Earbuddy Staff’s Best Songs of 2014

run the jewels zach de la rocha

As we close out the year, Earbuddy is celebrating the year in music by taking a look at our favorite albums (HERE) and now our favorite songs of 2014. For this list, we didn’t do an overall ranking. Instead, we’re sharing what some of our individual writers enjoyed this past year. However, if we were to pick an absolute number one song of the year, it would probably have to go to “Close Your Eyes And Count to Fuck” by Run The Jewels featuring Zack De La Rocha. It was one song continuously picked by our staff. Check it out and all the lists below.

Chris Foster (Senior Writer):

I did something a little different with mine: For me, a good single always belongs in a movie (my dream job would be an music arranger for film!), so I included what type of scene the song would belong in for four of my choices .

“Abyssinia” – Screaming Maldini

Movie Scene: Opening ship scene from Les Misérables.

“Abyssinia” is grandness cranked to 11. This is a song that belongs in Les Misérables. Like in that insane opening ship scene — except in the “Abyssinia” version, the slaves would be swept out to sea with the wreck. A big brass section, thunderous drums, and the group’s operatic vocals create a behemoth of sound that cannot be overstated.

“Queen” – Perfume Genius
“Chandelier” – Sia
“Drunk In Love” – Beyonce (ft. Jay Z)
“Lights Out” – Angel Olsen
“Turtles All The Way Down” – Sturgill Simpson
“Jackson” – Cymbals Eat Guitars
“The Clock” – Ty Segall

“Pill” – Ought

Movie Scene: A placid battlefield moments before an insane gunfight…and queue the slow motion explosions.

Off of Ought’s newest EP, Once More With Feeling…, “Pill” is a gorgeous, slow burning Beatles-esque gem that slowly builds into insanity. Ought’s lead singer Tim Beeler lets the listener comfortably sway with an extended three verse intro before plunging into his trademark Bananasland. The final 90 seconds is all guitar-melts-face.

“Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands
“Johnny And Mary” – Todd Terje (feat. Bryan Ferry)
“Paranoia Ghosts Other Sounds” – Safia

“Every Vessel Every Vein” – Joel Baker

Movie Scene: Triumphant, walking into the sunset, fist raised — fading into end credits.

Yeah, alright, this is a little Mumford-y, but give me a break. “Every Vessel Every Vein” is infectious — punctuated with a stomping rhythm and Baker’s sandpaper voice. Why this dude isn’t more popular, I have no idea, but my summer was ruled by Baker’s acoustic pound down.

“Body & Blood” – clipping.

“Black Spring” – Total Control

Movie scene: Bank robbery from the perspective of the robbers.

“Black Spring” is the musical equivalent of a giant boulder crashing down a hill, picking up speed, and wreaking havoc as it rolls forward — a deeply grooved, frantic panic buildup focused around Total Control’s recent guitar and percussion additions. Though this track feels like half of its seven minutes in length, the pace is so relentless that “Black Spring” leaves the listener either exhausted or insanely pumped up.

John Downey (Senior Writer, Own It or Disown It):

“David” – White Hinterland
“Close Your Eyes And Count to Fuck” – Run The Jewels featuring Zack De La Rocha

“Nuclear” – Mike Oldfield

Pretty much every song from Man on the Rocks shares the same blueprint, but “Nuclear” illustrates how important context is. Oldfield’s other songs about free love and good times ring hollow while “Nuclear”’s slow burn obliterates everything around it. A massive track that deserved to be on a better album.

“Kong” – The Notwist

Close to the Glass was far from terrible, but it tried to be several different things at once, and the end result was far less than the sum of its parts. That said, oh, what joy is packed into those parts, with this infectious, breezy anthem standing out as one of the best songs the group has done in a long time.

“Carissa” – Sun Kil Moon
“Unfinished Business” – United Nations
“Queen” – Perfume Genius
“A Little God In My Hands” – Swans
“Work Work” – Clipping

“In The Pines” – Jared Emerson-Johnson and Janel Drewis

This version of the folk song comes from an episode of Telltale Games’s The Walking Dead, as the credits roll after one of the most unnerving sequences of the season. In that context, Janel Drewis singing about what this little girl has done carries so much more weight, and Emerson-Johnson’s arrangement serves as little respite to the madness it follows. On par with Nirvana’s version.

“I Can Hear Sweat” – Girl Talk and Freeway featuring Jadakiss

The song that single-handedly validated this very strange experiment, “I Can Hear Sweat” is probably the best song anyone involved with this song has touched (with the arguable exception of Ghostface Killah’s “Run”). It just goes to show how Freeway has been underutilized, how good Jadakiss can be when he isn’t shackled, and how much Girl Talk can rock when he isn’t hosting “Guess The Sample”.

“White Fire” – Angel Olsen
“XO” – Beyonce
“Lost In The Crowd” – Noah23 featuring Shady Blaze

“No Black Person Is Ugly” – Lil B

Lil B puts out about a billion songs a year, and if I’m being perfectly honest, most of them rely on ironic listens to get any sort of enjoyment. “No Black Person Is Ugly” is one of the exceptions, hitting all of the right notes and coming out at just the right time. It’s a bit corny, but that’s sort of the point.

Ryan Rogers (Senior Writer):

“Velcro” – Rustie

Glaswegian producer Russell Whyte has always revelled in super glossy ‘80s guitar solos, but “Velcro” sounds like his most triumphant exercise of that sound yet. A track truly fit for the Lionel Messi Adidas Ad that first debuted the track. Few electronic songs this year have stirred so much emotion and power.

“Sunrise Angel” – Yung Lean

Yung Lean said in an interview that his number one collaborator was Gravity Boys producer Whitearmor and “Sunrise Angel” is by far the strongest effort between the two. The shimmering Final Fantasy-evoking beats and the internet-age references make “Sunrise Angel” one of the most creative hip-hop songs of the year. The combination of American, Japanese and Swedish musical influence is doing wonders for the rap game.

“Rosario” – S-Type

The best way to describe S-Type’s music is ‘80s montage music meets hip-hop. Reeling off his excellent Billboard EP, S-Type a.k.a. Bobby Perman brings his inspiring sound to a new level with the title track of his new EP named after restaurant Perman frequents. “Rosario” is one of those instrumentals that really never loses steam listen after listen.

“Nothing But Trouble” – Phantogram

Phantogram has reinvigorated trip-hop with arena-blasting energy on “Nothing But Trouble”. The drums, the noir-tinted paranoia of lead singer Sara Barthel’s lyrics and the spy film vocal samples near the end of the song all fit in their right place. “Nothing But Trouble” is the perfect track to ensnare the listener to consume the remainder of their propulsive album Voices from this year.

“Thuggin” – Freddie Gibbs & Malib

Many Freddie Gibbs & Madlib tracks have been floating around for the better part of three years, but “Thuggin” is the supreme single out of the entire collaboration. “Thuggin” is straight-up Biggie-style storytelling mixed with one of the coldest Madlib beats of his entire career. There isn’t a dull moment that doesn’t ring true in the entire song.

“Lipstick Destroyer” – Tobacco

Tom Fec a.k.a. Tobacco has never been one for any sort of logic in his lyrics, but meeting a girl who happens to be a strawberry sounds just as likely as any other claim makes in his surreal and sexually charged album Ultima II Massage. The synthesizers sound wretched and at odds with the stomping percussion. The only flaw in “Lipstick Destroyer” is its tragic brevity.

“Wanderlust” – Wild Beasts

There comes a time in many “nice boy” indie rock acts where they crack and use foul language, but none have handled the pressure as well as Wild Beasts. I would have never thought that Brian Eno-eqsue ambient noise and irate Englishmen could craft a track so defiant and simultaneously breath-taking as “Wanderlust”.

“Psychic Trauma” – Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings have mastered the loud-soft dynamic engineered by Albini and his many colleagues. What makes “Psychic Trauma” so special is the band’s ability to go from dangling zonked-out apathy to straight psychotic rage without little warning. Its a true anthem for a generation that is too bored and too sedated to start a real revolution.

“Golden Waves” – A Sunny Day in Glasgow

The closing track to A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s dreamy Sea When Absent takes the band out of their minimalistic shoe-gazing comfort zone to something truly transcendent. The shrill vocals at the start of the song are so optimistically hope-filled that it makes you really think about why our lives have to be so worry-filled. “Golden Waves” is disarmingly beautiful and perfectly caps off the heart-broken melancholy of the rest of the album.

“In Reverse” – The War On Drugs

“In Reverse” is quite simply the best Bruce Springsteen song he never wrote. The song builds from reverbed guitars and violins into one of the best piano-based choruses of the year. It’s song that encapsulates the desire to make time go backwards for a brief moment when things seemed to have fallen apart.

“Trippy’s Theme” – Trippy Turtle

It’s hardly a secret that Norwegian producer Lido is FoFoFadi affiliate Trippy Turtle. The FoFoFadi Collective has a mission to combine the world of jersey club with the cutesiness of Saturday cartoons. “Trippy’s Theme” is the strongest single from of his work and showcases production style of bed spring squeaks and pop/r&b vocals all with his can-do attitude.

“King Kong Beaver” – Hudson Mohawke

Hudson Mohawke a.k.a. Ross Birchard more so than any producer of late has snaked his way through the hip-hop world without having to really reinvent himself too much. As one-half of TNGHT, a Kanye and Drake assistant producer and a prolific remixer, Birchard takes notes from all of his approaches to craft the undeniably brilliant original song “King Kong Beaver”. His love of videogames and cheesy synthesizers propel the Scottish hip-hop mastermind to fine tune each aspect of the song with exacting detail.

“Searching” – Redinho

Besides Daft Punk, nobody really uses the talkbox quite like London’s Redinho. “Searching” takes the schmaltzy ‘80s ballad into something he can claim as his own and the crass repetition of the word “bass” gives the song a proper dance vibe. Whatever Redinho is searching for, it is found in the form of this compelling synthesizer-based banger.

“Hey Mami” – Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso really set themselves from the newcomers of 2014 with the sleek single “Hey Mami”. Taking notes from 2000’s indie pop and the dark synth-pop of Purity Ring and CHVRCHES, “Hey Mami” presents an elegant blend of the two genres while still remaining ridiculously catchy. Sylvan Esso are definitely ones to watch in the coming years.

“Can’t Do Without You” – Caribou

“Can’t Do Without You” was the summer jam of the year that contained universal qualities that could be enjoyed by pretty much any age-group. It has the simplistic ‘60s-based psychedelic preaching of love, retro-futuristic synth lines from the ‘80s and the production quality of the present. The progression of the song makes it instantly replayable and a modern feat in dance music.

Constantino Costa Christou (Contributing Writer):

“Thievery” – Arca
“Talking Backwards” – Real Estate

“2 is 8” – Lone
“Archie, Marry Me” – Alvvays
“Psychopath” – St Vincent
“Red Eyes” – The War On Drugs
“Too Bright” – Perfume Genius
“Kicks” – FKA Twigs
“Son” – Warpaint

“Do It Again” – Robyn & Foyksopp
“Windows” – Angel Olsen
“But Blood” – Hockeysmith
“Wishing Well” – Screaming Females

“Everything” – Neneh Cherry
“Our Love” – Caribou

Madeline (Contributing Writer:

2014 has been sort of a disappointing year in music for me. I found myself going back and listening to old albums more frequently than getting excited about anything new. But that made the good ones stand out just that much more. Feel free to skip everything I wrote and just listen to some great music.

“Black Synagogue” – Angel Haze

Though this song technically comes from an album dropped in the last few days of 2013, I’m counting it for 2014. Angel isn’t my favorite artist, but this song is searingly honest about an incredibly heavy topic that is virtually taboo in mainstream. Though I could do without some of the pseudo intellectual shit at the end, Angel deserves serious props for just being able to put it all out there in such a powerful and vulnerable manner.

“Dernière danse” – Indila

French superstar Indila can sing her face and any other body part she chooses clear off the earth. Though her entire album is well worth the listen, “Dernière danse” is one of my favorites. It starts with a teasing acoustic guitar and ends with a full blown adult choral group ramping up the intensity.

“Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” – Run the Jewels

You really should already know why.

“Chasing the Moon” – Mary Lambert

I saw Mary in concert recently without knowing anything at all of hers except for “She Keeps Me Warm” as I really went to see her opening act, the incredible (and hilarious in person) Jillette Johnson. However, Mary put on a great show and “Chasing the Moon” stuck with me days later to the point I was compelled to look up what lyrics I remembered so that I could figure out which song it was and buy it. Sort of Sara Bareilles-ish in the best way possible.

“Video Girl” – FKA Twigs

Twigs. Read any of the numerous other things we’ve written in the past.

“Champs Elysées” – Zaz

Zaz is a modern day Edith Piaf. Though her most recent album is super upbeat which made me sad as Zaz is simply incredible on more tragic ballad type stuff (like “Eblouie Par La Nuit” which still kills me), there were several gems. Backed by a horns section, the cabaret jazz infused “Champs Elysées” is bold and memorable.

“Lost Stars” – Adam Levine

From the sweet but otherwise rather forgettable recent soundtrack to the musical “Begin Again.” It takes almost to the end of the song for it to get more than just pleasant, but I’ve found myself putting it on repeat and the words creeping into my head. Make sure to play it through to the end.

“Back to the Wall” – Missy Higgins

Missy is no longer a breakout star singing angsty songs over her piano. Her sound has matured and she recently did a full album of covers of hits all from famous Australians (her home country). The Divinyls’ 80’s anthem gets an emotional makeover exchanging synths for strings making for a unique interpretation of a classic.

“Partition” – Beyonce

Because: “Est-ce que tu aimes le sexe?/Le sexe, je veux dire: l’activité physique, le coït. Tu aimes ça?/Tu ne t’intéresses pas au sexe?/Les hommes pensent que les féministes détestent le sexe mais c’est une activité très stimulante et naturelle que les femmes adorent.”

“Somos Sur” – Ana Tijoux

Ana is a literal legend, but Shadia just demolishes the track with her unique Palestinian rapping style. The combination of the two though is pure genius. Pro-tip, watch the music video for the full experience.

“What’cha Gonna Do” – Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Though its an instrument that increasingly few people appreciate, Abigail and her husband Béla are literally some of the most skilled and innovative banjo players in the world. “What’cha Gonna Do” is my favorite song off of their first album collaboration. With no sounds other than their quite restrained voices and banjos, there is simply no room to hide. Their chemistry and skill is ridiculous.

“Ribcage” – Crywolf & Ianborg

This came out of nowhere for me. Dubstep can often sound rather souless which means I turn it off after a few listens unless I just want to bang my brain out. But Ian and Justin’s collaboration EP is emotional with several different layers that you can really sink your teeth into. Perhaps I just don’t listen to enough chillstep/melodic dubstep to know any better, but “Ribcage” is exceptionally structured with a real melody that that you can sing along to and yet still retains the “oomphf” of big drops and electronic grit.

Nick Krenn (Owner/Founder):

“Every Other Freckle” – Alt-J

If Alt-J would have approached every song on their recent album, This Is All Yours, with the same experimental and progressive creativity heard on “Every Other Freckle”, it would have been one of the year’s most memorable albums.

“Two Weeks” – FKA Twigs
“Pray for Newtown” – Sun Kil Moon
“Repeat Pleasure” – How To Dress Well

“Black Ballerina” – Ariel Pink

Where else could you take an adventure to a strip club with your pirate buddy this year? Ariel Pink’s silly yet undeniably catchy “Black Ballerina” is both funny and easy to sing along with. Nice areolas!

“Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” – Run the Jewels
“Shitsville” – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
“Every Time The Sun Comes Up” – Sharon Van Etten

“Class Historian” – BRONCHO

BRONCHO may still not be super well-known outside the most diehard indie music fans, but “Class Historian” was one of the year’s best songs with a hook — “dododododo/ dadadadada” — that brought to mind ’80s rock that you couldn’t help but smile along to.

“Gooey” – Glass Animals
“The Lord’s Favorite” – Iceage
“Would You Fight For My Love?” – Jack White
“Gunshot” – Lykke Li
“Pretty Lovers” – Client Liaison

“Q&A” – Kishi Bashi

Is Kishi Bashi’s “Q&A” overly sappy? Is it just waiting to be used for a sensitive-themed cellphone commercial? Yes…but it’s still sweet and the go-to single to give your boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse goosebumps and tears in their eyes as you dedicate it to them.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

About NK

I founded Earbuddy to turn you onto excellent music and give fair, unbiased, and honest music reviews. Hit me up on Twitter @earbuddy if you want to chat about music, disagree with what I've written here, or talk about anything else.