December 22nd, 2014 12:07am



A lot of the reason I make these survey mixes is to prove to myself and others that there’s no such thing as a “bad year” for music. This seems very necessary in 2014, a year in which music culture felt scattered or uninspired, and there were few – if any – major zeitgeist-defining albums. I’ve found a lot of other publications’ efforts to recap the year to be rather dismal, and they just seem to perpetuate the feeling that this was an “off” year. But that’s not true, and it’s never true. I feel confident that this survey is a strong argument that plenty of excellent music came out this year. It’s not a matter of the music not being good, it’s about how much harder it is to form consensus about anything these days.


The New Pornographers “Dancehall Domine” / Taylor Swift “Blank Space” / A.G. Cook featuring Hannah Diamond “Keri Baby” / GFOTY “Don’t Wanna/Let’s Do It” / Skrillex “Stranger” / TV on the Radio “Careful You” / White Hinterland “Sickle No Sword” / D’angelo and the Vanguard “The Charade” / J. Cole “Apparently” / Spoon “Inside Out” / Lana Del Rey “Shades of Cool” / Ty Segall “The Singer” / The Oh Sees “Encrypted Bounce” / One Direction “Steal My Girl” / Ximena Sariñana “Sin Ti No Puede Estar Tan Mal” / MNEK “Every Little Word” / Tink featuring Jeremih “Don’t Tell Nobody” / Pearls Negras “Pensando em Voce” / 2NE1 “멘붕 MTBD (CL Solo)”


Kate Tempest “Marshall Law” / The Roots “Understand” / Run the Jewels featuring Gangsta Boo “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” / Against Me! “Unconditional Love” / Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks “Shibboleth” / Dum Dum Girls “Too True To Be Good” / Frankie Cosmos “Art School” / A Sunny Day In Glasgow “Crushin’” / Eno & Hyde “Time To Waste It” / Sinkane “Omdurman” / Clipping “Work Work” / SBTRKT featuring Ezra Koenig “New Dorp, New York” / Freddie Gibbs & MadLib “Shame” / Jeezy featuring Jay Z “Seen It All” / FKA Twigs “Two Weeks” / Aphex Twin “Minipops 67 (Source Field Mix)” / Liars “Mess On A Mission” / Owen Pallett “The Riverbed” / Mica Levi “Lipstick to Void”


Panda Bear “Mr. Noah” / Redinho “Playing with Fire” / Kimbra “Madhouse” / Sophie “Lemonade” / Tune-Yards “Find A New Way” / Deerhoof “Paradise Girls” / 18+ “Crow” / Young Money featuring Tyga, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne “Senile” / Beyoncé “7/11” / St. Vincent “Digital Witness” / Speedy Ortiz “Everything’s Bigger” / Pixies “Greens and Blues” / Foo Fighters “The Feast and the Famine” / The Vaselines “Inky Lies” / Sam Smith “Money On My Mind” / Usher “Good Kisser” / Michael Jackson “Love Never Felt So Good” / Bernhoft “One Way Track” / Tricky featuring Francesca Belmonte “I Had A Dream” / Damon Albarn “Lonely Press Play” / Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar “Never Catch Me” / Museum of Love “And All the Winners (Fuck You, Buddy)”


Real Estate “Had to Hear” / Sloan “Cleopatra” / Ex Hex “How You Got That Girl” / The Voluntary Butler Scheme “Brain Freeze” / Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks “Strange Colores” / Caribou “Silver” / Mr. Twin Sister “Blush” / Ghostface Killah “Love Don’t Live Here No More” / Hyuna “Red” / QT “Hey QT” / Kero Kero Bonito “Sick Beat” / Becky G “Shower” / Rae Sremmurd “No Flex Zone” / ILoveMakonnen featuring Drake “Tuesday” / Future featuring Andre 3000 “Benz Friendz” / KOA “All of My Love” / DJ Snake and Lil Jon “Turn Down for What” / Girl Talk & Freeway featuring Waka Flocka Flame “Tolerated” / Schoolboy Q featuring Jay Rock “Los Awesome” / Tinashe “Aquarius”


Saint Pepsi “Fiona Coyne (Remix)” / Shamir “On the Regular” / Charli XCX “Breaking Up” / Merchandise “Enemy” / Electric Six “Alone with Your Body” / Camper Van Beethoven “Grasshopper” / Angel Olsen “Hi-Five” / Love Inks “Shoot 100 Panes of Glass” / Wu-Tang Clan “Ruckus in B Minor” / Vince Staples featuring James Fauntleroy “Nate” / Big K.R.I.T. “Mt. Olympus” / Big Sean featuring E40 “I Don’t Fuck with You” / Guided by Voices “Littlest League Possible” / Trash No Star “How Are You” / Perfect Pussy “Big Stars” / Babymetal “Gimme Chocolate!!” / Nick Jonas “Jealous” / Basement Jaxx “What’s the News?” / Hervé and Zebra Katz “Tear the House Up” / G-Dragon X TAEYANG “Good Boy” / Drake “0 to 100/The Catch Up” / Kool A.D. featuring Talib Kweli and Boots Riley “Hickory”


TEEN “Rose 4 U” / Swick & Lewis featuring Tkay Maidza “Wishes” / Nicki Minaj “Anaconda” / Prince “This Could Be Us” / James Blake “200 Press” / Jessie Ware “Tough Love” / Todd Terje featuring Bryan Ferry “Johnny and Mary” / Nicholas Krgovich “The Backlot” / Kendrick Lamar “I” / Common “Speak My Piece” / Shabazz Palaces “They Come In Gold” / Chet Faker “Gold” / How to Dress Well “See You Fall” / Andy Stott “Faith In Strangers” / Slow Club “Suffering You, Suffering Me” / Gerard Way “Brother” / Cymbals Eat Guitars “Laramie”


Julian Casablancas + The Voidz “Take Me In Your Army” / Interpol “Everything Is Wrong” / Perfume Genius “Queen” / Adult Jazz “Am Gone” / Leon Bridges “Coming Home” / Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk” / The Both “The Inevitable Shove” / Phish “The Line” / Mac DeMarco “Passing Out Pieces” / Deers “Trippy Gum” / Girlpool “American Beauty” / Lil B “No Black Person Is Ugly” / Ryn Weaver “OctaHate” / EMA “So Blonde” / Bleachers “You’re Still A Mystery” / Bart Davenport “Dust in the Circuits” / Wild Beasts “A Simple Beautiful Truth” / Ty Dolla $ign featuring Casey Veggies, Twista, and Nate Howard “Work” / DeJ Loaf “Me U & Hennessy” / Nautic “Show”


Beck “Wave” / U2 featuring Lykke Li “The Troubles” / Sharon Van Etten “Your Love Is Killing Me” / Young Fathers “Low” / Arca “Thievery” / Azealia Banks “Ice Princess” / Pusha T “Lunch Money” / Lil Wayne “D’Usse” / Snakehips featuring Sinead Harnett “Days with You” / Jenny Lewis “She’s Not Me” / Lydia Loveless “Hurts So Bad” / Mary J. Blige “Therapy” / Meghan Trainor “Dear Future Husband” / Weezer “Back to the Shack” / Veruca Salt “It’s Holy” / Strand of Oaks “Goshen ’97” / Alvvays “Adult Diversion” / Weekend Secret “Tendrils and Vines” / Jack White “Just One Drink” / Eric Church “Like A Wrecking Ball” / The War On Drugs “An Ocean In Between the Waves”


Slim Twig “Heavy Splendour” / Thom Yorke “Guess Again!” / Grimes “Go” / Kiesza “Hideaway” / Vic Mensa “Down On My Luck” / Federal Reserve, Cam’ron & A-Trak featuring Juelz Santana “Dipshits” / Katie Rush featuring Samantha Urbani “Dangerous Luv” / Dreamtrak “Odyssey, Pt. 2 (A.G. Cook Remix)” / Parquet Courts “Bodies” / Tacocat “Crimson Wave” / Ariel Pink “Sexual Athletics” / Hospitality “I Miss Your Bones” / Future Islands “Seasons (Waiting On You)” / Sales “Getting It On” / Jessica Pratt “Back, Baby” / Foxygen “How Can You Really” / Yumi Zouma “The Brae” / AJ Davila “Es Verano Ya” / Sunny Day Real Estate “Lipton Witch” / Laetitia Sadier “Quantum Soup”


Swans “Screen Shot” / The Smashing Pumpkins “Tiberius” / Broods “Pretty Thing” / ExGF “Idle Hands” / Röyksopp & Robyn “Do It Again” / Yacht “Plastic Soul” / Tove Lo “Like Em Young” / Ariana Grande featuring The Weeknd “Love Me Harder” / Coldplay “A Sky Full of Stars” / Lorde “Yellow Flicker Beat” / Danity Kane “Lemonade” / Miley Cyrus featuring E-40, Juicy J, and Ty Dolla $ign “Fun” / Flo Rida featuring Sage the Gemini “GDFR” / YG featuring Drake “Who Do You Love?” / Afterhours “Sixty-Forty” / Thurston Moore “Forevermore” / Grouper “Clearing” / Sun Kil Moon “I Love My Dad”

December 17th, 2014 1:44pm

A Way With Entropy

Weekend Secret “Tendrils and Vines”

I found this song at the end of a recent episode of WFMU’s Why Oh Why? with Andrea Silenzi. The singer/songwriter, Kelly Reidy, was interviewed about dating in the main segment of the episode, and Silenzi kindly played the show out with this song, and it was one of those things where a song immediately grabs you and feels totally familiar the first you ever hear it. Reidy is very good with melody, and has a very distinctive lyrical style – very neurotic and wordy, but also disarmingly direct and witty. This is only an acoustic demo, and it’s not hard for me to fill out an electric arrangement in my head – it could easily be shifted into more of a rock song with a greater emphasis on that main riff – but I’m just as happy for it to remain this gentle, sweet, intimate thing.

Go to the Weekend Secret page on Soundcloud.

December 15th, 2014 1:56pm

The Land Of The Humble And Proud

Common “Speak My Piece”

I had no idea Common even put out a record this summer until I started doing research for the forthcoming survey mixes. This happens every time, and it’s one of the reasons I do this sort of thing – for whatever reason, Common’s record wasn’t on my radar, and I don’t remember PR pushing it to me, and I don’t remember anyone I know ever talking about it. And yet, it’s excellent, maybe the best thing he’s ever done. No I.D. produced the entire record, and his often dissonant and glitchy tracks bring out something interesting in Common. The more abrasive sound contrasts nicely with Common’s polished style and warm voice, and the abrasive qualities in the music suits the darker tone of his lyrics, which are mostly concerned with the extreme gang violence in Chicago over the past several years. Common isn’t preachy on the record, but his sorrow is real, and even permeates a relatively cheery and boastful track like “Speak My Piece.” It makes sense that a dark, singular record by an aging rapper might not be the sexiest topic in hip-hop in 2014, but it’s an album that’s worthy of some attention.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 12th, 2014 12:58pm

Pretend That You’re Happy

18+ “Crow”

18+ seem almost a little too cool – the hip-hop minimalism a bit too trendy, the detached and strung-out vibe a bit too affected – but when their shtick works, it really really works. “Crow” sounds like a tougher version of the xx, with the two singers putting up an icy, indifferent front while constantly revealing the vulnerability just under their surfaces. The xx are all about making music that sounds like real intimacy, but this is the sound of two people who are terrified of real connection becoming more intimate than they’re ready to handle. They sound miserable, but sexy.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 11th, 2014 1:35pm

You Have It All Backwards

Ximena Sariñana “Sin Ti Puede Estar Tan Mal”

As far as I can tell, this is a song about figuring out what to do with a relationship that’s clearly come to an end. It’s about emotional indecision, and that’s reflected in the sound of it, as the track progresses through a series of tones that starts off feeling like changing your mind, but moves along to moments that feel more like epiphanies. Once you get to that last round of the chorus, there’s a sense of clarity. It might not be an emotional conclusion, but it’s definitely not confused.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 10th, 2014 1:14pm

I Don’t Wanna Wait Forever

J. Cole “Hello”

I didn’t expect much from J. Cole’s new album because his last one, Born Sinner, was so awkward – the music wasn’t bad, but his verses oozed a very off-putting level of insecurity and desperation while being mostly focused on him telling you how talented he is. The record was split between chasing radio hits, being a bit too open about his need for approval, and insisting that he’s the next Kanye. This new record, deliberately released with minimal promotion, is the first J. Cole record that sounds like the sort of thing he was talking about on the last one. It’s concise and focused, and seems like the work of an actual uncompromising hip-hop auteur. He’s still very reverent of hip-hop’s history, but this time around he doesn’t seem so self-conscious about it. He’s still boasting, but this time he’s following through. He’s being vulnerable, but not in some staged, phony way. He’s learned how to signal melancholy without it seeming saccharine, and he’s figured out how to slow things down without sounding like he’s trying too hard to be serious. He’s just got the balance right all the way through, and the result is a confident, emotionally powerful rap record that doesn’t just finally make good on his promise, but exceeds expectations at points. He’s gone in hard on a sorta Chance the Rapper-ish sing-rap style on some songs, and that suits him well, and draws out a soulfulness that wasn’t quite there on Born Killer. You hear him on “Hello,” and you don’t even need to pay attention to his words to pick up on that potent mix of regret and self-loathing in his voice. He’s just got it now.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 9th, 2014 1:14pm

The Sound Of One Clapped Hand

The Smashing Pumpkins “Tiberius”

When Billy Corgan announced that Monuments to an Elegy would be a nine-track album of ultra-epic guitar rock, I naturally assumed the songs would all be on the long side. You know, along the lines of stuff like “Soma,” “Hummer,” “Silverfuck,” “Porcelina,” “Thru the Eyes of Ruby,” etc. My hopes were up, for sure. The actual record is a very different thing – out of nowhere, Corgan drops the most concise album of his career. It’s over and out in just over 30 minutes, and the longest song is just a hair over 4 minutes. The songs do have an epic quality, but mostly in terms of bombast and implied scope. “Tiberius” packs a lot into 3 minutes, and it’s not hard to imagine a younger Corgan letting the song expand to at least 5 minutes. There’s a lot of discipline in this record, which is not exactly a form of artistic growth likely to get people excited, especially when you’re known for being the extremely prolific writer of over-the-top alt-rock. I like the super-saturated feeling of “Tiberius” and some of the other tracks on Monuments to an Elegy, but I find the songs sort of exhausting too – there’s an overload of treble that is taxing on the ears. I think Corgan’s voice and style generally does better when given a lot of space to breathe.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 8th, 2014 1:41pm

Keep Hitting That Spot

EXGF “Idle Hands”

This is a wonderfully bratty little song that’s basically like if the girls of Icona Pop shifted their attention towards berating the DJ at a club. It’s funny, there’s never been a shortage of pop songs that praise DJs, but it’s hard to come by a song like this, which is just totally antagonistic and belittling. Like, the gist of the lyrics is “hey asshole, why don’t you do this right for a change, just play what we want and don’t pay attention to us while we’re having a good time.” It’s unreasonable, but like, we’ve all been annoyed by shitty DJs, right? Super relatable.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 4th, 2014 1:38pm

Think Backwards

Wu-Tang Clan “A Better Tomorrow”

First, a note of clarification: This is the title track from the Wu-Tang Clan’s new album, A Better Tomorrow. It is not the Wu-Tang Clan song called “A Better Tomorrow” from their album Wu-Tang Forever. I don’t really understand why they thought it’d be a good idea to make two completely different songs with the same title, but the RZA works in mysterious ways.

I have been a Wu-Tang Clan for a very long time, and despite becoming somewhat unreliable over the years, they remain my favorite rap act of all time. If I had to make a list of my 10 favorite rappers, at least five of them would be on it. That kind of love can lead to high expectations for some, but I think I’m pretty reasonable about it: I just want to hear these guys rapping, preferably together. A Better Tomorrow is a flawed record and definitely not in the same league as Enter the Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang Forever or The W, but honestly, I’m content to just hear Method Man and Inspectah Deck doing their thing. I like hearing Masta Killa and U-God, because where the hell else are you gonna hear them? So, in the sense that I’m happy for them all to just show up, I’m cool with the record. I like a few of the songs a lot. There’s only one track that I find embarrassing. Not a bad average.

However, I think Craig Jenkins’ review of the album on Pitchfork is very accurate. RZA’s musical obsessions and personal growth as a producer are now out of sync with the rest of the Clan, and it’s resulted in a lot of performances that seem more perfunctory than inspired. I have empathy for both sides of that situation, but I mostly wish RZA had compromised a bit more. No, that’s the wrong word: Collaborated. Back in the glory days of the Wu, his greatest talent was always knowing the best way to frame the talents of his rappers. Now that he’s gone the other way, it might be time for him to listen to those guys because they might have good ideas about the best ways to frame his skills.

Buy it from Amazon.

December 3rd, 2014 1:44pm

Strings Of My Heart

Slim Twig “Heavy Splendour”

I have listened to this song several times by now and every time it sounds a little different. Some of this has to do with some ambient haze in the arrangement that serves as a sort of musical fog, but it’s mostly in the way the structure of the song keeps shifting and diverging while somehow seeming as though it’s stuck in one place. It’s basically a glam song presented as a strange audio illusion. Or maybe it’s just a glam song being played at the same time as the score of a spooky movie?

Buy it from Amazon.

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