December 23, 2014 / Leave a Comment
Welcome music lovers to MusicTrajectory’s Top 20 Best Songs of 2014. While no year-end list can be truly objective, I actually tried pretty hard to be with this list. I follow these genres of music closely – keeping an eye on the charts, radio airplay, Youtube video views, what the word is around the web, etc. I compiled and ranked these songs with the intent of publishing the best year-end list for rock, alternative and indie music genres anywhere on the web. Thanks for viewing and please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section and tweet me @MusicTrajectory. Critique this list, provide your own top 20, express your love for individual songs: go for it!
Let’s get to the specifics. Any track that was released in 2014 (or had its greatest impact in 2014) was eligible to make the top 20 list. As you probably know, MusicTrajectory.com showcases rock, alternative, and indie genres and subgenres. That said, I do showcase some of the crossover hits from time to time. In other words, ‘pop music’ usually does not see the light of day here on the site but there are always a few songs each year that seem to bridge the gap between genres and gets everyone interested. Read more about this concept in the individual commentaries for each song below. Chances are if you like alternative music, you heard and liked some of the alternative/pop crossover hit songs that made this list. After all, the intent of this list is to present the top songs of the year!
Read on for commentary on each song that made the list and enjoy the visuals.
Listen to the complete Top 20 list as a Spotify playlist here
Watch the complete Top 20 list as a Youtube playlist here
1. “Take Me To Church” (Hozier)
Genre: Indie Rock, Soul, Blues
Perhaps a risky choice for the #1 song of the year, especially because there were a few other songs that could easily top this list. This song by Hozier was everywhere – all over the radio, in commercials, and covered countless times on shows like The Voice. This was one of those songs that kids liked, you liked, and your parents liked. A great example of a genre-crossover hit. Not one of my personal favorite songs of the year but this list isn’t about me now is it?
2. “Rude” (Magic!)
Genre: Pop, Reggae Fusion
Catchy and fun, this was one of the first songs of the year that blew up around the world – it actually blew up in Australia and Europe before it caught on in the States. But once it got here it was everywhere – on every alternative station and on every pop station including a huge hit on the web. A no-brainer for the top 5 and a song that could have easily snagged the #1 slot.
3. “Riptide” (Vance Joy)
Genre: Indie Folk, Indie Pop
I debated with myself about this song making the list or not because it was released so early in 2013 that it seemed crazy to have it on a list about 2014. Although it did get popular in 2013, it wasn’t until 2014 that this song really blew up. A lot like Magic’s “Rude” and Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”, this song was a huge cross-over hit. Vance Joy completely capitalized on the popularity of the indie-folk/indie-pop genres. You can’t tell me you didn’t have this song on a bunch of different playlists list year.
4. “Fever” (The Black Keys)
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock
These guys are just awesome and fans of rock/alternative music are lucky to have them. They consistently put out killer records and release killer singles. If it wasn’t for those mega-crossover hits above, this song is the true #1 song for alternative music in 2014. One of the best videos on 2014 might I add.
5. “Stolen Dance” (Milky Chance)
Genre: Indie Pop, Folktronica
If I had a nickle for all the times people across the world heard this song on the radio and said, “whoa, this song is awesome, who is this?” I would be rich! Milky Chance sounds different but fits in perfectly with all the other indie pop bands making music these days. They just happen to get lucky and write one of the far-and-away best songs of 2014. Love this song!
6. “Magic” (Coldplay)
Genre: Indie, Pop, R&B
Love them or hate them, Coldplay is solid. Great album after great album and hit single after hit single. They took a different route with their new album Ghost Stories in 2014. They unplugged the guitars and went far more acoustic-focused. The result? An album that was either loved or hated. Critics saying its their best work, fans saying its their worst work. Polarizing for sure, but can you really argue that “Magic” isn’t a fantastic song?
7. “Left Hand Free” (Alt-J)
Genre: Indie Rock
Alt-J is amazing and a highly recommended band here on Music Trajectory. Their first album An Awesome Wave in 2012 was an instant classic and their followup album This Is All Yours was one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. Perhaps not quite as good as the first album, This Is All Yours contains what is arguably their most widely-known/mainstream song to date. This song is, you guessed it, “Left Hand Free”. If you are a fan of the band and a fan of this song, you might want to check out my next post – the Top 20 Songs of 2014 (Editor’s Choice) where this song lands in the top 5.
8. “Come With Me Now” (KONGOS)
Genre: Alternative Rock, Kwaito
If it wasn’t for all the genre-crossover hits on this list, this song would have ranked a lot higher. A lot like The Black Key’s “Fever”, this was one of the obvious top alternative rock songs of 2014. And believe it or not, this song was originally released way back in 2011! No joke. Sometimes it (quite literally) takes years for a song to catch on. All good songs do and this one did for sure!
9. “Heavy Bells” (J Roddy Walston and the Business)
Genre: Southern Rock, Hard Rock, Garage Rock, Roots Rock
I am so happy for this band and all the success they had this year because I think they are incredible! Essential Tremors is by far, front-to-back, one of the best albums of 2014. “Heavy Bells” led it off (1st track and 1st single actually). Be sure to do some Youtube searches for live videos of this band. No, they are not Kings of Leon. But, yes, they do sound like early Kings of Leon 😉
10. “The Walker” (Fitz and the Tantrums)
Genre: Indie Pop, Neo Soul
Their first album put them on the map but their 2nd album More Than Just A Dream got them world-wide success. “The Walker” is the follow up to the 2013 mega-hit “Out Of My League”, the #9 song of 2013. Not many bands can say they had two huge hits in consecutive years. Go Fitz!
11. “Yellow Flicker Beat” (LORDE)
Genre: Art Pop, Electropop
“Yellow Flicker Beat” is no “Team” or “Royals” and it probably won’t be quite as popular but it is yet another killer track from Lorde who seems to have a tremendous amount of talent for writing quality alternative/pop crossover songs. Not many choruses were better than this song’s chorus in 2014.
12. “Something From Nothing” (Foo Fighters)
Genre: Hard Rock, Post-grunge
It seems like every single Foo Fighters single goes straight to number #1 on the rock and alternative charts. Well, it seems that way because it actually does happen that way. I don’t remember a Foo Fighters single that hasn’t gone to #1. Pretty incredible. “Something From Nothing” showcases some great lyrics, although I still think the verse riff is a rip off Dio’s “Holy Diver”.
13. “Trainwreck 1979” (Death From Above 1979)
Genre: Punk Rock, Dance-rock, Noise Rock
Death From Above 1979 broke up in 2006 and didn’t reunite until 2011. I wonder if they anticipated that the material they started working on shortly was going to take them to this kind of popularity. Their comeback album The Physical World is one of the 10 best albums of 2014, IMO. “Trainwreck 1979” is the showcase of the album and a song that was hugely popular in 2014, having that ‘ipod commercial sound’.
14. “Ain’t It Fun” (Paramore)
Genre: Pop Rock, New Wave
Paramore’s 2013 self-titled album was a huge success and spawned four singles. Go figure the 4th single “Ain’t It Fun” would be the overall most successful. A fun, catchy, light-hearted song that was featured on just about every rock/alternative and pop radio station across the country and was charted strong around the world. Can’t deny this song some cred when talking about the top songs of the year.