On Tuesday we posted our 70 Favorite Songs Of 2014, but technically, 2014 isn’t over yet. (Yes, it’s true!) This week brought some real good songs, three of them from some heavy hitters who might have made a run at the big list if they’d arrived in time, or if we’d waited for them to arrive. Oh well. They’ll still be here in 2015. Here’s where they are now.
Unrequited love is both the worst and best kind. It’s the worst because it involves spending an ungodly amount of time obsessing over someone in the hopes that maybe they are doing the same, but knowing deep down that they probably aren’t. It’s the best because you’re never really disappointed unless you make a move and get brutally rebuffed. “Pool” is a song about that moment, the turning point, the peak of the narrative arc when you choose to make some sort of effort. Lyricist and lead singer Dean Engle is able to chronicle entire relationships in just over a minute, and regardless of how personal and memory-specific his words are, I always manage to find something in his songs reminiscent of my own experiences. There’s nothing complex about these stories, but there’s a universality to their details that makes Quarterbacks such a unique band, “I thought I’d see you around/ Not everyday but pretty often/ Now that you’re really leaving town/ I just wish that I had been more honest,” he begins, before singing, “Remember over the summer/ When I first got your number/ I thought that we could be friends/ Or maybe something better.” Eventually, he makes the phone call, and whoever he’s been pining for doesn’t pick up. In the end, Engle doesn’t really win, but he shouldn’t be too bummed about it. It’s admirable that he tried, albeit too late. –Gabriela
Future Brown is full of promise, to the point where their self-titled debut album will feel like a disappointment if it doesn’t reshape the world. The supergroup consists entirely of globally minded bleeding-edge producers: Fatima Al Qadiri, Lit City Trax’s J-Cush, both members of Nguzunguzu. Their album’s tracklist is stuffed with pan-genre visionaries: Kelela, Tink, Sicko Mobb. Things seem poised to happen with this thing. And indeed, they start to happen with “Talkin Bandz,” a track that synthesizes ideas and movements but still works just fine as a context-free banger. Shawnna is Buddy Guy’s daughter and the former first lady of Ludacris’ DTP crew. She hasn’t had a hit since “Gettin’ Some” in 2006, but she can still rap, doing that Chicago speed-rap thing but throwing snarly attitude all over it. DJ Victoriouz gives one of those Chicago drill Auto-Tuned choruses that drips with hate. And the beat, from this dream production lineup, ripples and drifts and thunders, its sounds dropping in from every angle but never distracting from the fundamental thump of the track. All these people sure seem to be on the same page, and it’s almost scary. –Tom
Sonic Highways was a pretty good TV show, but watching it, I couldn’t help but imagine the Dave Grohl TV show of my dreams. What if Grohl only talked to the musicians who actually meant something to him? What if he omitted the Chicago blues guys and the New Orleans jazz guys and the country-music jam-band bros and instead stuck with the old punks and classic-rock fuckers who seem to inspire him the most? By that same token, how would Foo Fighters sound if Grohl decided that he was done with the stadium-rock/car-commercial scene and tried to make music that stayed true to his real influences? What if Grohl tried to sound like Saint Vitus and Soul Side teaming up to cover Cheap Trick? Except we already have that band, and that band is Torche. “Minions,” the first single from their new album Restarter, turns sludge-mountains into monster hooks and builds Camaro engines out of mud and blood. Maybe HBO should give these dudes a show next time. –Tom
“To The Top,” the only 2014 single Twin Shadow had released before this week, went balls-out. “Turn Me Up” goes balls-deep. On the previous song, George Lewis Jr. sounded like he was bathed in bright light, spreading his arms and shouting inspirational vibes to the farthest reaches of outer space. This time he’s shrouded in darkness, and he’s closing those arms around someone who inspires him, who makes him feel things. Consider this the prequel to all that triumph, or maybe its tender epilogue. “Turn Me Up” is the steamiest Twin Shadow song I can remember, but it evokes so many sensations because there’s an expertise guiding its movements. From a production standpoint the song is absolute genius, its verses’ presiding restraint ensuring that every startling “Creep” guitar blast and digital bass deflation hit with maximum impact, its chorus awash in the gorgeous haze of release. Compositionally, Lewis gets the most out of that turn from minor to major, effectively conjuring the shift from allure to elation. And performance-wise, he reminds us that before he was bowling us over with his power game, he won us over with finesse. –Chris
I still remember exactly what I was doing when I heard Nicki and Bey’s instant classic “Flawless” remix for the first time: the way my jaw dropped into a wide smile with the genius “billion dollars on an elevator” line, or the immediately satisfying drop when Nicki aggressively spits, “I said come here, let me show you how this cookie taste.” Pairing up the two leading ladies of R&B felt so right that it was a shock it took so long. Needless to say, when their follow-up collab popped up on The Pinkprint tracklist, anticipation was high, and they absolutely stick the landing with “Feelin’ Myself,” a self-empowerment anthem with a hook that’s every bit as quote-worthy as “I woke up like this.” (And it’s maybe only the second-best song about self-pleasure this month, going head-to-head with Charli XCX’s “Body Of My Own” — it’s been a good month for masturbation songs.) Nicki and Bey don’t waste time fronting: they’re at the top of the game, they both know they’re queens, and they don’t need anyone else to tell them otherwise. Nicki is on fire here — when she casually laughs off that she went through four flows at the end of the song, it’s no joke. She cuts each verse with a pink-studded razor-like precision: “Bitches ain’t got punchlines or flow/ I have both and an empire also.” Beyonce sounds absolutely divine, reaching angelic notes without breaking a sweat. “Male or female, it make no difference/ I stop the world, world stop,” she commands and the track takes a break before she gives us permission to “carry on.” There’s something voyeuristic about watching these two superstars go at it: they don’t need us, but we need them, and they’re letting us peek into their lives just enough to get a taste. “You like it, don’t ya?” Nicki asks us at the end of the track before dismissing us: “Snitches.” Until next time … if we’re lucky. –James