Brody’s Essential Tracks of 2014

On the inside sleeve of the reissue of Josh Ritter’s Golden Age of Radio, legendary filmmaker and music journalist Cameron Crowe wrote:

“Nothing quite beats the power of a song that arrives perfectly. It can be the melody from a distant window, a guilty-pleasure piece of pop fluff or even the exquisitely wrong song at the wrong time. The fact is that life can be the best d.j. of them all. A song or an artist can land in your life in the most profound and mysterious ways and from that moment on that record defines an afternoon, a season, a city or a life.” 

Throughout 2014, all the music I fell in love with seemed to come into spin perfectly. The emotional connections were instantaneous and effortless, and the themes and tones continue to mold me. As a music lover, I’m not sure any other year has been this momentous as far as self definition goes. So, I behold the ten songs of 2014 that latched on to me and begged to be felt.


The Counting Crows: “God Of Ocean Tides”(Somewhere Under Wonderland, 2014): The world’s been in unconditional love with The Counting Crows since their 1992 masterpiece-debut August and Everything After, and while time often fluctuates the quality of bands whose lifespans defy the twenty year mark, Counting Crows have yet to fall short; remaining crusaders of their sentimental, driven alternative rock. “God Of Ocean Tides”, one of the many singles off their most recent LP Somewhere Under Wonderland, is a song that progresses with as much ease as the morning tides, navigating a tender atmosphere of percussion-free acoustics as frontman Adam Duritz’s warm vocals sing of running away to places all across the world in a fit of transcendental appreciation and passion. Returning to simpler, more naturalistic roots and growing to appreciate the inherent freedom that human beings possess doesn’t go without frequent coverage in songwriting, but Counting Crows have rendered it at it’s most momentous.

Damien Rice: “The Greatest Bastard”(My Favourite Faded Fantasy, 2014): It’s clear that after a thoughtful listening of Damien Rice’s seminal 2002 debut that he possesses a sentimental charm not characteristic of other singer-songwriters, and this dreamy knowledge of romance and heartbreak made a teary return on “The Greatest Bastard”. For those of us still suffering from emotional PTSD from O, “The Greatest Bastard” was the last thing my heart could take, but with it’s soaked eyes and all, this is one of the most touching, authentic recollections of a past relationship ever recorded. ‘Bittersweet’ doesn’t even begin to describe Rice’s apologetic memory of a relationship where he “learned to wag and tuck [his] tail”, and to “…win and how to fail.” Rice’s passion breaks free in the end where he bursts into a falsetto-uttered attack of untarnished nostalgia, however the song doesn’t even end there because you’ll have started it all over.

The War On Drugs: “Burning” (Lost In The Dream, 2014): The War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream is easily my favorite LP of 2014, most likely to become one of my all time favorites, and “Burning” is a deeper cut off the album that continues to amaze, move, and inspire me. The War On Drugs’ flawless balance of traditional instrumentation and the electronic charm of synthesizers thrives on this song as breezy, open-road guitar and synth melodies bleed through the fiery, sunny orifices as Granduciel’s words of starting over and beginning again are rendered clear through a haze of ambient distortion, singing all throughout the song’s light-polluted twilight of inspiration. There are many essential tracks on Lost In The Dream, but “Burning” is a sleeper that’s not to be missed under any circumstances.

Beck: “Waking Light” (Morning Phase, 2014): Beck’s Morning Phase had me riding on a wave of blissful contemplation all year, and “Waking Light” is a gem sitting at the very bottom that’s come to be my absolute favorite cut. The song balances delicate orchestration, acoustics, and ethereal production that render Beck’s voice clear and emotionally propelling through the enchanted haze of a sunset, and I can’t help but think the song would perfectly wrap up the end of a spiritually liberating, transcendental film that moves to the core. Nonetheless, I don’t need the accompaniment of rolling credits to find the stark, inspiring beauty in this track.

Sun Kil Moon: “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” (Benji, 2014): Mark Kozelek made a bold move with his solo material, choosing to abandon metaphors and ambiguous lyrics in favor of brutally honest, journal-esque lyricism, and this cut off his masterwork Benji would not be the same without this unconventional and emotionally gnawing songwriting. “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” is a lengthy (nearly eleven minute), illustrious ballad where Kozelek reflects upon a film he saw as a child to tell an abundance of youthful stories over an instrumental of poignantly breezy acoustics that flow alongside the lyricism like a soft wind. This song ensues the kind of nostalgia that can only be induced by looking at an old photograph of people you have no relation to, as you use imagination to create pasts and presents for the individuals in frame.

Alex Dezen: “Death Metal and Disco” (1/4, 2014): Typically, crass sarcasm and sentimental appreciation are two emotional qualities that cease to meet, but on “Death Metal and Disco”, Alex Dezen manages to fuse the two together in one of the most graceful, tender, and entertaining songs of the year. Intertwining lines like “There are too many hungry kids in the world/So f*** you I ain’t making another one” with “Though I’d love to see your face inside a child”, Dezen, masterfully weaves phrases of utter cynical brashness with soft passion while remaining entirely consistent. “Death Metal and Disco” charmed me from the first verse, and it’s continued to do so ever since it released earlier this year.

Bruce Springsteen: “The Wall” (High Hopes, 2014): I’ve been an emotionally devoted Springsteen fan for quite some time now, and this cut off High Hopes – a collection of unreleased B-sides and covers – took me right back to the first time I heard Born To Run. No one does nostalgia like The Boss, and as this song reflects upon Springsteen’s adolescent relationship with Burt Haynes, his fellow bandmate in his early group The Castilles who was drafted into Vietnam and killed, woe floods out of it’s melodies and Springsteen’s heartache is hot to the touch.

Spoon: “Inside Out” (They Want My Soul, 2014): Indie-rock is filled to the brim with stale, derivative acts that lose flavor with each listen, but thankfully Spoon have always came through with charismatically crafted, aromatic material that’s made them as renowned as they are today. “Inside Out” doesn’t resemble typical Spoon, however. Instead of shooting life into cherry-red, buoyant guitars and a gritty aesthetic that can only be described as sweet chaser, this song is bursting with ethereal production, rosy synthesizers, and artificial percussion that each render it irresistible.

Bleachers: “I Wanna Get Better” (Strange Desire, 2014): The indie-pop collective Bleachers formed by Fun’s instrumental mastermind Jack Antonoff consistently delivered fantastic, exotically tinged pop-rock this year – most notably of which is the self-empowering hit “I Wanna Get Better”. There are so many things to praise about this song: the cunning, empowering charm of the lyricism, the curious and sporadic production, but most important is the self-driven inspiration to better yourself that the song nearly sweats.

The 1975: “Medicine” (Single, 2014): The 1975 cascaded into the American music scene last year with their highly eclectic and prolific self-titled debut, and though they didn’t drop another LP this year, the single “Medicine” came through to hold everyone over. Everything about this track is intoxicating: the dreamy romanticism of the production, the vitally lovely lead guitar riff, frontman Matt Healy’s sharply drawling vocals; I could go on and on. This is the song that plays at the end of the fictional movie when the guy realizes he didn’t need the girl after all, and drives off into the city lights in hopes to seek something more. The 1975 have fashioned a new form of enchanted teenage angst with their music, and this track only expands it.