For at least nine years of my life, I did not know how to smile.
This was the first year I really noticed I was listening less and less to albums as complete compendiums, instead adopting the ADD-skip-around method of ingesting music. It was easy to keep naming tracks that blew my mind, but full albums? Ugh. That’s when shit got tough. Am I finally catching up with the way everyone listens these days or am I losing the ability to concentrate because of my advancing years?! I’m one click from senility, you guys! Last year, I ticked off my top seven albums, songs, and videos of 2013, in no ranked order. This year, I decided to do away with any kind of uniformity, because hey, this is my list, so I’m making the rules.
The return of Interpol this year has been one of my greatest joys. Noisey Editor Dan Ozzi likes to crack, "It's not 2003 anymore, Kim, jeez," but the thing about this record is Interpol aren't retreading old ground. As I gushed in my review of their show at the Met's Temple of Dendur in September, this is a new chapter for the New York trio and the pages are freshly inked. El Pintor is a work of stark beauty, built on tightly coiled sonic curves and pefectly judged moments of release. They're older, wiser, settled, sure—fine wines instead of whisky shots—but I'll toast to that.
Protomartyr—Under Color of Official Right
Protomartyr are from Detroit. They rehearse in the bassist's basement. They don't look like they should be in a band together. They sound like they're from the north of England. Their hooks are barbed and singer Joe's tones are mordant, but romantic too. Obviously their touchstones hark back to post-punk, but they remind me of bands I loved in the early-2000s too. Like a really scathing, angsty version of The Rakes. Or The Cribs sing-speak collaboration with Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo ("Be Safe"). You can appreciate every instrument in isolation and the rhythm section is tight as my jeans after Thanksgiving. Marvelous.
Jessie Ware—Tough Love
Did I mention that the bottom fell out of my (love) life this year? Well it did. Quite spectacularly, in fact. As if you couldn’t tell by the title, Jessie’s second record is all about love, which is tough. Jessie also got married recently so even though she’s been boo-ed up for years, she’s now locked down and that throws a whole different slant on her songwriting. I thought this album would make me want to kill myself because my mindset for 2014 has been both: “This is the Year of Yes!” and “Love? You can take a fucking hike.” But this is testament to the restorative magic of truly great music. Also “Kind of… Sometimes… Maybe,” with its booming stop starts and feathery refrains, is all about missing someone in spite of [insert reason why it didn’t work]. Do the pangs still hit? Kind of, sometimes, maybe.
BRONCHO—Just Hip Enough to Be Woman
I don't really care that this sounds like The Cars. In fact, I dig this album because it sounds like The Cars and if you don't like The Cars then you don't like guitars or road trips or life. "Stay loose."
Sylvan Esso—Sylvan Esso
Live, this duo—that's Amelia Meath and Nick Sanbourn—really get into it. Nick, who's in charge of the fiddly programming, bangs his head like a DJ convulsing at the drop, while Amelia sings with a clarion call purity and interpretive dances like no one's watching. They're goofy and awkwardly endearing. It makes you want to hold them to your chest, but don't do that because they're a couple and they might think you're trying to coax them into a threeway. (Scroll down to check out the brass-heavy acoustic rework of "Hey Mami" which they performed on my roof earlier this year as part of our series Noisey Acoustics.)
Wild Beasts—Present Tense
I listened to this record non-stop from January to March. It kept me warm in the polar vortex and it was the soundtrack to a confusing start to the year, and frequent walks home too late at night, when I definitely should have been tucked up in bed. It's punchy, brash, addictive—the pared back two-tone stomp of "Bandbreaker," that fade-in swagger-pop of "Schemers." There's "Miss Teen Massachusetts," with its twisted longing betraying a vulnerability we're all keen to keep hidden. Best of all is "Symptomatic," which captures that fantastically freeing moment when you realize someone who's had a spell on you is just a pale wraith from your past who no longer holds the power to make a dent on your future. Fall in, party on, come down, press repeat.
This song was on constant (private) rotation. Seoul are a duo from Montreal. They've only released two tracks which also makes them my Biggest Tease of 2014, but I'm completely obsessed. Even when I'm in the middle of everything, with people blathering and blustering all around—both IRL and on the internet and on my phone—if I listen to this, I feel like I'm flat on my back and my vista is nothing but sky.
Father—“Look At Wrist” ft iLoveMakonnnen and Key
I’m officially the Noisey staffer who knows the least about American hip-hop (I think). I blame living in the UK for so long, IDK, I’m an indie-pop kid, but when we’re working late, my co-editors Eric, Kyle, and Drew will blast some sweet tunes out of proper speakers which is how I heard this song. Sometimes I just walk around saying “Wrist wrist wrist wrist wrist wrist wrist” to myself. It makes me feel happy on the inside and look like a lunatic on the outside. Try it today!
Lizzo and Caroline Smith—“Let Em Say”
I said this when we premiered this tune a few months back and it still stands: this is the ultimate do-you-and-fuck-that-noise anthem. When I interviewed my cousin Sofia last week about her favorite music this year she shared her playlist to get PUMPED. Hers containted a lot of Kanye. Mine just has this song on loop. So yeah. Do you and fuck that noise.
Ariana Grande—“Love Me Harder” ft. The Weeknd
I ended up loving this song because I watched the video 37 times while writing this piece. Also, it contains the line: “If you just let me invade your space…” sung in a sexy manner which I find weirdly, endlessly hilarious.
Banoffee—"Let's Go to the Beach"
When we premiered this in October, I wrote: "Syncopated girlish exhalations and clattering akin to stampede of My Little Ponies cantering across an iron bridge combine with Banoffee's exuberant melodies, and then at 1.53 shit really kicks off—skippy vocals rounds and club-destined, bassy beats, cast a euphoric spell." It's also about how it's bad news to fuck a friend. Messy, messy. It's a total cop out to quote myself but, well, I got it right the first time round. This Aussie has been bubbling under for the past year, her slim output a deft mix of R&B-angled modern pop, and I urge you to listen to her full debut EP immediately.
Taylor Swift—"Blank Space"
Fellow Noisey Editor Eric Sundermann has had a romantical/musical boner for T. Swift for years and years, but honestly, it was only in 2014 that I really started paying attention to her, which definitely has to do with the fact that no trace of country twangle in her pop. I would embed this song but obviously she's not on Spotify or Soundcloud, but it doesn't matter, you know this song anyway.
"Oh my God look at that face / You look like my next mistake."
"I can make the bad boys good for a weekend."
"Darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream."
"Boys only want love if its torture / Don't say I didn't warn ya."
Are you kidding me with those lyrics? It's Swift at her best: incredibly knowing, a jab dipped in honey, and a heavy-lashed wink, set to a melody that'll embed itself faster than a deer tick on your inner thigh. Ouch.
BANKS—"Begging for Thread"
Wear black, shoulders back, line your eyes, drop you chin, look up, squint with conviction. Know that even when you're feeling fucking crazy and confused, ultimately you'll end up with the upper hand.
Tei. Shi. I was all about you last year, I'm all about you this year, but two songs for all of 2014? YOU HAVE TO GIVE US MORE. That being said, with it's on-an-80s synth tip, "Bassically" is brilliant. J'adore.
The Song I Kept Hearing Everywhere Which Kept Prompting Me to Ask: “What Is This?! I Love It!!!”
I once ate a BBQed burger near Shamir. It was pretty tasty and this song is fly as fuck. It makes me want to crawl on the floor, on my hands and knees, while lip-syncing every word, before jumping up, throwing on my sequinned best and dancing out the door.
Best Video For Making You Want to Have a Slumber Party and Learn Some Sweet Dance Moves
Not only is this the best song from their 2013 debut album—listen to those ratatats, that expertly placed sparkly synth line, and those finale vocal rounds—but this is also far and away their best video and at the very top of my Holy Shit This Video is Awesome List of 2014. Look at their leather, their sheeny hair, the way they shimmy in a cool-yet-attainable way. Did you get to the handclap bit yet? This is just too perfect.
Best Video for Making You Want to Escape Planet Earth
This year, more than any other, it felt like everyone was obsessed with leaving Earth and colonizing another floating lump of rock. Well, it is getting pretty crowded here. (Just the other week I went to see The Nutcracker and made this face on the subway because I smelled someone else’s fart. But I digress.) I thought this video by London’s Nzca Lines was following a similar narrative but actually, according to Michael Lovett, the man behind NL, “New Atmosphere” is set on Earth, but it’s a post-apocalyptic Earth. He says: “The inhabitants of Cairo-Athens languish in a kind of ennui, waiting for the inevitable and tangible End of the World. They lose themselves in inebriation and excess; sex, drugs, parties… it's a funky apocalypse, not particularly dystopian. They're depressed, but they're also having a good time.” Sounds like my kind of apocalypse. Also, this song evokes sighs upon sighs. Fragile but fulsome, modern but retrospective, and sexy as hell.
Best Video Based on a Single Concept, Part I
Easily the best cut on his Otherness LP, mostly because of that juicy melodic drift at the top of each chorus line. And that brass, baby: GIVE IT TO ME. But also this video—with Adam working out those long lovely limbs—is pure Milli Vanilli.
Best Video Based on a Single Concept, Part IIIt's pretty amazing that we premiered Shura's video for "Touch" back in March, when she was still unsigned, and since then, it's racked up four million plus views. Visually it's just a bunch of people in slo-mo who eventually get down to making out (one of my favorite pastimes), while musically it's the kind of xx-esque R&B that's like being naked and swaddled in cashmere and fur. Another of my favorite pastimes.
Video That Elevated a So-So Nonsensical Song to an All-Out Smash
2014's greatest edit. Cut, cut, snip, snip, killer.
Best Noisey Video Filmed on My Roof
Remember guys: cat calling is a dick move.
Biggest WTF Am I Doing Here? Moment
At the beginning of the year, I had the opportunity to go to the Grammys as the guest of one of my dearest friends. I flew to LA, giddy with the thought of all the champagne I was going to drink, and inevitably spill down the Peter Pilotto dress I borrowed (which I then had to buy because I spilt too much on it and sweated too hard in it). Little did I know that there’s no booze at the Grammys—even backstage. But the Daft Punk post-Grammys bash was definitely one the best parties I’ve ever been to. Stevie Wonder was there, there was a light up dance floor, I shimmied creepily close to Solange, and while I waited in line for the bathroom, Madonna’s daughter Lourdes embraced me, decided she loved me, and followed me on Instagram, but by the morning, our love was over. SOB. Life is strange. Read the full account right here.
Best Impromptu Recreation of the Regulate LP Cover
For about three months of this year I was traveling across the States, hosting a new Noisey series called Made In America, helmed by director and filmmaker Lance Bangs. (Watch all 10 episodes here.) It was an honor, treat, and a privilege to work with Bangs and his crew, but crucially, we mapped, covered, and exposed some incredible music and music scenes. We talked to some real legends like Bob Mould and Tommy Stinson from the Replacements in Minneapolis, and Michael from Pylon in Athens, learned about pronunciation from Nelly in St. Louis, drove through the Memphis projects with Project Pat, and learned about the DIY spirit of Baltimore from Dan Deacon, Tt the Artist and others. Somehow I managed to coax Danny Brown out of stoned stupor in a parking lot in Detroit. Also Lizzo tried to teach me to twerk in a lake. My butt was having none of it. But speaking of butts…
The Trend That Owned 2014 in Music and Life
Because my official title is "Style Editor and Producer," sometimes I spend time observing humanity and artists through the lens of how they dress. To me the style of a musician is not just the clothes, but it's also how they choose to present themselves in the world, and sometimes a collection of people contribute to that—like video directors and photographers, which explains the existence of Noisey's column Behind the Lens. But anyway, at Coachella this year, I reviewed some bands and promptly did away with a standard style round up because the only trend worth writing about was the overshare of underbutt. Even the bros got involved. Coachella foretold the avalanche of ass this year—from the "Anaconda" video, to Iggy and JLo bashing butts in "Booty," to Meghan Trainor, to "7/11," and let's not even talk about the Kardashy-ass. The body part that owned 2014 was the rump. (Thanks MTV for this handy refresher montage.) People were very upset about the way I got judgy with people's festival attire and the levels of low-hanging butt I photographed both with and without people's permission. I will concede I was a mean-spirited (to the Bronie and his girlfriend and the girl in the swimsuit), but to the majority of people I say: sorry not sorry. If your ass is hanging the hell out, it's fair game. I'm not saying don't do it—you can do whatever you like—I'm just saying, if it's there, likelihood is someone is looking at it. But you knew that anyway.
Most Entertaining Video to Produce - Kiesza Teaches Noisey Editor Drew Millard (and a Bunch of Dudes from the Wine Distributors) the Dance Moves to "Hideaway"
Another part of my job at Noisey is to produce videos. This was a very last minute thing—Features Editor Drew Millard was supposed to do a straight up interview with Kiesza—but then we thought, well her "Hideaway" video (168 million views and counting) was shot round the corner from VICE so obviously we had to get Drew and his man bun to learn all the moves and tape the results. Kiesza was a peach and really game. What we didn't count on was the guys who work at the wine distributor's down the road, getting super excited about Kiesza and wanting to join in and learn all the moves to Hideaway too. Best. Shoot. Ever. Shouts out to those guys, Drew, and Kiesza.
Tt the Artist and Mighty Mark at Boiler Room this past August. God bless the giant fan in the corner which meant I could do my best Bey hair-flicking, and thank you Tt and MM for the beats that made me want to dance like a video girl trying out for a backing dancer slot on a Major Lazer. Also—nice work Spank Rock who was also losing his shit, on top of some kind of platform, if I remember correctly.
Series I Miss Working On
At the beginning of year, we launched a series called The Great Adventures of The Kid Mero where we took our caps lock scribe and teaching assistant from the Bronx, The Kid Mero, and throw him into situations outside of his comfort zone. First up was hanging out with grindcore band Pig Destroyer. Mero learned how to mosh, he pondered "taint maintainance." In the second ep, we went down to Baltimore to find out about Bmore party rap, talking to the likes of Abdu Ali, DDm, producer Schwarz, and Brooklyn's Junglepussy. We investigated "gay swag" and found it was not an actual thing. Half the crew got stuck in an elevator and had to call the fire brigade, but that's another story. The Kid Mero is funnier than 75 percent of comedians on TV and one of the best dudes I've ever had the pleasure of working with. His assessment of New York Fashion Week makes me want to give up writing about style forever.
Best Thing I Received in the Mail
Yes you are seeing that correctly. The Minneapolis artist known as Tickle Torture sent me a half-mast chocolate cast of his penis—plus a bunch of penis lollipops for all of Team Noisey to enjoy—to say thanks for the coverage this year. I became a fan of Uncle Tickle, as I like to call him because his music is sleek and synthy and flasetto sexy (see "Would I Love You" for evidence). His live shows are an orgy of gold, stripping, flamboyant dance moves, confetti rockets and champagne ejaculations. Everyone has a good time. His album is called Spectrpphilia (about sexing with ghosts of course) and you should probably buy a Tickle sweatshirt. Fave merch of the year, for sure.
Article That Stressed Me Out the Most in 2014
Julian Casablancas. Honestly, I’ve had nightmares about this piece. At this point, it’s half-written and my follow-up with interview with him is this week. A follow-up to an interview that initially took place in October. Well, fall has been crazy busy! As he put it: “This interview is gonna be like the movie Boyhood. We can document how much we’ve changed since part one…”
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If you made it this far through the round up… woah. This year was incredible in so many ways—filled with so many new places (Bogota! Puerto Rico!), new faces, and new experiences… and Weezer's triumphant comeback! But it was also a year where I felt half in the world and half out of it. Thanks to every Uber driver and kind stranger and old friend who imparted sage advice. Thanks to Team Noisey for all the LOLs. Thanks to whoever is responsible for the existence of creme brulee, sushi, and Korean fried chicken (not to be eaten at the same time or in that order). And thanks also for every song, album, and artist who provided the score to my 2014. This year is nearly done and frankly, it can piss off, I'm over you. ❤
Kim Taylor Bennett is on Twitter.