NPR logo NPR Music's Favorite Songs Of 2014

NPR Music's Favorite Songs Of 2014

Songs We Love 2014

We made you a mixtape. A really long mixtape. In the past, we've kept this list, of our favorite songs of the year, to 100 songs. A nice, round, semi-arbitrary number that always meant leaving out dozens of our favorites.

Not this year. Instead, we turned our tidy list of songs into a massive, party-starting player in which you can actually listen to every single one of the 302 songs we loved this year, from every genre we cover. You'll find a 19-minute doom-metal epic and a few two-minute punk explosions. Classic-sounding R&B and Vine-inspiring hip-hop. Ecstatic choruses and devastating harmonies. Beats from around the world and unwavering political folk from here at home and plenty more that blurred the boundaries.

You can scan the complete list of songs below, but to get the full experience click the launch link below to hear them all. You can sort by genre or select a playlist created by members of NPR Music's staff and our member station partners, or just hit shuffle and listen until you find a new favorite of your own. You can also find the list on Rdio and Spotify.

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Jump directly to a genre:

Classical
Country/Americana
Electronic
Hip-Hop
Jazz
Latin
Pop
R&B
Rock
World
\m/ >_< \m/

Classical

A Far Cry, "Hearne: Palindrome for Andrew Norman"

A fascinating ode to a fellow composer, with shards of Bach, Mahler, Ligeti and Kanye (played by an ambitious new ensemble).

– Tom Huizenga

Bang on a Can All-Stars & Trio Mediaeval, "Wolfe: Some Say (from 'Steel Hammer')"

Composer Julia Wolfe reframes Appalachian sounds and the legend of John Henry with the ethereal-voiced Trio Mediaeval.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Cameron Carpenter, "Bernstein: Candide Overture"

Carpenter pulls out all the stops on his tricked out organ, animating Berrnstein's Overture with a kaleidoscope of chirps, blurps and bells.

– Tom Huizenga

Conspirare, "Kyr: Transcending: And Love Remains"

Born in the silence of a New Mexico desert, Kyr's music resounds with a gleaming, transcendent ecstasy.

– Tom Huizenga

Girma Yifrashewa, "Sememen"

What if Chopin had vacationed in Addis Ababa? In this alluring piano music, poetic filigree meets spirited Ethiopian sounds.

– Tom Huizenga

The Hilliard Ensemble, "Lullay, I Saw"

England's marvelous vocal quartet bids farewell with this tender and sweet 15th-century Christmas carol.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Jacaszek, "Kingdom (Les Chênes, Les Bouleaux)"

Hovering above the fringes of classical and ambient music, "Kingdom" creates a potent space somewhere between dreaming and consciousness.

– Tom Huizenga

Jeffrey Zeigler, "Perez Santiago: Glaub"

An eerie, atmospheric and deeply compelling duet between cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and composer/electric guitarist Felipe Perez Santiago.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Jonas Kaufmann, "Schubert: Der Leiermann"

At the end of a harrowing winter's journey, beyond the village, you meet an organ grinder, barefoot in the snow. Dogs snarl. Will you follow him?

– Tom Huizenga

Joyce DiDonato, "Bellini: Dopo l'oscuro nembo"

A rarely heard student piece by Bellini makes an opulent platform for today's most exciting opera singer.

– Tom Huizenga

Latvian Radio Choir, "Falik: Your Temple, Lord"

A silvery-voiced soprano soars above a gently rocking beat from a luminous choir. Could this be what heaven sounds like?

– Tom Huizenga

Leon Fleisher, "Gershwin: The Man I Love"

Using just five fingers, the 85-year-old pianist still plays like a master, conjuring an orchestra of colors in this left-hand-only arrangement.

– Tom Huizenga

Nathalie Stutzmann, "Handel: Son qual stanco pellegrino"

Great beauty exists in sadness. This lament benefits from Stutzmann's gorgeous contralto and touching accompaniment from a cello piccolo.

– Tom Huizenga

Pavel Kolesnikov, "Tchaikovsky: June"

From a calendar's worth of piano music by Tchaikovsky, June is wistful, its melody irresistible in the fingers of a young, emerging Russian pianist.

– Tom Huizenga

YMusic, "Turner: The Bear & The Squirrel"

The group yMusic, with producer Son Lux, smudge the lines between classical and pop with Jeremy Turner's yearning lament for winds and strings.

– Tom Huizenga

Country/Americana

Adia Victoria, "Stuck in the South"

This young Nashville-based hellraiser's first single is an instant sensation about social entrapment and the determination to shake it.

– Ann Powers

Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, "Shotgun Blues"

Fleck and Washburn turn the murder ballad genre on its head by turning the gun on the man this time, along with a healthy dose of guilt.

– Kelly McCartney, Folk Alley

David Nail, "The Secret"

One of country's most sensitive and powerful young vocalists scales the heights on this intriguing ballad about lost love and cruel realities no one can admit.

– Ann Powers

Doug Seegers, "Going Down To The River"

After years spent on the street, a gifted singer-songwriter shares the gospel of redemption.

– Ann Powers

Drive-By Truckers, "Grand Canyon"

It's almost unbearable to lose someone you love; this elegy for a member of the veteran Southern band's family nods to the difficulty of letting go while providing a way to do it.

– Ann Powers

Eric Church, "Give Me Back My Hometown"

Love and loss at the Pizza Hut: this country heart-stomper provides perfect insight into small-town pride

– Ann Powers

Hurray For The Riff Raff, "The Body Electric"

Alynda Lee Segarra isn't the first woman to notice that folk music killed a lot of women, but she's the one who intervened. One of the most potent political songs of the year.

– Ann Powers

Jason Eady, "One, Two ... Many"

This is what honky-tonk drinking songs are supposed to be like.

– Ann Powers

Kira Isabella, "Quarterback"

The next time someone says current country music is just escapist tripe, play them this: A 21-year-old looks the reality of date rape right in the eye.

– Ann Powers

Lee Ann Womack, "Chances Are"

On this instant classic written by Hayes Carll, Womack shows why she's one of current country's great song stylists.

– Ann Powers

Lucinda Williams, "Stand Right By Each Other"

An update on "Stand By Your Man" that doesn't put all of the onus on the wife. What a concept.

– Otis Hart

Lydia Loveless, "Wine Lips"

Just 24, Loveless channels two or three lifetimes' worth of weary grit into this hooky jam about kissing a lover who's been drinking.

– Stephen Thompson

Miranda Lambert, "Bathroom Sink"

A mundane spot in the house inspires a stormily rocking treatise on self-image.

– Stephen Thompson

Parker Millsap, "Truck Stop Gospel"

This 21-year-old Oklahoman comes on like greased lightning in a song that melds John Prine with Carl Perkins, motoring forward on a great fiddle line and kick drum.

– Ann Powers

Robert Ellis, "Chemical Plant"

A genuinely haunting ballad about young love that turns older in a desolate landscape, it's inspired by the Texas of troubadour Ellis's youth, and was recorded in Nashville, but lives up to the legacy of Springsteen's The River.

– Ann Powers

Rosanne Cash, "Night School"

A quiet, string- and acoustic guitar-laced meditation proves that less is very often more.

– Kelly McCartney, Folk Alley

Sam Hunt, "House Party"

Nashville songcraft meets Atlanta beats in this boisterous and deeply sweet good-time come-on from the year's most promising new mainstream country star.

– Ann Powers

St. Paul & The Broken Bones, "Call Me"

Blue-eyed soul from the heart of true believers who grew up on the holy ground where this stuff all started, centered around a voice that gathers itself and hits like an Alabama storm.

– Ann Powers

Sturgill Simpson, "Turtles All The Way Down"

Simpson embraces the classic sounds of outlaw country (Cash, Jennings, Haggard) while forging a path entirely its own.

– Robin Hilton

Sunny Sweeney, "Second Guessing"

For Sweeney, failure and disappointment are there to place hard-earned happiness in context.

– Stephen Thompson

Willie Nelson, "The Wall"

An emblematic ballad for 2014 from The Wise One, about reckoning with the tough stuff.

– Ann Powers

Electronic

A Winged Victory For The Sullen, "ATOMOS IX"

Pianist Dustin O'Halloran and composer Adam Wiltzie release the year's most beautiful song.

– Robin Hilton

Afterhours, "Defragment #2"

L.A. producer Nicholas Crozier Malkin delivers the late-night trip-hop jam of the year. Yes, I just used the phrase "trip-hop" in 2014.

– Otis Hart

Andre Laos, "Yield"

This young producer from Gothenburg, Sweden struck gold on his first official 12". Our disco jam of the year.

– Otis Hart

Aphex Twin, "minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]"

Richard D. James' first official song in 13 years actually lived up to the outrageously high expectations.

– Otis Hart

Ben Frost, "Venter"

A trio played on bells, drums and the post-apocalyptic wind that chills the bones of the dead in a barren icescape.

– Jacob Ganz

Bing & Ruth, "The Towns We Love is Our Town"

Thanks to songs like this, Brooklyn pianist David Moore became the ambient darling of the electronic music world in 2014.

– Otis Hart

Caribou, "Our Love"

The title track to Dan Snaith's latest album sounds natural on both indie-rock playlists and the dance floor – not a small feat.

– Otis Hart

Ela Stiles, "Drone Transitions"

This Sydney singer released the drone track of 2014 using only her voice. A transcendental experience that fans of La Monte Young will love.

– Otis Hart

Factory Floor, "How You Say (Redux)"

One of dance music's few great bands revisits and re-energizes a deep cut from its 2013 album.

– Otis Hart

Fennesz, "The Liar"

The Austrian avant artist processes the bejesus out of his guitar on this harrowing beacon of a track.

– Otis Hart

Floating Points, "King Bromeliad"

Arguably the leftfield track of the year, this feels like showing up for a basement dance party and finding an in-its-prime Funkadelic.

– Otis Hart

Gui Boratto, "Joker"

The Brazilian producer gives us EDM's equivalent to The Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius," and it's kind of perfect.

– Otis Hart

Hudson Mohawke, "Chimes"

What it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in technical prowess. Nothing sounded better at top volume in 2014.

– Otis Hart

Jack J, "Something (On My Mind)"

Vancouver producer Jack Jutson wins the 2014 award for "Best Use Of Saxophone (Non-Jazz Category)."

– Otis Hart

Kölsch feat. Gregor Schwellenbach, "Cassiopeia"

Rune Reilly Kølsch is the reigning king of classy Ibiza anthems. "Cassiopeia" is just his latest perfect sunset.

– Otis Hart

Moodymann, "Sunday Hotel"

If I ever get stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop, I'd want this song to be my "I Got You Babe."

– Otis Hart

Porter Robinson feat. Amy Millan, "Divinity"

Robinson's hooky dance epic chops Amy Millan's vocal into isolated phrases yet still captures all the heartsickness and wonder it seeks.

– Stephen Thompson

Protect-U, "Time 2 Technique"

While this relentless funky house cut keeps four on the floor, the D.C. duo obsessively shifts the percussion with the gorgeous synth lines that waft about like clouds.

– Lars Gotrich

Todd Terje feat. Bryan Ferry, "Johnny and Mary"

Cheeseball Norwegian disco king goes heartfelt with the help of erstwhile Roxy Music crooner. There's a rumor I'm starting that Hollywood is considring a remake of Top Gun just so they can use this song in place of "Take My Breath Away."

– Jacob Ganz

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, "The Way He Looks At Me"

Nobody makes textures as original and horrifying as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Grateful for the chill they send down my spine.

– Robin Hilton

Ulf Lohmann, "PCC"

The sound of pearly gates, fluffy clouds and soft lighting, brought to you by Kompakt Records' Pop Ambient series.

– Otis Hart

Hip Hop

100s (feat. Redinho), "Ten Freaky Hoes"

We're not going to pretend there's anything politically correct about this highly inappropriate song. It is what it is: a G-Funk anthem.

– Otis Hart

2 Chainz, "Trap Back"

The message – slathered on top of rousing production – is loud and clear: 2 Chainz never left. And he wants his trap back.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Amber London, "Hard 2 Find"

On this syrupy trip, Houston native Amber London hearkens back to the mid-to-late '90s, when rap was in the grips of the South.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Azealia Banks, "Idle Delilah"

Lead track from the loose cannon MC's long overdue debut is a slavery-inspired fable with weird half-step moves, percolating percussion and a glitchy middle.

– Jason King

Baby Ace feat. Rob Gullatte, "I'm Talkin' Bout"

Lizard brain bass, itchy snares and creamy synths in distinctly Houstonian proportions under lines about plans foiled and reset.

– Frannie Kelley

Big K.R.I.T., "Mt. Olympus"

The Mississippi mainstay spits balls of flame, fury and frustration on this monster of a track.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Bobby Shmurda, "Hot ——-"

You'll never be able to say "about a week ago" again without wanting to toss up your hat and hit the Shmoney Dance.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Cam'ron & A-Trak, "Dip——s"

That rare one-to-one match of music and lyric, concrete jungle winner's circle swagger personified.

– Frannie Kelley

Chance The Rapper & The Social Experiment, "Wonderful Everyday: Arthur"

With help from a soaring band, Chance gifts us with a revival of a childhood theme song we never knew we needed.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Cormega, "Honorable (feat. Raekwon)"

The direct sunlight clarity of a Large Professor beat matched with Raekwon's believable bluster and Cormega's sinewy hindsight.

– Frannie Kelley

DJ Quik, "Pet Sematary"

Predictably gorgeous, deservedly jaundiced and wholly unfair to the competition.

– Frannie Kelley

Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar, "Never Catch Me"

L.A.'s finest team up for four minutes of making the impossible seem effortless. Bonus: the music video of the year.

– Jacob Ganz

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib feat. BJ the Chicago Kid, "Shame"

Cold conquest as told by one of our most adroit rappers over a beat by one of our more ambivalent producers, with a hook sung by the warmest voice in R&B.

– Frannie Kelley

Future feat. Andre 3000, "Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)"

Anti-materialist rant, mystical freaky-Atlanta chant.

– Ann Powers

GoldLink, "CNTRL"

The beat is intentionally touch and go, but rapper GoldLink stays the course as he skips through it with a song in his heart.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

ILOVEMAKONNEN, "Club Goin' Up On A Tuesday"

The spirit of weird Atlanta flows through this young MC.

– Ann Powers

J. Cole, "Be Free"

A stunning, raw response to the national crisis that's arisen after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this song from North Carolina rapper Cole is this year's "Strange Fruit."

– Ann Powers

Jay Electronica x Jay Z, "We Made It (Remix)"

Take a Soulja Boy song; twist it with satire and knife-sharp social commentary and you've got another bold statement from this undervalued artist.

– Tom Huizenga

Jean Grae, "ACME (take it to the wall.)"

Quintuple-threat Jean Grae made a sex song that puts her skills as a comedian and songwriter in particular on blast.

– Frannie Kelley

Jeezy feat. Jay Z, "Seen It All"

If Michael Mann could make a rap song – high highs, low lows, loud voices making big moves against a creeping sense of dread.

– Frannie Kelley

Kendrick Lamar, "i"

Ever the chameleon, K. Dot threw us all for a loop with this message of self-love, which he boasts over a flip of an Isley Brothers classic.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Kevin Gates, "Homicide"

Emotional devastation enacted and re-lived over and over – one of the best performed songs of the year.

– Frannie Kelley

Lil Herb, "4 Minutes of Hell, Part 3"

Urgent and tensed, one of a series of vignettes that led off a mixtape that ran like brushfire through hip-hop heads who prioritize spit above all else.

– Frannie Kelley

Logic, "I'm Gone"

Pensive and brooding, the young Maryland rapper spits flecks of Kendrick, Drake, Yelawolf and more as he finds his own voice.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Mick Jenkins feat. NoName Gypsy, "Comfortable"

Mick and No Name toss impressive bars back and forth on a track that feels like two friends trying to one-up each other on a late summer night.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Migos, "Fight Night"

Migos has an infallible formula: They makes us laugh, dance, and shake our heads as we rap along to lyrics that hardly ever make sense.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

OG Maco, "U Guessed It"

Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Howlin' Wolf, Ol' Dirty Bastard ...OG Maco? This minimalist track by Atlanta's most extroverted rap eccentric inspired countless Vine parodies and placed him among music's great oddball shouters.

– Ann Powers

Pusha T, "Lunch Money"

The beat is "Ride Around Shining" meets "Grindin'," packed into a burbling fishtank. Pusha is Pusha, which is everything.

– Jacob Ganz

Rae Sremmurd, "No Flex Zone"

The song you couldn't escape if you tried. At least now you knowww better.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Rich Gang feat. Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, "Lifestyle"

A loosey-goosey, sneering irritant of a song with a bottom so round and wide you can't knock it over. It cuts through everything.

– Frannie Kelley

Rick Ross feat. Kanye West and Big Sean, "Sanctified"

Betty Wright. Betty Wright. Betty Wright. Betty Wright. Betty Wright. "Really? Me? Too Aggressive?"

– Frannie Kelley

Run The Jewels, "Close Your Eyes (And Count To F—-)"

What does it take to get Rage Against the Machine's Zack De La Rocha on a verse? Also turn his voice into the hook for a bludgeoning track that takes no prisoners.

– Lars Gotrich

Schoolboy Q, "Man Of The Year"

Can I please hire someone to fade this beat up under every sincere, misguided, inspired thing I say?

– Jacob Ganz

Shabazz Palaces, "Ishmael"

Ishmael Butler appeals to the heart of hip-hop in a synth-laden stream of thought: "Sinister hearts ride sinister grooves."

– Lars Gotrich

The Underachievers, "Quiescent"

An update of the old New York flow – insistent but gentle horn strapped to a rim shot that walks with a hitch in its step. Two guys suggest you use your melon.

– Frannie Kelley

Vic Mensa, "Down On My Luck"

Trance-hop? While we keep working on a name for the hybrid genre coined by the Chicago rapper's debut major label single, he's already perfected the style.

– Jacob Ganz

Vince Staples, "Nate"

The rapper ambivalently picks apart his childhood – his motivations and impulses, lessons learned and taught – and yearns for a life that's better than the one he'd once wanted.

– Stephen Thompson

Your Old Droog, "Loosey In the Store With Pennies"

Lyrics for days, in the pocket flow and a comforting sibilance. From a project so good that – to some people – it was literally unbelievable.

– Frannie Kelley

Jazz

Ambrose Akinmusire feat. Becca Stevens, "Our Basement (Ed)"

Shades of Laura Nyro in this lissome collaboration between singer Becca Stevens and the big-dreaming trumpeter.

– Ann Powers

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, "Ark.La.Tex"

When he's not gigging on his day job with Wayne Shorter, drummer Brian Blade leads his Fellowship through the far reaches of jazz.

– Felix Contreras

James Brandon Lewis, "Wading Child In The Motherless Water"

A one-time gospel saxophonist works himself into a trance, mashing up two spirituals through steady accretion and cathartic snatches of melody.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

James Farm, "Two Steps"

A bouncy beat can make you want to listen to anything. In this case, you're rewarded by Aaron Parks and Joshua Redman solos.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Jason Moran, "Ain't Misbehavin'"

A classic goes under the knife, emerging as sleek jazz-funk for the dance floor, for the sampling age, and for you (for you, for you, for you).

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Jeff Ballard Trio, "Beat Street"

Three men who sound like many more go on parade, strutting, swelling, getting boisterous, breaking it down and resolving peacefully.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Paul Bley, "Pent-Up House"

It sounds so spur-of-the-moment, but you don't hear the lifetime of inside-outside border crossings from a jazz master.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Zara McFarlane, "Police & Thieves"

A emerging jazz vocal talent from the U.K. taps personal history, reimagining a falsetto reggae jam which couldn't be more relevant today.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Latin

AJ Davila feat. Selma Oxor, "Dura Como Piedra"

The Puerto Rican rocker keeps his hard edge but never loses his sense of humor.

– Jasmine Garsd

Alika Y Nueva Alianza, "Big Up"

Alika brings it once again with a reggea-tinged rage against the corruption of the powerful.

– Felix Contreras

Ana Tijoux, "Vengo"

A transcendent artist breaking out of hip-hop and Latin music. Her success will be due to her language, not in spite of it.

– David Dye, World Cafe

Calle 13, "Asi De Grande Son Las Ideas"

Calle 13 continues to deftly combine art and message in this musically adventurous track.

– Felix Contreras

Ceci Bastida, "Cuando Te Tenga"

Bastida wears her heart on her sleeve in this expectant but ominous song about her hopes and fears as a mother-to-be.

– Jasmine Garsd

Chingo Bling, "Cerveza"

The Texan rapper shows up at your doorstep with great beats ... and fajitas.

– Jasmine Garsd

Cilantro Boombox, "Fears Away"

Perfect band name, even better music. This track floats right into your conciousness.

– Felix Contreras

David Lindes, "Caminante Caminando"

A new artist to take notice of, as this ode to immigrants superbly illustrates.

– Felix Contreras

Gina Chavez, "Miles De Millas"

A voice that commands attention, lyrics even more.

– Felix Contreras

Jarina De Marco, "El Venao"

A classic merengue gets reimagined with dark electronic undertones.

– Jasmine Garsd

Kali Uchis, "Real"

The Colombian pastel princess of social media intrigue goes the sweet route on this spaced-out, funk-laced tune.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Karol Conka, "Boa Noite"

This was my discovery of the year. I'm thrilled to explore the dense layers of Brazilian and hip-hop funkiness on the entire album.

– Felix Contreras

La Dame Blanche, "Overdosi"

One of the best kept secrets of Latin hip-hop, this song is thick, slow and hallucinogenic.

– Jasmine Garsd

La Santa Cecilia, "Strawberry Fields Forever"

The only remake that works for this song, recast here from the persepctive of workers picking strawberries

– Felix Contreras

Las Acevedo, "She Bangs"

Best cover of the year, period. The Dominican duo gives Ricky Martin the klezmer makeover he so badly needed.

– Jasmine Garsd

Viento Callejero feat. Eddika Organista, "La Burrita"

Cumbia and wah wah guitar? What's not to like from this young band?

– Felix Contreras

Pop

The 2 Bears, "Not This Time"

A near-perfect pop song that's destined to become a cult classic. Bonus points for the Michael McDonald coda.

– Otis Hart

5 Seconds Of Summer, "She Looks So Perfect"

There's nothing like seeing your first sweetheart partially disrobed and ready to take your future by storm. The teen anthem of the year.

– Ann Powers

Adanowsky, "Dancing To The Radio"

Danceable and unabashedly hip Mexican disco.

– Jasmine Garsd

Ariana Grande (feat. Zedd), "Break Free"

American pop princess-in-training Grande meets Russian-German techno wizard Zedd to make an ecstatic dancefloor confection.

– Jason King

Beyonce feat. Nicki Minaj, "Flawless (Remix)"

This is the sound of pop-driven feminism in 2014: smooth, hard, 100 proof.

– Ann Powers

Charli XCX, "Boom Clap"

The Top 40 equivalent of a bedazzled Trapper Keeper sharpie'd with arrow-struck red hearts.

– Lars Gotrich

Chris Brown feat. Usher, "New Flame"

Two of R&B's high-energy performers slow it down for a feel-good confection of a jam about new possibilities in love.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Clean Bandit, "Rather Be"

The British electronic group exploded on the charts with this gem of neo-classical pop, replete with swirling strings and a surging pop hook. Check out the viral video too.

– Jason King

FKA twigs, "Two Weeks"

The music wobbles unsteadily, shrouded in smoke. But the voice couldn't be surer in its libidinous, hungry intent.

– Stephen Thompson

Ingrid Michaelson, "Girls Chase Boys"

The smartest, coolest, most irresistible pop kiss-off of the year.

– Jacob Ganz

Jeremih, "Don't Tell 'Em"

The interpolation of Snap!'s 1992 hit "Rhythm is a Dancer" catches the ear, but the hauntingly spare production and the singer's impeccable flow keep you listening to this sultry hit.

– Ann Powers

Jessie Ware, "Tough Love"

The way Ware sings it, she'll convince you that real love is never anything but tough love.

– Jacob Ganz

Jungle, "Busy Earnin'"

Enigmatic London duo Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson have a brilliant knack for mixing moody disco and simmering electro with minimalist hip-hop flair. Sounds like nothing else today.

– Jason King

Michael Jackson, "A Place with No Name"

Producers Stargate and Dr. Freeze salvage dusty decades-old Michael Jackson audio fragments to concoct a sonic Frankenstein that's a real winner. It's all about that synth bassline.

– Jason King

Nick Jonas, "Jealous"

He was always the JoBro with the most potential.

– Ann Powers

Nico & Vinz, "Am I Wrong"

Pan-African rhythms meet Scandinavian pop on this bit of summer dreaming from two ambitious polyglots.

– Ann Powers

Pharrell Williams, "Gush"

Pharrell shows no mercy as he seduces on the dirtiest, funkiest track we've heard from him in a while. More of this, please.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Popcaan, "Everything Nice"

In a better world, this would have been the song of the summer.

– Otis Hart

QT, "Hey QT"

I, for one, welcome our sugar-smacked, alien-pop music overlords.

– Lars Gotrich

Röyksopp & Robyn, "Do It Again"

The Scandinavian dance-pop dream team craft an ode to club life's endless night that's glowstick bright but tinged with melancholy.

– Ann Powers

Sam Smith, "Leave Your Lover"

The English wunderkind is this year's breakthrough vocalist, and this spare ballad – his "Someone Like You" – gives him room to show the color and lushness of that extraordinary voice.

– Ann Powers

Sam Smith, "Stay With Me"

Ubiquitous now because of that stop-everything voice and gospel booster shot, but listen again and feel how that slowed-down drumbeat matches the heart that's pounding in your throat.

– Jacob Ganz

Shash'U, "Loyal (PWRFNK Remix)"

The Montreal remix extraordinaire improves the biggest R&B song of the year, which feels like an accomplishment.

– Otis Hart

Sia, "Chandelier"

A very tricky song about the grind of alcoholism that manages to also capture the giddy swirl of self-obliteration that makes people drink in the first place.

– Ann Powers

Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"

In the year's most quotable pop smash (okay, after Beyonce's "Flawless"), Swift steers into the skid that is her endlessly dissected public persona.

– Stephen Thompson

Taylor Swift, "Out Of The Woods"

It's so exciting to see the most accomplished current songwriter in the teen-vernacular vein grow up and figure out how to really use music to express all those emotions, too.

– Ann Powers

Tove Lo, "Habits (Stay High)"

This percolating pop hit from Sweden's latest pop auteur wins in the venerable category of happy songs about miserable realities.

– Ann Powers

Usher, "Good Kisser"

As Mr. Raymond circles back to his roots, he coos over a heavy drum loop, complete with a bottle xylophone. By the time you get to the bridge, you're grooving too hard to be offended.

– Bobby Carter

Zeds Dead feat. Twin Shadow & D'Angelo Lacy, "Lost You"

Like you, Zeds Dead and Twin Shadow often want to make late night phone calls they probably shouldn't. Unlike you, they write great songs with killer beats about it.

– Jasmine Garsd

R&B

ALTA, "Wash It Down"

With an opening like a playground rhyme, this sounds like something you've heard before – until it turns into something else entirely.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Andrew Ashong, "Love The Way"

Ashong, a British-Ghanaian soul singer, doesn't waste any words on this sweet, simple and incredibly catchy song.

– Otis Hart

Ben Khan, "Youth"

Ethereal production and sultry vocal crying for society's attention; the winner by a nose on the London native's debut EP.

– Bobby Carter

Bernhoft, "Come Around With Me"

Try not to move as the multifaceted Norwegian singer flexes his falsetto on this funk-fueled, yacht-rock jam.

– Bobby Carter

BJ The Chicago Kid, "Soul Of A Woman"

A laid-back groove, the distant crackle of spinning vinyl and BJ's voice, supple as ever, in this tribute to a woman's beauty.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Christian Rich feat. Angela McCluskey, "Real Love"

Nigerian L.A. production duo Taiwo and Kehinde Hassan are Christian Rich and "Real Love" is 21st century drift R&B par excellence.

– Jason King

Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige, "F For You"

Propulsive, dark, moody, exiciting. Imagine an alternate 1990s in which Mary J Blige gets signed to Strictly Rhythm and makes underground house music in London for a living.

– Jason King

FYFE, "For You"

Paul Dixon, a British experimental musician, flirts with rhythm & blues on this heart-palpitating journey through the trials of commitment.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Gordon Voidwell, "GF Jeans"

Funky discombobulations and titillating, heart-pounding desire.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Kelis, "Bless The Telephone"

This calm take on Labi Siffre's simple love song is the sweet center the soul singer's adventurous collaboration with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek.

– Ann Powers

Kelis, "Breakfast"

Kelis revs up a soul revue with some perspective on love lost and lessons learned.

– Lars Gotrich

Little Dragon, "Pretty Girls"

A non-single in the middle of an album on which Yukimi and the gang continue their quest for musical identity, "Pretty Girls" is a bona fide mid-tempo R&B gem.

– Bobby Carter

Low Leaf, "Set Me Free"

The genre-bending, Filipina, one-woman-band packs a lifetime of sounds and epiphanies into 2 minutes and 12 seconds of bliss.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Mary J. Blige, "Therapy"

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul takes a detour across the pond on her new album. The result, heard here, is the refreshing sound of liberation.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Meshell Ndegeocello, "Comet, Come To Me"

Grounded in a truly tidal reggae rhythm, this meditation on erotic longing from the eclectic boss of the bass is a masterpiece of pop minimalism.

– Ann Powers

Mélat x Jansport J, "L.I.P.S."

Mélat is a newcomer, but her style brings back memories of the lush '90s R&B so many of us fell in love to.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Nick Hakim, "I Don't Know"

Consider yourself lucky if you make it to the end of "I Don't Know" without dropping everything and curling up in the fetal position.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Niia, "Body"

This song feels like sea mist on a hot day: New York chanteuse Niia sings with the ease of Sade as Robin Hannibal, on break from Rhye and Quadron, forms arching sonic waves around her.

– Ann Powers

Prince feat. Lianne La Havas, "Clouds"

"Oh, you kids think you know how to do electrofunk? Step aside and let me school you in Afro-futurism, sex talk and slap bass."

– Ann Powers

Shamir, "On The Regular"

Cowbells bounce, syths do the worm and a newcomer with something to say throws cartoon shade. Hi, hi, howdy, howdy, hi, hi.

– Jacob Ganz

Tiffany Gouché, "Fantasy"

Alongside lazy horns and slightly-off keys, Gouché recalls the sting of relationships just out of our reach, the ones we often want most.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Ty Dolla $ign feat. French Montana & Trey Songz, "Paranoid (Remix)"

French Montana tags along as R&B's resident bad boys trade verses on the remix for the raunchiest song about the fear of discovery ever made.

– Kiana Fitzgerald

Rock

The #1s, "Heartsmash"

In under two minutes, the Dublin power-pop band yelps "I've got a heartsmash for you" 16 times with the reckless abandon of The Buzzcocks and The Undertones. Give us 16 more.

– Lars Gotrich

Afternoons, "Say Yes"

"Yes" may be the most powerful word in any language. Here, it's a joyful, hand-clapping mantra to live by.

– Robin Hilton

alt-J, "Hunger Of The Pine"

This song of longing and desire, with a sample of Miley Cyrus singing, "I'm a female rebel," is jarring and catchy at the same time.


– Bob Boilen

alt-J, "Left Hand Free"

Swaggering wordplay and funk guitar so brilliantly produced it leaves you wondering how they did it.

– Robin Hilton

Alvvays, "Archie, Marry Me"

The Toronto band issues a jangly ode to full-throated, full-hearted commitment.

– Stephen Thompson

Amen Dunes, "Lonely Richard"

The year's rock song mostly likely to play during the end credits of a Richard Linklater film.

– Otis Hart

Angel Olsen, "Forgiven/Forgotten"

Two blistering minutes on an otherwise wistful album; "Forgiven/Forgotten" is unforgettable.

– Bob Boilen

Angel Olsen, "Unfucktheworld"

Cold as winter's bone, glowing like an eternal ember, this timeless take on mountain blues captures the panicked core of heartbreak.

– Ann Powers

The Antlers, "Palace"

I am not sure what I expected from The Antlers, but stately horns and a pretty piano line weren't it. Still, I've come to love the heart and melancholy in this song, and found hard not to start it again after its five and half minutes have passed.

– Bob Boilen

Ausmuteants, "Bad Day"

Real talk.

– Otis Hart

Beach Slang, "Dirty Cigarettes"

A bittersweet, larger-than-life rock song for those who "get in trouble when things get quiet."

– Lars Gotrich

Beck, "Morning"

Meticulous instrumentation, feather-light vocals and melodic hooks make this one of the most lovely, laid back songs of the year.

– Tom Huizenga

Benjamin Booker, "Have You Seen My Son"

Digging out the roots of garage rock, a 22-year-old maverick finds a link between Southern juke joint blues and The Replacements.

– Ann Powers

The Black Keys, "Weight Of Love"

The duo kicks off its latest album with an epic jam that includes the longest (and best) guitar solo ever from Dan Auerbach.

– Robin Hilton

The Both, "Milwaukee"

Aimee Mann's wryness, Ted Leo's live-wire energy and a walk past a Fonzie statue converge in this crackling pop-rock charmer.

– Stephen Thompson

BRONCHO, "Class Historian"

One of the year's most ridiculously catchy songs.

– Robin Hilton

Cayetana, "Scott Get The Van, I'm Moving"

It's been a helluva year for the Philly punk scene. Cayetana's an anxious lot, it swings for the fences every damn time.

– Lars Gotrich

Chet Faker, "1998"

Warm, sexy, nonchalant and always in the groove.

– David Dye, World Cafe

Chris Staples, "Dark Side Of The Moon"

A tear-jerker ode to fatherhood that leaves you feeling grateful for every precious moment of your stupid little life.

– Robin Hilton

Chumped, "Hot 97 Summer Jam"

The pangs of the summer crush, translated into this perfect pop-punk bummer that borrows from doo-wop: "Does she love you like I love you?"

– Lars Gotrich

Conor Oberst, "Hundreds of Ways"

Amid buoyant horns and crisp West African guitar lines, Oberst mulls over celebrity, aging and violence that threatens to dismantle society, yet remains hopeful.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Damien Jurado, "Silver Timothy"

Jurado's inspired pairing with producer Richard Swift pairs the former's hushed narratives with psychedelic echo and Latin percussion.

– Lars Gotrich

Damien Rice, "My Favourite Faded Fantasy"

The Irish singer returns after nearly a decade-long hiatus and just crushes it. A breathtaking, monstrous record of epic beauty.

– Robin Hilton

David Bowie, "Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)"

Borrowing a bit of Scott Walker's macabre majesty, Bowie gets epic post-industrial jazz courtesy of the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Death Vessel, "Ilsa Drown"

Jonsi pops up to lend some of his otherworldly "fyooooo" sounds to this lovely, muted and moody folk ballad.

– Stephen Thompson

Deerhoof, "Paradise Girls"

Riff rock akin to being led through a raging party by a cheerful narrator. In other words, Deerhoof doing what it does best.

– Patrick Jarenwattananon

Dylan Shearer, "Meadow Mines (Fort Polio)"

Lo-fi San Francisco singer-songwriter channels the melodic psych-folk meanderings of Syd Barrett.

– Robin Hilton

EMA, "So Blonde"

It sounds like the '90s, but embedded with self-awareness: its lyric, about being seduced by rock and the sexy kids who make it, critiques the very desire the sound stimulates.

– Ann Powers

Eno-Hyde, "DBF"

Legendary sound wizard Brian Eno and Underworld guitarist Karl Hyde update the Talking Heads' New Wave take on the African diaspora, even more nervous and propulsive for the new century.

– Ann Powers

Ex Hex, "Don't Wanna Lose"

Mary Timony's new band distills decades of punk, rock and glam into a perfect little two-and-a-half-minute laser beam of joy.

– Stephen Thompson

The Family Crest, "Beneath The Brine"

A six minute suite begins with a foghorn and builds to a feverish and astonishing vocal performance by Liam McCormick. There's so much power and talent in this young band.

– Bob Boilen

Father John Misty, "Bored In The USA"

A horribly cynical but perfectly appropriate anthem to close out another brutal year of soul-crushing headlines.

– Robin Hilton

First Aid Kit, "Shattered & Hollow"

The Swedish sister act opens with a doozy of a confession – "I am in love and I am lost" – before launching into a gorgeous defense of boldness and risk.

– Stephen Thompson

Future Islands, "Seasons (Waiting On You)"

Samuel Herring's sincere croon and killer dance moves propelled this hard-working, life-affirming band into a new stratosphere.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Gabriel Kahane, "Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.)"

A 15-year-old girl is shot dead in an L.A. liquor store. This is her story, crafted into a brilliant but heartrending mini-opera.

– Tom Huizenga

Gem Club, "Michael"

Christopher Barnes' fragile singing sets the tenuous tone for this tale of a "cautious man" filled with love for another man.

– Bob Boilen

The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger, "Too Deep"

Sean Lennon finally blossoms into a bona fide rock star with the best record of his career. Fantastic grooves and smart riffs.

– Robin Hilton

Greylag, "Yours To Shake"

Roots rock that questions whether we're inherently good or evil, with a killer and memorable guitar groove.

– Robin Hilton

Grouper, "Clearing"

Ingredients as spare as they come – a piano, Liz Harris' narcotic voice – but a tone that's drowsily enveloping to the point of suffocation.

– Stephen Thompson

Herzog, "Full Stick"

A perfect rock 'n' roll summer jam in 100 seconds, and it still finds time for a guitar solo.

– Stephen Thompson

Highasakite, "Since Last Wednesday"

A bright sound for a dark subject: A missing friend, incidents of vandalism and a gun gets you thinking about the people we think we know and care about.

– Bob Boilen

Hiss Golden Messenger, "Saturday's Song"

A standout track from The Lateness of Dancers, my favorite album of the year.

– David Dye, World Cafe

Hospitality, "I Miss Your Bones"

A perfect expression of desire and longing wrapped up into a simple and loving refrain.

– Bob Boilen

Hozier, "Jackie and Wilson"

A red-eyed fantasy set to blue-eyed soul and a killer back beat.

– Bob Boilen

Hozier, "Take Me To Church"

The pulpit and the bedroom inch ever closer together.

– Stephen Thompson

Hundred Waters, "Down From The Rafters"

As the music heaves and creaks like a boat trapped in ice, Nicole Miglis whispers sweet anxieties.

– Jacob Ganz

Jack White, "High Ball Stepper"

Jack White unleashes a scorching guitar instrumental that hits you like a rock salt blast to the chest. Try not to sing that otherwordly screamy hook.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Jack White, "Lazaretto"

Jack White brilliantly does what Jack White brilliantly does: quotable posturing, devil-child swagger and a searing solo.

– Stephen Thompson

Jenny Lewis, "Slippery Slopes"

Indie pop's best lyricist casts her gimlet eye on rock and roll's open relationships as guitars rise behind her like San Fernando Valley mist.

– Ann Powers

Jessica Lea Mayfield, "Do I Have The Time"

Ohio singer-songwriter bursts out of her former Americana mold with a visceral, blood on the lips fury, dreamy flanged guitars and gnarled squelches of distortion.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Jon Sebastian, "Nightmare Sisters"

A gorgeously textured song with a chorus that should never end.

– Lars Gotrich

Joyce Manor, "Schley"

SoCal punk gives in to Britpop proclivities (to wonderous effect) but, oh, you can't fool us with that careening chorus, yelling the song title at the top of our lungs.

– Lars Gotrich

Kishi Bashi, "Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!"

A frantic, impeccable anthem from an artist whose love of surprise keeps paying off.

– Stephen Thompson

Lake Street Dive, "You Go Down Smooth"

Admit it, this doesn't sound like anything else.

– David Dye, World Cafe

Leonard Cohen, "Born in Chains"

The great poet Cohen has said this song took him forty years to write; in its current, "pure gospel" version, it feels truly eternal, the script on a lost scroll.

– Ann Powers

Lost In The Trees, "Past Life"

The band swaps out its string section for synth-pop flourishes — a shockingly even trade.

– Stephen Thompson

Luluc, "Small Window"

This track opens the most beautiful album of 2014 with a plaintive stare out an airplane window and thoughts of what is left behind.

– Bob Boilen

Martha, "Dust, Juice, Bones and Hair"

Humans are mostly bones, liquid and air, as this raucous chorus reminds us, but these British kids take care to emphasize the adverb.

– Otis Hart

Matt Kivel, "The First Time"

Intimate, rainy day musings from another standout in a strong year for singer-songwriters.

– Robin Hilton

Mimicking Birds, "Bloodlines"

The more closely you examine this slinky, sinister wonder, the more mysterious and alluring it gets.

– Stephen Thompson

My Brightest Diamond, "Pressure"

This baroque pop gem opens with drum corps and woodwinds, tacks on a tribal rhythm breakdown and just goes for it. All the way.

– Kelly McCartney, Folk Alley

The New Basement Tapes, "When I Get My Hands On You"

Marcus Mumford takes on Bob Dylan in the best way possible, over the simplest arrangement imaginable. And it just works.

– Kelly McCartney, Folk Alley

The New Pornographers, "Brill Bruisers"

From zero to "unstoppable anthem" in less than one second – seriously, count it.

– Stephen Thompson

The Notwist, "Kong"

In one of the year's fizziest, most irresistible pop-rock songs, the boyish German band waits for a superman.

– Stephen Thompson

Owen Pallett, "The Riverbed"

The closest thing the virtuousic Montreal composer has made to the pop songs he deconstructs so eloquently on his Facebook page.

– Otis Hart

Parquet Courts, "Bodies Made Of"

The guitars have the biting melody of the band Television, so I was immediately hooked; the quirky words made it unforgettable.

– Bob Boilen

Perfume Genius, "Queen"

A bedroom-glam anthem perfect for a political moment in which marriage equality's new normal vies with the homophobia that still plagues "different" kids everywhere.

– Ann Powers

PHOX, "Slow Motion"

All sleek charisma, the Wisconsin band makes the subtlest star turn imaginable.

– Stephen Thompson

Radiator Hospital, "Cut Your Bangs"

In which a hooky guitar-pop song about something as innocuous as a hair cut turns morbid in an oddly sweet kind of way.

– Lars Gotrich

Ray LaMontagne, "Ojai"

Cali pop meets countrypolitan longing in this song about roads not taken and dreams lost in the wind.

– Ann Powers

Real Estate, "Had To Hear"

A perpetual nostalgia machine and the easiest listen indie has come up with in a long time.

– Jacob Ganz

Restorations, "Separate Songs"

A boisterous and broken arena-rock song with a grand swell of organ, confronting the-life-that-could-be in a way that hurts.

– Lars Gotrich

Robert Plant, "Little Maggie"

A brilliant update of an old bluegrass tune, layered with Juldeh Camara's earthy kologo lute.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Rodrigo Amarante, "Nada Em Vão"

This is how you sound like Brazil while at the same time not sounding like you're from Brazil. Deeply textured music from a true visionary.

– Felix Contreras

Rubblebucket, "Carousel Ride"

A big band of brass and more spins through a carefree life full of chance and danger. Sung by Kalmia Traver, who recently battled ovarian cancer, this song takes on a larger meaning.

– Bob Boilen

Saintseneca, "Happy Alone"

Fueled by the doomstruck rumble of its unlikely instruments, the Ohio band sings the praises of solitude.

– Stephen Thompson

Samaris, "Lífsins ólgusjór"

I was surprised by the strong love of reggae music when I recently visited Iceland. Samaris is far from a reggae band, but amidst the electronics, clarinet and ethereal vocals, you can hear the inspiration of the great Jamaican melodica player Augustus Pablo.

– Bob Boilen

Sarah Jaffe, "Some People Will Tell You"

Acoustic singer-songwriter works with Eminem, Raekwon and hip-hop producer S1, then returns with her boldest, most surprising album to date.

– Robin Hilton

Shakey Graves feat. Esmé Patterson, "Dearly Departed"

An old-fashioned rock and roll duet based around super-sexy vocal interplay tumbles into the 21st-century on the energy of its clattering, atmospheric arrangement.

– Ann Powers

Sharon Van Etten, "Every Time The Sun Comes Up"

Sharon Van Etten has always sung about trouble, but on her fourth record she does it with a strength in her voice that comes from a place of confidence, not weakness.

– Bob Boilen

Sharon Van Etten, "Taking Chances"

Van Etten's voice gets more confident and powerful with each record – and it's a perfect match for the slithering, Cure-style guitar line here.

– Stephen Thompson

Sheer Mag, "What You Want"

Somewhere between those Nuggets comps you ripped from the library and a rag-tag Thin Lizzy demo lies exactly what you want from this Philly rock 'n' roll band.

– Lars Gotrich

Sinkane, "How We Be"

Sudanese-London cosmopolitan musician gives us an atmospheric reggae-ified track that suggests why he's been an in-demand collaborator with groups like Of Montreal, Caribou and Yeasayer.

– Jason King

Sleater-Kinney, "Bury Our Friends"

The urgent, necessary return of punk royalty.

– Jacob Ganz

Son Little, "The River"

Swampy and funky, this is foot-stomping, hand-clapping goodness that outright dares you to not stomp and clap along.

– Kelly McCartney, Folk Alley

Spoon, "Do You"

One of this year's most-hummable hooks hides the fact that this song is about taking a chance on love, showing vulnerability and committing to relationships.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Spoon, "Rent I Pay"

After a four-year layoff, the model of brutal rock 'n' roll precision sounds more brutally precise than ever.

– Stephen Thompson

St. Vincent, "Digital Witness"

Funky horns, gut-rumbling synth bass line and Annie Clark's stunning guitar work add up to a supremely dance-ready track questioning the role technology plays in shaping our lives this selfie-driven age.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Steve Gunn, "Milly's Garden"

One of the most underrated songwriters working today gives us a potent flashback to vintage Grateful Dead.

– Otis Hart

Strand of Oaks, "JM"

A blistering and heartfelt tribute to the late Jason Molina with a guitar line that feels straight out of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer."

– Bob Boilen

Sufjan Stevens, "A Little Lost"

Reimagining the work of electronic iconoclast Arthur Russell, the always-shape-shifting Sufjan delivers an understated yet rich love song of icy industrial textures and warm, unrelenting sweetness.

– Mike Katzif, Soundcheck

Sun Kil Moon, "Carissa"

A plaintive ode on the tragic, horrifying death of his cousin, Mark Kozelek ruminates in the fragility of life and how it never unfolds in the ways we expect.

– Mike Katzif

Sylvan Esso, "Coffee"

The pairing of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn produces this perfect marriage of organic and inorganic, voice and electronics, old and new (including a quote of the'60s hit "Hanky Panky").

– Bob Boilen

Temples, "Shelter Song"

This signature song from one of Britain's favorite new bands could easily be mistaken for a deep cut from the Nuggets box set.

– Otis Hart

Thee Oh Sees, "Encrypted Bounce"

Jon Dwyer and the country's best motorik-influenced psych-garage band launch a skiff into California surf, let it bob into the sunset.

– Jacob Ganz

Tiny Ruins, "Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens"

New Zealand's Hollie Fullbrook sings a winsome, wonderful, you-are-there ode to workplace romance.

– Stephen Thompson

Tori Amos, "Wild Way"

This subtle offering from the goddess of majestic piano confessionals starts with the words "I hate you" and unfolds in a thousand emotional directions from there.

– Ann Powers

TV On The Radio, "Seeds"

Tracking a love affair from first glance to slow dance, showing off the skills of a band of great collaborators

– Ann Powers

Tweedy, "High As Hello"

A sweet surprising project from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer, on drums. There are 20 good songs on this record, but this was my entry point, simple, full and rich.

– Bob Boilen

Ty Segall, "Feel"

The best song from the year's best rock record. Segall has released a staggering amount of music in recent years and it just keeps getting better.

– Robin Hilton

The War On Drugs, "Under the Pressure"

A perfect driving song with atmosphere to spare.

– David Dye, World Cafe

Weezer, "Cleopatra"

The best album they've released in 15 years. "Cleopatra" sums up all the reasons why: Reflective but bold and crazy catchy.

– Robin Hilton

White Lung, "Wrong Star"

A convulsing punk song never sounded so gorgeous. White Lung may have been born under a wrong star, but this star explodes with desperate urgency.

– Lars Gotrich

Wild Beasts, "Wanderlust"

Synths brood and seethe a quiet storm, moodily building to Hayden Thorpe's devastating kiss-off: "Don't confuse me for someone that gives a f—-."

– Lars Gotrich

Woods, "With Light And With Love"

Every year-end songs list worth its salt has at least one 9-minute psychedelic guitar jam.

– Otis Hart

Zammuto, "Hegemony"

Could this entire song be the greatest drum fill of 2014?

– Otis Hart

World

Ásgeir, "King and Cross"

Asgeir Trausti Einarsson hasn't been singing in English for long, but you wouldn't have guessed.

– Stephen Thompson

Danish String Quartet, "Sonderho Bridal Trilogy Pt. II"

The superb quartet takes a break from Beethoven to explore its Nordic roots – like this buoyant tune that's been danced at Danish weddings for some 400 years.

– Tom Huizenga

Ibeyi, "River"

Twin 19-year-old sisters draw upon electronica and their Afro-Cuban Yoruban heritage in equal measure. Mesmerizing.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Indila, "Dernière Danse"

A new Parisian artist blends smoky storytelling with gigantic pop hooks. 151 million YouTube hits and counting.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Kerwin Du Bois, "Too Real"

The winner of this year's Groovy Soca Monarch competition in Trinidad and Tobago is our favorite Soca song of 2014.

– Otis Hart

Majid Bekkas, "Choroq"

A musical alchemist and master of both the oud and three-stringed guembri, Bekkas breeds a unique hybrid of Moroccan spiritual trance music and jazz.

– Tom Huizenga

Noura Mint Seymali, "Tzenni"

A rollicking, grooving update of griot tradition, with Seymali's husband, Jeich Ould Chigaly, playing burning-hot guitar licks.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Seun Kuti, "I.M.F."

Fueled by driving horns and an irresistible beat, Fela's youngest son resurrects his father's zombies as "very dangerous" international bankers.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Stromae, "Sommeil"

The irrepressible Belgian artist traffics in a heady blend of EDM, hip-hop, pop and rock in a powerful song whose protagonist has everything... but sleep.

– Tom Huizenga

Susheela Raman, "Sharabi"

A rich-voiced British-Indian singer makes an inspired musical masala: layering Afro-jazz with qawwali, alongside duo Rizwan Muazzam.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Yasmine Hamdan, "Deny"

Cool, sexy and modern textures frame Hamdan's lithe voice, stripped of all the ornaments of traditional Arab pop.

– Anastasia Tsioulcas

Metal

Against Me, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues"

Two years after Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender, this the sound of suppression turned into punk rock triumph.

– Lars Gotrich

Audrey Horne, "Out of the City"

Riffs upon riffs upon riffs of classic hard rock by way of Norway (and a puppet-filled video worth seeking out).

– Lars Gotrich

Godflesh, "New Dark Ages"

Godflesh is back. Watch the world burn.

– Lars Gotrich

Have A Nice Life, "Defenestration Song"

Six years after a bleak debut that's since found a cult-ish following, Have A Nice Life returned with a pitch-black, post-punk party-rocker.

– Lars Gotrich

High Spirits, "I Will Run"

With a sing-along chorus wrapped in an off-centered picking pattern like a warped 45 finding its groove, this heavy-metal ballad will break your heart.

– Lars Gotrich

Obnox, "Molecule"

Forget everything you know about rock and hip-hop's sometimes unfortunate past together. Lamont "Bim" Thomas is here to scuzz the beat and encourage you to "get ya ends up / shut the hell up."

– Lars Gotrich

Perfect Pussy, "Interference Fits"

Bruising, scabrous, primitive noise-rock – but seriously, Google the inscrutable lyric. Meredith Graves can write the hell out of a song.

– Stephen Thompson

Priests, "And Breeding"

Everything about this topsy-turvy punk barn-burner points toward an explosion until the howling Katie Alice Greer punctures the R&B vamp and the insanity falls into place.

– Lars Gotrich

Protomartyr, "Come & See"

A rhythmically off-kilter start sets up an anthemic refrain by Joe Casey: "I'll try to live defeated, come and see the good in everything." This guitar builds in a way that makes me believe everything Joe says.

– Bob Boilen

Scott Walker + Sunn O))), "Brando"

Masochistic violence meets metallic abyss (and a little Guns 'N Roses) in nine minutes of restrained ridiculousness from these masters of their own brands of heavy.

– Lars Gotrich

Skull Fist, "Chasing The Dream"

These Canadians likely have Riot and Tokyo Blade stiched onto their denim jackets and in their speed-metal loving hearts. Grab a few cases of Coors Light; we need to party until dawn.

– Lars Gotrich

The Soft Pink Truth, "Black Metal"

This is a Venom cover, but it sounds like no metal you've ever heard. Drew Daniel of electronic experimentalists Matmos deconstructs and reassembles your hesher fantasies.

– Ann Powers

Vanishing Point, "Distant Is The Sun"

If there isn't a music video for this Australian power-metal ballad yet, galloping horses toward the setting sun might be in order.

– Lars Gotrich

Witch Mountain, "Psycho Animundi"

Just before the doom-metal band released its third album with Uta Plotkin, the soulful vocalist announced her departure. Her command has never been so majestic as on this bluesy, devastating track.

– Lars Gotrich

YOB, "Marrow"

Is there a word for what YOB does in these 19 minutes? It's a psychedelic, doom-metal ballad stretched across the sky, "needing to feel something true." We'll call it "marrowing."

– Lars Gotrich

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