Yesterday, I ran down my favourite albums of the year. Today, I’m going to talk about my favourite songs. Why 35? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Three things before I get started:

  1. I thought about including YouTube or Soundcloud links wherever possible, but I didn’t want to eat up your bandwidth or cause your browser to crash. Besides, it would take too much time to gather all those links. So instead, I’m limiting myself to just a short blurb for each song. You’re resourceful; you can go look them up on Spotify.
  2. The list is not ranked. While my relative assessments of albums remain fairly constant, I like some individual songs more or less than others depending on my mood. Instead, I’ve organized the list by ascending alphabetical order of band name.
  3. Only one song per artist. Though there’s a lot of overlap with my favourite albums list, I wanted to showcase some music that I didn’t get a chance to talk about earlier too.

Okay, with that out of the way, here’s the list:

  1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – “You Ain’t No Saint”. What starts off as a jaunty folk number with a shuffle beat soon turns into the song of an all-American jazz band, complete with a snaky saxophone line. However, the upbeat tune belies a depressing tale of young love falling apart.
  2. Battle Lines – “Colonies”. Carly Humphries’ otherworldly vocals and the slow-burning pace make this song sound like a long-lost Kate Bush track. When the wall of sound kicks in during the bridge, though, Battle Lines seem to be channelling more modern influences, like Pianos Become the Teeth or Moving Mountains.
  3. Caravela – “Actress”. Speaking of Moving Mountains, former guitarist Frank Graniero is taking that band’s warm sound in a poppier direction with his project, Caravela. Their single “Actress,” a song about classy parties and swim-up bars, shows that Graniero has still got a keen ear for melody.
  4. Circa Survive – “Nesting Dolls”. Circa Survive showed off their softer side on their 2012 effort, Violent Waves, with songs like “Suitcase” and “Think Of Me When They Sound.” This year’s “Nesting Dolls,” off their most recent album Descensus, is very much in that mould, with the drums not even kicking in until halfway through its seven-minute running time. This track has Circa Survive at their most ethereal and beautifully fragile. It’s a calm oasis in the windy desert of aggression that is the rest of Descensus.
  5. Closure in Moscow – “Seeds of Gold”. On their sophomore album, Pink Lemonade, Closure in Moscow abandoned all pretense of being a post-hardcore band, instead diving into full-on psychedelia. “Seeds of Gold,” with its Santana-aping melody and funky, danceable beat, sounds like the long-lost sister of First Temple’s “A Night at the Spleen.” But while that track’s time changes could throw listeners for a loop, “Seeds of Gold” is all about the rhythm, baby, and Closure in Moscow doesn’t want anything to get in the way of you dancing the night away.
  6. Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Chambers”. Another explosively fun danceable number, but with a touch of ’80s glam. Punk rock could stand to be more fun and danceable in general. I mean, when did headbanging become so serious? As usual, Cymbals Eat Guitars’ sunny melodies belie the dark subject matter of the song, as singer/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino tells of being in a depressive, drug-filled rut. Not since Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” has such a happy-sounding song been so sad.
  7. Davenport Cabinet – “Bulldozer. This tale of drunken debauchery and a destructive relationship boasts some of the finest fretwork of the year. Guitarist Travis Stever’s talent for writing technical-yet-catchy riffs and blistering-but-not-indulgent solos is unparalleled.
  8. Dikembe – “Even Bother”. The opener to Dikembe’s sophomore album, Mediumship, starts off barely audible, before exploding with a guitar riff that would make Deja Entendu-era Brand New proud. The band can be frustratingly vague with their lyrics at times, but “Even Bother” paints a pretty clear picture of a crumbling relationship that was doomed to fail from the outset.
  9. Driver Friendly – “Twenty Centuries of Sleep”. This Texas power pop quintet adds a darker edge to their sound with “Twenty Centuries of Sleep.” Rather than the staccato horns of their more joyous output, “Twenty Centuries of Sleep” uses a droning trumpet line in the verses to build this track’s churning energy.
  10. Field Mouse – “Two Ships”. The band likes to refer to this track as their “disco song” during live performances. It’s a far more subdued affair than the rest of what’s on Hold Still Life, but calling it “disco” is a bit of a stretch. In any case, “Two Ships” doesn’t sound too far-removed from Zooropa– or Pop-era U2, with its snaking bassline and atmospheric synths calling to mind a slow-motion night club.
  11. Fireworks – “Run, Brother, Run”. No one can accuse Fireworks frontman David Mackinder of being insincere. “Run, Brother, Run” abandons the band’s pop-punk sound for something more contemplative, as Mackinder sings a heartfelt tale about feeling like an impostor in his own skin.
  12. From Indian Lakes – “Fog”. As the closer to their third album Absent Sounds, “Fog” acts a bit like a summary of the band’s career, opening with sweet but urgent guitar chords and insistent lyrics, before exploding into a guitar riff towards the end, and finally settling down into a softly-strummed coda. It’s a pretty impressive musical journey to undertake in just four minutes.
  13. The Gaslight Anthem – “Get Hurt”. It took five albums for The Gaslight Anthem to eradicate any traces of punk from their sound so that they could finally make the straight-up rock ‘n roll record they always wanted to make. That led to mixed results, but it did give us the gorgeous title track off Get Hurt, where singer/guitarist Brian Fallon details how he felt when his marriage fell apart. Fallon never paints himself as the victim, and so he remains a sympathetic figure, his pain both palpable and relatable.
  14. The Hotelier – “Life in Drag”. Before this year, it seemed impossible that a single track could get me to reconsider my entire stance on screaming, but then “Life in Drag” came along, and here I am, telling you that it’s one of the best songs of the year, if not the best. “Life in Drag” is pure hardcore punk perfection. Singer/bassist Christian Holden holds nothing back, expressing no shortage of hurt, anger, betrayal, and confusion about being attacked by a friend for failing to conform to the rigid gender binary.
  15. It Looks Sad. – “Fingers”. Dealing with a band name that contains a period is probably giving editors everywhere headaches, but if It Looks Sad. keeps delivering catchy, lazy post-punk like “Fingers,” then those headaches are probably going to get a whole lot worse. The band sings over and over towards the end of the song, “I’m daydreaming again,” as if to point out their music’s floaty, oneiric qualities.
  16. Katie Kate – “Sadie Hawkins”. Though Katie Kate showcases her rap chops elsewhere on her sophomore effort Nation, “Sadie Hawkins” is all about creating the sweetest sounding sounding indie pop possible. With its summery guitars and light-footed beat, this track sounds like it belongs in a toy box.
  17. K.Flay – “Bad Things”. On the other side of the “white female rapper” equation, we have K.Flay. On “Bad Things,” she displays none of Katie Kate’s coy sweetness, instead choosing to confront her alcoholism head-on. It’s a frank bit of self-examination, and for those who have found themselves in the cycle of substance abuse, it must feel all too real.
  18. Kimbra – “Miracle”. The Kiwi Queen of Nü-Jazz showed no sign of letting up this year, releasing an album full of hooky, experimental pop. “Miracle” was its most fun track. Heck, with its slick disco-funk beat and sly percussive flourishes, “Miracle” was one of the most fun tracks of 2014.
  19. Little Big League – “Property Line”. I like to advocate for women in rock music, because they have a unique perspective that you aren’t likely to get from male artists. Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner provides a brutally honest and often terrifying look at abusive relationships in some of her music, but even those songs that deal with more mundane subjects, like the real estate dispute of “Property Line,” can have disturbing lyrical flourishes that would take on different connotations coming from a male singer. On “Property Line,” Zauner uses the imagery of sexual abuse, singing “Oh you, you bully / You always loved to see / How many fingers / You could fit inside this old wound.” It’s a jarring moment, but Zauner wields it as a weapon, filtering all sexual implications from the violation to present it as what it really is: an abuse of power and something worthy of scorn.
  20. Manchester Orchestra – “Top Notch”. Manchester Orchestra’s decision to record an “all hard rock, all the time” album didn’t pay dividends the way they had hoped, but still, “Top Notch,” the opener of their fourth effort Cope, was one of the hardest-hitting tracks of the year. As a tragic tale of a boy who sacrifices himself for his brother, “Top Notch” haunts the listener’s mind long after the final note rings out.
  21. Mannequin Pussy – “Someone Like You”. I didn’t much care for Mannequin Pussy’s debut LP, but given “Someone Like You,” I’ll admit that at least some good came from it. “Someone Like You” is the kind of stellar, fuzzy shoegaze track that makes you wonder why these guys are even trying to do the whole lo-fi hardcore punk thing. -sigh-
  22. The Menzingers – “Transient Love”. It’s a typical reaction for people to reflect on their past mistakes and wonder, “Jeez, how the hell did I screw that up?” Atoning for past mistakes is a common theme on The Menzingers’ fourth record, Rented World. They’ve been doing the punk/Americana hybrid better than The Gaslight Anthem for a while now, and “Transient Love” demonstrates exactly why. The song slows down its pace just enough to be called a ballad, but instead of devolving into lyrical histrionics, The Menzingers let a simple guitar riff carry most of its melancholy and regret.
  23. Nothing – “Somersault”. “Somersault” takes a minimalist approach to its lyrics, instead concentrating on generating a gentle, dreamlike atmosphere, at least until the distortion really kicks in halfway through the song. Still, the loud guitars and cymbal crashes do nothing to mitigate this track’s weird beauty.
  24. Owl John – “Songs About Roses”. For such a delicately beautiful song, “Songs About Roses” is remarkably full of anger, deconstructing celebrity activism and pointing out its shallowness with unbridled venom. It’s a nice change of pace from Scott Hutchison’s usual sad-sack “woe is me” subject matter.
  25. Prawn – “Runner’s Body”. Few bands understand how to build up and release tension as well as Prawn. “Runner’s Body” is a simple song about a disintegrating friendship, but it ebbs and flows perfectly before crashing into a cathartic coda, featuring dueling vocals from singer/guitarist Kyle Burns and producer Greg Dunn.
  26. Run the Jewels ft. Zack De La Rocha – “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”. RUN THEM JEWELS FAST RUN THEM RUN THEM JEWELS FAST RUN THEM RUN THEM R-RUN THEM R-RUN THEM RUN THEM FUCK THE SLOW MO
  27. Somos – “Domestic”. Lying somewhere at the intersection of power pop and emo revival, Somos’ Temple Of Plenty wasn’t exactly a revolutionary record. But it was one of the year’s most solid, most consistent records. “Domestic,” with its singable hook and stellar drum work, is one of the solid, consistent tracks on that solid, consistent record.
  28. Sucré – “Young and Free”. Working away from her family band, Eisley, Stacy DuPree-King was under no obligation to play sweet, gentle indie rock. “Young and Free” is a slice of big, dirty pop with filthy bass synths. DuPree-King sings, “I don’t need nobody / To tell me who to be / Ready to sting / I am young and free.” Not content to be a twee indie pop princess, she would rather break all the rules.
  29. The Tea Party – “The Ocean at the End”. The Tea Party’s reunion album played like a greatest-hits of their career, with some Eastern-influenced melodies here, some industrial metal chugging there, and a whole lot of Zeppelin-esque blues rock. However, the title track, “The Ocean at the End” hinted at an entirely new direction for the band: full-on prog rock, complete with the sounds of waves crashing and gulls squawking, recalling Rush’s “Natural Science.” The highlight of the track is Jeff Martin’s lengthy guitar solo, which starts as a spastic guitar freakout before morphing into something more lyrical and contemplative.
  30. Tigers Jaw – “Hum”. “Hum” stands out for being the only track on the band’s fourth album, Charmer, where keyboardist Brianna Collins takes lead vocals. She should do it more often, because her delicate, slightly nasal voice lends her band’s music a kind of, ahem, charm. A song about the lows of young love could sound twee or insincere in lesser hands, but Collins and her band make it work.
  31. The Twilight Sad – “In Nowheres”. “In Nowheres” is what The Twilight Sad’s version of an upbeat song sounds like. It’s predictably depressing, and its noisy synths and industrial fuzz create the cold, forbidding atmosphere that is the band’s trademark sound.
  32. U2 – “Cedarwood Road”. Call it a miracle, but U2’s free release, Songs of Innocence, was actually pretty good. Instead of excessively moralizing, like Bono did on the band’s recent efforts, he chose to reflect on his childhood growing up amidst Irish political turmoil. With its hard-rocking guitar riff and martial drums, “Cedarwood Road” proves that even over 40 years into their career, U2 still has some tricks up their sleeve.
  33. We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Ricochet”. We Were Promised Jetpacks’ music took on a bit of an industrial tinge on their third effort, Unravelling, with a lot of sustained distorted guitar. However, the album’s closer, “Ricochet,” departs slightly from that vibe by featuring a prominent piano line and plenty of pounding toms.
  34. The Winter Passing – “Creak”. Earlier this year, as a preview for their upcoming album, A Different Space of Mind, Irish indie rock band The Winter Passing released “Creak.” It’s a shameless aping of Devil and God-era Brand New, but hell if it isn’t a damn fine imitation. The brother-sister duo of Jamie and Kate Flynn sing, “My problem is that I’m stuck between where I want to be and where I should be / When I was young, I used to think the world was waiting for me; I had it all worked out.” Jesse Lacey would be proud.
  35. Wye Oak – “Glory”. There were oh-so-many ways that Wye Oak could have screwed up their transition from guitar-driven indie rock to synth-driven noise pop. But somehow, they pulled it off, and “Glory” stands as a testament to that. One of the best songs they’ve ever recorded, “Glory” is a towering stack of industrial-tinged pop. Jenn Wasner has never sounded so in command of her voice and her music.

There were many, many more songs that I enjoyed this year, but this list was already pushing it at 35. Are there any other songs that you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments down below.

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