The Top 100 Songs of 2014 (as objectively judged by me)

Here it is again — my attempt to definitively rank something that is totally objective. I can’t help it. It feels at this point that I’ve got to do it. I seem to publish it on a different platform every year. Last year was Tumblr. I’m trying it with Medium in 2014.

After last year went more mainstream then I saw coming, this year was a bit weirder. I also felt like this year’s list had fewer explicit lyrics (though still plenty!), a few more dark songs, and only one entry that you found forcibly placed on your iPhone.

This list, like any list worth its weight, has some house rules. Here they are:

1. The list is in reverse order for a reason. Scroll slowly and let the tension build. Or, better yet, listen to it in a playlist that counts down in reverse order! You can find the full playlist on Spotify here or on Rhapsody here. There are a few tracks missing from each (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift). Come back and hear those deserving tracks (including #1!) by clicking right on the underlined song title in this post.

2. Only one song per artist to spread the love. No one wants a list stuffed with six tracks from one band.

3. Either the album or the single has to have been released in 2014. I use whichever is to my advantage to include a song I want in there. With so many acts now releasing a song or two of the music blogs one year and then putting out their album the next, this has become more important. I also have started letting things slide if it was released the final weeks of the previous year. Sometimes I’m slow and this lets me catch up.

4. Covers are eligible as are remixes as long as they came out this year.

OK, ready? The list:

100. These Aren’t The Droids by Neko Case & Kelly Hogan. And with the new Star Wars trailer it’s only gonna get worse.

99. We Only Come Out At Night by Sugar Stems. Proof that candy is good for you.

98. Pickles From The Jar by Courtney Barnett. What other current songwriter is this witty?

97. Milly’s Garden by Steve Gunn. I need something to hold me over during a quiet year for MMJ.

96. Not For This One by Eternal Summers. Can’t believe this isn’t from one of my high school mixtapes.

95. James Brown by Sinead O’Connor (feat. Seun Kuti). Sinead finally lets her, um, hair down

94. Thanks For The Line by The Birds of Satan. Because cowbell solo.

93. Alexandria by Chris Mills & The Distant Stars. An earnest song about ancient history and almost everything else.

92. Airwaves by Ray LaMontagne. Best breathwork of 2014 goes to Ray LaMontagne.

91. Turn It Up by Stars. Stars always end up making their way onto this list.

90. Tolerated by Girl Talk & Freeway (feat. Waka Flocka Flame). Anger can be fun.

89. Eye Of The Pearl by Quilt. This sets a mood I like to call “drowsy psychedelica”.

88. Animal Of One by The Fresh & Onlys. Shimmery guitars and a catchy chorus.

87. Sometimes by Luke Bryan. Honky tonk has a loving home in the Top 100.

86. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen. First time he’s been on my list. Tom Morello?

85. Just One Of The Guys by Jenny Lewis. The video that made me finally like Kristen Stewart.

84. Coffee by Sylvan Esso. The sound of caffeine slowly working its way through your blood.

83. Song For Someone by U2. I’m as tired of them as you but this ranks up there with some of their prettiest.

82. Easy Rider by Action Bronson. Like a modern day gunslinger “rockin’ very loose pants”.

81. Endless Sleeper by The Raveonettes. If I was evading the law on a cross-country crime spree, this would be my soundtrack.

80. Madman by Sean Rowe. The essence of laying down a groove.

79. Indentions by Manchester Orchestra. Because minor power chords.

78. What Goes Boom by The Pixies. Because The Pixies.

77. Dangerous by Big Data (feat. Joywave). Worst named act of the year at least has a real loud bass guitar.

76. El Guije by Alfredo Rodriguez. Probably the most insane song on this year’s list.

75. Don’t Tell ‘Em by Jeremih (feat. YG). This isn’t the words to “Rhythm is a Dancer” I remember…

74. St. Malo by Saint Saviour. Your entire house should be lit by candle for this song.

73. Run From Me by Timber Timbre. Should we be calling the police?

72. Talking Backwards by Real Estate. Sometimes one dreamy riff makes the whole song.

71. Kiss And Not Tell by La Roux. Like a synth song I would have written in my bedroom.

70. Cristina by Teleman. Like a tiny fairy singing you to sleep.

69. Bridge to Hawaii by Tacocat. Best named act of the year has a crazy idea.

68. Paper Trails by DARKSIDE. This sets a mood I like to call “funky vampire”.

67. We Can’t Ever Die by White Arrows. Like a Brit Pop pinball machine.

66. Close Your Eyes (And Count to F*ck) by Run The Jewels (feat. Zack De La Rocha). I’m waiting for the right conversation to use that expression.

65. .38 Airweight by Doomtree. A song that namechecks Bernie Goetz has weighty issues on its mind.

64. Shake It Off by Taylor Swift. OK fine, I give in.

63. Unseen Hand by The Faint. I don’t think this is what Adam Smith was talking about.

62. All Alirght by Zac Brown Band. Half spiritual, half country drinking song.

61. Hang My Head In Shame by Pete Molinari. Somewhere John Lennon is smiling.

60. Every Other Freckle by alt-J. The band that truly moves to their own drumbeat.

59. Turn Down For What by DJ Snake and Lil’ Jon. The very definition of a banger.

58. Talk to God by GOAT. The rapture will feature a lot of sitar.

57. Decollage by Thievery Corporation (feat. Lou Lou Ghelichkhani). Bossa nova is clearly timeless.

56. Fever by The Black Keys. They’ve become surprisingly adept at churning out the hits.

55. Reflections by MisterWives. 43 seconds in I was sold.

54. Burnpiles, Swimming Holes by Lee Bains III. Blues rock done right.

53. Alexandra by Hamilton Leithauser. Not to be confused with #93.

52. Night Vision by Tennis. Slinky.

51. Stolen Dance by Milky Chance. A sensitive acoustic tune about doing the boogie all night long.

50. Violent Shiver by Benjamin Booker. Gary Clark Jr. has company.

49. Something From Nothing by Foo Fighters. OK ready? Tempo change again!

48. Water Fountain by tUnE-yArDs. Get out your jumprope.

47. How Can You Really by Foxygen. They actually sound sober on this one.

46. Mess On A Mission by Liars. I suspect this is about George W’s years at war.

45. Every Time The Sun Comes Up by Sharon Van Etten. The music and lyrics compete with each other to sound more world-weary.

44. Divisionary (Do The Right Thing) by AgesandAges. Like “Give Peace a Chance” for personal empowerment.

43. Cruel by The Preatures. If Prince was a pixie from Down Under.

42. Cold by Rae Morris (feat. Fryars). From the school of Robyn.

41. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars). The Godsons of Soul?

40. September Fields by Frazey Ford. That organ/guitar combo makes everything alright.

39. So Blonde by EMA. Welcome back, Courtney Love.

38. Problem by Ariana Grande (feat. Iggy Izalea). That saxophone.

37. Giants by Bear Hands. Best shout-chanting of 2014 goes to Bear Hands.

36. Rimbaud Eyes by Dum Dum Girls. Pretty sure that’s a compliment.

35. Would You Fight For My Love? by Jack White. Written, no doubt, from the fur-lined coffin of his gothic mansion.

34. Shelter Song by Temples. Groovy.

33. I’m Torn Up by St. Paul & The Broken Bones. What Otis Redding woud’ve listened to while taking a nap.

32. Fault Lines by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. The comeback of the year no one was talking about.

31. Fine China by Chris Brown. Goes toe to toe with Jacko when it comes to both infectious tunes and morally abhorrent behavior.

30. Sweet Disarray by Dan Croll. Dreamy.

29. Algiers by Afghan Whigs. Best use of castanets in 2014 goes to Afghan Whigs.

28. A Little Lost by Sufjan Stevens. Best cover this year.

27. Class Historian by BRONCHO. Rather than play instruments you could just make a “doo doo doo” noise with your mouth.

26. Fancy by Iggy Azalea (feat. Charlie XCX). I blame my daughter’s future drinking on Iggy Azalea.

25. Kong by The Notwist. Like squeezing life out of an old Radio Shack keyboard.

24. Elvis’ Flaming Star by POND. Like the Family Feud theme on heavy acid.

23. Seasons (Waiting On You) by Future Islands. I’ll admit I heard this song completely differently after Letterman.

22. Ambrosia by Field Report. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

21. Turn Away by Beck. Beck & Garfunkel?

20. The Weather Song by Ought. Just the right amount of disorganized.

19. I Miss Your Bones by Hospitality. A moving skeletal tribute.

18. Rather Be by Clean Bandit (feat. Jess Glynne) by Dangerously close to disco.

17. Queen by Perfume Genius. Putting the Q in Queen.

16. i by Kendrick Lamar. The lyrics and Isley Brothers track try keeping up with each other.

15. Control by Broken Bells. From a surprisingly solid second album.

14. Black Tambourine by Withered Hand. The definition of an earnest singer.

13. Make You Better by The Decemberists. Like hearing an old friend’s voice on the phone.

12. Am I Wrong by Nico & Vinz. That percussion.

11. I’m Not Part of Me by Cloud Nothings. The future soundtrack to 1,000 skating videos.

10. Oh Sailor by Mr. Little Jeans (feat The Silverlake Conservatory of Music Youth Chorale). Kid choirs will get you every time.

9. Rent I Pay by Spoon. No one sounds cooler coming through your speakers.

8. Luna by Bombay Bicycle Club. Not even sure what genre you’d call this.

7. Monument by Royksopp & Robyn. Makes you envision the world overtaken by shadows.

6. Cavalier by James Vincent McMorrow. I did not realize the male voice went that high.

5. Eyes Of The Muse by King Tuff. And that muse is clearly Big Star

4. Birth In Reverse by St. Vincent. The flag-bearer for weird rock.

3. Jm by Strand of Oaks. A sweet and devastating elegy.

2. Bridge On Fire by Shovels & Rope. The kind of song you desperately try to learn so you can yell along.

  1. Just A Dream by Tobias Jesso Jr.. The song every parent should sing to their kid.