27, Passenger – A 27-year-old takes stock of his life. Witty, intelligent and occasionally sad.
1,000 Deaths, D’Angelo – D’Angelo emerges from his hibernation to drop one of the more interesting discs of 2014. Welcome back.
Avant Gardner, Courtney Barnett – Stream-of-consciousness psychedelic folk. Plus Barnett uses “emphysema” as a verb.
Bad News, Sleeper Agent – Love him or hate him? To be decided …
Blinded, The Bots – Not sure either of these brothers is old enough to drink. They are, however, old enough to kick musical ass.
Come Back Home, Trampled By Turtles – Amp the speed up to ludicrous and belt out top-notch bluegrass tunes. Repeat as necessary.
Dat Sound Good, PRhyme feat. Ab-Soul and Mac Miller – DJ Premier always sound good. Here, teamed up with Royce da 5’9″ and guests Ab-Soul and Mac Miller, the track rolls as the rhymers raise their game to keep up.
Dead Man’s Tetris, Flying Lotus feat. Captain Murphy and Snoop Dogg – I love it when hip-hop experiments. The production is unique and other-worldly, and Snoop lends the most familiar voice in the rap game to ground the track.
Don’t Mess With Me, Brody Dalle – Mrs. Josh Homme cranks out no-nonsense, ballsy rock.
Doses & Mimosas, Cherub – Probably my favorite song of 2014, and definitely not in my wheelhouse. A hedonistic, electro-funk disco kiss off that may be one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard.
Eye to Eye, Lee Bains & The Expressions – Soul music, done right.
FUNKNROLL, Prince – Ah, funky Prince sticks his head up again. Feels so damn good.
Guns + Ammunition, July Talk – I keep going back and forth on this one or Summer Dress. These Canadians are responsible for one of the best live shows I witnessed in 2014. Can’t wait to see them again.
High & Wild, Angel Olsen – A swirling haze of distorted guitars wrapped around Angel’s stoned, vulnerable voice.
I Just Don’t Understand, Spoon – Spoon’s always known how to ride a groove, but they upped their songwriting game on 2014’s They Want My Soul.
Indie Cindy, The Pixies – Classic Pixie sound, new Pixie song.
Jolly Fucker, Sleaford Mods – These guys land somewhere between iconoclastic Sex Pistols and Brit hip-hop star The Streets, a mix of UK punk attitude and stoner rap.
Just Another Bullet, Young Fathers – I’m not sure you can really go wrong with anything from Dead, but Just Another Bullet has some of the most interesting production I heard in the past year.
Legs, Chuck Inglish feat. Chromeo – A former Cool Kid teams up with the latest neo-funk stars for a track that should have been banging out of every third car over the course of the summer of 2014.
Like a Mighty River, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Soul music, effortless and classic.
Little Monster, Royal Blood – Just a bass player and a drummer cranking out thick, deep, melodic metal.
Littlest League Possible, Guided By Voices – So GBV imploded in 2014? Bob Pollard will likely be back with seventy-two albums in 2015, so you won’t get much of a chance to miss the genius of this Midwestern songwriter.
Love You Forever, Jenny Lewis – If only Jenny’s output was at a rate closer to that of Bob Pollard and Guided by Voices. But you won’t hear me complaining about the final product.
Madness, King Tuff – If this was 1983, I’d be calling this “rad.” I’ll stick with that.
The Map, Parkay Quarts – Parquet Courts’ alter ego dropped this little nugget of madness late in the year.
Means to be a Woman, Brother O’ Brother – Bluesy Indiana rock of the highest order.
My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head, The Wind and the Wave – This is one of those songs where the first time you hear it, you’ll be singing along by the second chorus. And by that point, you’ll have already been stomping your feet and clapping your hands through the verses.
My Resignation, Besserbitch – A chewy nugget of punk-pop rage.
New American Standard, Wussy – Sometimes, nice and easy works. This stripped-down rock cut exemplifies that.
Not the End of the World (Even as We Know It), Faded Paper Figures – “Yeah / It’s hard / But it’s not the end of the world / Not even as we know it.”
Oblivious, Jessica Lee Mayfield – Hints of Mazzy Star and Sleater-Kinney. I just love the guitar sound.
Question Everything, Logic – Quit listening to the lies and bullshit and see the truth. #logicforpresident
Raw Milk, Parquet Courts – When I hear Parquet Courts, I think of a lot of good 1990’s bands: Pavement, Sonic Youth, Slint, etc. Courts manage to reflect those influences while crafting their own sound.
Talk to God, Goat – It’s interesting and a bit hypnotic, rock grounded in folk tradition.
Two Weeks, FKA twigs – Twig’s album, LP1, is incredibly overrated. That said, promise shines through on tracks such as this one.
Violent Shiver, Benjamin Booker – Unrestrained blues rock that’ll have you bouncing off the walls.
Watch You Change, Drowners – I said it earlier this year, these rockers have one of my favorite lines of 2014: “There’s not a shoulder / cold enough for me / to give her.”
Welcome to America, Lacrae – Fight for your country and return, only to be targeted as a thug or gangster by the society you served. Welcome to America, indeed.
West Coast, Lana Del Rey – This and Brooklyn Baby drew me into Lana’s web.
On the bubble: Brand New, Pharrell feat. Justin Timberlake; Bring Me Your Loves, St. Vincent; Brooklyn Baby, Lana Del Rey; Chaghaybou, Tinariwen; Change My Ways, Tony Molina; Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck), Run the Jewels feat. Zach de la Rocha; Disco Shit, Cherub; D.R.E.A.M., Pharoahe Monch feat. Talib Kweli; Drown With the Monster, White Lung; Emerald Tuesday, Cibo Matto; Fall in Love, Phantogram; God & Nature, Loudon Wainwright III; I Don’t Wanna Go Home, Curtis Harding; I Wanna Be a Yank, Fucked Up; Jerk Ribs, Kelis; Lonely Sunday, Reignwolf; Longer Than You’ve Been Alive, Old ’97s; Lost Boys, Sir Michael Rocks feat. Mac Miller and Trinidad James; Never, The Roots feat. Patty Crash; Other Lovers, Devon Dubois; Owen, Frankie Cosmos; People Don’t Get What They Deserve, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings; Porkpig, Logic; Riff Randall, Sleeping Bag; Rollercoaster, Bleachers; Sexy Socialite, Chromeo; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Flaming Lips feat. My Morning Jacket, Fever the Ghost and J. Mascis; Strut, Lenny Kravitz; … to the bars, Sterile Jets
Honorable mentions: Ain’t So Simple, Protomartyr; American Horror, Speedy Ortiz; Black and White, Parquet Courts; Blind Faze, TOPS; Blue Moon, Beck; Bobby Reid, Lucette; Can’t Break Me Down, Billy Idol; Cedar Lane, First Aid Kit; China, BRONCHO; Creepin’ Jenny, The Pack a.d.; Dog Bumped (Live), Tim Barry; Don’t Leave Me Dry, Spanish Gold; Faithless, Black Veil Brides; Frequencies, Katie Herzig; Ghost & Pains, Wildbirds & Peacedrums; Heady Ways, Fly Golden Eagle; Heavy Metal and Reflective, Azaelia Banks; I Am Me, Logic; I’ll Go To Sleep, BLUFFING; I’m Only Joking, Kongos; The Impasse, Hookworms; Interference Fits, Perfect Pussy; Just One Drink, Jack White; Life of Sin, Sturgill Simpson; Long Gone, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger; Looking for Something, Paolo Nutini; Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus and Moby; Magic, Mystery Skulls feat. Niles Rodgers and Brandy; Native Korean Rock, Karen O; Now Here In, Cloud Nothings; Parade of Choosers, Centro-Matic; Place Names, Cymbals Eat Guitars; Red Water, Diamond Youth; Run Rabbit Run, Black Pistol Fire; Runners, Lacrae; Sisters, Raveonettes; Slow Coming, Benjamin Booker; Sober, Childish Gambino; Soul Food, Big K.R.I.T feat. Rafael Saadiq; Summer Dress, July Talk; Supernova, Ray LaMontagne; Take Away These Early Grave Blues, Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra; Top Notch, Manchester Orchestra; Tongues, Joywave feat. KOPPS; Uno, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib; World Away, Tweedy