Introducing… Willie Bee’s 103 (the best songs of 2014) 75-103

Last year I embarked on the journey of putting together my top 100 songs as an exercise in self-restrain, self-education and self-satisfaction. It soaked up a lot of my time in a most delightful way as I relistened to the songs I had consumed throughout the year. As the calendar turned to 2014, I immediately knew that 2014 would be another bumper year in music. With the rumours of new releases from artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and Miguel filling the air, I imagined a countdown littered with these three men. Instead, no album came from any of these three and yet it was still a magnificent year for music. Beyonce surprised, Andy Bull finally delivered on his promise and How To Dress Well announced himself as one of the new princes of electronic soul… or whatever we define that sweet, sweet candy as.

As the music industry churned out the gems amongst piles of overproduced shit, I meandered through the USA for a few months, popping into see Nas perform Illmatic at Coachella and The Strokes reunite at the Governor’s Ball Festival in New York City and other such delicious musical treats that Route 66 et al offered. On returning home I once again came to realise that Australia offered a pretty reasonable service, albeit overpriced and threatened by property development (Long Live the Palace). Then came Japan and the delirious mix of arcade dance games, J-Pop and an assortment of soul music and Pitbull followed. Hearing two pretty Japanese girls talk of their love of Pitbull was like a dagger through my throat, heart and testicles.

It is hard not to track my own personal development alongside music. My first cassette was Savage Garden’s self-titled first LP and my first CD was unfortunately Backstreet Boys’ Hey Baby, Give Me a Kiss and I’ll Sing You a Song or an apt named like that. More than a decade later and here I am, releasing my second list of my favourite 100 songs for the year. Yet again I am releasing a compromised list, but when has there ever been a list that isn’t compromised by something? The compromise here is that I’ve decided to brand my top 100 as Willie Bee’s 103 as it has a really nice ring to it. There are other decisions I had to make. Albums that were released abroad in 2013 but were released in 2014 in Australia were generally avoided. Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time and Run the Jewels’ Run the Jewels (LP 1) were two of the albums avoided due to my knowledge of them prior to 2014. However, Beyoncé’s Beyoncé was released in 2013 as well? What gives bro? Well, the late release of Beyoncé’s ripping album led to many of the singles to be released in 2014 and thus I discounted xo and yet allowed a couple of exceptions. How fanciful!

Along with the top 103, I have released my top 25 albums for the year. To recap from last year, my number one song was The Drones’ Why write a letter you’ll never send away. I still think it is a song for our time. Embittered, self-defeating and potent. Yet, there are so many songs from the countdown last year and outside of it that I would listen to far more than my number one. Whether that shows that I made an error or it shows how difficult I find the process of listening to a song that is so powerful to me is something I have asked myself. No matter. This year I crown another number one. My number one album was Queens of the Stone Age’s … Like Clockwork. I can’t help but associate the album with the night I was absolutely off my face at Coachella (did I mention I went to Coachella? Boom tish…) being abused by a Californian who felt the presence of Australians was not desired.

Anyway, without further ado, the list for 2014 is upon us. Read it, criticise it, argue with me. I want your reactions, good and bad. Music is divisive and a delicious source of debate, superiority and pretension, however it is also a journey into other people’s lives. Welcome to a short journey into my 2014.

51-103: Tuesday 23rd December

Top 25 albums & 1-50: Wednesday 24th December

103. Bombay Bicycle Club – Whenever, Wherever

Willie Bee’s 25 word or less comment: The preamble to the best track on their third album, this song is classic BBC, featuring shiver-inducing harmonies and a delicate piano melody carrying the song through a lover’s tale.

102. JP Klipspringer – Bury Me

WB comment: Sandwiched between Elliot Smith and Ben Lee, this track from Melbourne artist JP Klipspringer has caught my attention for its sombre, moving simplicity and elegant vocals about the cannibalistic nature of relationships. 

101. Chance the Rapper & The Social Experiment – Wonder Every Day: Arthur

WB comment: This is just a fucking epic rehash of one of my favourite childhood programs. Chance the Rapper is killing it at the moment and it is easy to see why. He captures humanity in all its forms, be it loneliness, nostalgia, longing and pure unadulterated joy. The latter is captured here.

100. Northeast Party House – The Haunted

WB comment: Five lads from Melbourne’s North-East who just appear to be really good at having a good time and making music with big hooks and a big sound. It is very easy to compare their sound to their predecessors, Bloc Party, but in reality, they  probably couldn’t give a fuck about the comparisons. The Haunted is a landscape of different ideas and sounds that allows each band member the space to explore a rich sound, catalysing in an almighty collision at the climax.

99. Miguel – Simple Things

WB Comment: I mentioned my disappointment about the missing Miguel release however this number featured on ‘Girls’ whet my appetite for future bedroom soul classics. Heavy bass, distortion and that vintage Miguel growl that grows and grows throughout, this is just plain sexy.

98. Caribou – Sliver

WB Comment: Caribou’s ‘Our Love’ took me for a beautiful ride that I am still continuing on. The contrasts on this album are summed up in the first two tracks. From the summer anthem of the year to the slippery, slimy sounds featured on ‘Sliver’. Without question we are talking about hesitation causing bitter heartbreak.

97. Lykki Li – No Rest For the Wicked

WB comment: Lykki Li writes a damn catchy hook, and her production is on-song here yet again. We’ve all pushed away when we needed to pull, haven’t we Lykki?

96. The Preatures – Somebody’s Talking

WB comment: Backing up from the monster success of ‘This is How it Feels’, Sydney four-piece have recaptured that fond sound that is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and the Pretenders.

95. Highasakite – Since Last Wednesday

WB comment: Confusing metaphors – ‘He would never do graffiti or vandalise the house’. This mysterious hermit who has disappeared since last Wednesday… why wouldn’t he tell anyone where he was heading to? Either way, I hope they found him and he was warmed by Helene’s astonishing vocals.

94. Flight Facilities ft. Reggie Watts – Sunshine

WB comment:  Reggie Watts and those groovy Sydney lads… what more could you ask for? This on repeat all day I would suggest… So damn groovy from the moment the sound master Reggie Watts gently caresses the microphone with a innocuous ‘check’.

93. Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea – Problem

WB comment: You know that terrible, terrible feeling that you are liking something you are innately guilty about? Well, that’s the feeling I have here. It just shouldn’t be such a great tune… and yet, those trumpets, the shockingly repetitive rap and Ariana’s… don’t get me started. What a track.

92. Sun Kil Moon – Ben’s My Friend

WB comment: The closer of a terrific album, Sun Kil Moon’s vocals drive a humorous personal story about his writer’s block and the source of his angst, whilst retelling the story of his friend and competitor, Ben. How ’bout that sax? This is so well written.

91. George Ezra – Budapest

WB comment: I’m pretty sure this is just about his Castillo, and not at all about Budapest. The meaning of the song is up to interpretation, which I kind of like. I also enjoy George’s soulful, dulcet tones. File it under easy listening.

90. Spoon – Inside Out

WB comment: Spoon rarely disappoint. Lyrically this is incredible. Break out of character for me, Time keeps on going when, We got nothing else to give, We got nothing else to give. An incredibly solid piece of music. This is one of my major queries in regards to it being unders on the list.

89. St. Vincent – Digital Witness

WB comment: I have a pretty huge crush on Annie Clark. She captures the mundane and turns it into something witty and utterly compelling. Equal-parts poet and musician (and she’s a damn good musician), Clark explores the lost art of actually… living. Throw those televisions out. In fact, stop reading this now. Actually… nah, fuck it, listen to her.

88. Milky Chance – Stolen Dance

WB comment: Break out hit, surf jaunts, divine vibes… thank you for the chance for the stolen dance.

87. Aphex Twin – aisatsana [102]

WB comment: Breathtakingly beautiful instrumental piece. Just go along for the ride and let it clear out all that cynicism and bitterness.

86. Ryan Adams – My Wrecking Ball

WB comment: There is an expectation for clarity after listening to a Ryan Adams’ album. You just expect to get a sense of why we put up with our ridiculous life after bobbing along for an hour or so. I don’t know if this is a parody of Miley’s own wrecking ball, but golly, it’s been a while since there was a bad song based around the idea of a wrecking ball.

85. Swans – Screenshot

WB comment: A gritty, ghoulish 8 minutes is what will meet you when you listen to this track. Swans’ dilute life down to a bunch of things that seem meaningless by the time we reach the huge crunching crescendo. Here! Now! I’m hungry…

84. Angel Olsen – Unfucktheworld

WB comment: This feels fresh out of a lonely blues bar in New Orleans where it appears that no one is listening to this heartbreaking, gorgeous tale of lost love. Self-preservation is her only solution.

83. Jungle – Busy Earnin’ 

WB comment: I’m a huge fan of Jungle’s sound. It is so funky, Jamiroquai-inspired but in a higher vocal range. I just want to stroll down the street with my headphones on, throwing my eyebrows up and down to suggest that I am busy earnin’.

82. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

WB comment: I love Norway… or Denmark… no, wait, Sweden. I love Sweden. The song and album warms my heart with rays of tiny, little sunshine. The female Fleet Foxes, with harmonies that bury me with contentment.

81. Sbtrkt ft. Sampha – Maybe

WB comment: Another splendid meeting of the minds between Sbtrkt and his muse. Sampha breaks my heart when he growls ‘I’m still in love with her.’

80. Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Make You Feel

WB comment: Lick your lips and feel the libido increase as your heart rate drops. A weird sensation. Strangely erotic.

79. Jamie T – Zombie

WB comment: Uncomplicated song, complicated love. It is good to have you back, Mr. T.

78. Moses Sumney – Plastic

WB comment: A dainty introduction to a man I could picture happily playing in a underpopulated jazz club. This song just glides across the ice, despite the fact that he is informing us or someone that the thing that appears to be his greatest strength, is indeed his greatest weakness.

77. Little Dragon – Klapp Klapp

WB comment: ‘Somebody found us dancin’
You can turn off and feel better
When everything’s clear like cold weather
Go feel better, feel better…’

Earth-shattering return from Little Dragon.

76. Chance the Rapper – No Better Blues

WB comment: We’ve all felt this down and useless. Those times when you want to thump your own brother for chewing a little too loudly, or kick a rock hard surface for being in your way. Sometimes you just hate everything…

75. Father John Misty – Bored in the USA

WB comment: Carrying on from Chance’s theme, this is another bitter take on life but in a more humorous tone. Critiquing American society and daily life in a far more apathetic way to Springsteen’s song of a similar name and similar nature. Scintillating songwriting, sung with a discontent shrug of the shoulders.


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