I’m not saying these are empirically the best songs of the year. I’m not necessarily even saying they were released this year. I’m just saying I listened to them a lot this year and they made me happy.
- “The Wire,” HAIM
I’d never heard of them before their SNL performance of this song in November 2013. But it was love at first listen. Thoughts I had while watching that performance (which leads off the playlist above): “Why is she singing like that?… But I think I like it.” “I want to listen to that chorus for the rest of my life.” “Why is the blonde one making those faces?… But I think I like it.” “Wha? Look at her rock that SG!” Actually, I think I could put every song on Days are Gone on this list.
- “Ain’t it Fun,” Paramore
This is another one introduced to me by TV. It was on American Idol (yes, I watch it; there are some amazingly talented kids on that show who clearly love music and that’s something I’ll always celebrate) when Jena Irene sang it with Paramore. I couldn’t get over how much… fun it was.
- “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
Somehow this little dude (Mars) has brought something vital back to pop music: soul. And fun. Genuine fun.
- “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Hands,” Minor Alps
Released in the latter quarter of 2013, I still couldn’t get enough of one of the most infectious choruses of the year in 2014. Featuring two voices that magically melt into one: Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.
- “Everything Is Wrong,” Interpol
I don’t know that I can say happiness is the emotion that Interpol generally stimulates in me. Just look at the title of this track. They’re one of my favourite bands, but their music isn’t exactly giddy. “Uptown Funk,” this is not. But there was a renewed spark to this song and the others on 2014’s El Pintor that their previous album sorely lacked.
- “Trainwreck 1979,” Death From Above 1979
After a few years off, they return to make a statement with this lead single: rock and roll lives. And I love any song that begins or ends with feedback.
- “The House that Heaven Built,” Japandroids
You don’t hear a ton of call-and-response vocals in rock music anymore, but this song made it fun. Along with the super-fast high-hat work and a million other things. There was just something about Canadian two-piece rock bands this year (see DFA 1979).
- “Ain’t Messin ‘Round,” Gary Clark Jr.
Another dude who’s helped bring something back this year: he’s helping to bring blues back into the spotlight again. For this song I’ll just say this: horns, baby, horns.
- “Back to the Shack,” Weezer
I don’t even know that this is my favourite song from Weezer’s best album in a dozen years. But when I first heard it I burst with joy because I heard a sincerity that I hadn’t heard much of from this band since 2002’s Maladroit.
- “The Ocean at the End,” The Tea Party
Another Canadian band that returned after a breakup this year. It’s a classic, epic Tea Party song that could’ve easily fit on their second album, Edges of Twilight. And it features a bloody masterful guitar solo from Jeff Martin.