Top 100 Songs of 2014
Jan 27, 2015
Better late than never. While most of our Best of 2014 lists were posted to our website back in December, it's taken us awhile to get our Top 100 Songs of 2014 one done. Compiling and deciding upon the very best songs of any given year is a daunting task, there are thousands upon thousands of tracks to choose from and while it's often easy to agree to the year's best albums there are a multitude of opinions on which songs from those albums are the highlights. Because we didn't want the list to just be a repeat of all the same artists that were on our Top 140 Albums of 2014 list, we limited it to only one song per artist (two tops). Otherwise there would have been as many as four songs each by The War on Drugs and St. Vincent on this list, for example. Many of the songs that otherwise would have made this list had we not instituted that rule are included in our extensive honorable mentions list at the end.
Our writers each submitted a list of their 50 favorite songs of the year and those all combined to form this master list. We tried to keep it to songs first released in 2014, but some songs originally released in 2013 or earlier but featured on 2014-released albums may have snuck through. Conversely some songs featured on 2015 albums, but released as singles in 2014, are included. There are Youtube embeds for each song, so hopefully you're find a previously undiscovered gem.
For me personally, 2014 was a bit of a tough year, but the three songs that most helped me get through it were The War on Drugs' "Under the Pressure," Real Estate's "Primitive," and The Horrors' "I See You," although many of the songs on this list were also important tools in helping me control my frustrations and maintain my sanity. Which songs meant the most to you in 2014? By Mark Redfern
"Seasons (Waiting on You)"
Future Islands is the synth-pop game's Ernest Hemingway. Their music connects because there's something about it that is simple, true, and sincere. No song exemplifies this better than "Seasons (Waiting on You)," and more than Samuel T. Herring and Co.'s (admittedly stunning) performance on Late Show with David Letterman, sincerity is the reason the song already sounds timeless. It's simple and catchy, but it's not bogus. Who wouldn't identify with the utter pathos of the line "People change/But you know some people never do"? It doesn't hurt that Herring is a bona fide emoter, someone who makes people feel things just with the timbre of his voice. Credit is due to Gerrit Welmers' full-bodied synth work and William Cashion's rock-steady bass as well; "Seasons" is proof of Future Islands' ability to imbue the instrumental simplicity of their songs with completely identifiable humanity. Letterman spoke for everyone when he said, "I'll take all of that you got!"
By Scott Dransfield
The War on Drugs
"Under the Pressure"
It starts with undulating guitar chords that sound as if they're emanating from under water rather than from an amplifier. The drumbeat arrives in tandem with a keyboard figure from what appears to be an old piano, the strings under its hood dulled through lack of use. When Adam Granduciel begins singing, this opener to Lost in the Dream sets the tone for the breakup album to follow. His lyrics ache with wistfulness and hurt: "Well the comedown here was easy/Like the arrival of a new day/But a dream like this gets wasted without you."
You can hear the influence of The Waterboys' "The Whole of the Moon" and "A Pagan Place" (which The War on the Drugs have covered in concert) in the beat, piano sound, and the wide-eyed vocal. But what makes "Under the Pressure" so compelling is the way it changes over the course of nearly 9 minutes. The epic alternates between quiet lulls-during which Jon Natchez's baritone sax seems to sob quietly in the background-and surges during which Granduciel's voice and ringing guitar leads the charge. "Under the Pressure" has an end you don't see coming. The keyboards, saxophone, and guitar begin to dissipate into an misty ether of their own making. Their gradual decay into nothingness over the course of three minutes is mesmerizing. As album openers go, it doesn't get much better than this.
By Stephen Humphries
St. Vincent has been rocking our socks and shoes off for years, but she's never sounded sharper than now. Jagged horns puncture the air and a distorted bass starts an earthquake of sound while Annie Clark helplessly cries out for us to step away from technology and consumerism before we become so vacuous that we can't even see what we're watching. The menacing tone feels more urgent, thanks to the cacophony of sound that she elegantly builds by the end of the song.
By Danielle Sills
"Primitive" is a wonderful gooey-guitared example of the power of harmonies coupled with a great melody. Pure sap, the lyrics scoop listeners into an ideal romance. "Don't know where I want to be/But I'm glad that you're with me/And all I know is it'd be easy to me."
Real Estate always knows the right amount of reverb and guitar noodling to put you in a place of pure bliss; one that requires no thinking, just feeling. By the time you reach the last minute of the song, a minute and a half of instrumentals that twist and twirl in warm circles, it's impossible to feel anything but at peace.
By Danielle Sills
Father John Misty
"Bored in the USA"
It's all about the laugh track. Who would have thought an overused and unfunny technique from TV sitcoms could pack so much meaning into a stunningly gorgeous, heartbreaking folk-troubadour ballad? It's not like the song needs much help-much like its predecessor, Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," this lead single to Father John Misty's upcoming second album, I Love You, Honeybear, is a biting critique of modern capitalist society. Many of its lyrics are profound couplets like "By this afternoon, I'll live in debt By tomorrow, be replaced by children." By the time the chorus hits and then transitions into the bridge ("Oh, they gave me a useless education"), laughter almost seems necessary to keep from crying. The depressing insights contained in the lyrics, combined with singer/songwriter Josh Tillman's utterly sincere delivery, make "Bored in the USA" an end-of-2014 treat and a terrific tease for what should turn out to be a brilliant 2015 album.
By Scott Dransfield
The War on Drugs
"Red Eyes" is the second song from The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream to make our Top 10, which is a good indicator of how the album ended up in our #1 spot in our Top 140 Albums of 2014 list. "Red Eyes" follows album opener "Under the Pressure," and burns through all the energy built up through that song in just under five minutes. There's a heavy dose of New Wave influence as Adam Granduciel channels Mark Knopfler, with a palette of echoed vocals and phased guitars layered over a steady synth driven beat. The lyrics reveal a passionate, if slightly incoherent, stream of consciousness that suggest an aftermath of heavy emotions. It's a song about catharsis, perfectly striking the balance between self-reflection, regret, and passing anger. By Cody Ray Shafer
By Cody Ray Shafer
"Just One of the Guys"
On "Just One of the Guys," Jenny Lewis' first single in eight years, she breaks down the expectations of an aging woman over a sunny melody. It's a nonchalant tune that bares a dark message: "When I look at myself, all I can see/I'm just another lady without a baby." This "tickin'" maternal clock is what stereotypically draws the line between the sexes, but Lewis cuts through those preconceived notions with a wry force that proves that gender won't separate her from her alt-country contemporaries. The music video for the song says it all: five women leading the charge in a rock band just like the guys.
By Melody Lau
"NEW DORP. NEW YORK (feat. Ezra Koenig)"
"NEW DORP. NEW YORK." is everything a socially aware song isn't supposed to be. SBTRKT's fluid, mischievous beat provides the perfect bedding for Ezra Koenig to bounce his free associations off of, like stones skipped on water. The track is so lithe and light, casual listeners (not to mention dismissive critics) might entirely miss its pointed depiction of an often-romanticized city.
Stick with this highly repeatable track, however, and Koenig's rapid flurry of imagery begins to coalesce into a caricature of New York that deflates every street-dream-come-true story you've ever heard; this is a rotting metropolis ("gargoyles gargling oil") powered by conspicuous consumption ("My girl got a limousine/Got a fulltime job just to keep it clean"), as glimpsed from the vantage point of an urban royal's high-rise throne. That you can listen to it with a smile on your face only strengthens this left field pop jewel's subversive value.
By Michael Wojtas
First Aid Kit
"My Silver Lining"
Further proving themselves as our best purveyors of modern Americana, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg open their 2014 sophomore release Stay Gold with this catchy, rollicking ode to optimism and perseverance. With lines like "Be it for reason, be it for love/I won't take the easy road," it makes its case for self-empowerment anthem of the year. The lyrical encouragement, a typically gorgeous guitar/fiddle accompaniment, and the sisters' impeccable harmonies combine for an exercise in sheer pleasantry.
By Scott Dransfield
"Archie, Marry Me"
It took less than a minute into my first listen before I recognized perfection. It doesn't need any frills or fanciness to suck you in. And the spell these fuzzy riffs cast lasts much longer than its brief three-minute life. Let's put it this way. The melody on "Archie, Marry Me" is so addictive you feel like a chocoholic with an IV dripping fondue straight into your system.
The lyrics may be simple, but they feel like the shortest and best summary of a relationship where one person is doing all the heavy lifting, and the other is floating along. You'll be belting along with the chorus immediately-because we've all had an Archie in our life, even if our names aren't Betty and Veronica. Archie may not be ready for marriage, but this is the kind of song that we can all commit to our music libraries for life.
By Danielle Sills
"Put Your Number In My Phone"
"Hunger of the Pine"
Strand of Oaks
"Can't Do Without You"
Dum Dum Girls
East India Youth
"Heaven, How Long"
"Suffering You, Suffering Me"
"Birth In Reverse"
"Breaking the Angle Against the Tide"
"Every Other Freckle"
"How Can You Really"
Hooray For Earth
The New Pornographers
"In Disco Lights"
I Break Horses
"I See You"
"High & Wild"
Fear of Men
First Aid Kit
The Phantom Band
The Mary Onettes
"Shake It Off"
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Bear In Heaven
"You Don't Need the World"
The New Pornographers
"War on the East Coast"
The Death of Pop
"Key of Three"
"So Now You Know"
"Passing Out Pieces"
"Dependable People and Things That I'm Sure Of"
"Keep In the Dark"
"Up Is Up (But So Is Down)"
"Johnny and Mary (feat. Bryan Ferry)"
Sharon Van Etten
"Your Love Is Killing Me"
"Love Is to Die"
Run the Jewels
"Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) (feat. Zach De La Rocha)"
"Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)"
"On the Regular"
"If I Could Change Your Mind (Cerrone Funk Mix)"
The Fresh & Onlys
"Bells of Paonia"
Kindness feat. Kelela & Ade
"World Restart (feat. Kelela & Ade)"
"Moving to the Left"
Mr. Twin Sister
Manic Street Preachers
"Let's Go to War"
"I Found a New Way"
"Name On a Matchbook"
"Backwards and Upwards"
My Brightest Diamond
(aka Skylar Spence)
Lana Del Rey
"I Want to Dance"
"Still Knocking At the Door"
"The Amazing Heart Attack"
alt-J: "Left Hand Free"
Ariel Pink: "Black Ballerina," "Picture Me Gone," "Sexual Athletics"
Avi Buffalo: "So What"
Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks: "Little Fang"
Bear In Heaven: "Demon," "Time Between"
Beck: "Blue Moon"
Belle and Sebastian: "Nobody's Empire"
Big Scary: "Luck Now," "Twin Rivers"
Caribou: "Second Chance"
Cheatahs: "Mission Creep"
Childhood: "Right Beneath Me," "Tides"
Cloud Nothings: "Psychic Trauma"
The Death of Pop: "Mirage"
Deerhoof: "Paradise Girls"
Donovan Blanc: "Minha Menina"
Dum Dum Girls: "Lost Boys and Girls Club"
EMA: "Cthulu," "3Jane," "Satellites"
Engineers: "Fight or Flight"
Future Islands: "Fall From Grace," "Sun In the Morning"
Ariana Grande feat. Zedd: "Break Free"
Grouper: "Call Across Rooms"
Hookworms: "On Leaving"
Hooray for Earth: "Pass"
Lia Ices: "Creature," "Higher"
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: "Stranger to My Happiness"
Jenny Lewis: "She's Not Me," "Late Bloomer"
Liars: "Mess On a Mission"
Lykke Li: "Gunshot," "No Rest For The Wicked"
Merchandise: "Green Lady"
Metronomy: "Month of Sundays"
Kevin Morby: "Parade"
Morrissey: "The Bullfighter Dies"
The New Pornographers: "You Tell Me Where"
Angel Olsen: "Forgiven/Forgotten," "Hi-Five"
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: "Simple and Sure"
Jessica Pratt: "Back Baby"
Ramona Lisa: "Dominic"
The Rosebuds: "In My Teeth"
Ty Segall: "Tall Man, Skinny Lady"
Slow Club: "Complete Surrender," "The Pieces," "Wanderer Wandering"
Small Black: "Real People"
Soft Moon: "Black"
Spoon: "Outlier," "They Want My Soul"
Springtime Carnivore: "Sun Went Black"
Strand of Oaks: "JM"
St. Vincent: "I Prefer Your Love," "Rattlesnake," "Severed Crossed Fingers"
Taylor Swift: "Blank Space"
Syd Arthur: "Autograph"
Tei Shi: "Basically"
Todd Terje: "Oh Joy"
Thumpers: "Together Now," "Unkinder (A Tougher Love)"
Total Control: "Black Spring," "Liberal Party"
Jessie Ware: "Kind Of...Sometimes...Maybe," "Want Your Feeling"
The War on Drugs: "Lost in the Dream," "An Ocean In Between the Waves"
Wye Oak: "Glory"