Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014 (Honorable Mention)

It’s that time of the year again! It’s time for me to spend altogether too much time comparing apples and oranges, trying to figure out which tasty sonic nuggets spoke to me the most clearly this year. I’ve been making this list for the last six years — the last four for Thunder Penguin — and while I don’t get paid to do it anymore, I find myself enjoying it more and more each year.

As last year, let’s kick things off with an aperitif — a handful of songs that I love and feel compelled to write about but couldn’t quite fit on my list.

The-Dream: “Black” (digital single)
2014 was a beautiful year, but it was a hard, profoundly sad one. We were reminded again and again where we really are as a country and how far we must go to reach some modicum of equality. Terius Nash’s Gaye-inspired ballad was one of a handful of powerful protest songs that brought some light and hope to the dismal reality facing so many Americans every day. 

James Blake: “200 Press” from 200 Press EP
The British boy wonder spent most of 2014 looking back to his club roots with delicious effect. Here, Blake ties an Andre 3000 sample in nots over a spacious, carefully constructed arraignment. It’s not quite “CMYK,” but it’s a start.

Travi$ Scott: “Mamacita” (f/ Rich Homie Quan & Young Thug) from Days Before Rodeo

The talented Texan plays best with others, when his prodigious production talents outweigh his lyrical shortcomings. Teaming up with two of the most current voices in hip-hop and producer du jour, Metro Boomin, Scott and co. gleefully cruise through five minutes of stuntin’ over a creeping beat.

Kindness: “I’ll Be Back” (from Otherness)
While Adam Bainbridge’s second album is a heartfelt, ornate collection, it’s also feels overcooked and labored at times, much like the late 60s/early 70s source material it draws from. For that reason, it’s no surprise that one of Otherness‘ most restrained moments is its best with the Londoner’s playful vocals soft-shoeing over a spare, jazzy piano line.

DJ Q: “Be Mine” (f/ Kai Ryder) from Ineffable
When word got out that the Yorkshire bass gawd was preparing a “pop record,” it was hard not to get excited about it. The result was a fantastic crossover LP that perfectly pairs Q’s garage/club pedigree with impressive R&B songwriting. I could have picked a handful of tracks, but its bouncy closer just edges it.

Ian William Craig: “A Slight Grip, a Gentle Hold (pt. 2)” from A Turn of Breath
Another example of an album that should be digested as a whole, the Canadian composer’s A Turn of Breath is a singular, wholly engulfing experience. Across its 12 songs, Craig tears his gorgeous, pastoral voice to pieces and smears it across vast expanses of sound, leaving you no choice but to get lost in the woods.

Julie Byrne: “Prism Song” from Rooms With Walls And Windows
It was a spectacular year for female folk artists. We got exquisite LPs from Myriam Gendron, Angel Olsen, Linda Perhacs (more on her later), and Vashti Bunyan, but nothing quite hit me like the New York newcomer’s debut. “Prism Song” is a beautiful distillation of her graceful picking, darkly expressive voice, and crushing lyrics. “If you were the shades of colors my eyes cannot see. / I never would have known what you could have meant to me.” I mean, come on.

Jacquees: “Feel It” (f/ Rich Homie Quan, Lloyd) from 19
The Decatur, GA vocalist is blessed with some of the smoothest vocals in the game, and his luxurious, resplendent instrument is in full effect on this inarguable boner jam.

Linda Perhacs: “Prisms of Glass” from The Soul of All Natural Things
After 44 years away, the folkie returned from the mystical forests of Northern California to deliver ten more odes to the natural world. Its most indelible moment comes midway through its twinkling centerpiece, when Perhacs’ vocal follows a cascading piano melody that is reminiscent of “My Favorite Things.” It may be the last thing we ever get from her, but it was worth the wait.

Pains of Being Pure at Heart: “Eurydice” from Days of Abandon
What can I say? I’m a sucker for chunky single-note riffs and wistful vocals over jangly, reverb-y strummed chords. Anybody who was transformed by a John Hughes movie in junior high can relate.

Beach Slang: “Filthy Luck” from Who Would Ever Want Something so Broken?
While we’re on the topic of nostalgia, the Pennsylvania emo vets set the Way-Back Machine straight for my disaffected 6th grade heart and connect with sneering style.

Ryan Hemsworth: “Snow in Newark” (f/ Dawn Golden) from Alone for the First Time
2014 marks the year the Canadian part-time DJ/full-time sensitive bro went full-on #sadboi on us. Dawn Golden’s bearded baritone is the perfect conduit for the “lonely in my hotel room vibes RyRy has been peddling on Twitter for the last year and a half. The only surprise is just how well potent the post-Postal Service electro ballad turned out.

Spooky Black: “Without You” (digital single)
Teenage heartache has rarely felt so hopeless. If this kid keeps up like this, he might be remembered for more than just dressing like an extra from a Lonely Island video.

Ariel Pink: “Put Your Number in My Phone” from Pom Pom
Ariel Pink is an asshole, but every once in a while, he writes a really, really great song.

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best of '14, Featured

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