The Best Songs of 2014

The Best Songs of 2014

30. Allan Kingdom – “Evergreens”

Allan Kingdom: hip-hop’s pied paper, heralding a new age where those rigid in their ways are carted off to the morgue. “Evergreens” emitted the final note of change, proving the Minnesota native a leader of hip-hop meets woodsy folk. Leftfield creativity (his youthful voice traverses all register)  and indie pop sensibility (good luck not shrieking “I’m wonderful, that works for me!” for weeks on end) converge. Though he rises beyond the canopy every few bars, gliding above airy flutes, horns and stomping drums ground Kingdom in lush vegetation. Plain Pat, waddup. —Alex Siber

29. GoldLink – “When I Die”

GoldLink’s The God Complex is one of the most lean and impactful free albums in recent memory. While “When I Die” doesn’t spearhead the record, the song provides the project’s closing moments with a vulnerability lacking elsewhere. Its post-death regrets and oscillating, teetering synths layer depth and gravitas beneath a constant bounce. Alone, its iciness amplifies. You can’t help but envision your own corpse, lifeless and increasingly hollow as threads of memory disintegrate. —Alex Siber 

28. Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”

After winning the world’s heart with his gorgeous vocal work on Disclosure’s “Latch” — be it the album or acoustic version — Britain’s latest blue-eyed soul export took us all to church with “Stay With Me.” It may not be the infectious, feel-good track that is “Latch,” but “Stay With Me” is the track that solidified Smith’s stance as a solo artist — and a damn fine one at that. —Andrew Martin

27. Raury – “God’s Whisper”

When I rolled out of bed in need of an energy rush this semester, I overlooked the coffee cup and pressed play on “God’s Whisper.” I’m a sucker for sweeping anthems. You know, those youthful rally cries bundling adventure, brotherhood and bonfires with tribal chants, pounding kicks and reverberating guitar licks; maybe those easy stabs at something divine are what fueled the backlash against the teenage Atlanta native. Yet for all the skeptics, Raury applied a largely untouched folk approach to the rap canon. Toss your caps into the night and take to the backstreets. You never know what you might find. —Alex Siber

26. Kendrick Lamar – “i”

In the aftermath of good kid, m.A.A.d city’s success, Kendrick Lamar spent 2013 in victory lap mode with aggressive verses calling out his competition, most notably in his guest feature on Big Sean’s “Control.” So after so many months of King Kendrick trying to murder every verse he touches, it was somewhat of a shock when the first single off his upcoming album was fun and downright groovy. “i” is thematically similar to GKMC’s “Real” in that it explores how loving yourself will allow loving the sometimes-cruel environment around you; however, “i” presents its message in a more upbeat and playful way with Rahki recreating The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” for the beat. Kendrick, seemingly influenced by Andre 3000, took an unexpected turn to create one of the catchiest feel-good anthems since K. Dot entered the scene. —Chris Gibbons

25. ILoveMakonnen – “Tuesday” F. Drake

If you want a slice of the year, look no further than the sublime “Tuesday.” Fueled by Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital’s ethereal production and bolstered by Drake’s power remix, the star of the show is still ILoveMakonnen, who found a way to inspire something new in his collaborators. If this woozy gem becoming a Top 10 hit was surprising, just wait ’till next year. Squad goin up. —Corey Libow

24. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

Future Islands made their network TV debut on The Late Show in March, performing “Seasons,” and did they ever make the most of that opportunity. Lead singer Samuel T. Herring was the talk of music websites for days after an intense, heartfelt performance. “Seasons” is a song about longing for somebody, and Herring sells that with the passion in his voice. But it’s not all about him; it’s a showcase for the band’s gift to write catchy hooks and melodies. Even if you take away the TV performance, “Seasons” is one of the most triumphant songs of 2014, as well as one of its best earworms. —Chris Gibbons

23. Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”

“Blue Suede” is a song Ice Cube would make if he was still in his late teens or early 20s, angry as fuck and talking about the awful shit he saw every day and night. Considering Cube’s too busy acting and making subpar records these days, we’ll absolutely let Vince Staples carry that torch. And he does so proudly here, delivering lyrical venom over Hagler Tyrant’s speaker-smashing, synth-driven instrumental. —Andrew Martin

22. Blue Daisy – “Mermaids” F. Lizbet Sempa

We all have that list of artists we wish reached more ears than others. And sitting close to the top of mine is Blue Daisy, a London-based vocalist/producer who knows a thing or two about aesthetics. Typically, his music isn’t the only captivating piece of art he shares; his artwork and music videos are often striking, too. Really, shouldn’t that be the goal of every artist? Anyway, “Mermaids” is a chilling, refreshing track that, hopefully, will bring more ears to Blue Daisy. —Andrew Martin

21. Childish Gambino – “Sober”

Because of his prior fame, Gambino’s development from an amateur musician to a budding new talent has largely happened while in the public eye. One of the primary changes has come through his growing confidence in his singing voice, which led to the first project from Gambino where singing was his primary mode of vocal performance. Surprisingly, Kauai worked out in his favor. No song off that set was better than “Sober,” a synth-laden smooth pop jam, livened up by Gambino’s charming falsetto and the repetitive yet resonant lyric, “And now that it’s over / I’ll never be sober.” If this is a sign of where Gambino’s headed, he may at last have an inescapable album on his hands. —Jeff Baird

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