1. Riptide by Vance Joy.
"Lady, running down to the riptide.
Taken away to the dark side,
I wanna be your left-hand man.
I love you when you're singing that song, and
I got a lump in my throat 'cause
You're gonna sing the words wrong."
Have to admit that I had second thoughts about "Riptide" being my number 1 after hearing it in the "Top Nine at Nine" on a local Top 40 station a few weeks ago. But, popularity be damned, this is my favorite song of 2014. The Midnight Cowboy reference and the ukulele don't hurt a bit either.
2. Left Hand Free by Alt-J.
"Hey, shady baby, I'm hot,
like the prodigal son.
Pick a petal eenie, meenie, miney, moe ...
And flower, you're the chosen one."
According to the critics, the most un-Alt-J-like song they've ever done, composed in 20 minutes to satisfy their American label for a radio-friendly tune for their new album. Works for me. There are two "official" videos, this is the second and more disturbing one, but seems to be more in keeping with the lyrics.
3. Don't You Look Back by Augustines.
"This kiss ain't got no hope."
The best single line from any song this year. And the only artist to have two songs on this year's list. They appear to have been touring in Europe most of 2014 and there are no new tour dates on their website, but here's to hoping they're coming to a venue near you (and, more importantly to me, near me) in 2015.
4. You Go Down Smooth by Lake Street Dive.
"Would it be true to say that I ordered you?
Or is it you that ordered me?
I could say you are the only one I see,
but I can't stop at two or three."
If we were to fashion an IQ test question from the top 5 of my list and ask: "which song is unlike the others?" You Go Down Smooth would be the correct answer. But Rachel Price's voice can make any list any time as far as I'm concerned. It sounds every bit as good live as it does recorded, as the she proved at Mountain Stage earlier this year and in the video from KEXP above.
5. I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers.
"While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines,
I was losing my mind 'cause the love, the love, the love, the love
that I gave ...
Wasted on a nice face.
In a blaze of fear I put a helmet on a helmet,
counting seconds through the night and got carried away.
So now I'm standing on the overpass screaming at the cars:
I wanna get better!'"
Unlike many years, when one or at the most two songs stand out to me as possible number ones on my list, this year there were five, starting with this punk-pop anthem to insanity by Jack Antonoff's (of fun.) side project, Bleachers. Maybe the funniest video of 2014 to boot.
6. A Little Opus by Little Comets.
"You feel the weight of imposition.
Bear heavy on your own decision.
Fate to face they multiply ...
The crush of language,
and the cedent school ties.
The subtle angles of tradition (tradition)."
A song about .. English preparatory schools I guess. And, apparently it was actually released in 2012. But rules were meant to be broken, right?
"Oh how the circumstances change.
I fly by interstate, across a purple mountain range.
I find a place to come undone ...
Zigzagging toward you now, I sing out loud our boundless song."
Former Bright Eyes member Oberst's Upside Down Mountain is one of my favorite albums of the year. According to Wikipedia, his brother is a lawyer. No wonder I like him.
8. Madman by Sean Rowe.
"And the city has a way to make you forget.
About half the stuff you love and things you don't know yet.
About the space that's left when nobody talks.
About the quiet on the path where nobody walks."
Great song, and the best male voice of anyone on this year's list.
9. Can't Be Broken by Twin Forks.
"That's a love that
can't be broken.
That's the sting of a
heart cut open.
That's the thing about
That's a love that
can't be broken."
Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba's new indie folk/Americana band churns out the same great music as DC, but with more acoustical instruments and less angst. Nothing wrong with that. And one of the bonuses of being seven minutes from Mountain Stage's usual venue? Meeting your favorite artists:
10. Budapest by George Ezra.
"My many artifacts.
The list goes on.
If you just say the words,
I'll up and run.
Oh, to you,
I'd leave it all."
A pleasant little tune from a guy who reminds me of another artist, but I can't quite put my finger on who. And he looks absolutely nothing like I imagined he would from his voice.
So there's this year's list. Go listen to some live music in 2015!