30. Nas & Damian Marley – As We Enter
The opening track of Distant Relatives is a big one and it’s the best fusion of two sounds one could hope for with a collaboration with the enigmatic Nas and Damian Marley. Their two voices somehow flow seamlessly over one another as they trade verses, a quality reflected just as well in the jumpy, infectious beat that fuses the sounds of New York rap and reggae. Its a surprise to be sure, but it works. And I’m not even giving it points for being such a surprise, it’s just a great song.
29. Villagers – The Meaning of the Ritual
“My love is selfish… and I bet that yours is, too.” I had a lot of trouble picking which song from Villagers’ album to put on this list, but this song eventually got the honor. Its quiet, understated and beautifully honest. From the stark, scarce production to the stunning lyrics and their incredible delivery to the abrupt ending, “The Meaning of the Ritual” is… well, indescribable in its own way.
“What is this peculiar word called truth?”
28. Owen Pallet – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt
Honorable Mention: CFCF Remix
This one’s a stunner live. Pallet’s done a lot of work from a lot of big names, from Arcade Fire to Beruit, but his solo works always been a bit of enigma. In dropping his Final Fantasy moniker, he’s also somehow found his sound. “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” is the centerpiece of his album Heartland and its first single and it’s no surprise to hear why. Its hypnotic synth loop, gorgeous string arrangements and catchy melody make it one of Pallet’s best songs. If you can see him live, do so. Here’s why:
27. Menomena – TAOS
I was going to take this song off the list entirely at one point. But in its first 5 seconds it’d already won its place on the list and by the end of the song it’d made all the way to 28. The song covers so much ground in its short time, from buzz-driven rocker to piano rocker to sax-punctuated rocker to piano ballad sing along with Beatles harmonies to… well you get the point. I read an article saying the Menomena may be on the brink, but Mines was such a consistent record I’ve forced myself into denial. Nothing else sounds like this band.
26. Here We Go Magic – Collector
I’ll admit something, I cut out Magic Kids’ “Hey Boy” and The Love Language’s “Pedals” to give this song this spot. It was a hard decision but goddamn this song is just addictive. I’ve listened to it three times in a row and my roommate is deridingly saying “I’VE GOT A MILD FASCINATION” but I can’t stop. It’s bright and joyous and danceable and my roommate is glaring at me so I’ll stop.
25. Ten Bears – Braces
“Braces” is a pop song, pure and simple. Writing about pop songs can be heard. It can quickly get repetitive. Catchy, fun, melodic, etc. So what puts “Braces” above all the other catchy dance songs that came out this year? (see: Two Door Cinema Club) Well, I like it more. And that’s what this list is. And that’s all you need to know about that.
The humorous revisionism in the phrase “rocking the braces” alone gets it a high spot.
24. The Morning Benders – Excuses
“Excuses” is a song about young love. That’s hardly a new concept in music, but their much more directly physical take on it surprisingly retains the innocence common to the old, sweet, standards of teenage love. It helps that the song is wrapped in a gorgeous package, from swelling strings to the impossible-to-forget “da da da dum” bridge it’s a song whose sentiment and sound intertwine like the lovers it speaks of.
23.Reptar – Houseboat Babies
I already did a fairly recent post on this song. It’s the first on this list that I tagged as a Must Listen and I still adore it. I have to give kudos to the excellent WeListenForYou.com for extending out this discovery. Like all the other pop songs on this list, this is the kind of song that I wish everyone knew and would sing along to at parties. Reptar’s a Georgia band, but I swear to God if they ever come to Ohio I’m going to see them and sing every word of this song from its vocal bassline to its breakout towards the end.
22. Janelle Monae – Cold War
The ArchAndroid is full, cover to cover, of excellent pop songs. Even after publishing this list, it’s likely I’ll want to change it to one of the other songs on that album. “Cold War” is the album’s second single and sounds like Outkast blitzed out. Monae’s pipes are in full force, as are her lyrics, grand concepts, production–everything that makes The ArchAndroid an excellent album. Its video, done in one take–its first take–is one of my favorites of this year.
21. Good Old War – I Should Go/Thinking of You
Absolutely beautiful harmonies and a wonderfully simple, effective melody. A guitar and a maraca. Some light bongos. Later, a drum and hi-hat. Acapella harmonies that rival the Beach Boys’ best work. Elegiac. Sunshine. Words are futile devices and they do these songs no justice.