Sometimes yeahhhhhYes of course, that just means sitting back and observing the life and the wacky little individual lives all around you. And you have to.
Sometimes, guys, it's just all about listening to music. It's the music. You know?
My parents did an extraordinary job of turning me into a music junkie, and they started me young.
I remember being three years-old, distinctly. My Mom's house meant WHAM!, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Madonna & Heart. And our ritualistic MTV-dance party in the living room. And we danced feverishly.
My Dad's house meant Phil Collins, The Pointer Sisters, Prince, Peter Gabriel (all the P's!), Tina Turner, Sade & Whitney. All day every day.
Even then, even being really really young, I understood that I had a very specific and very eclectic soundtrack to my life. And it was thrilling. And I became obsessed with the diversity of it.
And, throughout my childhood, I made a point to listen to absolutely everything. If my mom and I were cleaning the house listening to Erykah Badu and Barenaked Ladies (which we frequently did), I would run upstairs to my room and turn up Lauryn Hill as loud as I could, followed by an 80s anthology, followed by Dave Matthews, followed by a hip hop anthology, followed by Smashing Pumpkins, followed by "Magical Mystery Tour", followed by this collection of orchestral Gershwin arrangements that would lull me to sleep. Then, I would wake up, and get ready for cheerleading practice listening to our local indie rock radio station.
My taste was all over the place, but I couldn't help it. There were too many different stories to be told and too many different ways to tell them, and I needed to inundate myself with all of it all at once. I guess I still do.
(Sidebar: I'm 32 now--ugh--and, to this day, the single very best thing that you could do for me as a friend is make me a mix-tape. Honestly. I will love you forever and always. I would also love you forever and always if you invited me over for homemade risotto. If, however, you invited me over for homemade risotto AND handed me a mix-tape...I mean, prepare for me to move in, I guess.)
I guess my point is that music has always been, to me, the best most immediate form of escapism. I want to jump into another story altogether, another life, some grand fantasy, music lets me do that. But then, if I want a clearer understanding of what the fuck is happening in my life, incidentally, music all too frequently does that, too. I have found that, throughout my life, every single pivotal moment and every single pivotal relationship that I've had has a song or entire soundtrack linked to it. Frankly, I'm sure that most people do, whether they realize it or not.
And some times, many times (most times), it's simply been because of the storytelling. That's what got me all music-obsessed in the first place and that is, again, the core of Me. It has to be.
But each time (every time, all the times), it has 150% been about how that song just instinctively makes me feel. And I'm sure that sounds dumb, and obvious, but it's in earnest and, truly, listening to music is, very potentially, the most in-tune with myself that I ever ever get.
And so, in a year where sooooooooooo much crazy and excitement and upheaval has happened, music has played a particularly big role in both my staying sane and getting real with myself.
It's December 31st, 2014. This year is ending in a matter of hours (!!!!!!!!). Wanna talk about it? :)
**Angela's Top 25 Songs of 2014**
(Also: you're welcome in advance)
(Also: I apologize to my dear sweet friend Mike in advance for pretty blatantly ripping off his review format. It just makes an awful lot of sense and IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY SO THANKS, MIIIIIIIIKE!!!!)
Now...OK, real quick, about this list:
Sometimes, the Best songs are super super difficult to listen to, they're so large and emotional that you can only handle their weight so often. And so, a few songs can't necessarily be played on repeat.
Some of them, however...I mean, of COURSE you can, and should, and all the times.
ALL of them mean a great great deal to me, and I 100% urge you to instantaneously add them to your library OK ENOUGH OF ALL THAT HERE WE GO!!!
Sam Smith, “Money On My Mind”
25. Spoon, "Inside Out"
24. Sylvan Esso, "Coffee"
23. TV on the Radio, "Careful You"
22. alt-J, "Every Other Freckle"
21. Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea, "Problem"
20. Tegan & Sara feat. The Lonely Island, "Everything is AWESOME!!!"
19. The War on Drugs, "Under the Pressure"
18. Lykke Li, "Gunshot"
17. Charli XCX, "Boom Clap"
16. Foster the People, "Coming of Age"
15. tUnE-yArDs, "Water Fountain"
14. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"
13. Ingrid Michaelson, "Girls Chase Boys"
12. St. Paul & the Broken Bones, "Dixie Rothko" (Friends, GO BUY THIS ALBUM!!!!)
11. Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"
Alright. Now? Let's talk.
10. Bleachers, "I Wanna Get Better"
I heard this for the very first time the moment that we started our drive cross-country. It was like "Here's the open road, here's the great unknown, here's a bunch of cymbals crashing and a man slamming the keys of a piano screaming at the top of his lungs about wanting a better life." It felt exciting as hell. And then, when shit got scary within my first couple of months of being in LA, this song seemed to come on the radio exactly when I needed it to every single time. And it felt desperate, and manic, and like a call to get off of my ass. And it became a kind of mantra. And I miss the days of a life still permanent/Mourn the years before I got carried away/So now I'm staring at the interstate screaming at myself HEY/I wanna get better!
9. Perfume Genius, "Queen"
8. Beck, “Waking Light”
Beck is brilliant. Every album sounds wonderfully different yet appropriate and totally unbelievably exciting. “Morning Phase” is, in my opinion, his best yet. It is such an obscenely stunning album it almost feels unfair, and it was released at just the right time in my life that I could never sit down and listen to it straight through. I couldn’t make it, I would just fall into a puddle of myself. “Waking Light” feels so deeply personal that I couldn’t understand how he hadn’t written it just for me. No one sees you here, roots are all covered/There’s such a life to go and how much can you show?/Day is gone on a landslide of rhythm/It’s in your lamplight burning low/When the memory leaves you/Somewhere you can’t make it home/When the morning comes to meet you/Rest your eyes in waking light. Ugh.
7. Kendrick Lamar, “ i “
(Also: it's catchy as hell. Try to fight it. You'll lose.)
6. Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, “Fancy”
…We don’t really need to talk about this, I don’t think. Song of the Summer. Makes everyone feel like a badass. It's the funnest. You got down to it, Jimmy Fallon got down to it, a dad and daughter became YouTube-sensations getting down to it, there were a hundred million spoofs…Whatever. You alrea-dy know-ow.
5. Sia, “Chandelier”
Remember Zero 7? Wonderful super sexy act from the late 90s to mid-2000s? Remember the awesome lady vocalist on so many of their tracks? Sia. Remember the devastating song that soundtracked the finale for “Six Feet Under”? Sia. Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts”, Rihanna’s “Diamonds”? Written by Sia. This lady is and has been EVerything for years. I have purchased every single album that she’s released since ’04 (admittedly, I’m missing her ’97 and ’02 releases) (admittedly, I'm a little embarrassed by that much) and thought to myself HOLY SHIT, WHY ISN’T THIS WOMAN CONQUERING THE WORLD YET?!?! Apparently, because she needed to make this song first. It’s easy to get lost in that insanely amazing music video and, fuck, just to get lost in that insanely amazing voice of hers and forget that this is a deeply personal story about her struggle with alcoholism. But, don’t. If Sia has ever done anything, it’s attacked her music and her musical storytelling with absolutely 100% of her heart. This is the primest example of her approach, and of her passion, and of her. And this song is the reason why Sia is going to be at the forefront of the music industry for a very very long time.
3 & 4. D’Angelo, “Sugah Daddy” & “Ain’t That Easy”
If we have been friends at any point since 1998, then you are probably well aware of my fascination slash pseudo obsession with this man. I can rattle off about 8 albums that I have officially played into the ground throughout my life, and D’Angelo’s 2000-release of “Voodoo” is most certainly one of them; that is some perfect PERfect soulful and sexy shit from front to back, ON TOP of the fact that his voice is a miracle, ON TOP of the fact that he is a damn fine musician, ON TOP of the fact that he’s a DAMN fine storyteller…and yes yes yes, on top of the fact that he is just damn fine. So, his silence over the past 14 years (14!) has been rough. Stories came out regarding his going into rehab, his going to jail, his struggles with depression and being an absolute shy recluse, and I became disheartened over the very very real possibility that this amazing musician might never release another album. And then, immediately before my birthday, there was a quick blurb online that an album was coming. And then, days later, there it was. If you have not sat down to listen to “Black Messiah” yet, you are missing out on a stunning actual work of art that, no shit, was well worth the 14 year wait. It is sexy, it is funky, it is political and bold and inventive and goddamn timeless. “Ain’t That Easy”, the opening track, is a fascinating way for D’Angelo to have broken his silence after a decade and a half. You don’t think that it’s going to be a bombastic entrance, and then the vocals start; it’s like if old D’Angelo and George Clinton and TV on the Radio had a baby. My boyfriend who, bless him, in no way shares my complete and utter fascination with this man, completely stopped what he was doing when this song came on and just said, "Holy shit," and I just sat there, grinning like a huge fucking idiot and swaying with all of the imaginary swagger I could muster. “Sugah Daddy” (the first official single from the album), on the other hand, is vastly to the contrary of most of D’Angelo’s anthology, and it is FUN. AS. SHIT. I mean, the lyrics are as sexy and filthy as you would hope, but sexy and filthy and ever-so-slightly jarring with the most fun and funky and plunky beat imaginable. The song is as wonderfully complex as he is. I could not be more psyched to have him back.
2. Hozier, "Take Me to Church"
I guess we were somewhere in the middle of Ohio when we first heard this song. It was the first day of our trip, and I distinctly remember seeing that we were fast approaching a pretty nasty storm (Midwestern storms, for the record, are just the nastiest). The song began, and we turned and actually made faces at one another. This is awfully grim. But then, the gospel kicked in. And we were hooked. This is the song that soundtracked our voyage cross-country, through that nasty fucking storm in Ohio (where I was CERTAIN that we were going to run into a tornado), past the vast plains and wind farms of Kansas, over the Rockies and through the San Rafael Swell, and through the desert, Vegas, and into California. We are in no way religious, but that drive was, arguably, the most religious experience that either one of us have ever had. No song could have been more perfect for the occasion. And it was.
1. Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
This. This goddamn perfect, weird, stunningly beautiful song. I remember hearing it earlier this Spring and just thinking Ohhh, myyy god, this is just gorgeous. But then, a few months later, I got it on a mix-tape. (Mix-tapes, friends.) And then, I actually got it. And I was floored. There is something incredibly universal at the center: People change/You know but some people never do/You know when people change/They gain a piece but they lose one too. And then, there’s this: As it breaks, the summer will wake/But the winter will wash what is left of the taste/As it breaks, the summer will warm/But the winter will crave what is gone/Will crave what is gone/Will crave what has all... gone away. To say that it hurts is an understatement, and then you add the score behind the lyrics, and it's just fucking devastating, and then you add the desperation of Samuel T. Herring's vocals and your gut is wrenched beyond all possible comprehension. And yet? The song ends on this note with the faintest shred of hope in it, and it is absolutely everything. This song is so damn beautiful and yet so simple and beyond relatable that you can’t help but be grabbed by it. I was more moved by this song than anything else this year. Still aren’t quite sure? Click on the link above and watch the performance on Letterman. I was reading SPIN a couple of days ago and they were citing their case for this being Song of the Year, claiming that it was as complete and satiating as any pop song and that, even if you don’t watch their ridiculously perfect performance on Letterman, “ ‘Seasons’ would stand alone as the most purely satisfying song of 2014, not a second or word wasted, and utterly impossible to get sick of.” I could not possibly agree more.
When I think about my year or, really, my life in terms of music, it's tough to get down. It's tough to look back and think about what a bitch this moment was and that moment was, difficult to linger on regrets, moments wasted, chances not taken. When I think about my life in terms of music, regardless of the pitfalls, I can only see it as full, well-lived, epic, sweeping, & beautiful.
Oh dear, what goodies might 2015 bring?