Avant Gardner, Courtney Barnett – Smart, jangley, singer-songwriter cut. It’s worth it just to hear her use “emphysema” as a verb.
Change My Ways, Tony Molina – If you’re into the whole brevity thing, as well as enjoying melodic punk, Tony Molina is your man.
China, BRONCHO – I’m guessing, but these guys probably own The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine albums. Broody, distortion heavy rock.
Come Back Home, Trampled By Turtles – I love me some light-speed Turtles, and Come Back Home is that musical comfort food.
Don’t Mess With Me, Brody Dalle – The former Distillers frontwoman and wife of QOTSA chief Josh Homme unleashes a blast of mad girl rawk.
Doses & Mimosas, Cherub – A cheeky and hedonistic electro-funk, kiss-off, come-down jam that my brother mistook for an Andre 3000 joint. If pressed to pick my favorite song of 2014 so far, this would be in the running.
D.R.E.A.M., Pharoahe Monch feat. Talib Kweli – Hip-hop vets crank out a cut that, if you don’t bob your head when you listen to it, just proves you have no soul.
Eye to Eye, Lee Bains & The Expressions – This might be my favorite song of 2014. I think this because I keep periodically singing the chorus to myself as I go about my daily business.
High & Wild, Angel Olsen – A swirling haze of distorted guitars wrapped around Angel’s easy, unique voice. From one of my favorite albums of the year, Burn Your Fire.
I Don’t Want to Go Home, Curtis Harding – My one big regret about Forecastle Fest this year was not catching Harding, who has gallons of boogie to go with pounds of woogie.
I Just Don’t Understand, Spoon – The grooviest band of the past decade releases what will likely be remembered as one of their finest albums. I Just Don’t Understand is the tip of the aural iceberg.
I Wanna Be a Yank, Fucked Up – Sometimes, being punk as fuck is enough.
Indie Cindy, The Pixies – The title track of the Pixies latest album nails their classic sound, which just never gets old.
Just Another Bullet, Young Fathers – Some of the eeriest production since the Geto Boys’ Mind Playing Tricks on Me. The sound of organized madness.
Legs, Chuck Inglish feat. Chromeo – Sexy, cool and not nearly as misogynistic as Blurred Lines.
Like a Mighty River, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – A sweet, smooth slice of soul music.
Little Monster, Royal Blood – To steal from Ron Burgundy, Royal Blood is “the balls.” Melodic, heavy rock with plenty of brains to go with the cajones.
Lonely Sunday, Reignwolf – Speaking of the balls … My greatest hope for 2015 is a full-length from these metalheads. Until then, this will have to do.
Longer Than You’ve Been Alive, Old 97’s – The ballad of the rock band that’s been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.
Lost Boys, Sir Michael Rocks feat. Mac Miller and Trinidad Jam – I’ve heard a lot of good production from underground hip-hop acts this year, and Sir Michael Rocks and crew benefit from this here. Lyrically, young hoodlums try to figure out how to grow up.
Love You Forever, Jenny Lewis – Aaah, Jenny’s back and all is well. Articulate, funny and heartfelt pop rock by one of my favorite lyricists.
Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head, The Wind and the Wave – I don’t love the album, but there’s a few fine tracks on From the Wreckage. This is the standout.
My Resignation, Besserbitch – Dedicated to anyone who has walked off the job with a middle finger flying high. High-energy punk pop with plenty of “screw you” built into it.
People Don’t Get What They Deserve, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – The title says it all.
Raw Milk, Parquet Courts – These guys are growing on me … in a good way, not in a “I have this fungus I can’t get rid of” way. When I hear them, I think of a lot of good ’90’s bands: Pavement, Sonic Youth, Slint, etc.
Summer Dress, July Talk – Blues rock with a pop hook with a terrific one-two punch at lead singer.
Violent Shivers, Benjamin Booker – A track that falls somewhere between classic Chuck Berry and the Kings of Leon’s debut, Youth and Young Manhood. Unrestrained blues rock.
Watch You Change, Drowners – A Strokes-ian breakup song with one of my favorite lines of the year: “There’s not a shoulder cold enough for me to give her.”
Welcome to America, Lacrae – The perfect hip-hop track for the Michael Brown era, a look at what America is for those who can’t rely on white privelege.
Honorable mentions: 27, Passenger; Ain’t So Simple, Protomartyr; American Horror, Speedy Ortiz; Black and White, Parquet Courts; Blue Moon, Beck; Bobby Reid, Lucette; Brand New, Pharrell feat. Justin Timberlake; Brooklyn Baby, Lana Del Rey; Cedar Lane, First Aid Kit; Chaghaybou, Tinariwen; Creepin’ Jenny, The Pack a.d.; Different Days, The Men; Dog Bumped (Live), Tim Barry; Don’t Leave Me Dry, Spanish Gold; Down With the Monster, White Lung; Emerald Tuesday, Cibo Matto; Fall In Love, Phantogram; Frequencies, Katie Herzig; The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, The Coast; God & Nature, Loudon Wainwright III; Guns + Ammunition, July Talk; I’ll Go To Sleep, BLUFFING; I’m Only Joking, Kongos; Interference Fits, Perfect Pussy; Jerk Ribs, Kelis; Life of Sin, Sturgill Simpson; The Littlest League Possible, Guided By Voices; Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus and Moby; Native Korean Rock, Karen O; Never, The Roots feat. Patty Crash; Now Here In, Cloud Nothings; Other Lovers, Devan DuBois; Parade of Choosers, Centro-matic; Place Names, Cymbals Eat Guitars; Rollercoaster, Bleachers; Run Rabbit Run, Black Pistol Fire; Runners, Lacrae; Sexy Socialite, Chromeo; Sisters, The Raveonettes; Supernova, Ray LaMontagne; Take Away These Early Grave Blues, Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra; Tongues, Joywave feat. KOPPS; Top Notch, Manchester Orchestra; Uno, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib