Best of 2014

For much of the past year, I figured that the Best of 2014 playlist to which I’d been occasionally adding songs would never reach the absurd length of the previous year’s attempt at cataloging my musical favorites. When everything shook out, though, I ended up with 162 tracks—exactly two more than on my 2013 playlist.

Which should tell you a few things: how much excellent music is released in any given year, how easy it is to access it these days, and, well, how obsessive I am about it. Throughout the year, as I listen to new albums, the question, “Which song should I put on the playlist?” is never far from my mind. As the year comes to a close, I cram to check out various critical darlings I’d overlooked (or had been ignoring). Only after that can I begin carefully arranging the bloated digital mass I’ve compiled into a sequence that feels right, with what I hope are smooth and artful transitions from one track to the next.

As usual, the songs below cover a range of genres—including pop, R&B, hip-hop, indie rock, punk, EDM, country, and jazz—though my aesthetic predilections ensure that some types of music are better represented than others. (It’s tempting to try to summarize these taste preferences, but I’m afraid they’d come across as overly vague: “I like music that’s melodic!”) I’m also rather beholden to what gets attention from others (critics, tastemakers, friends). While more-adventurous listeners may chase their interests down esoteric corners of the musical universe, I’m happy to dwell mainly within the circles of buzz and consensus (as I explained back in 2006) to find new music that moves me.

One pedantic note: Since 2004, when I began making these massive year-end mixes, the general rule has been one song per artist. I’ve occasionally made exceptions for remixes—in 2006, for instance, I included both “SexyBack” and the DFA remix of “My Love”—but never two songs from the same album. This year, however, choosing between two Ariana Grande songs I like a lot (and that sound very different from each other) was too difficult, and so to hell with it, I said. Both “Problem” and “Love Me Harder” made the cut. (Arguably, there are also two tracks from Röyksopp & Robyn’s Do It Again EP, but one of them’s a version that appears only on The Inevitable End, an album credited solely to Röyksopp. Technicalities!)

Best of 2014 | Listen on Spotify

[Grayed-out text indicates tracks not on Spotify. For what it’s worth, Pharrell’s “Marilyn Monroe” can be found on Spotify in the version that appears his album GIRL. I can’t stand how indulgently long that version is, however, so I’ve subbed the radio edit, which unfortunately isn’t available to stream in the U.S.]

  1. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, “Stranger to My Happiness” (Give the People What They Want)
  2. M.O ft. K Koke, “For a Minute” (single)
  3. Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, “Problem” (My Everything)
  4. Kendrick Lamar, “i” (single)
  5. Kelis, “Jerk Ribs” (Food)
  6. Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk” (single)
  7. Usher, “Good Kisser” (single)
  8. D’Angelo, “Back to the Future (Part I)” (Black Messiah)
  9. Michael Jackson, “Love Never Felt So Good” (XSCAPE)
  10. Pharrell Williams, “Marilyn Monroe [Radio Edit]” (various compilations) 
  11. Ed Sheeran, “Sing” (x)
  12. Ana Tijoux, “Los Peces Gordos No Pueden Volar” (Vengo)
  13. Bruce Springsteen, “High Hopes” (High Hopes)
  14. The Nels Cline Singers, “Canales’ Cabeza” (Macroscope)
  15. St. Vincent, “Birth in Reverse” (St. Vincent)
  16. Sondre Lerche, “Bad Law” (Please)
  17. Hospitality, “I Miss Your Bones” (Trouble)
  18. Ex Hex, “Don’t Wanna Lose” (Rips)
  19. Twin Peaks, “I Found a New Way” (Wild Onion)
  20. Sloan, “Keep Swinging (Downtown)” (Commonwealth)
  21. School of Language, “Dress Up” (Old Fears)
  22. Nils Felder, “Lights” (Golden Age)
  23. Sun Kil Moon, “Ben’s My Friend” (Benji)
  24. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, “Lariat” (Wig Out at Jagbags)
  25. Mac Demarco, “Let Her Go” (Salad Days)
  26. Real Estate, “Crime” (Atlas)
  27. Horsebeach, “Midnight” (Horsebeach)
  28. The War on Drugs, “Under the Pressure” (Lost in the Dream)
  29. The New Pornographers, “Backstairs” (Brill Bruisers)
  30. Tennis, “Never Work for Free” (Ritual in Repeat)
  31. Jenny Lewis, “Head Underwater” (The Voyager)
  32. Echosmith, “Cool Kids” (Talking Dreams)
  33. Foster the People, “Coming of Age” (Supermodel)
  34. Broken Bells, “After the Disco” (After the Disco)
  35. Big Data ft. Joywave, “Dangerous” (single)
  36. Phantogram, “Fall in Love” (Voices)
  37. Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting for You)” (Singles)
  38. Nick Jonas, “Jealous” (Nick Jonas)
  39. Coldplay, “Magic” (Ghost Stories)
  40. Lykke Li, “No Rest for the Wicked” (I Never Learn)
  41. Lorde, “Team” (Pure Heroine)
  42. Tove Lo, “Habits (Stay High)” (Queen of the Clouds)
  43. Charli XCX, “Boom Clap” (SUCKER)
  44. Bleachers, “I Wanna Get Better” (Strange Desire)
  45. Bombay Bicycle Club, “Carry Me” (So Long, See You Tomorrow)
  46. Eno · Hyde, “Daddy’s Car” (Someday World)
  47. Tune-Yards, “Hey Life” (Nikki Nack)
  48. Ibibio Sound Machine, “The Talking Fish – Asem Usem Iyak” (Ibibio Sound Machine)
  49. Prins Thomas, “Hans Majestet” (Prins Thomas 3)
  50. Kleerup ft. Susanne Sundfør, “Let Me In” (As If We Never Won)
  51. Todd Terje, “Delorean Dynamite” (It’s Album Time)
  52. The Juan Maclean, “Charlotte” (In a Dream)
  53. Hercules & Love Affair, “Do You Feel the Same?” (The Feast of the Broken Heart)
  54. Kiesza, “Hideaway” (Sound of a Woman)
  55. Katy B, “5 AM” (Little Red)
  56. Röyksopp & Robyn, “Do It Again” (Do It Again EP)
  57. Taylor Swift, “New Romantics” (1989 [Deluxe Edition])
  58. Kylie Minogue, “Million Miles” (Kiss Me Once)
  59. Yelle, “Complètement fou” (Complètement fou)
  60. QT, “Hey QT” (single)
  61. Skrillex, “Recess” (Recess)
  62. Lone, “Airglow Fires” (Reality Testing)
  63. The Range, “Ed Reed Jersey” (Panasonic EP)
  64. Caribou, “Can’t Do Without You” (Our Love)
  65. Leon Vynehall, “Goodthing” (Music for the Uninvited)
  66. Actress, “Gaze” (Ghettoville)
  67. Jacques Greene, “No Excuse” (Phantom Vibrate EP)
  68. Ten Walls, “Walking with Elephants” (single)
  69. Gui Boratto, “Take Control” (Abaporu)
  70. Kölsch ft. Gregor Schwellenbach, “Cassiopeia” (Speicher 79 EP)
  71. Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne, “Rather Be” (New Eyes)
  72. Duke Dumont ft. Jax Jones, “I Got U” (EP1 EP)
  73. Jessie Ware, “Want Your Feeling” (Tough Love)
  74. Tensnake ft. Nile Rodgers and Fiora, “Love Sublime” (Glow)
  75. Javiera Mena, “La Joya” (Otra Era)
  76. Chromeo, “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” (White Women)
  77. Les Sins, “Why (ft. Nate Salman)” (Michael)
  78. Mr Twin Sister, “Rude Boy” (Mr Twin Sister)
  79. Ramona Lisa, “Lady’s Got Gills” (Arcadia)
  80. Sylvan Esso, “Coffee” (Sylvan Esso)
  81. Herbert, “One Two Three” (Part 6 EP)
  82. Hollie Cook, “99” (Twice)
  83. Erlend Oye, “Garota” (Legao)
  84. Mark McGuire, “The Instinct (Prins Thomas DISKOMIKS)” (Along the Way)
  85. To Rococo Rot ft. Arto Lindsay, “Many Descriptions” (Instrument)
  86. Taylor Mcferrin, “Place in My Heart” (Early Riser)
  87. Jhene Aiko, “Spotless Mind” (Souled Out)
  88. FKA twigs, “Two Weeks” (LP1)
  89. Röyksopp ft. Robyn, “Monument – The Inevitable End Version” (The Inevitable End)
  90. Indiana, “Solo Dancing” (single)
  91. Sofi de la Torre, “Vermillion” (Give Up at 2 EP)
  92. Ariana Grande ft. The Weekend, “Love Me Harder” (My Everything)
  93. Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q, “2 On” (Aquarius)
  94. Jeremih ft. YG, “Don’t Tell ‘Em” (single)
  95. Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX, “Fancy” (The New Classic)
  96. Future ft. Pharrell, Pusha T, and Casino, “Move That Dope” (Honest)
  97. Run the Jewels, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” (Run the Jewels 2)
  98. Shabazz Palaces, “They Come in Gold” (Lese Majesty)
  99. Young Fathers, “Get Up” (Dead)
  100. Schoolboy Q, “Man of the Year” (Oxymoron)
  101. Katy Perry ft. Juicy J, “Dark Horse” (PRISM)
  102. Cibo Matto, “Check In” (Hotel Valentine)
  103. Neneh Cherry ft. Robyn, “Out of the Black” (Blank Project)
  104. Wild Beasts, “Sweet Spot” (Present Tense)
  105. These New Puritans, “Fragment Two” (Field of Reeds)
  106. Owen Pallett, “On a Path” (In Conflict)
  107. Mica Levi, “Love” (Under the Skin OST)
  108. alt-J, “Hunger of the Pine” (This Is All Yours)
  109. José González, “This Is How We Walk On The Moon” (Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell)
  110. Tinariwen, “Toumast Tincha” (Emmaar)
  111. Warpaint, “Love Is to Die” (Warpaint)
  112. Wye Oak, “Glory” (Shriek)
  113. Silversun Pickups, “Cannibal” (The Singles Collection)
  114. TV on the Radio, “Happy Idiot” (Seeds)
  115. The Afghan Whigs, “The Lottery” (Do to the Beast)
  116. Death from Above 1979, “Trainwreck 1979” (The Physical World)
  117. White Lung, “Snake Jaw” (Deep Fantasy)
  118. Cloud Nothings, “I’m Not Part of Me” (Here and Nowhere Else)
  119. Protomartyr, “Ain’t So Simple” (Under Color of Official Right)
  120. Braid, “East End Hollows” (No Coast)
  121. Against Me!, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” (Transgender Dysphoria Blues)
  122. Lydia Loveless, “Really Wanna See You” (Somewhere Else)
  123. Chrissie Hynde, “Dark Sunglasses” (Stockholm)
  124. Paramore, “Ain’t It Fun” (Paramore)
  125. Merchandise, “Enemy” (After the End)
  126. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, “Eurydice” (Days of Abandon)
  127. The Notwist, “Kong” (Close to the Glass)
  128. Kevin Drew, “Bullshit Ballad” (Darlings)
  129. Cymbals Eat Guitars, “Jackson” (LOSE)
  130. Wussy, “Teenage Wasteland” (Attica)
  131. Foxes in Fiction, “Ontario Gothic” (Ontario Gothic)
  132. Beverly, “Honey Do” (Careers)
  133. Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Pure Stuff” (Make My Head Sing…)
  134. EMA, “So Blonde” (The Future’s Void)
  135. Angel Olsen, “Forgiven/Forgotten” (Burn Your Fire for No Witness)
  136. Broncho, “Class Historian” (Just Enough Hip to Be Woman)
  137. Spoon, “Do You” (They Want My Soul)
  138. Courtney Barnett, “Avant Gardener” (The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas)
  139. Perfume Genius, “Queen” (Too Bright)
  140. Ariel Pink, “Put Your Number in My Phone” (Pom Pom)
  141. Alex G, “Black Hair” (DSU)
  142. Tweedy, “Summer Noon” (Sukierae)
  143. Beck, “Blue Moon” (Morning Phase)
  144. First Aid Kit, “Master Pretender” (Stay Gold)
  145. Sam Amidon, “Walkin’ Boss” (Lily-O)
  146. Kira Isabella, “Quarterback” (Caffeine & Big Dreams)
  147. Sturgill Simpson, “Turtles All the Way Down” (Metamodern Sounds in Country Music)
  148. Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, “He Died Fighting” (Landmarks)
  149. The Bad Plus, “Gold Prisms Incorporated” (Inevitable Western)
  150. Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Never Catch Me” (You’re Dead!)
  151. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib ft. Danny Brown, “High” (Piñata)
  152. Moodymann ft. Andres, “Lyk U Use 2” (Moodymann)
  153. DJ Quik, “Pet Sematary” (The Midnight Life)
  154. Lily Allen, “Insincerely Yours” (Sheezus)
  155. Vic Mensa, “Down on My Luck” (single)
  156. Azealia Banks, “Chasing Time” (Broke with Expensive Taste)
  157. Tkay Maidza, “Switch Lanes” (single)
  158. Shamir, “On the Regular” (single)
  159. De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig, “De Toneelacademie” (“Ja, natúúrlijk!”)
  160. Aphex Twin, “CIRCLONT6A[141.98][syrobonkux mix]” (Syro)
  161. Com Truise, “Mind” (Wave 1 EP)
  162. East India Youth, “Total Strife Forever I” (Total Strife Forever)

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