Every time I try to make year-end best of lists, I panic because I realize there’s SO MUCH MUSIC I didn’t get around to listening to this year, and I’m probably missing something amazing. Too late for 2014, I guess. These are my top 50 songs of the year. Videos for the first ten and a full playlist of all 50 in a Spotify playlist at the end of the post. Well, 49, because Taylor Swift pulled her records from Spotify. Yes, Taylor Swift is on here. Follow me on Spotify if you want to see my working list of 2015 tracks – I’m at snipysnipy over there.
1) True Trans Soul Rebel – Against Me!
What can I possibly add to the beauty of this song? From the album where Laura Jane Grace finally stepped into the spotlight and shone so goddamn brightly. As fierce and as gorgeous a song as you will hear this year.
2) Radioactive – Imagine Dragons w/Kendrick Lamar
This was a collaboration that made no sense whatsoever when the Grammys announced it, and then it turned out to be insanely good. Imagine Dragons is perfectly good at their whole “we are pounding big drums” schtick, and then Kendrick shows up and murders everything in sight. His barely controlled level of ferocity infects you, pulling you viscerally into his breathless braggadocio and rage.
3) Really Wanna See You – Lydia Loveless
Take Lucinda Williams’ “I Just Wanted To See You So Bad” and toss it with cocaine, regret, and a propulsive rhythm section anchored by a standup bass (!!) and you have Lydia Loveless.
4) Sia – You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile
Sia’s distinctive voice takes the Annie classic and somehow adds a throat-clenched yearning you didn’t know the song could evoke. The video, however, is pure uncut joy.
5) Slumlord Sal – The Downtown Boys
My favorite find, band-wise, of 2014. The self described “Bi bilingual political dance sax punk party from Providence” evokes X-Ray Spex at their most teeth-gritting and gleeful.
6) Pills and Potions – Nicki Minaj
It’s an odd choice to include such a relatively low-key song from Nicki when she is the very queen of showing up and swaggering all over a track. (See, e.g., her guest spots on Monster or Flawless). But “Pills and Potions” is Nicki at her most vulnerable and most melodic, and reminds you she doesn’t need any flourishes to make a compelling record. You can almost — almost — forgive the fact that the video is partially a promo for the Beats Pill speaker.
7) London Queen – Charli XCX
There’s just no one that is as consistently fun as Charli XCX. Sure, it’s pure confectionary, but who cares?
8) Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
Full disclosure: I do not like bruno mars. He gets called the male Janelle Monae and that is just not true. His charisma is just no match for Monae. However, perhaps all he needed was the golden Mark Ronson touch. ronson gets a throaty James Brown-wannabe guttural yelp out of the normally smooth Mars and a funky breakdown that wouldn’t be out of place on a P-Funk record.
9) Taylor Swift – Out of the Woods
There is likely no record more divisive this year than Swift’s 1989. Swift set out to make a record that captured all the weird youthful artifice of late 1980s music and succeeded. Whether or not you like that achievement depends on whether you hate Taylor Swift and/or late 1980s pop music. Regardless, you can’t deny that T-Swift has come into her own.
10) Good Gracious Abbey – The Madden Brothers
In which the Madden brothers from Good Charlotte make a record that aspires to be the Eagles, but somehow ran into Pharrell on the way.