Saturday, December 27, 2014

the top ten best hit songs of 2014

And now onto our second list, and the one that doesn't give me heart palpitations whenever I think about it, the Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2014. 

Once again, let's go over some of the main rules: the songs need to debut on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 list this year - so while there are songs like 'Counting Stars' and 'Wake Me Up!' that came out last year and still made this year's Billboard 100, they already had their shot to make the list.

What gets a little frustrating because while the year-end Billboard Hot 100 didn't have as many outright terrible songs as last year, I'd also make the argument it didn't have as many genuinely awesome smash songs either. 2014 tended towards average all around, with only a few genuinely great songs and a whole sea of songs that were pretty solid but didn't evoke a huge amount of reaction from me, one way or the other. And once again, this is my list of my favourite hits - the list of the songs from across the entire year that never touched the charts is on its way - but that's not ripping into these songs, most of which had real genuine quality behind them.

But let's not waste time, let's get to the Honourable Mentions!

'Timber' by Pitbull ft. Ke$ha (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #11)

Originally, my plan was for this slot was to go to 'Give Me Back My Hometown' by Eric Church, his highest charting hit off of The Outsiders, but that got muscled off the chart by much weaker songs, so I went with the next best thing. And look, you don't need to tell me that this song isn't better - believe me, it's not great, and it was a narrow fight between this and a few other tracks. That said, at the end of the day I do like this song because it does a surprising amount right. Pitbull's rapping is better than usual for him, especially in the second verse, but this song is really Ke$ha's, who dominates it and proves that she does legitimately have pipes. As for the instrumentation, the harmonica melody balances pretty well against the clap percussion, the more rollicking vibe courtesy of the guitars is a nice fit, and at the end of the day, it does exactly what it's designed to do, and both artists have real charisma, which does a lot. It's a dance song with a memorable melody and sound, and I daresay it's better than most of the mainstream country tracks that were dropped this year, so I'll take it.

'Chandelier' by Sia (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #25)

One of my harshest reviews of this year was of Sia's album 1000 Forms Of Fear, and when I said in that review that 'Chandelier' has problems, I meant it. The percussion crushes the melody into a watery slurry, the back half of the chorus can't pay off the rest of the song, the pitch correction drizzled all over the prechorus was a mistake, and Sia shreds her voice on this song past the breaking point. Forget her aversion to fame and touring, if she were to perform this on tour, her voice would be gone by mid-week. All of that said, the eerie off-kilter vibe of the verses, the cacophonous explosion of drums on a pretty damn powerful crescendo, and lyrics that capture the drunken desperation of a night careening out of control, it's got a certain visceral power to it I can't deny. It frustrates me because it's one of those songs that should have been exceptional, and yet it's just merely good. Eh, it happens.

'Do What U Want' by Lady Gaga ft. R.Kelly (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #84)

When I reviewed Lady Gaga's ARTPOP, I made the mistaken analysis that this song promoted all sorts of questionable sexual contexts by implying that while her mind, heart, and soul were protected, one could 'do what you want' with her body. That wasn't quite the interpretation Gaga intended, as it's more about her love/hate relationship with the press, but considering R. Kelly gets on the track and makes it all too literal, it's not exactly surprising there was a misinterpretation there on my part. That said, 'Do What U Want' has held up remarkably well thanks to a killer groove, Lady Gaga's raw delivery, some excellent synth production, and the fact that R. Kelly is, well, R.Kelly and all kinds of awesome on this track. Granted, the way he warps the subject matter through his verse is off-putting and keeps it from being higher, but it still deserves some recognition.

'Habits (Stay High)' by Tove Lo (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #32)

This is actually a fair bit lower than I thought it'd be originally, because the tighter, more personal focus in comparison to Sia's 'Chandelier' was one of its strongest selling points. I liked how despite the heavier emphasis on percussion, the strings and ghostly voices melodies were preserved, the reverb emphasized the loneliness of the narrator, and Tove Lo's blunt, detailed brand of songwriting brought a lot of colour to her post-breakup delirium. But as I said when I reviewed Tove Lo's debut album Queen Of The Clouds a few months ago, it's a song that works a lot better in the context of its album, showing just how her return to her previously reckless lifestyle reveals itself as so empty and hollow now, how disposable and hollow it is like Twinkies. On its own, the track raises more questions than it answers, as her reckless behavior does imply more than just post-breakup behavior, and doesn't do enough inform that album context. On top of that, it always annoyed me the production never caught that her voice tops out during the chorus, a minor production quibble that does knock it back. Still, damn good song.

'Dirt' by Florida Georgia Line (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #66)

Oh, I bet some of you are surprised to see this here, aren't you? Yeah, it's that kind of year - but I'll say it, 'Dirt' by Florida Georgia Line would have had a solid shot at any of my lists, because it's a damn good song. I'm not going to say it's all that deep - it's still a song, on a fundamental level, about dirt - but to some extent, it's grounded. It's heartland-driven country music that shows Florida Georgia Line can step up its game and write something beyond the bro-country cliches that actually shows them acknowledge mortality. And it helps that Joey Moi's production cranks up the steel guitars, organs and more acoustic elements above the muddy cymbals production, giving the song some real melody. Yeah, it's still got something of a checklist nature to the lyrics, but for a tentative step towards more conceptual songwriting, Florida Georgia Line are on the right track.

'Say Something' by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguliera (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #17)

This song snuck up on me, to the point where I only recently started getting into it. Maybe I was put off by its bare bones composition and melody or Christina Aguliera, the latter being the only reason this song charted after she offered to record her vocals to supplement them, but yeah, let me repeat what so many other music critics have said, this song is great. The emotion is potent, the bare-bones accompaniment fits the stripped down, complicated pain of the song, the frustration and grief at giving up on a relationship that's failing because she's not in love in the same way, and even though it's the mature step, it still hurts like hell. And I love Ian Axel's vocals, so much so that I actually wish the solo version of the song had actually done well. Christina is alright here - probably the most subtle she's ever been - but framing the song as a duet changes the context of the song from solitary heartbreak to a breakup through failures of communication on both sides, and to me it doesn't quite work as well. Still, this song definitely deserves the acclaim it's gotten, great track.

'Shower' by Becky G (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #69)

Oh, don't look at me like that. 'Wrecking Ball' made this honourable mentions list last year, and 'Shower' is here this year. Yeah, it's ridiculously sugary teen pop, and the 'Call Me Maybe' comparison is an easy one to make, but unlike Carly Rae Jepsen, Becky G actually is a teenager and the simpler framing makes the song a lot easier to like - hell, I like this a lot more than I ever liked 'Call Me Maybe'. It's a song about blissful young love, and for what it's trying to do, it's pretty damn enjoyable, especially from a compositional standpoint. The chorus is melodic and well-written with some acoustic texture, the flutes are good on the bridge, the strings arrangement is well-placed, the backing vocals are well-layered, and the crescendos are pretty damn potent. Yeah, it's intended for a young audience, but who says music for teenagers and kids has to suck? And 'Shower' by Becky G is better than it really has any right to be.

And now to the list proper!

10. One of the entries on Billboard's year-end list for both last year and this year was 'Wake Me Up!' by Avicii, a song I really liked but ultimately was just bumped off the list by a few better songs. It was extremely close, and in all due honesty I'm not sure his highest charting follow-up song is better. But in this kind of year, I'll take what I can get.

10. 'Hey Brother' by Avicii (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #60)

I stand by my original criticism of Avicii's debut album TRUE that the folk and country elements were far better integrated and executed than the EDM elements, and that's certainly true here. For the longest time, this song was not sticking with me in the slightest, because there are problems with it. The underlying beat beneath the horns always felt underweight, the double click percussion didn't fit the rest of the song, especially the more straightforward grooves on the acoustic guitars or the melody line in the horns. The track just didn't feel cohesive for me, and it put me off really getting into the song.

So why did I come along to liking it? Well, call it a case of the really great parts of the song outweighing the stuff I didn't like. I really liked the lyrics of family bond, I dug Dan Tyminski's vocals which you might recognize if you're familiar at all with bluegrass or the work he's done with Allison Krauss, and the crescendo is incredibly solid, fusing a solid guitar lick with a great horn melody. Hell, even the handclap percussion works pretty well too, and I do like that Avicii's got a knack for relying more on melodic hooks than most of modern pop this year. In other words, it's gotten me curious to see more. Looking forward to that second album, Avicii, don't screw it up.

9. This was the year the Maroon 5 wannabes arrived in force, mostly trying to take advantage of the band's watered down commercial appeal - including the new release from long-time pop rock group Maroon 5, who sounded less and less like a distinctive band and more of an Adam Levine star vehicle. But putting aside a bad joke at Maroon 5's expense, this year also saw the arrival of a fair few pop rock groups like the debuting Rixton or the return of Chromeo. But if there was going to be one duo that sticks around - and I'm honestly not sure if they will - I kind of hope its these guys, because this song was a lot of fun.

9. 'Classic' by MKTO (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #50)

Like with 'Hey Brother' there are problems with 'Classic' - for one, it is by far one of the most ridiculously goofy songs that came out this year, and it's coming from a duo that many would argue have no business making music. Malcolm Kelley is a former cast member on LOST, and Tony Oller's bounced around from a few films like The Purge and a Nickelodeon series - and really, it makes a lot of sense that they'd make a song like this, overloaded with retro/old-school cheese that's fully aware of how silly it is and is just rolling with it anyway. That said, some of the songwriting is clumsy and forced, and you can tell these guys were reaching and really couldn't rise above making a kind of stupid song.

But that said, there's a lot to be said about the stuff the song gets right. For one, both of these guys have a ton of charisma and upbeat energy, and while I wouldn't say Kelley's voice is stellar, he possesses a lot of presence, which you need for a song like this. It also kind of makes up for some of the lyrics that do skirt the edges of dumb, even in a rap verse that is way better than it has any right to be - the reference to 'Hathaway' wasn't actually our Les Miserables Oscar winner, but Donny Hathaway, who was known in jazz, blues, and soul, but it's a stretch to include Beyonce in the list of classic ladies of glamour, at least right now. But putting aside that, there's a lot to dig out of the instrumentation too - the great squonk of the bassline, the relentlessly catchy keyboards, the punchier modern organ tone, the strings section, the percussion that's a little heavier but never overwhelms the melody, and the production that's just lightweight enough to make a song like this work. It's the kind of lightweight slick pop song that goes down easy, and the retro style has enough flair to rise above.

8. Last year OneRepublic made a major splash in the pop scene with the success of 'Counting Stars', which also charted this year and if it hadn't landed on last year's list, it'd probably have a major shot here too. What I and a lot of other critics appreciated was that it was a sign that OneRepublic's brand of lightweight music was evolving into something willing to take more chances or maybe get a little darker. I was a little more skeptical, mostly because we're still dealing with Ryan Tedder, a songwriter and producer who has frequently disappointed me not by being outright bad but never really living up to their potential.

Fortunately, their next single managed to prove me wrong.

8. 'Love Runs Out' by OneRepublic (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #67)

On the surface, this is the sort of pop song would probably irk me - abuse of reverb, focus on percussion over obvious melody - but if we're looking for an easy example of how to do this song right, it'd be here. The usage of well-placed piano to match the percussion is a great way to keep the ominous tension of the song and compliment the melody line. The drums have texture, the cavernous vocal production makes sense for the eerie, more primal atmosphere, where the lyrics reference devils by name and seem to have taken the failure of the relationship as a given. It's a song that feels huge and Biblical that matches the insane conviction of the singing, something that Ryan Tedder is plainly aware of, which adds to the desperate feel of the song and raises questions how sane he is looking to appear in this song. Even if he manages to win this girl over - and if he does, it's going to be by sheer force of will, he's also acutely aware it's a doomed proposition.

But really, the reason this song has made this list is Ryan Tedder - I don't know what snapped in him that triggered this change in his vocals, but my god, I'm a fan of it. Not only does it show off his massive range, he's actually got fragments of raw power that takes a step towards convincing me OneRepublic might actually be a rock band. And Tedder is throwing himself into selling this song, and while the production does mute the rougher edges around his voice, it still comes across as way more powerful than anyone would expect. If this is the direction OneRepublic wants to take their sound towards rougher, more raw material - okay, I'm on board.

7. Of all the songs that make this list, this'll probably be one of the more controversial entries. It shouldn't be - it's a damn great song from one artist I really like and other I've consistently had mixed feelings on her entire career. And yet speaking objectively it's neither artists' best work by a mile, and given a video that proved plenty controversial, I can bet there'll be some raised eyebrows surrounding my inclusion of this track.

But at the end of the day... goddamn it, it just works.

7. 'Can't Remember To Forget You' by Shakira ft. Rihanna (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #85)

I've already made most of my case for this song when I reviewed Shakira's weaker than expected self-titled album earlier this year, but several months later 'Can't Remember To Forget You' holds up surprisingly well. For one, it makes the smart decision of taking the subject matter of willingly going back to a bad relationship and then painting it like the whirlwind disaster in the making that it will be. It's a delirious relapse that comes with the uneasy feeling in the pit in your stomach that what you're doing will be a horrible mistake but goddamn it you're going to do it anyway. That's why I loved when the rock guitars kick in with the ominous minor chords for the chorus to balance against the garish horns, thick bassline, echoing percussion and reggae-inspired riff - it's pure, over-the-top, trashy telenovela-inspired melodrama, and it knows it and it's going to have as much lurid fun with it as possible. If anyone is taking this remotely seriously, they're doing it wrong.

And yeah, I dug the hell out of it. Shakira's still an amazing vocalist, but the singer who surprised me here was Rihanna, who actually stepped up her game to deliver a more sultry, emphatic performance that reminds me how much I like it when she kicks up the more dominant side of her persona. She and Shakira are a surprisingly even match on this song, and their interplay isn't bad. I certainly prefer it to when Shakira and Beyonce collaborated on 'Beautiful Liar' seven years ago, a song that has aged badly, was way too stiff and did nothing to compliment either singer. And yeah, I'll say it - forget the video, the song on its own is sexy as hell and there's nothing wrong with admitting that as a positive when it's so obvious that was the intention. Not quite as sexy as Ariana Grande and The Weeknd's 'Love Me Harder', which will be absolutely huge next year, but it still works. I'm not going to defend this song by saying it's high art of any sort, but for what it's trying to do, it nails it damn near perfectly.

6. I tend to be a little skeptical of songs that drag real world relationship drama into songs, mostly because it's rarely presented with the sort of good framing it needs to work. For as much as Eminem has brought up Kim, or Drake has brought up Rihanna, it's rare we get both sides of the story on the track, or an acknowledgement that the singer might have some culpability on why things didn't work. Taylor Swift is the queen of these sorts of songs, and while her framing has gotten better and she did write 'Back To December', the song where she basically pleaded Taylor Lautner to take her back, it's a fine line and some of her material treads into the cattier side that just doesn't go down well for me. I have a natural aversion to tabloid drama, and when artists actively get involved, it rarely looks good for anyone.

Thankfully, I think Ed Sheeran understood that when he wrote this song.

6. 'Don't' by Ed Sheeran (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #52)

I've really warmed a fair bit to Ed Sheeran over the course of this year, and while I really didn't like 'Sing', 'Don't' is the sort of storytelling I want to see more of in pop music, telling of his failed relationship with fellow pop singer Ellie Goulding and how she cheated on him with Niall from One Direction. In other words, this is the sort of gossipy, tabloid nonsense I should despise, but Ed Sheeran doesn't quite so much take the high road as he does drop all the facts in plain view. It was a relationship for all of the wrong reasons right from the start, and I think he gets that it was doomed out of the gate, because nobody was being straight with each other. And Ed Sheeran gets that and doesn't shy away from his own culpability of not reading the signs or getting involved in a relationship given how much they were touring in opposite directions around the world. It's not even a song slamming her - sure, the cheating and her showing up crying at his hotel afterwards doesn't paint a flattering picture - but the song isn't really about that as it is just being honest and communicating in relationships, and I can definitely get behind that.

It also helps that it's probably some of the best examples of Ed Sheeran's vocals and instrumentation. The dusty percussion, the echoing guitar leads, the stripped back strumming, the grimy production, the subtle darker guitars coming in at the bad of the mix on the third verse, there's a tightness and tension to the song that does wonders to reflect the confusion and frustration and barely restrained anger in Sheeran's voice. There's a lot of subtle emotions that play through this song that make it come across as surprisingly human, with nobody really being the villain. And while it's not Sheeran's best song - when you've written tracks like 'Lego House' and 'Afire Love', you set yourself a high bar - it's still impressively complicated and dark for a mainstream pop song, and a sign Sheeran is going to be sticking around - and the charts will be better for it.

5. Last year in my year-end list of the best hit songs of 2013, I made two predictions, both of which came true to my absolute delight. The first, well...

Yeah, it happened.

5. 'Team' by Lorde (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #18)

'Royals' was the song that established Lorde, but 'Team' is the track that turned her into a goddamn superstar, much in the way 'Can't Hold Us' defined gave turned Macklemore into a household name. And like that song, it's also about defining a new paradigm for pop music, shredding the old school exclusionary brand of glamour and into something that's more inclusive of everyone regardless of appearance or background. And yet she doesn't want to be the figurehead of the revolution like on 'Royals', which is a nice touch and shows remarkable self-awareness of how such movements can devour their leaders. The songwriting is intelligent, impressively detailed, and shows both her age and wisdom beyond her years. And it actually kind of answers the biggest criticism I had of Lorde's debut Pure Heroine, where her revolution didn't have an end goal beyond simply change... but all she's looking for is a more inclusive system, and while it's a simple dream, it's effective.

Oh, and the actual song is great too. Taking a much more melodic approach against the thick, punchy beat with these great shimmering synths with Lorde's delivery being weary, but hopeful. It also helps that the multi-tracking is very tight, giving the song a feeling of muted elegance that shows Lorde could very well be that 'queen' with gravitas and maturity, but not forcing her towards that role. And while the lyrics are the real star of the show on this song, it's easily Lorde' best work thus far and I'm absolutely thrilled it was a hit. Looking forward to that second album, Lorde, we need more singer-songwriters like you.

4. I don't know how I'm going to explain this one. I mean, I'm going to try, but... oh boy.

4. 'Beachin' by Jake Owen (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #91)

I have heard every single criticism of this song - hell, I've made plenty of criticisms of this track. Is it dumb as hell? Absolutely. Is it lightweight beach fodder made by an artist capable of better? You bet your ass it is. Is it overproduced and way too electronic music courtesy of Joey Moi's production? Oh dear god it is. Is Jake Owen's laid-back pseudo-rapping of the verses completely ridiculous? You bet your ass it is.

And yet, even after I reviewed Days Of Gold last year, I kept coming back to that album and this one of the songs that landed on semi-permanent rotation with me, sort of for many of the reasons I like 'Toes' by The Zac Brown Band or 'Five O'Clock Somewhere' by Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett. They're lightweight beach songs that aren't trying to be deep or substantial, but can still work on their own merits - and I'd argue 'Beachin'' works. And the majority of it is a factor of the chorus - sticky, incredibly memorable, extremely melodic, it's the perfect thing for a summer jam in this variety that picks up all the textures of the beach resort Jake Owen is staying on. And really, in the hands of a less charismatic singer-songwriter, none of this would work at all, but Jake Owen really is that good of a performer to string it together into something memorable and fun. It's honestly infectious how much his lazy drawl works because it's clear he's having fun at the beach and we should be too. Now this is not a song that's substantial or has weight or power, not by a long shot, but it does exactly what it's designed to do, and it's a ton of fun. It's a sign of what dumb bro-country can be at its best, and there's a place for it. A small place, but a place all the same.

3. There are certain songs I hear that the second I finish listening, I hope to god the band chooses to make it a single and that it gets the push to mainstream radio. And it's rare that the song catches on, but deep down I hope that it manages to click into something primal and just work for that audience. It's really rare that this happens - I can look back at plenty of Hot 100 charts over the past decade and there's a long list of songs - usually indie rock or electronica or hip-hop that's off the beaten path just a little, and that just misses the cut. And we'll get to one of those later on this list, but this one didn't just miss the cut - it was a smash hit, and as I said last year...

Yeah, this one was earned.

3. 'Pompeii' by Bastille (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #12)

This was the second prediction I made, and oh dear god, I'm so happy this turned into a hit. I remember reviewing Bastille's debut Bad Blood and liking but not really loving it, but 'Pompeii' was great from the get-go and an early favourite of mine. And guess what, it's still a fantastic song that shows exactly what Bastille can do when they're on their game. Dan Smith has potent vocals, the Gregorian chorus behind him fits the larger-than-life vibe, the percussion is explosive, especially the kick-drum progression, and the interwoven bass harmonies are awesome. And in a year where so many songs like this would be drowned in reverb to sound bigger than they are, Bastille got there the organic way with real presence and epic crescendos that they actually can pay off.

Of course, the element of this song that has attracted the most discussion has been the lyrics, which reportedly take place from two long dead corpses in the ruins of Pompeii musing on the nature of life and how one reacts when facing disaster that is so much larger than oneself. Perhaps an overwrought metaphor in the context of relationships, but in facing what many of the time considered the wrath of the gods upon a city of sin, it's appropriate. It's rare you see songs this high concept on the pop charts, and though Bastille has struggled to get that second hit in the States, I have to hope their crossover and influence will stick around.

2. I was surprised that this song clicked with me as much as it did. See, I remember when the first hit dropped in 2012, and while I respected the artistry of the song, I was underwhelmed by the execution. It wasn't as if the song was bad, but it never really clicked in the same way that it did with some other critics. And arguably, this is a less 'refined' song than that one is.

And yet, for some reason, it's all the more powerful for it - and it landed on this list.

2. 'Burn' by Ellie Goulding (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #39)

I'm a little at a loss to describe why I like this song as much as I do, because when you look at objectively, the lyrics are not stellar. They evoke incendiary power and the build-up in the song is impressive, but this is not exactly a song that evokes deep thought. And to be fair, I'd argue that wasn't its point - 'Burn' is the sort of song designed to create sweeping, potent emotion, from the opening heavy synth, to Ellie Goulding's drive to create a surging well of power with more voices added to her multi-tracked vocals. And there are so many accent touches to this track I absolutely love - the softer keyboards interweaving in the verses, the punchy explosive presence of the drums, the twinkling of the bridge that translates into a simple unearthly piano line that builds to another fantastic multi-part crescendo.

But there are two factors to why this song works as well as they do. The first is Ellie Goulding herself - this song was originally intended for Leona Lewis, but it would have been oversold from her, as Ellie Goulding is the sort of pop star who seems to bring a sense of honest wonderment to her music that I find incredibly charming. And the second part is the bells - they come in on pre-chorus, and they are that element that just raises this song over the top - a simple pop song, but one exceedingly well-crafted all the same. I might not have loved 'Lights', but 'Burn' is something special for me, it just kicks all amounts of ass. And yet there was one song that was better, one that for the longest time this year I didn't think would make this list. And yet...

1. I can imagine that some of you will look at this pick, look back at last year, and roll their eyes. I mean, it's a little obvious, isn't it? Of course the pretentious music critic is going to go to this song, given his preferences, of course it's going to get #1.

But I'd warn anyone against anyone looking for patterns in these lists. In 2011 my favourite hit song of the year was 'Colder Weather' by The Zac Brown Band, a pure neotraditional country song that holds up even to this day. In 2012 it was 'So Good' by B.o.B., a Ryan Tedder-produced bit of lightweight hip-hop that took the overall trappings of luxury rap and added culture behind it. But while there are some years where my picks might be unpredictable, anyone who knows me this year and knows what has charted will not be surprised by this. 

1. 'Come With Me Now' by KONGOS (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #88)

When I first heard this song, I couldn't believe it was actually charting on the radio - and for a while it didn't, originally released in 2011 and only now breaking in the States. An indie rock song from South Africa featuring prominent accordian, groove-heavy guitar leads that were frequently inverted, a grimy steel guitar solo, and some of the rough-edged vocals you'd hear in mainstream music this year? And yet it works incredibly well, inspired by South African jazz and house music forming the sort of swampy, decaying brand of music you'd hear from an act like Tom Waits with the eclectic instrumentation and eerie as hell atmosphere. This is dark, twisted music that could easily be described as hellish, especially when you take a look at the lyrical content.

And the metalhead deep inside of me outright rejoices, because for a song to so aptly capture the vibe of someone unsteadily stepping towards the Pit of their own free will is impressive. On its surface, it's a song about losing control, breaking out of conformity formed by cultural assimilation, one's own insecurities, and the continuous encroach of time - but also that said loss of control will come at a price. The most memorable line is at the end of the second verse, 'I tried to sell my soul last night / Funny, he wouldn't even take a bit' - and that's because the devil doesn't need to take a bite when the narrator was already on the brink and ready to tumble down - perhaps he was already damned and just needed that final push. And I love that the song illuminates that through a washed out interlude, followed by a steel guitar solo, an accordion solo, and one of the most cacophonous, explosive recaps of the first verse I've heard all year.

You don't hear songs this rough-edged, groove-heavy, high concept, and dark on mainstream radio - the fact this was a hit at all is mindblowing, especially years after the album was released. Hell, with the success of this and Hozier's 'Take Me To Church' - which will likely land a spot on next year's countdown, mark my words - maybe the pop charts are finally ready to let some darker-edged rock back onto the charts to push the gauntlet a little harder. As it is, 'Come With Me Now' kicks all amounts of ass, and is easily my favourite hit song of 2014. Let's hope that 2015 can rock this hard.

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