December 17, 2014

Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Songs of 2014 (Jay Edition)

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Top Songs Of 2014 -- Jay Edition

Another year. And one in which, frankly, we didn't get to spend nearly as much time enjoying music, experiencing it live and interacting with the cool people who make it, as we would have liked. There was a lot of life lived in 2014, a fair amount of crap to deal with. But all of it made the music we did listen to all the more precious to us. Listed below are the songs we carried in our head through long hours of work and all-too-fleeting hours of leisure, sometimes just during a dark 6AM walk or a, well, dark 5PM trot to the parking garage from the office. Oh sure, there were other massive tunes and tunes of note: who can forget Johnny Foreigner's insanely great cover of The Wannadies' legendary single "Hit?" Playlounge's fuzz-ball anthem "Zero?" The War On Drugs' entrancing "Under The Pressure?" Or basically all of She Sir's phenomenal Go Guitars? But, as we said introducing last year's list, the 10 songs listed below were the songs we sang to ourselves most throughout the year, and the songs we consumed most often according to a messy pastiche of ITunes playcounts and Last.FM scrobbles or whatever. Sure, there was no shortage of incredible songs this year, and our aim here is to make sure you hear at least these 10. But before you dive in, we'd like to acknowledge the crucial contributions to Clicky Clicky of Senior Writer Edward Charlton and Staff Writer Dillon Riley. When we are in our busy spells such as the one we're swirling in presently, these guys ARE the blog, they ARE the brand, and we sleep soundly at HQ knowing they are out there in the trenches of indie rock when we can't be. So thanks to them, and thanks to you for reading the blog this year. Expect to see a year-end list or two from Mr. Riley, as well as our own year-end albums list, before Christmas rolls around. We leave you with a quote from the immortal Homer J: "No, no, no, don't stop a'rockin'."
1. Johnny Foreigner -- "Le Schwing" -- You Can Do Better [buy]

This is a classic Johnny Foreigner ripper, sort of in the vein of "The End Is The Beginning" from way back in the demo days, but better, because somehow this band keeps getting better even 10 years on into its existence. It's also sort of a throwback to the sort of tunes that the band was writing for Grace And The Bigger Picture, songs about touring the world and messing up relationships at home. It certainly doesn't hurt that the band released a tremendous video to go along with the tune to coincide its recent South African tour. All of the Birmingham, England noise-pop titans' 2014 long-player You Can Do Better [review] is terrific, and we suppose we could just have easily have chosen "Shipping" or "Stop Talking About Ghosts" -- whose defenestrating chorus "the hardest part is letting go" may be the biggest chorus on the album. But there is something so comforting about this one. Cross those fingers that somehow -- with all of the personal stuff going on in the lives of the bandmates next year -- we get Johnny Foreigner back on U.S. soil for a tour in 2015 to support Lame-O's domestic release of the set. Devestator....

"...flew into America looking for a revelation, ended up in Washington, got our shit stolen..."

2. Krill -- "Turd" -- Steven Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears [buy]

Honestly, sometimes we think "Fresh Pond" is the better song. Hell, even the title track from Krill's 2014 EP Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears is incredible. But there is something perfect about the central metaphor of "Turd," and how its coarseness plays against the bright but tangled intellectual exercises fronter Jonah Furman is working through with his lyrics. Over and above that, it is the stirringly honest sentiment -- so uncommon among the set-piece artifices of rock music -- that makes the tune so special. As we said in our non-review [non-review] of the EP, if you'll permit us to quote ourselves: "The more we listen to Steve the more the narrative recedes, and the more we just hear the line from "Turd" over and over: "If I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier?" Real talk. What a song. What a record. We can't wait to hear Krill's next LP, which will be issued in February.

"...if I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier..."

3. Lubec -- "Sunburn!" -- The Thrall [buy]

Spoiler alert: Lubec's The Thrall is in our year-end album's list, too, and that's because all of the record is as strong as this incredible song. But let's just focus on this one for now. The production is beautifully dreamy, the vocal lines breathy and somnolent and referencing the classic Heasley/Sorrentino sounds from the earliest Lilys recordings. But there's also tremendous guitar playing here, vocals that reference Classical mythology, superlative melodies that cascade around the listener as every element in the arrangement seems to dance gracefully around where the song leads us, like birds coaxing the listener to follow. So much is happening on "Sunburn!" Why the exclamation point? We don't know. But "Sunburn!" teaches us to not question the process, because the results are so amazing. We reviewed The Thrall here in September.

"...what comes next when nothing is enough..."

4. Beach Slang -- "American Girls And French Kisses" -- Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street EP [buy]

At first we actually thought this number was a bit corny. But it is just so outrageously catchy, the pace and energy so invigorating, the stutter at the chorus, and the forthright emotion driving it all so wildly engaging. Dare we say it recalls the great Jawbreaker, as does the rest of the terrific Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street EP. Simple hooks, straightforward emo punk: even here there can be magic. It's exceptional songs like "American Girls And French Kisses" that reward the optimism of the serious music fan. The real headscratcher is why Beach Slang tucked this tune away as track three on this EP. But one listen will certainly lead to 30, maybe even 50, and then an hour or so trolling YouTube for live clips (there are some good ones, too). More songs like the four on this EP and we fear Beach Slang will become so successful that we'll get sick of them. But sick of this song? Probably never.

"...I hope when I die I feel this alive..."

5. Benjamin Shaw -- "You & Me" -- Goodbye, Cagoule World [buy]

Here's another tune sort of hidden away -- track six on Benjamin Shaw's wonderful seven-song set Goodbye, Cagoule World. But Clicky Clicky, as we've trumpeted many times before, will not be thwarted when it comes to finding the best jams, no matter where bands try to hide them. Label Audio Antihero made an uncharacteristically brilliant move in October, re-releasing the tune as the lead track on an EP alongside some truly stunning covers of same from other acts in the AAH stable, and we highly recommend that release to your attention. And each cover version underscores what a terrific song Mr. Shaw has here in "You & Me," from the charmingly comedic and sardonic lyrics to the affecting melody. Not content to just make a remarkable pop confection, of course, Mr. Shaw also richly appoints the tune with fine touches, like the tremeloed organ tucked into the right channel. Shaw is a treasure, and we hope he takes half as much satisfaction from his work as we get from it, and that he continues for a long, long time to come.

" a decade for a new leaf, and a hostile reception, for you and me..."

6. Pile -- "Special Snowflakes" -- "Special Snowflake" b/w "Mama's Lipstick" [buy, only three left]

Oh God the weight, the endlessly cool heaviness, the crooked and explosive mega-blues of Pile's "Special Snowflakes." Seeing Pile play this one live at the completely INSANE Mean Creek record release show last spring might be our live highlight of the entire year. The songcraft of Rick Maguire is stunning, and perhaps never more so than on this single, an almost-suite filled with metal parts, whipsmart dynamic, wildly inventive drumming, and Mr. Maguire's limber, stentorian vocals, whose contortions illuminate his dark lyrical imagery. But, oh God the weight. Pile. PILE.

" it's too tough to tell if ever he was real..."

7. Speedy Ortiz -- "American Horror" -- Real Hair EP [buy]

It continues to be Speedy Ortiz's world, and we're all just living in it, and the band's towering 2014 EP Real Hair certainly made us feel fortunate about it. The lead track from the short set, "American Horror," offers generous helpings of scraping guitar greatness, with textures and melodies reminiscent of the big rock sounds of Pavement's Brighten The Corners or a heavier reading from the book of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Fronter Sadie DuPuis' narrative of dealing with a loved one's struggles is gripping, and how she modulates her voice from the song's final chorus to its final moment is one of our favorite things about 2014, period. We've been singing this one in our head all year, and we don't really see that stopping any time soon.

" ya feel so crazy, you keep me up for a whole week..."

8. Soccer Mom -- "It's Probably Not Your Fault" -- Soccer Mom [buy]

"Probably." Leave's some room, doesn't it? Soccer Mom and its self-titled LP should have been the biggest story in the Boston scene in 2014; unfortunately the act has already called it a day. If it's any consolation, we've still got their amazing record. Ironically, "It's Probably Not Your Fault" deals a bit with consoling, seemingly with coping with powerful loss. Co-fronter Dan Parlin's singing is gripping, and the melodies in the song are very engaging. But it is the bludgeoning, excoriating ending that provides the tune's most exciting and dangerous moments.

"...hopefully can replay what's left on my mind, it takes all day..."

9. The Weaks -- "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" -- The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die EP [buy]

The best thing about this song is that it is actually more than two minutes long. Well, OK, that's not the best thing, but it makes us laugh every time we listen. The Weaks, emo's little band that could, decisively delivers on this kinetic belter. Massive choruses, pick slides, crushing drumming and clobbering bass playing render "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" undeniable. Co-fronter Evan Bernard's lyrics ring so true, his singing is so unassailably so heartfelt, that it's hard to believe The Weaks haven't made a mint on just this song alone.

"...Dreams ending in white picket fences, dreams ending, the world isn't quite so big..."

10. White Laces -- "Skate Or Die" -- Trance [buy]

On an album that captures the sound of a band almost literally growing, this track in particular presents Richmond futurepop goliaths White Laces just totally going for it. Powerful rhythm tracks propel the song, furnishing a foundation for the tune's ricocheting, chiming melodies. Fronter Landis Wine's vocal become increasingly desperate and exercised as "Skate Or Die" rockets to its thrilling conclusion. Then, quietly, the song's final moments quietly shudder, reiterating its opening seconds, a twitching, winking film of oil shifting on a membrane that provides a subtle indication that the tune is a Jeff Zeigler production. "Skate Or Die" is ripe with huge moments, the kinds of moments that make it among the best songs of 2014.

" say it's fine, you won't come down, you want the lights, but hate the sound..."

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