Let Happy Help You Decide What Songs To Love Thus Far In 2014
If I don’t keep a running list of my favorite songs starting at the beginning of the year, I end up with a year-end list that consists of approximately 75% songs that came out in December, so this year I am all about keeping this thing up to date. Of course, I’d already vowed to post the ever-expanding list each month, and you can see how well I’m doing at that. I’ll do more better next time. For now, here’s my top songs for 2014 thus far. Spotify and Rdio playlists are at the bottom if you swing that way and want to subscribe to either or both of those.
(1) Cloud Nothings – I’m Not A Part of Me
While you’re still waiting for their full-length record to drop later this year, you can play this advance single again and again and again. If you were a fan of Braid or Jawbreaker back in the day, this propulsive little piece of post-hardcore is right up your alley. There’s a great energy to it, the vibrating seething roiling mess of youth, but not in that sad emo way that makes you feel like you’re far too old to listen.
(2) Imagine Dragons w/Kendrick Lamar – Radioactive (remix)
Count me among the people that thought this was literally the worst Grammy performance idea ever, pairing radio-friendly anthem-rockers Imagine Dragons with Kendrick Lamar, arguably the best rapper out there right now. But they TORE IT UP at the Grammys and then released the studio collaboration the next day. There’s no reason it should work, but it does.
(3) Angel Olson – Hi Five
Scuzzi lo-fi fuzzed out electric guitars anchor Olson’s yearning anthem to loneliness. The pacing for the song is delightfully wrong — a bit too slow, a bit too lurching, and you feel off-kilter the whole time, just as you’re supposed to.
(4) Liars – Mess on A Mission
OK, so I thought I hated Liars, and maybe I still do, but I do not hate this song even one bit. Glitchy kinetic art-punk, as if a late 1970s no wave band like Bush Tetras woke up and found themselves locked in a room with 10 synthesizers and no guitars.
(5) Drowners – Ways to Phrase A Rejection
There’s nothing to say about this song except it sounds exactly like The Libertines and that is not a bad thing that is a very good thing.
(6) Against Me! – True Trans Soul Rebel
The first album for Against Me! since the band’s lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, came out as trans* and the first since leaving a major label. The whole thing is amazing, particularly if you were a fan of the early Against Me! records like Reinventing Axl Rose. A gorgeous spiteful beautiful angry triumph.
(7) Kelis – Jerk Ribs
The first single from Kelis’s forthcoming record WHICH IS ALL ABOUT FOOD because KELIS IS A GODDAMN ACTUAL FACTUAL CHEF. I can’t wait. Plus, this single is a slinky slice of breathy neo-soul that you’ll hum under your breath forever.
(8) Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL – Pretzelbodylogic
To be honest, this will probably fall off my best of 2014 list later in the year because 3RDEYEGIRL has a full-length dropping shortly, and I guarantee there will be a better song than this. That’s not meant with any disrespect, as this little throwaway moment is better than many artists at their best. It features the wall of guitar sound that this incarnation of Prince is highlighting, so if you’re looking for soul or funk, this might not be your jam.
(9) Sleeper Agent – Waves
Imagine if Best Coast stopped smoking weed and met up with a hook-obsessed pop-punk band and you have Sleeper Agent.
(10) Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – People Don’t Get What They Deserve
This is bog-standard Sharon Jones, but bog-standard Sharon Jones is still really really good. The horns are there, the bass is there, the feeling that you found a really great song that came out in 1968 is here.
(11) Yellow Claw w/Rochelle – Shotgun
Out last year in Europe but tearing it up over here now. When the vocals and the bass drop, it could be Katy Perry circa “Dark Horse. Pure pop for now people.
(12) Lissie – Mother
Jangly country-folk singer Lissie covers Danzig’s “Mother.” Either you are the type of person that thinks this sort of thing is a great idea, like me, or you are a person that is horrified by that sort of culture clash. If you’re the former, this is SO the cover for you.
(13) Shakira – Empire
There is no way I would have guessed that this was Shakira. Soaring and epic, it’s the soundtrack to the climax of every movie ever.
(14) Betty Who – Heartbreak Dream
Mark my words: this perfect little pop song is going to be massive. MASSIVE. If you get fixated on only one big radio pop track this year, make it this one.
(15) Bear Hands – Giants
Out last year as a single in advance of the full album that just came out, Bear Hands’ full-length record is finally out now. This song is a Johnny Marr-style wall of jangle guitars supporting a yelp-y Brooklyn singer, and it teeters on just the right side of too precious.
(16) St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Call Me
What is this I don’t even. Doofus-dancing white boy that sounds like Otis Redding forms band and makes a record that could have come out in the 1960s on Atlantic Records. This year’s Alabama Shakes.
(17) Lydia Loveless – Really Wanna See You Again
Lucinda Williams meets Let It Be-era Replacements to record the quintessential “I fucked up and I regret it and now I took a pile of drugs and called you up to say so” song.
(18) St. Vincent – Birth In Reverse
St. Vincent released this as a single late last year and it showed up on her full-length this year. I have a weird relationship with this song where I decide I don’t like it because St. Vincent is a bit too contrived, and then she hits the dance club chorus and I forgive her all her transgressions.