Tag Archives: Top 10

Top 10 Songs of 2015 – The List Begins … Tomorrow

14 Dec

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As we are about to say hello to 2016, it is once again time for The Music Court to countdown the best songs of 2015; And, yes, I did make an Adele pun. Her hit song will almost certainly end 2015 at the top of the Billboard charts (as her new LP is selling like hot cakes doused with maple syrup). It may even start 2016 at the top and pull an “Uptown Funk,” which ravaged the Billboard charts for around four months before giving way to the melancholic summer hit, “See You Again.” That said, let’s move beyond these introductory pleasantries and get to the nitty gritty of the list.

Last year, Zoe and I labored over several songs to choose a Top 10 list fit for the music kings and queens, and this year is no different. Thus, as always, some well-deserving songs were left off the Top 10. Thus, like each year we have done this list, on the eve of the list’s start we bring you a few songs that just missed the top 10 and found themselves on the environs, still excellent songs in their own right.

#12: “Ong Ong” by Blur

After a 12 years, the longest album gap in Britpop mainstay Blur’s illustrious career, Damon Albarn and the boys released The Magic Whip in April of 2015 and with it released track 11, “Ong Ong,” a jaunty, repetitive track that just might be one of the best songs ever released by the band. Why? It’s droning underbody hums like that of a dying car’s roar, which sounds awful, I know, but in reality it is infectious. The song carries from there in a tight, skilled manner only an organized, experienced band can create.

#11: “Stressed Out” by 21 Pilots

We go from sagacious songsters Blur to relatively new kids on the block Twenty One Pilots whose blend of alternative-rock hooks mixed with hip/hop make for a unique and exciting sound. “Stressed Out” is excellent for two reasons – lyrics and hook. I’m not a big rap fan (as the music selection on this blog may suggest); however, the rap in this piece is effective – the song’s message is that of nostalgia.

“It’d be to my brother, ‘cause we have the same nose,
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam,
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered,
Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter”

21 Pilots does an effective job melding youthful memories with current mid-20s problems. The hook talks about turning back time and does so with an almost reserved vigor that is melodic and catchy.

 

Great songs and they missed the list! The top 10 starts tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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Top 10 Songs of 2014 – #3: “Take Me To Church” by Hozier

9 Dec

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I’m going to go out on a limb and proclaim that Hozier had the best year of any Irish musician. That’s not a big limb to go out on though because Hozier has transcended the realms of internet popularity and has entered into the homes of a diverse range of music lovers. His sweet croon, lugubrious lyric, and rough-around-the-edges tint creates an aura of pious music with a hint of melancholy and malevolence. In that, Hozier creates an almost mystical persona that is all the more attractive to his listeners.

Hozier released debut EP Take Me To Church with the eponymous title track in tow back in 2013, but, like one other song on the countdown, I am taking into account when the song jumped in popularity, and that was during 2014. Since then, Hozier has performed on Saturday Night Live and is currently on an international tour with a slew of sold-out dates. The song and its singer have taken off into the stratosphere of music, and Hozier is well deserving of the accolades he has received.

Usually I avoid songs with 40 million YouTube views, but Hozier’s piece “Take Me To Church” is popular for good reason. His sultry vocal carries over drawn-out keys like a dirge. The song carries a dark overtone; Hozier knows the song is downcast and he is proud of it. This leads to Hozier’s unmistakeable chants of “amen,” which is untraditional in a pop song, but carries with sardonicism that is refreshing. It is almost anthemic in its darkness, and that is impressive. Excellent song that is a great #3 on the list!

Check out Hozier’s Website, Facebook, and Twitter

Top 10 Songs of 2014 – #5: “High” by Young Rising Sons

7 Dec

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Back on July 19 I wrote about Young Rising Sons in advance of its debut EP which dropped a few days after (July 22) and met with success. The Red Bank, New Jersey natives had a breakthrough 2014, and “High,” the band’s first single, is the crowning achievement for a year that featured several television appearances and an ongoing U.S. tour with The 1975.

When I wrote about the band back in July, I had this to say about “High,”the #5 song on our top 10 countdown:

“High,” which you may have heard before (it’s been making its rounds), begins with a sweet whistle followed by lead vocalist Andy Tongren’s effortless vocal. What makes this song? Did you get to the Mika-like chorus yet? Tongren’s falsetto is sweet and uplifting. The whistle is a bit Noah and the Whale-esque. The song is just a testament to the band’s efficacy. I can’t stop listening to it.

While that does sum it up, I will add a bit more laudatory comments to the band’s praise repertoire. Look, the song is clearly catchy. It’s actually more than catchy; it’s downright impossible to get out of your head. Seriously. It has been stuck in my head since July. But, aside from this inherent catchiness, it is also a masterful piece of pop. Young Rising Sons combines all necessary components for an effective pop tune. First, it is short, a sub-3 minute ditty that says what it has to say and then ends so the listener can immediately press repeat. Secondly, it features an upbeat, sing-a-long vocal that quite literally makes the listener sing (or hum). Most importantly, though, the song has an infectious hook. And, come on, it features a great whistle as well. It’s just a perfectly constructed song and well deserving of #5 on our countdown.

Check out the band’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #4 – “Recovery” by Frank Turner

23 Dec

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Frank Turner is no stranger to this whole music thing. His road to get to now was just a slight bit unconventional. You see, Turner’s first music love was Iron Maiden metal. Yes, the picture above does juxtapositional wonders: tattoos on his fingers hugging an acoustic guitar. His folk fervor came after his initial band, Million Dead – a post-hardcore effort with songs like “Murder and Create” and “Pornography for Cowards” – split up. After coming across Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Turner had an apotheosis: fuse his hardcore roots with a punk-infused folk style and see what comes of it. Five albums later and fit with a full backing band, The Sleeping Souls, Turner has just reached the pinnacle of his solo career with his 2013 effort Tape Deck Heart, which coincidentally was inspired by another break up; this split was of the love variety.

Turner, of Meonstroke, Hampshire, has developed a unique style based on his illustrious and diverse career. It seems that when you blend hardcore and folk together, you get an esoteric form of punk. His music is laced with an acute acoustic vibe that maintains punk angst and power. Think Violent Femmes mixed with celtic punk mixed with Bob Dylan. It doesn’t seem to mesh, but Turner skillfully does it, and he does it particularly with the #4 song on our list – “Recovery.”

In 1962, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield penned the song “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” and this ditty concisely stated a fact of life. Breaking up is indeed hard to do. Turner wrote and recorded his new album after the collapse of a long-term relationship, and this adversity sparked some tremendous music. “Recovery” is not your usual break-up song, though. Turner’s lyric is jam-packed with candor and passion. In a sense, Turner, whose vocal is that of a strained raconteur, is pleading throughout the song, and the subject of his emotional petition is skillfully placed as the conclusion of the piece when he sings “Darling, sweet lover, won’t you help me to recover.”

Turner, in an ode to Dylan and other folk songs of the past, packs in so many words in each verse that the song plays like a short story. The music permits this lyrical burst. The Sleeping Souls help drive the piece, which is carried by a swinging piano and heavy percussion. The acoustic guitar glides with Turner’s busy vocal. Musically, the climax comes at around 2:15, when the Turner’s vocal falls out after the bridge in favor of a small piano solo and rising guitar. The strength of this song, though, is Turner’s masterful lyric.

Perhaps the strongest lyric is the full second verse.

“And I’ve been waking in the morning just like every other day
And just like every boring blues song I get swallowed by the pain
And so I fumble for your figure in the darkness just to make it go away.
But you’re not lying there any longer and I know that that’s my fault
So I’ve been pounding on the floor and I’ve been crawling up the walls
And I’ve been dipping in my darkness for serotonin boosters,
Cider and some kind of smelling salts.”

Fumbling for his ex-lover’s figure in a daze and then realizing that it was his fault that she is gone. Then following this pursuit by searching for anything (serotonin boosters, spiked cider, and smelling salts) to lift him up from the crippling depression he is feeling. Talk about truth, right? Turner does not want to paint an optimistic picture here. Before hitting the last chorus, where Turner sings of the long way to recovery, he croons, “Because I know you are a cynic but I think I can convince you. Yeah, cause broken people can get better if they really want to. Or at least that’s what I have to tell myself if I am hoping to survive!”

He, like most after break-ups, cannot shake the thought that perhaps if he changes he can convince his ex to come back. But, in honest fashion, he realizes that he is only telling this to himself to “survive.” He intertwines the metaphor of drowning into this piece, and that is a smart decision because while the listener drowns in the sound and words of this piece, Turner is quite literally drowning in his words, trying desperately to rise up into recovery but undergoing a song-wide realization that he may not be able to do it without his “darling, sweet lover.”

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #6 – “New Lover” by Josh Ritter

18 Dec

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Josh Ritter is no stranger to the Music Court’s end-of-the-year countdown. In 2010 he placed #4 with his ode to Annabel Lee, “Another New World.” Readers of the Music Court will recognize that I do maintain a sort-of music reviewer crush on Mr. Ritter, but let me assure you that … well … ok, the selection is inevitably biased. Although I cautioned all readers that the selections were obviously biased, I did judge songs based on a metric, and did so as objectively as possible. Honestly, I did not want any repeat performers from past years and I ended up with (spoiler alert!) two, but I believe this is more of a testament to each artist/band’s potency and productivity than any unconscious subjectivity. Truth be told, Ritter absolutely deserved a spot on this year’s list. “New Lover” encompasses a rare blend of masterful, spiteful lyrics and deceptive acoustic pacifism. Don’t be fooled; Josh Ritter has constructed a subtly epic “f*ck you” to his old lover.

Ritter released his seventh full-length studio album in March of this year. The album just continued his streak of excellent releases. Although some could aptly argue that all of his albums are excellent, Ritter hit his stride with The Animal Years and has since sailed through his Historical Conquests (his best album) and So Runs the World Away, where 2010’s #4 song appears. The Beast in Its Tracks, this year’s release, combines Ritter’s one-two punch – infectious acoustic instrumentation and witty, daedal lyrics that bounce effortlessly with the rhythm and make ink imprints in the mind of the listener.

“New Lover” represents Ritter’s split with Dawn Landes. The song so well portrays the thoughts and feelings of a forlorn lover that it would actually be a disservice for me not to include some of my favorite lines in this post. I would literally be depriving you of lyrical mastery. Future lyricists of the world, check out Ritter’s words for inspiration.

I can’t pretend that all is well, it’s like I’m haunted by a ghost
There are times I cannot speak your name for the catchin’ in my throat,
There are things I will not sing for the sting of sour notes.

Ritter starts the song with an inevitability. Breaking up is indeed hard to do, and one reason for that is that the individual haunts you and causes pain even when he/she is gone. He even compares the entire process to music (understandably, that is his trade) and it is true that a split carries the “sting of sour notes.”

Moving on, Ritter writes:

I’ve got a new lover now, I know that she’s not mine,
I only want to hold her, I don’t need to read her mind,
And she only looks like you when she’s in a certain light.

I don’t need to read her mind. Burn. But he still can’t escape his former love, as described by the looking like you portion. Throughout the song, Ritter sings that he hopes that his ex has also found happiness, but one can almost tell in the song that there is some facetiousness in his vocalization, which throughout the song is subdued but noticeably sardonic and pained – almost Dylan-like. How does he end the song, though?

I hope you’ve got a lover now, hope you’ve got somebody who
Can give you what you need like I couldn’t seem to do.
But if you’re sad and you are lonesome and you’ve got nobody true,
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy too. 

Tell me you didn’t smile. Tell me you haven’t felt this way. Ritter is human. You are human. He demonstrates the ineluctable post-breakup spite with such poise and finality. Just freaking perfect.

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