Wednesday, December 31, 2014

You Scream, I Scream: Choice Cuts Volume 13

Choice Cuts

In no particular order, I've selected the favorite tracks from 2014's playlists for our thirteenth annual Choice Cuts end-of-year mix:

1. Unkinder (A Tougher Love) -- Thumpers

Childhood friends Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr. make up the British indie pop duo Thumpers, which released their album "Galore" in the U.S. last year via Sub Pop. I thought the classic pop sound of this track was an upbeat way to kick off this year's mix.

2. Let Go -- RAC (feat. Kele & MNDR)

André Allen Anjos, also known as the Remix Artist Collective, or RAC, partnered with Bloc Party's Kele and MNDR on this track, which comes from their EP "Don't Talk To."

3. Mean Streets -- Tennis

It was a good year for Tennis, the husband and wife band that hails from Denver. I also considered the Tennis song "I'm Callin'" for the mix until settling on "Mean Streets," which comes from their EP "Small Sound."

4. Chain My Name -- Poliça

The synthpop band from Minneapolis came up with what may have been my favorite track of 2014. There's something really memorable about this track -- the distorted sounds, perhaps? While not a hit in the U.S., this song was popular in Belgium.

5. Little Numbers -- Boy

This song, from the Swiss/German pop duo Boy, was actually a hit in Europe a few years ago, and even a part of a Lufthansa Airlines commercial. Boy's first album was released in the U.S. in 2013, but I only came across "Little Numbers" last year. It almost didn't make this year's cut, but I can't resist the chorus.

6. Luna -- Bombay Bicycle Club

I've included several Bombay Bicycle Club songs on regular playlists over the years, but "Luna" may be one of my favorites from this English indie rock band.

7. Archie, Marry Me -- Alvvays

Pronounced "Always," the Canadian duo consists of Molly Rankin and Kerri MacLellan. Yes, perhaps there's something a bit precious about this song, but it's also extremely catchy.

8. i -- Kendrick Lamar

I've been pretty frustrated that the "Saturday Night Live" performance of "i" by Kendrick Lamar isn't available for download. The SNL version was more raw and contemporary... I don't mind the original, but there was so much more urgency with the SNL performance. You be the judge: above is the original version, and below is the version from SNL.

9. Ashes -- The Belle Brigade

Another good year for sibling duo Barbara Gruska (guitar, drums, vocals) and Ethan Gruska (guitar, piano, vocals). I really like the opening and close of this song, which almost sounds like it was performed on the railroad.

10. Brain -- Banks

It was either "Brain" or "Beggin' for Thread" that would make the cut from Banks, but either way, Los Angeles-based Banks (full name: Jillian Rose Banks) was going to make the Choice Cuts mix.

11. Elevate -- St. Lucia

Originally from South Africa, St. Lucia (aka Jean-Philip Grobler) now calls Brooklyn home. This is a bright, sunny, summer song.

12. New Romance -- Azekel

According to Wikipedia, both Prince and Bastille have thrown their support behind "New Romance" and Azekel (full name: Azekel Adesuyi). I just like the sound.

13. Milkman -- Bully

You may have figured out over the years that I love female-fronted garage pop-punk, and Bully -- a new four-piece band out of Nashville -- fits the bill. "Milkman" is the lead track from their EP.

14. Artifice -- SOHN

SOHN is British musician Christopher Taylor, who has also worked with artists such as Banks (who also makes an appearance on this year's mix). "Artifice" was the lead single from SOHN's 2014 debut album, "Tremors."

15. On My Mind -- Liam Bailey

"On My Mind" is the lead single from British singer Liam Bailey's US debut album, "Definitely Now." Mother Jones calls Bailey and his unique mix of R&B, reggae and rock "sneakily addictive."

16. Looking Too Closely -- Fink

Per Wikipedia, "Buoyed by the radio success of the single 'Looking Too Closely,' the album charted in several territories, including a top 10 appearance in the Netherlands (number 8), number 25 in Germany, and at Top 30 slot on the Billboard Heatseekers album chart in the US."

17. A Little Lost -- Sufjan Stevens

Yes, "indietronica" is a word, and perhaps best describes this track from the singer/songwriter.

18. Black Out Days -- Phantogram

It was a breakthrough year for the duo, which had a breakout hit with the song "Fall In Love." I considered putting that on this playlist, but considering how overplayed that song became, I settled with "Black Out Days."

19. Coffee -- Sylvan Esso

From the debut album by the North Carolina duo. It was either this song or "Hey Mami," but I think my love for coffee won out.

20. Always Winnin -- Shad & DJ T.LO

How can you not love a song that references "Homeland," the NBC peacock, "30 Rock" and EGOT winners, among many other things? Oh, and it's also a catchy track.

21. Myth of Myself (A Ruse to Exploit Our Weaknesses) -- Fanfarlo

The epic nature of this song, complete with flute, made it the natural way to end this year's Choice Cuts mix. Until next year!