Favorite New Artist:
Too Many Zooz
Performing in the New York subways, three-piece brass house Too Many Zooz blew up in 2014 after lots of youtube videos gone viral. They’ve been the best-selling band on bandcamp.com for three of their releases this year and have gotten enough support to tour full-time around the U.S.. With the mainstream media embrassing electronic music, it seems that instrumental music is gaining a greater audience as well (which was witnessed with the rise of the hip hop jazz trio BadBadNotGood). Plus, Too Many Zooz has nourished listeners with yet another strong use of the saxophone.
Top Ten Favorite Songs (Outside of my favorite albums):
For me and my ears, 2014 marked the best year for Top 40 radio. Looking at my list of favorite tracks I’ve compiled, a staggering amount were primarily digested through my car, driving to and from work. I have amassed a pile of CDs to avoid the radio, but this year I found it to be an extremely diverse source of catchy music. Sure, there’s the same pile of thoughtless, empty tracks, but I felt that this year I did not find diamonds in the rough, but rather discovered a gold rush. But, like the gold rush, it will end shortly. Alas…
10. Lecrae “Dirty Water”
Lecrae’s new album hit #1 on the Billboard charts, but, in a year where the charts were officially acknowledged by Billboard themselves that the system was way out-of-date, the title now seems more trite than ever. What was perhaps more surprising was Lecrae’s takeover of the iTunes homepage and his sit-in with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The album is not great, but “Dirty Water” is a sucker punch to the gut, which is entirely thanks to Derek Minor who produced the track. Added bonus: seeing this performed live and actually getting knocked back by sound pressure.
9. Rustie “Velcro”
“do do do do do do do do do do do do do do
whap whap whap whap whap whap
bleeeee blee bleeeeeeeeee blee bleeeeeeeeee blee blee blee blee”
8. Naughty Boy “La La La” (feat. Sam Smith)
Male falsetto voices can get a little annoying, even if it comes off as fun and refreshing at first (I’m looking at you, MIKA). Sam Smith’s pipes handle the falsetto with power and confidence, along with every other note Smith chooses. Naughty Boy’s Hotel Cabana project was a little too ambitious in its theme, but it holds some great tracks. The combination of Smith’s vocals and Naughty Boy’s production makes a great pairing, too sweet not to indulge.
7. Taking Back Sunday “Flicker, Fade”
I had a phase this year where I listened to a lot of emo-rock, post-punk, and their ilk to psyche myself up for a new band I’ve started. I reintroduced myself to My Chemical Romance and early The Mars Volta (or late At the Drive-In), plus a number of these bands released new material this year. The best of the lot is Taking Back Sunday’s Happiness Is…, and the best of that lot is “Flicker, Fade”.
6. Becky G “Shower”
Back in high school, there was a span of about ten seconds from when I first kissed my then-girlfriend to when I made it back to my car parked on the curb. During the last five seconds, I could not help but dance. This song bottles those five seconds and lasts three and a half minutes.
5. Bleachers “I Want to Get Better”
Jack Antonoff spins his notoriety from the success of fun. into an opportunity to show his band-fronting skills with the group Bleachers. There are some similarities with style and sound, but here the arrangements are more traditional in song structure and the vocals more weighty. The greatness of this song lies in two parts: the cut-and-paste piano samples pounding away and the anthemic vocals in the chorus.
Bizzle’s new album Well Wishes is a little frustrating to listen to if only for the repeated “God Over Money” label shout outs. It’s in every track. Awesome. Anyway, because of the tag and the sample-heavy, simplistic beats the project feels more like a mixtape than an album. Regardless, one of the two bonus tracks is “One Way” and, boy, is it a banger. A dead ringer for Sage the Gemini’s more famous work, this tune soars above thanks to John Givez’s killer guest verse. Update: The original “One Way” by Transparent is from 2013 and the production is almost identical.
3. Tove Lo “Habits (Stay High)”
Breaking up with someone is hard. Some look to self-destructive activities to cope with the sense of loss and sadness. Tove Lo walks us through a bender to end all benders in hopes it will help forget the former lover. And every time I hear the song and I almost wish for someone to break up with me so I can revel in the song’s woeful demeanor.
2. Arianna Grande “Problem” (feat. Iggy Azalea)
The Saxophone has been given a renaissance in pop music over the last few years. There was the jazzy (and cheesy) solos in M83’s “Midnight City” and Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)” and then the reed instrument took a front seat in songs like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” and Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty.” Again the horn blasts through the hook of “Problems” but the song’s high point is Arianna Grande’s vocals as she belts from the bedlam and sings at par with the best pop divas today. Hats off to the new member of the female pop elite.
1. Hozier “Take Me to Church”
Hozier wrote “Take Me to Church” as a response to the Russian government’s suppression of the LGBT community and their rights to protest for themselves in public. This song tops other popular love-is-love equality songs like Macklemore’s “Same Love” because of it’s powerful musical arrangement, Andrew’s voice, and the best song lyrics penned in 2014.
For a list of all of my favorite songs from 2014, check out my Spotify playlist here
Favorite Music Video of 2014
Queens rapper Action Bronson is a funny guy. His guest verses are seldom without food references, and he even has his own online cooking/food appreciation show called “F*** That’s Delicious.” Here, Action displays his comic chops in a narrative where all he wants is to play his Les Paul guitar. Lots of drugs are digested. Honorable Mentions: Sia’s “Chandalier”, “Turn Down for What”, Chromeo’s “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” , OK Go’s “I Wont Let You Down” , Armin van Buuren’s “Ping Pong” and all of my monthly highlights.
Watch for Part 2 coming shortly!!