Wednesday, December 17, 2014

50 Favorite Songs of 2014

Hello friends, another year has come and gone and it's time for my annual version of The Tremagazine Favorite Songs of the year. I spent about two months compiling this list, starting a bit earlier than I usually do as I had a lot of material to review and wanted to share the best that I could find.

As I typically do, I'll list some of my favorite lyrics along with some personal thoughts on the song and/or artist. I was fortunate enough to see several of these acts live and I'll include some thoughts on those experiences as well. One thing I tried to incorporate this year was finding as many live versions of the songs that I could share. Many of these artists & groups are excellent performers so I wanted to capture that best I could. Additionally, I've added a spotify playlist so those of you that use it can just stream the songs in one place.

I enjoyed putting this together and I hope you can find some new favorites that you may have missed during the year. As always, I appreciate any feedback and thoughts regarding the list by either commenting here or shooting me an email. A lot of the fun in putting this list together is getting the chance to share it with all of you. Without further ado, in no particular order, here's my fifty favorite songs of 2014..... hope you enjoy!

"Slow Coming" - Benjamin Booker (from the album, Benjamin Booker)

I've seen this album show up on a couple "best of 2014" lists but I still think overall it deserves to be on more. I spent many hours listening to this record during the year and it only grew on me with every listen. I was able to see Benjamin Booker a couple times in different settings, first at Austin City Limits (my first trip, which was amazing by the way) and then at Mercury Lounge in NYC. Completely different venues but both performances were met with a ton of energy and passion from Benjamin and his band mates. This is the first of two songs that made my list but I could have easily included a few more, wonderful debut album.

How can I be calm right now?
To tell you the truth,
I ain't been sleepin' too well

"My Favourite Faded Fantasy" - Damien Rice (from the album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy)

After a long hiatus, Damien Rice reappeared recently with his first album in years. Damien writes some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking music you'll lend your ears to, going all the way back to his 2003 release, O. Recommendation, keep the tissues nearby. Hoping to see him perform in 2015 although tickets for his shows have sold out almost immediately for each show announced around the country.

You could be my favourite place
I’ve ever been
I got lost in your willingness
To dream within the dream

You could be my favourite faded fantasy
I’ve hung my happiness upon what it all could be

"Patriarch" - Delta Spirit (from the album, Into The Wide)

Delta Spirit is a band that I've followed for awhile now and I've only become a bigger fan over the last few years following their live performances which seem to get better and better. This was my favorite album of the year and I think this is one of the best songs of the year as well.

Juliet and her friend stood at the edge
Juliet jumped without restraint
Her friend fell back, lost faith
Without a God to blame

"Kansas City" - The New Basement Tapes (from the album, Lost On The River)

This project has to be one of the cooler collection of artists to come together in some time. On this track alone you've got Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes), Jim James and even some guest appearances from Johnny Depp (yes, that Johnny Depp) and the Haim sisters. Most of whom you can see in the video clip below.

And you call me to come, then I do
And you say you made some mistake
You invite me into your house
Then you say you gotta pay for what you break
I’m going back to Kansas City

"Do You" - Spoon (from the album, They Want My Soul)

Spoon's latest work has appeared on many "best of 2014" lists and rightfully so, this is an excellent album. I'm a relatively new fan of the band as I don't have most of their older material but I've really enjoyed the music they put out this year.

Do you want to get understood?
Do you want one thing or are you looking for sainthood?

"Gold" - James Vincent McMorrow (from the album, Post Tropical)

Here's an artist that writes some absolutely beautiful music. I've been listening to him for a few years now and love his previous work, especially 2010's Early In The Morning.

I hope my contour charts show up via river
Out to the only ocean
There's something peaceful that goes out via river
Out to the ocean
I was peaceful standing, I was open

"Only Lies" - Robert Ellis (from the album, The Lights From The Chemical Plant)

I first heard Robert Ellis when he opened one of the famous Deer Tick Newport Folk Festival after-shows a few years back. I immediately loved his sound and he capped off his performance with a few Paul Simon covers that captivated the crowd. I've been able to see him perform a few times since that night, including sets this past year at Webster Hall and Austin City Limits and have always come away impressed. His latest album has some fantastic tracks, this is the first of two that you'll find on this list.

Only lies can comfort you
Only lies will see you through
Just because a thing's convenient
Well, that doesn't make it true
Only lies can comfort you

"Dearly Departed" - Shakey Graves feat. Esme Patterson (from the album, And the War Came)

This past summer I was up at the wonderful Newport Folk Festival, what I like to call a music lover's paradise. In the middle of the Saturday schedule, the lineup featured a great run on one of the stages featuring J Roddy Walston & The Business > Shakey Graves > Lucius. Both J Roddy and Lucius had nice size bands but I don't know if anyone was prepared for how big the crowd was for Shakey Graves. Probably the largest crowd I've seen to date on that stage and I've seen many acts there over the last few years. Sometimes schedules get put together early for festivals and then the bands just kind of explode in popularity, which I think is what we saw here. Anyways, it's well deserved as Shakey Graves is a great live act and it's fun seeing that many people rally around an up and coming artist.

I love the video I found to share with you below, these two have incredible chemistry. I bet Johnny and June Carter Cash would be proud of this performance.

Even when one is dead and gone
It still takes two to make a house a home
Well I'm as lonesome as the catacombs
I hear you call my name but no one is there
Except a feeling in the air

"An Ocean In Between The Waves" - The War On Drugs (from the album, Lost In The Dream)

It's pretty amazing to me how popular this band has gotten. I've been listening to them for years and wrote a bit about seeing them at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn back in 2011. I've seen this album named on numerous "best of 2014" lists and I think the praise is warranted, just an excellent album. I'm glad to see these guys getting some serious recognition. Another band that will show up twice on this list, here's my first selection...

Just wanna lay in the moonlight
See the light shine in, see you in the outline
It never gets too dark to find
Anybody at anytime

"Crown the Pines" - S. Carey (from the album, Range of Light)

For all the success that Bon Iver has had (and I love that band), it's almost amazing how little you may hear about S. Carey's solo work. Having seen Bon Iver live several times, I realized how talented an assembly of musicians this band was but then I saw THIS VIDEO. Incredible. Beautiful. Literally one of my favorite things on the internet, these guys are phenomenal. I've enjoyed S Carey's work and I think this is another wonderful track. Let's raise a glass to an integral piece of Bon Iver not named Justin Vernon.

One note on the video below, I love the way these guys use percussion in their music. So much more than just a basic drum set, they've always got multiple layers of percussion in their songs. I think you can get a good idea of that here.

I am in love with this place
But I fear for its grace

"Blockbuster Night Part 1" - Run The Jewels (from the album, Run The Jewels 2)

One of my favorite albums of the year, both lyrically and musically. They just played back to back nights in NYC and I'm pissed I missed it. Hoping to catch them live ASAP. The sound quality on the video below isn't the best but I wanted to find something that displayed the energy of the show and I think this clip does a good job of that.

No hocus pocus, you simple suckers been served a notice
Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers

"Goshen '97" - Strand of Oaks(from the album, HEAL)

Here's an album I got into a few months back, this was the standout track for me. Related... I'm going to assume that these guys are good people as well, they're playing the Shine A Light Music Benefit on Sat. Feb. 7 in Rockville Centre, NY which is a very cool event.

I was lonely, I was having fun
I was lonely, but I was having fun

I don't want to start over again

"My Wrecking Ball" - Ryan Adams(from the album, Ryan Adams)

One of my favorite songwriters of all time, another classic here. I believe the first time (or close to first time) this was played live was at this year's Newport Folk Festival. I've included a video from that performance because it was something wonderful to hear in person and just gets better and better with each listen.

Driving through the streets tonight
It's hot, I’ve got the windows down
I wish I could call you, I wish you were still around

"Kathleen" - Catfish and the Bottlemen (from the album, Kathleen and the Other Three)

I honestly had never even heard of this band until I was down in Austin for ACL. I was headed to Stubbs BBQ for the J Roddy Walston & The Business when my friend Lindsay texted me to make sure I got their for the opener.... these guys. Stubbs has two venues, both an indoor and outdoor space, this was downstairs in the indoor space which is extremely small (maybe a few hundred people packed in?). I thought these guys were AWESOME. It's rare that you find a new band that really impresses you without knowing any of their material. From what I've read since I returned home, I think they have a big following overseas but their full album will come out in the US early this year. I've included a couple of their songs on this list so you'll see another down the line.

And Yes, I know
That I’ll never work out exactly how you’re thinking
But, Let me know when I’m needed home

"You and Me" - You + Me (from the album, Rose Ave.)

I've been a fan of Dallas Green and his work in City & Colour for awhile now. He has one of the best pure voices of anyone I've ever seen in concert. Years ago after one of his shows I compared him at times to Jeff Buckley, he just has phenomenal range. I've always thought Pink was talented but I can't say that I listened to much of her material. A couple years ago I was searching some clips on line and found one from 2011 where they performed City & Colour's "What Makes A Man" (listen to that HERE). Since that day, I've thought how great it would be if they ever recorded together..... and here you have it.....

They say everything it happens for a reason
You can be flawed enough, but perfect for a person
Someone who will be there for you when you fall apart
Guiding your direction when you're riding through the dark

Oh that's you and me

"Blue Moon" - Beck (from the album, Morning Phase)

Beck has such a skill to write great songs in a variety of styles. This is probably one of my favorites from him, love this live performance below too.

Oh don't leave me on my own
Left me standing all alone

"Slow Train" - Streets of Laredo (from the album, Volume I&II)

Here's a pretty cool band that's album was just recently released towards the end of the year. They opened for Delta Spirit at the Bowery Ballroom show and I'm sure will be putting together a tour for 2015. This is probably my favorite song from the album but they've got several good ones on there. Look out for these guys making some noise next year.

Like A Feeling
Things are getting Better... Slow Train....

"Your Love Is Killing Me" - Sharon Van Etten (from the album, Are We There)

Sharon Van Etten is another artist I first heard live opening for Deer Tick at the Newport Folk After-shows. Such a strong performer and her music just basically rips your heart out of your body. This song is incredibly intense but so powerful.

We've been through better days
And you've tasted all my pain

"From Eden" - Hozier (from the album, Hozier)

Well Hozier certainly exploded onto the scene in 2014, didn't he? "Take Me To Church" has literally been heard just about everywhere (don't think it's in a Geico commercial yet but stay tuned). That said, the guy writes some great music and this was a favorite of mine from the album. I think I like the version posted below a bit better than the recorded version, reminds me so much of Van Morrison.

Babe, there's something tragic about you
Something so magic about you
Don't you agree?

"Milly's Garden" - Steve Gunn (from the album, Way Out Weather)

Steve Gunn was formerly in Kurt Vile's band, the Violators. Kurt Vile was also one of the founding members of the War on Drugs. All sorts of tie-ins throughout this list!!!

Your faith is savage
And your mind is damaged
You're more than half way there

"So Much Wine, Merry Christmas" - Andrew Bird (from the album, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of)

Andrew Bird's take on Handsome Family's "So Much Wine"

Listen to me, butterfly
There's only so much wine
That you can drink one life,
but it will never be enough,
To save you from the bottom of your glass

"Chandelier" - Sia (from the album, 1000 Forms Of Fear)

A really catchy tune and a damn good video, one of the better ones this year.

Sun is up, I'm a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

"Transgender Dysphoria Blues" - Against Me(from the album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues)

Huge fan of Laura Jane Grace and her band, Against Me. I started listening to them about seven years ago but finally got to see them live this year in Brooklyn. The show was on a Sunday night, started at 1am and I went alone. The crowd was awesome. Work at 7am the next day was not. One of the best nights I had this year. This video I took hopefully can express how much fun it was.

Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could've spent the whole day alone
With you
With you

"The Wreck" - Delta Spirit (from the album, Into The Wide)

The second Delta Spirit song on my list, this one is really heavy lyrically.

You don't expect apologies
You always see the best in me
I'm the lucky fool that you married
And when we're out on the run
Drive into the setting sun
My heart beats for only you, my heart beats for only you...

"Long Distance" - The Districts (from the album, Districts)

A friend of mine has been following this band in Philly the last couple of years and I got to see them at Brooklyn Bowl opening for Houndmouth. Very cool show and they're an excellent live band. Didn't know a lot of their material going into the show but loved this song.

Talking through a tin can
i can see your face in the sun with your eyes closed
stare outside now
watch the dreams, they slide

"Bored In The USA" - Father John Misty (from the album, Bored In The USA)

Father John Misty's album will be out early in 2015 but this is the first single. I love the use of a built-in laugh track. Perfect.

They gave me useless education
And a sub-prime loan on a craftsman home
Keep my prescriptions filled
And now I can’t get off but I can kind of deal

"Safety In Numbers" - We Were Promised Jetpacks (from the album, Unravelling)

Probably one of the most high-energy bands you'll see live, they've always got some really catchy songs on their releases. Even in the clip below you can feel how into it they are.

There was a time
When I wasn't brave
Something about this planet
Just didn't align

"Micheline" - Sun Kil Moon (from the album, Benji)

This is really an excellent album. I enjoy a lot of Mark Kozelek's work (other than his feud with the War on Drugs) but this song stood out to me lyrically. I chose a few lines that really stood out to me and related with.

My grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma, my grandma.
Before she passed away we'd go and visit her at my aunt's house when I was small.
I couldn't bear the shape she was in so at the top of the driveway I'd sit in the car

"Cruel City" - Augustines (from the album, Augustines)

Let me say... LOVE THIS BAND. Talk about energy, good lord. Please watch the video below and if you have the chance, see this band live. You will not be disappointed in the least. I absolutely loved their debut album and some great tracks on their latest as well.

Hey don't hide your eyes
I'll still reach for you in the dark
Hey I miss your skin
I’ll still reach for you in the dark

"Movin On" - Spanish Gold (from the album, South of Nowhere)

This band features Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket and honestly reminds me of a Black Keys song. Cool tune.

"i" - Kendrick Lamar (from the single, i)

I think Kendrick is extremely talented, both lyrically and performance-wise. I don't think there's many artists that could pull of what he does in the video below.

Dreams of reality's peace
Blow steam in the face of the beast
The sky could fall down, the wind could cry now
The strong in me, I still smile

"Houston" - Robert Ellis (from the album, Songs From The Chemical Plant)

Another good one from Robert Ellis. I couldn't make this performance as I had a conflict that night but happy this was recorded, excellent version.

When I came here I was a boy
And now I'm leaving a man
When I came here I was lost
But now I know who I am

"Head Underwater" - Jenny Lewis (from the album, The Voyager)

Jenny Lewis played on the main stage during the day at the Newport Folk Festival and I got to watch her entire set, great stuff. Love this song off her latest album.

I put my head underwater baby,
I held my breath until it passed
Crossed my fingers and concentrated
I closed my eyes and I was free at last

"It Kills" - Afghan Whigs (from the album, Do To The Beast)

This band has been making great music for many, many years. I was surprised how much I liked this album but they're still going strong.

Over and over I get to know myself.
Over and over there ain't nobody else
Imperceptible the lines I draw to you.
It kills to watch you love another

"I Thought I Heard You Screaming" - Benjamin Booker (from the album, Benjamin Booker)

This song kills me. Fell in love with it the first time it hit my ears.

Set yourself on fire so high so high
I could feel your heart was speeding
Did you love me or was it the drugs?

And the life we’re living now will surely bury me

"Would You Fight For My Love" - Jack White (from the album, Lazaretto)

Confession, I've never been a huge White Stripes fan. I was never negative on them, just never clicked for me. Jack White headlined Newport Folk this year on the second night and man, he was phenomenal. I really, really enjoyed his set. Super talented guy and great backing band. I've written a bit about how Newport is such a special and unique festival and if you haven't seen it, I think you should watch THIS VIDEO. From what I've read and heard, this festival had really strong impact on him and I think you can see that in his eyes towards the end of the song.... almost brought to tears. Call me a fan, I will certainly be seeing him again.

But I'm afraid of being hurt that's true
But not afraid of any physical pain
Just as I am always scared of water
But not afraid of standing out in the rain

"Wild Animals" - Trampled By Turtles (from the album, Wild Animals)

I've seen this band at a couple festivals and I've really enjoyed their live performances. They put out a really solid studio album in 2014 and I think this is one of the better tracks.

I see the better part of you
I see the better part of you
But I'm a monster just like you
Wild animals it's true

"Break The Cycle" - You+Me (from the album, Rose Ave.)

Since this album was in my rotation most of the year I decided to include a second track.

Circles and cycles and seasons
For everything there's always reason
But it's never good
Never turns out as it should

"Stayin Out All Night" - Wiz Khalifa (from the album, Blacc Hollywood)

I completely dig Wiz Khalifa, I like most of his material. I think the performance below is really unique.

You work hard for what you got
they could never take it from you
All you need is a little patience
let me demonstrate

"Fever" - The Black Keys (from the album, Turn Blue)

Talk about a band that's exploded, unbelievable. I cannot believe how big these guys are now. I sat in the upper deck at the Barclays Center a few months back looking around in disbelief at a packed stadium. Just a great live band.

Now if the cold pale light in your eyes
Reaches those horizon lines
You know not to leave her

Read more: The Black Keys - Fever Lyrics | MetroLyrics

"Burning" - The War On Drugs (from the album, Lost In The Dream)

Another great one from the war on drugs, this performance is really cool.

Wide awake
I rearrange the way I listen in the dark
Dreaming, starting up again

"Bad Self Portraits" - Lake Street Dive (from the album, Bad Self Portraits)

How great is Rachel Price's voice? Listen to that video and tell me it doesn't knock you on your ass? Amazing.

I've spent my life
so lost on lovin'
I could have been a painter or a president
But after 25 years
I should be good at something
Gone are the days of me being so innocent

"Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" - Run The Jewels feat. Zack De La Rocha (from the album, Run The Jewels 2)

Run the Jewels AND Zack De La Rocha?!?!? I am a huge fan of Rage Against The Machine. Saw them many times back in the day, one of the greatest live bands ever assembled. Again not the best sound quality in the video below but a chance to see Zack on stage sold me on it.

It's De La on the cut,liftin' 6 on your snitchin' crew
I'm miles ahead of you, you can sip my bitches brew
My battle status is burnin' mansions from Dallas to Malibu
Check my résumé, your residence is residue

"Stars" - Angel Olsen (from the album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness)

This was one of my last entries into the list but really a beautiful song. I love the title of her album too, phenomenal.

To scream the stars out of our universe
To scream at all back into nothingness
To scream the feeling til there's nothing left

"Take Shelter" - Delta Spirit (from the album, Into The Wide)

The only band that had three songs on my list but it was my favorite album of 2014 so I felt it was worth it.

Hold your head up to the light, wait till it's over now.
Take my hand and hold it tight, wait till it's over now.
Everything will be alright, wait till it's over now.

"White Gardenias" - Justin Townes Earle (from the album, Single Mothers)

With every Justin Townes Earle release, you're guaranteed to find at least one gem within the track listing. This was the song for me, stunning.

So if you see her out tonight,
Yeah just look her in the eyes
You might not know it now,
But you'll know it when you see her

White dress, white shoes, and white gardenias

"When I Get My Hands On You" - The New Basement Tapes (from the album, Lost On The River)

Second entry from this collection of musicians. Very sweet & sentimental lyrically.

When I come home to you
Gonna take you down to the riverside
When I come home to you
Hold you in my arms all night

"XO" - John Mayer (from the single, XO)

Obviously a cover of the Beyonce hit but I thought it was a really unique take on a popular song that almost sounds like an original.

In the darkest night hour (in the darkest night hour)
I'll search through the crowd (I'll search through the crowd)
Your face is all that I see
I'll give you everything

"Homesick" - Catfish & The Bottlemen (from the album, Kathleen and the Other Three)

One more from Catfish & The Bottlemen... I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing more about these guys in 2015.

I got misled, mistook, discard
Anything that I said
See I'm not the type to call you up drunk
But I've got some lies to tell

"Betray My Heart" - D'Angelo and The Vanguard (from the album, Black Messiah)

The last entry into the list! Just made it in by the surprise 2014 release of this album. Somebody had to get bumped but it's worth it for a song this good. Welcome back, D'Angelo.

Like the breeze that blows in June
I will steady keep you cool
This I swear with all that's true
I'll take nothing in place of you

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