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Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 50 Singles of 2014: 30-26

30. Winner - Empty

The debut single from one of the most successful newcomers on the K-pop scene this year. It's a slow burn, but once the melody gets under your skin, it'll stick there.

29. Akdong Musician - Give Love

The other super-successful debut this year, Give Love has spring and summer written all over it. It's fresh and happy and pretty much adorable (without grating, like most adorable things do).

28. Avicii - The Days (ft. Robbie Williams)

As far as hit Avicii singles go, this flew under the radar despite being one hundred percent amazing. It's also the best thing Robbie Williams has put his name to in awhile.

27. Hi Suhyun - I'm Different (ft. Bobby) 

I used the word "adorable" earlier, which by the way is not a word I use often. But one half of Akdong Musician, paired with the soulful, quirky Lee Hi and charismatic Bobby certainly earn the word.

26. Exo - Overdose 

Exo was one of the very first K-pop groups to catch my eye, and I've been amazing at how insanely popular they've become since then. This isn't their best single, but it's definitely near the top.

Don't forget, if you'd like to listen to the Top 50 Singles Countdown in full, download the audio version!

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Top 20 Albums of 2014: 12-11

12. Robin - 16

Finland's Robin Packalen has become one of the most reliable producers of excellent pop music in the world. This is already his fourth album, and the rate and consistency of his releases is pretty staggering. I'm not sure that I like it as much as last year's Boom Kah, but the single releases are amazing. There is a little bit of experimentation when it comes to sound, and the general vibe seems more mature and subtle, but the quality of the melodies and production remains very high. He could be one of the few teen stars to actually make a successful musical transition into adulthood.

11. 5 Seconds Of Summer

One of my bigger surprises this year, as I generally don't like the "pop punk" realm of teen pop. But on this album, and the many, many b-sides released alongside it, the guys infused just enough pop sheen to make the album stand out. More importantly, the melodies and hooks are there in spades. This isn't the kind of album where it's three singles and a bunch of other, lesser tracks. It has a high level of consistency and, more importantly, a real sense of youthful fun and mischief.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 50 Singles of 2014: 35-31

35. Conchita Wurst - Rise Like A Phoenix

The most deserving Eurovision winner in years, and an epic James Bond-ian torch ballad at that. The vocals and theatricality on this are still so impressive.

34. The Fooo Conspiracy - All Over The World

The first entry from Sweden's best boyband. I like to call think of them as Scandinavian's answer to K-Pop. A dance group that sings, complimented by herky jerky beats and hooks for days.

33. Crayon Pop - Uh-ee

An unusual mix of electro and traditional Korean trot music, this will certainly be one of the more polarizing tracks (and groups) on the countdown. But whatever you think, you can't deny that bonkers hook.

32. Robin - Onnellinen 

The brilliant piano line will get you first, and then you'll be won over by that dramatic, soaring chorus that gets better every time it repeats.

31. Epik High - Born Hater (ft. Beenzino, Verbal Jint, B.I., Mino and Bobby) 

By far the "hardest" hip-hop track on the list, it's a veritable who's who of YG Entertainment's formidable tribe of rappers. What's more important, though, is that it boasts one of the year's best beats.

Don't forget, if you'd like to listen to the Top 50 Singles Countdown in full, download the audio version!

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Top 20 Albums of 2014: 14-13

14. f(x) - Red Light

This is a strange one, because you won't find any singles from this band on my top 50 songs list, but the album ranks quite high. That's because, for me, the lead single (and title track) is one of the weaker songs here. I actually got into f(x) pretty hardcore this summer. I prefer last year's Pink Tape, which would have probably been in my top ten of 2013 if I would have given it a listen back then, but this album continues the experimental, upbeat pop that the girls are known for and delivers a bunch of standouts, particularly in the middle section.

13. Winner - 2014 S/S

It seemed like forever for this album to be released, and when it finally was I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I didn't expect something so mellow. But, once I checked my expectations and learned to appreciate the album for what it was, I was able to get into the vibe pretty quickly. As a debut, the first half is definitely stronger than the second half. There are too many ballads, but what's great is really, really great.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 50 Singles of 2014: 40-36

40. 2NE1 - Crush

This is the Japanese (ie: single) version of the song that opened their brilliant second full length album. So much attitude crammed into three minutes.

39. Martin Stenmarck - När änglarna går hem

A chest-beating anthem from this year's Melodifestivalen. It's criminally underrated, and is guaranteed to boost your energy.

38. BoA - Shout It Out

BoA's been around for a long time, but she's rarely sounded so youthful and carefree as she does on this track. She could teach Western divas a thing or two.

37. iKON - Wait For Me 

At the time this was released, the group wasn't even fully formed yet. I predict that iKON will be 2015's major success story. This emotive midtempo is certainly a promising start.

36. Alex Metric - Heart Weighs A Ton (ft. Stefan Storm) 

In a year without a new release by The Sound Of Arrows, this track featuring the band's lead singer was a welcome treat. Lush dancepop at its best.

Don't forget, if you'd like to listen to the Top 50 Singles Countdown in full, download the audio version!

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Top 20 Albums of 2014: 16-15

16. Beyonce

Released late last year, this is the oldest album on my list, and perhaps suffers just a bit from that. I remember going through about a week or so where I just couldn't get enough of this complex, dense album. I can't say I've returned to it often throughout the year, but when I do I'm continually impressed with the artistry and consistency on display. For me (and this is coming from a Beyonce-appreciator, but not a hardcore fan), this is her best album.

15. Bleachers - Strange Desire

2014, as with many years recently, was devoid of very many good rock albums. Luckily, this one got me through the summer. It would have been higher on my list if the album tracks would have lived up to the singles. As it is, though, the singles are so fantastic that it still makes for an enjoyable and compulsive listen. And if nothing else, it definitely held me over until the next release from fun.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top 50 Singles of 2014: 45-41

45. Gravitonas - People Are Lonely (ft. Army Of Lovers)

A stark, melodic ballad bringing together two of Swedish mastermind Alexander Bard's pet projects. Delightfully weird, yet emotionally mainstream.

44. BTS - Danger

A charismatic hip-hop track with an addictive, guitar-fueled hook. Remixed later in the year with an equally good, slowed down tempo.

43. Dami Im - Super Love

An Avicii-style dance track that could have been generic if not for Dami Im's superbly soaring vocals.

42. Crayon Pop - Hero 

An off-kilter duet that sounds a bit like Abba on crack. Won't be for everyone, but it's definitely for me!

41. Michael Jackson - Love Never Felt So Good 

An unreleased track by a musical legend, updated with today's production while still retaining its classic, groove-filled feel.

Don't forget, if you'd like to listen to the Top 50 Singles Countdown in full, download the audio version!

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Top 20 Albums of 2014: 18-17

18. Shinee - I'm Your Boy

Another release that may just as well have been a Japanese compilation of singles, the factor that elevates this album slightly is the inclusion of several new tracks -- all of them brilliant. Honestly, I probably would have ranked it higher had I not been familiar with so many of the songs already through single and b-side releases. Still, the album stands as an exclamation mark to the group's jaw-droppingly prolific and awesome 2013.

17. Epik High - Shoebox

I'm usually not much for straight up rap, and this album is much more of that genre than Epik High's last release, but the tracks here have a poetic, character-filled flow to them. The cavalcade of guest vocalists definitely helps give the album a more diverse feel, though the tempo is usually firmly in the "mid," save for a few bursts of energy here and there. It's a great late Fall/early Winter album.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 50 Singles of 2014: 50-46

50. Bleachers - Rollercoaster

An homage to the summers of the 80's, in a different world this could have soundtracked a John Hughes movie. I love the cascading drums.

49. Ola - This Could Be Paradise

One of the best surprises of the year, Ola came back with a soaring dance track that subtly reinterprets Over The Rainbow over a surging beat.

48. Kliff - Maija

A Euro-inspired dance track that lit up the summer. It's all about that chorus and the build-up to the full dance beat at the end.

47. Roy Kim - Home 

A beautiful, Autumn-influenced ballad. This guy is one of the few artists who can capture my attention with his gorgeous voice alone.

46. VIXX - Error 

A theatrical, futuristic dance track with a sorrow-filled heart. Brings back memories of Bigbang's awesome Monster two years ago.

Don't forget, if you'd like to listen to the Top 50 Singles Countdown in full, download the audio version!

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Top 20 Albums of 2014: 20-19

20. BoA - Who's Back?

More of a compilation than an actual studio album, this collects many of BoA's Japanese singles from the past few years. That said, it still flows remarkably well, except for maybe one overlong ballad too many in the middle. It's a great place to start if you're interested in BoA's current output, though in general I tend to prefer her Korean releases, which are becoming few and far between these days.

19. Lovelyz - Girls' Invasion

In K-pop, there's a whole genre of "cute" girl group music. Not all of it is to my taste, and this group's overly girly/cutesy name certainly turned me off at first, but I was surprised just how much I ended up liking their debut album. It won't be to everyone's taste, but the first half especially is filled with wonderfully produced, slightly off-kilter dance pop.

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