The 25 Tracks That Dominated My 2014 Over All Others

brian lion

I already babbled on extensively about my favorite full releases and music videos of the year, but it’s been eating away at me that I didn’t put some focus on the individual tracks I spent a significant amount of time with since 2014 began.

So without wasting any more of your time than needed, below are the 25 songs (released this year) I listened to the most in the past 12 months. A good portion of these are featured on albums that I didn’t even enjoy enough as complete efforts to include on my other list, but these tracks stand on their own as fantastic entries into the musical archive of 2014 – or my own personal collection if anything.

Rather than flood this piece with a slew of sloppy, varying-in-size-and-style players, I’ve added convenient links to locations where you can stream each individual track, and hopefully discover other great works from the artists as well. Enjoy, and discuss this year in music with me in the comments section below.

Artist: RX Bandits
Song: “Stargazer” [Listen]
Album: Gemini, Her Majesty

“Stargazer” isn’t necessarily my favorite song off of Gemini, Her Majesty but it’s certainly the one I listened to the most this year. That’s likely due to the fact that it was the first released as a single and the time I spent with it in both its original demo form as “Ready Eddie” and its final, mastered result trumps that of the rest of the album. Regardless, it’s still up there as one of my favorite tracks of 2014.

Artist: Turnstile
Song: “Drop” [Listen]
Album: Nonstop Feeling

Maybe it has an advantage because it’s less than two minutes in length, but even having just been released last month, I’ve already listened to “Drop” more times than most songs in 2014. Featured on Turnstile’s forthcoming Nonstop Feeling, this brief affair is jam-packed with energetic, hardcore grooves straight out of the ’90s and is sure to be part of one of 2015’s funnest and most rambunctious albums.

vsc drake
Artist: Vancouver Sleep Clinic & GXNXVS
Song: “Hold On, We’re Going Home” [Listen]
Album: N/A

I’ve given Drake plenty of chances to wow me. He’s let me down with each and every one of them. I don’t get the hype. Sue me.

This cover, though; golden. Silky, sexy, smooth. I love everything about it. It’s hypnotic and dreamy. It’s not Drake, it’s just Drake’s song. I wish it wasn’t but it’s a fact I can’t deny.

Artist: Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s
Song: “Lazy” [Listen]
Album: Sling Shot to Heaven

“Lazy” immediately became one of my favorite love songs of all time. The honesty in the lyrics is both beautiful and refreshing. The classic Margot instrumentation makes it all the better, and Richard Edwards delivers one of his finest, heartfelt performances to date.

“We’ve got a good thing going. We just hang around, fucking off all day. But I love you, so who cares?”

marian hill
Artist: Marian Hill
Song: “Got It” [Listen]
Album: Got It / Lips 7″

Marian Hill was a recent find for me, but I’ve quickly worn out the play button on “Got It.” One of the most unique productions I’ve heard in pop music this year, this track is both a banger and a soother with some sexaphone thrown in for an extra funky good time. Samantha Gongol’s vocals are just the icing on this ’90s R&B-inspired cake.

That change-up at :47 gets me moving every time.

anna of the north
Artist: Anna Of The North
Song: “Sway” [Listen]
Album: N/A

This single warmed my heart immediately upon first listen. The combination of Brady Daniell-Smith’s dreamy production and Anna Lotterud’s perfectly accentuating vocals couldn’t be more ideal. “Sway” quickly became one of my favorite pop jams of the year and I expect this collaboration to blow up in 2015 with ease.

Artist: Ikey
Song: “Timbuktu” [Listen]
Album: N/A

I can’t find shit about Ikey online but I know he exists. However elusive, the dude dropped one of the best hip-hop tracks of 2014 in “Timbuktu.” With a minimal beat and veteran flow, Ikey starts off cool and collected with clever lines before picking up pace, gradually getting more aggressive and finally flying off the handle just over two minutes in. Ikey came out swinging with his initial material, so I eagerly await whatever he surfaces with next.

diamond youth
Artist: Diamond Youth
Song: “Red Water” [Listen]
Album: Shake EP

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Diamond Youth wholly deserve much more recognition. They’ve got this insanely good late-90s Foo Fighters meets Muse thing happening, with their own twist on it all. Throw in some stellar production, surprising sonic shifts, and you’ve got a track like “Red Water”; one of the best of the year, and one I still can’t get tired of. The intro, the chorus – it’s all too good.

Artist: Dikembe
Song: “Hood Rat Messiah” [Listen]
Album: Mediumship

I didn’t spend as much time with Mediumship as I wanted to this year but its lead single has stuck with me ever since May. “Hood Rat Messiah” is one of the best emo-rock tracks of 2014. I love the smooth, melancholy majority pitted against the aggressive chorus and that perfect, driving conclusion that gets you amped then leaves you wanting more. Plus, that song title is gold.

Artist: Lykke Li
Song: “I Never Learn” [Listen]
Album: I Never Learn

This song is as depressing as it is beautiful, two tones perfectly conveyed throughout the entirety of I Never Learn; making your heart hurt and swell with love simultaneously. The title track and opener stuck with me the most from Lykke Li’s third studio album, with “No Rest For The Wicked” closely behind. The flow in the vocal delivery is incredible and the string arrangements add a perfect layer of majesty.

Artist: The Hotelier
Song: “An Introduction To The Album” [Listen]
Album: Home, Like NoPlace Is There

The emotional weight of this song is stunningly crushing. The way it builds, the soft, underlying piano, the anguish in Christian Holden’s vocals – it’s chilling. To me, it’s the best song on Home, Like NoPlace Is There, and I’d often hit repeat before moving on to the rest of the album. I wouldn’t be satisfied until I spun this intro at least three or four times before proceeding.

Artist: Manchester Orchestra
Song: “Every Stone” [Listen]
Album: COPE

To this day, I can’t choose a favorite song from COPE, but “Every Stone” is the one I spun the most this year, with “The Ocean” coming in with a photo-finish second. I was immediately drawn to the melodies in this track and am happy to have a 7″ copy to wear out over time. I enjoy the start and stop of the tonal shifts in energy throughout and the pure, driving exuberance of the heavier guitar parts.

Artist: John Carpenter
Song: “Vortex” [Listen]
Album: Lost Themes

John Carpenter’s Lost Themes is hands down one of my most anticipated releases of 2015. “Vortex” is the only track that’s surfaced thus far but it’s everything I hoped for from The Master of Horror. It’s a track that could likely fit into nearly any one of his iconic films. It’s eerie, pulsating, and completely bad-ass. It kind of makes me want to chew bubblegum and kick ass. Too bad I’m all out of bubblegum…

black tongue
Artist: Black Tongue
Song: “Falsifier” [Listen]
Album: Born Hanged / Falsifier [Redux]

I’d argue that this is the heaviest song of the year. It wastes no time at all forcing its way into your eardrums, nearly rupturing them in the process. It’s overwhelmingly crushing and probably unbearable for the faint of heart. Despite the fact that I didn’t care much for the rest of Born Hanged / Falsifier [Redux], this track has been on constant repeat for me this year.

ski lodge
Artist: Ski Lodge
Song: “Our Love Is Over Now” [Listen]
Album: N/A

This is one of the most haunting and beautiful songs of 2014. As a stand-alone single (as far as I can tell), I listened to this one track more than 2013’s Big Heart as a whole; an album I enjoy immensely. As I wait for a followup, however, “Our Love Is Over Now” gets me by…in a really depressing sort of way. I feel like this song has to soundtrack a sad, final slow dance in a tearjerker of a film.

Artist: Låpsley
Song: “Falling Short” [Listen]
Album: Understudy EP

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best songs of the year, and I for one cannot stop listening to it. Holly Fletcher’s vocals are divine – both sets. She brilliantly textures her vocal layers which in turn gives the appearance that Låpsley is a collaboration of sorts. It adds depth to tracks that almost don’t even need it, but they also wouldn’t be nearly as good without the contrast.

sunny day
Artist: Sunny Day Real Estate
Song: “Lipton Witch” [Listen]
Album: Sunny Day Real Estate/Circa Survive Split 7″

I’m ashamed to admit that I never really listened to Sunny Day Real Estate when they were originally active and thriving, and I was excited that Circa Survive was putting out a new single for RSD this year. I was more excited, though, when I ended up unsuspectingly falling in love with SDRE’s contribution and forgetting Circa’s almost entirely. I enjoy new discoveries and this one caused me to do some serious backtracking through SDRE’s catalog.

Artist: Run The Jewels
Song: “Close Your Eyes…” [Listen]
Album: Run The Jewels 2

My favorite hip-hop production of the year and my favorite guest appearance all in one track. When that beat drops at the 6-second mark, if you’re not moving, you must be dead or comatose. El-P, Killer Mike, and Zack de la Rocha (whodathunkit?!) all kill it, mercilessly. The day this single dropped, I got nothing else accomplished. A significant percentage of its play count on SoundCloud is courtesy of yours truly.

Artist: Pianos Become The Teeth
Song: “Repine” [Listen]
Album: Keep You

This was our first taste of Pianos Become The Teeth’s new direction in sound. In a transition hinted at with last year’s “Hiding,” this first single immediately floored me and had me ready for the rest of Keep You to fill my ears and soul with emotional resonance, ultimately leaving the band’s signature screaming of the past as the furthest thing from my mind.

Artist: Phantogram
Song: “Fall In Love” [Listen]
Album: Voices

I actually haven’t listened to this jam in awhile but I certainly can’t deny how much it ruled my first half of the year and summer. It’s one of the most solid pop bangers of 2014 with stellar production and a powerful vocal presence from Sarah Barthel. It’s one of those songs that you just can’t help but dance to. It has a power over the human body. One you won’t really care to resist.

Artist: PUP
Song: “Guilt Trip” [Listen]
Album: PUP

Oh, big surprise: PUP’s on another list. Really though, I’d assume the reason “Guilt Trip” is the PUP song I spun the most this year would be because it’s the first track on their killer debut, an album I rarely didn’t listen to as a whole if listening at all. Maybe I’d start the record and have to do something else right away or something, so I’d assume “Reservoir” is an extremely close second, by a hair if anything.

tigers jaw
Artist: Tigers Jaw
Song: “Hum” [Listen]
Album: Charmer

This is one of my favorite songs of the year, top 5 most played, and what I think is one of the best representations of the vocal duet cohesion Tigers Jaw offer on Charmer. This song really lives up to the album’s name and warms me endlessly. I love the keyboard and the seemingly effortless delivery, something found on the entirety of the album.

“You are the leaves at my feet. You are the hum of electric heat.”

rural alberta
Artist: The Rural Alberta Advantage
Song: “Terrified” [Listen]
Album: Mended With Gold

The Rural Alberta Advantage is another band that I feel is criminally underrated. Their newest album is really solid but “Terrified” takes the cake for best track off the effort. With a commanding folk-rock structure, the track gallops along with a confident poise as Nils Edenloff and Amy Cole sing their hearts out. The “oh oh ohs” are so powerful that you can’t help but shout along.

zella day
Artist: Zella Day
Song: “Compass” [Listen]
Album: Zella Day EP

I might have written about this song more than any other this year, and yet here I am again. I just can’t get enough of it. It’s gorgeous and resonates in my soul with a possessive effect. It’s mesmerizing and memorable and I love the way it makes me feel; like I’m suspended in the ocean – not drowning, just being. Zella Day is a natural and I can’t wait to witness her inevitable rise to the top.

Artist: Alt-J
Song: “Hunger Of The Pine” [Listen]
Album: This Is All Yours

The first thing that blew me away about this song was the Miley Cyrus sample – something that shouldn’t work whatsoever but somehow manages to for Alt-J. Apart from that, it’s just everything else I love from the band: Joe Newman’s uniquely perfect vocals, beautiful layers of instrumentation and a song structure unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s such a swaying, hypnotizing creation. I get lost in it every time.

Too Many Honorable Mentions:

First Aid Kit – “America” (Simon and Garfunkel Cover)
Polterghost – “Brain Freeze
New Found Glory – “Stubborn
Jenny Lewis – “Just One Of The Guys
The Appreciation Post – “Auxiliary Floor Toms
Jungle – “Busy Earnin’
Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off
Arms & Sleepers – “Tiger Tempo
Ben Howard – “I Forget Where We Were
Lana Del Rey – “West Coast
Lagwagon – “Burden Of Proof / “Reign
Nai Harvest – “Hold Open My Head
Perturbator – “Future Club
Real Estate – “Talking Backwards
Save Us From The Archon – “Swallowed By Waves, Unable To Sleep When
Side Saddle – “Halcyon
Somos – “Familiar Theme
Sun Kil Moon – “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes
Lyger – “Skinned Alive
LAYLA – “Weightless

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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