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This 2014 songs-of-the-year compendium is not alphabetized or ranked, but rather organized as a playlist meant to be heard from start to finish.
It’s a multi-genre mix of big-name pop hits and less-ubiquitous personal favorites that can be found on a streaming Spotify playlist, accessed through my “In the Mix” blog at philly.com/inthemix.
Caution: Two of these two dozen tracks can’t be found on Spotify. Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Tom Petty’s “All You Can Carry” are not available on the streaming service, so an iTunes purchase may be in order. Listen up!
1. “Fever,” the Black Keys. The lead single from Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s Turn Blue gets taken over by the rock-and- roll spirit — and an insistent synth riff.
2. “Seasons (Waiting On You),” Future Islands. The song with which Samuel T. Herring of this Baltimore synth-pop trio slayed David Letterman with a maniacally memorable performance in March.
3. “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift. Needing to send a message that she’s no longer the slightest bit country, this single from her album 1989 is too catchy to deny, even if we’d all be better off if the Berks County-born superstar was never heard to rap again.
4. “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX. The song of summer 2014, like it or not, is from an Australian rapper frequently accused of cultural appropriation and a British pop songwriter. Both are among the breakout acts of the year.
5. “Bang Bang,” Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. Cacophonous banger from Brit pop singer with help of former Nickelodeon actress and rapid-fire rapper.
6. “Problem,” Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, and Big Sean. The best of the year’s pop-songs- by-committee, an expertly engineered hit with Grande’s mini-Mariah vocals soaring ever skyward.
7. “Goshen 97,” Strand of Oaks. Tim Showalter’s intro to his terrific album Heal captures the teenage thrill of making music in your parents’ basement and, yes, listening to the Smashing Pumpkins.
8. “Victoria,” Joyce Manor. California quartet’s ode to unrequited love, in 1 minute, 39 seconds.
9. “Don’t Want to Lose,” Ex Hex. Punchy pop from Rips, the debut by Wild Flag guitarist Mary Timony’s all-female alt-rock trio.
10. “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive,” Old 97’s. Rhett Miller’s rare triumph: a whip-smart song about a lifetime on the road playing rock-and-roll that doesn’t take itself too seriously, delivered with undiminished enthusiasm.
11. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” Against Me! This is the title track to the hard-driving band’s first album since founder Tom Grabel came out as a transgender woman and took the name Laura Jane Grace. It explores sexual identity with foot-to-the-floor punk-rock passion.
12. “i,” Kendrick Lamar. We’re still waiting for the follow-up to 2012’s album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, so this track from this highly respected emcee, rapping over an Isley Brothers sample, will have to hold us over.
13. “Let Me Find Out,” 5th Ward Weebie. New Orleans rapper brings his paramour a pair of shoes and a bag of hair, hopes that’s enough to make her love him forever.
14. “Flawless,” Beyoncé. Queen Bey’s surprise album came out a year and a day ago, so it does not qualify for the 2014 best albums list. Among its many singles, this one tops “Drunk in Love” for its spelled-out feminist message, courtesy of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
15. “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F—-),” Run the Jewels, featuring Zach de la Rocha. Hardest hitter on the second hip-hop duo between Killer Mike and El-P, with a guest spot from the long-lost Rage Against the Machine rapper.
16. “Two Weeks,” FKA Twigs. Twisted, stylized nuevo R&B from the Brit dancer-turned-singer born Tahliah Barnett.
17. “West Coast,” Lana Del Rey. Sultry pop noir from the much-maligned and newly ascendant chanteuse, from her Dan Auerbach- produced album Ultraviolence.
18. “She’s Not Me,” Jenny Lewis. This Rilo Kiley singer’s The Voyager didn’t live up to high expectations, but this typically intelligently delineated heartache song did.
19. “All You Can Carry,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. The new album Hypnotic Eye didn’t consistently deliver the hooks as in the old days -with a few exceptions, like this one.
20. “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” Sharon Van Etten. Trouble arrives every morning, as Van Etten builds a lush wall of sound from the terrific Are We There.
21. “Water Fountain,” Tune-Yards. Polyrhythmic joy from indie force of nature Merrill Garbus.
22. “Happy,” Pharrell Williams. It can’t be avoided, or resisted, and this list would not be complete without it.
23. “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith. Beauteous, multivocal-tracked sorrow from young British Grammy- nomination grabber.
24. “You Got Me Singing,” Leonard Cohen. At age 80, still singing, “even though the news is bad,” as it so often was this year. Canadian song poet, still going strong, crooning about Popular Problems.