It’s that time of year again! Without further ado, here are staff writer Casey Karger’s best songs and albums of 2014.
Top 10 Songs of 2014
#10: Mustered Courage – “Standing By Your Side”
While it’s rare for us to find really solid, sonically pleasing bluegrass, it’s even more rare for us to find it from Australia. Mustered Courage, and their album, Powerlines, gave us some of the year’s best bluegrass and this track is the best of the bunch. It’s a beautiful love song and one that’s layered and rich. While it’s from Australia, it could very well have been from the heart of Appalachia and you’d have been none the wiser.
#9: Goodnight, Texas – “Uncle John Farquhar”
From the album of the same name, “Uncle John Farquhar” tells a beautiful tale of a Pittsburgh steel man and his love of life and his family. It’s a perfectly Goodnight, Texas song, one that’s got old school instruments and gives a history lesson. It’s quintessentially Americana and it’s a beautiful tribute to our American history, especially to those of us who grew up around Pittsburgh, PA.
#8: Tyler Lyle – “Ditch Digger”
Tyler Lyle is perhaps my favorite singer songwriter, but one that has gotten none of the attention he deserves. He’s a beautiful lyricist and his musicianship continues to improve. He’s a complex person and it shows through in everything he writes. The line in this song that gets me is, “I only sing for the pleasure and for a certain sentimental girl.” This song, whose chorus is repurposed from “Rodanthe,” is special because we get an intricate look at the songwriting process and how a song changes throughout an artist’s career.
#7: The Wind and The Wave – “It’s a Longer Road to California Than I Thought”
This song is perhaps my favorite example of what two people with two instruments can do. It was really difficult to pick just one song off of this album, but this song is the one that stuck with me. The tenderness in the lyrics and the beautiful guitar/mandolin interplay makes this one of my favorite tracks of the year.
#6: Johnnyswim – “Home”
Are you kidding me? Just listen to this man sing. He’s incredible. This song is so simple and so beautiful that it would be criminal to not include on this list. The fact that it’s an emotional and relatable song makes it even more impactful. This song is as close to perfetion as you can get with two voices and 1 guitar.
#5: Hiss Golden Messenger – “Drum”
Another simple folk song, “Drum” is one of those songs that come to life and is much more than the sum of its parts. It’s a beautiful way to cap off an incredible album and this stripped down version shows you how great the song is with just one voice and guitar. The album version, with all the instruments and layers pops even more.
#4: Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All the Way Down”
What’s shocking about this song is that it’s a country song through and through and it’s in my top 5 songs of the year. While I’m not a fan of country at all, Sturgill Simpson refused to be ignored this year. His album and this song in particular were everywhere, even prompting The Guardian to call him the “savior of country music.” It honestly is that good. And, come on, it’s a song based on a Stephen Hawking quote and one that contains the line “Every time I take a look inside that old and fabled book, I’m blinded and reminded of the pain caused by some old man in the sky.”
#3: John Fullbright – “When You’re Here”
This song, right now, is my favorite love song of all time. It’s simple, it’s got everything, and it’s beautifully performed. While some love songs are complicated and beautifully poetic, this song simply says, “Don’t I feel like something when you’re here?” Only John Fullbright could so simply and so elegantly sing such a beautiful and poignant line and make it mean so much more than anyone else.
#2: Bear’s Den – “The Love We Stole”
Bear’s Den’s debut LP was nothing short of miraculous and this song was the best of the best. Their trademark electric folk sound gives this song a stadium type sound but one that begs to be devoured on big, bass filled headphones. This song and this album are a bit of a departure for me musically with all of the electronics involved, but it refused to go away and was on repeat almost all year. Do yourself a favor and listen with eyes closed and headphones in.
#1: The Barr Brothers – “Even The Darkness Has Arms”
This single off of The Barr Brothers most recent effort came out before the album and I played it so much that I almost forgot about the rest of the album. The complexity in this song, as with most Barr Brothers’ songs, blows away what any other band is doing. These four artists are so in sync that it’s shocking. The lyrics are poetry and the music is the perfect compliment. This is without a doubt my favorite song of 2014.