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Steve’s 25 Best Tracks of 2014 (so far)

Here are my 25 favorite tracks of the year (so far). I hope you’ll enjoy them, either in the enclosed Spotify playlist, or the list below of YouTube links. Sadly, Spotify doesn’t have some of the songs on my list. Therefore, you’ll need the YouTube list in order to find Sigma’s “Nobody To Love” and Paloma Faith’s “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”.

Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’
The Black Keys – Fever
Clean Bandit, Jess Glynne – Rather Be feat. Jess Glynne
Cris Cab – Liar Liar
Dan Wilson – A Song Can Be About Anything
Flavour – Nwa Baby Ashawo – Remix
George Ezra – Budapest
The Handsome Family – Far From Any Road
Hozier – Take Me To Church
Jetta – Feels Like Coming Home
Jhene Aiko – The Worst
Jim Button – The Big Breakthrough
Klingande – Jubel – Nora En Pure Remix
Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits
Lykke Li – No Rest For The Wicked
Mapei – Don’t Wait
Milky Chance – Stolen Dance
Miranda Lambert – Girls
Mr. Probz – Waves – Robin Schulz Radio Edit
Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This
Sigma – Nobody To Love
Skinny Fabulous – BTW (Behaving the Worst)
Tove Lo, Hippie Sabotage – Stay High – Habits Remix
Tune-Yards – Water Fountain
Vance Joy – Riptide

Steve’s Top 40 Tracks of 2013

It was the year when EDM not only solidified its grip on the pop scene, but took creative chances and started to evolve in unexpected ways. Thus, my top single of the year is Avicii’s hybrid hit “Wake Me Up.” The melding of electronica with folk elements is not a completely new idea, of course; just a couple of years ago, Hoffmaestro turned the same trick on his track “Highwayman.” But “Wake Me Up” is a killer song, with a great vocal by Aloe Blacc and thus it’s incomprehensible to me why the song was completely ignored by the Grammys. But hey, the Grammy voters gave MackLemore & Ryan Lewis their due, so you can’t really dis them. Speaking of MackLemore, I should point out that the great “Same Love” made my best-of list last year, which is why its not there this year. Had I not been such an early adopter on that one, MackLemore and Ryan Lewis would have had two songs on my list this time around. As it is, “Thrift Shop” alone makes a strong case for MackLewis (adequate hybrid name) as artist of the year. If nothing else, “Thrift Shop” was the first hit rap record in ages in which the artist acknowledged being strapped for cash, a welcome respite from all the economic gravity-defying bling slingers who have defined the scene in the past decade. Along with the similarly-themed “Royals” by Lorde, “Thrift Shop” gave me hope that pop still has the potential to come out of celebrity worshipping fantasy land and deal with a version of life familiar to its own audience, who really are not spending most of their time rocking the VIP. Anyway, enjoy the list–lots of genres represented: hip-hop, rock, dance, R&B, pop, alt, chutney (look it up), etc. Here are my 40 best tracks of 2013: Continue reading “Steve’s Top 40 Tracks of 2013″

Steve’s Picks: The 25 Best Tracks of the 1st Half of 2013

Hard to believe the year’s halfway done! It’s shaping up to be a pretty good year for music. With three months to go until the Grammy eligibility deadline, it appears certain that fans of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis will want to be watching come Grammy night (or they can just catch it on-line afterwards). And who would have expected 2013 to be the year of Daft Punk? In any event, here’s my 1st half of 2013 best tracks list:

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop feat. Wanz
Kodaline – All I Want
Justin Timberlake – Suit & Tie
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)
Disclosure feat. Aluna George – White Noise
Paloma Faith – Picking Up The Pieces
Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man
Gin Wigmore – Man Like That
Kat Dahlia – Gangster
Youth Lagoon – Dropla
Rhye – The Fall
Dizzee Rascal – Bassline Junkie
Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
Little Mix – Wings
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dancefloor)
Laura Mvula – That’s Alright
Lorde – Royals
Iggy Azalea – Work
Rudimental feat. Ella Eyre – Waiting All Night
Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky
Valerie June – You Can’t Be Told
Icona Pop – I Love It
Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell Williams & T.I. – Blurred Lines
Passenger – Let Her Go
Avicii vs. Nicky Romero – I Could Be The One (Nicktim)

Steve’s “Best Tracks of the First 1/3 of the Decade” List

April 30th, 2012

As of today, we are officially 1/3 through the decade that will undoubtedly end up being known as “The Teens” (where did the time go?). So here’s my “Best Tracks of the First 1/3 of the Decade” List.  As usual, I’ve excluded S-Curve artists from contention, but Andy Grammer’s “Keep You Head Up,” We The Kings; “Friday Is Forever,” Betty Wright’s “Go” and Joss Stone’s “The Love We Had” were all pretty awesome, in my opinion….

Enjoy!

THE GREATEST TRACKS OF THE DECADE SO FAR:

Lyfe Jennings – Statistics

The Black Keys – Tighten Up

B.o.B – Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore)

Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For

Portugal. The Man – All My People

Broken Bells – The High Road

Bruno Mars – Somewhere In Brooklyn

Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill

Lauren Pritchard – Painkillers

Lupe Fiasco – The Show Goes On

Miranda Lambert – The House That Built Me

Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar

Duck Sauce – Barbra Streisand

Adele – Rolling In The Deep

Mark Ronson & The Business Intl – The Bike Song

Girls – Oh So Protective One

Nicki Minaj – Super Bass

The Pierces – You’ll Be Mine

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – We Almost Lost Detroit

Cults – Go Outside

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Two Against One (feat. Jack White)

Adele – Someone Like You

Chiddy Bang – Ray Charles

Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra)

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Otis (feat. Otis Redding)

Calvin Harris – Feel So Close – Radio Edit

Lady Gaga – The Edge Of Glory

Martin Solveig – Hello – Single Edit

Mister Heavenly – Hold My Hand

Rihanna – We Found Love

Timothy Bloom – ‘Til the End of Time (feat. V)

Rudimental – Feel The Love – feat. John Newman

Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

Fun. – Some Nights

Alabama Shakes – Hold On

The Shins – Simple Song

Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You

David Guetta – Titanium – feat. Sia

Elle Varner – Refill

Jimmy Cliff – World Upside Down

Regina Spektor – Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)

K’NAAN – Is Anybody Out There?

Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments

Stooshe – Black Heart

Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough?

Jack White – Love Interruption

Rizzle Kicks – Mama Do The Hump

Emeli Sandé – Next to Me

Avicii – Levels – Radio Edit

Best Coast – The Only Place

Drupatee & Machel Montano – Indian Gyal

Dizzee Rascal – Bassline Junkie

Little Mix – Wings

Laura Mvula – That’s Alright

Iggy Azalea – Work – Radio Edit

Daft Punk – Get Lucky (Radio Edit) [feat. Pharrell Williams]

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop – feat. Wanz

Justin Timberlake – Suit & Tie

Paloma Faith – Picking Up the Pieces

Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man

Swedish House Mafia – Don’t You Worry Child (Radio Edit) [feat. John Martin]

Icona Pop – I Love It – feat. Charli XCX

Calvin Harris – Sweet Nothing

2012–A Pretty Good Year For Music: My 40 Best Tracks of The Year

POSTED December 19th, 2012

I keep reading about how this year represented the increasing fragmentation of pop music, but as I see it, two trends dominated: EDM-influenced pop-dance music, featuring increasingly complex machine-made rhythms beneath pop songs; and indie-influenced rock-pop with the reverb knob turned way up. R&B/Hip-Hop tended to be influenced quite a bit by the former–even the ballads (see Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar). EDM-pop rhythm has evolved to the point where the drum trackss on contemporary hits make those on hits from even a couple of years ago seem childish;  it will be exciting to see where things go from here. And echo has gotten so big on indie pop hits that Phil Spector must be smiling in his jail cell somewhere.  Some acts on my list combined both the rhythmic and the reverb sensibilities (Apparatjik & Lowell, for instance), and I think we’ll see more of that. And thankfully,  a lot of the best pop music had grand ambitions; Fun. came off like a cross between Queen, Kansas and REO Speedwagon, for instance–and that was all in the same song. Muse settled on just coming off like Queen, which sufficed.

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” clearly 2012’s anthem, wins the award for “great song I never want to hear again–for now.” It’s the song that was so ubiquitous that one must work to remember how fabulous it was to hear it the first couple of hundred times. I’ll be ready to enjoy it again in 2020 or so, but it deserves to be at or near the top of everyone’s year-end list, even if you can’t bear to listen to it on the accompanying playlist.

My favorite track of the year is “Feel The Love” by Rudimental, a London-based EMD-pop act whom I assumed to be a one-hit wonder until they released their follow-up, “Not Giving In,” which also appears on my list. Very curious to see if they can cross the Atlantic with Guetta-like success. Rudimental isn’t the only act with two songs on my list: Emeli Sandé appears with “Daddy” and “Next To Me,” both very strong, traditionally structured, catchy pop songs which sneak in on the side of cool due to their very contemporary rhythm tracks (Fun. successfully pulls this same trick). She’s probably my Artist Of The Year, in that there were several other songs on her album, and on other people’s albums featuring her as a vocalist, that were contenders for this list. (For the record, Jessie Ware just missed having two songs on the list–I included “Wildest Moments,” but if you expanded the list to 41 places “Night Light” would have made it as well.)

And finally, big props to Jimmy Cliff, whose brilliant comeback album magically encompassed the last 50 years of Jamaican music while sounding completely fresh. Usually, legacy artists in reggae wind up in some roots-reggae rut; Cliff happily trotted out ska, rock-steady and both 70’s and 80’s influenced reggae. It’s like if if Paul McCartney released an album that simultaneously sounded like “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Band On The Run” and “Coming Up.” I’d like to imagine that somewhere Bob Marley is smiling.

And with that said, the list:

Rudimental – Feel The Love – feat. John Newman
Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
Fun. – Some Nights
Alabama Shakes – Hold On
Emeli Sandé – Daddy (feat. Naughty Boy)
The Shins – Simple Song
Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love – feat. Mary Lambert
David Guetta – Titanium – feat. Sia
Elle Varner – Refill
KES the Band – Stress Away (4d Riddum) [Original]
Jimmy Cliff – World Upside Down
Regina Spektor – Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)
K’NAAN – Is Anybody Out There?
Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments
Apparatjik – Shake Him Off
Haim – Forever
Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
Stooshe – Black Heart
Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough?
Burns – Lies – Radio Edit
Jack White – Love Interruption
Labrinth feat. Tinie Tempah – Earthquake – Full Version
Muse – Madness
Rizzle Kicks – Mama Do The Hump
Eleanor Friedberger – My Mistakes
Melody’s Echo Chamber – I Follow You
Emeli Sandé – Next to Me
Rudimental – Not Giving In – feat. John Newman & Alex Clare
Plan B – Playing With Fire – feat. Labrinth
Marina And The Diamonds – Primadonna
Avicii – Levels – Radio Edit
Sam And The Womp – Bom Bom – Radio Edit
Jose James – Trouble
Kelly Hogan – Dusty Groove
DJ Fresh – Golddust
Asaf Avidan & the Mojos – One Day / Reckoning Song (Wankelmut Remix) – Radio Edit
Alicia Keys – Tears Always Win
Best Coast – The Only Place

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