Top Five Singles of 2014

5. Captive - "The Fool"
(February 2014 Self-Released)

"The Fool" is a harmonic convergence of all the elements that make the post-punk genre so attractive. Muscly snares, plated in industrial distortion and slicked with reverb usher in the track's driving rhythm section. A repetitious bassline, chugging along somewhere in between a hiss and a growl, sets the drum hits in motion as whirring synths and an acetic lead guitar riff join the fray. Working like clockwork, these elements of gothic pop all fittingly come together to supplement the song's mantra-like reflection on the natural order of the world. "First the Stone / Then the Plant / Animal, and then the Man". Something about the song and its timeless minimalism make it feel simple yet very fashionable, like a well-tailored Oxford.

For fans of: Blank Dogs, The Cure, Joy Division

4. A.G. Cook - "Beautiful"
(June 2014 PC Music)

If minimalism was a virtue that marked "The Fool", then so too is it the defining characteristic of A.G. Cook's "Beautiful", and just about all of the releases shelved alongside it in the PC Music discography. The difference is that while the former's minimalism highlights a feeling of bleak desolation, the PC Music collective uses that ethic to manufacture an aesthetic similar to that of a Wes Anderson film: pastel-toned, orderly and cozy, almost exaggeratedly so. Here, A.G. Cook's dream-poppy take on EDM lives up to its title, yet also feels just a little surreal, as if it were the background music in a Tim and Eric sketch. If anything, the track reaches uncharted territory in the dance music genre by stripping it back to its most basic roots.

FFO: Crystal Castles, SOPHIE

3. Institute - "Salt"
(August 2014 Sacred Bones)

Perhaps no single embodies the noisy, sinister vibe of the Sacred Bones label than "Salt", an amalgamation of hardcore punk and gothic pop in the vein of Misfits or Skeletal Family. The Texan quartet weaves gnarled riffage atop pummeling percussion, a suitable accompaniment for Moses Brown's signature growl, rabid and indecipherable.

FFO: The Men, Drunk Injuns, Black Flag

2. The Snow - "Memory Loss"
(April 2014 Captured Tracks)

It's a collaboration between members of Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and Holograms - how could "Memory Loss" not make this list? The track, released on vinyl as a special Record Store Day exclusive, combines the best elements of each project involved: Beach Fossils' surf-y bass lines, Wild Nothing's jangling lead guitar and the angsty howl that Andreas Lagerstrom injects into Holograms' high-octane brand of post-punk. Together, they capture the sort of signature melodrama present almost universally throughout 80's music, whether it be on the radio or deep in the underground.

1. peaches davenport - "dog hair sweatpants"
(August 2014 Self-Released)

Taking influence from the shambolic brand of freak-folk popularized in the nineties by members of the Elephant 6 collective, peaches davenport is the brainchild of 15-year-old prodigy Cole Wharton. Nestled in the center of his project's surreal, highly experimental debut album  is "dog hair sweatpants", a breezy pop tune that sways back and forth clumsily on off-kilter rhythms as if it were a long-legged spider waltzing about on its spindly appendages. Acoustic guitar is percussively strummed to match the beat of the drums as they are consumed by brassy arrangements and bombastic keyboard melodies that remind me of the churchbells that can be heard in the distance on the hour while playing Animal Crossing for GameCube. Wharton's warbly vocal delivery reminds me of Kevin Barnes' in his early of Montreal discography. In its unabashed weirdness, the song is majestic, even anthemic. Rarely have I heard music this simultaneously alienating and inviting.