Yo La Tengo - "Ohm "
I like this song so much that to try to write about it and pretend it is anything approaching music criticism would be dishonest and wrong. The guitars on "Ohm," the opening cut on Yo Lo Tengo's pleasing "Fade," is nearly the most perfect sound I've ever heard. I don't know anything about the key or the tunings, but I can tell you that every time I put it on, I swear my bones turn into confetti.
Lorde - "Swingin' Party"
With "Royals" Kiwi singer Lorde at 17 has already recorded the song she's going to be singing from now until Queen Elizabeth II turns 138 years old. But that's not all she did this year. Lorde's poised cover of the Replacements' "Swingin' Party," is superb song interpretation, nailing the teenage isolation in this moving ode to feeling alone and awkward in crowds.
Courtney Barnett - "Avant Gardener"
The 25-year-old from Melbourne started charming American tastemakers this past fall so it's a safe bet we're going to be hearing lots of Courtney Barnett in 2014, and "Avant Gardener" is damn good reason why. Over a mild psychedelic groove and a delivery that is equal parts Liz Phair and Craig Finn, Barnett pours out language cocktails such as "The paramedic thinks I'm clever cos I play guitar/I think she's clever cos she stops people dying/Anaphylactic and super hypocondriactic/Should've stayed in bed today."
Plus, "Avant Gardener" is easily the best song title of the year.
Violent Mae - "Mothers' Song"
This was a very good year for the Hartford duo Violent Mae. Singer-guitarist Becky Kessler and drummer Floyd Kellogg picked up Best New Band at the Connecticut Music Awards and then released their debut album to growing acclaim. But perhaps their best decision this year was to keep the wonderful, "Mothers' Song" on the album, a tune that nearly missed the cut. It's Kessler's most moving vocal on an album with plenty of worthy selections.
Daft Punk - "Get Lucky"
In 2013, Daft Punk played at your house. They played at your barbecue, at your bar mitzvah, and alcohol-free high school graduation party. They played on your car radio, on Pandora, Spotify and iTunes. Birds sang Daft Punk as they flew by cats and dogs dancing to Daft Punk. Wedding DJs all across the world fretted over the right moment to unleash Daft Punk on the guests. This year, I danced to Daft Punk, maybe even with you.
Download these as well:
CHVRCHES - "Recover"
Kurt Vile - "Wakin' on a Pretty Day"
Neko Case - "Man"
Drake - "Hold On, We're Going Home"
Vampire Weekend - "Unbelievers"