Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of 2014: The Music Edition

With only a few hours to go before the ball drops, I am sneaking this last "best of" into 2014. I thought about doing it by album but opted for songs instead, after my daughter reminded me that this is actually how we buy music nowadays ... if we buy it at all. (She streams a lot: I still tend to purchase.) Although I feel compelled to buy a few entire albums, especially anything new by my tried-and-true artists, my most-played tracks this year include a number of one-offs. If I stuck to best-of albums, I'd miss a lot.

So, organized randomly, is the list of my favorite tracks of—and released in—2014:

1. Tongues, by Joywave. This song is equally beloved by me and my 13-year-old son. Whenever it comes on in the car, we crank it up and do car dancing. This might be a good time to note that my love of these tracks is unrelated to whether the video is appealing. I didn't even watch some of these videos till I started writing this blog post. Music videos are often incomprehensible to me.

2. Beneath the Brine, by The Family Crest. As one of the commenters said, "Sometimes you just need a big song for a big year." And this giant wall-of-sound song kind of captures the sheer drama that was 2014.

3. Fever, by the Black Keys. Somehow I hear Peggy Lee in this song, even if the only thing they really have in common is the title.

3. Coffee, by Sylvan Esso. Here (and for the next few picks) we turn the volume down a bit. This has a little bit of Norah Jones sultry mixed in with a some delicious weirdness.

4. Beside You, by Phildel. I think Phildel released her album in the UK in 2013, but my iTunes insists it's a 2014 album and that's when I got ahold of it, so I'm counting it. I listened to this entire album pretty much nonstop for a few weeks, then I sort of forgot about it. I'm not sure why, because relistening to it now, it definitely holds up. Beautiful stuff.

5. The Body Electric, by Hurray for the Riff Raff. I discovered this band recently, thanks to NPR's All Songs Considered podcast. This song sounds like it comes from a hundred years ago, both in lyrical structure and in delivery. Reminds me a bit of "Hey Joe."

6. Warm Foothills, by alt-J. Alt-J is probably my favorite band right now, period. Their first album, An Amazing Wave, blew my mind. Their newest release, This Is All Yours, is a much mellower collection, as you can hear here, but still does gives me aural delight. Some music is for blasting and car dancing. I think this track is worth putting earbuds in, closing your eyes, and really listening to.

7. Awake, by Tycho. From their album of the same title, this song is representative of Tycho's whole. I don't buy ambient music often, but I've discovered this album is incredibly useful when I need to have some sort of pleasant sound in my ears that I don't have to pay a lot of attention to. I listen to it on airplanes, I listen to it when I'm upset and need soothing, I listen to it when my husband and daughter are fighting over how to do a calculus problem.

8. Passerby, by Luluc. Another new discovery via NPR's All Songs Considered. Pretty much the entire panel of music people at NPR unanimously named Luluc's album (also named Passerby) as a best album of the year. Very pleasant folk-pop, a little bit like Hurray for the Riff Raff but not as dark. Kind of reminiscent of Joan Baez.

9. Figure It Out, by Royal Blood. Have my last few selections put you to sleep? This will WAKE YOU THE HELL UP. You're welcome! It's actually hard to believe one person, namely me, could like both Luluc and Royal Blood. I'm probably the only one.

Make sure you have good speakers, then turn this up. Way, way up.

10. Gold, by Chet Faker. I don't know almost anything about Chet Faker, except it's the nom de plume ... er, chanteur for one Nicholas James Murphy. I also know I just love this sexy, bluesy song.

11. Angel of the Small Death and the Codeine Scene, by Hozier. OK, I've already talked up Hozier's Take Me To Church and most people by now have probably heard that, as it's Hozier's most famous song. So I'm giving a shout-out to another song from his self-titled album, all of which is amazing. I have a hard time even ranking these in order, I love them all so much. This one's pretty rockin'. Hozier may be young and pretty, but he's also a classically trained vocalist. Boy's got pipes.

12. I Bet My Life, by Imagine Dragons. This is not my very favorite Imagine Dragons song ever but it's a 2014 release and almost anything by them is going to be on heavy rotation in our house. This single will be part of their upcoming 2015 album. (Daughter and I are hand-flappy with anticipation.)

13. Stolen Dance, by Milky Chance. I enjoyed this song well enough when it came on Alt Nation (a Sirius XM channel), but I didn't really pay close attention to it until my daughter got obsessed. Then I got pretty into it, too. I'm such a follower.

14. Riptide, by Vance Joy. Vance Joy hit a sound that is just perfect for our house: bouncy folk-pop. Lots of guitar and tamborine, but unlike some of my earlier selections, no murrrrder. Just a cheery, catchy single.

15. Heart Is A Drum, by Beck. Beck is an artist I generally do buy by-the-album, and when I first got his newest album, Morning Phase, I listened to it nonstop. Then, like Phildel, I kind of forgot about him. Which is too bad. Morning Phase is a very mellow, sweet, somewhat melancholy album. All the tracks are good, by this is one of my favorites.


  1. I'm so out of it when it comes to contemporary music. Beck is always interesting, though. Imagine Dragons is big with my students - fantastic band name!

    1. I think Imagine Dragons might be the next Coldplay. Having a couple teenagers keeps me up to date on music, although I've always liked indie rock.

    2. I don't know if my daughter will be much help there. She's into jazz which, believe me, is wonderful but she's no more up on current music than I am. My students are a little more helpful along those lines.

  2. Best wishes for the new year, and all years.


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