Allow me to explain myself!
Am I allowed to say that I’m proud to have voted in this year’s Pazz & Jop poll for the Village Voice? I am. Fine.
However, some albums or songs I voted for weren’t even songs or albums I enjoy quite a bit. There was more going on than that. Here’s my explanation, along with some tracks that I wish I had thought to include.
Kimbra’s The Golden Echo has been one of my favorite albums from the year, despite the fact that I actually didn’t love it as a whole at first. Seeing it performed live enhanced my enjoyment of the album and helped me to understand some of the songs on another level. “Everlovin’ Ya” is just a great song to turn up when I need a pick me up. I didn’t expect to like that deep, electronic sound that was very prevalent this year. I have to say this was one of the songs that was very much enhanced by seeing it live. The deep pulse of the song, and Kimbra’s way of playing with the frame of the lyrics, really soars. One reason why I found Banks and Little Dragon’s albums to be important enough for this list was because of the direction this year’s music went in, and how their music played into it without being boring (to me).
Chromeo’s White Women is just a blast to listen to.
St. Vincent is weird, artsy, skilled, and she makes interesting commentary on society, like with “Digital Witnesses”.
Her collaboration with David Byrne a few years back was a happy kick for this Talking Heads fan, and her self titled album did not disappoint. She shreds, she sings, she robot dances.
For Beyonce, whose album did come out just before 2014, had a large impact on 2014. This was across many mediums, and also a slap on the industry itself. Even if you don’t like the album, which ebbs and flows between motherhood, feminism, and includes some racy lyrics (oh, my my!), the way it was released probably had more than a few business folks scrambling for their deodorant.
“Flawless” was a powerful single this year, though let us not forget the voice that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave to the song, with her speech being mixed into it.
As for other social commentary, of course I included Weird Al’s album, Mandatory Fun. Come on, I loved his notes on grammar, while also making a parody of “Blurred Lines”. I’d rather review my grammar, instead of seeing another man oggle a naked female in a music video.
Another album important to this year’s social commentary, in my opinion, was the much overlooked “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” from The Roots. The album, though different from the groove of other Root’s albums, touched on much of the violence going on in America, and added a sharp, while satirical, voice to the critical eye being given to hip hop culture.
As for Sharon Van Etten, though it was not one of my most personal favorites, I could not escape this album. It was well crafted, original and thoughtful.
However, Hozier’s self titled album from 2014 included the song “Take Me To Church”, though this was released in an EP in 2013. This leads me to my favorite songs from the year.
If you haven’t seen the video for “Take Me To Church”, it’s a striking one. It’s not gentle to the critique of hate crimes toward gays and church hypocrisy, as when he says “that’s a fine looking high horse”.
In fact, though released in 2013, “Take Me To Church” was my favorite song from 2014 for its lyrics, arrangement, and video. The video is really hard for me to watch but, as the artist said, “Sexuality, and sexual orientation – regardless of orientation – is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.”
I included the St. Vincent, Chromeo, and Beyonce songs for my previously stated reasons. Haim is a band I’d recently gotten into more, and “My Song 5”, recorded in 2013, but released as a single in 2014, was my favorite from the album Days Are Gone.
I know that’s not the best quality video, but I wanted to find a live version.
Spoon’s “Do You” made it in there for its popularity and ear worm worthiness, and FKA Twigs and her single, “Two Weeks”, for its weirdness, the deep electric sound that was so prevalent this year, and her album having made such a splash.
I wish there had been a category for music videos this year. There were so many good ones. Such great costume design!
How weird weird weird.
Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady” is not a new song, but the single and video for it was released in 2014.
I don’t think there is anything Janelle Monae puts out there that I don’t like. I saw her perform for the tour of The Electric Lady and it was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Her band is top notch, her singing is always great, and it was such a diverse and friendly audience. I love that she wears a uniform and refuses to fit into the categories many women fall into in the music industry. This song does not disappoint.
Heck, I’ll watch Janelle Monae on Sesame Street.
And while I know this Arctic Monkey’s song was released in 2013, it peaked on the Billboard charts in 2014, and was nominated for a Grammy this year. Some people may chide me for being into their recent album, despite the fact that their sound has changed and they’ve been around for a while, but who said that bands aren’t allowed to change or get noticed by other demographics? Come on. It’s music. It’s there to be enjoyed.
My one gripe is that the music video was such an interesting concept with the sound waves, but was not executed well, in my opinion. So, I’m just going to post the audio.
Oh, is something missing from my ballot?
Yes, women sort of dominated these ‘best of’ charts for the year, and Taylor Swift was all over that. I didn’t vote for her, but I wrote this commentary, which made its way into the Pazz & Jop Comments. If you want more in depth discussion on that, you know where to find it then.
Despite all of this, there are two songs that I regretted not listing here, after all was said and done.
Perfume Genius showed up in a lot of “Best of 2014” lists, and yet this song didn’t really sink in until after I sent in my ballot.
“Queen” is an interesting look at the stereotypes that get dumped onto gay men, and lines such as “no family is safe/when I sashay”, or “don’t you know your queen/cracked, peeling/riddled with disease”, bring us our worst assumptions and prejudices.
Alt-J is a band that peers have tried to get me into for over a year, and while I enjoyed the band, I never really dug into them. I heard their track, “Every Other Freckle”, though, and instantly thought…well, this is different!
So is the video, but be warned there are some naked butts in there. The video definitely circles around the whole primal/human thesis, so it’s not done to be cheap. We’re humans, so we are in bodies…is more how I took it to mean.
There’s also the male version of this video.
What was your favorite song or album of 2014? What did you think of Taylor Swift’s moves and statements? Are you optimistic about where the music industry is going?