We’ve finally hit December, so it’s time to start doing all of our annual countdowns, best of’s and more! Here are 50 of our favourite songs from 2014, curated and ranked by the wonderful Brisbane-born, Madrid-based Sam!
50. Shabazz Palaces – Ishmael One of the most creative hip hop groups around at their dreamy, echo-y and idiosyncratic best.
49. Chet Faker – Cigarettes & Loneliness Whisper it quietly, but I found Built On Glass a bit hit-and-miss. But this was Chet at his most poignant; a brilliantly constructed centrepiece.
48. Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) – Uptown Funk The fact I like this song so very much despite the presence of the insufferable Bruno Mars alone merits it a place on this list.
47. Run the Jewels (Featuring Zack De La Rocha) – Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) It was RTJ’s year – the incendiary duo’s militant 2014 record was superb, and it was great to hear De La Rocha’s voice again on this absolute banger.
46. Swans – Oxygen 2014 dropped a few surprises. One of them was definitely not Michael Gira, rock’s most badass old man, churning out another gruelling, behemoth album. Oxygen tries to starve you of the stuff. Gira at his most exhilarating.
45. How to Dress Well – Face Again Brilliantly dark; the contrast between Tom Krell’s gospel singer pipes and the foreboding synths and percussion is A+.
44. Iceage – The Lord’s Favourite Safe to say no one really saw this kind of sound coming from the Danish grunge mongers, but hey, now it’s here, long may it stay.
43. Shamir – I Know It’s a Good Thing A pumping, old-school dance build rounds off an already excellent song by one of the year’s most exciting finds.
42. Kendrick Lamar – i Really just on the back of that SNL performance, if I’m honest. That was some art-type shit, man. Watch it.
41. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams Smoky, sexy swamp rock with stupendous sax solo… and the opening line: “I want to dance with a black woman”.
40. Parquet Courts – Instant Disassembly Sounding utterly exhausted has never sounded better.
39. Perfect Pussy – Interference Fits Lyrics like a punch in the face delivered by a band cut loose.
38. Wild Beasts – Palace For a group so previously obsessed with vulgar imagery, Wild Beasts have never sounded so warm and welcoming as on the closing track to the outstanding Present Tense.
37. GoGo Penguin – Hopopono Say what you like about the Mercury Prize, but if it introduces me to songs like this, I don’t have a problem with it.
36. La Roux – Let Me Down Gently Everyone’s favourite ginger sounding typically heartbroken and defiant at once. Add some aah-aahs and a Drive like synth and you’re on a winner.
35. Viet Cong – Continental Shelf One of 2014’s most exciting revelations. Swirling maelstrom dissipates into a beautifully melodic chorus from previous members of the dearly missed Women.
34. Nils Frahm – Says Pitchfork put it quite well when they said the ending to this song feels like a rude interruption. Electronica to get lost in.
33. Cloud Nothings – Psychic Trauma Absolutely hurtling. Dylan Baldi and co. just get better. Also a sucker for his punk voice from about 1:17.
32. Interpol – Tidal Wave Along with All the Rage Back Home, probably the best thing Interpol have done since Turn On the Bright Lights. Tight, driving, imperious, and oh-so-epic – all that we love about this band.
31. Tobias Jesso Jr. – True Love Like the best of solo John Lennon. Enough said.
30. Beyoncé – XO Ok, I missed the boat on the Drunk In Love hype, but the xx-style brooding production, soaring chorus and Bey’s croaky, sexy deeper range always made XO appeal more.
29. Owl John – A Good Reason to Grow Old Fans of Frightened Rabbit will understand the appeal of this one – Scott Hutchinson grinds at least one of these out every album- a build and a sentiment that makes the hair behind your neck stand up.
28. Vic Mensa – Down On My Luck F**k that, get down.
27. Ariel Pink – Black Ballerina A suitably seedy single from 2014’s musical villain. But boy, that groove and hook could keep me up for days.
26. St. Vincent – Digital Witness Annie Clark probably is an alien, and probably does want all of your mind. But my god, are we lucky to have her.
25. Alvvays– Archie Marry Me Wonderfully infectious, nostalgic pop rock from another bright new 2014 discovery.
24. Posse – Shut Up All slouched over and self deprecating, “Shut Up” is the perfect ode to just sitting in the background and watching this happen.
23. Elbow – Fly Boy Blue/Lunette The first act is a nice, sombre reflection of a drunk in an airport. But what makes it is the breakdown into the second act around 3:09. Like Ralph Wiggum’s before, you can almost hear Guy Garvey’s heart breaking.
22. Ratking – Canal Wiki has a wicked flow, that’s for truths.
21. Alt-J – Warm Foothills Those interchanging vocal harmonies blew me away. The gentle, understated highlight on their sophomore, which was, if you ask me, easily better than An Awesome Wave.
20. The Smith Street Band – Calgary Girls The constantly relatable Wil Wagner sings from the gut, and that’s where Calgary Girls hits you. Plus the xylophone and sweet guitar is strangely, but beautifully Springsteen-esque.
19. James Vincent McMorrow – Gold McMorrow’s voice is flawless as ever on this shimmering high point of the excellent Post Tropical.
18. Todd Terje (featuring Bryan Ferry) – Johnny and Mary A testament to ageing gracefully – Ferry sounds just old and weary enough to give Terje’s left-field cover an ethereal quality.
17. The Antlers – Refuge Subtlety, instead of despair, is now The Antlers’ biggest strength. Listen for example, for the horns only kicking in in the second chorus, and then disappearing just as quickly, leaving you wanting just that bit more.
16. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes Without doubt one of the few songs that actually deserves the title of “the best song Bruce Springsteen never wrote”. Fun, rollicking and passionate.
15. Hundred Waters – Murmurs Ever so slightly off-kilter. Meticulously constructed, yes, but it shouldn’t make sense. Perhaps that’s its magic. “I wish you could see what I see,” whispers Nicole Miglis. So it goes.
14. Sia – Chandelier It’s apt I can’t remember the last mainstream pop song I heard that equals this, considering Sia spent half her career writing songs for others.
13. Caribou – Our Love The title track was the jewel in the crown of Caribou’s astonishing 2014 release.
12. FKA Twigs – Two Weeks The great announcement that Twigs was not one you wanted to mess with, and proved avant-pop still has a place at the top of the charts. Mouth open.
11. Father John Misty – Bored in the USA A thoroughly brutal taking apart of modern American lifestyle and psychology, made all the more destructive by the nonchalant and knowing way Father John Misty delivers his sermon, complete with laugh track. Save me white Jesus…
10. Total Control – Flesh War One of the year’s great single moments is how the mysterious Melbournites burst unexpectedly from a Joy-Division-esque romp into the bright, outward-looking chorus. Superb.
9. clipping. (featuring Cocc Pistol Cree) – Work Work Inventive beat, deadpan delivery and an earth-shuddering bass buzz. Massive tune.
8. Ought – Habit The mood – the habit – is wonderfully crafted. Took about six months to remove this one from permanent residence in my brain.
7. Rustie (ft. Danny Brown) – Attak Why haven’t we seen these two together earlier? Brown is in blistering form- his lightspeed flow matches so well with Rustie’s hyperactive production.
6. Perfume Genius – Queen Mike Hadreas’ gay panic song does an incredible job of capturing what I imagine gay panic would be like. A song for our times.
5. Future Islands – Seasons From the first time I heard this, complete with its Born Slippy intro, I knew it’d be huge. But I didn’t think it would be meme-worthy huge.
4. Adult Jazz – Spook Artsy to the point of knowing it, but the best cut of Adult Jazz’s excellent Gist Is is a multi-part, multi-layered and multi-genre odyssey better than what any indie band has churned out to be “experimental”. Given its 10 minute length, I dread to think how much time I’ve spent listening to it.
3. Sharon Van Etten – Every Time the Sun Comes Up The bittersweet sign-off to her devastating album. It’s devastating, too, but it’s too good not to make you smile.
2. Sun Kil Moon – Carissa Mark Kozelek was 2014’s other great musical villain – but really, how can he be? His uncle and cousin Carissa were killed by aerosol cans blowing up in the trash (in separate incidents), and he just wants to give and get some hugs. And he’s got some questions he’d like to get answered.
1. Flying Lotus (ft. Kendrick Lamar) – Never Catch Me Gets the nod for a simple reason- it reminded me just how thrilling it can be to hear the unexpected. This is two pioneers at work. Lamar’s rapping – his words, ideas and construction – is unmatched at this point. When coupled with FlyLo’s virtuoso willingness to mash genres, it’s little wonder how fresh and exciting it sounds.