Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014

40. Caribou: “Back Home” from Our Love
While he’s always been an expert dancefloor conjurer, Dan Snaith has always had a bit of a high school science teacher vibe to me, always focused a little too much on the head than the heart. That all changed with the glorious domestic devotion of Our Love — an album that strikes the perfect balance between the two poles. The gloopy, heartfelt “Back Home” nails that shift and actually packs enough emotion to be reminiscent of Hot Chip’s most earnest, powerful work.

39. Ryan Adams: “Wrecking Ball” from Ryan Adams
A song that Adams penned for his late grandmother, “Wrecking Ball” is heartbreaking in its simplicity — both compositionally and lyrically. Over a lazy, hand-strummed acoustic guitar, Mandy’s husband flexes his well-developed songwriting muscle, lacing starkly poetic couplets about saying goodbye. In different hands, this subtle gem could have faded into insignificance, but Adams is too canny and experienced to let that happen.

38. Grimes: “Go” (digital single)
What does it say about my taste that the song that reportedly caused Grimes due to to shelve her second album due to fan backlash is the one of my favorites she’s ever done? Like many others, I was originally turned off by Blood Diamonds’ garish drops, but the verses’ swirling melodies, the reverb soaked percussion, and the ecstatic pre-choruses kept me coming back, regardless of the distasteful womp womps. Slowly, that distaste turned to ambivalence, and I found myself falling more in love with the concept of Radio Grimes. It may just be a one-off, but it’s a fascinating peek into where her career may go if she eschews the art world for the dancefloor.

37. Dan Bodan: “Jaws of Life” from Soft
The Berliner with the crushed-velvet vocals has been a fixture on Thunder Penguin, since his first singles back in 2012, so his October debut was greeted with much excitement around these parts. Lead single, “Jaws of Life,” takes on the end of a relationship with Bodan’s customary mixture of cutting honestly and playful aloofness. His tenor rises gracefully above the affray, delivering a kiss off with the icy sting of indifference.

36. Popcaan: “Everything Nice” from Where We Come From
Andrae “Popcaan” Sutherland didn’t choose to call his dancehall masterpiece “Where We Come From” for no reason. The disc’s 13 songs tell a variety of penetrating stories about life in Jamaica’s poverty-ridden Southeastern Coast. Like the best storytellers, the 25 year-old uses the “what” to articulate the “how,” “why,” and “how it feels.” That context turns his lead single into more than an irie party jam; it’s a celebration of  how a mindset (and great music) can turn just about anywhere into a place where hope remains and “everything is nice.”

35. Rae Smerrud: “No Type” from SremmLife
If I wrote this tomorrow, it could have easily been “No Flex Zone,” but today is a “No Type” day. The young Mississippi duo laced two of the most ecstatic, singular tracks of the year — the kind of songs that turn the night from “about to head home” into “five more drinks and waking up in my jeans.” On “No Type,” Mike Will Made It deftly leaves plenty of space for MCs Sway Lee & Slim Jimmy (perfect names) to fill up with their hyperactive, melodic shouting, letting their adhesive vocals be the stars of the show.

34. SD Laika: “Meshes” from That’s Harakiri
Equal parts horrifying and exhilarating, the Wisconsin producer takes you into the metallic heart of a massive, churning machine. “Meshes” is 100% steel, pounding relentlessly and unforgivingly forward, running over everything in its path. Like all machines, there’s humanity somewhere deep within its core, and there’s just enough of it peaking out to balance things out and provide a foothold in proceedings.

33. Dej Loaf: “Try Me” (digital single)
Another of 2014’s breakout singles that came from out of the blue, the Detroit-native’s melancholy, sing-song vocals are a chilling delivery method for the brutal lyrics she delivers. Over lazy, twinkling keyboards, Loaf spits threat after unrelenting threat in a playful manner that is confounding and unsettling, resulting in a track that is guaranteed to make even the most blasé music fan take notice.

32. Davido: “Aye” (single)
Pop music is made to do a lot of different things, but its main objective is to make you feel. The Nigerian superstar’s buoyant love song does just that, distilling the feeling of carefree love into four intoxicating minutes. Based around a shuffling, two-step beat, Davido goes full Tom Cruise, falling over himself to lavish his girl with effusive praise. It’s basically the musical version of the heart-eyes emoji, and who can’t get behind that?

31. I LOVE MAKONNEN x Drake: “Tuesday” from I LOVE MAKONNEN
The fact that a song this weird became one of the most ubiquitous songs of the year is a very good indictment of where pop music is in 2014. 25 year-old Makonnen Sheran’s peculiar falsetto is the real driver here, deploying an unforgettable melody over the ever-reliable Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital’s 808s and hammond organ. Drake tops it off with one of his best verses of the year, putting his stamp on it without overwhelming his lesser-known counterpart, much in the same way he did with “Versace.”

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

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