By James Pavel
20. Fever – The Black Keys
They are the definition of commercial success. Not since Moby has an artist been featured so prominently in the repetitive interruptions between our favourite TV shows. It is the greatest case of “selling out” if that term still held any significance. Bands, just like mom and pop, work to make money and since album sales generate roughly the same amount as the cost of a lawn mower, bands like the Keys have evolved and in their case, prevailed with finding new avenues for their marketable medleys.
The Black Keys are an excellent band that seem to have no problem being liked by as many people as possible. Staying true to your fans is overrated, especially considering how much music your supposed die-hard audiences are inundated with.One minute they are rocking a “The Black Keys are my brother” t-shirt and next week they’ve devoted themselves to Jack White’s seven nation army.
The Black Keys have a fever, and they don’t care how many people they infect.
19. Brother – Gerard Way
His band, My Chemical Romance, the godfathers of modern-day emo music, did a lot more for the past decade than anybody will ever admit. The dark and the gothic will always require a map and MCR was more than welcome to serve as the compass.
No, they were not as sinister as Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie, but they made up for it with dare we say, much more relatable music. The cornerstone and literal poster boy was of course the MCR genius, Gerard Way. So here he is, releasing a solo album that almost nobody even pretended to give a fair listen.
18. Jealous – Nick Jonas
It only took Bieber fever to knock the entire trio of Jonas brothers off their pop throne, but does it not seem that the Jonas family tree may get the last laugh? Bieber, who has an incredibly hollow discography for someone so immensely popular, seems on a path to mayhem while the most talented Jonas is having a real go at providing a fresh face in the male pop department. Jonas sounds like what Prince would sound like if he remembered how to make catchy pop hooks, with a bit of Justin Timberlake’s future, sex, love-funk garnished heavily from start to fin.
17. It’s Alright Now – Bombay Bicycle Club
For a brief minute, we thought they could be the next Coldplay, but they’ve instead completed a U-turn towards a destination unknown and the view is surprisingly pleasant. They are somewhat a U.K-version of Vampire Weekend, meaning they are a hipster’s dream, sliced with enough different cultures to host a United Nations pow-wow.
Their new album is unmistakably weird, perhaps to a fault. They forged so many tranquil rock antidotes on their breakthrough album, So long, see you tomorrow, that we were expecting their version of Viva la Vida and death to all his friends to follow suite.
Instead we got an album more on par with MGMT’s psychedelic experiments of late that will leave fans either musically challenged or defiantly bored.
16. Seasons (Waiting on You) – Future Islands
The lead singer is blessed with the voice of a draconian monster, but thankfully he has put his demonic syntax to good use. He sings about the seasons changing, but blissfully that is where the banal humdrum ceases and the synth-funk takes over.
15. Style – Taylor Swift
Although her country twang will never quite abandon her enunciation abilities, she has surrendered her cowboy boots and Levis’ with this latest offering. It should be more of a difficult transition except Swift barely broke a sweat when she tore the queen of pop throne off Katy Perry’s brunette main. Of course, she never meant to do it, as nobody pretends to be more innocent and care more about everyone else than Swift does. She is the first to claim to be Ed Sheran’s biggest fan or applaud Rihanna for behaving like a hungry porn star at the MTV Awards, but sometimes it seems like she might not be faking it. Is she actually this kind? Is that even allowed in 2014? Maybe that’s the idea behind her album being titled 1989 – she has recognized that nobody could get away with her actions in today’s sick, twisted, Kardashian worshipping world.
14. Blame – Calvin Harris feat. John Newman
This generation could look back at this unnamed decade and potentially declare it as the period where electronic dance music completely ran the radio and music festival circuit. Nobody has played a more pivotal role in this EDM reign than the great Scot, Calvin Harris. In 2014, he challenged human intelligence by releasing a song called “Summer” in the summer with all of the sounds one would expect in the summer.
It was one of the most offensive attempts at solidifying a sure thing, and thankfully the world responded with an indifferent shoulder shrug. He came back with an actual song this time, called “Blame,” where a person points the finger at alcohol, seductive women and everyone besides the mirror for his inability to keep his trousers on.
13. Give me Something Good – Ryan Adams
He’s what Ben Gibbard should look like after Zooey Deschanel kicked him to the curb. He’s also what Gibbard would sound like if he rolled around the mud, shot Jack Daniels and loved jamming out to Tom Petty. This is the most classic-sounding song of the entire year. If this was 30 years ago, this would be a song that we would still be singing right now when your parents went out of town. Now will we be singing this in 2044 on planet 3C0D8T? Probably not. But can we sing it for the next few years before all hell reigns down? Absolutely.
12. Feel the Effect – Tokyo Police Club
It’s their worst album carrying maybe their best song. “Feel the Effect” has universal synth brilliance, meaning that you could sing anything to it and it will still sound tip-top which is actually what the whitest people claiming to work in the Tokyo police force manage to do. “I’ve got a friend with a limo,” and other nonsensical lyrics accompany this perfectly-arranged pop-rock, bubble bath wave of pleasure.
11. Best Friend – Foster the People
Can anyone host a party better than Mark Foster and his peeps? They crowd-please with the same precision as puppies and new born babies, except they make everyone want to dance and shout, old people included. This song is about your drug addict friend that you predominantly want to abandon, but you still find yourself saving room for him or her in your wedding party.
10. Alex – Nicky Blitz
Jenny, Mandy, and now finally Alex, that stunning dame, finally has a song to call her own. What is wonderful about Nicky Blitz’s single, a song that has crystal meth-like addiction rates, is that Alex can be the name of a boy or a girl, meaning twice as many people can hear this song screamed to them until the end of time. Aleeeeeeeeeex…why? Because you gave me yooo’ number.
9. Not Such a Bad Thing – Justin Timberlake
Leave it to JT to recognize that instead of saturating the radio with a lethargic EDM fist-pumper, he releases a throwback to the N Sync*/BSB domination days, where falling in love to pop songs happened every other music video. He hasn’t forgotten his roots, except maybe the macaroni curls and full-piece denim suits. He is a mainstay on late night television and sometimes stars in the year’s biggest films but this hasn’t stopped him from writing songs about everyday implications that “Not Such a Bad Thing” discusses.
8. West Coast – Lana Del Rey
This is what sex and violence sound like. Del Rey is brake-slamming beautiful, but she’d rather be the girl smoking cigarettes on the back of a Harley than settle for being crowned pageant beauty queen. In regards to her track “West Coast,” has anybody sounded more rebellious singing about the west side since Tupac? No she isn’t contorting her fingers into a W or plotting a stomach-wide Thug Life tattoo, but she certainly possesses the same level of crazy that made Pac so lionized. Now am I saying Del Rey is the new Tupac? Of course not. But is she what Marilyn Monroe would have sounded like if she was open about her drug use, her man-eating and feeling half-insane 24/7? Potentially.
7. Copper Thief – Case Conrad
Stealing copper is a crisis Alberta electricians can easily relate to. Every month, pounds upon pounds of copper are stolen from job sites and exchanged for money or used illegally on other job sites. Case Conrad is not from Alberta nor is he an electrician and is likely not singing about the plight of electricians across western Canada, but he has potentially and unintentionally released an anthem for journeymen and women across the great white north to use in informational campaigns. Oh did I mention this is a fantastic track?
6. Song for Someone – U2
It’s four decades of gaining, losing and then attempting to retain rock n roll glory. U2 was the most criticized band of the year and had their latest offering, Songs of Innocence written off by smug iPhone users before the album was even allowed one listen. What a world we live in that individuals freely post pictures of themselves half-naked and list their most in-depth thoughts for hundreds to view, yet when one of the most celebrated bands of all time give them an album for zero dollars, people are up in arms over privacy issues. This is one of U2’s most complete albums not just of the past ten years, but of their entire career. It’s all killer and no filler, with “Song for Someone” being one of five or six standouts. It’s combines all the elements that make a U2 song a spiritual journey. Bono’s swooning and soul-searching, Edge’s piercing axe and lyrics that manage to include the whole world.
5. Midnight – Coldplay
Crisis fell upon Coldplay in 2014. Songs about yellow, Charlie Brown and skies full of stars could not save the nicest guys in rock n’ roll from their first public fluster with controversy. Chris Martin’s divorce from Gwenyth Paltrow was boring and lacked the drama the tabloids yearned for, but it allowed Coldplay to finally sing about true pain or as one of their best tracks on their album Ghost Stories was called, “True Love.” But the real battle cry, the howl of pain that we needed to hear came via “Midnight,” Coldplay’s paralyzingly-dark, moonlight meditation.
4. Blue Moon – Beck
The hipster godfather that no one would ever admit relation to (that is the hipster way) has managed to take on a whole new context of music without any real transition period. “Blue Moon” is a request for company, a plea for someone to join Beck at his lonesome tea party under the dark skies.
3. XO – Beyonce
Bae isn’t just a cheerleader of love, but one of its glowing champions. She isn’t done shaking her booty or boasting her independence. No, she remains as strong as a prized ox, and doesn’t shy away from allowing herself to become completely consumed with pure and unfiltered hugs and kisses. She demands relentless and pertinacious affection till the lights go out and anything less will not satisfy the Queen bumble B.
2. Chasing the Light – Sam Roberts
Teeny boppers may remember 2014 as the year of Sam Harris and not Roberts, but for the rock n’ roll loyal, it should be reviewed as the year Sam Roberts took his sound to expansive and profound new depths. When Sam chases the hot, fizzy flow, he chooses to open with a spiralling synth before drums hammer down like hot lightning reigning down over a summer village. “Chasing the Light” is about turning dreams into reality, without forgetting who and what made those dreams possible.
1. Bullshit Ballad – Kevin Drew
He heard your guilt-loaded lies on the radio, and Drew wasn’t buying the goods. He knows your words are intended to sound sincere, that they are supposed to coerce him to view kindred pleas as peace offerings, but K-Drew instead rips up today’s radio love letters like Simon Cowell waking up on the wrong side of the hay. He torches the transparently vague and contrived pseudo-love songs with his compelling and vigorous roar, spliced with a turbulent and majestic guitar spot that blasts away the fake and makes room for only the realest in 2014.