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Top 50 Songs of 2014

Here are the tracks that literally shook us this year.

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    It’s the first Friday of December, which means we’re a week into our 2014 Annual Report. But what better way to enjoy the weekend than with our Top 50 Songs of 2014? For this list, we handpicked the tracks that literally shook us this year — statements that not only captured the strengths of each respective artist, but the culture around them. Let’s just say the past 12 months have been pretty emotional.

    Feel free to let us know what you think, including some tracks you’ll take into 2015 with you. Also, stay tuned as our 2014 Annual Report continues next week with our picks for Artist of the Year, Comedian of the Year, Band of the Year, Music Festival of the Year, and Top 50 Albums of the Year. For the following week, we’ll be heading to the theaters.


    buzzkiller Top 50 Songs of 201450. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

    Jack White is one of the biggest rock stars in the world, yet you wouldn’t know it was him on “Buzzkill(er)” without paying close attention to the liner notes. White chooses to slink into the background, eschewing the spotlight and thus allowing singer Alison Mosshart to steal the show with her menacing vocals. Mosshart, in all of her usual glammy and blitzed glory, takes the listener on a slow prowl around the bowels of hell on this slice of Beefheart-inspired avant blues, which fits in perfectly with the rest of The Dead Weather’s repertoire. What’s more, it’s another solid entry in White’s personal discography and acts as indelible proof that the Third Man, who will be celebrating his 40th birthday next year, is not slowing down in the slightest. –Stevie Dunbar

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    restorationslp3 Top 50 Songs of 201449. Restorations – “Separate Songs”

    LP3

    If punk rock was a baby born in 1979, it has since grown into a grizzled 35-year-old with a drinking problem and no small amount of existential angst. Philadelphia’s Restorations specializes in this new brand of grown-up punk music. Of course, part of growing up is learning to embrace what you love. Here’s how singer Jon Loudon described the process behind “Separate Songs”: “We got to do all the things we like … heinous feedback, giant chorus, too many guitar solos.” All of the above are present on “Separate Songs”, and they add up to one of the year’s most enthralling tracks. Loudon employs his throaty bark to contemplate moving on from a long period of stasis: “Imagine not waiting for something to come along,” he shouts during the bridge. “Imagine going outside to hear the sweet sound of separate songs.” It’s a moving, introspective lyric, the likes of which you’d be hard-pressed to find in a punk song from the ’90s. Punk may be dead to some, but bands like Restorations prove that it just needs to be kicked awake every so often —Collin Brennan

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    spooky black Top 50 Songs of 201448. Spooky Black – “Without U”

    Should a 16-year-old Minnesota native be so adept at crafting delicate R&B? Probably not, but it’s 2014 and the Internet is both a playground and a library for the youth, and in some cases, we’re all better off because of it. Spooky Black’s “Without U” is arguably one of the strongest R&B tracks of the year, but you won’t hear too many people taking it seriously. The simultaneously soothing and unsettling track was paired with a music video that combined Spooky’s James Blake vibes with the Windows 98 aesthetic of Internet wunderkind Yung Lean, leaving Spooky Black in a confusing spot. Will he mature into a genre mainstay or will he fade into obscurity? I’m inclined to think this kid will be around for a while, already putting out some of the best R&B in recent memory and showing no signs of slowing down. –Pat Levy

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    disclosure-featuring-london-grammar-help-me-lose-my-mind-paul-woolford-remix47. Ariana Grande – “Problem”

    My Everything

    What’s a year-end list without a pop banger? Given its tight production and highly addictive nature, the hit single from music’s most prevalent pop pixie is the perfect one for the job. Ultimately, “Problem” deserves praise because all of its elements were perfectly groomed into one champion pop single. Audacious sax riffs, pristine vocals, a bouncy Iggy verse that actually adds to the song, and the universally known theme of still wanting that ex-someone regardless of the havoc he or she wreaks on your emotions make it a tour de force that’s nearly unbeatable by its pop counterparts. What’s more, Ariana Grande’s embellished vocals prove that she may very well rise as the next generation’s Mariah Carey, a frequently drawn comparison that she’s certainly aware of and tries to channel in her videos. Above all, “Problem” displays the most noteworthy characteristic of pop music in 2014: It’s dominated by women. –Danielle Janota

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    ceg lose Top 50 Songs of 201446. Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Jackson”

    LOSE

    Even though Joseph D’Agostino’s voice often gets compared to Mac McCaughan’s, the similarity never crossed my mind until I read it in print. That’s because the two frontmen take completely opposite approaches to their songwriting, even when the subject matter is similar. For proof, look no further than both bands’ most recent albums (I Hate Music for Superchunk and LOSE for Cymbals Eat Guitars), both of which place a dead friend at their center. But where as McCaughan reflects on Dave Doernberg — an adult when he passed away, it’s worth pointing out — with empathetic joy, D’Agostino has a hard time connecting with his older memories of Benjamin High, who died when he was only 19 of heart disease. As a result, everything on opener “Jackson” has a sense of tired wanderlust, shifting from mournful piano to guitar bombast and back over six-plus minutes of trips to Great Adventure, fearing for your life in the pines, and other fading memories of adolescent New Jersey. This aimless sonic time-traveling questions why youth is so fleeting, and the answer, of course, is that there is no answer. No matter how much we talk about it, adolescence will always be just that: adolescence. A place that only exists in our past. A place we can never get back to. –Dan Caffrey

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    __________________________________________________________

    Drake - Hold On, We're Going Home45. Hiss Golden Messenger – “Mahogany Dread”

    Lateness of Dancers

    When, on “Mahogany Dread”, Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor sings of how “the misery of love is a funny thing,” I can’t help but recall Irish scribe Samuel Beckett, who so famously assured us that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” Interpret it however you like, but I’ve always found such sentiments reassuring, a reminder that the best thing we can do in a dire situation is laugh. And the spritely organ that ripples through the coda of “Mahogany Dread” certainly sounds like laughter, bubbling up through strums and twangs that are only melancholy if you really want them to be. There’s no doubt that “Mahogany Dread” is one of Lateness of Dancers darker tracks, but that’s like saying “The Music Box” is one of the darker episodes of Little House on the Prairie. Yeah, there’s struggle here, but Taylor himself ushers us out with the assertion that “happy days are still ahead.” –Randall Colburn

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    muppets most wanted Top 50 Songs of 201444. Bret McKenzie – “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)”

    Muppets Most Wanted: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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    In 2012, Bret McKenzie won his first Oscar for “Man or Muppet”, the hilariously existential anthem that propelled Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel’s much lauded Muppets reboot in 2011. For the film’s sequel, the Flight of the Conchords singer-songwriter toggled through some light FM and tapped into his inner Lionel Richie for “I’ll Get You Want You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)”, delivering a proper follow-up that could not only nab him another Oscar nomination but get everyone on the dance floor, too. This isn’t surprising. What always separated the Conchords from their comic peers was their ability to rise above the limitations of any traditional parody. They could make you laugh but ultimately win you over with familiar hooks and thoughtful lyrics. McKenzie has yet to abandon that formula — why should he? — and puts it to great use once again for Kermit & co. It’s the hit Chromeo never wrote — a song that could double as a theme for a villainous amphibian and a hearty first dance at a wedding. –Michael Roffman

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    white lung deep fantasy Top 50 Songs of 201443. White Lung – “Drown with the Monster”

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    Deep Fantasy

    Rather than try to outdo the mountainous menace of the doomy rock track backing her on “Drown with the Monster”, White Lung vocalist Mish Way takes a subtler approach. “The water looks good on you,” she repeats, while blithely pushing the object of her icy sneer under the surface. But from Way’s description of the song, she’s looking at herself: “It’s a song about my two biggest vices, but I’d rather drown with the monster than blow dry my wounds.” White Lung put out an unbelievable string of great tracks this year, but when it came to making a singular statement on an LP, they wisely chose “Drown with the Monster” to set the tone — and the dark, eerie track and Way’s explosive vocals do just that. –Adam Kivel

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    alvvays Top 50 Songs of 201442. Alvvays – “Next of Kin”

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    Alvvays

    Toronto indie pop outfit Alvvays burst onto the scene in 2012 but didn’t release an album until this July’s self-titled debut, a record that was truly a gift to the indie world for several reasons. Among those is the compact nature of the record, every song delicately mapped out without unnecessary frills or wasted space. “Next of Kin” stands out as the album’s best track, a succinct and hook-heavy song that displays exactly what this young band has going for them. The jangly guitar riff plays so well off Molly Rankin’s surprisingly romantic vocals about a friend drowning during a fun trip to the river. If they can put out such a dynamic, sugary pop song using that subject matter, there’s seemingly nothing this band can’t do. —Pat Levy

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    sbr107 themen tomorrows hits 1440 Top 50 Songs of 201441. The Men – “Another Night”

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    Tomorrow’s Hits

    Although 2014 saw plenty of great music, some feel there was a dearth of good ol’ high-quality rock. Perhaps that’s because some of the genre’s best was released way back in February. “Another Night” rings through with clear-eyed purity, the result of seven musicians in a studio together just “going for it,” as singer/guitarist Mark Perro put it. No overdubs, no canned sounds, just bloody-knuckled piano and a horn section all blaring together live, channeling E Street Band jubilation so well they could easily convince older fans the track was a long-lost B-side. Yet, at the same time, there’s the urgent modernity that The Men have become masters of as they devour genres and digest them through their instruments. It’s another example of how whenever you get that nagging feeling that people have forgotten how to rock ‘n’ roll, you can always count on The Men. –Ben Kaye

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    CHVRCHES-Recover10. Drake – “0-100”

    Never has touting the upcoming release schedule for your label sounded so good. Drake, once a Canadian teen soap star meme, is now one of the most covered rappers in the game, as well as one of the most newsworthy musicians in 2014 and for good reason. Drake pulled a Drake and dropped “0 to 100/The Catch Up” during Hot 97’s Summer Jam, never a man to shy away from being the spectacle or stealing someone else’s shine.

    Whether you love or hate the guy, that’s a power move, and power moves seem to be the only kind Drake makes these days. Aside from Young Thug’s “Danny Glover” and Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga”, there was no song in 2014 that brought on an instant turn up more than when the beat for “0 to 100” dropped; it was an undeniable force to be reckoned with. That’s been Drake’s motif lately; even if you don’t fuck with him, you’re gonna have to fuck with his music.

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    It’s unavoidable. He’s ubiquitous in a way that no other rapper can pull off. Who else can lay out their career narrative in a club banger one day and be selling custom lint rollers the next? (And still make it look good?) No one, honestly, and that’s the appeal of Drake. He pulls off things that no one else can in a way that no one else even wants to attempt. Going back to the aforementioned release slate announcement, Drake let the OVO schedule leak mid-song, implying that we should all be paying attention in early 2015 for a hefty amount of new music from his Canadian collective. Let me know when Kanye drops a loosie with his next album’s release date wedged into the middle like it’s just another lyric. –Pat Levy

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    Perfume Genius - Too Bright9. Perfume Genius – “Queen”

    Too Bright

    When Mike Hadreas first emerged in 2010 with the honest, stunning album Learning, there were likely few who could imagine the Pacific Northwest songwriter being outspoken about, well, anything. Seeing him perform at the Matador 21st anniversary concert that year, his set was 20 minutes of tightrope-walking, barely able to hold the attention of the drunk Vegas crowd, with Hadreas needing the comfort of his boyfriend sitting next to him to get through the performance. The self-deprecating humor that is still present in Perfume Genius concerts was there, but, it felt like more than humor. It was self-deprecating from someone still learning how to like themselves.

    Now three albums into an ever-fascinating and impactful career, Perfume Genius is able to release a song like “Queen”, virtually the opposite of the frightened, shaky singer who emerged five years ago. In concert, Hadreas plays the song on his feet, with shifting poses and confident outfits. He opens his eyes when he sings. He looks the audience in the eyes.

    The sentiment comes later on the album Too Bright, when Hadreas says, “I don’t need your love, I need you to listen.” “Queen” is the actualization of this concept, with Hadreas sick of the bigotry and epithets, using typical language of slander as that of empowerment. “No family is safe when I sashay,” he sings with a wink.

    During the run for his second album, the playfully titled Put Your Back N 2 It, Hadreas made some waves for the video for “Hood”, which featured a bear gay porn star and was deemed inappropriate by YouTube, despite showing literally nothing offensive (unless you find the very idea of two men showing affection offensive, and if you do, well, fuck you).

    “I wish I was more confident,” Hadreas told The Guardian this year, “And I want to say in interviews that I am, but I know I’m not really matched to the music yet.” This makes “Queen” all the more impressive, as it is Hadreas using music to push himself. We’ve seen the strides on stage, and we can hear the strides in his music, and after a single like “Queen”, the sky seems like the limit for how far Perfume Genius can go as an artist. –Philip Cosores

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    tswift1989 Top 50 Songs of 20148. Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”

    1989

    This wasn’t the Taylor we remembered. When “Shake It Off” rocketed across the internet last summer, it was impossible to avoid just how not country it was. It wasn’t a breakup song, either, not in the traditional sense. Instead of pouring her regrets over clean guitar, Taylor Swift was here to tell us that everything was going to be alright.

    “Shake It Off” was out of character for Swift then, and it ended up being a little out of character in the context of the album that followed, 1989, which mostly chased down a darker ’80s pop template. But that album’s first single still ended up crystallizing the end of the summer and the months to come for many of us. Sure, it’s not the first song that’s been written about the haters and how they’re gonna hate, but hearing that Hakuna Matata mantra come from the same singer who wrote “I Knew You Were Trouble” felt, well, revelatory.

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    Swift’s got her fair share of haters. She just learned to stop thinking about them. As if to taunt the naysayers for even daring to laugh behind her back, she went ahead and landed her new maxim with one of the strongest hooks she’s penned to date. Maybe you’re still pop-skeptical, but just listen to the way she smiles with her voice when she rounds out each chorus. Listen to how she sings, “I never miss a beat/ I’m lightning on my feet/ And that’s what they don’t see.” She’s one of the most recognizable faces in the country, but there are still sides to her you’ve never seen.

    Was there ever such a pure pump-up song to crash-land at the end of the summer? Swift can make her melodies ripple like it’s no problem. All she wants is for you to be able to throw out your reservations the way she’s thrown away hers. — Sasha Geffen

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    Spoon - TheyWantMySoul7. Spoon – “Do You”

    They Want My Soul

    Just when you thought Spoon wasn’t any fun anymore, they go and cut a track like “Do You”. Though their 2010 album, Transference, was a hit with the critics, its detached, subdued sound came as an unwelcome surprise for fans of their spunkier side. The bleak LP contrasted starkly its poppy precursor, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, trading pep and pluck for dejection and cynicism. That’s not to say Transference was a misstep; the album explored the stifling emotions of alienation and ennui with an unguarded sincerity that felt bare and honest. Still, it didn’t seem like a Spoon record. Where were the effervescent harmonies, the carefree choruses, the whimsical wordplay? Rest assured, they’re back in full force on blithe, bubbly pop rock tune “Do You”.

    According to lead singer and guitarist Britt Daniel, Spoon’s most recent album, They Want My Soul, has the band “getting back to the essence of Spoon; just having fun playing together … figuring out new ways of doing what we’ve always done.” And nowhere is this more apparent than on this, the album’s first single. Leading with chirpy backup vocals and jaunty acoustic guitar riffs, the Austin rock outfit alternates between playfully kvetching about an Indian Summer scorcher (“Someone get popsicles/ Someone’s gotta do something ‘bout this heat”) and bombarding an ex with pointed, scathing questions (“Do you run when it’s just getting good?!”).

    Grafting airy falsettos onto an infectious melody, Daniel sounds pissed but decidedly upbeat. Atop Jim Eno’s punchy drums, the singer’s incessant, raspy intonations convey the guilty pleasure of pointing a finger at an erstwhile sweetheart (“Do you?/ Doooo you?/ Dooo-you-hoo!”). And despite some bickering between Daniel and co-producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes, The Shins, My Morning Jacket), the densely layered production drives exactly the kind of “emotional, hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck” reaction that Spoon’s built its reputation on. Overflowing with rakish vim, the fresh and exuberant “Do You” is undeniably the product of a refreshed, resurgent band. Turns out a four-year hiatus was exactly what they needed. –Henry Hauser

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    haim-falling6. Lykke Li – “No Rest for the Wicked”

    I Never Learn

    Following one of the worst breakups of her life, Lykke Li moved across countries and continents from Sweden to LA at 28. The result is I Never Learn, the most heartbreaking but accessible record of her career. Loaded with anthems about struggling with loneliness and sadness, perhaps one of the most gutting songs of the album deals with her own part in the end of her relationship. “No Rest for the Wicked” takes a bold step to subvert the standard “I’ve been wronged” trope in pop music; Li looks at her ended relationship with the complexity and nuance that breakups often deserve.

    Not only is “No Rest for the Wicked” lyrically strong, it’s also a hell of a pop jam. Opening with a repeating piano riff, the track, which also served as the LP’s lead single, features cold but bombastic instrumentation anchored by Li’s magnetic voice. Written while she was packing for her move, the still-fresh pain in her voice is evident when she sings lines like, “I let my good one down/ I let my true love die/ I had his heart but I broke it every time.” While she’s admitting her own culpability, the song is so relatable that the sentiment is universal. In an album full of songs dealing with the traumatic fallout of a relationship (“Sleeping Alone”, “Heart of Steel”, “Never Gonna Love Again”), “No Rest for the Wicked” is an unrelentingly honest autopsy. –Josh Terry

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    sia - 1000 forms of fear5. Sia – “Chandelier”

    1000 Forms of Fear

    If you flipped the radio on 12 months ago, chances are you would’ve heard a Sia-penned song without actually ever knowing it. She’s had a hand in Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You”, as well as countless cuts by Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Christina Aguilera, but neither her name nor her face would likely have registered. For the longest time, this is how it’s been for the Australian pop singer and songwriter, especially here in America, where songwriting credits are usually an afterthought, unless you’re, say, that one dude from Fun. (To be perfectly honest, I once saw Sia on NBC’s The Voice a few seasons ago, and my first thought was, “Who the hell is that?” Obviously, a cursory Wikipedia search promptly shut me up.)

    The ambiguity surrounding Sia’s persona changed this year, however, with the release of 1000 Forms of Fear. Though it served as her sixth full-length, the album seemed like her first real proper introduction to the world. Marketing budgets and major label support aside, the music easily spoke for itself, highlighting a more direct, confident, and committed Sia. No song better captured her “rebirth” than the massive lead single, “Chandelier”, a piercing and insightful look at the perils of partying too hard and how one can easily lose his/her emotional and mental footing when caught up in a life of booze-fueled bliss. On the semi-autobiographical song, Sia hits hard lyrically, but it’s her commanding vocal performance that really goes for the jugular — the chorus soars higher than any chandelier, and the intensity with which she sings is enough to knock the wind out of you twice over.

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    Even with its sonic power and chart-blitzing success, perhaps the greatest thing about “Chandelier” is how Sia chose to portray herself in both its corresponding music video and subsequent live renditions. Represented only by a blonde bob wig and never her face, she’s even gone as far as performing with her back to the audience and having actress Lena Dunham, as well as other random people (men and women), “stand in” for her at various events. The wig has since become a trademark of Sia’s, her own personal way of dealing with fame (or not dealing with it at all), of refusing to be reduced to a mere pretty face or glamorous press photo. “I thought it would be a funny joke that I’m getting away with,” she told NPR matter-of-factly. “And it was, partly, I don’t wanna go out and sell my soul, my body, my peace of mind.” Funny to think that most listeners still can’t identify Sia by face months after 1000 Forms’ release, but only by her music and that bob — something I’m positive she’s absolutely thrilled about. –Michelle Geslani

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    daft punk get lucky4. Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me”

    You’re Dead!

    The great-nephew of Alice and John Coltrane, Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) has long respected the raucous free jazz movement. Even before his artistic advancements and underground credibility earned him recording time with an array of touted studio musicians, Ellison was toiling away in his Los Angeles bedroom, solo, constructing dense, psychedelic instrumentals that would incite a new movement among experimental LA beatsmiths. Consummately ahead of the game, FlyLo pushed himself and his roster of collaborators to a new, uncharted astral plane during the sessions behind You’re Dead!. While some of these exploits were even too futuristic (or haphazard depending who one asks) to resonate outside of the beat community, Kendrick Lamar was able to tame FlyLo and co. with his own rhythmic dominance during “Never Catch Me”.

    At the onset of the track, following a calming ivory run, Lamar offers some guidance into acceptance of the album: “Step inside of my mind and you’ll find curiosity, animosity/ High philosophy, hyper-prophesied meditation/ Reminisce on my wonder years and I wonder here/ Sentiments of my words ain’t been so sincere.” The controlled chaos of both the lyrics and instrumental offer an escape from the monotony of the everyday grind and (even without the aid of DMT or psilocybin) opens the portal into our shared existence. It’s a trip not everyone is ready to take.

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    Lamar was such a fan of the track, it almost didn’t make the album. According to Ellison, leading to the release of the LP, Lamar wanted to hold the song for his own album, a decision that Ellison fortunately thwarted when he passed along a collection of Captain Murphy beats for consideration on Lamar’s next solo project. You’re Dead! is one of those albums that will continue to grow in appreciation, and “Never Catch Me” serves as a pivotal inducement for repeat listens. –Derek Staples

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    Against Me - transgender-dysphoria-blues3. Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

    Transgender Dysphoria Blues

    What separated “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” from every song in 2014 was conviction. No song carried the same emotional weight as Laura Jane Grace’s personal rallying call. It’s frank (“They just see a faggot“), it’s venomous (“You’ve got no cunt in your strut”), it’s tragic (“But we can’t choose how we’re made“), and it’s honest (“You want them to notice“). As the opening track of Against Me!’s sixth studio album of the same name, the track works as a rousing thesis for everything that follows: an ambitious portrait of self-discovery that’s scathing, tumultuous, and ultimately relieving.

    “Those are the fears you go through when you transition,” Grace told Spin earlier this year. “You don’t necessarily know the person that you’re going to end up looking like or who you’re going to end up as. And that being said, I’m still in transition. My life is in a state of flux right now where I don’t really know where it’s going to come out on the other end. That’s terrifying.” What’s remarkable, then, is how Grace has never closed the door on that terror. Instead, she works out those ugly demons in the guise of an addicting punk song.

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    For the past few years, author Bret Easton Ellis has discussed ad nauseam, either online or amidst his remarkable podcast, the idea of a post-Empire culture, where today’s celebrities have shattered their traditionally conservative barriers in lieu of a new cultural transparency. “They want reality,” he argues. In that respect, Grace is leading the pack in the music industry, espousing personal truths that vilify her critics and vindicate her followers. It’s only fitting that Against Me! — an outfit whose MO has always been punk rock anthems — would be her proper medium. –Michael Roffman

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    cloud nothings here and nowhere2. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”

    Here & Nowhere Else

    “It starts right now.”

    Them’s healing words. They’re what you repeat to yourself after a rattling shift even if you know they won’t mean anything yet, a lighthouse that the mind builds while it waits for the heart to catch up. When you actually believe them for the first time, that’s when the corner’s been turned. “I’m Not Part of Me” captures that turn, subdues it, and delivers it on a four-and-a-half-minute platter. This is a song; it has a bridge, a chorus, three verses, and no tricks up its sleeve. After seven tracks of full-band body-blows that contort at dizzying speeds, the impact of hearing Dylan Baldi’s solitary guitar rev up and start, inhabiting 100 percent of the space in the first 10 seconds, lets you know immediately that his Cloud Nothings bandmates have left the room; it’s only him now, which is to say his entire past is right here with him.

    Grappling with the past to figure out the best way to carry it is, ultimately, what Here and Nowhere Else is all about. All your classic self-help-manual clichés are here, to be sure: “stay present” (“I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else…”), “let go of what you can’t control” (“…how to focus on what I can do myself”), and of course, Baldi’s slightly more palatable spin on “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” But they’ve never sounded more fresh than when stoically stated atop the most perfectly rounded composition Baldi’s written yet, and when he charges into those three notes that smack the sweet spot of his vocal register — “I’m not, I’m not you” — he stamps this as the breakthrough that the entire album builds towards, the point he becomes ready to fully own a life experience that’s his and his alone, and, better than any other song in 2014, a succinct explanation of what it means to let go of something. — Steven Arroyo

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    futureislands singles Top 50 Songs of 20141. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

    Singles

    “Seasons (Waiting on You)” became Future Islands’ bright-lights moment in every possible way, but (yes) one in particular. In March, the supremely ticket-worthy Baltimore synthpop band brought the single — and frontman Samuel T. Herring’s overpowering stage presence, all speed skater-esque dance moves and chest-pounding sincerity — to the Late Show with David Letterman in light of the release of their fourth album and 4AD debut, Singles. And there it was: indie’s most memorable late-night performance of 2014, easily, not to mention the three million views it’s racked up since. “What a weirdo,” whispered some skeptical viewers, certainly, but another observation was more telling: “This guy is really into it.” Mr. Letterman evidently aligned with the second group (and maybe the first as well, who knows), as he brayed, “Nice goin’! I’ll take all of that ya got!” Same here, dude.

    Where, then, does that leave the studio version? As Singles’ opening song, it kicks off Future Islands’ boldest pop statement to date, as William Cashion and Gerrit Welmers back up their frontman’s momentum with emphatic chord changes and surges in volume. “Seasons change/ But I’ve grown tired of trying to change for you,” Herring sings, and even though he doesn’t actually hock up his death-metal growl like he did on Letterman and elsewhere in Future Islands’ discography, he’s still plenty arresting. As fun as it is to watch Herring in all his confidence, it’s just as good to sit with “Seasons” on repeat: Have I mentioned how catchy it is, classy song-title parenthetical and all? Seasons do change, with each three-month interval bringing a similar amount of uncertainty — that much is certain. Good thing you can listen to this to your heart’s content, knowing Herring will always be there to remind us (presumably with a drunk-on-pure-passion look in his eyes) that we’re not to overlook the importance of gaining human connection before the credits roll. –Michael Madden

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    Listen to the Top 50 Songs of 2014 on Rdio or Spotify

    1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
    2. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”
    3. Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
    4. Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me”
    5. Sia – “Chandelier”
    6. Lykke Li – “No Rest for the Wicked”
    7. Spoon – “Do You”
    8. Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
    9. Perfume Genius – “Queen”
    10. Drake – “0-100”
    11. The War on Drugs – “Red Eyes”
    12. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
    13. Kendrick Lamar – “i”
    14. Angel Olsen – “Windows”
    15. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
    16. Caribou – “Our Love”
    17. Ought – “Habit”
    18. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
    19. Sharon Van Etten – “Tarifa”
    20. Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”
    21. Schoolboy Q – “Man of the Year”
    22. The Districts – “Rocking Chair”
    23. Chromeo – “Jealous (Ain’t With It)”
    24. Speedy Ortiz – “American Horror”
    25. Lana Del Rey – “West Coast”
    26. Beck – “Blue Moon”
    27. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
    28. Perfect Pussy – “Driver”
    29. Run the Jewels – “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”
    30. Julian Casablancas + The Voidz – “Where No Eagles Fly”
    31. together PANGEA – “River”
    32. Angel Olsen – “Unfucktheworld”
    33. La Dispute – “Woman (Reading)”
    34. PUP – “Reservoir”
    35. Hurray for the Riff Raff – “The Body Electric”
    36. Vic Mensa – “Down on My Luck”
    37. Grimes – “Go”
    38. Mr. Twin Sister- “Blush”
    39. FKA Twigs – “Pendulum”
    40. Isaiah Rashad – “Heavenly Father”
    41. The Men – “Another Night”
    42. Alvvays – “Next of Kin”
    43. White Lung – “Drown with the Monster”
    44. Bret McKenzie – “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)”
    45. Hiss Golden Messenger – “Mahogany Dread”
    46. Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Jackson”
    47. Ariana Grande – “Problem”
    48. Spooky Black – “Without U”
    49. Restorations – “Separate Songs”
    50. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

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