25. a) Psy – Gangnam Style
Beyond the billion views (whatever lies beyond that barren, dystopian wasteland), beyond the irony, beyond the incessant repetition, beyond the kitchen-sink video, beyond the cross-cultural domination, is a genuinely fantastic pop song. That’s pretty much all there is to it really.
25. b) Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows/I Got Nothing
Sune Rose Wagner’s influence on Dum Dum Girls is stark and scintillating. “Lord Knows” and “I Got Nothing” are a tremendous pair of songs.
24. Deadmau5 – The Veldt
The edit of this track is solid, but the true star is the extended, 8:42-long cut. The longer version allows the pristine production to breathe. Deadmau5 surely knew he had a huge club/festival banger in his hands when he made “The Veldt”. A juggernaut, this song is big enough to match his grand live ambitions.
23. Green Day – Kill The DJ
Green Day do irony. Green Day do the danciest track they’ve ever done. Green Day go party-rocking. Green Day: still awesome.
22. a) Pink – Blow Me (One Last Kiss)/Try
The Paul Pierce, Joe Sakic, Todd Helton of the pop music scene, Pink keeps piling up hits but somehow, that’s not enough to reach the pop-culture dominating stratosphere of her contemporaries, Gaga or Britney. “Try” and “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” are two of the best songs she’s ever done. They’re pop gold. I have a tonne of respect for Pink, her capabilities, accomplishments, her style. She’s a star, even if she might not garner the attention that others do.
22. b) The Killers – Be Still
The best song on Battle Born. The biggest risk, the haunter, the almost perfect. If not for a couple very minute transitional details and slightly awkward production decisions, this would certainly be a top 10 song on my list and proudly join the ranks of their galaxy-dwelling tracks like “Read My Mind”, “All These Things That I’ve Done”, and “Smile Like You Mean It”. As it stands, it’s still a gargantuan, and might be the best vocal Brandon Flowers has ever laid down. I love the way it gets all “this can’t be The Killers” when the beat drops at 1:33. Maybe the best “earphones” track they’ve ever done.
21. Metric – Breathing Underwater
Non est tanti to Metric — they do it all the damn time. How they keep doing this year after year, album after album, song after song, I’ll never know. Saying they’re supremely gifted at making songs would be the understatement of the year. They just have it. A way with pop music and songcraft that frankly, I don’t think any other band has. “Breathing Underwater” is vital. It was never going to be anything less.
20. The Temper Trap – Rabbit Hole
That voice. Dougy Mandagi owns the funk out of “Rabbit Hole”, which is already replete with an endless supply of hooks. I love how the song builds to a climax that shatters glass, kicks ass, and to outer space, blasts. The way Dougy’s voice mimics the guitar line at 2:21 and 2:44 is spine-tingling. Into the “Rabbit Hole”, and how.
19. a) Mechandise – Time
Guitar riff of the year? Yup, I think so. “Time” is a sensational song.
19. b) Young Empires – White Doves
Go Toronto Go. This is a powerful anthem, a looped-out, chant-driven, coruscating diamond of a tune.
18. The Bloody Beetroots – Church of Noise
I take to my knees, link hands together, look up and give thanks. For, to, and from. The. Church. Of. Noise.
17. a) Grimes – Oblivion/Genesis
Two of the catchiest songs you’ll find on this plane or the next. Grimes, the enchanting chanteuse, juxtaposes some really dark, synth-led pop with an angelic, lilting voice. “Oblivion” is the more coherent (lyrically, musically) of the two, a fairytale where Hansel and Gretel look out for each other’s health, but also do copious amounts of amphetamines, so we never know for sure who’s getting baked (probably everyone). They’re having fun though, that much is apparent. “Genesis” is a beginning, a beguiling, nonsensical, rambler of a bear trap. It’s so, so hard to resist the pleas of such a sweet sounding siren, but if you relent and get too close, I’m not so sure you’ll be able to come back whence you came. The power of Grimes is that the trip is probably worth it.
17. b) Dan Friel – Valedictorian
The instrumental song of the year. I don’t think I can recall another instrumental having such a strong melody. The activity of this song is so frenetic it will leap off the screen and provide you with the energy equivalent of 4 Red Bulls, 11 espressos, 21 chocolate bars, or a gram of Grimes’ Gretel’s party favour bag. What a speech.
16. Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine?
The most “we’re going to smack you over the head repeatedly with a monstrous rock song” rock song the Arctic lads have ever done. “R U Mine?” is a departure from typical Monkey fare, where a new maturity is ever-apparent. When they burst onto the scene about ten years ago, I thought their talent was evident to anyone with ears, and they’ve honed it like I thought they might. They’re comfortable doing any style, and I feel confident the world will continue to be engaged and surprised by this band as long as they’re together. There’s too much talent here to not be.
15. Donkeyboy – City Boy
Underneath my skin there’s an ego. Underneath my skin there’s an eagle. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the lyrics are, “City Boy” is about the tune. And what a tune it is. The Norwegian collective have issued their strongest song to date, a sugary, seductive, skipping romp full of rainbows, radios, and regal eagles. Scandinavians have a way with pop unlike anyone else; “City Boy” is a testament to that fact. Pop just doesn’t get more likable than this.
14. a) Porcelain Raft – Drifting In And Out
Waves upon waves, upon decks upon decks,
Seen with specs, though wet, clearly wet;
The body, it roars, useless tools, bloody oars,
Cascading liquid, wasted heeds, wordless heeds;
A lost captain, now swimming with plankton,
A fight for life, with bigger life, a soaking life;
The water, it gloats, no protection, no boats,
The water, it sees, a sacrifice, it needs;
Hungry and vicious, it lingers, no contrition,
Clinging is fruitless, barren hope, no denouement;
Visions of yore, waving by windows, outside the door,
Motionless, breathless, swept away to the shore.
14. b) The Shoes – Time To Dance
Mixing Phoenix and Justice with a swirling, murderous beat results in this insouciant, incessant monster of a tune and video (featured below). Somehow, Jake Gyllenhaal as a vicious psycho fits perfectly with this outsized party banger. The 6-strike piano part has a buoying effect on the track and towards the end of the song, the cowbell is used to devastating effect, transforming the track into a party alarm of epic proportions. The build up, climax, and flourish are all fantastic. The Shoes have made a phenomenal tune here.
13. The Shins – Simple Song/The Rifle’s Spiral
I think James Mercer has always had it. I think James Mercer will always have it. A knack for incredibly affecting melodies and contemplative, intelligent lyrics is his MO — hell, it’s probably in his DNA. It was always going to be impossible to live up to the album of a lifetime, Wincing The Night Away, but “Simple Song” and “The Rifle’s Spiral” are shining examples of how close he, and his bandmates in The Shins, have come. If you let them, both tracks have the power to carry you away for hours and days, to galactic showers and different planes. I don’t think there’s a point in coming back.
12. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe/ Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Both of these songs opened up to me at same time, graduating at the top of their class together, summa cum laude, hence their link together here on my list. I can’t say which one I think is better. Though they differ from each other in how they anchor themselves, they do share several commonalities. They both have hooks that annihilate the listener. They’ll both leave you humming the melody for hours. Each is pretty much as good as pop can get.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
“Call Me Maybe” was the bigger of the two songs, seemingly covered a thousand times over and tattooing itself on the pop culture Zeitgeist unlike any other song. It’s the sneakily catchy lyrics that add weight to this pop colossus, but it’s the production that is the true star here. Jepsen’s voice is nothing to write home about. It’s serviceable and sweet. But Josh Ramsey’s production is why this song slithered into millions of ears and refused to leave. The Marianas Trench maestro has amazing pop instincts, and I think his best trick in “Call Me Maybe” is the choppy guitar shuffle (during the chorus) that dances on the track like it’s got hot coals for feet.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
“Stronger” is the warmer of the two tracks and finds Ms. Clarkson at the top of her game. The song was always going to be a huge radio smash, with its affable hook and deliberate, heart-felt delivery by its singer. “Stonger”, with “Since U Been Gone” (its aural accomplice), finds Clarkson, and the Swedish hit factory that produced both of them, humming along as smoothly as ever. More please.
11. a) Autre Ne Veut – Counting
Brooklyn, carry on with your bad self. Effectively mixing Yeasayer, Gayngs, and Grimes is no easy task, but to go above and beyond that and make something this powerful, this expressive, this lovely, is transcendental from beguiling beginning through coruscating chorus to epinician end. I cannot stop listening to this song. I cannot stop feeling this song.
11. b) Frank Ocean – Pyramids/Thinking About You
Mr. Ocean is laudable is all manner of ways. Working in arenas (RnB, Hip Hop, Pop) where “aureo hamo piscari” is still a lyrical linchpin, a driving dragoon, Mr. Salt Water Body is different — extremely different. It’s his voice, his storytelling, his presence. These things resonate with people like no one has in what seems like a really long time. “Thinking About You” is the penumbra, the passion, the pain. It’s at once heartbreaking and life-affirming. To have that power. “Pyramids” is the pleasure, the pop masterstroke, the piece de resistance. To have that position.