Welcome to the penultimate edition of Nerdist’s Top 50 Tracks of 2014, where we have been discussing all of the tracks that have made us [happy emoji], [sad emoji], [winky sad emoji], and [poop emoji]. Yesterday we included “Weird Al” and Aphex Twin in our year-end playlist because we love goofballs of all shapes, sizes, and sonic-inclinations. Today we induct Jack White and many others representing several genres because we were fans of getting up and shaking our limbs to whatever sounded good in 2014. Let’s get to it!
Jack White – “Lazaretto”
Jack White broke a world record to make “Lazaretto” (World’s Fastest Record), so the chances of the track being just okay seemed highly likely given the rushed circumstances. But the caveat here is that Jack White is a living rock god, and “Lazaretto” with its groovy distorted bass skronk and piercing guitar solo, is one of the best songs he has released since the White Stripes broke up.
Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”
“Are you lonely too? Hi-Five; so am I!” Angel Olsen just gets it, you guys. The bitingly funny single from Olsen’s excellent Burn Your Fire For No Witness is also worrisome because it could be the rock song of the 2010s: we find ourselves connected via an infinite amount of channels yet what we sacrifice is often context. Are we even having the same conversation? “Are you lonely too?”
Rome Fortune ft. Ilovemakonnen – “Friendsmaybe”
2014 was a year full of underground hip hop weirdos from Atlanta and two of my favorites are the currently blue-bearded Rome Fortune and Andy Milonakis’s muse, Makonnen. If you subtract Rome’s verses and Makonnen’s weird, warbly chorus from this track, you are essentially left with a song that would have sounded like a natural fit in Katamari Damacy. But with the addition of lines like “Williamsburg apartment, turned to Jumanji / it’s really insane cause your ass buda-bumping.” This song is so out there that you can’t do anything but love it.
Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me”
The music video for “Never Catch Me” almost made me bawl like a child. Sure the track is an urgent, frenetic exploration of death that features killer (heh) bars from Kendrick Lamar and what I assume is a quick, yet deft bass solo from FlyLo accomplice Thundercat, but the accompanying visuals were truly harrowing. I don’t want to give too much away but this song features three of our best musicians and the video is still what sold me.
Isaiah Rashad – “R.I.P Kevin Miller”
This was a highly political hip-hop track that came out earlier in the year, and I only recently re-listened to it to realize how devastating it is to hear someone describing the same problems the world only paid attention to after a highly visible tragedy and court decision. I obviously don’t want to be a total downer, but I would be more than remiss If I omitted this song just because it was about a difficult track. Here is to being a little more loving and open minded in 2015.
Mac Demarco – “Salad Days”
This year I saw Mac Demarco crowd surf all the way to the back of a crowd and then, with their help, climb up onto the balustrade, and then, like a psycopath, trust-fall backwards into the audience. Listening to “Salad Days”, you hear a seemingly jaded guy who is sick of feeling tired and forcing smiles. When you google Mac though, he is contorting his face into ridiculous shapes, and getting pushed into butts on The Eric Andre Show. I am not going to say that his music is the most authentic part of his personality because that would be silly, but I am glad that people are willing to take a total goofball’s art so seriously, because he certainly deserves it.
FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks”
I have long been a fan FKA Twigs’ immersive aesthetic–the way she bends and stretches expectations of gender norms, they way she recasts broken, ugly noises as poignant and beautiful, and the impossible ways she makes her body move. She has so many weapons at her disposal, but I remember worrying that her album might ultimately suffer for being a visionary gesture instead of realized composition. I was super wrong. “Two Weeks” is the weirdest, sexiest four-minute crescendo of the year–you are blind-folded and Twigs is completely in control.
Charli XCX – “Gold Coins”
I really wish Charli had released her latest album Sucker in time for summer, because it would have been the only thing I listened to. In 2014, I am no longer ashamed to love or listen to pop music, but I imagine if I had found this album ten years ago as a teenager, I would have blasted it out my windows in the school parking lot and felt rebellious for listening to something that seemed so accessible. “Gold Coins” is a banger through and through and it revels in ludicrous excesses, almost as sarcastic retort to 2013’s favorite pop song, “Royals”. It is too much fun.
How To Dress Well – “Words I Don’t Remember”
When we spoke to Tom Krell a/k/a How To Dress Well over the summer, he mentioned that a major creative impulse he had was to source memories and piece together information about himself via stories and the way people remembered something about him. Memory is one of the most powerful, yet corruptible things humans have (Sup, serial), so the idea of relying on them is both vital and dangerous (though Black Mirror also showed us the risks of total recall as well). “Words I Don’t Remember” is an intimately sexy track about the trust involved in a relationship–knowing when to speak, knowing when to be silent, and knowing when to not trust your own memory.
Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
Future Islands had the indie success story of 2014: after a charismatic Late Show performance, the Baltimore trio finally got the attention they so sorely deserved after years and albums of hard work. “Seasons” is one of those songs that is a life lesson that is actually poem that is actually a triumphant anthem. Listen, and just remember, this song made a famous curmudgeon very very happy.