Ten New Happy-Approved Songs You Should Be Listening To Right Now
Back in March, I forced my 18 favorite songs of the year (yes, that’s a weirdly arbitrary number. deal with it) thus far on you. Now, here’s a new crop of ten songs released in 2014 that are the songs I just can’t stop listening to right now. YouTube vids below, or subscribe to the Rdio or Spotify playlists down at the bottom of the post, which has my running list of all 2014 favorites thus far.
(1) Ingrid Michaelson – Girls Chase Boys
“Girls Chase Boys” is basically a perfect summer pop song, except it was released a bit too early in the year. The lyrics are a trifle about getting knocked down by your failed love affair but ultimately moving on — in other words, the lyrics of approximately 50% of all pop songs ever — but the looping “girls chase boys chase girls” will be stuck in your head forever. If you’re not entirely sold, the fact that the video is a homage to/gender flip of Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” should change your mind.
(2) Da Cruz – Bola de Discoteca
It’s only because I looked it up that I know the English translation of the title is “Disco Ball.” Da Cruz are Brazil-based, and if “world music” hadn’t become a term for that weird watered down lightly syncopated music you hear when shopping, you could call them “world music.” This song has classic disco guitars and a fat bass line that could have come from Salsoul records circa 1976 and a horn section that sounds like it’s entire reason for existing was to kick the ass of every faux bossa nova song that ever graced a Pottery Barn. The lyrics are not in ‘Merican, so I have no idea what they are about. They could be insulting your mother or calling for revolution. Don’t know, don’t care, just dance.
(3) Withered Hand – King of Hollywood
Take a Scottish boy raised on the ethereal, warbly, and slightly menacing sounds of Belle and Sebastian and lock him in a room and play him The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Hot Burrito #2” and don’t let him out until he makes this song, which even name-checks The Gilded Palace of Sin in case you didn’t get where it was coming from.
(4) Tokyo Police Club – Hot Tonight
It’s sort of surprising that Tokyo Police Club, a band known for the indie guitar crunch of songs like “Cheer it On” and “Your English is Good” made this song, which is an unabashed glammy pop single, complete with tambourines and “woo woo woo woo” backing vocals, but here it is. The sunny sound underpins some lyrics that may or may not be about actually burning someone’s house down for money, but you’ll just be waiting to sing the woo woo woo part again so it won’t matter.
(5) Ex Hex – Hot and Cold
Do you miss the 1990s? Do you miss Kill Rock Stars? Do you miss riot grrls? Then rejoice, rejoice, because Mary Timony has a new band you guys! Timony, who fronted Helium and provided vocals and guitars for lady supergroup Wild Flag, has put together an all-female trio that makes scuzzy scrappy lo-fi power pop, with Timony’s signature monotone vocals at the forefront. They’ve only got a 3-song 7-inch out so far, but here’s hoping they have a longer tenure than Wild Flag’s single album.
(6) Water Fountain – tUnE-yArDs
Christ but I resent having to look up how tUnE-yArDs spells and weirdly random capitalizes their name each time I want to write about them, but I’ll make an exception for this song. Blessed with a delightfully weird video where singer Merrill Garbus sings to her fingers and monsters cavort on couches, the song is almost a sonic twin to “Iko Iko.” Just as in Iko, which was a delightful little ditty about lighting your flag on fire and killing you dead, “Water Fountain” boasts sentiments like “Nothing feels like dying like the drying of my skin and lawn/Why do we just sit here while they watch us wither til we’re gone?” over some happy-sounding drumsticks and handclaps. Very odd and very good.
(7) Taking Back Sunday – Flicker, Fade
Taking Back Sunday has a great new record out and no, it is not 2004. This is not the emo band I would have picked for longevity or a classic lineup comeback like this, but here we are. You can tell this is the same band that made “Cute Without the ‘E'” but you can also tell that they’ve grown older, more world-weary. “Flicker, Fade” isn’t a young man’s song about a girl not loving him. Instead, it’s a grown person’s tired anger at knowing you can’t stop someone from destroying themselves and you. This is how all emo bands should grow old.
(8) My Chemical Romance – Fake Your Death
Speaking of emo, My Chemical Romance is no more, but their last release, a greatest hits package, contains this final new song, which lead singer Gerard Way described as a sort of inadvertent eulogy for the band. Always more Queen than The Get Up Kids, this is piano-driven and musically intricate as anything MCR has ever done, but Way’s voice is much more subdued than in songs like “The Black Parade” or “Na Na Na.” They’re a band that evolved from teen favorite to sophisticated artists, and it’s too bad they’re calling it quits.
(9) Young Money ft. Drake – Trophies
Let’s get this straight. Drake is not the best rapper in the world, lyrically, but his ability to shift personas from hardcore banger to introspective thinker is a fluidity that most rappers don’t have. Both those Drakes are here, rapping over a horn sample that is unidentifiable but will be stuck in your head all day. Not sure this will make my best of the year overall, but for now it is hanging tough in my playlist.
(10) Johnny Foreigner – Stop Talking About Ghosts
Birmingham noise pop/tweecore outfit Johnny Foreigner have always sounded like they’re one step from completely losing control and just going full primal scream over a song instead of keeping it together, but they always pull back from the brink, which gives everything a frenetic urgency that a lot of bands like this lack. Alexei Barrow and bassist Kelly Southern trade vocals that careen recklessly for two minutes, stopping only when the fast pace of the song gives way to a few guitar notes. It’s an unsatisfying, uneasy ending — emotionally, not sonically — that fits perfectly with a song that feels like it is barely hanging on.
If you’re not feeling YouTube-ish, you can find the songs (and my top tracks from earlier this year as well) over on my Rdio or Spotify playlists.