My 10 midyear favorites

If it wasn’t painfully obvious from my previous posts, I like lists. I even keep a running manifest throughout the year of my favorite songs, and this list is the main source of my year-end countdown. I’m never kidding when I write that I think about that post all year (I may have only written that once, ah well).

But halfway through the year is close enough, right? I figure it’d be appropriate to give a taste of what that final post is going to look like (and/or I haven’t written anything in a month and feel slightly guilty about abandoning my three readers) and present my ten favorite songs from the first half of 2014.

10. “Sunlight”- The Magician

House music is in such a depressing and corporate mood that it somewhat surprises me when I find an enjoyable track (though boots and pants and boots and pants may just be my favorite *song?* of the year). “Sunlight” feels stadium ready with Disclosure-like curated vocals from English act Years and Years, and boy, does it bump.

9. “Bang It To The Curb”- Far East Movement

K-Town kontemporaries got seriously unlucky when they decided to unleash this song just as DJ Snake’s krunksterpiece “Turn Down For What” started to get some rekognition. “Bang It To The Curb” is a superior song, however, and not just for the geographically significant references (King Taco shoutout excepted), but for the Fergie-like vocals juxtaposed with semi-serious flossing that makes every moment the Klimax.

8. “Man Of The Year”- Schoolboy Q

Top Dawg Entertainment may have the whole “introspective” reputation, what with Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul being all “insightful” and shit, but every crew probably needs at least one member to venture into Natalie Portman-approved bass heavy mindless misogyny for some airplay, right? And sure, Schoolboy Q isn’t really exceptionally good at anything except wearing bucket hats, but he got TDE on the map, got them silly, and found a way to say “bruh” in a hook without sounding too bougie. That’s worth something, yeah?

7. “Fall in Love”- Phantogram

Now that it’s been established that spacious synthesizers paired with saccarine vocals works well (Passion Pit, Purity Ring, Disclosure, CHVRCHES, Grimes), we should expect a lot of Phantogram-y stuff in the near future. That’s not nearly a bad thing; this new movement works partly because there are some great musicians behind it, but mostly because it sounds fresh and instantly likable.

6. “Sanctified”- Rick Ross, Kanye West, Big Sean

It’s not often we find Yeezy both in top form and in a nostalgic state (please don’t connect the two, they are mutually exclusive), but when we do an exceptionally enjoyable song usually follows. Big Sean bores (what else is new?) and Rozay clowns around while pretending to be dead serious, but with an instrumental as majestic and gigantic as the one D.J. Mustard and Mr. West orchestrated on “Sanctified,” they could’ve rapped their most recent tweets and it would have still been a festival headliner.

5. “Bye Bye Big Ocean”- A Sunny Day in Glasgow

San Diego’s DIIV did well introducing the world to sandalgaze (trademarked!) in 2012, so of course it wouldn’t be long before a band from such a dreary place as Philadelphia named after a city that gets maybe two (three?) sunny days a year expanded upon the sound. No, I don’t know what’s being sung, but good summer music has always been more about warmth than ideas, and the hazy fuzz on “Bye Bye Big Ocean” most certainly qualifies.

4. “Interference Fits”- Perfect Pussy 

Being the “biggest thing in punk,” even if Perfect Pussy only were that for a few weeks, probably isn’t a label any punk band wants on their resume. Even with the pressure, it didn’t take long to follow up their breathtaking 2013 I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling EP, and without sounding too much like a continuation of frenzied perfection, 2014’s Say Yes To Love surpassed their debut and put the Syracuse, New York foursome in the conscience of everyone who likes loud guitars and hates other people. It’s well deserved; lyrics like “and my friends began to fall in love/first with themselves, and then with each other” shouldn’t be ignored.

3. “I Just Bought a Bugatti (I’m Happy)”- Young Nigga, Ice JJ Fish, Damonte, L Boy

Loiter Squad is a very stupid and often funny Odd Future platform, running in fifteen minute segments on Adult Swim. The show’s strongest character is Tyler the Creator’s strip-club rapper alter ego, who never records a song without mentioning his expensive pasta or how he likes to shoot people in the dick. “I Just Bought a Bugatti” and it’s video is replayably hilarious and endlessly quotable (“we comin’ in yo’ house!/slappin’ yo’ breakfast burrito out yo’ hand!”), easily as enjoyable as anything Tyler puts out on his primary moniker. Rap heavyweight Earl Sweatshirt just stands in the background looking like a Renaissance painter as Jasper “not even a rapper” Dolphin spits an on-point satire. Throw in YouTube famous crooner Ice JJ Fish providing some soul and the boys from Fairfax have created a comedic titan bordering on some serious social commentary. Almost.

2. “Jim Wise”- Sun Kil Moon

Mark Kozelek has so far released the album of the year under his project Sun Kil Moon, and there’s a very good chance that the year will end without a peer to the breathtaking Benji. “Spent the day with my dad and his old friend Jim Wise,” Kozelek harmlessly begins the song, and he manages to keep the same emotional tone even when the heart-wrenching hammer drops. His Ernest Hemingway directness paired with simple soft rock shouldn’t be as arresting as it is, but stories about his loved ones and people he hasn’t seen in years bleed like they were siphoned directly from his aorta. It’s rare to hear this kind of emotional authenticity, and even if the stories Kozelek tells have no bearing in truth, it would still be one of the most remarkable exercises in human misery ever put to tape.

1. “Talking Backwards”- Real Estate

Technical proficiency in musicians usually leads to a quality product, even if it isn’t a big conversation point on major music review sites (or far below minor ones like this one). So while it sounds like Real Estate is really good at what they do, and while I can’t really explain why they sound that way, the only thing that really matters is that I was lying down in a Southern California park with the sun beating down when I heard this song blaring over a loudspeaker for the first time, and it was as perfect a moment as I have ever experienced.


1 Comment

  1. […] it has been. My loyal readers (all three of you) may remember that I placed this song at #1 in my midyear countdown. That’s a significant fall, especially since there are four other songs from that list that […]

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