It’s no secret that I’m an albums guy. One look at my extensive year-end “Top Albums” list, and it’s clear that I’m a purist at heart, almost always listening to an album from start to finish. However, there is the rare occasion where I’ll queue up a specific song to fit the mood or raise my spirits. The list below contains 25 of those songs that I found myself searching out (why 25? Because I couldn’t cut it down to 20). You will not find many songs from albums on my “Top Albums” list simply because if it’s a great album, I’m probably not going to skip tracks. Instead, you will mostly hear songs that were stand-outs on albums that didn’t quite make the grade. If you are expecting a list that is of the same caliber as my “Top Albums” run-down, you are about to be greatly disappointed. But if you’re up for checking out some of those songs that got multiple replays on my iPod in 2014, the following list should provide you with an entertaining mix.
Marissa Nadler’s “Drive,” stuck with me all year due to its wistful look back on a broken romance and the memories that are stirred up when driving around in an old car, listening to the music that defined the ghost of a relationship.
Morning Phase is the laziest sounding album of 2014, Beck rehashing the sounds and themes covered over a decade ago on Sea Change. When I first listened to this album, bored and frustrated, “Wave” came along and for a moment, washed away all those feelings of discontent. The strings loom and swell like a storm on the horizon. Too bad the rest of the album doesn’t bring the same intensity.
In August, I saw The Both in concert, and during the show, Aimee Mann mocked Ted Leo for being a “hobbit nerd” (as a fellow “hobbit nerd” I felt compelled to write about it). Near the end of the show, she introduced “Hummingbird” as being a song based his obsession with Middle Earth, and ever since, this song has been revisited by me about as many times as I’ve read The Hobbit over the years.
22. “Inducing Instincts”
If you’re going to rip off a song, I can’t think of a better choice than Devo’s “Jocko Homo.” Well done, Aussies!
21. “There is a Serpent Coming”
Earth (featuring Mark Lanegan)
I’ve been a fan of Earth for several years now due to their hypnotizing brand of drone metal, but when I heard Earth’s “There is a Serpent Coming,” I was taken aback. Not only was there singing, but it was melodic and emotive. I’d later find out that the vocals were performed by Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees fame, giving the song a cocky attitude that hearkens back to the days of hair metal. “There is a Serpent Coming” is like listening to Appetite for Destruction at the wrong speed on your turntable.
Have a Nice Life
“Cropsey” features audio from a testimony that was given by an inmate of Pennhurst, the abusive mental institution in Pennsylvania that was featured in the 1968 film Suffer the Little Children. One can’t help but feel chills as the young boy named Johnny recounts the horrors he’s observed. As if that’s not enough to give you nightmares, Have a Nice Life back-up the appalling audio with disorienting synths and eerie cries that will have you begging to be set free from the agony.
19. “The Wall”
If you wipe away all the over-produced gloss, sheen, and ill-advised harmonica tracks, “The Wall” is proof that Willie Nelson can still write a damn good song about hitting the breaking point.
18. “High Road”
While I do thoroughly enjoy this song, it’s the music video that brought me back for repeated listens. It’s the Napoleon Dynamite of larping, and if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.
Eagull’s self-titled release is one of those album I listened to obsessively for a few weeks and then quickly forgot. For whatever reason, it didn’t have staying power with me, but the song “Possessed” had me, well, possessed and coming back for more throughout the year.
16. “The Price is Nice”
In 2010 Slough Feg did a cover of The Allan Parson Project’s “Tell-Tale Heart,” and as an English major who has read his share of Edgar Allan Poe, I loved it. Little did I know, Slough Feg’s obsession with the Godfather of Macabre didn’t end there. “The Price is Now” is a cornucopia of Poe allusions that make the heart of a literary nerd beat louder, Louder, LOUDER!
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
It’s no surprise that the coolest line in a song in 2014 comes from Stephen Malkmus, the master lyricist: “We lived on Tennyson and venison and The Grateful Dead /
It was Mudhoney summer, Torch of Mystics, Double Bummer.” Mr. Malkmus sure knows how to make the best of his summers.
14. “Charlie Chazz & Rappin Ralph”
Duck Sauce’s Quack is filled with the funk, soul, and new wave sounds of the 70s and 80s, but my favorite foray in the past is “Charlie Chazz & Rappin Ralph,” a parody of an old school rap duo. How Rappin Ralph wasn’t in the Sugarhill Gang is beyond me.
It’s about time someone come along and dethrone “The Monster Mash” as the king of monster song.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
I saw The Pains of Being Pure at Heart play at South By Southwest earlier this year. During their performance of this song, my friend Tony was being escorted out of the venue (he didn’t have an I.D. and was spotted drinking a beer despite the big black X’s on his hands). In most cases I would have rushed out to see what was the matter, but instead, I turned back to the stage to enjoy this joyful, mesmerizing song for the first time. Maybe I wasn’t the best of friends in that moment, but listen to those sweet melodies and tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing.
11. “Lookin Ass”
Young Money (featuring Nikki Minaj)
I know it’s easy to dislike Nikki Minaj, and even I turn my nose up at her sugary, pop radio hits. But when it comes down to Nikki as an MC, I dare anyone to find fault in her verbal assaults. On “Lookin Ass” she puts every man in check in a hilarious stream of insults that would even make Kanye blush.
10. “I Prefer Your Love”
The chorus to this song states “I prefer your love to Jesus.” Holy shit. How didn’t this song cause a national uproar by the Christian Right? It’s not like Annie Clark is still some underground artist. As shocking as this statement may seem, there’s a comforting message to the song: enjoy the Earthly love that surrounds you now instead of worrying about pleasing an unverified God in an uncertain future.
9. “Have a Sad Cum”
The Beatles may have said “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” but Death Grips respectfully disagree.
8. “Riding Bikes”
I have a friend who likes to listen to the Japandroids while riding his bike around town. While I can see the merit in the Japandroid’s music whilst traversing the city on a bicycle, I had to pass this song along to him in hopes he’d relish the song’s triumphant chorus of “We’re riding bikes!” Not only does he enjoy it, but now when around each other we can’t help but shouting “We’re riding bikes!”
7. “So Blonde”
If “So Blonde” had come out in 1995, it would have been the biggest song in the world. Liz Phair and Courtney Love, eat your hearts out.
6. “Jim Wise”
Sun Kil Moon
Sun Kil Moon’s album Benji is a masterpiece from start to finish (it placed #1 on my year end list), but there is something extra special about “Jim Wise.” It continues in the album’s analysis of death, but the story that unfolds of Jim Wise and his sick wife is probably the most heartbreaking tale of all. Add to it the realism of Mark Kozelak’s imagery, and you’ll have one hell of a lump in your throat by song’s end.
5. “Everyday Robots”
I think listening to this song should be a requirement for anyone who owns a smartphone. Otherwise, the song’s ominous prophecy may just come true.
4. “Dingo Fence”
Self Defense Family
“Dingo Fence” starts off with insightful audio of the band discussing the lyrics to the song they are about to perform. Should they use the word “cocks,” “cops,” or “cunts”? Once this hilarious conversation comes to an end, the song breaks in to reveal the band’s indecisiveness in mirthful fashion.
3. “Black Metal”
The Soft Pink Truth
Because dance clubs need more corpse paint.
2. “Easy Rider”
If you were to check my internet history (please don’t), I’d venture to guess that the video I watched the most in 2014 on YouTube was Action Bronson’s “Easy Rider.” It has everything – motorcyles, bar fights, and an epic spirit quest for a guitar. The song isn’t too bad either! The buzzing synth line gets stuck in your head instantaneously and Bronson’s lyrics are sharp as ever. I look forward to hearing what he has to offer in 2015 when he will finally gets to ride his Harley into the sunset.
1. “Moving to the Left”
I can’t get enough of this song. As great as Woods 2014 release With Light and With Love is, I’d often finish the album and then click back to this song. The guitar riffs, the melody, the chorus – this song has all its cogs working together masterfully.