Taking stock of a year’s musical output in late June (or right at the beginning of it, even) is an honored tradition as old as…I dunno, like 5 years, maybe? But even if the suddenly ubiquitous need file a halftime report for a year’s music is mostly a product of a medium in constant, desperate need of content, the impulse to impose order on a chaos is only natural. I’m certainly not above it! Given the torrential downpour of music that gets released every day, a half year breather to check our status is actually pretty useful. So here’s one more!
In comparison to 2013, which saw a near-constant stream of huge name artists putting out exhaustively hyped albums, this year has seemed a little bit quiet. Where are the endless video featurettes, the side-of-wall projections, the New York Times ads demanding our attention? Those are all kind of unnecessary, apparently. The 50 songs listed below cross multiple genres, come from returning artists and garishly young newbies, both. All together, they paint a weird but compelling picture of music in 2014, in a moment when tidy definitions and easy to pinpoint trends feel increasingly irrelevant.
A handy Spotify playlist of the 42 songs on the list that are currently available on Spotify is below. All 50 selections, with explanation and embedded video or audio for each, follows.
A Spotify playlist for The 50 Best Songs of 2014 So Far.