[Music] Top Tracks of 2014, Part Two (#30 – #16)

Part One:

#20 – #11 // #10 – #1

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Thanks in no small part to Beyoncé’s still-legendary surprise album drop last December, music lovers spent most of 2014 in anticipation for a similarly strategised blockbuster release that never really came. U2 were brave to test the novel idea of occupying your digital library pretty much by force; the reactions were mixed, with some Apple users describing the move as a violation, although we can only hope the subsequent iCloud-hacking scandal helped put things into perspective for them.

Despite the vaguest hint of a popstar working on new material sparking a raft of paranoid articles detailing an imminent midnight release, Beyoncé’s influence reaches beyond this palpitation-inducing phenomenon. The success of her self-titled record seems to have coaxed labels away from archaically prolonged release dates and woken them up to the lucrative realities of the instant gratification sought after by the internet generation. For this we are grateful, as it was such spontaneity that allowed a strong portion of our Top 30 to fall into our laps. And of course we extend our thanks to you, the music-buying public, for demonstrating the demand necessary for a competitive and stimulating industry. Happy New Year.

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30. Charli XCX – Boom Clap, Sucker

charli-xcx-bella-howard

Available to buy on iTunes

After owning the airwaves this summer with her inescapable Iggy Azalea collaboration “Fancy” – following on from her work on Icona Pop’s 2013 smash “I Love It” – Charli XCX bagged herself a well-deserved solo hit with “Boom Clap”, an old-fashioned power pop love song that’s as warm and light as cappuccino foam. Thank heavens Hilary Duff’s team turned it down; whatever heft “Boom Clap” has comes courtesy of Charli’s smoky Cambridge intonations and punk spirit.

See also:Breaking Up 

29. Mariah Carey – You Don’t Know What To Do [feat. Wale], Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse

me-i-am-mariah-review

Available to buy on iTunes

Smothered within the often soporific mood of Mariah Carey’s latest album, the piano-led intro to “You Don’t Know What To Do” initially sparks fears of more mid-tempo mediocrity. Thankfully, it’s a sonic red-herring; a quick tribute to Gloria Gaynor’s infamous “At first I was afraid, I was petrified…” before launching into a sassy, disco-infused strut.

See also:#Beautiful” [feat. Miguel]

28. Game – Or Nah [feat. Too $hort, Problem, AV & Eric Bellinger], Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf

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Available to buy on iTunes

Chart-chasing pop-rap tracks don’t get any more shameless than “Or Nah”, a Frankenstein’s monster of a jam that stitches catchy but disparate parts – spoken word come-ons (“You gon’ let me hit it, or nah?”), Eric Bellinger’s Usher circa 2005-aping chorus – to the same sticky synths that made Iggy’s “Fancy” so addictive. Game turns in a fun verse (“Tell her hop in my bed, tell her hop off my roof / My baby mama trippin’, and that bitch can shoot”), and while healthy use of the B-word may be off-putting to the some, props to the boys for literally giving the modern, sexually-assured woman a voice on that hilariously blunt pre-chorus.

See also: “The Purge (Year of the Wolf)

27. Lana Del Rey – West Coast, Ultraviolence

Lana-Del-Rey-Ultraviolence

Available to buy on iTunes

The hypnotic “West Coast” reroutes Lana Del Rey’s trademark idealisation of volatile love affairs from the glamour of 1960s Hollywood to a 1990s San Francisco crack den. The scuzzy, psychedelic production fits Del Rey’s new whisky-bathed voice as well as the string-heavy, hermetically-sealed stylings of her debut, particularly whenever the chorus’s bracing shift in tempo kicks in.

See also: “Ultraviolence

26. Ergo Phizmiz – Consequences, The Peacock

jilted_gen

Available to buy on iTunes

Although his name may very well have been generated on a website frequented by wannabe rappers, Ergo Phizmiz is not an up-and-coming hip-hop sensation but a maddeningly prolific purveyor of eccentric chamber pop. The lively “Consequences” blends his gentleman drawl with gloriously nonsensical lyrics and a musty organ shuffle, like your favourite Divine Comedy number with a Britpop swing.

See also: Open Artery Surgery

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[Prose] Ahead of the Curves

by Robert Gould

Let’s take a step over the magazine soaking in urine. It’s safe to assume that’s urine pooled in the gorges scarring these bathroom floor tiles. Tonight, we’re taking a seat, but we’ll be careful; careful to the point of pedantry. Our tights are only pulled as far as our knees. Nervous fingers sit inside them, fluttering and straining against the black elastic. Our red pumps have only the toilet’s sad ceramic pedestal to partition themselves from that dirty floor. They sit perched, with heels digging into the leaking fissures.

Time spent in these spaces should instill us with modesty. We all perform foul tasks on a daily basis, even the creole socialite who looks up us from her now wet and crinkled magazine cover. She’s been shot from the pelvis upwards. A sheet of cotton-candy-coloured vinyl has been seemingly stretched across her body. A headline of “AHEAD OF THE CURVES” arcs above her like a colourless rainbow. The shadows granted by these new folds made her dull expression appear more loaded. Her eyes seem narrowed yet pronounced, as if peering from behind a hijab. The bubbled paper brought already plump lips into the third dimension. Yet all we can think is even this Goddess, this internationally renowned beauty – even she has bowel movements.

But there’s no one to share in this fresh humility. We’re most likely alone in this train station bathroom, and we’re definitely alone in this cubicle. The blue Formica-like walls of each one curve into the floor, and are clumsily grouted into it. The walls are thick: should there be a struggle, you might not hear it. Should there be violence, blood can’t trickle through.

But let’s have a listen. The cistern above our head sounds hungry. The chain hangs straight as a rod. But wait just a moment – is that weeping we hear? Well, it certainly isn’t snorting. No one could be so disillusioned with their life that they would get high in such a miserable station. Then again, perhaps it was a coping mechanism. These bathrooms are putrid. A single glance could reduce a pillar of society into a degenerate in desperate need of inebriation. Where are the cleaners? What exactly are they being paid for?

Let’s take a step over the magazine soaking in piss. It’s safe to assume that’s piss pooling in between these tiles. Tonight, we’re hopping from tile to tile until we reach the sinks, evading the thin crucifixes of piss along the way. We’ll be careful; careful to the point of pedantry.

A sudden hiss! We shiver. Flick your neck. Follow the sound. We can’t do it, though, can we? There are two sources, two air fresheners at opposite ends of the room; one above the sinks, and one above the hand-dryer. They are timed to coincide. They are timed to conceal.

What are they hiding?

“What are you hiding?” we utter breathlessly.

Two beams of lavender-scented mist working together, unknowingly. Let’s swallow a wad of saliva wrought from terror. Let’s take a walk to the other three cubicles. We have no time for pedantry now; ridding ourselves of paranoia is far more important. Clumps of once-wet tissue paper have been twisted to spell out an expletive on our first door. We’ll push it in and find… nothing at all. We’ll carry on.

The next door bears a big battered sticker promoting organic food. It seems to be the most welcoming of the cubicles, and a look inside proves the theory true. The floor is comparatively clean. There is even a sanitary bin and toilet brush supplied. The only drawback is a smell that grows stronger and stronger as you trace it to the next door…

Crack! Slap! The door bounces back to us after a fierce kick, allowing for only a flash of the trauma inside. But we know what we saw.

A man, crossed legs, a forehead, a bullet hole. Blood splattered like a tribal headdress on the wall behind him. A jumpsuit and a badge.

Here is the cleaner. What was he killed for?

And in this destitute station, who are you going to tell?

[Music] “Three”: The Peak of Suga Mountain

Booklet-4 (1)

Pop – or rather, the perception of it – has come a long way since 2003. As a forum-frequenting witness to the feverish hostility between fans of the UK’s most prolific noughties girl groups, I appreciate that crowbarring Girls Aloud into a reappraisal of a Sugababes album may scan as a mammoth failure of imagination. But while it’s safe to assume that at gunpoint any pinhead could muster a joke about the Sugababes’s infamous line-up changes and the philosophical implications they present, there appears to be significantly less interest in the Freaky Friday-style swap that took place between the perceived credibility of each band by the end of their Top 40 tenures.

Sugababes began life as young counterparts to All Saints, with their remarkably cohesive but underrated debut One Touch setting the precedent for the adolescent trio; they were moody, despondent and reluctantly cool. One change in personnel and one triple-platinum album (2002’s Angels with Dirty Faces) later, and the ‘Babes were bona fide popstars with a skilfully retained edge over the talent show-assembled Girls Aloud. The addition of glossy Liverpudlian Heidi Range may have resulted in some welcome lad mag coverage, but the Sugababes were still ostensibly seen as credible and streetwise when compared to their nubile pop puppet rivals. This is despite the fact that each group’s launch – or in the Babes’s case, relaunch – hinged on the work of the same production team.

“Round Round” and “Sound of the Underground” remain alien to cliché, and both came courtesy of Xenomania. Even though their full-time musical avatars Girls Aloud could knock out a flamboyantly aggressive masterpiece like “Graffiti My Soul” by their sophomore album, the band’s tacky image, along with the singer / songwriter marketing angle the Babes established with the release of One Touch, allowed the latter to emerge as identifiably credible. But as we learnt during the risible busker-rock revival of 2005-07, credibility means zilch if you have nothing else to offer. There’s no doubt Range, Mutya Buena, and Keisha Buchanan had something special between them, and it was the Three era that distilled this in its most potent form.

Try our own mix of “Three” via Spotify.

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