“My Number,” by Foals
I actually discovered this one only recently, but it’s still my most-played track of the year. It makes me want to dance. Like a drunk Muppet.
“You’re Not the One,” by Sky Ferreira
People who know me well might be surprised to see an out-and-out pop song rank so highly on this list. I am too, honestly. I’ve had a difficult relationship with Top 40-style music since the 90s, but this song fucking works. My love may stem from the fact that Ferreria is channeling Cyndi Lauper and non-shitty-era Madonna, but to say that’s almost unfair to Ferreria, because she’s ultimately doing her own thing. If this is what pop music was all the time, I would listen to pop music.
“Tell Me What Ya Here For,” by Fitz & the Tantrums
As someone especially sharp put it, “I am here for that amazing looped flute sample.” I enjoyed every track on this bands sophomore album, but this track narrowly beats out “The Walker” and “Out of My League.”
“Reflektor,” by Arcade Fire
Maybe not that surprising, since it was the new album’s lead track, but I never got tired of listening to it. I’m a sucker for a danceable track that skews dark and weird, and all the associated Phantom Zone imagery just ties it all together nicely.
“Hurricane” by MS MR
No, I’m still not sure how to pronounce the band’s name. Yes, the video reads like a CW musical take on the X-Men, but I’m all for dark, creepy pop.
“Dissolve Me” by Alt-J
I mean, I was as disappointed as anybody when I found out this group was just four white guys. Just based on the lead singer’s voice, I was hoping they’d be, like, space aliens or something. Still, the fact that they made an album that sounds like space aliens counts for something. This track grabbed me the most.
“Jenny” by Studio Killers
Unusually direct subject matter + accordion + imaginary band a la Gorillaz = an equation I can’t compute, but just trust me when I tell you that you’ll be humming this if you just give it a chance.
“Evil Friends,” by Portugal. The Man
“I can’t even be your friend.” After the creepy intro, it picks up around the 1:12 mark, and then truly blossoms at the 2:13 mark.
“Pyramids,” by Man Man
It’s Modest Mouse. It’s Soul Coughing. It’s a dance party for me and maybe no one else, but it’s maybe the best track from a rock album I enjoyed thoroughly, and it’s all too rare that I enjoy an album through and through.
“Entertainment,” by Phoenix
That opening riff gets me every time — and makes me forget that I ever got to a point where “Lisztomania” made me want to make Phoenix go away.
Honorable mentions: “Bullet Train,” by Gardens & Villa; “Take Me Over,” by Cut Copy; “Cut Copy Me,” by Petula Clark (who, yes, is still alive and still recording); “A Tooth for an Eye,” by Knife; “Needle,” by Born Ruffians; and “Together/Never,” by Oberfohher