Load times on the videos forced me to split this into two posts. Carry on.
50. “Coffee” – Sylvan Esso
My wife and daughter, who will listen to the same song 40 times in a row and not grow weary of it, will not let me play “Coffee” in their presence any more.
49. “Problem” – Ariana Grande (feat. Iggy Azalea)
What song? There’s no Ariana Grande song here. I would not listen to Ariana Grande. Don’t ask me any more questions. (Okay, but there’s some great production going on here that has nothing to do with the artist at all. They’re all just industry puppets anyway.)
48. “Hunter” – Still Parade
I know nothing about this band! I Shazammed this track on one of the music blog shows on XMU.
47. “Weight of Love” – The Black Keys
The Black Keys scale it back for this slow burner after their far more raucous and Top-40-accessible record El Camino. It’s bit of bluesy, guitar-fueled bliss.
46. “Can’t Do Without You” – Caribou
Caribou has a way of turning simplicity into orgiastic electro-pop. Some have argued that “Can’t Do Without You” is the pinnacle of their powers. I’m sticking with “Melody Day” from 2007’s Andorra.
45. “Making Breakfast” – Twin Peaks
Looking at these guys you’d think they were just some stoners that got out of bed one morning, with clearer eyes than usual, and decided to make a record… but this is actually highly competent garage rock featuring a nifty hook. Regarding the band’s name and the potential problems with the new season of the TV show Twin Peaks, frontman Cadien James said, “Luckily, no one’s talking shit about us right now, so that’s chill. I’m pretty stoked for this show. I’m actually not feeling too nervous. I got some trust for my boy D. Lynch.” You know what? I take it back. These guys are just stoners who decided to make a record one day.
44. “West Coast” – Lana Del Ray
I read some quote from Lana Del Ray wherein she made fun of hipsters. Listen, Lana, I’m no friend of hipsters, but you making fun of them has probably opened up some space-time paradox and you’re putting us all at risk of being sucked into a parallel dimension where everyone cures their own meats and wears t-shirts with cereal logos from the 1980’s.
43. “The Hollies” – Patsy Matheson
Nifty vocal harmonies and varied instrumentalism elevate Patsy Matheson above the surging hordes of female singer/songwriters. “The Hollies” doesn’t necessarily reflect her larger body of work, which is more like thoughtful gut punches. But “The Hollies” stayed with me all year, a standout on her second album Domino Girls. For a more representative track listen to “No Contract.”
42. “Mother & Father” – Broods
This New Zealand electro-pop act teased us with a 2013 EP and followed it up with a strong full length that showcases their command melody. I never thought much about Georgia Nott’s vocals until hearing her isolated on the video below without any production. The girl can sing, yo.
41. “Black Moon Spell” – King Tuff
King Tuff (Kyle Thomas) does not prevaricate around the bush. He’s going to play you some guitar and anything else that happens is just gravy.
40. “Kelly” – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Has any indie-pop band been as consistent as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart? Sung by Jen Goma from A Sunny Day in Glasgow, “Kelly” is the indie-pop ideal. Sweet without being saccharine and melodic without falling in love with its own whimsy — or worse — perceived importance.
39. “On the Rocks” – The Rural Alberta Advantage
I’m still not sold on the advantage of rural Alberta, but as long as this band wants to try to convince me, I’ll allow it.
38. “Alexandra” – Hamilton Leithauser
The frontman for the Walkmen goes full crooner, because you should never go half crooner.
37. “Violent Shiver” – Benjamin Booker
This New Orleans guitarist cites The Gun Club, Blind Willie Johnson and T. Rex as influences. He just might be better than all of them. A tremendous blues guitar talent with the ability to crossover into the indie and mainstream.
36. “Queen” – Perfume Genius
This is a ballsy performance from one of the most exciting emerging artists. Perfume Genius wears his heart on his sleeve and challenges us with every disjointed chord.
35. “Sun Went Black” – Springtime Carnivore
A springtime carnivore gets the young, tender meat. Springtime Carnivore (aka Greta Morgan) is far less menacing but proves with this track that she’s got some teeth to go with the pop-sensibility.
34. “After the Disco” – Broken Bells
The album just laid there and died, limp and unwanted… except for this killer jam.
33. “Rather Be” – Clean Bandit (feat. Jess Glynne)
I found this track on somebody else’s Best of 2014 list. If you want to know more about Clean Bandit or Jess Glynne, there’s a search bar right up there in the top right corner your browser.
32. “Beggin For Thread” – Banks
Banks >>> Lorde.
31. “Algiers” – The Afghan Whigs
I remember you guys.
30. “Dripping Down” – East India Youth
The best track on electro-artist William Doyle’s Total Strife Forever is a complex and emotional little ditty that shot up my charts toward the year’s end. I really want to call him “East India Yute” as per Joe Pesci’s character in My Cousin Vinny.
29. “Busy Earnin'” – Jungle
I’ve had an itch for some new “Daytime Disco” since the last Poolside record. Jungle is doing some heavy scratching and hitting all the right goddamn spots.
28. “Small Window” – Luluc
Slow, sad and seductive. Luluc takes some sweet ass time getting where it’s going, but once they get there… it’s heavenly. Dive into the record and just let it wash over you.
27. “Two Weeks” – FKA Twigs
Wait. I know this one.
It’s been two weeks since you looked at me / Cocked your head to the side / and said I’m angry.
Also something about a Chinese chicken.
28. “Somebody’s Talking” – The Preatures
Hey 30Hz, this one should be higher. Jerk. Damn catchy tune.
I’m sorry. I thought I should knock it down a few pegs since The Preatures made a surprise Top 10 appearance last year.
It’s my list. I can be as f’ing arbitrary as I want.
25. “The Natural World” – The Cymbals
Early in ’14 Cymbals released The Age of Fracture to little fanfare before that album then disappeared from the rader entirely. Opens with a lazy bit of melodic synth that could have been the centerpiece of a Pet Shop Boys jam before escalating into catchy hook that sounds like some lost Dogs Die In Hot Cars. Speaking of disappearing entirely, what the hell happened to Dogs Die In Hot Cars? That was a great record. Don’t let The Cymbals disappear like Dogs Die In Hot Cars.
24. “Maidenhead” – Protomartyr
“Maidenhead” christens Protomartyr’s Under Color of Official Right like a shattered bottle of champagne. A earwormy bass line surrenders to a wall of guitar and droning vocals from frontman Joe Casey. This post-punk band from Detroit borrows from Joy Division and Nick Cave and delivered a timeless slice of Motor City garage rock.
23. “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” – Bret McKenzie
We may never see any new music from The Flight of the Conchords (though Bret and Jemaine are planning a return to HBO in some form) and Bret’s ode to Lite AM/Lionel Richie/Michael McDonald for the Muppets: Most Wanted only makes me pine for their return even more. Damn you, Bret.
22. “The Wheel” – Sohn
Sohn, aka Christopher Taylor, Viennese-based English ambient/electro artists made a name for himself by working with Lana Del Ray, BANKS and Rhye. That’s gravy, except his 2014 record Tremors might be better than any of them.
21. “Chandelier” – Sia
The song details “the demoralisation and rationalisation of alcoholism through the typical thought process of a ‘party girl’.” Works for me. I dig it because Sia just destroys the vocals in the chorus.
20. “Fiona Coyne” – Saint Pepsi
“Oh darling, won’t you believe me? I’ll love you till the record stops… the record stops.”
A sunny electro/disco jingle with nothing but happy vibes and the above bit of creative lyricism from Ryan DeRobertis.
19. “Class Historian” – Broncho
Elton John playing a sweet ass toy piano made of chickens.
18. “River” – together PANGEA
I’d never heard of these Los Angeles-based garage rockers until I discovered this track two weeks ago. You’ll have to excuse me because I’ve got three together PANGEA records to dig into.
17. “Repeat Pleasure” – How to Dress Well
2012’s Total Loss was a near perfect record. What is This Heart? proves that success was no fluke. Some of the best neo-soul music over the last handful of years has been produced by twentysomething solo white guys. How to Dress Well. Autre Ne Veut. The world confuses me sometimes.
16. “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” – Chromeo
I’m hesitant to call this a “club banger” because I don’t go to “clubs” and the only “bangers” I really know are Irish sausages.
15. “I’m Not Part of Me” – Cloud Nothings
Part of me just wants to hand Cloud Nothings the banner for Greatest Garage Band in the History of Evar. Can we get that made up? What’s that cost at Kinko’s nowadays?
14. “Left Hand Free” – Alt-J
Though the new Alt-J record disappointed me a bit… two singles, surrounded by filler… this track confounded me with flurries of cryptic, nonsensical lyrics and a slick little backbeat and I kinda love it.
13. “Happy Idiot” – TV On the Radio
This song was almost too perfect so I docked it a few points. C’mon TV on the Radio, you can do worse than this.
12. “OOO AAA” – The Cathedrals
Hey, I just heard this great song on XMU.
What’s it called?
No. OOO AAA.
Well, that’s stupid.
So it goes.
11. “Champions of Red Wine” – The New Pornographers
I am pro-red wine. That means I’m a champion of red wine, and therefore this song is about me. Brill Bruisers is also the best New Pornographers record since Electric Version.
10. “Pools” – Glass Animals
When I first listened to this record it made a sound akin to the air deflating from a latex balloon and then I heard “Pools” and it still sounded like pfpfpfpfftttttttttttttt…… except now I can’t delete it from my iTunes and it’ll continue to take up space because “Pools” is excellent and I’m obsessive about keeping full albums in my collections. Even digital.
9. “Do It Again” – Röyksopp & Robyn
Play “Do It Again” again, Sam.
8. “There’s a Revolution” and “Did We Live Too Fast?” – Got A Girl
You can’t make me pick. Don’t make me choose. I wrote about Got A Girl already so you might as well just read that instead because Dan the Automator retweeted it.
7. “Past Life” – Lost in Trees
Certain songs transfix and paralyze. Whenever I hear “Past Life” I tend to stop what I’m doing and listen, as if for the first time. All productivity slows to a halt. Lost in Trees has been good in the past, but this is the best Lost in Trees has ever been.
6. “Lazaretto” – Jack White
On “Lazaretto” Jack White should be the villain in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because he f’ing shreds.
Get it? Because the antagonist in TMNT is Shredder.
5. “Archie, Marry Me” – Alvvays
“Archie, Marry Me” found its way into a Ben Gibbard live set at the Seattle Arts Festival. If this isn’t the seal of indie-approval, I don’t know what is. The Death Cab frontman sat solo at the piano and played a stunning down-tempo version that showcased Alvvays talent for lyricism. Sadly, only a short clip exists on the Interwebs, but that it happened at all must have been the capper on Alvvays’ breakout year.
4. “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” – Run the Jewels
The second collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike dropped from the heavens, a momentary defibrillator reviving ballsy, old school hip hop. The album also boasts my favorite rap song of the year – “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” featuring Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha. There really wasn’t another rap record that came close to Run the Jewels in 2014.
3. “Go” – Grimes (feat. Blood Diamond)
Grimes wrote “Go” for Rihanna to sing. Rihanna turned her down. Indisputable proof that Rihanna is a dunce, but a brilliant dunce; Grimes doesn’t need any other cooks in the kitchen.
2. “Red Eyes” – The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs dresses down perfection with natural simplicity and grungy minor chords. They’re still channeling the Boss on their own terms, twisting Springsteen’s version of Americana into a reflection of our misbegotten new millennium.
1. “Seasons (Waiting On You) – Future Islands
Despite previously delivering two brilliant records, Future Islands failed to achieve any crossover notoriety. Their fans remained of the indie variety – devout and vocal, but lacking that mainstream megaphone and soapbox. 2014 proved to be the year that put Future Islands on the map. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” immediately dominated the blogosphere and independent and alt-rock radio outlets such as XMU, KEXP, etc. And then they appeared on David Letterman where frontman Samuel T. Herring dropped a legendary performance on an unsuspecting studio audience, prowling the stage like a jungle cat and growling the refrain. As of December 15th, the video of that performance had garnered over 3 million views. This isn’t Taylor Swift territory, but we can’t all be Taylor Swift. Fans of this “new” band should do themselves a favor and give Future Islands’ 2010 record In Evening Air a listen. I’m still shocked it didn’t get more play upon its release. There’s always time to make amends.
A radio staple for months and remixed dozens of times… yet I’m still not done with this song. The catchy hook, soulful warbling and synthy introducation made this one a keeper. Make sure to track down the reinterpretation of “Seasons” from the experimental jazz group BadBadNotGood who isolated Herring’s soulful warbling and transformed Future Islands into pitch-perfect 1970’s soul.