JASON ADAMS (ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR)
Django Django, “Default”: The thing that puts this track above the others on their stellar self-titled debut is the guitar riff that serves as the song’s toe-tapping.
Cat Power, ”Cherokee”: The opening riff could have been something Sleater-Kinney did, but then the moody production kicks in and the song is haunting — would have been a good track on a movie like ‘Sexy Beast.’
Judith Hill, ”Love”: This song, which opens Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer,’ is the exact opposite of the confusing, muddled film: Light, clean and clear, and hopeful. A perfect song in a less than perfect movie.
Solange, ”Losing You”: I love everything about this song and video; it sounds (and looks) like something Madonna may have cooked up with Musical Youth in the ’80s. And I mean that in the best way possible. It’s new and nostalgic.
Thunderclap Newman,”Something in the Air”: Speaking of perfect movie tunes (hi, Cameron Crowe!), I rediscovered this late-’60s gem while reading Pete Townshend’s bio; he produced it and played bass on it. Nothing else they did was very good, but this is as lovely as ever, and maybe the best thing to come out of reading that doorstop of a book.
ADAM MARKOVITZ (SENIOR WRITER)
Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments”: Listen to this; listen to the acoustic version; ponder love’s effervescence; repeat as desired.
One Direction, “Up All Night”: Namechecks Katy Perry and then gives her a run for her money in the big-fat-hook department.
The Wanted, “Gold Forever”: Great cheesy melody, and there’s this amazing gritty underlay in the vocal production that’s basically ear crack.
B.o.B. Featuring Taylor Swift, “Both of Us”: A little too sugary and sentimental and whoops I just listened to it 86 times on repeat.
Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”: The maple latte-soaked legacy of Swiftenhaal might be the pinnacle of Swift’s you-know-who-you-are songs. So far. (You’re on deck, Harry Styles.)
Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Getting Back Together”: I have this theory that Swift is on the brink of quitting music for politics or vintage swimwear designing because writing a perfect pop song is apparently not even a challenge for her anymore.
Ed Sheeran, “Lego House”: That guy in your dorm room who spent a lot of time writing sensitive, freshman-lit-inspired journal entries, if that guy happened to be a world-class songwriter.
Gotye, “I Feel Better”: Such an authentic golden-oldies charmer that I think people assumed it was a cover.
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”: Worth buying a car just so you can roll the windows down and drive around listening to this song.
Kelly Clarkson, “I Know You Won’t (Live)”: A Carrie Underwood song that Clarkson whipped out for some live shows. Usually covers are a compliment to the original artist. But when it’s Kelly, you’re screwed. That song is hers from now on.
ROB BRUNNER (EDITOR-AT-LARGE)
Paul Buchanan, “Half the World”: The Blue Nile frontman’s first solo album is a start-to-finish gorgeous collection of late-night bourbon-drinking ballads. This is the one I went back to the most, for some reason, but it’s an impossible album to turn off once you start playing it.
Swans, “The Seer Returns”: Michael Gira and co.’s head-rearranging double-album epic should be experienced as a whole, but this hypnotic stomp is a good entry point.
Kendrick Lamar, “Backseat Freestyle”: The year’s most outrageous hook (unprintable here) matched with an almost-unbearably propulsive beat.
Bill Fay, “There is a Valley”: The cult ’70s songsmith returns with a collection of hazy mediations that sounds like they’ve been sitting in a box somewhere for the last 40 years (in a good way).