As we begin our second installment for the end of the year, we delve into the top ten songs that made life a little easier to enjoy. Some of these artist will show up again for our Top Twenty albums, but all of these songs are memorable for their own reasons. This list is filled with anthems, ballads about walking through darkness and various other emotions that all help to provoke the listener in a positive way. Without adding anything further, here we go with the ten best tracks of the year. Enjoy!
10. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THE EVIL HAS LANDED, VILLIANS
Homme and company has always been known as a thinking man's rock band, intent with pushing the limits of their sound, but on “The Evil has Landed,” we get a little mix of the funky new Queens, intertwined with the chunky, thumpy guitar elements of their early tracks. The delivery is spot on and full of gusto, and only sees that raw attitude and swagger grow and exceed it’s space by the end of the song. It’s a slow, guitar filled ride, but as the song concludes it implodes in a flurry of drums, guitar, and pure swagger that only QOTSA is capable of delivering.
9. ST. VINCENT, SUGARBOY, MASSEDUCTION
Like a dangerous synth and knife party, Annie Clark, aka St. vincent, delivers a in your face, frantic track called “Sugarboy” in the early moments of her excellent new album, “Masseduction.” Many of the songs are top notch, but this track stands out so much because of how different it is compared to anything else she’s produced on her previous records. It’s scary and intimidating, and reaffirms the belief that Clarke is without a doubt one of the most exciting acts of recent years, and if she keeps releasing challenging albums and tracks like this, there’s no limit to how important and popular she can become.
8. NINE INCH NAILS, THIS ISN’T THE PLACE, ADD VIOLENCE
Over the last thirteen months as Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have slowly delivered two EPs, each similar in theme but different in musical attributes, they’ce delivered one of the best tracks not only of the year, but one of the most consistently good songs they’ve released. “This isn’t the Place” is a dark road, ominous with overhead lights and fog during the evening hours. Reznor’s voice creeps in, and in that moments he’s apprehensive, but sure of himself in a way only he can deliver. It’s really shiver inducing in that way. Both EPs (“Not the Actual Events,” and “Add Violence”) are solid and enjoying, but this track shines over all the other parts.
7. THE KILLERS, TYSON VS DOUGLAS, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL
A song you may have missed on this album, but a song that also happens to elicit an amazing response once it envelops you. It’s fast paced, eye opening, and soaring in a way that only the Killers from Las Vegas are capable of doing with very little issue. The chorus is in your face, and sees Brandon Flowers letting his voice reach even the darkest corners. It all revolves around the faithful night “Iron” Mike was dethroned, but beyond that you get a song full of energy and regret. It’s one of the band’s best songs in years, and for it lands on the top half of the countdown.
6. PORTUGAL.THE MAN, FEEL IT STILL, WOODSTOCK
For the longest time I didn’t get these guys. Finally at Shaky Knees, upon realizing that this song was them?!, I was hooked. This track is a more hip hop infused track than they’ve been known for, but it’s awesome so it doesn’t really matter. It’s fun, and it’s varied appeal across multiple types of radio stations has shown that people still love a track with a good beat and high energy vocals. It still gets played in my car or house pretty often, which always helps to brighten a mood. It’s a great one if you haven’t heard.
5. KESHA, PRAYING, RAINBOW
Not that I was ever a fan of her before this record and song, but you simply can’t ignore a track this important, especially at a time like this. I won’t go into details that we likely all know at this point, but for the first time Kesha is actually using her voice for powerful, inciteful comments on her struggles to prove she had more to showcase than the typical dumb pop music she was known for before this song rightfully flooded the airwaves. For her anguish, and her treatment, and her resentment at how she’s been treated, she deserves this one.
4. KENDRICK LAMAR, HUMBLE, DAMN
Has any solo rapper had as much success in terms of brilliant song writing in the last five years as Lamar has? I’m not sure of that, but if Kendrick keeps making blistering tracks like “Humble,” then he’s already cemented his place in modern rap history. The rhymes elicited are fire to your ears, and the beat it grimey and gangster enough to make people of various colors join in while the enjoy top level rap music. Every track on the album is killer, but for the purposes of this countdown, “Humble” is here to represent the continued brilliance and excitement that Lamar delivers routinely.
3. LORDE,WRITER IN THE DARK, MELODRAMA
One of the most sorrowful songs of the year finds the list at number three. In “Writer in the Dark,” Lorde give a narrative that’s not only tragic song in terms of its theme, but it also seems to be Lorde’s lament about how insane this current climate is. It’s more poignant and introspective than nearly any other song on her still excellent “Melodrama,” but it sit nestled nicely along with the other highs she reaches. When she bellows “I find a way to be without you babe,” you feel her pain and anger over everything that’s happened in her life, while still not going into graphic personal detail. That metaphorical passion is one that pushes the song to excellence.
2. THE BLACK ANGELS, I'D KILL FOR HER, DEATH SONG
I‘m not sure what about this song drew me in, but I’m happy it did. It’s spooky from the opening drums beats, and as soon and the vocals of Christian Bland meld into the atmosphere, this song takes off in a haze of nighttime glory. The guitars glisten and portray dark intentions throughout the duration, but the real treasures are the lyrics. Being seduced by a witch of sorts, or maybe just an evil person, is always a great basis for a song, but the way the angels do it, your excitement is standing right near to your fear about what awaits you. It’s a big moment early in the album, and it finds its spot as the second best song of the year. Great for an evening bike riding.
1. RUN THE JEWELS, A REPORT TO THE SHAREHOLDERS/ KILL YOUR MASTERS, RUN THE JEWELS 3
Honestly, take your pick at your favorite track from this album and it would still stand a chance at landing on this year’s list. For me though, the finale of their nearly perfect “RTJ3” stands as the best song of the year. It’s eye opening in a way that makes your resent that fact that songs like this have to be created in the first place. It’s a track full of resentment in regards to our lopsided thought process, our issues with the little guy still fighting for his increasingly small cut. At its heart though, it’s a call to arms for everyone to stand up and be heard. The song is essentially two independent pieces out together to make one lengthy, sobering track, but they sync together in a way that makes it fluid and invigorating. The lyrics delivered from Mike, El, and special guest Zack De la Rocha all make “A Report to the Shareholders/ Kill Your Masters” my top rated song of the year. Listen, learn, and most importantly enjoy. These guys are hopefully just getting started.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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