70. Your Love Will Set You Free---Caribou***
Dan Snaith is an unapologetic romantic, and god bless him for it. The closer on an album that takes the devastations and triumphs of deep affection as its subject, Your Love is decidedly more lyrically driven than the rest of Our Love, with words and sounds that work in tandem to describe the thin line between nerves and ecstasy.
69. Stay Gold---First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit's masterclass on communicating longing and apprehension, the title track from the Söderberg sisters' latest is an anthem of disenchantment, though you can still hear the belief in better times hiding somewhere in its depths. Robert Frost would be proud.
68. Back Home---Caribou
A lot of Caribou's Our Love LP is predicated on build-ups and delayed gratification. No single track embodies this notion more fully than Back Home, which waits more than a minute to raise its voice beyond a gentle whisper, building from there into a love ballad as towering as it is bewitching.
67. My Silver Lining---First Aid Kit***
Simply put, this song captures every reason why I prefer First Aid Kit to your average country/western leaning outfit. The lyrics defy immediate comprehension, forcing you to ask your own questions as that violin paints the sky in pastel colors, and the Söderbergs' voices seemingly merge into one glorious whole.
66. Regret---St. Vincent
Annie Clark's guitar is prone to emitting crunchy, distorted sounds, but even by her standards, the riff that opens Regret is pretty damn huge. It continues to layer and deviate, all while Clark's voice floats off into the clouds, juxtaposing the soft and the harsh in ways only she can.
65. Heaven Knows---First Aid Kit
Stay Gold is a great album that registers as a triumph well before this deep cut takes things to another level. The hoedown that begins less the 30 seconds into the song might as well be a dubstep-style beat drop, trading in the subdued opening notes for the biggest, brightest sound they've ever made.
64. The Remains of Rock and Roll---Broken Bells***
The deeply indulgent and equally wonderful closer to After the Disco sees James Mercer's familiar serenading encased in 1950's technicolor sheen, brought into the modern age by Danger Mouse's production wizardry.
63. Black Out Days---Phantogram
I nominate Sarah Barthel's immediate, immortal, "Oh, ay, yay, yaaah," for 2014's gibberish rallying cry of the year. The conviction in her voice is so strong that proper English need not apply, though that absolute stomper of a beat doesn't really hurt either.62. Sedated---Hozier
Hozier's instrumentation is fine and all, but let's be honest; the real draw here is Andrew Hozier-Byrne's booming, evocative voice. Sedated knows this well, boasting a barebones backing that allows the warbler to take over in commanding fashion.
61. Stolen Dance---Milky Chance***
How good does a song have to be to make a band named Milky Chance (?!?) a global sensation? About this good, I'd say. SD is all about keeping things steady, that alluring percussion and string interplay driving one of the most surprisingly undeniable tracks of the year.
60. Wait for a Minute---tUnE-yArDs
Merrill Garbus isn't exactly known for making... you know... 'normal' music, which makes her obvious grab for the non-esoteric that much more interesting. No insane cadence change-ups or wounded howls here, just a woman working through issues of identity and insecurity in the most immediate, direct way that her mad-cap mind can manage.
59. Birth In Reverse---St. Vincent
Can we quickly take a second to appreciate how ballsy it was for St. Vincent to open her latest album's first single with the line, "Oh, what an ordinary day/Take out the garbage, masterbate?" In every imaginable fashion, Annie Clark defies what it means to be a successful female solo artist, from off-handed lines like that, to the singular and savage manner in which she reigns upon the electric guitar. It must be frustrating to be a rock star in a world that often treats said designation as a boy's club, but it's ok; she'll burn the damn tree house down if she has to.
58. Salad Days---Mac DeMarco***
Does it feel at least slightly off to rank such a lazy, stripped down, shortly-lived track in my top 60 of the whole of 2014? Sure, yes, absolutely, but I simply can't resist DeMarco's super-stoned version of kiss-off, chip-on-my-shoulder style songwriting, and the peace that he finds therein.
In some ways, Eric Berglund's ceo side project plays out like a dare, an established artist getting down right cheesy, and challenging you to not love the sound. Mirage is perhaps the most lactose-inclusive success of this still-young project, with an inviting chorus that simply can't match its gorgeous, ravishing verses.56. Xplode---Hot Tea Cold***
Portland's own Hot Tea Cold certainly knows how to groove, Xplode proving emblematic of their tight-knit, funky sound. Propped up by an irrepressible bass line, and driven home Glen Hoover's scintilating guitar solos, Xplode is among the four purest minutes of fun I had all year.
55. Another Night---The Men
Another Night is a 1:36 AM dive bar jam if ever you've heard one, chugging along with that same catchy guitar refrain, even throwing an unexpected trumpet at the problem. These guys just love to rock, and their joy and excitement is downright infectious.
54. Hotel---The Antlers
By Familiars' standards, this is a rock song. While the Antlers' latest is a loose, contemplative thing that feels NO rush to 'get to the point,' Hotel offers an immediate through-line, cracking open with drums, keys, and electronics, these stark, commanding notes serving as the engine that drives us all the way to the track's climactic, jazzy six-string solo.
53. Talking Backwards---Real Estate***
Real Estate makes simple, sunny morsels that prefer immediate guitar hooks to any real sort of intricacy. TB might as well be their calling card, consisting almost exclusively of gently tapping percussion, Martin Courtney's comfortably lazy voice, and some magically unfussy fret work that will stick in your head for days.52. They Want My Soul---Spoon
So, yeah, pretty much everyone out there wants Britt Daniel's soul, but can you really blame them when he writes songs like this? Spoon's latest title track pulls out every trick in their pop rock playbook, from zippy little guitar fills to steady, kinetic percussion, and even adorns them with a few, "fa la la's," just for good measure.
If I'm being truthful, it's tough to keep writing about Spoon without just repeating the same glowing compliments. Yes, the band's range is substantial, Outlier serving as one of the more exciting, energetic tracks on their whole 2014 LP, but what remains consistent is their status as songwriting savants, knowing exactly where to insert each sound and note to tantalizing effect.
50. Now Here In---Cloud Nothings***
With each new Cloud Nothings album, the band gets harder, faster, tighter, meaner, and better. Now Here In is a perfect opener, stuffed to the gills with mania and menace. Back in 2012, The Men offered up some of my personal all-time favorite spurned lover lyrics when Mark Perro uttered "I wanna see you write a love song!/ I wanna see you go down!/ I wanna see you when you try so hard!/ I wanna see you when you turn it around!"; NHI has done them one better with the simple vinegar of, "I can feel your pain, and I feel all right about it."
49. Do You---Spoon
Do You finds everything perfectly positioned for maximum impact; its wrapped up in inviting hand claps, fitted with handsome miniature guitar fills, and adorned with a perfectly calibrated vocal turn from Britt Daniel. For a band that's often described as workmanlike, Spoon makes the exacting nature of DY sound awfully easy.48. True Trans Soul Rebel---Against Me!***
No point in making this more difficult than it needs to be; TTSR has just a massive riff at its core, not in the sense that it over-powers eardrums, but that it rolls around in them long after its tidy 3+ minutes are over. While the tune stands out as one of Transgender Dysphoria Blues finest moments, it's perhaps more at home serving as a mission statement for an album sporting no shortage of rollicking punk rock delights.
47. Black Me Out---Against Me!***
So... while we're on the subject of massive riffs... Black Me Out is somehow both incredibly bitter and mind-numbingly victorious, a declaration of self that wishes only the worst for all who oppose lead singer Laura Jane Grace. It's the sound of lifting your middle finger, and feeling the weight of the world roll right off your back.
46. Master Pretender---First Aid Kit
In which the sisters finally lighten up a little. Not only is this Stay Gold's most positive lyrical offering, it sounds even more optimistic, Mike Mogis' production ensuring that no fewer than 18 different instruments coalesce without the slightest hint of indulgence (and yes, I needed the liner notes to find that absurd number, and no, I don't know what a Lap Dulcimer is... nor a Mellotron, for that matter).