the music fan, to drown in.
I’m of mixed feelings about these things, as I explained during last year’s Top Album round-up. There are so many factors at play and no coherent rules to abide by, making these lists mere opinion. Oh sure, perhaps it’s an opinion from someone who’s spent more time spinning a wider variety of albums, but if you’re someone who lives for music, your opinion is just as valid to me.
That said, I do like to share my lists, mainly to recap my essential listening of the year. This year, I’ve also elected to create a list of essential tunes as well. Many indies release singles over full-length releases. Stellar songs lurk on albums that wouldn’t quite make a top ten albums roster. Here is where those compositions come out to play.
Whereas the forthcoming Top Albums list is based on a matrix of criteria, these songs are here for no other reason save my love of them. My only stipulation: one track per band/artist. Take a look and listen and share your thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook.
This list will post in three parts.
30. “We Can’t Stop” – Miley Cyrus
Factoid one: I love early Rihanna. Factoid two: as someone with a social work background, I have a serious problem with the societal constructs that force Disney female stars into virginal boxes under threat of slut shaming.
Miley’s latest album Bangerz is kind of all over the place, but one thread that pulls it together is the poor woman screaming to be treated as an adult, complete with the accompanying sexual maturity. Think what you will of Miley or even her music, but she has a serious appreciation of public image and its intentional manipulation and decent pipes that evoke Rihanna when she’s not lingering in her country roots. “We Can’t Stop” is the summation of everything we’ve seen countless Disney alumni shout from the rafters: my body, my life — neither of which are yours to judge or shame. A dance club anthem with deeper sociological roots than meets the eye, Miley deserves a little love for telling it like it is with a hip-swaying hook.
29. “Floating” – LYON
Atmospheric and electrolush, evoking early Metric (think “Soft Rock Star”), Toronto’s Lauren Malyon — LYON on stage — delivers tales of love won and lost that elevate the senses. “Floating” is the strongest track off her debut Indian Summer EP. A happy little tune, it evokes the brilliance of the sun reflecting off of still waters at the height of summer. Read our review of LYON’s CMW performance earlier this year.
28. Worst Part – STACEY
Toronto artist STACEY is a songwriter who appreciates the raw power a stark composition can possess. “Worst Part”, featured on her recent EP release, is a track best played by candlelight in the late hours on headphones, preventing any disruption. Heartbreaking in its confessional lyrics, it allows her vocals to shine against the stripped-down piano accompaniment.
27. “Perfume” – Britney Spears
I have a soft spot for Brit. When she works with a great songwriter, she often delivers something wonderful to the pop genre. Such is the case for this track, featuring acclaimed singer-songwriter Sia behind the scenes. The result: a delicate, earnest tale of heartbreak and an almost defiant refusal to give up on a love affair that is ultimately toxic and unworthy of devotion. If only all pop was this well crafted…
26. “Goldmine” – Fitness Club Fiasco
Synth-pop goodness awaits listeners on their debut single, “Goldmine”. A merger of talents from the UK and Canada, Fitness Club Fiasco have crafted a catchy love song that accelerates the heart in four-on-the-floor fashion and demands a dance around one’s room. One of the highlights of the track is the layering of vocals from so many voices, creating a chorus behind lead vocalist Mike Harloff. Driving and daring, it bodes well for their forthcoming debut album, recently funded through IndieGoGo.
25. “Grace Is Such A Good Word” – For Esmé
The brainchild of Martha Meredith, it’s best described as a blend of the confessional storytelling of early Chantal Kreviazuk and the playful experimentation of Regina Spektor or Fiona Apple. By their own astute description, “…for esmé explores the balance between pop music and poetry, between soft and hard, between light and dark. for esmé is a study of contrast and the things that pull us in differing directions… from city lights to the window in the woods.” The shifts in vibe and melody on this track make it a decided highlight of the album.
24. “Ain’t It Fun” – Paramore
While Paramore’s fourth album left us underwhelmed on the whole, there were a couple of strong tracks on the disc, namely “Fast In My Car” and this one. An ode to the “big fish in a small pond” who gets a rude awakening when he strays from familiar territory, it’s a clever pop-rock track with a well-played addition of a gospel choir to both drive home the connection to departed band members, the Brothers Farro, as well as add a little soulful build. It may not be “Like A Prayer”, but it’s definitely tasty.
23. “Kingdom Perverted” – Illitry
From our previous review: “Kingdom Perverted” is a hook-laden, Afro-Cuban percussive land of lush sounds and foreboding lyrics. As organic as the band has ever sounded, there is a liveliness that surges through the track that elevates it to a new level. Illitry is stepping up their game on this one and whether it’s the desperation of the dystopian world they’re evoking or an unknown, particular resonance with this new material, I’m thoroughly enraptured.
22. “Miss Jackson” – Panic! At The Disco ft. LOLO
When Panic! At The Disco first came out on the scene with their debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, I was immediately in love with their rollicking punk-pop cabaret sound and refusal to take themselves entirely seriously. And while Brendon Urie has made some musical missteps on later albums, employing the stunning vocals of Lauren Pritchard (now going by LOLO) on this sassy rock track is not one of them. Infectious groove and playful referential layers (Pritchard’s first album was Wasted In Jackson; the obvious Janet Jackson/Nasty combo) make this a fun song to blast and sing along with.
21. “Givin Em What They Love” – Janelle Monáe ft. Prince
While The Electric Lady didn’t live up to my high expectations from The Archandroid, the latest effort from Janelle Monáe is hardly an album to pass by. The ridiculous number of collaborations with talented artists is draw enough on its own. Case in point: this collab with Monáe’s influence, Prince. As funky and memorable a ditty as the Purple One’s iconic hits, “Givin Em What They Love” does precisely that: it delivers something danceable and rebellious, with style.