The War on Drugs

40. The War on Drugs “An Ocean In Between the Waves”

There’s a certain irony to The War on Drugs’ name upon listening to “An Ocean In Between the Waves,” as its guitar driven progression and synth melodies envelop one in an all-consuming bodily high. Even still, Adam Granduciel painfully asks “How can I be free?” at the song’s climax, reminding listeners of the depression and anxiety that lead to this record’s very creation. —Mike Schuerman
 

 

First Aid Kit

39. First Aid Kit “My Silver Lining”

First Aid Kit’s summer album, Stay Gold, was heralded in by “My Silver Lining,” a wide-open-spaces track that meets at the crossroads of folk, pop, and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll. The most striking parts of the song lie in the strings: The Omaha Symphony Orchestra provides a hopeful and persistent harmony underneath the Soderbergs’ angelic voices. They tackle issues of regret and the drive that keeps them above their worries, but still the song could soundtrack a Maserati ad—speeding in slow motion through the Southwest’s vast deserts. It marked a change in the sisters’ career and a high point in a year of great music. —Riley Beggin
 

 

Iceage

38. Iceage “The Lord’s Favorite”

Danish punks Iceage have rounded out 2014 with a rousing new full-length album entitled Plowing into the Field of Love, bringing a bit of refinement to their usual hardcore sound. One single from the album, “The Lord’s Favorite,” illustrates perfectly the youthful exuberance of the band, as lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt slurs his way through the tangle of slightly off-kilter guitars and pounding drum beats. —Rachel Schroeder
 

 

Drake

37. Drake “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”

Despite turning a former MySpace artist’s track into 2014’s club anthem and oddest national hit, “0 to 100” stands as Drake’s greatest testament to his rap prowess and successes this year. Caught on camera lint-rolling his pants at a Raptors game? “Fuck all that rap-to-pay-your-bill shit / I’m on some Raptors pay my bill shit,” Drake responds. —Mike Schuerman
 

 

Hundred Waters

36. Hundred Waters “Murmurs”

“I wish you would see what I see” is a phrase that I’ve long classified as an exhausted cliché fit only for the eye-rolling-est of romance movies and The Disney Channel’s most devastating high school heartbreak moments. I stood corrected when Hundred Waters released “Murmurs,” and Nicole Miglis delivered the line in a way that made me bite my snarky tongue. Graceful and balanced, “Murmurs” aims high and insists on immersion; if you’re not hearing each and every one of its sounds, you’re not getting the full experience. —Drew Curtis
 

 

Field Report

35. Field Report “Home (Leave the Lights On)”

Marigolden, Field Report’s country-tinged second effort, is a record that was conceived on the road about being on the road—about characters missing their loved ones and what it means to stay sober when you’re playing in a bar every night. There isn’t a better example of this sentiment than album highlight “Home (Leave the Lights On),” a track laden with Tom Petty. “Home” functions as a change-up from the band’s usual musically-pensive state, thanks largely in part to percussionists Shane Leonard and Ben Lester’s pressing rhythms, as well as the much welcome presence of All Tiny Creatures’ Tom Winceck. —Andrew Brandt
 

 

Tobias Jesso Jr.

34. Tobias Jesso, Jr. “Hollywood”

With an Elton John-like approach to telling the human story from behind a set of keys and the downtrodden tone and casual despair of Father John Misty, Tobias Jesso Jr. and his piano ponder dreams and doubts out loud. “Hollywood” sounds like the product of a late night, a few glasses of scotch, and a lump in your throat. —Drew Curtis
 

 

Sia

33. Sia “Chandelier”

This was one of 2014’s most surprising hits. Sia, an Australian singer/songwriter who at 39 had yet to score a major worldwide hit, broke through with the soaring “Chandelier.” The track showcases Sia’s very multi-octave range and tells tales about party girls swinging from chandeliers—but, beneath the sheen, there’s a bit of melancholy. The song tells a powerful tale of Sia’s former struggles with booze and pills and, in “Chandelier,” ditching bad habits couldn’t sound more liberating. —Ryan Thomas
 

 

Shamir

32. Shamir “On the Regular”

Pumped full of cowbell, snapping beats, and bright melodic changeovers, “On the Regular” is nothing short of a jam. Shamir sits at the center of a diva synth-storm, joining the legions of alternative electronic rappers like Mykki Blanco and Azealia Banks. His entrancing rap has a bubblegum pop quality, and he almost delivers lines like “Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample / Step to me and you will be handled” with a wink. There’s no full-length in the works yet, but we’ll probably have this track stuck in our heads through 2015 anyway. —Riley Beggin
 

 

Cymbals Eat Guitars

31. Cymbals Eat Guitars “Jackson”

Every so often there comes along a song that grabs you by the gut and twists—hard. “Jackson” is one such song. It’s a full-bodied lament that opens with a soft piano line and explodes into a mess of moaning guitars, a track bred out of anger and love wherein frontman Joseph D’Agostino mixes his usual full on scream-like singing style with a softer falsetto. Every instrumental valley and peak here matches an emotional one, making “Jackson” as heartbreaking as it is powerful. —Rebecca Edwards
 

 

Jessie Ware

30. Jessie Ware “Tough Love”

If on her breakthrough record, Devotion, Jessie Ware claimed she didn’t know what she was doing, she must now. “Tough Love,” the smash single from her album of the same name, has a much more minimalist touch than the songs that comprised Devotion and is heightened Ware’s impressive vocal register and glimmering tonality. It possesses a much darker, more brooding tone that is rarely seen among pop albums these days, almost like a mash between Beyoncé and James Blake. As she coyly sings, “That’s called tough love,” it becomes evident Ware is more knowledgeable of her abilities than ever before. —Mike Schuerman
 

 

Cathedrals

29. Cathedrals “Harlem”

Releasing a single every few months, Cathedrals spent 2014 slowly cultivating a devoted fan-base. Carefully borrowing from R&B, pop, and dreamy space-out synth, the duo create something warm and fresh by sharpening the sound and overlaying their tracks with throbbing rhythms. “Harlem” is an upbeat introduction, with an eclectic set of sounds on a continuous roll into the next portion of the song, lacking enough repetition to cause boredom.—Drew Curtis
 

 

Count This Penny

28. Count This Penny “Get Your Gun”

In 2014, Count This Penny shifted from a reliable Americana outfit to one of Madison’s most cherished acts. The track that got them there, “Get Your Gun,” is a show-stopper and a real heart sinker; it moves like a slow, defeated procession set to march behind steel-guitared guides and Amanda Rigell’s bruised vocals. Of course, there’s a catharsis to it all—an understanding that before you were a regular at your local dive’s last call, you were in love. And that while you may not be ready for it yet, love will come again. In the interim, it may be best to skip the gun and settle for a tissue instead. —Andrew Brandt
 

 

Ought

27. Ought “Habit”

“Do you feel it like I feel it? / ’Cause I need to know I’m not alone,” shrieks Ought frontman Tim Beeler during the climax of “Habit.” It’s this sole lyric that became the group’s guiding principle when creating their debut LP, More Than Any Other Day, which was inspired by witnessing firsthand the 2012 Quebec student-led riots against tuition hike. “Habit” is the centerpiece of Ought’s emotionally charged monument, a record that captures the sentiments fueling this protest rather than overtly stating discontent—an aesthetic that should remind any Madison native of the thousands who championed a similar movement years ago. —Mike Schuerman
 

 

Ex Hex

26. Ex Hex “Hot and Cold”

Combating outdoor temperatures with the thermostat is a battle often fought but rarely won. You’re either sweating or you’re freezing; there is no happy medium. Luckily for us, Ex Hex’s swaggy “Hot and Cold” specializes in stabilizing any situation. If you’re cold, they’ll bring the warmth. And if you’re too hot? Well, let’s just say they’ve got you covered there, too. —Andrew Brandt
 

 

Angel Olsen

25. Angel Olsen “Hi-Five”

“Are you lonely, too? Hi-five! So am I!” Angel Olsen declares on “Hi-Five”, her fierce anthem for single twentysomethings everywhere. The track, though it oozes loneliness and desperation at times, is a powerful, friendly reminder that someone is always in the same boat. —Mary Sullivan
 

 

Jungle

24. Jungle “Busy Earnin”

Although technology inevitably dispelled the cloud of anonymity that surrounded indie soul duo Jungle, the band did not fail to take 2014 by storm. Pulling out all the stops for the new year, Jungle dropped their single “Busy Earnin’” in early February, complete with a video featuring a troupe of hip hop dancers, creating a testament to the level of funk they could achieve. With an infectious dance beat and a catchy chord progression, the track leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to starting the party out right. —Rachel Schroeder
 

 

Twin Peaks

23. Twin Peaks “I Found a New Way”

The opening track from Twin Peaks’ sophomore LP, Wild Onion, “I Found a New Way” goes to show that the kids took back rock ‘n’ roll in 2014. A nasty rhythm guitar opens the track with some distinctively catchy power chords, and singer/guitarist Clay Frankel unravels his clamoring vocals which punch you right in the gut with every wail of “oh yeah!” —Mary Sullivan
 

 

GGOOLLDD

22. GGOOLLDD “Gold”

It was a good year for Wisconsin artists: PHOX’s debut release sent them skyrocketing, Bon Iver announced an Eau Claire music fest, and Field Report’s Marigolden is blowing up indie radio stations across the nation. And one of our favorite discoveries has been GGOOLLDD, a six-piece synth-pop group whose ceaseless energy and infectious sound is quickly making them one of Brew City’s best breakout bands. “Gold,” a single off of their $TANDARD$ EP, is chock full of the danceable grooves and optimistic vocal swoops that keep us hooked. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country catches on. —Riley Beggin
 

 

Parquet Courts

21. Parquet Courts “Instant Disassembly”

Parquet Courts don’t do things conventionally…in 2014 terms. The Brooklynites-via-Texas have no social media accounts and they rarely talk to the press. Don’t feel like neglected, though. Parquet Courts shield themselves with DIY ethos so they can make great album after great album. “Instant Disassembly,” a highlight from their first LP of 2014 (yes, they somehow put out two), is a sprawling, boozy jam that works best on full blast at 2 am. —Ryan Thomas
 

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About The Author

Jonk Music

Founded in Madison, WI in 2005, Jonk Music is a daily source for new music.

  • Hannah D’Wipe

    Hmmm. So you couldn’t find enough different songs, and had to repeat a lot of artists 2, 3, 4 or more times? Why not just make a shorter list? I guess this is some of the best music of 2014, that is, if what you like for the most part is mainstream, whiny, derivative stuff that’s real popular with teenagers. Just my opinion, of course.

    • Adrian

      What did you hope to achieve with this post? Change the opinion of people who frequent Jonk’s lists? I come here because I enjoy his taste in music, if you don’t then don’t visit his site. While you’re at it, why not start your own blog and share your obviously impeccable taste in music with the world.

    • revelveteen

      How cranky. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something? You are entitled to your opinion, but there’s definitely some good stuff on there. Wish there was more local music though, and I guess it could have been shorter. But there’s something for everyone here.

  • Tyler