2014: Favorite 50 Songs of 2014

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music and films that helped define the year. More from this series


More songs exist right now at the end of 2014 than have ever existed before. The same can be said of film, garbage, and human remains. Time functions in this manner. New songs pour into the anonymous abyss of iTunes at a rate faster than ears will ever hear them. While we sleep, the bowels of Spotify churn, its unloved songs playing back for each other in desperate corners of the database as an auditory Toy Story scenario sparked into being by the absence of human attention. The underground canon expands tape by tape in sidelong sessions known only to the fifty heads who sell out each limited edition. With infinite songs at the ready to reach us and to never reach us, curious listeners can experience the true freedom of selection and the true bliss of discovery, as they patrol what grumbling deity Steve Albini describes as the internet’s “great hall of fetishes” populated with “whatever you felt like fucking or being fucked by.” Alright.

Despite its graphic physical imagery, not unexpected from a man who named an album Songs About Fucking, Albini’s metaphor spins in a crooked orbit around the primary sensation that defines TMT’s inaugural list of favorite songs: pleasure — the pleasure of dialing up in an instant exactly what one loves; the joy of hearing an idea pushed beyond the boundaries of its precedents; the raw surprise of hearing unexpected sounds emerge from tools we thought we understood; the inverse delight in feeling disturbed or bewildered.

After pinpointing the sources of 2014’s most obvious euphoria, the prospect of a numbered list seemed to unnaturally confine and quantify our pleasure. So, instead, our favorite 50 songs of 2014 are united by five loose thematic moods that sketch out the physical zones best suited for listening: We raise our fists and sprint through another lap at the GYM. We balance between sense and nonsense from the VOID. We peek around corners and squint into the dim lights of the ALLEY. We feel time stretch into slow motion on the CLIFF. We put the top down and turn the volume up in the COUPE. We find what pleases us in each of these locations and loop our favorites until they become part of our individual emotional codes. We rejoice in how deeply we are able to love.


f(x)
“Red Light”

[S.M. Entertainment/K.T. Music]

I’ve read here and there that the lyrics for f(x)’s “Red Light” are deeply symbolic and meaningful. Naturally, that wasn’t what was most interesting or entertaining about the song. It was much easier to appreciate the craftsmanship of its execution — the odd pleasure from the buzzy, boxy synth line; the seamless integration of parts that could quite easily have been incongruously disparate — without having to dig into its lyrical meaning and whatever implicit or explicit messages, dubious or otherwise, it might have. I stuck to the simple and no doubt vapid enjoyment of its glossy pop artificiality (not intended pejoratively!), unalloyed by the necessity of actually “understanding” it; and in that respect at least, I’m pretty sure “Red Light” was unsurpassed this year.

QT
“Hey QT”

[XL]

In 2014, I confronted the abyss. The penetrating dark offered itself for inscription with my deepest fantasies. I stared, and saw nothing, and then soft clouds, glossy gum bubbles, pink slime pools, shiny masses of plastic legs, tits, arms, hair, the wetness of sweat and grease and millions of gallons of canned soft drinks. Vibrant matter dematerialized in the vast nothingness, reassembling into new forms and abandoning configurations at will. It was the sublime landscape of the imaginary, complete with secret fears and perversions. The sound of a familiar voice crawled out from the mouth of the abyss, screaming: “Hey QT!!!” I quivered, and stared still, unsure, seeming almost to fall inside, to become enveloped. After some minutes, I finally stammered in response: “Yeah?”

Sudanim
“Midrift (Neana on the Trak Remix)”

[Her]

Sudanim gave Neana some pristine source material for a remix, and since everything Neana touched this year turned to gold, the alchemy succeeded. In a year when machine noises dominated the grimy club sound of London, “Midrift” was a perfect example of using straight-up construction-site sounds to create a landscape made specifically for the club. Neana excelled at trusting a small slew of sounds and repeating them endlessly to create a perfect beat for dancing. The result was never annoying or oversaturated, but aggressively minimal in its palette and satisfyingly maximal in its density. The pure sounds that Sudanim used turned the original into a cracked-out version of itself, still recognizable yet simultaneously made anew.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
“Mottai Night Land”

[Unborde]

This Halloween, I was visited by exactly zero trick-or-treaters. (p′︵‵。) What happened to all that neglected candy? I could believe the truth — that I ate it all, handful by lonely handful, in an embarrassingly short period of time, generating a mess of wrappers that won’t decompose for centuries (×_×# ) — or I can believe it was all carried by a flying steamboat to “Mottai Night Land,” a magical place of innocent indulgence, where the peanut butter cups were transformed into glockenspiel mallets, the Kit Kats into toy piano keys, and the caramel creams into the stickiest vocal melody of 2014. In “Mottai Night Land,” nightmares became backup dancers, baked goods became a worldview, and excess became integral. “Mottai Night Land” forever, bitches. ☆*・゜゚・*(^O^)/*・゜゚・*☆

Kane West
“Power of Social Media”

[PC Music]

Digital marketing is a science. We should all have realized by now that, in the world of online, nothing happens by chance. Every GIF, Vine, video, or comment that we see is most likely the result of somebody somewhere’s social media marketing strategy. The truth is, social media — when used strategically over time — is the most powerful form of marketing and market research the world has ever seen. But it’s not a magic bean that grows overnight into business success. It’s a platform for real work. The art is knowing the best places to put that work so you get results and not just a lot of annoying people who think they’re your friends. And this is exactly what we’re going to talk about today. Chapter titles: I. :~~~)  II. ᴘʟᴇᴀsᴇ ʟᴇᴛ ᴍᴇ ᴅᴀɴᴄᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜɪs  III. ᴘᴜᴛᴛ-ᴘᴜᴛᴛ ɢᴏᴇs ʀᴀᴠɪɴɢ  IV. ɢᴏᴏᴏᴏᴅ ᴏʟᴅ ᴅᴀʏs  V. ᴛʜɪs ɪs sᴏᴍᴇ ᴀᴍᴀᴢɪɴɢ sᴛᴜғғ  VI. ғᴜᴄᴋ ʏᴇᴀʜ  VII. ғɪʀᴇ  VIII. “ғᴀsᴛ” ᴇᴅᴅɪᴇ sᴍɪᴛʜ & ᴊᴀᴄᴋɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ sᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ ᴜɴᴅᴇʀɢʀᴏᴜɴᴅ

SOPHIE
“HARD”

[Numbers]

I like the music that SOPHIE makes. Last year, I thought that “BIPP” and “ELLE” were very good songs. This year, I thought that “LEMONADE” and “HARD” were very good songs. “HARD” was special, because it made me think about catwalks, liquorice, hairspray, and parties. I listened to it a lot of times because it was short and it made me dance. I hope that SOPHIE will make another song that I like soon.

DJ K-Duecez ft. Kuddie J
“T-Shirt & Panties”

[Self-Released]

Jersey club has garnered considerable attention in 2014 from both Jersey producers and UK producers, who are appropriating and mixing it with their own mechanical, grimy club sounds, creating new ways to appreciate the genre. One of my favorites this year was from Jersey producer K-Duecez (featuring Kuddie J, also Jersey), who reworked Adina Howard’s sultry but forgotten “T-Shirt & Panties” into hard-hitting Jersey club. While the track didn’t reinvent the genre, it proved that, when done well, Jersey club could provide an experience that was much more than about dancing. The main (almost only) lyric was endlessly sexy in an innocent way, so much so that it transformed into something meditative, even melancholy. But amazingly, the emotionality here not once sacrificed the danceability of the track.

100s
“Fuckin Around”

[Fool’s Gold]

Now filed under “should’ve been a Top 40 hit,” 100s’s “Fuckin Around” was much more than just a breakup song from a “pimp” to his “ho.” It was a personal empowerment anthem driving an Iggy Azalea-favored synth line into actually enjoyable territory while flipping the gender politricks of rappers like her and Nicki Minaj on their iconographic asses. Where they sell sex as a supposed tool for feminine empowerment, 100s sold sex for material wealth, not only by “pimping hoes” but also by offering his own physical affection in exchange for furs, dinners at Chez Panisse, and stays at the Claremont Hotel. And when that didn’t work out, oh well. “She said 100s but I love your ass, but that ain’t gon’ get my hair done.”

Future
“Move That Dope”

[A1/Freebandz/Epic]

Motion is right there in the title: Future wasn’t slinging dope, he was moving it. And movement has more than one possible meaning, especially to so versatile and physical a vocalist as this often melancholic, robot-voiced Atlanta rapper. Future usually flits between a range of moods and tones, but on this track, he was a relatively low-key presence. While Pharrell got most of the attention for his uncharacteristically excellent rapping, he still sounded like he was trying. Future, on the other hand, rapped with infectious enthusiasm with a bare minimum of effort. I mean, he took a song about high-risk work and turned it into Song of the Summer. All apologies to Terrence Thornton, but Future’s the one who was pushing things forward here. Without him, this song would’ve been just another super-sized cypher instead of this staggering work of motivational fortitude.

Powell
“So We Went Electric”

[Diagonal]

If Burial’s club revelations recall standing outside the rave and gazing inward, Powell’s emerge from aiming a rocket launcher at the side of Berghain, sticking a contact mic on that fucker, and letting it rip. His audaciousness shined through on “So We Went Electric,” the standout track from his Club Music EP. After the opening salvo, Powell treated us to one of his most memorable grooves yet, replete with skittering hot-swing hi-hats and a pulse that transcended the most clichéd of techno menace. His technique was incredible, really; “So We Went Electric” was a minefield of trap doors, a documentation of the urge to dance through the rubble of our rave dream.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music and films that helped define the year. More from this series


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