1. My World by Hands Up!
There's no video for this one, but the song is really cool. I especially like the percussive, overdubbed violin ostinato. It reminds me of Steve Reich's piece Violin Phase. Also, you don't hear many pop songs (or, really, much of any music) in the key of C# Major.
2. Love You Like a Love Song by Selena Gomez
When I first heard this song on the radio I thought I was hearing a lost Donna Summer track from 1978. It has a great groove and I love those disco violins and the dubstep wub-wub-wubs give it a modern edge. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was listening to a Disney pop princess.
3. Brokenhearted by Karmin
Here's a cool, infectious pop song. I'm especially fascinated by the bass line, which outlines the same four-chord progression (I - vi - IV - V) without variation throughout the piece, similar to the famous ground bass in Pachalbel's Canon In D.
4. Closer by Tegan and Sara
Their new album, Hearthrob, is a real departure for Tegan and Sarah, who made their name with quiet, folksy songs. But I'm thrilled that they found the beat, making this one of the best pop albums of the year. I especially love this track for its bold, hands-in-the-air confidence.
5. Perform This Way by "Weird" Al Yankovic
I think it's generally accepted that induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the second-highest honor one can achieve in the world of popular music. The first is having your song parodied by Weird Al. And I always like Al best when he skewers the artists themselves (like Smells Like Nirvana), rather than turning the song into something else. I think he picked a great pop culture moment to parody and I'm happy to hear that Lady Gaga was so accommodating.
6. Get Lucky by Daft Punk
Oh, Daft Punk, you crazy French robots. You've done it again. And good on you for bringing in the legendary Nile Rodgers and his funky guitar licks along.
7. Celebrate by Mika
Ohmygodyouguys. Mika put out another album. And (as usual) it is amazing. His cover of Popular from the musical Wicked is getting more attention, but I like this song which, like Get Lucky, features Pharrell Williams. It bears repeating: Mika is writing all the songs Freddy Mercury never got around to.
8. The City by Madeon
Here's a great song for running. It's a cool piece of EDM with a nice, driving beat. And the best surprise is when it ends with a piccardy third! Baroque compositional techniques in the house!
9. Nanobots by They Might Be Giants
The latest from one of my favorite bands. I'm a lifelong fan and I was lucky enough to see them live a second time this year. I hope to see them again and again as long as they keep touring. They're an unabashedly nerdy band that writes awesome songs about nerdy things. As usual, their melodies are infectious, their songwriting is inspired. It's sheer brilliance and I look to the Johns as creative role models.