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GutterBubbles Top 100 Songs of 2014 (part 5)

So it all comes down to this, the final twenty selections for the Top 100 Songs of 2014. But we’re not gonna go out with a whimper! The fifth installment features a double dose from St. Vincent, a massive cut from Swans, the return of Tom Maxwell and what could be the sexiest song of the entire year, courtesy of Thievery Corporation. We hope you enjoyed the countdown of the best songs 2014 had to offer and look forward to more of the same next year!

 

St. Vincent “Digital Witness” from St. Vincent

This is Annie Clark really exploring the space on her juggernaut LP. Blaring horns and stomping beats blast around vocals that alternate between lush melody and quirky declaration. It’s huge, weird and really fun. It’s as though mid-period Madonna were possessed by late-period Bowie. -Nick Abaddon

 

St. Vincent “Prince Johnny” from St. Vincent

A lot has been made of St. Vincent over the last couple of years, with journo’s, fans, hipsters, etc. fawning over every move the mercurial musician makes. Personally, I never really understood the hype surrounds St. Vincent, that is until I heard the sublime “Prince Johnny” from her self-titled LP. A true slow-burner, “Prince Johnny” make’s the best out of someone’s worst and shows that hope can be found, in spite of the direst of circumstances. Right? Well, that’s how I feel about it, but the one thing that’s not up for debate is the gorgeous sound of the song. Equal parts gospel, R&B and indie rock come together to create a sound as unique as the woman that created it. -Ryan Brun

 

Strange Cages “Desert” from Strange Cages

Forget Nick Cave, Robert Smith and Fatboy Slim. Strange Cages prove Brighton’s newest crop of musicians are the ones you should know. The trio is making waves with their sexed-up, strung-out brand of garage rock, filling “Desert” with sharp lyrics and a fiercely infectious punk riff. It’s enough to make any American with ears an anglophile. Rule Britannia indeed. -Emma Carroll

 

Swans “Kirsten Supine” from To Be Kind

This album feels like it was all written in some massive session that lasted several days. “Kirsten Supine,” though, feels like the defining statement of the record as something that isn’t as harsh as so much of the towering and nightmarish The Seer but which gets even deeper under your skin long term. Its long escalation into harrowing emotional soundscapes and a punishingly hypnotic rhythm is vintage Swans but the pointedness is blunted as though the music hits you just as hard but isn’t cutting. It gives the album a double meaning in that these days being kind is more essential than ever as the social and economic forces hovering around the world are trying to crush the not powerful under in a thoughtless pursuit of wealth and that the band realized it might be interesting to make music that had the heaviness of its previous material but without resorting to old methods. A major step forward for this band, yet also embodying what has made Swans great from the beginning. -Tom Murphy

 

Temples “Mesmerize” from Sun Structures

This is a rare gem of a psych record: expertly constructed, masterfully produced, and towering in its ambition. That expert construction means Temples leave no element of “Mesmerize” to chance, including an exuberant and accessible chorus that gets lodged in your brain. Psych can be an alienating genre at best, but “Mesmerize” indicates that its latest resurgence will be approachable, glittering, and liberal with the snare. –EC

 

Thee Oh Sees “Encrypted Bounce” from Drop

Less than six months post-hiatus announcement Thee Oh Sees released Drop, a full-length negotiation between frontman John Dwyer’s love of synths and his desire to return the band’s sound to guitar rock. Rock wins out in the idiosyncratic “Encrypted Bounce”, a six-minute bruiser in which Dwyer opts for higher vocals, scratchy guitar, and a powerful rhythm section. With a track this good after a hiatus so short, it really is like they never left. –EC

 

Thievery Corporation (ft. Shanna Halligan) “Depth of my Soul” from Saudade

I’d like to think that before surreptitiously slinking off to the land of “bands that play live but don’t record new music,” Portishead got together with Thievery Corporation and gave them the secret to writing a seductive electro masterpiece. Proof that such a meeting likely took place can be found on the closing track of the Corporations latest record, Saudade. “Depth of My Soul” features a sultry vocal track from Bitter:Sweet’s Shana Halligan that’s delicately perched over a sweeping string arrangement a la every James Bond theme ever. It’s an insanely sexy track that borrows elements from others while maintaining an identity all its own. Your move Portishead. –RB

 

Thom Yorke “Guess Again!” from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Earlier this year when the internet was collectively losing its shit over Radiohead getting back to the recording studio, Thom Yorke rather unceremoniously dropped his second solo record. Titled Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, the album is mostly what you would expect from a solo Yorke effort, the exception being the stellar “Guess Again!” which sounds like it could’ve been lifted directly from Radiohead’s Amnesiac sessions. The song is too modern to call it a throwback but stripped down enough to justify it seeing the light of day on Yorke’s solo joint. If this track is any indication of what’s to come from Thom’s day job, then the future could be very…very bright indeed. –RB

 

Tom Maxwell (ft. Ani DiFranco) “Roll With It” from Tom Maxwell & the Minor Drag

The incomparable songwriting duo of Tom Maxwell and Jimbo Mathus wrote some of the finest songs of their careers as members of the nouveau-jazz outfit Squirrel Nut Zippers. Since the Zippers (mostly) disbanded, the two have taken different musical journeys. Mathus has explored the blues roots rock of his Mississippi home, while Maxwell has mostly remained quiet. That is until this year’s splendid Tom Maxwell and the Minor Drag album. Lead single “Roll With It” (which features Ani DiFranco) is a throwback to Maxwell’s days with the Zippers, a carefree, bouncy rag-jazz number that inspires with its musicianship and ‘give no fucks’ attitude. It’s an incredible listen and likely the closest resemblance to the Squirrel Nut Zippers we’ll get the chance to hear. –RB

 

TV on the Radio “Happy Idiot” from Seeds

Coming in at the tail end of the year is this damn near perfect song. Immediately catchy, it unfolds greater depth of enjoyment with each listen. The lyrics are clever -a story about dealing with pain by pretending it doesn’t exist – and complete with little production flourishes like the canned sound of cheering children to drive home a sense of ultimately empty cheer. It’s rare that song is so danceable, sing-a-longable and smart as hell simultaneously, but “Happy Idiot” walks that line with real grace. –NA

 

Ty Segall “Tall Man Skinny Lady” from Manipulator

Ty Segall played nearly all the instruments on Manipulator himself, so it’s no surprise that every element sounds so completely in sync with all the others. On “Tall Man Skinny Lady”, Segall’s guitar is in top form, but it’s the tireless bassline that brings the swagger and smarts as it rolls alongside said guitar. In short, if you want to keep up with Ty Segall, you have to be Ty Segall. Lesson learned. –EC

 

The War on Drugs “Eyes to the Wind” from Lost In the Dream

While indie rock hipsters have been into The War on Drugs for several years now, 2014 is the year the rest of the musical world finally took notice, and for good reason. Laden with sounds of classic rock past, like Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, these songs are instantly familiar, yet they still sound timely and fresh with more modern production aesthetic and layers of saturated atmospheric guitars.  “Eyes to the Wind” exemplifies all of these things matched perfectly against a subtle, soulful, melody that will seep into your consciousness. -Rob Dixon

 

We Were Promised Jetpacks “Disconnecting” from Unravelling

It feels unfair to say that the Edinburgh-based We Were Promised Jetpacks latest album Unraveling is their most mature effort to date, mostly because these guys have been writing killer tunes since their debut album hit the States in ’09. Yet, one spin through Unraveling shows that this is a vastly different band than the skittish, garage influenced act we’ve come to love. “Disconnecting” shows just how far the band has come, dialing back the tempo more than a few notches, and utilizing melody and soundscapes to great success. It’s a smoky and sexy highlight on an album already full of…mature (sigh) surprises. –RB

 

Wolves in the Throne Room “Celistite Mirror” from Celestite

Celestial Lineage, the band’s previous album, was already pointing in the direction these guys went with for Celestite. There were ample examples of the influence of ambient and German minimalist prog before but WITTR all but ditched much of the black metal sound that it explored in most of the rest of its career but not the feelings and ideas and landscapes that inspired that music to begin with. It would be almost trite to compare this song to the music Popol Vuh wrote for Werner Herzog’s classic film Aguirre the Wrath of God but it does have a similar expansiveness and grandeur. That these guys didn’t do what some of their less open-minded fans expected is admirable but taken on its own this is one of the band’s best songs because it does perfectly evoke the way nature can seem so breathtakingly pristine and soothing and inspiring without even consciously trying to instill those feelings. This song feels like it was composed on pure intuition by people whose conscious and subconscious minds are very connected. –TM

 

Wovenhand “Field of Hedon” from Refractory Obdurate

For those of you that are unaware of the work of David Eugene Edwards, it’s best to start at the beginning, his being with the seminal alt-country group 16 Horsepower. What did they sound like you might ask? Well, imagine a band like Mumford and Sons. Now imagine a band like Mumford and Sons that doesn’t suck and you’ll still only be halfway there. After Edwards left 16 Horsepower, he started the decidedly rockier but still awesome Wovenhand. “Field of Hedon” builds on the tradition of the Edwards sound, but with a healthy dose of feedback this time around, creating a sound that’s as foreboding as the hell and fire damnation that Edwards regularly spews forth. It’s a lethal combination to be sure, one that Edwards and Co. has perfected on this go around. –RB

 

The Wytches “Wire Frame Mattress” from Annabel Dream Reader

A dark allure slinks through the entirety of Annabel Dream Reader, but Brighton-based trio The Wytches hit top form while sauntering through “Wire Frame Mattress”. Kristian Bell’s growl is one cigarette away from morphing into a snarl as he rides atop sweaty, reverb-slathered guitar. Fans of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, meet your new favorite band. –EC

 

Xiu Xiu “Stupid in the Dark” from Angel Guts: Red Classroom

Jamie Stewart has been making some of the most adventurous and inventive music of the last decade and a half. This record is a massive departure even for him except that as before the lyrics and the emotional intensity of these songs makes so much other music seem tame by comparison. Stewart’s compassion and understanding for the feelings and the subject matter is palpable, even visceral. This song kicks off with great momentum coupled with a nightmarish synth line and white noise washes for an effect that’s as haunting and spooky as anything Suicide (an obvious influence) has done. –TM

 

Yann Tiersen “Grønjørð” from Infinity

Known best for his stunning score that accompanied the film Amelie, French musician/muli-instrumentalist Yann Tiersen has quietly gone about his business for years. His latest album, titled Infinity, combines the breezy whimsy of his earlier works with the more rock-oriented format of his latter offerings. “Grønjørð” is a perfect marriage of the two sounds, never straying too far to one side for long, in turn creating a sound that’s as unforgettable as it is unique. –RB

 

Yellow Ostrich “Any Wonder” from Cosmos

On its fifth record, Yellow Ostrich has made the music its earlier albums promised. Indie rock got a little bloated and boring in the late 2000s and some bands tried to make some neo-classic rock crap, others tried for the more psych route with mixed results. Some dug into shoegaze records of the 90s. Yellow Ostrich may have done all of that but “Any Wonder” sounds like these guys embraced an early love of Radiohead but without imitating that band. The song’s thick, melodic bass line drives a song in which the guitar, the other rhythms and vocals spin around that core like a time lapse footage of an especially colorful flower blooming. –TM

 

Zola Jesus “Dangerous Days” from Taiga

Zola Jesus made her name through goth-influenced pop, but “Dangerous Days” emerges as a bright, bold, and remarkably accessible track. Powered by her sweeping voice and an atmospheric melody, the song pulses forward with a galloping beat and synths reminiscent of a church organ. Zola Jesus manages to expand her vision without losing her essence – no small feat in a world where everyone is trying to be a crossover artist but only a few are succeeding. –EC

 

More Top Songs of 2014: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

 

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