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Heavy Rotation: Our Panel's 10 Favorite Songs Of The Year (So Far)

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Heavy Rotation: Our Panel's 10 Favorite Songs Of The Year (So Far)

Heavy Rotation: Our Panel's 10 Favorite Songs Of The Year (So Far)

Hear Music From Hawk House, Jack White, The Orwells And More

Heavy Rotation: Our Panel's 10 Favorite Songs Of The Year (So Far)

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Stream The Songs

  • Hawk House, 'Chill Pill'

    Hawk House.
    Courtesy of the artist
    Hawk House.
    Courtesy of the artist

    Hawk House is the British hip-hop trio of brothers Sam and Eman Croydon and singer Demae; together, they make music that falls squarely between the progressive soul of Iman Omari and the progressive hip-hop of A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets and Buhloone Mindstate-era De La Soul, with shades of Jamiroquai.

    "Chill Pill," from the upcoming A Handshake to the Brain, benefits from insightful wordplay and melodic sound painting — hallmarks of classic hip-hop, melded with a wonderful vision of where the genre could go moving forward. Hawk House may be the face of hip-hop's evolution, and we're all the better for it. — Chris Campbell, WDET's The Progressive Underground

    09Chill Pill

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      Song
      Chill Pill
      Album
      A Handshake To The Brain
      Artist
      Hawk House
      Released
      2014

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  • The Orwells, 'The Righteous One'

    The Orwells.
    Jory Lee Cordy/Courtesy of the artist
    The Orwells.
    Jory Lee Cordy/Courtesy of the artist

    Based on "The Righteous One," Chicago band The Orwells' new album Disgraceland was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Full of bounce and swagger, the song is as catchy as they come. You can't help but sing along, whether or not you know all the words — which are simple and few, sung alluringly by frontman Mario Cuomo. The group isn't re-inventing rock 'n' roll, but its raw sound is irresistible. — Cheryl Waters, KEXP

    02The Righteous One

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      Song
      The Righteous One
      Album
      Disgraceland
      Artist
      The Orwells
      Label
      Atlantic
      Released
      2014

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  • Nickel Creek, 'Destination'

    Nickel Creek.
    Brantley Gutierrez/Courtesy of the artist
    Nickel Creek.
    Brantley Gutierrez/Courtesy of the artist

    Nickel Creek's blend of bluegrass, country, classical, jazz, rock, pop and folk may appear incongruous in conversation. But its music embodies all these elements in a way most bands couldn't explore if they tried. Take "Destination" from A Dotted Line, for example. Here, the newly reunited trio rocks an empowered breakup tune, interweaving a languid melody, percussive rhythm guitar, and the counterpoint between lead vocals and upright bass. The power-chord-like backing harmonies from Chris Thile and Sean Watkins hit so hard, the notes themselves convey the point the singers are making ("I'll be moving on"). By the time Sara Watkins' fiddle snakes languidly above the straight-rhythm staccato mandolin, you might forget that this wall of sound could just as likely happen around a single mic. — Kim Ruehl, Folk Alley

    02Destination

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      Song
      Destination
      Album
      A Dotted Line
      Artist
      Nickel Creek
      Label
      Nonesuch
      Released
      2014

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  • Zara McFarlane, 'Police & Thieves'

    Zara McFarlane.
    Courtesy of the artist
    Zara McFarlane.
    Courtesy of the artist

    "Police and Thieves" was a reggae hit for Junior Murvin and Lee Perry in the 1970s. Then, Joe Strummer and The Clash recast it on their debut. Now, we hear U.K. singer Zara McFarlane, a child of Jamaican parentage, respond innately to the words. Sometimes brooding and haunting but always deeply emotional, McFarlane finds the song's underlying drama. On If You Knew Her, McFarlane's second recording, Murvin's original falsetto is replaced with a warm female voice set against a jazz background. The words are still present and relevant nearly 40 years later. — Josh Jackson, WBGO

    You can purchase Zara Mcfarlane's music at Amazon and iTunes.

    05Police & Thieves

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  • Benjamin Booker, 'Violent Shiver'

    Benjamin Booker.
    Max Norton/Courtesy of the artist
    Benjamin Booker.
    Max Norton/Courtesy of the artist

    The raw energy and pure rock 'n' roll of "Violent Shiver" caught my attention the second I heard it. Blazing guitars, gutty vocals, powerful drumming — not to mention some serious background "woo hoos" — make this a song to beat this summer for sheer energy and fun. It's a staple of my DJ sets, with a roughness that I've missed lately in new music. The song is ferocious and danceable, and this 22-year-old New Orleans native may have just schooled the rest of us on what's really cool. — Anne Litt, KCRW

    01Violent Shiver

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      Song
      Violent Shiver
      Album
      Violent Shiver - Single
      Artist
      Benjamin Booker
      Label
      ATO
      Released
      2014

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  • Sam Smith, 'Stay With Me'

    It's been a fast rise for U.K. singer Sam Smith, who went from a high-profile collaboration with Disclosure to his debut album in two years. Appearances on Saturday Night Live and at Bonnaroo have quickly spread word of his big voice, which he wraps around intimate, confessional songs. "Stay With Me" is an emotional slow-builder that touches on his soul and gospel influences. Sam Smith is poised to be a household name, and this could well be the song that takes him there. — Rita Houston, WFUV

    YouTube
  • Jack White, 'That Black Bat Licorice'

    Jack White.
    Jo McCaughey/Courtesy of the artist
    Jack White.
    Jo McCaughey/Courtesy of the artist

    A lazaretto is a place in which travelers are quarantined to prevent the spread of disease. On Lazaretto, in "That Black Bat Licorice," White's words hit on self-imposed isolation to purge a relationship that's making him crazy, with references to Nietzsche, a hearse and cutting out his own tongue. But White spits out the words with sly and knowing humor, and the insistent blues current and fantastic production help make the song a standout. On a record full of varied styles, and packed with energy and creativity, this is the song I can't put away. — David Christensen, opbmusic

    09That Black Bat Licorice

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      Song
      That Black Bat Licorice
      Album
      Lazaretto
      Artist
      Jack White
      Label
      Third Man Records
      Released
      2014

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  • The War On Drugs, 'Under The Pressure'

    The War On Drugs.
    Dusdin Condren/Courtesy of the artist
    The War On Drugs.
    Dusdin Condren/Courtesy of the artist

    The War on Drugs comes fully into its own on Lost in the Dream. Adam Granduciel has written the most powerful songs of his career, and the band soars — particularly in the epic, nine-minute album opener "Under the Pressure." An independent musician with classic-rock tendencies, Granduciel has written some of the best Dylan-style songs of the past decade or so, and here he uses the sort of pacing usually associated with older bands. Confidence and time have made this a record for this year and many to come. — David Dye, World Cafe

    01Under The Pressure

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      Song
      Under The Pressure
      Album
      Lost In The Dream
      Artist
      The War On Drugs
      Label
      Secretly Canadian
      Released
      2014

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  • The Notwist, 'Kong'

    The Notwist.
    Joerg Koopman/Courtesy of the artist
    The Notwist.
    Joerg Koopman/Courtesy of the artist

    In 25-plus years of playing music, the German band The Notwist has been a stylistic grasshopper, landing on punkish metal and jazzy prog en route to the electronics-tinged pop it plays now. On the group's first album in six years, guitars eat the synths for lunch; in spite of its forlorn lyrics, "Kong" makes with the fizzy pop and never lets up. Krautrock is typically known for its cool reserve, but "Kong" adds up to four minutes of barely contained exuberance. — Jeff McCord, KUTX

    03Kong

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      Song
      Kong
      Album
      Close To The Glass
      Artist
      The Notwist
      Label
      Sub Pop
      Released
      2014

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  • Haley Bonar, 'Last War'

    Haley Bonar.
    Graham Tolbert/Courtesy of the artist
    Haley Bonar.
    Graham Tolbert/Courtesy of the artist

    Forget tissues, ice cream and self-pity; breaking up with Haley Bonar requires a shield and some fire-resistant body armor. In the title track to her scintillating new album, Bonar turns a single, repeating guitar note into a call to arms — and a chorus of harmonizing ghost vocals into a flamethrower — as she turns back for another battle with a soon-to-be ex. "Last War" finds her free falling in that torturous space between taking the first leap out of a relationship and pulling the ripcord, and it's simultaneously mournful and searing. — Andrea Swensson, The Current

    03Last War

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      Song
      Last War
      Album
      Last War
      Artist
      Haley Bonar
      Label
      Graveface Records
      Released
      2014

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Heavy Rotation is a monthly sampler of public radio hosts' favorite songs. Check out past editions here.

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If You Knew Her

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Album
If You Knew Her
Artist
Zara McFarlane
Label
Brownswood
Released
2014

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A Handshake To The Brain

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Album
A Handshake To The Brain
Artist
Hawk House
Released
2014

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Disgraceland

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Album
Disgraceland
Artist
The Orwells
Label
Atlantic
Released
2014

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A Dotted Line

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Album
A Dotted Line
Artist
Nickel Creek
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2014

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Violent Shiver - Single

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Album
Violent Shiver - Single
Artist
Benjamin Booker
Label
ATO
Released
2014

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In The Lonely Hour

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Album
In The Lonely Hour
Artist
Sam Smith
Released
2014

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Lazaretto

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Lazaretto
Artist
Jack White
Label
Third Man Records
Released
2014

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Lost In The Dream

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Album
Lost In The Dream
Artist
The War On Drugs
Label
Secretly Canadian
Released
2014

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Close To The Glass

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Album
Close To The Glass
Artist
The Notwist
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2014

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Last War

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Album
Last War
Artist
Haley Bonar
Label
Graveface Records
Released
2014

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