The PressPlay team got together to bring you our favourite songs from 2014. There’s something for everyone here from shoegaze-esque indie to cutting edge grime, we kept it varied. We wish all of our readers a very happy new year and thank you for your continued support in our first year!
Brother – Mac DeMarco
Known for his signature guitar sound and calming vocals, Mac DeMarco has made a name for himself as a loose and goofy character inside and outside the studio. His buck teeth, passion for smoking and laid-back persona mark DeMarco as a one-of-a-kind musician. He has created a near cult following on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook showcasing not only his life as a musician but also celebrating the weird and the ridiculous. DeMarco is a one-man band. On his newest albums ‘2’ and ‘Salad Days’, he writes, composes and records all the music. In almost every track he uses the same beat-up $30 electric guitar that he got when he was 16. He runs the guitar through processors and effect pedals to achieve the kind of ‘twang’ heard in many of his songs including “Brother.” I think Mac DeMarco is the best musician I’ve heard this year not only because his guitar playing is original-sounding or that his song compositions are catchy as hell, but also his character and way of life is pretty damn chill.
Down On My Luck – Vic Mensa
The perfect Rap/ dance crossover, the track feels like neither side is either borrowing or relying on each genre to propel it forward. It’s a seemingly perfect matrimony of two styles that are notoriously difficult to combine. Credit is due in part to co producer Stefan Ponce who worked alongside Mensa for the track’s production. A hard hitting house beat, it’s a fitting homage to the young rapper’s Chicago roots and effortlessly blends with the speed and intricacies of Mensa’s near cryptic verses. Lyrically speaking its a frenzied yet exciting affair as Mensa waxes lyrical on themes such as the cut throat nature of the music industry, addiction and questioning whether such a thing as the perfect relationship truly exists. All this combined with possibly one of the most captivating music videos of the year; a groundhog day-esque scenario that follows Mensa through the club as his exit is delayed by various unfortunate incidents: drink spiking, fights and the rapper’s arrest. ‘Down On My Luck’ was a song that felt just as comfortable played on the radio or the dancefloor a truly versatile, exciting example of how rap can expand into other genres, and as such is included in this list.
Happy Idiot – Tv On The Radio
‘Happy Idiot’, the lead single from TV on the Radio’s latest studio album ‘Seeds’ is a measured and infectious pop song but beneath the frenetic, high hat-heavy drumming which runs throughout lurks a lyrical darkness which gives the song a writhing depth and integrity. Frontman, Babatunde Adebimpe, exclaims “since you left me babe, it’s been a long way down” before stating “I’m gonna bang my head to the wall ‘til I feel like nothing at all”. TV on the Radio hit their stride yet again on ‘Seeds’ and ‘Happy Idiot’ is a prime, prime example of how the New York quintet have finely honed their craft of writing cultured and intelligent pop songs over the last fourteen years.
That’s Not Me – Skepta feat. JME
For me, my single of the year was about what track got me the most hype for the most of 2014. Whether it was at the club, at work or just prancing down the street. ‘That’s Not Me’ by Skepta and JME made me want to buss two moves whilst walking down the street in an area who’s popularity was dominated by predominantly older folks, who unquestionably would not have appreciated my outlandish dance moves and assuredly would not have had a clue who Skepta or JME or Grime is for that matter. As well as that I got extremely emotional at the thought of it going to Number 1 in the charts. How can a track that’s got the word ‘wasteman’ in its chorus and uses an Eskibeat like instrumental be in the charts? Its quite rightly about time. Grime music that sounds like original Grime music is most definitely overdue for some limelight and Skepta has shown us that the market is ready and available for (some of) the Grime scene. Massive big ups to Skepta and JME. They’ve had the monopoly on Grime music since I can remember. Can’t wait for ‘Konnichiwa’ and to see where Grime will go in 2015.
Coronus – Flying Lotus
I had a hard time making a decision with so much good music coming out this year, and I’m still not really sure but this was one that definitely caught my attention. Fly Lo’s album was pretty spectacular through and through. With input from the likes of the ever talented Thundercat and Kendrick Lamar, I felt it was one of the few that actually pushed the boundaries of music with new sounds while being well composed. That being said, I had to choose Coronus, the terminator, one of the most toned down and refined songs off the album. The brilliance of the production is in its intricate simplicity. It doesn’t come off as overworked even though there is clearly a lot going on, and acts amazingly in complementing the eerily written and effected vocals. This accompanied with the driving bass line gives it a truly powerful feel, fitting to the likes of the Greek god Coronus himself.
Duck Sauce – NRG (Skrillex, Kill The Noise, Milo & Otis Remix)
What’s not to love about this track? Duck Sauce’s disco-dreamy original turned Melissa Manchester’s energetic 80s vocals into a flawlessly produced danceable concoction. However, three of electronic music’s powerhouses joined their mighty forces for a head rattling, foot stomping, rave inducing remix of the track. Skrillex, KTN, and Milo & Otis’s flip added a unmistakable synth and pulsing staccato beats to the chorus, making this remix the ultimate definition of a big tune. Not only was it the crowd favorite among festival-goers worldwide, it’s a classic track that’ll live on in each artist’s catalogue as one of their most forward-thinking hits. Like chocolate cake for your ears, the Skrill-KTN-M&O “NRG” remix will define 2014 for me, and holds a spot in my top five all time favorite tracks.
Harold’s – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Earlier this year, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib dropped their collab LP, ‘Piñata’. Although the album had a bunch of solid tracks, “Harold’s” is by far my favorite. Madlib’s soulful yet tenacious sample really complement Gibb’s playful lyrics about his preferred chicken shack, Harold’s in his hometown Gary, Indiana,. Gangsta Gibbs’ bars are truly reminiscent of not only this joint but also the community and atmosphere surrounding it, giving an interesting glimpse into his life at the time both through his lyrical flow and the music video. We truly get a vibrant image of Gibb’s nostalgia through his regular order, also the hook “six wing mild sauce, with all the fires you can give me…” Although I really enjoyed Madlib and Gibbs’ full LP, there is something about the whole production of “Harold’s” that emits joyful and lively spirit. On top of that, listening to this banger just makes me hungry.
Pop Thieves – Childish Gambino
“Because The internet” had it’s fair share of some solid bars from ‘Bino, but when he channeled his inner crooner for “3005”, “Flight of the Navigator”, and “Urn”, that brought out the inner boy-band fangirl in me. He gave what the people yearned for on his newest EP: more singing. Thankfully, “Kauai” was two thirds of his silky-smooth singing voice and “Pop Thieves” is essentially Gambino’s equivalent to Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home”. The song’s lush synths and sounds, romantic mood, and heartfelt lyrics puts you in this place you never thought of, but always wanted. If you don’t see that, picture this: you hear sounds of the beach but can’t see anything, Donald suddenly appears, takes your hand, starts singing and all of sudden you’re in an exotic setting. *Cue tropical vacation montage*: water-splashing sequence, coconut-cup drinks while watching the sunset on the beach, and a candle-lit, seafood dinner while you slow dance the night away. *end scene*
The Editor’s pick:
Give Up – FKA Twigs
The all singing, all dancing FKA Twigs burst onto the scene with a musical tour de force with the release of her debut album, ‘LP1’ back in August. The previous backup dancer showcased her beautiful, compelling vocal range on tracks such as ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘Video Girl’, however it was ‘Give Up’ that truly drew my attention. Twig’s rising vocals matched with the sparse surging keys and thumping 808 drums of Arca and Emile Haynie’s production is a match made in musical heaven. FKA Twigs is a truly rare breed of artist, whilst the majority of mainstream pop songs revolve around love and relationships, few artists are capable of showcasing true emotional depth within their works. Twigs’ LP1 is a journey for the senses, one of the most emotive albums of the year. With an ability to combine picture perfect pop songwriting with emotionally charged delivery, it’s obvious as to why the young British songstress makes our list of singles of the year.
Words: Scott Silberberg, Charlie Jaco, Leo Bargery, Huda Ahmed, Jasper Pakshong, Staley Sharples, Siv Nilsson, Will Cua.