We filter through so many songs on any given day that it can be almost impossible to even remember what it is we were freaking out about yesterday, never mind 11 months ago. Did we even know each other in February? We were so young and innocent back then. In that way, year-end “Best Of!” lists are like a sped-up exercise in surprisingly proximate nostalgia, which is probably a metaphor of some sort. Or maybe they’re more like a bookmark tab for the infinitely expanding data dump that is the content folder we keep on our brain desktop in the space where useful information used to go? Maybe it’s just a click-bait post to trick you into visiting our website?
These 20 songs below may not have technically been the best of the year, because obviously that’s an empty marketing construct, but they were the ones that I actually kept coming back to again and again, and that has to mean something, right? As is often the case, it’s a mix of predictable winners, minor-trolling to shock you with how #DGAF we are, and really weird-seeming choices that are probably the most sincere ones of them all.
“The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids
The standout track from the aptly named Celebration Rock was the unquestionable sensitive dude anthem of the year, and being that I’m just such a dude, naturally I fell prey to its shouty, all-embracing bro-hug charm. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, the Canadian duo predicted a moment when the world would love them here, and we did.
“The Fall” — Rhye
Two gorgeously distinct videos for “The Fall” flipped the conceit of this song on its head, like a glistening prism whose reflection of light changes depending on which angle you approach it from. It’s either a tale of undying, requited love and bliss, or the disintegration of a romance, with one partner desperately holding on long after it’s too late. Something tells me most of us can appreciate that sort of thing from either side.
“Swollen” – Napoleon
I called this update of the UK duo Bent track a “fevered seduction that quietly exposes its heart, and body, one slowly discarded garment at a time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me here, even the lyrics, rather pedestrian lovey dovey stuff on paper, seem like the most devastating declaration.” I was feeling a little melodramatic that day maybe, but I’ll stand by it. Play this one when it’s go time, or on repeat when you remember how long it’s been since you remembered what that whole thing entails.
“Moonbeams” – Family Band
We’re all going to die, but the most we can hope for in the interim is another skeleton to go skateboarding with before it’s time to say goodnight. The video for this song is literally “the most romantic and horrifying thing I’ve seen in recent memory.”
“This book is two pages deep,” they sing. The words on either one don’t make any sense unless you read them side by side.
“Flytta på dej” – Alina Devercerski
Woh, this list is getting depressing. Somebody go check on me to make sure I’m ok. Or just put this song on, and I’m instantly in a good mood. As I said the other day, I have no idea why Alina didn’t become more of a household name outside of Sweden where she’s a bonafide star in the making, and the type of dorky Scandophile electropop circles for whom this rush of synthy-bliss is the Platonic ideal of ‘yr dancing.’
“Everything is Embarassing” – Sky Ferreira
Remember that Onion bit about how dolphins were developing opposing thumbs, and scientists were all like “We are fucked now.” That’s what happened when the internet darling Ferreira finally got her hands on a song worthy of her voice/looks/vibe/eminently bloggable personal brand. A few more songs like this next year and we’re all ruined.
“Closer” – Tegan and Sara
What I said: “What do you want out of your music? Do you want to forget about the distractions of the real world, if only for the course of three odd minutes of bliss? Do you want to be inspired to move your entropy-plagued bones around by some inexplicable alchemy of ancient math-based poetry reverberating through our shared ancestry? Something like that that makes more sense perhaps? Do you want to be reminded of the good parts of love? The bad? Do you want to be happy? Sad? Do you want to think? Not think? Do you mostly wish that Canadian synth-pop duo Tegan and Sara were singing this song about you? ‘All I’m thinking lately, is how to get you underneath me.’ How about all of those things at once?”