I have a tradition every year of compiling my favorite musical discoveries of the past twelve months, so I guess let’s do that again.
Best List of the Best Music of 2014: My Spotify List
(Admittedly, I may be biased about this one.)
Incidentally, this blog post is made somewhat redundant by the existence of this “Best of 2014″ Spotify playlist. However, Spotify doesn’t have everything on it, so I’m gonna round out this blog post with music I found on the internet that ain’t on Spotify.
Best Devo-esque Japanese Pop Song from the 80s: “Modern Lovers” by Moonriders
This is a weird and wonderful song, made even more wonderful by the fact that the lead singer, Keiichi Suzuki, helped compose the music for the video game Earthbound. (Video games and Japan are going to be a recurring theme in this list, just FYI.)
Best Insane Mashup Album: Mouth Silence by Neil Cicierega
The mashup between “I Want You Back” and Pokémon news clips (it starts at around minute 12:00) will never ever fail to put a smile on my face (barring, of course, some kind of neurodegenerative calamity).
It hardly needs be said that the “Chop Suey”/“Crocodile Rock” mashup is 100% perfect.
Best Frustratingly Low-Quality Recording, New Orleans Street Jazz: “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” by Doreen’s Jazz
I found a whole new respect for jazz clarinet after stumbling upon Doreen Ketchens. I just wish the recording quality on this video were better.
Best Frustratingly Low-Quality Recording, Other: “Sanges Sweet & There is a Light that Never Goes Out” by Camille
I found the above video while searching for the track “Sanges Sweet – Version Courte” from Camille’s album Music Hole, because that song is flippin’ gorgeous. I came up short for the album version, but found the above live recording instead. With a bit of Smiths thrown in? Don’t mind if I do.
(Some kind soul has since uploaded the album version I was originally looking for. I feel like the video might get taken down soon, so enjoy while you can.)
Best Song That Sounds Happy But Is Actually Extremely Sad: “The Procession of Celestial Beings” by Joe Hisaichi
This is a selection from the soundtrack to the film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which was easily the best animated film of the year — maybe even the best film of the year, period. The song sounds rather cheerful, but if you’ve seen the movie then you know it’s actually extremely bittersweet.
Incidentally, the whole soundtrack is really great. If you have time, I’d recommend listening to the whole video above, not just the selection I’ve chosen.
And speaking of Princess Kaguya…
Best Sappy Closing Credits Song: “Inochi no Kioku” by Kazumi Nikaido
Also from the Princess Kaguya soundtrack. Not much else to say than this is super pretty and I like it a lot.
Best Overclocked ReMix: “Coming to Chimerica” by Binster
To be honest, I didn’t even remember this song until I started trawling through my saved Youtube videos from this year. But I wanted to put an OCRemix somewhere on this list, and it turns out that this song is a ton of fun, so in it goes.
Best Album Chock-Full o’ Thick ‘n’ Crunchy 80s Synths: Dangerous Days by Perturbator
This song is actually totally available on Spotify, so I’m actually not sure why I’m putting it on this list.
Oh, right! I remember why. It’s because it’s so very dang delicious.
Best Song from a Fourteen-Year-Old Musical: “The Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This is also available on Spotify, although the movie version above is a bit different from the album version. (The actual song begins at around 1:10.) I’m including the video here mostly because I love the accompanying animation, done by artist Emily Hubley.
Best Incredibly Sappy Video Game Cover:
This song is essentially a bunch of children singing about love to the tune of a video game song. The performance isn’t even particularly good. I’m actually kind of ashamed about putting this up here. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this unless they’ve played any of the games from the Earthbound series. Even then, it’s a stretch.
Best GWAR Cover of a Kansas Hit: “Carry On My Wayward Son” (by GWAR, duh)
Mainly here as a palate-cleanser from the previous song.
Fun Fact! This is the first time in human history that a GWAR song has ever been described as “a palate-cleanser”.
Best Live Performance Extensively Featuring a Kazoo: “Fuerteventura” by Russian Red
I went to see Russian Red in concert this year! She is great. And she plays the kazoo! What’s not to like?
Nothing! That’s what.
Best Live Performance Discovered Via an Nobel-Winning Economics Blogger: “Sonsick” by San Fermin
I don’t remember how I originally found out about San Fermin, but I do remember that upon researching the band further, I discovered that Paul Krugman likes them, too! He linked to thislive performance of “Sonsick” on his NYTimes blog. Who’d’a thunk it?
One of my favorite moments in the video is the cut to the horn players at 3:42. The saxophone player is super into it! Yeah! I like that saxophone player a lot!
Best Song Representing the Dissolution of a Longstanding Mystery: “Even at My Aunt’s” by Chisato Moritaka
OK, so there’s a story here.
A long time ago, I once borrowed an imported Bemani-style Game Boy Color game from a friend. I ended up playing this game a whole lot, enough so that I learned most of its songs by heart. However, the game was entirely in Japanese, so I didn’t really know anything about the songs I was playing — not even their titles, which were for the most part written in kana rather than Roman characters.
Now, seeing as how time is an eternal march toward undying and infinite chaos, I eventually lost track of the game. But a few of its catchier tunes stuck with me. One song in particular would keep popping into my head; after a few years it got to the point where I could scarcely remember more than a few notes of melody. It was kinda driving me nuts. But I figured there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
Then I realized: I could solve this problem … with technology.
So, starting with naught but this half-remembered melody and the recollection that my mystery game had been an installment of the Beatmania series, I managed to successfully track that friggin’ song down.
Here’s how I did it:
- Downloaded a Game Boy Color emulator.
- Sleuthed around on GameFAQs to figure out exactly which Beatmania game I was looking for. (Beatmania GB2 GotchaMix)
- Downloaded the appropriate ROM.
- Re-learned out how to navigate the game’s Japanese menus.
- Found the cheat code (on GameFAQs) to unlock all hidden songs in the game.
- Played through songs until I finally found the one in question.
As complicated as all that sounds, it really only took like an hour. And most of that time was spent first trying to find the song on Youtube, which path ended up being a dead-end.
Can I just point out how incredible this whole story is? I mean, consider the sheer amount of technological and informational infrastructure that went into solving this problem. The hardest part of the whole process wasn’t emulating a Game Boy Color on my computer; nor was it obtaining a ROM of an obscure Japanese rhythm game from the 90s; nor was it even finding a cheat code for said game.[1. YEBISUSAMA, if you’re curious.] No: the most time consuming part was me trying to save time by scouring the hundreds of videos of Beatmania songs that people have uploaded to Youtube.
If this story doesn’t epitomize all the promise and peril of modern technology in a single stroke, then I don’t know what does.
Anyway, this is the song that I was looking for. It’s pretty definitely worth it???
Most Linguistically Novel Version of a Song You’re Probably Sick to Death Of: “Let It Go” (Multi-Language Full Sequence) from Frozen (Various Dubs)
Maybe you don’t like this song. Maybe you once liked it but now hate it to death. Maybe you already saw this video back when it was making the rounds earlier this year and it does nothing for you.
Whatever. I don’t care. I think it’s cool. I especially like the Japanese bit at 1:13. It’s cool and screw you.
Best Song I’m Just Adding in Here So That We End on a More Upbeat Note than “Screw You”: “Star Bit Soufflé” by Stemage
(See award title.)