For a few years, I've viewed lists as a form of vanity and self-indulgence, objective to a point but inevitably colored by the limited perspective and experiences of their creators. So for our staff best-of's, a bit of autobiography.
2014 was a year of upheaval for me. In December, I decided to move from New York to Los Angeles without a place of my own or a job. I rented a car. I ran all over the city. I ate a lot of tacos and Korean BBQ. I spent nights out later than I imagined the city would allow and early mornings taking in a place more beautiful and stranger than the harsh, vertical concrete and steel of my birth. These songs were in large part the soundtrack to confusion and awakenings. Plainly, they're just damn good songs.
D/C - "Devil On My Shoulder" In my opinion, one of the more beautiful and under-appreciated songs of 2014. D/C's voice is a gritty instrument, the sort that expresses the weight of its owner's experiences with each line. "Devil On My Shoulder"—one of five original songs the Londoner has released—provides the most remarkable representation of D/C's ability as a vocalist and a writer, an affecting portrait of imperfect manhood. It's as beautiful as it is painful, an anthem for miscreants, degenerates, and those seeking their moral compass with every step, all while maintaining a class that suggests an author split between worlds. A song that accompanied many early morning drives.
Years and Years - "Real" As much as I've loved Los Angeles, there is an undeniable loneliness to existence here, the sprawl and constant confinement in cars making basic interaction an effort. In New York, you walk out your door and you're surrounded by people; they may not be people you want to deal with, but the physicality of other humans is a constant.
Years and Years' "Real" came out shortly after I arrived in Los Angeles and struck a chord with me, a song about ill-fated lovers and the loneliness of trying to reach person that has closed themselves to you. It resonated with me, dance music for damaged people trying to mend broken hearts. A familiar feeling transposed into different circumstances.
Kwabs - "Something Right" To describe Kwabs' voice is to rob it of its otherworldly power—it is almost impossible to do it justice. It is an instrument capable of capturing shades and depth of emotion beyond the capacity of words alone. His small catalog is remarkable in itself, but I keep coming back to "Something Right," a rousing call to keep pushing in the face of impending peril and overwhelming obstacles.
Rick Ross ft. Jay-Z - "The Devil Is A Lie" When Rick Ross released "BMF," he perfected a sort of disdainful triumph that has hung over his music since. Few of his songs since then have tapped into that feeling with the attitude and grandiosity of "The Devil Is A Lie." This was the soundtrack for moments when I needed to be shocked back to life and for the days when I felt on top of the world.
I fell asleep with it on one night.
Travi$ Scott ft. Big Sean and The 1975 - "Don't Play" Speaking of disdainful triumph… One of the most vicious beats of the year.