The grand finale is here. Check out the last of my top 60 favorite tracks of 2014 and let me know what I missed. Mixtape coming soon!
10. Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979
Full disclosure: I wasn’t aware of the impact punk rockers Death From Above 1979 had on music in 2004 and how much of a big deal their return was this year. There wasn’t a chance I could ignore the band’s return though after one listen to the blistering “Trainwreck 1979”. Hulking guitar, a sneaky catchy hook, brooding bass and thumping drums equated to a reunion worth shouting about.
9. Benjamin Booker – Violent Shiver
Aside from the reunited Death From Above 1979, Ms. Annie Clark, and Jack White’s latest album, my 2014 listening didn’t include as many guitars as I’d like. However, the smooth stringwork newcomer Benjamin Booker unleashed on lead single “Violent Shiver” stopped me in my tracks. Armed with a gravel-toned memorable voice and equally raucous backing band, Booker showed my epic guitar work won’t be ignored in a time of electronic music.
8. Bondax – All I See (Original Mix)
There was not a time that I heard the tropical house rhythms of “All I See” in 2014 and wasn’t instantly put in a great moment. The rumbling bass, sunny keys and steel drum made an ideal landscape for Tanya Lacey’s powerful vocals. Wait. Yep, it just happened again.
7. Tune-Yards-Water Fountain
Merrill Garbus aka Tune-Yards wows me with the way she balances experimentation with inescapable hooks and melodies and “Water Fountain” was her most impressive to date. The percussion and synth-filled cut featured a chant-worthy chorus along with Garbus’s voice looped and distorted as an instrument of its own. I loved the manic explosions of emotion that kept the song exciting with every listen.
6. St. Vincent – Digital Witness
The message of “Digital Witness” couldn’t have been more relevant for the social media pressures of 2014. The chorus mixed the obsessions of digital and references to religion and felt more than accurate: “Digital witnesses/whats the point of even sleeping/if i can’t show it if you can’t see me/what’s the point of doing anything”. The horn, drums and guitar all musically match Annie Clark’s mania and paranoia for the inescapable sermon.
5. Josef Salvat – Open Season
“Open Season”’s story is simple in that the expectations of a relationship didn’t get a chance to meet lofty heights. Aside from the repeat-worthy hook, the way instrumentation outlined the story is what kept me hitting replay. The sparse opening glowed with optimistic synth as Salvat detailed previous hopes and then downfall before he explained why he’ll fight to get back together bursting with engulfing keys and effects.
4. Run The Jewels – Close your Eyes and Count To F*** ft Zach De La Rocha
After my first listen to Run The Jewels riot-ready “Close Your Eyes and Count To F***”, I felt the song should have came with one of those “this record should be played loud” disclaimers. The looped hook of Rage Against The Machine’s Zach De La Rocha chanting “run them jewels fast” was genius, but all three parties are at their best on the track. El-P’s bruising production amped up the urgency for each emcee’s feisty calls to action, Killer Mike cleverly rapped with a purpose while still sporting a sly grin and De La Rocha injected trademark political fury. I’d be alright if De La Rocha became the unofficial 3rd member of RTJ.
3. Chet Faker – 1998
The intro to Chet Faker’s “1998” seemed like an epic send off for a relationship that needed the axe. As narrator, Faker described a maddening situation where an ex-love couldn’t decide how to make a clean break and stirred up mixed feelings for him as well. The swirling electronic-based production was textured with distorted deep and higher note vocal samples that no doubt exude the confused predicament Faker experienced.
2. Sylvan Esso – Hey Mami
The build of “Hey Mami”’s cat-caller narrative pretty much controlled my heartbeat with each listen. The initial looped base of “Hey Mami, I know what you want Mami” with its street corner charm is such a simple premise that the first half sounded like it was actually recorded on a busy city street corner. The latter half erupted with bassy synth and singer Amelia Meath’s angelic vocals which felt like the subject of affection gained confidence in her stride.
1. Ryn Weaver – OctaHate
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a song touched by Cashmere Cat, Charli XCX and Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos would be my favorite song of 2014. What was surprising (at least to me) was that singer Ryn Weaver could come seemingly out of nowhere and be the perfect voice for the story. The production opened with sparse, toy-like effects, then added paced drums before exploding with the inescapable hook and Weaver’s vocals matched each emotion of the post-break-up tale.