Tag Archives: The Black Keys

The Best of 2014

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!

UPDATE: 

You can listen to these songs on Spotify. Click here.

 

1

“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.

Future Islands

 2

“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.

Spoon

3

“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.

David-Gray

4

“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.

disclosure

5

“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.”

Bleachers

6

“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.

Pablo Nouvelle

 7

“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.”

Hozier

8

“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?

Quebec Festival D'ete 2013 - Day 3

9

“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.

Bombay

10

“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.

Jonatha Brooke

11

“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.

Beck

12

“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!

Young Summer

13

“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.

owen-pallett

14

“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.

Spoon 1

 

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The Best of 2012

2012 sure did deliver plenty of unforgettable moments — from ugly scandals to memorable movies, TV, and books; big sports stories to big storms; and even a presidential election. Music-wise, the year included some great debuts as well as the welcome return of some of my old favorites. It’s always hard to narrow down my top picks to a mere 20, but I hope you enjoy the final list below.

For Spotify lovers out there, my Top 20 playlist can be streamed here.  Want even more? I’ve created a playlist for the “20 Next Best” (i.e. the near misses) that you can listen to here.

Happy listening and all the best in the new year.

UPDATE:

You can listen to these songs on Spotify. Click here.

1. “I’m Getting Ready” :: Michael KiwanukaKiwanuka

The debut of the year and a great track to kick things off.  Simple, soulful and soothing.  Reminds me of a male version of Tracy Chapman. Definitely a talent to keep my eyes (and ears) on.

Black Keys2. “Lonely Boy” :: The Black Keys

This track first came out back in early January, but has stuck with me all year.  That guitar riff sounds an awful lot like T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”.  A great driving song.

3. “Splitter” :: CalexicoCalexico

These guys have been around forever, but I’ve never really stopped to check out their trademark Tex-Mex sound til this year.  Love the driving guitar and horns in this one.

Bahamas4. “Lost in the Light” :: Bahamas

Bahamas is the stage name for Afie Jurvanen, a Canadian musician who released his 2nd album this year.  This slow, brooding track has an unhurried, beautiful build that I love.

5. “Would That Not Be Nice” :: Divine FitsDivine Fits

Britt Daniel took time off from Spoon to put together his Divine Fits side project.  While the album was a bit uneven for me, this track felt very Spoon-esque.  Very nice!

Kathleen Edwards6. “Change the Sheets” :: Kathleen Edwards

A welcome return for Ms. Edwards, who last appeared in my Best of 2005 collection.  A cross between Shawn Colvin and Neko Case, the Canadian singer-songwriter sings her heart out on this one.

7. “Sweet Life” :: Frank OceanFrank Ocean

Just as he sings, “The best song wasn’t the single.” This is another album that I didn’t love, but I dug this track that reminded me a lot of vintage Stevie Wonder (especially the chorus).

Delta Spirit8. “California” :: Delta Spirit

Another in the long list of songs about California, this super-poppy (and a bit cheesy) breakup song grabbed me immediately with its never-ending drumbeat and harmonies.

9. “Something to Believe In” :: Citizen CopeCitizen Cope

Returning from a long hiatus, Citizen Cope (aka Clarence Greenwood) continues to impress with his blues/soul/reggae/folk sound. One of his more upbeat tunes.

Mumford10. “Babel” :: Mumford & Sons

After first appearing on the Best of 2010, Mumford and the boys return with another acoustic-filled, scream-singing track that starts off strong and never seems to let up.

11. “Myth” :: Beach HouseBeach House

A slow, majestic song from this dream pop duo’s fourth album.  It sets a mood that’s a bit stark and sonically-rich – like spending some down time at a summer beach house 😉

Lumineers12. “Ho Hey” :: The Lumineers

First heard in commercials for Microsoft and Bing, this catchy sing-a-long became a fast favorite.  Off their debut album, looks like the Lumineers (out of Denver) have a bright future.

13. “Let Go” :: EverestEverest

Another tune I came across in a TV commercial (for Corona beer).  Technically, the album was released in 2010, but since I only first heard it this year, it makes the cut.  House rules.

Ben Howard14. “Only Love” :: Ben Howard

Off his debut album, Ben Howard channels his best David Gray and Ray LaMontagne with an acoustic folk sound straight from the tropics. Simple and straightforward.

15. “Aubben” :: The HoneydogsHoneydogs

One of my favorite groups of the late 90s/early 00s returned this year with another standout effort. Not sure what Aubben is, but glad Adam Levy and the guys from Minneapolis are back!

Of Monsters16. “Little Talks” :: Of Monsters and Men

A big hit in their native Iceland, Of Monsters and Men hit it big here too in 2012 with their debut and this peppy, horn-driven number.  Lead singer reminds me of Bjork.

17. “No One Else but You” :: Brendan BensonBenson

Brendan Benson, a power-pop guy who’s also played with The Raconteurs, released his 5th album this year with a track and a guitar lick that sounds like it was stolen from George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass”.

Pinback18. “Proceed to Memory” :: Pinback

I had written these guys off for dead after last appearing on my Best of 2004 collection.  But 2012 saw their return with another sonic, atmospheric goodie that hits all the right notes.

19. “Home” :: Phillip PhillipsPhillips

You couldn’t miss this one from the TV coverage of the Summer Olympics. A Top 40 fave for most of the year, I didn’t want to like it, but finally gave in to its acoustic guitar charm.

Kiwanuka20. “Home Again” :: Michael Kiwanuka

How to follow “Home”? How ‘bout “Home Again”, song #2 from Mr. Kiwanuka and a good way to wrap up this year’s collection.


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