Thursday, January 15, 2015

Best in Music 2014

The following are my favorite songs and albums of 2014, another great year in music. For songs, I kept it to one song per artist to feature the most talent, and overall, it makes for one hell of a mixed CD if anyone's looking for some great tunes. I do tend to gravitate toward female singers, but there are some guys in there to mix it up. Enjoy!

10 Best Albums of 2014

1. Gypsy Heart by Colbie Caillat - Colbie Caillat's latest album has a down-to-earth, Bohemian style with a lot of pared-back sounds, but she uses unique sounds in smart ways to enhance songs with just a touch of something fun, like in my favorite song off of the album, If You Love Me Let Me Go.  You can tell that Colbie has fun writing and singing these songs, and it feels like it really comes from an honest place.  The sounds are great and melodic, the lyrics are heartfelt, and this solid CD deserves the title of Best Album this year.

Key Tracks: If You Love Me Let Me Go, Try, Never Gonna Let You Down

2. Fire Within by Birdy - Birdy has a lot of epic, sweeping songs with strings and piano accompaniment on her latest album.  She knows how to put a song together for maximum impact, pulling on listeners' heartstrings with swelling refrains.  She sings a mean power ballad too, with her strong voice.  There's a vulnerability to Birdy that makes her songs feel authentic, and I love what she's produced here.

Key Tracks: Wings, Words As Weapons (US Version), People Help the People

3. The Private World of Paradise by Wake Owl - This album is chalk-full of great sounds, sometimes haunting, sometimes fun and quirky, but it all adds up to create an album that feels fresh - folksy, yet modern.  A very atmospheric album.  This is one of the most exciting bands out there right now, and one to definitely keep an eye on.

Key Tracks: Madness of Others, Desert Flowers, Innocence

4. Walk Through Walls by Katie Herzig - I feel like you don't just listen to a Katie Herzig song - you experience it.  She is a master craftsman, blending her beautiful lyrics with interesting sounds and producing wholly unique music.  Every song tells a story that you feel, not just through what she's saying, but how she says it, as the music strings you along (she can even make her screams sound like beautiful music, as is evident by the song Forgiveness).  Katie Herzig is one of the most talented singer-songwriters out there.

Key Tracks: Drug, Thick As Thieves, Forgiveness

5. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey - I won't lie - I wasn't a fan of this CD when I first listened to it.  I was disappointed that it didn't have the energy of her first two albums.  But Lana Del Rey is my favorite singer, so I kept my mind open.  It took a few times to really get into it, and then I fell in love with the dreamlike quality of the CD, like walking through a haze.  Lana's moody crooning, coupled with her dark lyrics, make this a worthy addition to her body of work.

Key Tracks: Ultraviolence, Brooklyn Baby, Pretty When You Cry

6. 1989 by Taylor Swift - Say what you will about Taylor Swift's personal life, but this girl can sing, and she knows how to craft a perfect pop album.  1989 is full of songs that are catchy as hell and will appeal to a wide audience, which is what every pop singer strives for.  It's little wonder that she is such a powerhouse when she consistently churns out quality music like this.

Key Tracks: Style, Out of the Woods, Shake It Off

7. Love Me EP by Barcelona - It's not too often that you come across a male vocalist who can show such emotion and vulnerability, yet still remain so masculine and sexy.  These songs are very honest and kind of intense, even though the music sounds so playful.

Key Tracks: Background, Diamond and Silver, Strange Way

8. Call Me ARay by Ashley Ray - Country albums are rarely this innovative.  Ashley Ray manages to create an album with a sound that is a throwback to old school country, yet is really progressive with interesting new sounds mixed in.  The lyrics are really, really clever, and often harbor a real darkness to them.  Ashley also has a voice that stands out from the competition, and serves to prove that nobody else could have made a CD quite like this.

Key Tracks: Get Gone, Holywater, Signs of Weakness

9. Young Heart by Blondfire - This duo (a brother and sister) packs their new album with great, hip songs with a pop sensibility.  The songs are infectious, and often hard to get out of your head, with a cool electronic edge to them.

Key Tracks: Waves, Dear In Your Headlights, Kites

10. Bonds EP by Deluka - More reserved than her debut You Are the Night, Deluka's sound has matured, but she still rocks out in songs like American Skies, and peppers interesting sounds throughout.  These are solid songs that show that Deluka is a versatile talent.

Key Tracks: Home, American Skies, The Only Ones

30 Best Songs of 2014

1. Lost (Noah Hyde Remix) by Scavenger Hunt - Appropriately titled, you can get lost in this song easily.  A strong dance vibe that fits snugly with the vocals make this a solid song.  It has the feeling of walking the dark streets after a night of clubbing.

2. Monument by Royksopp & Robyn - Dark and moody, with a great overall sound.

3. Words As Weapons (US Version) by Birdy - Birdy sings this song with a vulnerability that's refreshing.  You can almost feel her grow more confident by the end.  A beautiful song that packs a bit of punch.

4. If You Love Me Let Me Go by Colbie Cailatt - Has you drumming your fingers and tapping your feet in time to the beat.

5. Shake It Off by Taylor Swift - Infectious as hell.

6. Say Something by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera - A great power ballad with an indie feel to it.  I was shocked that the female vocals belonged to Christina Aguilera, as she isn't often so subtle.

7. Northern Lights by Kate Boy - I love the unique sounds in this song - it really makes it stand out.

8. Innocence by Wake Owl - This song has a really cool vibe to it that's infectious.  And I like that's it kind of a short song - it's succinct and impactful as is - any longer and it may have robbed it of some of its power.

9. Just Ask by Lake Street Dive - Bluesy and dreamlike, this is a breezy song set to commanding vocals.

10. So So LaLa by Strange Talk - Sweeps you along in pure pop goodness.

11. Fortify by Kate Miller - I love the lyrics, the refrain, the sound - this is just a perfectly-constructed song.

12. Iuka by The Secret Sisters - This country song has some dark lyrics, and coupled with the old country vibe makes for a haunting song.

13. Hurricane by Halsey - Atmospheric with dark lyrics.

14. Breaking Your Heart by Jessie James Decker - Decker is really convincing as she conveys regret and loss in this country song with a breezy chorus that echoes with heartache.

15. Bind Your Love by Cher Lloyd - The chorus is great and catchy.

16. Break the Fall by Laura Welsh - Fierce and a little rough around the edges.

17. The Brink by The Jezabels - There's an urgency to this song that you can really feel when you experience this song.  It kind of just pulls you along.

18. Circular Road by Heathers - Fast and furious, this song rushes headlong into a chorus that's demanding.

19. Borderline by Tove Styrke - This song is funky and it's just fun - you can tell the artist had a great time singing and putting this together.

20. Time Machine by Ingrid Michaelson - Calls to mind her excellent rendition of "Parachute," with playful lyrics.

21. All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor - This was all over this year, but that was for a reason - it's catchy as hell with a fun 60's vibe.

22. The Heart Wants What It Wants by Selena Gomez - A great pop ballad.

23. Heartstrings by Leighton Meester - A sweet song with a great refrain.

24. Holywater by Ashley Ray - I love the unique sound of this song - old-fashioned country, but with some modern sounds mixed into it, and clever lyrics.

25. Goldrush by Paper Aeroplanes - Haunting and melodic.

26. No One Needs To Know by HAERTS - There's a real momentum to the chorus of this song that I really like.  The great vocals really elevate it.

27. Same Side by The Casket Girls - The ingredients come together really well in this song - the background, with the pace of the lyrics, the humming, the chorus - it all forms a really great final product.

28. Love by NONONO - This whole song is great - I may even like the non-chorus part of the song better than the chorus.  It's just interesting how the words are sung.

29. Chains (Just a Gent Remix) by Nick Jonas - Obviously channeling Justin Timberlake, Jonas oozes sex in this song with his crooning.

30. Tightrope by Tiffany Alvord - This is a solid pop song with a great chorus.

Honorable Mentions
Banshee by Onyay Pheori
Battlefield by Lea Michele
Clip Your Wings by Nina Persson
Dear In Your Headlights by Blondfire
Happy Pop by Elizabeth & The Catapult