40. The Airborne Toxic Event – “Timeless”
Proving I haven’t completely abandoned radio-ready modern rock, The Airborne Toxic Event make their second appearance in my year end lists with an ear-friendly track that’s is easy to digest, but has the kind of melody that sticks with you.
39. Broken Bells – “Holding on for Life”
James Mercer (of The Shins) and Danger Mouse team up to help us all look forward to their 2014 album by channeling the Bee Gees over modern production, and giving me more proof that I am completely impartial about anything Mercer touches.
38. Great Good Fine OK – “You’re the One for Me”
Falsetto over an electro groove? Not exactly my recipe for success. But then they dish “hit ‘em with a little bit o’ crazy” and the chorus sweeps in. It might not be my normal style, but that hasn’t stopped me from playing it on repeat.
37. Caveman – “Chances”
At first glance Caveman comes off like another 80’s retread, but dig deeper and you find tracks like “Chances”, channeling Brian Wilson and Noah Lennox on vocals while building and building until it starts to envelop your headphones like the best tracks from The Antlers.
36. Bear’s Den – “Sahara”
Here’s one for ye lovers of indie folk. “Sahara” is basically Snow Patrol vocals and building tendencies with a folk vibe. The song requires some patience, but there’s a payoff. The guitars 2:30 into the song get the song rolling, and a little after the four minute mark one of the single best sections of music this year strikes your headphones. The last two minutes of this song are bliss.
35. MS MR – “Hurricane”
Echoing over a slow-but-steady beat and a smattering of strings, “Hurricane” offers a deft mixture of alt rock and mellow synth pop, crafting casually delivered introspective vocals and lyrics that welcome you to the self-conscious “inner workings of my mind”.
34. Grizfolk – “The Struggle”
With folk right in the title, you’d think you’d have an idea what you’re getting. And while “The Struggle” has an indie folk charm, the band’s two Swedish producers lend their hand to supply the song with a vibe that’s completely different. If Of Monsters and Men can hit it big, I see some room for “The Struggle” in everyone’s collections.
33. Iron & Wine – “Winter Prayers”
Sam Beam has taken his Iron & Wine project all over the map, starting with hushed, whispering vocals and moving all the way into the lush, electronic production of his last album. Somewhere in the middle he found his sweetspot with The Shepherd’s Dog, and “Winter’s Prayer” represents a welcome return to Beam’s niche. The song is sad, haunting, and beautiful; Beam’s calling cards. “Slide down South, when once in a while your confidence leaves you”, he sings. It’s a prayer for home from a man who needs rejuvenation.
32. Pearl Jam – “Sirens”
“Sirens” joins a pantheon of Pearl Jam ballads that have served as some of their most memorable songs over the past two decades, and I think it’s a fair assessment to say that it stacks up as one of their best.
31. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
When Karen O hits her stride, her band’s songs can be absolute powerhouses. Though her newest album was more misses than hits, “Sacrilege” is a strong exception, exploding and building a swarming rock song. The gospel choir may be over the top, but only in the best of ways.