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Playlist: CHARGED.fm's Top 75 Songs of 2014

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Our managing editor shares his favorite tracks of the year.

Playlist: CHARGED.fm's Top 75 Songs of 2014

2014 has supplied us with an absolutely amazing amount of music. Like a lot of critics have already mused, it seemed like this year was a better year for songs than albums. There were so many good songs. And with a single-driven culture already well on its way into the mainstream, that might start becoming the norm. But there will always be great albums every year, and if we get more great singles because of it, I'm not going to complain too much.

Because there were so many amazing tracks put out, it was really hard to narrow my list down. Here's what I decided to do. I'll count down my Top 25 songs of 2014 below, and after that will be a Spotify playlist of my 75 favorite songs of the year (the first 25 ordered and the next 50 arranged in no particular order). My choices tend to drift to the folkier or more indie sides of the spectrum, but it was a fantastic year across the board. Plenty of genres made their way into my list, which made it that much more fun to put together. Take a look at the list of my favorite songs of the year below, starting with number 25, and be sure to comment with your favorite tracks of 2014 below!

25. "Blue Moon" by Beck

There's a little bit of cosmic love on this single by Beck. Blue Moon happens to be my favorite beer, and this was my favorite song off of Beck's new album Morning Phase. "Blue Moon" is a lovely track that showcases a lighter-sounding side even if the subject material of the song is on the sad side, but Beck is still as good as he's ever been here.

24. "Cairo Blues" by Leif Vollebekk

The thing that hooks me to "Cairo Blues" is Vollebekk's distinct phrasing throughout the song. He adds these little beats of emphasis at the most surprising times, and it turns a track that could be a run-of-the-mill folk song into something so much more interesting and compelling.

23. "Easy Rider" by Action Bronson

Like many fans of Bronsolino, we've been waiting patiently for his debut feature-length album, Mr. Wonderful. The first single off that release, "Easy Rider", definitely didn't disappoint. It's got that smooth, effortless sound that Bronson is known for combined with his signature punchlines and some choice instrumentals. If this is what we can expect from this album, it's going to be one of the better releases of 2015.

22. "Never Catch Me (ft. Kendrick Lamar)" by Flying Lotus

I'm relatively new to this song, but my goodness did it leave a lasting impression. I haven't been able to stop listening to this track, and it will be a while before I do. Lamar's verses on mortality bite hard, and the funky, jazz-infused production behind everything is a perfect pairing. Flying Lotus's whole album is pretty amazing, but this is the standout track.

21. "Limits Lie" by Jamie T

Carry On The Grudge is an album that shows off the many styles Jamie T can effortlessly use on any given track, and I think his most effective song on the album is its first: "Limits Lie". The track starts off with a meandering feel thanks to some harmonica, but slowly builds into a powerful song that is a dynamite start to the album. And while he might not stay to that same basic sound on the rest of the release, this song is him at his best, in my opinion.

20. "Philadelphia Raga" by Peter Matthew Bauer

Bauer succeeded where his former bandmate, Hamilton Leithauser, didn't quite when he released an album that sounds completely unique compared to The Walkmen. It's a little more difficult for Leithauser, whose distinctive voice is one of the signature elements of any Walkmen track, but Bauer crafted an album that pulls from all kinds of influences. There are many tracks off Liberation! that I could have chosen, but "Philadelphia Raga" and its gorgeous guitar intro gets me every time.

19. "Say My Name (ft. Zyra)" by ODESZA

I don't think there is a producer/producers I enjoy more than ODESZA. The Seattle duo put out another terrific album this year, and "Say My Name" is an absolute joy. Zyra provides some beautiful vocals over the layered production help the song feel both lively and minimalistic at times. These guys are going to be on the scene for quite some time.

18. "Busy Earnin'" by Jungle

I think it's impossible to hear "Busy Earnin'" and not get the urge to dance. From the falsetto to the driving synth/horn and that funk-tastic beat, this is a song that will get the people going. I never get tired of listening to it, unless I'm tired because of all the dancing.

17. "Half the City" by St. Paul and The Broken Bones

Referring yourself to "St. Paul" is a pretty risky move, but someone with as much soul in their voice as Paul Janeway can get away with it. The amount of emotion that pours out of every note is incredible, and it's a moving listen every time.

16. "Ilsa Drown (ft. Jonsi)" by Death Vessel

You would never expect to hear the delicate, high-registered voice of Joel Thibodeau when you hear the name Death Vessel, but that's exactly what you get. Paired with another amazing musician known for his high register, Jonsi, the two team up to create an incredibly light and lifting track that is sure to inspire.

15. "From Eden" by Hozier

Hozier has burst on the scene in 2014, and I keep kicking myself for not writing about him when I first heard "Take Me To Church" in late 2013. Regardless, Hozier's debut album is an excellent introduction to this vocal powerhouse from across the pond, and "From Eden" is an absolutely gorgeous love song that showcases all the best qualities of Hozier.

14. "Water Fountain" by tune-yards

Merrill Garbus, the woman behind tune-yards, is a force of nature. Her music is so creative that each time you listen to one of her tracks, you hear something different. That's very true with "Water Fountain", the lead single off of the terrific Nikki Nack. I just noticed these laser sound effects that start pumping in during a climactic moment of the song, and I've honestly listened to the track about 50 times. This song never ceases to surprises.

13. "Coffee" by Sylvan Esso

I tried to keep the Top 25 (and 75) to one song per artist, but I couldn't help it with Sylvan Esso. This is the first of two songs in the Top 15, and "Coffee" was my introduction to this fantastic group. The track starts out so inconspicuously, but slowly more and more layers and production get added to Amelia Meath's lovely vocals. Just like the real thing, "Coffee" is an addictive song that just warrants repeat listens.

12. "Wanderlust" by Wild Beasts

"Wanderlust" is really two songs in one, but the whole thing is driven by that pounding synth line that just never quits. The track starts off in a fairly conventional manner before giving way to the money section: "Don't confuse me with someone who gives a f---". This line is hammered home in slightly different combinations for the final two minutes of the track. The verse is delivered with so much contempt, so much disdain for whomever it is intended for, that I'm compelled every time I hear it.

11. "Blockbuster Night Pt. 1" by Run the Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P did it again. Run the Jewels 2 is just as much of a banger as the first, and "Blockbuster Night Pt. 1" is as good an example of the fire these two spit together. These two really bring the best out of each other, and it's so much fun to listen to these guys rapping some ridiculous shit and having a blast the entire time.

10. "Inside Out" by Spoon

Spoon put out a masterful album in They Want My Soul, and "Inside Out" is the crown jewel. There's a heavenly quality to the track, and a lot of that might come from the lush harp sounds that are strewn throughout. The reflective song is more than just a treat for the ears, as the musings on time and morality are equally stimulating.

9. "Prince Johnny" by St. Vincent

When St. Vincent sings that Prince Johnny is kind and not simple, I feel like she is almost talking about her own music. St. Vincent produces beautiful but complex music that isn't the most accessible, but once you let your guard down to the weird wonder that is Annie Clark, you get treated to bizarre lyrics and some really stunningly crafted songs. "Prince Johnny" is my personal highlight off of her latest album, especially its soaring chorus.

8. "Warm Foothills" by Alt-J

While I'm not as high on Alt-J's sophomore effort as some out there, I can't deny the beauty of "Warm Foothills". When I first heard this song live, I figured that's how it would sound on the new album. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a track that went against my conventions. The glitchy call-and-response action between the male and female vocals was shocking at first, then simply alluring from every listen on. This is a song that can put anyone at ease, especially that whistle.

7. "Giants" by Bear Hands

A band that took a tremendous leap in 2014 was Bear Hands, and this track has taken permanent residence inside my brain. The song is all over the place, but it oddly comes together in a way that you can't help but accept. The fast-paced lyrics spun out by Dylan Rau and the amazingly addictive guitar progression during the chorus just sound so luscious. This album has me incredibly excited about this band's future.

6. "Luna" by Bombay Bicycle Club

Of all the songs off Bombay Bicycle Club's amazing album, "Luna" encapsulates what makes this band so good. There's a controlled sort of chaos when it comes to their music.. There's a lot happening at any given moment on the song, from some syncopated rhythms to a soaring, building chorus to the vulnerable sound of Jack Steadman to a punctuating bass to some Far East influences. But all of these separate puzzle pieces that wouldn't normally fit just magically come together to make something great. The song, and the album, really grow on you, and after a whole lot of listens, you find new appreciation for the track.

5. "Seasons (Waiting On You)" by Future Islands

Nothing will compare to Herring's incredible performance on Letterman from earlier this year, but even without that visual burned into your brain, it's impossible to not feel something when you hear Sam Herring growl out these lyrics. It's a simple pop song, but it's so effective because of the sincerity that Herring pours into the track. Future Islands deserve all the praise they've been getting this year, and "Seasons" is an absolutely deserving track that should be on or near the top of everyone's list.

4. "Slow Motion" by PHOX

"Slow Motion" is the kind of song that should be agreeable to everyone. From the purity of Monica Martin's voice to the wistfulness of the musical composition to the clarinet (the clarinet!), the song is a delight from start to finish. Whether you are into folk music or not, it's just a beautiful sound and a song that stays with you. PHOX is set for big things, and this song is one hell of a starting point.

3. "Play It Right" by Sylvan Esso

"Coffee" was the song that got it all started for me, but "Play It Right" was the song that cemented my affinity for the group. Amelia Meath's vocals are simply phenomenal on this track, and the booming production that bursts along with it have this natural synergy. I still get chills when the first chorus hits. You'd never guess that the song started off as an a cappella track, because it sounds so much more organic in this form. When you hear it, you'll know why I needed two songs from this band in my Top 25.

2. "I'm Not Part of Me" by Cloud Nothings

The thing I love about this song is its honesty. It comes in and spells out exactly what you're going to get. The lyrics spell out a time of transition, a time of healing and self-reflection. It's about growing up, and the song manages to maintain the brashness of youth with lyrics about getting older and maturing, combined with the allure of always getting sucked right back. From the first time I heard it, I knew it would be one of my favorite songs of the year, and nothing's changed my opinion. This is a sterling piece of music right here.

1. "Lonely Press Play" by Damon Albarn

When I first heard "Lonely Press Play" very early in the year, I knew it was going to be hard for any song to top it. All throughout his album Everyday Robots Albarn constructs some absolutely gorgeous music, but nothing is as poignant as this. 

Albarn's album feels like the a work he was building up to, the result of every preceding work or project before that. There was a restlessness about it, a real sense of vulnerability where he could finally be himself, and that's made perfectly clear on "Lonely Press Play". It's a song that immediately conveys a tone and follows through lyrically. Albarn croons about someone waiting for him to improve, and it's something that we've all felt at one time or another. The song resonated with me when I first heard it in February, and I still feel the same way listening to it almost a year later.  

Take a listen to my entire Top 75 Songs of 2014 playlist embedded below. What was your favorite song of 2014?

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Comments (1)
  1. Lukasz Bielawski's profile

    Lukasz Bielawski

    December 23rd, 2014 @17:38

    I like this list! Close to what I would pick.

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