26. “Open Eye Signal”- Jon Hopkins

Trance music and dance music are very similar in most respects, the obvious difference a fundamental one, in that dance is movement and trance is stagnant. Otherwise, they have been both best built with synthesized sounds over the last forty years, they are the closest things “popular” music comes to orchestration, and they are best constructed by British people. It took a Brit, Jon Hopkins to be precise, to mesh together both fundamentally opposing ideas in a way that doesn’t sound like oil and vinegar but peanut butter and chocolate. The opposition between dance and trance becomes apparent about a minute into the song. Should I tap my feet or sway? Should I bob my head or tilt it back? Which is the best way to get lost in the melody? Moving around? Or staying perfectly still?

25. “Ways to Go”- Grouplove

Maybe it’s an L.A. thing. I’m very aware that Grouplove’s unapologetic mix of rock ‘n roll and electro is the same sound that Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees are using to send the new flavor of the decade to the masses. Maybe I’m hoping that Grouplove turns out to be more like this generation’s incarnation’s Rage Against The Machine than Limp Bizkit, but that feels like an awful stretch. Grouplove, now with three top-40s, is a chart mainstay, one of those electro rock groups “saving” rock ‘n roll from popular obscurity despite not being able to play rock ‘n roll very well. But maybe I like “Ways to Go” because when a local radio station played a clip of Grouplove singer _______ introducing the song as “about how it takes a long time for girls to get ready,” I immediately thought, if this song is any good, the problem will worsen. So maybe this whole electro rock trend is like girls getting ready (gender normativity aside): I may not like it, but I’m going to stick around anyway to see what the finished product is like.

24. “Right Action”- Franz Ferdinand

Could anyone have guessed that out of all the mid-aughts British rock saviors, your Kasabian, your Bloc Party, your Arctic Monkeys, your Fratellis, that Franz Ferdinand would have the most sterling discography of the bunch? It pleasantly surprises me, that’s for sure. After all, and I’ve repeated this a lot but not nearly enough for how often it should be emphasized, they have the purest intentions in the music business: to make girls dance. An attitude like that should be given a blessing by the rock gods for six platinum albums and an induction into the rock ‘n roll hall of fame, which certainly isn’t out of reach for these Glaswegian cats. After all, “Right Action” sounds like your typical excellent Franz Ferdinand song, using a modified Kinks style of guitar to unstrap disco patrons from walls and wooden chairs and a bunch of weird lyrics to awkwardly shout at inappropriate times throughout the day. Yes, they’re weird, but in a very endearing way, but not in a Katy Perry we-thought-this-weird-out-in-an-office way, but in a way that makes you think that, yes, Franz Ferdinand is consistently fantastic.

23. “Treehome95”- Tyler, The Creator

He filmed himself eating a cockroach and won a VMA; he sparked a nationwide hate speech discussion thanks to some distasteful tweets to Tegan and Sara; he wrote what is probably the most brilliantly anti-establishment and/or recklessly violent hook in rap history, depending on your perspective. Underneath it all, however, Tyler just wants to play piano, and he finally got a chance to do it on his brilliantly organized but meh-ly executed third album Wolf. “Treehome95” strays away from Tyler’s minimalist production towards a full blown acid jazz/bossa nova sing-along that employs the help of some childhood summertime nostalgia and Erykah Badu. It sounds like ear bleach compared to some of the splatterfests that Tyler and the Odd Future crew has put out in recent years, not only the most mature and polished of the youngsters career, but easily the most breezy and enjoyable. Tyler is still a phenomenal rapper and an occasionally mind-blowing producer, but “Treehome95” shows some serious neo-soul-like potential in that crazy mind of his.

22. “Blurred Lines”- Robin Thicke, Pharrel, and T.I.

“Blurred Lines,” the biggest song of the year, exemplified the catchy vs. rape-y conundrum that has thrust many of pop’s biggest hits in the last few years into a gauntlet of political correctness and conversations about sexual respect. That entire web forums and daytime talk shows dedicated themselves to the “guilt” one should feel while dancing to this song probably only added to Robin Thicke’s evolving star power, Pharrell’s bank account (is he the richest man alive?), and T.I.’s second (third?) comeback. In the sense that most pop music is rape-y, then yes, “Blurred Lines” contains ample doses of disrespect towards women. But…and this “but” always comes in, regardless of whether it deserves any academic merit…it’s catchy. Like super catchy. Like one of the most brilliant exercises in pop music over the last few years catchy. So catchy, in fact, that with an expensive suit, impossibly gorgeous eyes, and a mediocre vocal performance, Robin Thicke became Justin Timberlake in a year where JT actually released an album.


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