It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since I decided to post my annual “Best of the Year” collection online. Not only has it allowed me to share my favorite songs with a wider net of folks, but it’s also saved the world from more @#$%! plastic (all those CDs and jewel cases).
I’ve culled through my list of potential selections for this year and am happy to share my top 14 for 2014. Pop continues to bubble underneath throughout (what a surprise), but, hey, at least I’m consistent.
Here’s hoping you enjoy what you hear and discover some new artists in the process. Happy holidays!
I’ve removed the MP3 files but left the track listings below.
“Seasons (Waiting on You)” — Future Islands
Coming out of nowhere, Future Islands (a trio from Baltimore since 2006) introduced this infectious synthpop number that seems to be a staple on everyone’s Top 10 list this year. And rightly so. Love the driving bass line and the lead singer’s gravelly voice.
“Do You” — Spoon
Along with Wilco, Spoon ranks way up there as one of my favorite groups. And 2014 saw them deliver this damn-close-to-perfect pop confection that packs a wallop. Impossible not to toe tap to this one.
“Back in the World” — David Gray
A return to form for David Gray after a four-year break. Not only is he back, but back with a bang with this acoustic/electro anthem. “The only way to be” indeed.
“Latch” (featuring Sam Smith) — Disclosure
Unquestionably one of the breakout stars of 2014, Sam Smith lent his silky voice to the UK duo known as Disclosure. Originally released in late 2012, the song rode Mr. Smith’s popularity wave here in the U.S. and became a sleeper hit almost two years later.
“Shadow” — Bleachers
A secret side project of Jack Antonoff’s while on tour with his band Fun., “Shadow” played on heavy rotation in my car this summer. Said Mr. Antonoff, “Except for a small group of people, most of which happened to be members of my immediate family, no one was aware that this music, or this album even existed…even though it existed so deeply to me.”
“Wrong” — Pablo Nouvelle
My random find of the year…I’m still not sure which music blog featured this one. This Swiss producer samples snippets from Lianne LaHavas’ “They Could Be Wrong” with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” to create a slow-burning piece that conjures up emotions of tenderness, angst, and wonder without ever singing a word himself.
“Take Me to Church” — Hozier
Andrew Hozier Byrne, a 24-year-old Irishman who goes by his middle name on stage, broke through in a big way this year thanks in part to a viral hit on YouTube. But what’s the meaning behind the catchy chorus? According to Hozier, “It’s about electing some new form of worship—something worthwhile. Something that’s worth loving. Something that’s tangible and real.”
“Gotta Get Away” — The Black Keys
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are back with a great road trip tune that evokes old classic rock hits from the ’70s. And you can tell they’re having a lot of fun with this one. I mean with lines like “I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo just to get away from you,” what could be better?
“Luna” — Bombay Bicycle Club
Thanks to an introduction from my daughter, Haley, this track from the four-piece band out of London took me back to the sounds of the ‘80s. Shades of OMD anyone? Electro-pop at its best.
“Are You Getting This Down?” — Jonatha Brooke
One of my favorite female singer/songwriters, Jonatha changed things up a bit this year by opening her one-woman, off-Broadway play “My Mother Has 4 Noses” in NYC. Although I missed the show (dumb!), the soundtrack featured this poignant ode to her Mom and her struggles with dementia.
“Blue Moon” — Beck
Appearing in the collection again after a 9-year hiatus, Beck’s lush and folksy first single from “Morning Phase” was met with more critical acclaim. Slow and brooding, it provides a moment to pause, reflect and revel in Mr. Hansen’s first work since 2008.
“Fever Dream” — Young Summer
DC-based singer/songwriter Young Summer (born Bobbie Allen) released this moody, synth-driven number that the folks from Noisetrade introduced to me this summer. Holy tribal drumbeat, Batman!
“In Conflict” — Owen Pallett
First appearing in the collection back in 2010, Mr. Pallett (out of Montreal) returns with another electronic/orchestral mix that directly strikes my pop funny bone. Especially when the chorus kicks in around the 1:45 mark. “There is nothing to lose” with this one.
“They Want My Soul” — Spoon
I told you I loved Spoon. So much so that I had to include this second helping (the title track from their latest album). Yep, Britt Daniel and the boys out of Austin, TX have my soul.