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This year's list includes a healthy mix of electronic pop, indie rock, punk, acoustic, and metal tunes.

Charlie Doherty’s Top Tunes of 2014

2014 was in some ways a weird year for me music-wise. I found myself at times excited more about old music I had recently discovered (much of the Pentagram catalog being a prime example) or for older bands/musicians either reclaiming their former sound or pleasantly sounding like the classic rock I grew up with. From Judas Priest sounding like old school Judas Priest again to Ryan Adams doing his best Springsteen/Fleetwood Mac/Tom Petty/Husker Du impressions, it was a great year for nostalgic music if you were looking for it (and even if you weren’t). There were some forward-thinking artists I came across and which you’ll see below (Guerilla Toss, Lemonade, etc.) but by and large, familiar but still damn good sounds dominated my year in music.

Unlike past years, I didn’t find myself listening to as wide a variety of music in 2014 as I did in years past. There were very few blues and hip-hop records/artists that I can honestly say I even paid attention to, for example, but my upcoming year-old list will definitely include at least one from each of those genres, I can promise that much. So what you’ll see below is a wide variety of rock tracks I dug, along with some folk-ish numbers, electronic pop tunes, and of course, metal.

Here are my Top 40 tracks of 2014 (not in any significant order, despite the numbering).

1. Speedy Ortiz “American Horror” (The latest from this female-fronted Boston group is reminiscent of Archers of Loaf, one of the more underrated indie rock groups of the ’90s. Note: Archers reunited and toured in 2013, and I was lucky enough to catch one of those shows in Cambridge, MA.)

2. Spoon “Inside Out” (Their newest album, They Want My Soul, was a mixed effort to my ears, but this sparkling song shined the brightest.)

3. Little Big League “Tropical Jinx” (This one is from the Boston-based Run for Cover Records, one of Stereogum’s 2014 “Breakout” labels.)

4. Lucinda Williams “Foolishness” (Williams gets defiant and aims to shut out all negative vibes in her life on this out-and-out rocker.)

5. The Orwells “Who Needs You” (I completely forgot about this band, until I heard this straight-ahead rocker countless times on TV commercials last year. Good to see The Orwells back.)

The Voyager6. Alvvays “Archie, Marry Me” (Polyvinyl is a record label I’ve long respected. It just keeps finding and putting out damn good bands/artists (Matt Pond MA, Owen, etc.). Add Canada’s Alvvays to the list. It also doesn’t hurt that Ben Gibbard recently covered this song live on piano, which I admit, finally got me to pay attention to this band once and for all.)

7. Jenny Lewis “She’s Not Me” (Lewis can do no wrong by me. And when she is teamed up with Ryan Adams to help finish the album as he did, you definitely have a winner here.)

8. Prince “Funknroll” (Prince put out two records this year, one better than the other, but this jam was a definite highlight.)

9. Math and Physics Club “Long Drag” (Gibbard-like vocals can be heard on this one.)

10. Ex Cops “White Noise” (The New York pop/alt-rock group’s sophomore album Daggers was executively produced by Billy Corgan.)

11. Ryan Adams “Let Go” (I could have picked over a handful of other songs from his solid new self-titled LP, but this is the track I listened to the most.)

12. Sun Kil Moon “Micheline” (Benji was one of the best records of 2014 on many lists. This softy is just one reason why.)

13. Hurray for the Riff Raff “Good Time Blues (An Outlaw’s Lament)” (This was a late entry but definitely worthy of its place on my list.)

14. Spotlight Kid “Can’t Let Go” (In the midst of a the revival/reunion of long adored shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, and Swervedriver, comes some new English shoegaze. SK couldn’t have picked a better time to make their own mark on this influential but still relatively under-the-radar genre of rock.)

15. Phantogram “Fall in Love” (This group always puts out some cool electronic pop.)

16. Smashing Pumpkins “Drum + Fife” (Corgan, one of the greatest songwriters of our time, doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone anymore. But in case you had your doubts that he can still write a great pop song, this Monuments to an Elegy standout, with its bright, Big Country-beat, erased those concerns with ease. And lucky for all of us, he wrote an entire album full of pop gems this time out.

17. Munk Duane “Some Rivers” (Americana with soaring vocals from this Boston native.)

18. Ty Segall “Feel” (Segall can be versatile with his songwriting, even during the course of one song – this one at times sort of carries a Black Sabbath-type of “feel.”)

19. The Hydrothermal Vents “Shark!” (Post punk/dance rock from Montreal.)

20. Lemonade “Orchid Bloom” (Blissful electronic pop – that’s what you almost always get from Lemonade.)

21. J. Mascis “Wide Awake (f/Chan Marshall)” (This gentle acoustic tune shows a different side of the Dinosaur Jr. frontman than you’re probably used to.)

22. Weezer “Go Away” (The power pop gem, which also features the lovely Best Coast singer/guitarist Bethany Cosentino trading off vocals with Rivers Cuomo, made me a believer in Weezer again.)

23. Neko Case & Kelly Hogan “These Aren’t The Droids” (This is a pretty hilarious number. Check out the video.)

24. “Weird Al” Yankovic “Word Crimes” (Weird Al released one of his best albums in over 20 years. This clever parody of Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines” is my favorite from Mandatory Fun. The song is indeed fun, funny, and along with the video, even educational.)

25. Mangoseed “Careful” (Ready for something different? Try some pretty awesome heavy synth/dub/rock straight from … London.)

26. Strand of Oaks “Goshen ‘97” (Yuck isn’t the only band these days taking their cues from J. Mascis’s beloved Dinosaur Jr. It’s good to see such influences picking up steam these days.)

27. Guerilla Toss “367 Equalizer” (It’s the weirdest track on the list, but this group gets points for experimental grooviness.)

28. Judas Priest “Metalizer” (This ferocious speed metal track and the amazing album it comes from, Redeemer of Souls, was a pleasant surprise to a lot of Priest fans. A triumphant return to form indeed.)

29. Tina and the B-Sides “Barricade” (It’s a great song that gets personal – in a good way.)

30. Mastodon “Chimes at Midnight” (There wasn’t a lot of heavy metal I listened to this year, but this group always delivers the goods.)

31. Failure “Come Crashing” (Failure has reunited, and this is their first piece of new music since 1996. Welcome back!)

32. Courtney Love “You Know My Name” (Surprising and scorching punk rock from Love – her best in 20 years.)

33. Sunny Day Real Estate “Lipton Witch” (This is their first new song in 14 years, and fans such as myself couldn’t have hoped for anything better.)

34. Bob Mould “I Don’t Know You Anymore” (The former Husker Du leader can still write a punchy pop-punk tune 35 years into his career. His music and legacy has been celebrated in recent years, as well it should.)

35. Little Dragon “Killing Me (live)” (Starting with their Coachella 2014 performance, I couldn’t get enough of hearing this new one from Little Dragon, by far my favorite track they’ve ever released now. I picked the live version because it’s how I first heard it and still is superior to the studio version, IMHO. It’s got a killer heavy synth groove, sort of like “Army of Me”-era Bjork-meets-Nine Inch Nails.)

36. U2 “Invisible” (The iTunes-released free album Songs of Innocence was U2’s most disappointing album ever in terms of the music itself – except to Rolling Stone, apparently. The songs just didn’t resonate with me. This one cut, however, released during last year’s Super Bowl, did.)

37. Cymbals “Erosion” (Dreamy indie pop – never a bad thing.)

38. Cloud Nothings “Psychic Trauma” (More raw, punk-packed goodness from these guys.)

39. Eagulls “Possessed” (Leeds has produced yet another fine rock group, the post-punk act Eagulls. This was their standout single from early 2014.)

40. M83 “I Need You” (Another excellent ethereal track from M83, this time from the Divergent soundtrack.)

About Charlie Doherty

Senior Music Editor and Culture & Society (Sports) Editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Prior writing/freelancing ventures: copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. Keep up with me on twitter.com/chucko33

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