Noisey UK's 25 Best Tracks of 2014: 10 - 1

Right, that's quite enough anticipation. Time for the top ten...

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Dec 9 2014, 11:31am

Right, that's quite enough anticipation. It's time for the best tracks of 2014 according to Noisey UK. Tracks 25 to 11 were announced yesterday and you can read them here. For now though, the business of the top ten...

10. Sia - "Chandelier"

The best way to understand "Chandelier" is as a response song to “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus. The latter was in a state of perpetual hedonism, a molly-and-frottage perpetuated good time in which the only goal is to keep going - no matter who gets in your way. “Chandelier” is the morning after that. Or maybe 7am, when you’re still high, but paranoia and self-doubt are setting in and you’re beginning to wonder if you’re still actually having fun.

What makes the song so incredible is the way these moments of despair are hung off ambiguous statements of partying intent, lyrics which could easily be part of "We Can’t Stop". “I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist,” could be a cry of carefree intemperance or the numbness that comes from depression. Sia subtly colours the line with further ambivalent lyrics, which singularly could go either way but collectively paint a picture of unimaginable sadness perpetuated by alcoholism:

“Won't look down, won't open my eyes."
"Throw 'em back 'til I lose count."
"Keep my glass full until morning light, cause I'm just holding on for tonight.”

Eventually it all comes unravelled as she weeps and screams at the same time, “I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry.”

The magic is that when you first hear the song - playing quietly in a Superdrug or at the type of club where they play MTV Hits on flatscreens above the bar - it doesn’t sound different from the songs and the lifestyle it so perfectly deconstructs. It could easily be Rihanna’s follow up to “Cheers! (Drink To That)” (indeed the song was originally written for Rihanna).

But there are two words that you almost miss, hidden between the lines and Sia’s pained inhaled cries, but they’re the key to the song, the ones set that set everything else falling like a pack of cards - face down instead of face up. The words: “Help me”. It’s that perfectly crafted helplessness that makes me listen over and over again. Sam Wolfson

9. Sketches from an Island - "Baby Come Home"

For the past five years, Mark Barrott has headed up the most forward-thinking retro-leaning label around, the indefatigable champions of the finest Balearic sounds around from Ibiza to Brazil: International Feel.

His Sketches from an Island project became 2014's silkiest, most luxuriously undulating washes of blissed-out and determinedly uncool Mediterranean pop. "Baby Come Home" is a track so effortlessly timeless that I literally cried with joy the first time I heard it. A genuine modern classic and a song that can easily sway alongside "You Can't Be Serious" by Ginny and "Women of Ireland" by Bob James, deep in the Balearic canon. Josh Baines

8. Danny L Harle - "In My Dreams"

PC Music is often accused of being a vacuous shit-hump on pop music's polyphonic ringtone past, with a load of adjectives related to energy drinks and twenty-first century communication tacked on the end. But look closer and it becomes something real: layers of heartbreak, insecurity, and the sort of tummy-aching emotion that most songs fail to capture even when shooting directly for the target, are built deep into the foundation of the label's tracks.

In that vein, Danny L Harle's "In My Dreams" is both unadulterated pop banger and one of the most heartbreaking songs put out this year. It's consumed with the idea of forever; the omnipresent moment when, even if the only connection you share with someone has been devalued to a Facebook friendship, you're still convinced you won't stop thinking about them for the rest of your life. Ryan Bassil

7. Jelani Blackman - "Twenty//Three"

Here's what we know about Jelani Blackman: he’s from London, he’s got a devastatingly brilliant name, he has recorded two tracks – one with ambient savant Brian Eno, of all people, and another called “Twenty//Three”. You need to own "Twenty//Three".

I'm not going to lie to you. The song is not remarkably unique, nor does it break boundaries or ask the listener to question its place in the world. Instead, its brilliance lies in familiar comforts: Frank Ocean’s deeper-cuts, the syncopated brushstrokes of Jai Paul and Ben Khan, the murky soundscapes of SBTRKT, Lil Silva, and Sampha.

Jelani hasn't chosen to launch with some sort of shocking artistic statement that’ll cause social discourse or get your panties in a twist. He’s tugging on your warmest memories with a resplendent portrait that, alongside recalling some of my favourite artists, paints pictures in my brain and takes me away from the real world.

Basically: his voice is deeper than a well and I can't stop falling in. Ryan Bassil

6. Beyonce - "Flawless (Remix)" feat Nicki Minaj

Does this even need justifying? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway. Remixes usually land in one of three categories: fucked it, pointless and FIRE. “Flawless” is arguably one of the best tracks Beyonce has ever dropped, so a remix that was anything less than its namesake would have been devastating. Still, she knows the secret ingredient to improving any track, and it’s getting Nicki Minaj to drop a guest verse.

Keeping in theme with Beyonce’s self-titled album, the remix dropped in video format. It was filmed at the Run The World show in Paris, it's live, and there is a matching Aztec onesie situation happening. As well as Bey chopping the fat off the original lyrics and dismissing the entire “elevator scandal” in a single line so hot you could get a tan from it, Nicki puts her Giuseppe-shaped stamp on it; filtering in a beat from “Beez In The Trap”, briefly nodding to THAT “Monster” verse and generally stomping all over the place until she embodies everything “Flawless” was about in the first place.

Now we have the version with the ~message~ and the version you can listen to more than once. Emma Garland

5. Kendrick Lamar - "i"

Kendrick Lamar's "i" should be the track of the year - it's mine for sure - but thanks to the laborious democratic nature of end of year lists, it's somehow ended up at 5. As I wrote for Noisey when it first dropped, the track is much deeper than it lets on; signifying a shift in hip-hop's acceptance of mental health:

“The track is a powerful example of how attitudes are changing. The song’s refrain – “I love myself” – at first shouted, and by the end screamed in repetition from the depths of Kendrick’s trachea, tackles the issue without apprehension or lyrics about ‘committing crime after crime, drugs and extortion.’ Although Kendrick reflects on his environment, he uses it to direct focus toward self-belief, motivation, and love.”

It's an unequivocally human statement, one which has done more for rap fans this year than anything released by Rich Gang, the barely lukewarm "Hot Nigga", and the numerous sob-stories Drake put out. "I love myself" is something we don't tell ourselves enough. Thanks for reminding us Kendrick. Also: THEM DANCE MOVES THOUGH. Ryan Bassil

4. The Square - "Pengaleng"

When people write about grime, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone, they always tend to throw in a line about “a wicked sense of humour” or “classic British wit”. I get why - American hip-hop, despite it’s continual mentions of punchlines, doesn’t have the same take on the mundanity of popular culture, or the dry response on the minutiae of everyday life. You can’t imagine Kanye doing a track about being indecisive at the kebab shop.

But to me it’s not as easy to reduce what makes grime special to it being funny. Humour is a part of it but so is charm and antagonism and self-deprecation and bravado, and a way of somehow combining those things without contradiction. That’s what you get on "Pengaleng", a song that's main gag is rhyming the title with “frenaleng”; something which shouldn’t be nearly as great as it is.

This year has supposedly been coloured by a crisis in masculinity, men unable to exert themselves without being associated with Dapper Laughs misogyny on the one hand or extreme hipsterism on the other. Yet here are The Square, a bunch of teenagers mostly still in school, still making their first moves in music, and they just get it - this is locker room chat for sure, but it feels goofy rather than predatory. Even the beat, basically a rebounding bassline and video game FX, feels cheeky. Yes it’s funny, but it’s so much more than that, it’s the sheer gall of adolescence, the kid-in-a-candy-shop feeling of being 17. Sam Wolfson

3. Tinashe - "2 On"

Firstly, if DJ Mustard is “on the beat” then you know you’re about to have yourself a time. Secondly, Tinashe has one of the sexiest voices this side of Aaliyah’s legacy. Thirdly, Schoolboy Q goes in here with some of his smoothest bars to date. Put the three together and you’ve got yourself a track that you can drink, dance and bang to - all at once, if you're bout that life. And, in the interest of truly stacking it with the R&B touchstones, there is an adaptation of Sean Paul’s “We Be Burnin’” towards the end, which is arguably the most party chorus anybody has laid down since MJ stepped in a booth with The Jackson 5. Emma Garland

2. Caribou - "Can't Do Without You"

The only problem with this track is that, even after releasing an extended mix, it still isn't long enough. IT NEEDS TO LAST FOREVER. Ryan Bassil

1. Skepta - "That's Not Me"

From the moment that isolated dinky melody begins, you know Skepta's on a nostalgia thing, laying out one of the iciest eskibeats we've heard since the 00s, topped off with a snaking b-line downstairs, and a JME verse that respectfully paraphrases the Wiley classic “Pies”.

But what was it about this diary-of-a-roadman jam that made it the enduring grime hit of the year? Well, partly, the sheer amount of groundwork that went into it. Skepta’s been on some sort of unofficial campaign trail this year, dead set on reminding everyone why there has been a Skeppy-shaped hole in UK music since Blacklisted in 2012, and his campaign anthem has been “That’s Not Me”.

From the moment it first properly went up on YouTube, via the glitchy Just Jam video direction of Tim & Barry, the song just refused to die. A remix of the track - filmed live on Roman Road with Skepta, Tempa T, D Double E, President T and more crew - became one of SBTV’s biggest videos of the year, and the track ironed itself into the regulars on both Toddla T and Mistajam’s 1Xtra shows. But it was probably when it suddenly reared its slinky head Stateside in September, this time with Skepta on a tower block roof in New York performing a weed-slackened remix with Ratking's young team, that I realised I'd be shouting “Act like a wasteman!” every time I'm pissed way beyond the summer.

Hearing Wiki from Ratking delivering his raw Bronx bars over the traditional grime instrumental, was a wake up call to how much more Transatlantic potential grime has in 2014 now that rap sub-genres like trap and drill have opened US hip-hop audiences up to the untamed charm of music made in half a day with whatever was in your head right then. And it also made you realise how grimey Ratking have always been, totally amplified when they have Skepta doing gunfingers next to them like some sort of cultural ambassador gone postal.

On a UK level though, the song made a telling point. Amidst the music industry diatribe and dealer tales of Skepta's bars, there was a subconscious message in that chorus. As he, Wiley and Dizzee all, in 2014, return to the unfiltered and impulsive grime of their roots, after years of West London club fodder (Wiley’s “Heatwave”) and riding bikes with Robbie Williams (Dizzee's “Goin’ Crazy”), this track perfectly embodies what we all hope they’ll say next time some cash money pop chance rears its filthy head: “NAH, THAT’S NOT ME!” Joe Zadeh

You can listen to all twenty five of Noisey UK's tracks of the year on our Spotify playlist...

And here's a final recap of the top 25...

25. Paleman - "Beelzebub"
24. Laura Doggett - "Phoenix"
23. Skepta - "It Ain't Safe"
22. Floorplan - "Never Grow Old (Re-Plant)"
21. Babymetal - "Gimme Chocolate"
20. Alex G - "Harvey"
19. Robyn & Royksopp - "Do It Again"
18. Future Brown - "Wanna Party" feat. Tink and 3D Na'Tee
17. A G Cook - "Had 1"
16. Tirzah - "No Romance"
15. Ricky Eat Acid - "It Will Draw Me Over To It Like It Always Does"
14. Rae Sremmurd - "No Type"
13. Ought - "Today More Than Any Other Day"
12. The War On Drugs - "Under The Presssure"
11. QT - "Hey QT"
10. Sia - "Chandelier"
9. Sketches From An Island - "Baby Come Home"
8. Danny L Harle - "In My Dreams"
7. Jelani Blackman - "Twenty//Three"
6. Beyonce - "Flawless (Remix)" feat. Nicki Minaj
5. Kendrick Lamar - "i"
4. The Square - "Pengaleng"
3. Tinashe - "2 On"

2. Caribou - "Can't Do Without You"
1. Skepta - "That's Not Me"