25. Dr. Dog- “Too Weak To Ramble"
This track was a surprise, coming from a band not really known for ballads. Spare, haunting, and beautiful, this is a new side of Dr. Dog that we haven’t seen a lot of; and its quite amazing to behold.
24. Moderat- "Bad Kingdom"
A collaboration between German electronic musicians Modeselektor and Apparat, Moderat are an entirely unique kind of supergroup. With soaring vocals and a huge chorus, "Bad Kingdom” mixes conventional song structure with the trio’s incredible talent for disorienting electro landscapes.
23. The Flaming Lips- “Sun Blows Up Today"
One of the year’s most all out fun tracks, this song marked a sort of cultural landmark for the Flaming Lips. Appearing in a car commercial during America’s most watched television event, this song reached more ears than the Flaming Lips probably ever thought would hear their music. And what a song to do it. Simple, ridiculous and noisy; this is the most fun the band has had in almost twenty years.
22. Beach Fossils- "Generational Synthetic"
Having grown up a little from their hazy beginning, Beach Fossils matured a little this year. Just a bit darker and more unsettled, "Generational Synthetic” showed a band that is developing, but doing so with all of their gift for melody and hooks still intact.
21. Beady Eye- “Iz Rite"
Part of me really wants Beady Eye to fall flat on their face. But, making their second record with the endlessly talented Dave Sitek turned out to be one of the best decisions Liam Gallagher has ever made. Despite coming from Liam’s pen, "Iz Rite” is really quite beautiful; a well-written, sentimental, almost touching love song.
20. The Strokes- “Welcome To Japan"
Comedown Machine was one of the year’s most unexpected records. After their half-hearted comeback two years ago, the Strokes seemed completely drained and lost. This record showed the band to be reenergized. Like they actually want to still be the Strokes. Anchored by an impeccable chorus, self-effacing lyrics, and an irresistible strut, "Welcome To Japan” shows the Strokes regaining some of their old confidence back.
19. Arctic Monkeys- “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?"
Of all the many characters to inhabit Alex Turner’s songs over the years, the protagonist of this track is one of the funniest. At one time clueless, clumsy, inebriated and vulnerable; he’s quite entertaining to listen to. This over an incredibly funky backing track, and the Arctic Monkeys have one of the finest, most succinct tracks of their great career.
18. Albert Hammond Jr.- "St. Justice"
On his new EP, AHJ, Albert Hammond Jr. presented 5 wonderfully catchy, tight songs. Its opener, "St. Justice” is its crown jewel, with a lovely chorus as the cherry on top.
17. My Bloody Valentine- “She Found Now"
It was an incredibly cold Saturday night in February when My Bloody Valentine suddenly announced the imminent release of their long-awaited third album. 21 years in the making, the expectations were absolutely unprecedented. "She Found Now”, its opener, was the first track off of it that most people heard. Gloriously picking up almost exactly where they left off two decades ago, “She Found Now” shows the band to be just as extraordinary and original as they were back in the day.
16. The Flaming Lips- “Look… The Sun Is Rising"
Claustrophobic and bizarre; the opening salvo off of the Flaming Lips’ 2013 full-length The Terror was one of the highlights of what turned out to be an incredible year for the band. Reeling from his divorce, Wayne Coyne was no longer the great, inspirational preacher he once was on this song. He’s as confused as you are, and is exploring his state with you. The results, at least on this song, are amazing.
15. Foals- "Inahler"
Bursting on the scene with bizarre time signatures, strange vocals, and their guitars held practically at their necks, few probably ever thought a few years ago that Foals would be releasing one of the best, hardest rock songs of the year. "Inahler” announces a new Foals with an exclamation point. Flattening all opposition with its massive chorus, Foals have become even farther reaching, and thrilling, in their music.
14. This Town Needs Guns (TTNG)- “+3 Awesomeness Repels Water”
Even after almost five years and a new singer, TTNG barely changed on their sophomore album. And what a relief that was. Featuring the same scarcely comprehensible guitar work and great hooks, this track shows TTNG to still be at the top of their game.
13. Paul McCartney- “Queenie Eye"
At 72, Paul McCartney continues to amaze. One of the world’s greatest songwriters, McCartney hasn’t lost his touch at all, even in his advanced age. "Queenie Eye” rocks, is unpredictable, and is strong in every facet. McCartney’s been at it for half a century, and he seems a long way from done.
12. Washed Out- “It All Feels Right"
"It All Feels Right” shares almost every word with the title of Washed Out’s most famous song, “Feel It All Around.” Just like “Feel It All Around”, this track is a perfect summer soundtrack piece. With upstroked acoustic guitars and blissful vocals, it doesn’t get much more chill than this.
11. Bill Callahan- “Small Plane"
Bill Callahan almost never seems to emote at all in his vocals. His voice is incredibly plain, never wavering. But somehow he manages to convey an incredible amount of emotion with almost no effort. Singing of love as a metaphor for learning to fly a place; Callahan delivers perhaps the year’s best love song. Reserved, quiet, and perfectly balanced, "Small Plane” is a masterpiece.
10. Mutual Benefit- “Golden Wake"
Aching with vulnerability, confusion, and beauty, "Golden Wake” is the crown jewel of an album without a single weak moment. Carried by an unimpeachable melody and Jordan Lee’s gorgeous vocals, this track will melt your heart.
9. Arcade Fire- “Reflektor"
We kept hearing little details about the fourth Arcade Fire album day by day. Its dancey? Its a double album? Everything’s over seven minutes? It was impossible to know. But everyone wanted to know what exactly it sounded like. "Reflektor” was the first indication. An epic tour de force, Arcade Fire joyously run out of the corner they had begun to paint themselves into on this track. “Reflektor” combines the lets-runaway, fantastical lyricism of the band’s early work with their newfound disco sensibilities; an incredible accomplishment.
8. Yo La Tengo- “Paddle Forward"
Loud, distorted but sweet, "Paddle Forward” is a sub-three minute blast of classic Yo La Tengo. One of the great rock bands of our time are still brilliant three decades into their career.
7. Vampire Weekend- “Diane Young”
When I first heard this song, my reaction was something like “oh god no…” The ska beats, the ridiculous chorus, its brevity; it seemed like a joke. But a few listens warmed me up to just how fantastic this song is. Playing with total and gleeful abandon, Vampire Weekend deliver a masterpiece.
6. Queens of the Stone Age- “If I Had A Tail"
When speaking of his time in Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl said it was like being in the coolest gang in town. "If I Had A Tail” has an absolutely effortless, and freaking awesome strut to it. Nothing gets in this song’s way, but not because the track is out of control or obnoxious. It always keeps its composure. It has all of the best elements of hard-rock with none of its downsides.
5. The Flaming Lips- “Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)"
The Flaming Lips veered to a lot of extremes this year; and really, on this list. "Sun Blows Up Today” was a happy, go-lucky noisefest. “Look… The Sun Is Rising” was a scary, insecure, claustrophobic noisefest. But “Peace Sword” is filled with joyful clarity. Its about good vs. evil and our imaginations. You feel like your blasting off into space when you hear its magnificent intro. Its the Lips doing what they do best; making the world feel a lot smaller and easier to take on.
4. The National- “Sea Of Love"
Its really easy to take the National for granted at this point. Rarely changing, always remaining true to themselves despite the styles or sounds of the times, the National are a beacon of consistency in this crazy world. But amidst all of this consistency, Matt Berninger is never content or secure where he is. Moving "Sea Of Love” along at an increasingly frantic pace as it goes along, Berninger shows that his fears have not left him. He is still the spokesman for the common, white-collar city dweller; never certain of the world around him.
3. Phoenix- “Entertainment"
Other than this track, Phoenix seemed surprisingly bereft of ideas with this year’s record. They almost seemed to be hiding from their strengths, not wanting to write pop songs. If they wrote more stuff like "Entertainment”, they would’ve had the best album of the year. I don’t have synesthesia, but when I hear this song, bright, neon, day-glo colors come into my mind. This song is huge; with a relentless energy, gigantic chorus, and perfect execution. If only the whole album could’ve been like this.
2. Youth Lagoon- “Mute"
This year, Trevor Powers took his Youth Lagoon project to another level. Although it didn’t have the consistency of his debut, Wondrous Bughouse had some great highlights. "Mute” is an epic track that stretches Power’s ideas out to incredible heights.
1. Volcano Choir- “Byegone"
When I did my first "songs of the year” list two years ago, the top spot was claimed by Bon Iver’s “Perth.” Like “Byegone”, “Perth” just had an almost otherworldly flare for the dramatic. And like “Byegone”, “Perth” was written and sung by Justin Vernon. While Volcano Choir is a very different outlet for Vernon than Bon Iver, his talents dominate both projects. “Byegone” almost has the feel of a gospel song. The energy just keeps building. But its the chorus that takes the cake. Hearing it feels like being flattened by a massive wave. A million Justin Vernons sing “SET SAIL!” as the large band behind him plays a larger than life battle march. Music should be something that takes you places; and no other song did that better this year than “Byegone."
Thanks for reading! I start my top albums tomorrow!