Robert Rich is the Christopher Nolan of weird and stubborn taste.
The year 2014 is (basically) in the books, and it was a hell of a year for music. Against Me! cameback, Taylor Swift wrote an album about the same old, same old (and then got into a fight with Spotify over her “art”), Nickelback kept on Nickelbacking, and Kanye rapped the entirety of “Yeezus” in a van for Seth Rogen. And the man behind The Apologist (yours truly) has a little something to say about just what were the greatest 100 songs of the year. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll find that you agree completely and wholeheartedly and without any sense of disdain, but most importantly, you’ll be taken on a journey. Let’s get started, folks.
100. Mogwai – “The Lord Is Out of Control”
Because post-rock is still in, and this actually serves as a great little prologue to the list.
99. Architects – “Youth Is Wasted On the Young”
Because who doesn’t love screaming metal bands Googling famous quotes (this time from George Bernard Shaw) to use in song titles?
98. Ray Lamontagne – “Supernova”
Because Ray’s voice is now and forever a great thing.
97. Structures – “Nothing to Lose”
Because even in metal, the Canadians are nice enough to include everyone on the chorus.
96. Scott H. Briam – “Slow & Easy”
Because this is the guy you’d want to get drunk with on a camping trip and make him play a bunch of music that’s not “Kumbaya.”
95. Tinariwen – “Toumast Tincha”
Because most musicians that sing about struggle don’t really know what that means, but this group (primarily former Libyan military-trained rebel fighters) certainly does.
94. Bayside – “Big Cheese”
Because it is possible to make catchy, distorted emo hard rock that doesn’t suck in 2014.
93. American Authors – “Luck”
Because even the generic mainstream pop rock bands make some great songs from time to time.
92. Twin Atlantic – “Heart and Soul”
Because this Glasweigian group obviously loves Biffy Clyro, and that’s a good thing.
91. Alias – “Crimson Across It”
Because this is pretty much a beat poetry reading captured on record.
90. Cher Lloyd – “Human”
Because even the soulless drivel produced by The X Factor is catch sometimes.
89. Phillip Phillips – “Fly”
Because this is probably the hardest rocking song the American Idol franchise has ever produced (yes, that includes you, Daughtry).
88. Noah Gundersen – “Poor Man’s Son”
Because this is Gundersen’s “I just watched ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’” song.
87. Robert Ellis – “TV Song”
Because as a TV junkie, I can relate.
86. Phantogram – “Fall In Love”
Because even after hearing it everywhere for months, it never got old.
85. Jamestown Revival – “Fur Coat Blues”
Because this is a less pretentious Mumford & Sons.
84. Architects – “Gravedigger”
Because not only is it a great song, it makes me think of that monster truck Gravedigger from the 90s.
83. Tycho – “Awake”
Because this is that “I’ve got a midterm tomorrow and just took a handful of Adderall” jam.
82. The Afghan Whigs – “Matamoros”
Because reunion albums usually suck, but The Afghan Whigs’ doesn’t, and this song in particular, is amazing.
81. Deleted Scenes – “Landfall”
Because even though it didn’t blow me away, I kept coming back to listen to it, and that’s what underrated great songs do.
80. Demon Hunter – “Cross to Bear”
Because the world’s greatest Christian metal band is talented enough to just be called a metal band without the stigma that Jesus brings into it.
79. Pixies – “Magdalena 318”
Because hey, the Pixies can still kick out some decent jams.
78. Pink Floyd – “Anisina”
Because “The Endless River” really does sound like a farewell album, and David Gilmour can take even bits and pieces of old recordings and turn them into fully realized, emotional works of art.
77. Jason Mraz – “Love Someone”
Because when he just writes sappy love songs and doesn’t make weird little innuendos, Jason’s great.
76. Quilt – “Talking Trains”
Because this is psych-pop at its finest.
75. Next Stop: Horizon – “Rain On Me”
Because damnit the Swedish make such great music.
74. The Pretty Reckless – “House On A Hill”
Because hey, that chick from Gossip Girl ain’t a half bad musician.
73. Animals As Leaders – “Kascade”
Because everything they do is all over the place, and I mean that in the best possible way.
72. The Belle Brigade – “Ashes”
Because it’s just so damn pleasant.
71. Wye Oak – “Paradise”
Because it keeps building to something, stops abruptly, and then goes back, and it’s oh so satisfying.
70. Starset – “Carnivore”
Because it’s okay to be ambitious, even in mainstream rock.
69. Beartooth – “Body Bag”
Because we all have high school angst that won’t go away.
68. Nothing More – “The Matthew Effect”
Because of the line “you’ve been sucking tit, asleep in your cradle.”
67. Anathema – “Anathema”
Because they went from world’s worst doom metal band to world’s greatest prog rock band in spectacular fashion.
66. Ume – “Black Stone”
Because this is that song you put on repeat late at night and just tear shit up to.
65. The Gaslight Anthem – “Once Upon A Time”
Because this is the rare Gaslight Anthem song that doesn’t blow really hard.
64. Grieves – “Rain Damage”
Because this sort of has the same feel as Mike Shinoda’s “rap” album, but with like, more talent.
63. The History of Apple Pie – “Jamais Vu”
Because I hate the the term shoegaze with a fiery passion but this song makes me forget about that.
62. Real Estate – “Talking Backwards”
Because for a band name that sounds like the most boring thing in the world, they’re not.
61. Mount Salem – “Good Times”
Because this is what Black Sabbath would have sounded like if they had access to modern rock and roll technology when they got big.
60. Pontiak – “Ghosts”
Because stoner rock, y’all. Stoner rock.
59. Amy Ray – “When You Come For Me”
Because of that hook.
58. Yellow Ostrich – “Don’t Be Afraid”
Because this isn’t the last time you’ll see them on this list.
57. Linkin Park – “All or Nothing”
Because hey, relegate Chester Bennington to the background and put in the lead singer of Helmet, and Linkin Park gets real good.
56. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Because is Jack White even capable of writing a bad song?
55. Nothing More – “God Went North”
Because this is as proggy as a modern rock band will get.
54. Kid Ink – “No Option”
Because I don’t know much about hip-hop, but I know this is baller.
53. Avatar – “Hail the Apocalypse”
Because this, apart from #75, is the other kind of great music the Swedish produce.
52. Slipknot – “AOV”
Because they’re still kind of stuck in the past, but they play the past well.
51. Woods – “Moving to the Left”
Because grab an acoustic guitar and strum along.
50. Foster the People – “Are you what you want to be?”
Because apparently there is life after “Pumped Up Kicks.”
49. Band of Skulls – “Himalayan”
Because this is liquid silk.
48. Anathema – “The Lost Song Part 1”
Because no band better creates and releases tension, and yes I mean it that way.
47. Old 97s – “Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On”
Because it’s the most straightforward song on here, so follow instructions.
46. My Morning Jacket – “Farewell Transmission”
Because this MMJ tribute to Jason Molina is spot on.
45. Ingrid Michaelson – “Home”
Because Ingrid Michaelson is what Tina Fey would sound like if she were a pop star.
44. Weezer – “Back to the Shack”
Because Weezer “went back to the basics” and this time they actually mean it.
43. Yellow Ostrich – “My Moons”
Because I told you they’d be back.
42. Nonpoint – “Pins and Needles”
Because when the nu-metal veterans focus on headbanging riffs, they’re better than ever.
41. Lo-Fang – “#88”
Because it’s pop plus orchestral plus symphony plus perfection.
40. Jamestown Revival – “Revival”
Because “Revival” is also a really good Stephen King book.
39. Chevelle – “An Island”
Because this is that constantly driving rock song your workout playlist has been asking for.
38. Jason Mraz – “Best Friend”
37/ Beartooth – “The Lines”
Because when the clean vocals come in at the chorus, you need them.
36. Brad Paisley – “High Life”
Because country’s greatest metaphor man is in top form here.
35. The Roots – “Tomorrow”
Because this is Jimmy Fallon’s house band being not Jimmy Fallon’s house band.
34. Morning Parade – “Alienation”
Because AllMusic says they’re similar to Coldplay, but they’re way, way better.
33. Young the Giant – “It’s About Time”
Because this is a rock song that even my fiance likes.
32. Royal Blood – “Loose Change”
Because this is the two piece that isn’t the White Stripes or the Black Keys, but kind of is.
31. Lo-Fang – “You’re the One That I Want”
Because this song was great even before it got reappropriated for that ridiculous Dior commercial with Charlize Theron.
30. Manchester Orchestra – “Cope”
Because pretty much every song from this album could have been on this list.
29. Hozier – “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene”
Because who knew a dude that looks like that could make music that sounds like this.
28. Ben Howard – “Small Things”
Because I never know if I should be scared, happy, sad, intrigued, in love, or all of the above with Ben Howard.
27. Malachai – “I Deserve To No”
Because I really don’t know what the hell this is, but I love it.
26. Foo Fighters – “I Am A River”
Because Dave Grohl and company are officially the rock band (no other qualifiers needed) of this generation.
25. Sleepwave – “Through the Looking Glass”
Because hey look, the lead singer of Underoath learned how to write a hook.
24. Manchester Orchestra – “After the Scripture”
Because I told you the whole album is just as good.
23. Red Wanting Blue – “Dumb Love”
Because this is a silly little jaunt but has tremendous replay value.
22. Metronomy – “I’m Aquarius”
Because it’s so goddamn twee but it’s still good.
21. Ingrid Michaelson – “Stick”
Because it’s maybe the best pop chorus of the year.
20. Christina Perri – “The Words”
Because “Jar of Hearts” wasn’t a one time thing.
19. Temples – “Sand Dance”
Because the title describes it perfectly.
18. Against Me! – “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ”
Because CM Punk said it’s good too.
17. Kid Ink – “Murda”
Because that beat will wreck you.
16. Passenger – “Scare Away the Dark”
Because Passenger is Ed Sheeran’s dorky little brother without the lyrical prowess or romantic game, but he’s still right there.
15. Ed Sheeran – “Don’t”
Because I swear it wasn’t intentional he showed up right after Passenger.
14. You Me At Six – “Room to Breathe”
Because it’s probably the best four minute mainstream rock song of 2014.
13. Alcest – “Délivrance”
Because if you can listen to this without crying or feeling some sense of rollercoastering emotions, you are not a real person.
12. Crosses – “This is a Trick”
Because Deftones singer Chino Moreno’s side project is a trippy, atmospheric dive into the world of the Pro Tools-created electroverse.
11. Elbow – “The Take Off And Landing of Everything”
Because this is what shows up next to epic in the dictionary.
10. Ben Harper – “A House Is a Home”
Because Ben did this song with his mom, and it’s the sweetest thing you’ll probably ever hear.
9. Old 97s – “Guadalajara”
Because pretty sure nobody tells a story like Rhett Miller.
8. Chevelle – “Take Out the Gunman”
Because after a couple of mediocre releases, these guys still have it, and Pete Loefler’s guitar tone is forever the best in rock.
7. Starset – “Down With The Fallen”
Because we all need layered rock that sounds like it should be a movie soundtrack.
6. Kacey Musgraves – “The Trailer Song”
Because America’s darling indie-country princess is a brilliant songwriter that captures the genre’s bread and butter topics with relentless precision.
5. Yellow Ostrich – “Shades”
Because our top five starts with a barnburner.
4. Hozier – “To Be Alone”
Because this is the epitome of intense.
3. Nothing More – “Christ Copyright”
Because the world is woefully devoid of frenetic mainstream rock like this, and San Antonio’s Nothing More is leading the charge for modern rock that doesn’t have to sound like Nickelback.
2. Lo-Fang – “Boris”
Because this is creepy, beautiful, poignant, sad, and disturbing all at the same time. Matthew Hemerlein loved this dark tale of harassment by Swedish-German duo BOY and decided to cover it.
1. Manchester Orchestra – “Top Notch”
Because that riff is a bundle of distorted tastiness that meshes oh so well with singer Andy Hull’s warbling pseudo-whine, and the result is the best song of 2014.