Ranked — Best Songs of 2014 | Let Me Explain

Random thoughts: 

  • In 2014, “turned up” is now embedded in my lexicon. This list reflects that. I love emotional music. Fun counts too.
  • My allegiance to indie rock and pop music is over. My years at WSOE 89.3FM made following independent music really a pleasure. But I don’t feel accountable to that sound or aesthetic. Frankly, I’m unmoved by that aesthetic. There are more genres represented in this list than any I’ve ever made.
  • I love music as much now as any other time as a patron and supporter of music. I’m more grateful for it. It’s necessary. It’s essential. I like it a lot.
  • What mattered to me musically in 2014: Pacing, level of stakes, vocals, dance-ability.

Sarah Mclachlan – Surrender and Certainty I use the word “Surrender” a lot in my songwriting. In deliberate reference/homage to Sarah Mclachlan’s epic Sweet Surrender, a song I’ve loved for years. It’s a spiritual term. About silencing your body and mind and letting a thing overtake you. For her, in lieu of her father’s death, to let peace overtake her, was awesome. Theophilus London – Tribe I met Theophilus London a few years ago at a set he was DJing. I gave him a dap and proceeded to keep dancing. I thought, “He must be so embarrassed to have wackass fans like me.” Maybe so. But my dancing is much better now. One Republic – I Lived Many a cell phone upgrade has been sold because of this song. While I’m still a prepaid cell phone user, I’m sold on everything Ryan Tedder sings. I’m a believer. Little Daylight – Love Stories I saw this band twice in 2014. Neither time did they play this song. Which is why they’re still playing shows I can afford. Schoolboy Q – Los Awesome Turned up music. Alesso – Tear Up the Roof Turned up EDM music. Bon Iver – Heavenly Father Garden State is one of the movies I reject. Zach Braff is a personality I reject. Justin Vernon is one of the most essential artists who guide contemporary music. I’m not an ideologically dogmatic person. Thanks, Zach. Dillon Francis – When You Were Young Dillon Francis’ straightforward attempt at an entirely normal EDM track was very good. Jhene Aiko – To Love and Die I listened to dozens of interviews on the Breakfast Club with DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne tha God. Highlights were Iggy Azalea, Trina, and everything with TI. Jhene Aiko’s interview was just okay for me. They spent a decent five minutes on whether she showers. Come on. Iggy Azalea – Black Widow I support Iggy Azalea. She’s so funny. Royskopp and Robyn – Say It Turned up Europop music. Sultan and Shepperd – Keep Moving EDM is opening yourself up to moments. And what makes it music’s most compelling genre is that it’s one of the few convenings of music fans where everyone knows what to do when confronted with the size of these sounds. Jump. Kele – Coasting I reject indie guitar band culture because of how they treat artists like Kele. Don’t pledge alliegence of Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm and give the finger to the people who made it possible. Support their growth, their journey. Sharon Van Etten – Afraid of Nothing Indie guitar culture got Sharon Van Etten right. Logic – Buried Alive Maybe my proximity to Montgomery County makes me more moved by Logic’s plight but his record was a great reflection of his technical talents and compelling history. He’s good. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues The backstory of Against Me! matters. But it matters most to me because I how music in 2014 feels like the stakes are so low. Dream Academy – Sunrising On a random day when I felt compelled to dig deep into the bowels of Spotify to listen to the song Life in a Northern Town, was the same day the Dream Academy listened to a new song in a decade. It’s sensational. Tiesto – Red Lights/Last Train Made in America’s Sunday was a shitshow. Rain canceled a few hours and I made an impromptu trek to South Jersey and ate at a Chinese buffet. I made my way through very uncomfortable public transportation back to Philadelphia and walked right into Tiesto’s set. It worked. Thom Yorke – The Mother Lode In case you were too cheap to pay six dollars for Thom Yorke’s album, throw away your Radiohead albums because you’re just not worthy. Or just tell everyone The Mother Lode is one of your favorite tracks of the year. Just do it. Adam Levine – Lost Stars I loved the movie Begin Again. If you’re not on board with Kiera Knightley yet, that’s a you problem. I love Adam Levine’s voice. I love this song. I love love. Bombay Bicycle Club – It’s Alright Now I saw this band twice in 2014. They’re awesome. Unlike previous albums where there was an obvious standout, “Always Like This” and “Shuffle”, So Long, See You Tomorrow has half a dozen tracks that belonged here. Swans – A Little God In My Hands Whimsically relentless. Sarcastically ferocious. It’s as good as it gets. Beyonce – XO Don’t make me use words. “X-O” isn’t even a word. Which is what this song is about. It’s about saying, “Don’t make me use words or analysis and let me love you”. Own John – Cold Creeps Scott Hutchinson is a god. He can’t avoid, even when he tries to write simple, understated, hip music, the place his voices wants to go. Which is to the rafters, to the heartstrings, to the rolling lush hills of Scotland. He can’t help it. I love it. Damien Rice – My Beautiful Favourite Fantasy My favorite playlist I made was called “Existentially Expendable”. It’s about my thoughts on my pending death. This is the first song. Like all good opening songs of playlists, it should capture the things that sonically, thematically and existentially follow. It’s like a life and death in one song. It’s good. Imogen Heap – Entanglement This is a song about sex that is relentlessly sexual. It’s sexy. Friendly Fires – Before Your Eyes I spent a lot of time thinking about music that takes it time. Which doesn’t necessarily mean slow. But music that isn’t in a rush to envelop but envelops slowly and gradually and completely. Lorde – Meltdown The perfect song for 2014. If you subscribe to the “monogenre” this is your Exhibit A. Lorde is a phenom. Embrace her vision. She gets it. TV on the Radio – Test Pilot I gave a lot more appreciation for singing this year. I love when songs are sung to the place where they need to go. So Test Pilot Getting the last in the year, prisoner of the moment bump. This song is as pretty as Family Tree. It’s a vocal masterpiece. Elbow – My Sad Captains Elbow’s always been about the feeling more than the meaning. Guy Garvey takes the images and events in his life to create feelings that anyone, anywhere can tap into. He’s a genius. The pacing is comforting and the vocal mesmerizing. I’ve not stopped listening to this song. Coldplay – Always in My Head/A Sky Full of Stars I love Coldplay as much today as I did in any other iterations of that band. Ghost Stories is about opening yourself up to receive love. To pursue it and celebrate love in the right way. This was a focus of my 2014. I failed.  I’ll try again in 2015. School of Seven Bells – I Get Knocked Down (But I Get Up) I met Benjamin Curits almost five years ago. I told him Alpinism’s album art was the background on my computer. He gave me a look. Yeah buddy sure cool. I left our encounter still excited. Benjamin Curtis’ death hurt. It’s the first passing of an artist whose music has described and defined my life in an intimate way. My belief that he would rise above cancer made me anticipate his future music with an almost giddiness. So it’s tough. What will come from School of Seven Bells is a mystery. But ignoring the backstory, this song is an anthem. As seen through their history, it’s transcendent. Porter Robinson – Divinity/Sad Machine/Flicker/Fellow Feeling Everything I listened to in 2014 reflects my gratitude to Porter Robinson. Worlds is easy to describe: meditative and massive. It’s an album about embracing the scope of everything you feel and identifying that scope influences the tiniest moments in your life. It’s about honoring the moments in your past that propel you to pursue love and friendship. When your youth gave you an unchained belief in love and imagination.

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