Phosphorescent - "Song for Zula"
Padded with atmospheric strings and a stuttering light drumbeat, Matthew Houck refigures Johnny Cash in this aching track.
Twin Shadow - "Old Love / New Love"
Twin Shadow keeps killing it for me. This one begins in a dirge then kicks up unexpectedly with a catchy piano riff, percussive stabs and lyrics in alternating states of emotion.
Miley Cyrus - "Wrecking Ball"
I tried to ignore the annoying phenomenon of this year's made-over Miley but this power ballad was undeniable. Well-crafted and performed--a stirring mix of vulnerability and defiance.
Drake - "Hold On We're Going Home"
Drake said he wanted to channel the Michael Jackson / Quincy Jones era on this warm, laid-back, and alluring single (produced by Majid Johnson).
Kanye West - "Black Skinhead" / "Bound 2"
Two diametrical songs from Kanye's record: "Black Skinhead" is barky (literally), ferocious and desperate with its Marilyn Manson-esque dirty industrial processing and beats. Not being able to tell what West is doing is earnestly serious or purposeful absurd with his lyrics and music videos might be part of his mystique. I think "Bound 2" is a great, oddball track (it marries Brenda Lee's "Sweet Nothin's" and Ponderosa Twins Plus One's "Bound") that ended up with a mystifying music video (which like Miley's, lended well to parody) and was a great, abrupt closer to his album.
Du Tonc - "Darkness"
I listened to this a lot this year and never tired of it. Perhaps its the irresistible dance beat and the coolly detached vocal that builds and builds to climax ("All I need is the road I'm walking").
Disclosure - "White Noise" / "When A Fire Starts to Burn"
Some of the best singles came early this year as is the case with Disclosure & AlunaGeorge's giddy house jam "White Noise." "When A Fire Starts to Burn"
Blending UK Garage and gospel is nothing new but Disclosure did it so well and so irresistibly in their stomp house hit.
Robin Thicke & T.I. - "Blurred Lines"
It's too bad that because of a barren mainstream pop landscape, radio and overexposure can systematically murder a song (as it kind of did with my #1) but this meticulous trio of Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. is distinct and searing R&B elation.
Pet Shop Boys - "Love is a Bourgeois Concept"
I wish Stuart Price would make music this great for Madonna. With bits of snarky, knowing pretentiousness, regret and full-on lament all set to grand, kingly Village People disco, the Pet Shop Boys really hit an elegant stride here.
Daft Punk - "Get Lucky"
Intimate and incredible--sounding as if its being performed to you in your living room, Pharell's charmingly slightly off-key vocal, Nile Rodgers mesmerizing Chic throwback bass licks, and Daft Punk's computerized and organic pitching is by far the best single of the year.