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Music September, 4 2014
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Our Top 25 Songs of Summer

The end of summer not only signals a slow weather retreat back to Arctic temperatures for most people, it’s also a denouement for bouts of entertainment aimed at those who use the warm weather for inspiration. Specifically, summer is when musical acts really come with the proverbial “heat.” Much like our 30 Movies to See Before You’re 30 exploration of the film genre, our editorial staff has eclectic tastes and have differentiating opinions as it relates to what songs really transcended radio and became engrained in cultural relevance for months and months. Here are our top 25 songs of summer.

 

Hip-Hop

Action Bronson – “Easy Rider”

Action Bronson is the perfect blend of voice, rhymes, wit, humor and production sensibilities. When combined, you’re left with a person who takes his craft seriously, but doesn’t convey an inordinate amount of seriousness that is often associated with the genre. The August release of “Easy Rider” has paved the way for his major label debut on Vice and finds welcome company on the production horizon in the form of Party Supplies who has a keen way of making the composition both edgy and catchy. If you’re looking for a song with a ton of replay value that doesn’t rely on “club hip-hop” sensibilities, look no further than “Easy Rider.”

Buy the track here.

 

Death Grips – “Black Quarterback”

Days before announcing their breakup, Death Grips, in signature Death Grips fashion, dropped the unexpected dropped part 1 of The Powers That B. On the first disc, titled Niggas on the Moon, the Sacramento trio hits hard as always, this time around showcasing MC Ride’s talents as a lyricist. “Black Quarterback” is among the disc’s best and shows why the three-piece outfit is unlike anyone currently in the game.

Listen to the album here.

 

Bobby Shmurda – “Hot Nigga”

Very few people had a better summer than Bobby Shmurda. The Brooklyn rap newcomer’s YouTube smash “Hot Nigga,” and the associating dance, has gotten a co-sign from nearly everyone important in the biz, including Jay Z, Beyoncé, Meek Mill, Lil Wayne and others. The success of the Jahlil Beats-produced track even led to the Brooklyn native securing a deal with Epic Records. Despite the song’s success some are still (rightfully) skeptical, “to me that’s like a flash in the pan right now,” says Statik Selektah. “If Bobby Shmurda makes a career out of that, and he makes real music, then I’ll be impressed.” While Shmurda’s future is definitely uncertain, a “Songs of Summer” list without his single simply wouldn’t be complete.

Buy the track here.

 

PARTYNEXTDOOR – “Recognize” featuring Drake

Earlier this summer, October’s Very Own singer/producer PARTYNEXTDOOR announced the sequel to his self-titled mixtape and released one of the project’s standout tracks, “Recognize” featuring Drake. Just a month after the song hit the ‘net, Mississauga’s rising star unveiled the Liam MacRae-directed, old-fashioned visual to accompany the release. With an appearance by Kylie Jenner, it’s safe to say the right circles are taking notice to Jahron’s talents. More recently, PARTYNEXTDOOR opened for the first time on the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour in Boston on August 25 and will continue to do so through September 4.

Buy the album here.

 

The Weeknd – “Often”

Canadian PBR&B recording artist The Weeknd hasn’t shared a lot of material since the release of his major label debut Kiss Land. That all changed towards the end of June when Abel released the first single from his upcoming untitled album, “Often.” The sultry track appears to be radio ready, complete with clean 808s under limited synth work and the crooner’s recognizable higher registers. The video for the track is also most definitely 100% Weeknd, featuring him staring dispassionately at beautiful half-naked women in a luxurious hotel room. His King of the Fall tour with ScHoolboy Q and Jhené Aiko is less than a month away, beginning September 19 in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and ending October 10 in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Buy the track here.

 

Meridian Dan – “German Whip”

So technically this is Grime rather than hip hop, and Meridian Dan’s flow is pretty awful, but this British ode to German automobiles is tons of fun and sums up why Grime is so much fun – low budget, littered with OTT London slang and not even slightly serious. This song does not do the genre justice – there are tons of better MCs out there – but for sheer jokes factor this tune is a colossal banger.

 

 

Rae Sremmurd – “No Flex Zone”

This viral hit gained severe momentum this summer and helped Mississippi-based brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy emerge from anonymity. Nothing short of a summer anthem, this tune provided a hint of the forthcoming EP #SremmLife, and birthed the popular hashtag #NoFlexZone.

Buy the track here.

 

T.I. ft. Young Thug – “About the Money”

Heralded for his sui generis vocal delivery of shrieks, growls and whispers, as well as his unique manner of dress, Young Thug teamed up with fellow Atlanta-based hip-hop legend T.I. this summer to cook up “About the Money”. T.I. also gave a well-deserved nod to Young Thugg by bringing him on stage for his performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Buy the track here.

 

Tunji Ige ft. Wonda – “Day2Day”

Summer hip hop jams don’t come much chiller than this. Tunje Ige is a relatively unknown 19-year-old rapper/producer from Philly, but the confident flow and production on this beat suggests an artist with many more years under his belt. A lot of hazy, blazey days were spent cruising to this track this summer – not a bad way to spend your day-to-day.

 

Pop

FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”

FKA twigs’ debut album was one of the most anticipated of the year and needless to say, it did not disappoint. The lead single off of LP1, displays the English artist’s delicate vocal beauty while the accompanying visuals complement her ethereal persona.

Buy the album here.

 

BANKS – “Beggin For Thread”

Another artist we’ve been following for some time now, LA songstress BANKS dropped the track “Beggin For Thread” just a week before the release of the music video. The song itself is somewhat more upbeat than her other work, illustrating her James Blake-esque approach to pop while infusing it with her natural pop sensibilities.

Buy the track here.

 

Mac Demarco – “Let My Baby Stay”

Included in our roundup of the Top 25 Musical Achievements of 2014, 24-year-old Canadian musician Mac Demarco’s latest effort features a handful of easy summer tunes. Among the offerings is the track “Let My Baby Stay” which includes a breezy guitar riff with delicate vocals layered on top.

Buy the album here.

 

Raury – “Cigarette Song”

Atlanta-based Raury debuted his album Indigo Child this summer, and Cigarette Song was certainly a standout inclusion. The visual accompaniment is nothing short of inspiring, and certainly Raury is slated for big things in the near future.

Buy the track here.

 

Sia – “Chandelier”

Sia is (in this writer’s opinion) one of the greatest women in pop music. The fact that she wrote “Chandelier” one of the year’s greatest pop songs – in just 30 minutes should be proof of that. Despite the delicate lyrical subject matter that deals with Sia’s own past troubles with alcohol addiction, when she hits that top note in the chorus I defy anyone not to crack a smile. Also, that video. 

Buy the album here.

 

 

Electronic/House/Techno

La Roux – “Uptight Downtown”

While fans of La Roux had to wait five years in between the release of her 2009 self-titled debut and 2014’s Trouble in Paradise, fans were greeted with an Elly Jackson record that definitely has top-to-bottom playability. While some would argue that a lot of her material “sounds the same,” the first song from her newest record, “Uptight Downtown,” is the perfect reintroduction of Jackson’s sound and couldn’t have come at a better time. Pairing her instantly recognizable vocals with an uptempo piece of production, La Roux has the ability to make dance music feel mellow depending on the mood you’re in.

Buy the album here.

 

Storm Queen – “Look Right Through” (MK Remix)

This song is cheesy as hell but living in Berlin, a city that is obsessed with grinding, industrial techno, it’s good to be reminded of how fun and uplifting dance music can be when it’s given a catchy bass line and some poppy vocals.

 

SOHN – “Artifice”

Based in Vienna, English musician SOHN dropped one of 2014’s most relevant albums, capturing the increasing crossover between club, dance and electronica. “Artifice,” in particular, is at home both on crowded dance floors and in private. Listen to the track above and check out our interview with SOHN here.

Buy the album here.

 

Caribou –”Can’t Do Without You”

News of Dan Snaith’s return to his Caribou alias was well received across the world and when this, the first new material under that moniker for more than four years, dropped, it seemed like parts of everything he’d done before had been unified in one outstanding track. Listening to it, you wish those synths would continue rising into infinity and anyone who’s seen the band perform it live will testify to just how rousing a spectacle it really is.

Buy the track here.

 

Jamie xx – “All Under One Roof Raving”

The UK producer channels the spirit of his home country’s vibrant history of subcultural ravers with this track which references everything from UK garage’s jittering beats to reggae’s synthesized steel drums. Interspersed with quotes from Mark Leckey’s 1999 short film, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, it is an ode to Britain’s long-gone early ’90s rave scene and myriad musical subcultures which it influenced and followed.

Buy the track on vinyl here.

 

Rock/Alternative

Lana Del Rey – “Fucked My Way Up To The Top”

With the release of Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey proved that she could make mood music that didn’t necessarily make listeners feel like they needed to retreat into a dark room to contemplate the mysteries of the world and ponder each and every one of their own personal shortcomings. “Fucked My Way Up To The Top” is bold and assertive, but given the dreamy and sultry nature of the songstresses voice, it registers like a clean, sniper’s bullet rather than an overly aggressive aural bludgeoning.

Buy the album here.

 

Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

Even though the lyrical content of this record (it’s the band’s first since singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transexual) isn’t directly relatable to all, the combination of catchy punk rock and clever, deeply personal lyrics dealing with the struggle of gender dysphoria and raising awareness for trans issues, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” is an absolute winner from the Florida quartet.

 

Arcade Fire – “We Exist”

Bolstered by a fantastic music video starring Andrew Garfield, Arcade Fire’s “We Exist” tells the story of a son coming out to his father. The visuals track the protagonist’s struggle from a repressive redneck town all the way to Garfield in drag at Arcade Fire’s performance at Coachella.

Buy the album here.

 

Parquet Courts – “Always Back In Town”

Beginning with one of their catchy guitar hooks, “Always Back In Town” is one of the more memorable tracks off of Sunbathing Animal. A driving rhythm sections provides the backdrop for an aggressive melody from the Brooklyn band’s Andrew Savage.

Buy the album here.

 

Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

Without question 2014’s breakout act thanks in no small part to a meme-worthy appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, Future Islands penetrated the airwaves after years of equally charismatic work. One of many singles off of their new album Singles, the track shows off the band’s synthpop roots along with their contemporary interpretation of dark wave.

Buy the album here.

 

The War On Drugs – “Red Eyes”

“Red Eyes” has all the anthemic qualities of a song that will live for many, many years after its release. Sure, it sounds like ’70s Springsteen, but it’s that quality of age-beyond-its-years that, perversely, will stop it from really aging at all. When the guitar drops in with the main hook it’s like flying down an open highway in the DeLorean with the roof down. Very few tracks this summer could rival that feeling.

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