Paste just released this incredible list, and I was happy to see that it featured a few songs I have come to love this year as well. It’s always nice when your own interest in high quality music is substantiated by an outside source! There are only a couple of songs on their list didn’t trigger the pleasure centers of my brain (*ahem* Beck and Conor Oberst) but the rest are seriously good. They did 27, I think I have 11. Here are mine, ranging from Americana to mainstream pop to Muscle Shoals soul to indie rock, folk, and punk. I’ll put them approximately in chronological order of their release date. A Spotify playlist follows.
The Willowz – Repetition
This one and the one that follows it came from Super Bowl ads. This one’s from Mountain Dew. This may not be the most critically revered method of finding and falling in love with music, but as rarely as I actually watch TV, I like listening for the sounds behind the glitzy screen action and then listening to them as independent creations. I also discovered Chappo that way, through a Sears commercial that I still find funny. The Willowz remind me a lot of Jet and they get my blood pumping.
U2 – Ordinary Love
I have to confess that I completely bought into to the 24-hours-only gimmick and downloaded the free version of this the day after the Super Bowl. Maybe it helped fight AIDS. Maybe not, but the song is classic U2 – positive/inspirational lyrics, silky smooth vocals and bouncy pop catchiness that keeps me coming back.
Damien Rice – Silver Timothy
This is mellow folk with a gentle brightness. In the past I’ve thought that Damien Rice kind of blended into the wallpaper but this track stands out nicely. It won’t follow me through the summer but I have to include here for how it impressed me early in the year.
Against Me! – Black Me Out
Mmm, the passion, the personal vulnerability, the buildup to crashing guitars and just the intense power of this song (along with the whole album) gets me fired up and kind of blissed out at the same time. Really good pop-punk can get a person agitated but in a hopeful, happy way. I would very much like to go to an Against Me! show if I thought I wouldn’t get too tuckered out (at the ripe old age of 29 – ha). There’s always been a special place in my heart for Against Me! and I could easily choose almost any other song on the Transgender Dysphoria Blues album. Every single one needs to be heard.
Broken Bells – Holding on for Life
This was my jam for pretty much all of January and February. I would scan the radio dial until it came on, would queue it up any time of day, and it helped get me through the dreary winter months. It has sugary synth qualities but also a pensive disco depth (take that phrase to the bank) that makes it one of those tunes I still expect to have in my rotation come December.
St. Vincent – Birth in Reverse
There’s nothing conventional about St Vincent, neither the music or the character. It’s at time atonal, asymmetric in lyrical structure, but always a satisfying guitar-heavy bouncing sound.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones – I’m Torn Up
Good night, does this guy have a voice! Think the powerhouse vocals of Alabama Shakes and Janis Joplin fusing with Joe Cocker and James Brown. Really. When I watch him perform on video I feel like I’m in a movie, or outside of time, or something. It’s just stunning. Absolutely obsessed with this band.
Hurray for the Riff Raff – End of the Line
Warm, warm nostalgic feelings of home. My personal heaven will have a fiddle, accordion, harmonica, and a Delta dame romancing about hot days, flowing rivers and bucolic life in the South. This one is very Levon-esque and my favorite cut among many from Small Town Heroes.
Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits
Man, is it the year of female singers with powerhouse vocals, or what? Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, St. Vincent, and now Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive. There’s so much nuance, so much emotion, and brash ambition in her pipes. I love the strength of her voice, the clever structure of the lyrics, the ad libs, everything. Cannot get enough Lake Street Dive.
Nickel Creek – Hayloft
I’m putting this on here because it definitely raised an eyebrow or two at our listen party, and it’s like nothing else Nickel Creek has ever done. I love that. It’s the only track on the album like it – and why shouldn’t it be there? I respect a legendary “newgrass” group that decides to squeeze in a bombastic drum-and-bass-almost-dance-club song about young lovers getting caught in the act by the girl’s gun-toting farmer dad – yes, in a hayloft.
Jack White – Lazaretto
I just heard this today and it made it right on the list. Wow. It seems like more and more, Jack White is sounding like early Rage Against the Machine, which I LOVE. He’s got his signature, increasingly high-pitched, acerbic voice and a punishing guitar riff that I can’t even really make sense of right now. So excited for the new release this June.
What songs have you loved this year?