In each of the past three years, I’ve followed up on the Spectrum list of the year’s top songs by offering my modest addendum. Specifically, I’ve noted the highest-ranking songs on my personal list of the best of the year, cobbled together from the one hundred that were nominated by the various music writers for the site. My clear pick for the best song of the year was the same one we collectively selected, so I certainly have no major complaints. Still, I would have liked to see these songs get a little more love from my peers.
Cults, “I Can Hardly Make You Mine”
This once buzzy band seems to have slipped a bit in the esteem they inspire, but their latest album, Static, is at least as good as their widely celebrated debut. And this sharp lead single gets at all the bittersweet heartache that typifies the album’s darkening sunshine.
M.I.A., “Bring the Noize”
Speaking of performers whose cool cachet has dwindled, the fits and starts that eventually led to the new M.I.A. album seem to have frayed the patience of many music critics who’d previously been adherents. The full-length, Matangi, was admittedly uneven, but no more so that any of her other albums. She remains a fabulous singles artist, as evidenced by this propulsive track.
Chelsea Wolfe, “The Waves Have Come”
This is a track I stumbled upon when I was trying to find something a little different for my own set of nominations. I was so stunned by it, that I secured the album it came from as quick as I could. “The Waves Have Come” brings together the ethereal emotiveness of Cocteau Twins and the unpredictable grandeur of Kate Bush, without sounding overly beholden to either of those influences. Chelsea Wolfe’s vocals are vividly present in a way that’s utterly lovely.
Zola Jesus, “Fall Back”
The only entirely new song on the latest Zola Jesus album, Versions, is one of those efforts that gets bigger and bolder as it goes on, pushing into strikingly different sonic textures that all still remain beholden to the rich, lush orchestrations that define the track. I love that sort of thing, and it’s done very well here.
Caitlin Rose, “Waitin'”
I also nominated this track, sadly convinced it wouldn’t make the cut. A beautifully written song tinged with a countrified sound perfectly suited to its woeful tale of “waitin’ on a broken heart.” There are any number of terrific lines in the song, but I might be most partial to “True love’s always been such a racket/ Try every code but you never can crack it.” At least that’s the one I love right this moment. Come tomorrow, I might have a different couplet that I can’t resist.