Oh give me pretty song, oh let me have that sound tonight

Yesterday I posted a list of my top ten albums of 2014. My other year-end tradition centered on music involves presenting some of my choices for the best songs of the year, a process a little complicated by the absence of the methodology that’s helped me make the selections. Previously, I highlighted some of the tracks I stumped for to no avail in Spectrum Culture’s process to determine their collective year-end tally. Since I’m not longer hanging my writer’s hat on their coatrack, I wasn’t privy to any of that, but I’d still prefer to use this regular post to celebrate a slightly different batch of songs than those that are cropping up everywhere. Well, mostly. Similarly, in the spirit of expanding the range, I’m steering away from artists who showed on yesterday’s albums list. Again, there’s an exception.

So these aren’t necessarily my choices for the five best tracks of 2014. For right now, though, these are the selections that feel right to put out there as worthy of a listen as one calendar hits the recycling bin and another takes its place on the wall.

Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

Yes, this track is showing up all over the place on “best of the year” lists, but I still feel compelled to include it here, if only to offer the true confession that I left a Future Islands show this past year, before they even took the stage. What can I say? I was there for Wye Oak. Much of the band’s music holds only marginal appeal for me. This song, though, pulls together all the oddities of their art into a thrilling, soaring single.

Mikal Cronin, “I Don’t Mind”

In the spring, I was in a favorite record store hawing and hemming (not necessarily in that order) about whether or not I should buy a vinyl copy of Mikal Cronin’s MCII. I have a fabulous friend who met my indecision by pulling the record from the rack, putting in on my accumulated stack of pending purchases, and announcing, “You need to own this.” He was right, as I was reminded when Cronin released this fantastic single in the fall, as part of the Polyvinyl singles series.

Bob Mould, “The War”

I wrote about Mould’s latest yesterday. This is the song that clinches the new record as a triumph. Powerful, pointed, fierce, and all-around stunning. It’s everything Mould does better than just about anyone piled into a single glorious song.

Sharon Van Etten, “Your Love is Killing Me”

The latest album from Sharon Van Etten is her strongest yet, but it still is occasionally too spare and fragile for my taste, an issue that’s kept me from getting as excited about her other releases as, well, just about everyone else. This song is not one of the spare and fragile ones.

Fiona Apple, “Container”

This tweet says it all:

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