Saturday, 20 December 2014

25 Best Songs of 2014: #25-16

I had a very difficult time choosing the songs for this list, as demonstrated by my larger-than-usual Honourable Mentions section, but each and every one of these 25 tracks deserves their place as among the best songs released in 2014. 

Honourable Mentions
Anjani – "Song to Make Me Still": Few poems set to music work as well as this one. 
Hilary Duff "All About You": The first folk-pop song I've heard in years that actually has blood flowing through its veins. 
Imogen Heap – “Telemiscommunications” (ft. Deadmau5): Imogen understands both sides of the equation when it comes to technology better than any other artist. 
Jessie Ware – “Tough Love”: The highlight of a very strong sophomore release. Effortless and gut-wrenching at the same time. 
Pomplamoose – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”: Proof that Nataly Dawn can, in fact, smile. 
The Both – “Milwaukee”: The breath of fresh air both Aimee Mann and Ted Leo needed. 

Special Jury Prize: The Bird and the Bee ft. Matt Berninger – “All Our Endless Love”
After years of rumours they were recording a followup to 2009’s Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, the Bird and the Bee – Inara George and Greg Kurstin – returned this year with “All Our Endless Love”, a song for the film Endless Love notable on its own merits. Matt Berninger of The National is an inspired choice for featured vocalist: not only do his baritone and George’s alto blend surprisingly well together, but his presence gives a cosmos-sized ballad necessary gravitas.



25-21

25. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
In its recorded form, “Seasons” doesn’t have the same emotional impact and immediacy as Future Islands’ performance of the song on Letterman, but if there was a better candidate for a purely sweeping, pulse-pounding anthem in 2014, I didn’t find it. Slow Club’s pared-back rendition was one of my favorite covers released this year.

24. Coldplay – “Magic”
After the Technicolor rush of Mylo Xyloto, the simplicity of “Magic” comes as a breath of fresh air. Kudos to the band for writing a song with a skeletal structure that still feels expansive and ingratiating.


23. Mariah Carey (ft. Nas) – “Dedicated”
Mariah Carey’s new album didn’t quite live up to the expectations created by its terrific advance singles; regardless, it was an intimate, warm, cohesive record from an artist who could very well have gone down the path of soulless dance hits instead. “Dedicated” best represents The Elusive Chanteuse’s aesthetic – it’s a song with not only the easygoing feel and flow of a casual conversation but wall-to-wall hooks. Why this wasn't released as a single still puzzles me.



22. Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”
Yes, the Darkchild version with Mary J. Blige got all the Grammy nods, but Smith’s emotional delivery and the song’s gospel-influenced chorus make “Stay With Me” arresting on its own, even without Blige’s support.

21. Jay Rock – “Pay for it” (ft. Kendrick Lamar and Chantal Kreviazuk)
The year’s second late-night TV success story, “Pay for It” opens with a jaw-dropping, powerful solo by co-writer Chantal Kreviazuk (who, after years of success in Canada and co-writing with a bevy of pop stars, finally gets her due) and only gets better from there. Both Kid Rock and Kendrick Lamar show off their stunning delivery – Lamar very nearly steals the show here, as he did on Saturday Night Live.


Head below the fold for songs #20-16. 
20. She & Him – “Time after Time”
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward breathe new life into this Frank Sinatra chestnut thanks to a pared-back arrangement, the duo’s playful chemistry, and Ward’s welcome return as a lead vocalist after his brief cameos on the band’s previous record.



19. Owen Pallett – “On a Path”
Playful yet grandiose, dramatic yet personal, “On a Path” is all that was great about In Conflict and more. The way Pallett interweaves swelling violin and steady drumbeats is amazing.


18. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
“Two Weeks” grabs the listener’s attention and doesn’t let go for its duration; Tahliah Barnett manages the neat trick of singing to you and everyone else at the same time. The song’s eerie, mesmerizing one-shot video ranks among the year’s best marriages of music and visuals.

17. Run the Jewels – “Early"
"Early", the centrepiece of Run the Jewels 2, finds both members of the duo at the peak of their abilities, bolstered by a haunting chorus courtesy of Boots. 


16. Timber Timbre – “Hot Dreams”
A love song that owes as much to Elvis Presley as it does to David Lynch. Lead vocalist Taylor Kirk sells the song's remarkable blend of wistfulness and menace. It's what might be on the playlist if Night Vale had a dedicated music station. 



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