Sunday, January 4, 2015

Six Older Songs I Discovered in 2014

Following up on my previous post about my favorite 2014 songs, here are six old songs I discovered last year.

1. Barenaked Ladies: Another Postcard (2003) - It's fun to find an unheard album from a band one likes for $0.50 and it turns out to be good.  Full of BNL's funny lyrics and undeniable hooks.

2. Ben Folds Five: Boxing (1995) - I saw Ben Folds solo, for the first time, this spring, and I highly recommend it if you get the chance.  Kind of like a Harry Connick, Jr. show except with more rock music being pounded out of the piano, but just as entertaining.  Heard this one for the first time at the show, about Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell.

3. Oscar Isaac & Marcus Mumford: Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song) (2013) - The most prominent song from Inside Llewyn Davis, which was the best film I saw in 2013 in part because of the music, which recreates the early '60s New York City folk era so well.  I almost chose to go with "The Ballad of Queen Jane" instead, but you need to see the film before watching the video of it.  The scene where it is played is the high point of the film, one I couldn't get out of my head for days.

4. Michael Penn: This & That (1989) - Despite liking "No Myth" when it first came out in the '80s, I had no idea Aimee Mann's husband and Sean Penn's brother was such a good pop songwriter.  His cult following has apparently known for some time.

5. Perfume Genius: Dark Parts (2012) - The album is full of spare arrangements that sound like modern-day Elliott Smith to me.  That's a good thing.  I went with this song over a couple other excellent ones on the album partly because there's a dog in the video.  People love dogs.  (And dogs love trucks.)

6. Vampire Weekend: Obvious Bicycle (2013) - I was late to the party on these guys too.  Planning to check out the back catalog in 2015.

My Favorite Songs for 2014

Who says all cliches are bad?  If it weren't for year-end lists, I wouldn't find half the new music I do.  Maybe you'll find a few you'll like too in my third-annual favorite songs of 2014 list.  As before, my list includes both songs that were released in 2014 and earlier songs that I didn't find until last year.  This year I've put 'em in two different posts, though.  (The others are here.)

First, my ten favorites from 2014, listed alphabetically by artist (My two favorites are probably 7 and 8):

1. Beck: Morning - Beck's newest album "Morning Phase" is justifiably compared to his 2003 break-up album "Sea Change," which is still the best album I've heard from the last decade.  The new one isn't as good, not having any five-star songs to compare with "Lost Cause" or "The Golden Age," but it's solid throughout, and this might be the best one.

2. Bleachers: Like a River Runs - Bleachers' bombastic pop album is one of those where I like every song but no one of them stands out.  This is as good as any of 'em.

3. Leonard Cohen: Samson in New Orleans - I've loved some of Cohen's work, like "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Chelsea Hotel No. 2," and "Everybody Knows," but gotten frustrated when a quality song was clouded by a bad arrangement. The man wrote a great song in "Hallelujah," but his version can't hold a candle to Jeff Buckley's, for example. I was pleasantly surprised by his new album, which included a nice piece about New Orleans & Hurricane Katrina.

4. Imogen Heap: The Listening Chair - I knew nothing about Heap before about a month ago other than her memorable name.  My impression now is she's a smart, eccentric singer-songwriter, which suits me pretty well.  A fun, single-shot video to go with it doesn't hurt.

5. OK Go: The Writing's on the Wall - As a kid who grew up in the golden age of the music video and watched a lot of them, OK Go has created the best ones ever made, by a mile.  I could argue they have made half of the top 10, with "Needing/Getting," "This Too Shall Pass," "White Knuckles," and this year's how-did-they-do-that "I Won't Let You Down" as great examples. Let You Down's video was better, but this one's a better song.

6. Sinead O'Connor: Dense Water, Deeper Down - I've never been a big fan (or critic), but she's still making albums, and this one is pretty good.

7. The Preatures: It Gets Better - Doesn't this sound like what ABBA might be doing today if they were just starting out?  One of my favorites from the year, along with the next song.

8. Temples: Shelter Song - A top-flight modern take on late '60s psychadelia. Tough to decide between this and "Keep in the Dark," which really should be on the list too.

9. Jack White: Alone in My Room - Every album of White's that I've heard has been excellent, including this one.  This one (seemingly) about cutting oneself off from other people is a good example:

10. "Weird Al" Yankovic: Word Crimes - Is it one of the best songs of the year? No, but it has a great video (really!), it parodies a very good pop song, and I wholly sympathize with the subject matter.  And how cool is it that he came out with his most popular album something like 34 years after his first one?  Like a bad movie villain, he can't be killed off.  In a good way.