Lately, I have been weighing the cost/benefit of cloning. The Rumble suffered this year due to a certain Bond-ian syndrome that’s taken hold of my extra time and writing life, those precious, wee hours when I’m not arguing with a 2 year old (about everything) or discussing My Little Pony minutiae with the 5 year old. The good news here is that I’m nearly done with the first draft of my James Bond manuscript of more than 80,000 words. Huzzah! Bad news. Now I need to send some feelers out for publication and start work on revisions so the Rumble will likely still suffer from content jealousy. Somewhere along the way, I listened to a metric crap tonne of music in 2014. And I have to admit that the year merely whelmed. I found the usual handful of albums to adore (nothing swept me up like CHVRCHES’ The Bones of What You Believe), but few standout tracks to call “legit jams.” The last two years have spoiled us all for new music. 2014 brought us all back down to earth. Unless you’re Iggy Azalea, Taylor Swift or Lorde, all of whom were last spotted soaring somewhere near Uranus. Maybe Neptune. Even more damning of 2014 is that I found reason to put two of those artists on my list. (Ugh.)
My playlist containing every track in iTunes from 2014 has 7 days worth of music in it. And that doesn’t even count all the stuff I check out on Spotify and dismiss. But even with all that listening, it’s blind, dumb, stupid luck when a certain song catches my fancy. Consider how much music is released each and every week. The music from major labels, indie labels and everything in between. Some songs are unavoidable. Some songs I hear once, a chance meeting during My Old Kentucky Blog’s noontime hour on XMU. Great songs get left off my list every year just because I first heard them in the wrong frame of mind. There are dozens, nay hundreds, of equally worthy songs that just didn’t catch my fancy when the fancy was loose. I always make an effort to value visceral enjoyment more highly than intellectual appreciation when selecting and ranking these tracks. In a couple of instances over the years I’ve come to regret this plan of attack. Honesty will condemn me before all
100 101 102 of my favorite tracks from 2014 have been weighed and measured. The 30Hz Top 100 Songs of 2014:
101a. “Boom Clap” – Charlie XCX
For whatever reason I’ve decided that Charlie XCX has more individual talent than all of the other naked and bouncy pop stars I dismiss without a second thought. I blame her first record, which was actually quite good. Though I like the new one too. (Shit. Am I a Charlie XCX “fan”?) Oh, and this song’s featured in a movie about cancer-ridden teens, so it’s, like, deep, right?
101b. “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
I don’t even want to talk about it. Here’s the f’ing video, but don’t play it because TS doesn’t need any more views.
100. “Look of Love” – The Jezabels
My wife went to see Imagine Dragons open for the Jezabels at Brillobox, a tiny bar here in Pittsburgh, in April of 2012. Tiny. The Jezabels must be playing stadiums by now, right?
99. “Ben’s My Friend” – Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozelek: Why u b hatin on War on Drugs?
98. “In My Teeth” – The Rosebuds
The Rosebuds return to the list of Killer Jams after “Woods” and that toy piano placed #1 on the list in 2012.
97. “Vermillion” – Sofi de la Torre
I happened across this track somewhere, somehow within the last couple of weeks. The Italo-disco vibe warms my cockles.
96. “Chorus” – Literature
One of my favorite records of the year, a regular spinner on the turntable. The album bore five tracks in my “Hit List” of 257 — yet only “Chorus” sneaks in through the back door.
95. “Kill the Fun” – Haley Bonar
I’ve got to get something out of my system.
“Heh heh heh heh. He said bonar.”
94. “All the Way Down” – French Style Furs
French Style Furs is Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willet and bassist Matt Maust with We Barbarians drummer Nathan Warketin. And I realize that everything I just said will matter to maybe 2% of the people that actually read that.
93. “New Boy” – Bastard Mountain
Not to be confused with Heartless Bastards.
92. “Death Is Not For Us” – Korallreven
A cover of Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” put this Stockholm duo on the map. One of the dudes looks like John Michael Higgins with a mustache. Let none of that distract from this sublime slice of synth-pop.
91. “Phoenix” – Laura Doggett
This new singer/songwriter has nary a handful of tracks on her resume and she’s literally giving this song away. That’s, like, half of her entire catalog for free. Get to know her now before she’s a big deal in 2015.
90. “Some Velvet Evening” – Lockah
Lockah conjures feels for the 1980’s with his retro vibe that recalls neon and gratuitous nudity, probably Kim Cattrall.
89. “Window Rock” – Alana Amram and the Rough Gems
I listened to this album dozens of times before this sleepy track with the slide guitar finally stepped forward and announced itself as Spartacus. Oddly, none of the other tracks claimed to be Spartacus though.
88. “Rockets and Jets” – Hospitality
There’s a pizza place that’s opening up near my house called “Jets’ Pizza.” One of these days I’m going to find the owner and suggest he open up a “Sharks’ Ice Cream Shack” next door. If he doesn’t think much of that, I’ll suggest “Rockets’ Ice Cream Parlor (and Tricks).”
Also, Hospitality is a great band, just not as great as West Side Story.
87. “My Desire” – Interpol
There was another song on that Interpol record besides the overplayed “All the Rage Back Home” and it was way better. Best Interpol record since Antics, by the way.
86. “Bittersweet Genesis for Him AND Her” – Kishi Bashi
If Haruki Murakami wrote pop music.
85. “Milwaukee” – The Both
When Ted Leo’s enthusiasm rubbed off on sad sack Aimee Mann and they made a Top 40 song.
84. “Sv Forest” – Cute Heels
How am I supposed to pronounce this song? I’ll just call it “Beep Boop Success” instead.
83. “Clearing” – Grouper
An ethereal and melancholy little ditty from Liz Harris, a woman specializing in the “ethereal” and “melancholy.”
82. “Glory” – Wye Oak
Baltimore band follows up 2011’s sparkling Civilian with the not-quite-as-good Shriek but still releases a Top 20 record of 2014. Civilian was a really good record. Listening to it right now, actually. I suggest you do the same.
81. “I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want” – The Twilight Sad
Shoegaze away, you wee Scottish lads.
80. “Don’t Wanna Lose” – Ex Hex
The perfect record for the summer of 2014 that came out in early October.
79. “Talking Backwards” – Real Estate
Dr. Evil demanded that XMU play this Real Estate track ONE MEEEELLLLION times. And they obliged.
78. “Iuka” – The Secret Sisters
Small town in Mississippi. People getting shot. Runaway youths. Daddy beating some sense into said runaway youths. This is my country music jam for 2014. The ladies can croon.
77. “Ace of Cups” – Orenda Fink
Orenda Fink sounds like one of those fake anagram names. I’ll keep decoding it and let you know if I uncover any conspiracy theories.
76. “No. 99” – Joey Bada$$
I was ready to eulogize old school rap. Had the tombstone picked out and everything. And then within a couple weeks the Run the Jewels record fell from the sky like a gift from Saint Ol Dirty Bastard, and I heard this new Joey Bada$$ track that heavily samples A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.”
75. “Divinity” – Porter Robinson (feat. Amy Millan)
I now know the name of Porter Robinson only because Amy Millan (of Stars) appeared on this track and I’m wondering how I missed out on this guy until now. The second track on the record “Sad Machine” barely missed out on a spot in the countdown as well.
74. “We’re the Future” – Fanfarlo
I really like Fanfarlo. I feel sorry for everyone that doesn’t.
73. “Shelter Song” – Temples
Retro rock done right. Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher cited Temples as the best new band in Britain. When Johnny Marr speaks, you should listen. When Noel Gallagher speaks, you can probably just ignore it.
72. “Skyscraper” – Elephant
The alt-pop duo’s second record littered my “Hits List” with six tracks. I picked the one that causes me to spontaneously sing the chorus.
71. “Tough Love” – Jessie Ware
Called the “missing link between Adele, SBTRKT and Sade.” Did those artists need linking? I think the intersection of all three artists on a Venn diagram is more apropos.
70. “Buzzkill(er)” – The Dead Weather
It’s all very Dead Weather-y and predictable, but a terrific 10-lb. track nonetheless.
69. “Habits (Stay High)” – Tove Lo
So my daughters belt out songs about sex and recreational drug use in public, but they butcher the lyrics beyond comprehension. So that makes it okay.
68. “Bluebird” – Dawn Landes
This Louisville come Brooklyn singer/songwriter, ex-wife of Josh Ritter and multi-instrumentalist for the undersung band Hem turned out one of the most subtly, sneaky, amazing little records of 2014.
67. “Weigh True Words” – I Break Horses
I’m just pretending this song didn’t appear on the MTV show Teen Wolf.
66. “Digital Witness” – St. Vincent
I don’t get the worship for everything St. Vincent does… but she’s an electric performer and this track never grew old despite radio overkill. Let’s just agree that she’s a little overhyped but that she’s still pretty damn great.
65. “Woman (Reading)” – La Dispute
This Grand Rapids, MI band is called “post-hardcore.” 1. Being from Michigan, I can’t believe that anything as innovative as La Dispute comes out of Grand Rapids. 2. WTF does “post-hardcore” mean?
64. “I’m Calling” – Tennis
So the lead singer of Tennis is the cousin of my old dental hygienist and she’s sent me autographed vinyl in the past… that only moved her up a few spots on the countdown.
63. “Lights Out” – Angel Olsen
Throw a dart at the Angel Olsen record and you’d hit a track worthy of the Top 100… unless you were really good and hit the center of that tiny hole for the spindle. In which case, good job. We should play darts sometime, but go easy on me because I don’t think I’ve played darts since I was drunk in an Irish pub.
62. “Everything Is New” – Slow Club
Watch the video, because WTF.
61. “Killer in the Streets” – The Raveonettes
The intersection of Pop Blvd. and Shoegaze Static Circle.
60. “Rock Paper Scissors” – Sweet Soubrette
The first record that had me smitten in 2014. Since I’ve written a short story about competitive RPS, how could this one not be a favorite?
59. “She’s Not Me” – Jenny Lewis
I totally had a pre-teen crush on Jenny Lewis in The Wizard, but that has absolutely no bearing on my opinion of her excellent new record.
58. “Easy” – MOTHXR
I’m willing to overlook the fact that it feels like the only people who know about this Penn Badgley-fronted band are Gossip Girl fans and me. At least they added that ‘X’ to their name so you could Google the band name.
57. “Rollercoaster” – Bleachers
A damn catchy earworm that’ll have you cursing Jack Antonoff, if you weren’t already cursing him for that last fun. record.
56. “Trap Door” – Stars
Stars made a record. I really liked it. None of this is surprising. That this track is so blissfully synth-poppy might be.
55. “My Silver Lining” – First Aid Kit
I waffled at least thrice on this First Aid Kit album. One day it OMFG! and the next it was “meh.” My feelings about this track, however, remained rock solid.
54. “Your Love Is Killing Me” – Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten has a PhD in bringing the feels. Dr. Van Etten (or just Dr. Vee if you’re into that brevity thing) even says that Patti Smith played some on her latest record. Patti Smith! The album also features Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg and Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter, who we can presume are disciples of the Sharon Van Etten graduate program in feels.
53. “Slow Motion” – PHOX
An offbeat, minimalist vibe that just needed a toy piano to put that shit into the stratosphere.
52. “Do You” – Spoon
Spoon returns with classic Spoon thumper. Britt Daniel kills the vocals on this track, you know, as he does. I’m still hoping to form the Jazz-infused Spoon coverband, Spork.
51. “Johnny and Mary” – Todd Terje (feat. Bryan Ferry)
Todd Terje covers a 1980 Robert Palmer track that isn’t “Simply Irresistible.” (Improve upon Robert Palmer? The hell you say!)