I’ve made better annual mix-tapes than this one (they used to be real mix tapes, lately they’ve been playlists I want to call mix tapes), but there are some damn good tracks here. And this time, I decided to make notes. Think of it as my love letter to you. My don’t-you-miss-my-ramble? My here is where my brain has been part of the time.
I mean, people still tell me they listen to mix tapes I made 13 years ago.
I mean, one of the best parts of DJing was that I'd always wanted to trap people in my bedroom and make them listen to the music I was excited about.
Though I may have saved the best for last, the songs are not in some goodness order. I tried slightly to have songs follow each other without a disgruntled jolt. Most are, but not all are songs from this year—some just popped back up for me. Did as they do.
For the sensitive ones among you: there are some softer songs—feel free to skip ahead.
1. Rustie. Attack feat. Danny Brown
Sometimes it’s just the beat. The sound. The immediate party. The posturing. How it all works together. How it is new and familiar at the same time in the best ways. “I ain’t gotta say shit, tell your bitch to suck my dick” sounds as good as it ever could. How’s that for critical analysis? I find it useful to think of much of this kind of music as dystopian aspirational fantasy. Or something like that.
2. Tego Calderon. Abayarde
I love Tego and was happy to see him release a new song. He is consistent in the quality of his releases, and his voice is up there for best male rap vocals of all time. With Guru and Method Man and ______________. Which is good, because he ain’t cute. He is ugly man’s ugly. Er… he is talented-beautiful: the best kind.
Then, there is the gorgeous plaintive whine of that horn. Mmmm. This reminds me of this one night out in Havana where there were some kinda house-techno DJs. That not really my thing, but we’d paid so we stayed for the scene. Which was a good because then we caught this horn player who came on late. He had a mixer to record, manipulate and loop his sound—to play off what the DJ was spinning and create something new. It sounded so rad that I was excited for him.
3. Miley Cyrus. My Darlin feat. Future
I’ll start by admitting that a riff on “Stand By Me” is, if done right, likely to win me over. Still—coulda gone all wrong since playing with that song really is playing with fire. This does what any nod or cover should do—tap into the power of the original but make it your own. Maybe she just paid the right people? Maybe she knows what she is doing? Idk. I don’t envy her. I know that. Another win: simple lyrics that feel memorable and new and somehow original: “We gonna make a movie, movie, and it’s gonna be in 3D, 3D.” And, call it sacrilege, but that repetition is holy.
4. Kevin Gates. Stop Lyin’
I keep wondering if I am wrong about Kevin Gates, but my appreciation still feels so right. It has not been fleeting. At this point it runs pretty deep. He plays to his strengths. There are definitely some people who I want to really hear this song. Force feed and shit. (And keep feedin’ em and feedin’ em.) But it’s okay. Yep. Yep. Though that’s probably why I picked this song over another song on this Gates album “Amnesia.” Also, while hot, that song doesn’t really showcase Gates.
Youngins insult of the year: “you basic.”
5. K. Michelle. Love ‘Em All
A subtle moment for me in 2014: when my side jawn was amused that I knew all of the words to this song. Haha. Add it to the girl power soundtrack, whatever--- but Love ‘Em All is something else too. The music is standard, familiar, boring but inoffensive, so here it’s the lyrics that make the song (the dramatic progression helps too). I’m reading too much into it, sure, but I hear this song as a response to the fact that there are so many options that there end up being none. People hear words you never said. Everyone gots multiple ejection buttons. So maybe there is a power in admitting that and playing within it. Instead of wanting something you can’t have. Instead of being a damn cliché. Instead of settling. Because some of us have range. So why not love ‘em all? K. Michelle allows the someday. I allow the someday. That said, for me, this song is not an anthem, no, no, but it does seem to tie to my recognition of my current dating but take care of self first state. And maybe it’s gendered-ish, er…, but sex is irrelevant. And simultaneously rad when rad.
6. Lykee Li. Gunshot
From the particularly depressing latest Lykee Li album. Not really my thing in 2014, but I learned to appreciate the album because I wanted to. At her live show I caught here in Philly, she was surprisingly good and not depressing. She too wears a sack well.
7. FKA Twigs. Water Me
I love that a song about a lover who refuses to make love is so hot.
8. FKA Twigs. Two Weeks
I made love to FKA Twigs’s albums a few times in 2014. Maybe should’ve done it more. It is awfully dramatic though no? Risks trying too hard. That said, “I can fuck you better than her” may be the best lyric on this here playlist? Or maybe they just say that to all of the girls.
9. Ryan Adams. Come Pick Me Up
An ex-girlfriend introduced me to this song. Somehow it came back to me this year. Nostalgia? Well yes, sure. And, no disrespect, but not for the ex. Maybe for that crazy time though. That country and folk music filled 7,000 plus feet above sea-level time. Of course, Ryan Adams is also just doing a great job here. What a song should do: make you feel something. Make you want to sing along “screw all my friends, they’re all full of shit” with the heartfelt resignation: the tell me so I don’t have to tell me.
10. Sky Ferreira. Everything is Embarassing
They don’t look the same, but visually Sky Ferriera operates in the same space as Kate Moss. And that’s a compliment. I think. Such things are always complicated by the fact that I don’t look a damn thing like this kind of girl. This song captures the best of the 80s without feeling trite or tired. I found myself coming back to it. But then, who can’t just stare at Kate Moss? Meaning: sometimes we can enjoy the things we question.
11. Dej Loaf. Try Me
A friend said the lyrics are everything wrong with hip-hop/rap (I forget which word he used, and there is a distinction of sorts). And yes. Okay. I hear that. But it’s so smooth and un-mad. Do you believe her? Nah, she’s just high and frontin’ right? And I appreciate her non-girly and her Detroit. The video is straight throw-back, button down jersey and all, and I’m old.
12. Beyonce. Flawless
There is part of me that wants this song to capture 2014. Beyond the “bow down bitches” –-really, I mean, I’ve been punished so much for not hating myself. And I have bad days/ am transparently human and still I’m shamed. And no, dears, I am not all that. It’s been made clear. I appreciate it. But I think I have a pretty healthy sense of self—of what I do got. And some of ya’ll are basic. So stop. Let Beyonce help you? In her flawed, complicated but I’ll take it way.
13. Outkast. Liberation.
Speaking of rise together. Maybe this should be the only song on this list. The only reasonable response to this wrought, wrought year. And yet, was it really different than any other year? Just that social media helped Trayvon and so many, too many, others not disappear from the public consciousness? We need more songs like this.
14. Rodriguez. This is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst
Still so timely. I call this early-rap music. Better yet, just fucking good. If you get a chance to see him perform—do it. He is brilliant. If you haven’t seen it, watch the documentary that features him and brought him back: Searching for Sugarman.
As is the partial story of my life, I got lucky. I was traveling all summer with a limited budget when I found out Rodriguez was playing two sold out shows. We knew someone who worked at the Warfield, but he couldn’t get us in, but Ivy is adventurous and our stars were aligning that week. So, because we held a sign asking for tickets and endured sneers of those $75 plus ticket payers who our sign threatened, we got to see this magic man live in SF for free. A nice older guy who had two friends bail on him handed us two tickets that it became obvious he wasn’t going to sell.
The World Cup song, and I got too many memories to not put it on here. I’m still pissed about the Columbia vs. Brazil game. I’m still rooting for U.S.A’s keeper. Did ya’ll catch all those what could Howard stop posts? So fucking good. FIFA is horrid, but futbol is addictive. During my months in Cuba, I watched most of the games and found myself so wonderfully and inexplicably emotionally involved in many of them. Good people, good food, good drinks and terrible beer made it all the better in hot, hot Cuba.
16. Carla Morrison. Tu Orgullo.
Carla Morrison is my favorite Spanish-language female singer. She’s got so many good songs, that it was hard to pick just one. Ultimately, I went for the one of the standouts that I also have a little disconnected non-story I could include.
I remember when I learned the word orgullo. I don’t know why—I just never knew it. It was in Laramie, WY and this undocumented punk guy, Maygin, (who may still be in prison in Mexico???), illustrated the word for me on a piece of paper that I still have somewhere. He needed me to know it. He was right.
17. Ought. Habit.
They were great live. Even better than the strong album which seems a too rare thing. If you’ve never hear of them—they are up for the best band of 2014 you’ve never heard of award. This is the Canadian cool entry. Montreal. Same label as Godspeed. I’m pretty sure they’ve got good politics too. I read something about how they thought this album was influenced by the series of protests that were happening across Canada at the time.
18. Calle 13. Pa’l Norte (Beauty Brain Remix)
Almost too fast. In fact, if I didn’t love the original of this song so fucking much—maybe I wouldn’t have willed myself to love this remix as much as I do. And I do. Though it has lost so much of what was brilliant about the original, it has gained something else. I heart not-so-little-no-more PG-13 (the vocalist).
In my imagination and sometimes in my living room alone, I am rockin’ the dance floor as this remix plays. Sarah, dear, we really do need to have a take back the dance floor night. We did used to dominate.
19. Miguel. nwa feat. Kurupt
A late entry and right now I’m still obsessed. So much is great here: the bass, that guitar sample, the sexiness of all of it. I’m not so familiar with Kurupt and his lines aren’t particularly great—but he sounds so good. This song and the others on Miguel’s E.P. cause me to theorize that he as been dumbing it down. He’s an artist who has been playing it a bit safe. Pretty sure he is rich enough now to push himself more this direction and that’s something to look forward to.
all of the hearts,