Above is a YouTube video playlist counting down each song. I've included official videos when possible, live videos as a backup, and official audio-only "videos" as last resorts. Unofficial audio streams are never used. As a result several tracks in the countdown are not available in the playlist. Pro tip: Click on "PLAYLIST" to jump to a specific video.
As is tradition, each year I present my top 35 tracks to honor the time spent in the early '90s as Music Director at (the now-defunct) WQAX in Bloomington, IN. Why 35? Because that is how many songs I reported each week to the CMJ. So, here are my top 35 tracks of 2014, along with five adventure picks. I know it should be only three, but my charts were never very precise in the first place.
Tracks #7 through #1 can be heard in their entirety in Too Much Rock Podcast #306.
You may also be intersted to see my top albums of 2014 list as well.
Remember what it was about punk that first snared you? Keith Morris does and with "Over Our Heads" he delivers a quick blast of energy, fueled by driving guitars, and with a break down that will remind you of every time you skipped into a circle pit.
Ten plus minutes of Mark Kozelek laying his life bare while his finger-picked acoustic guitar tumbles a soothing soundtrack. Either you're on board or you're not, and I obviously am.
"See My Way" is a timeless pop song with jangling guitars, a solid melody, and a vocal delivery that has enough grit to appeal to the rockers out there.
While The Dead Girls may be better known for its revved up power-pop anthems, this ballad is a perfectly composed song with strong vocal harmonies, twin guitar interplay, and a bouncing rhythm section.
Is Jenny Lewis an indie rocker? A pop star? A country artist? Yes, and this lush genre-defying track dripping with reverb and overdubbed vocals is both gripping and playful.
Is there anything better than a snotty vocal, a guitar hook, and a big chorus? Punk and power-pop fans both are going to fall for this one.
"Riding Bikes" is a slow burner full of tension and atmosphere that ends in a most righteous chaotic mathy conclusion. The low-in-the-mix vocals are likely cribbed from my own childhood.
"Name That Thing" is punk rock that boldly pushes forward hardly taking the time to consider the rules or consequences. Drums click, guitars soar and chime, and Anika Pyle just puts it all out there.
Post-rock, post-punk, math-rock, whatever. This track slowly sets the stage before exploding in the most beautiful rage you're ever going to hear.
This song single-handedly answers every critic who proclaimed the death of rock & roll and guitars in popular music. Why isn't this played on every classic rock radio station?
I love big guitar riffs and they don't come any bigger than the one in "Reunion" created by this glam-loving power-pop supergroup.
There are some songs that are just great. Every key change, every guitar chord, every vocal waver, just flawless.
Paradise lives in a garage somewhere in Portland sustaining themselves entire on farfisa-drenched 45s left off of the Nuggets compilation. "Just a Dream" is raw and wonderful.
Melancholy drips from this delightful indie pop song. "Barcodes" has boy/girl harmonies, soft keyboard swells, smart dynamics, and my heart.
"Tough Love" is a fantastic power-pop package that contains all the punch, all the guitar, and all the heart that a song could every need.
This song is the audio equivalent of Fight Club – fists flying and half of them landing a haymaker on your own face. The result feels so good and that shiner is going to look bad ass.
"Dancehall Domine" is a delightfully constructed, produced, and executed pop song with a cracking chorus. This is how the professionals do it.
Twee's standard bearers return with a boy/girl duet that floats effortlessly – that is, until it gets lodged in your head.
Just when you thought you couldn't bear another Americana-inspired stomper, Scotsman Dan Willson offers up "Heart Heart" to remind us all how direct and honest the genre can be.
Cocky vocals, driving guitar, an a blistering chorus, allow this supergroup to recast hair metal as the ultimate indie rock punch to the gut.
Will Oldman turn's Luke Byran's new country abortion into something darker and coy with just a subtle mood shift. Is he being ironic? Reverent? Does it matter?
Hot damn we've got a real rocker here. Those pounding drums, those guitar licks, those desperate vocals, it all just screams speeding ticket.
Sondre Lerche's "Bad Law" is a sexy pop song built around a funky guitar riff with an infectious chorus center. I'd go to discos if they played this song on repeat.
"High Hopes" is fascinating short story revealed by the deadpan vocals of Brendan Hangauer. The lo-fi pop accompaniment that just grows as the song continues really takes this to the next level.
The Anniversary's Josh Berwanger has a deep abiding love of power pop and this two and half minute song snaps and and jangles and sears in all the right places.
Bishop Allen have shown its gift for well-constructed indie pop since its first album, but "Start Again" takes things to the next level combining great hooks and songcraft with interesting production and a brilliant arrangement.
In "Half Heart Necklace" Elizabeth Morris tells a wonderful story that is both honest and endearing. With a growling guitar, instead of the band's trademark twee ukulele, the song also packs an wonderful and unexpected indie pop punch.
"Coulda Been" is a brave and bold song built on Ford's strong voice, her snarling guitar, and funky percussion. It's immediate and refreshing and one of the year's very best.
Harkening back to the skinny tie era, "How You Got That Girl" is a perfect pastche of the days when power pop swagger, new wave quirk, and top 40 immediacy combined for magic moments.
Every time I hear this song I turn it up. Then I turn it up again. Twisting, turning math rock with the sharpest guitar tone you've ever heard. All hail Albini.
Two dirty Kansas City punk rockers have made one of the most haunting, stark, and stirring tracks of the year. Glorious production and raw emotion have never melded so well before.
"Avenue Girls" is a delightful return from one of the UK's finest indie pop acts. Great organ, a simple chorus, and some tambourine should not sound this good.
Bob Mould knows how to balance a raucous guitar with a snappy rhythm and a lovelorn lyric to create something breath-taking. "I Don't Know You Anymore" is just the latest in a long line of perfection.
"Brill Bruisers" is simply a master class in indie rock. Rich and fulfilling yet entirely honest and direct. This song stops me dead in my tracks each time I hear it.
MORE COWBELL! A giant power-pop riff, snotty punk rock vocals, and a heavy dose of glam sleaze all combine to make this the perfect song for Too Much Rock. If this song doesn't do it for you, you're probably reading the wrong website.
And for my adventure picks I've selected five tracks that surely would have made the list last year if only I had heard them in time. I blame geography for my tardiness as each of these fine bands hails from the UK.
The curiously named "Pokemon City Limits" is just another "personal is political" acoustic folk punk song. One with exquisite lyrics, a brilliant rallying cry chorus, and the sweetest delivery imaginable.
"Meat in Your Teeth" is noisy, loose, brave, and infectious. It's also the catchiest DIY punk rock you will every come across.
I sing the chorus of this song loudly mimicking the English accent of vocalist Jennifer Doveton. It's got all the urgency of punk with the beauty and craft of the UK's best indie pop acts.
This indie pop stomper proves haphazard and be glorious. "I'll Be Honest" is open, spontaneous and so much fun. And just try to get this chorus out of your head, impossible!
"Thick Syrup" is delightful post-punk with wiry guitar and rich vocal harmonies. It's also enveloping and one hell of an earworm.
This was a great year for music – particularly if you're a fan of power-pop. Are your favourite songs on my list? If not, let me know and maybe they'll make my 2015 adventure picks.