I’ll admit it, I’ll admit it. I love rap music. I listen to it every day, and it will always be my favorite genre. But that doesn’t mean I don’t fuck with other types of tracks. I’m a huge roots reggae head. I love indie rock and soul music. I dig jazz. And I go nuts when I hear a dope R&B slow jam. But if you’ve been following Westcheddar since its inception in 2008, you already know this. As hip-hop heavy as the site can get, there’s always a mix. That said, I’m happy to present you all with Westcheddar’s 20 Favorite Non-Rap Songs of 2014, listed in alphabetical order. Enjoy.
Angus & Julia Stone “Grizzly Bear”
This song was my introduction to Australian bro/sis duo Angus & Julia Stone, but they’ve been around for years. “Grizzly Bear” is a super chill cut with great male/female harmonies, plus tight production by the one and only Rick Rubin.
Avi Buffalo “Can’t Be Too Responsible”
Yes, my fellow Isenberg, Avi Buffalo (that’s his real last name). I love this kid, man. I don’t know if it’s because we have the same last name, or because his Long Beach vibes bring me back to my Cali roots. Whatever it is, I’m a big fan of his songwriting and guitar playing, and though the pitch of his voice takes some getting used to, there’s no denying Avi’s ability to carry a tune. His new album At Best Cuckold is dope, I’ve given it a ton of spins since it came out, and “Can’t Be Too Responsible” is a personal fave off it. It wasn’t a single or anything, but it’s definitely a cool song.
Band of Horses “Wicked Gil (Live Acoustic)”
BOH dropped their Acoustic at The Ryman live album early this year, and it contained some nice alternate versions of past favorites. One of them is this slowed-down take on “Wicked Gil” off their debut LP. I have a recording of this version from years ago that I found online, but I’m glad that it finally got a proper release.
The Black Keys “Turn Blue”
Oh yeah, The Black Keys returned in 2014 with that ill shit! “Turn Blue” has that blunted feel that was missing from their last album, and I happily spent many days driving around listening to it. This is The Black Keys I love!
Broken Bells “Leave it Alone”
James Mercer and Danger Mouse can do no wrong, right? This is my favorite song on Broken Bells’ sophomore LP After the Disco. I also really enjoyed my big bro J-Zone’s remix of “Angel and the Fool,” check that out here.
Hollie Cook “99”
I recently posted about this song and my infatuation with it. UK reggae songstress Hollie Cook knocks it out of the park on this one. I can’t get enough of the harmonies, and the beat bangs on some throwback island vibes shit. Modern-day, cinematic roots reggae at its finest right here.
Lana Del Rey “West Coast”
I’m not the biggest Lana Del Rey fan, but I like this single off her latest album. Again, as a kid with Cali roots who grew up in New York, I long for that “West Coast” feel, and she gives it to us here.
Drake “Days In The East”
I respect Drake as a rapper, but I prefer when he sings, to be honest. “Days In The East” might be my favorite song of his from 2014, and that says a lot considering all the ill loosies he let fly this year. Crazy beat, and some crazy new flows are showcased here, too. It blurs the line between rap and R&B, but since it’s not some traditional spitting shit, I’m throwing it on this list, fuck it. So dope. I also like “Heat of the Moment,” an R&B joint he released for free in the fall that was originally supposed to be a bonus track on Nothing Was the Same. And his remix of ILOVEMAKONNEN’s “Tuesday” is flames as well.
EDJ “Lose it All, All the Time”
Eric D. Johnson of the Fruit Bats is now the solo artist known as EDJ, and this lead song off his self-titled album is one of the straight up dopest and most progressive indie tracks of the year. No one is making music like this right now, and that’s a good thing, not a weird thing. Great vocals, great production. I’ve been listening to “Minor Miracles” a lot, too.
Tobias Jesso Jr “True Love”
We had a baby on August 9th, our third boy. And about a month before that, we moved into our first house. It was an amazing time for us, and through it all, I listened to this song quietly to myself on repeat. It will forever bring me back to that time when I hear it, and for that, it’s my favorite song of the year. This is as timeless as a love song can get, and it’s nice to hear some new talent on the keys, too. This guy’s got serious potential. Beautiful song.
This song is fun!! The mainstream radio world needs more pop reggae smashes like this. I cranked this shit all summer in the Odyssey with my family.
Maroon 5 “Maps”
The new Maroon 5 album is currently getting dumb burn in my household. My wife is obsessed with it, and my kids know all the songs now and love to sing along to it. I can’t front, Maroon 5’s got a few tracks in their discography I’m a fan of, but overall, I’m not the biggest fan. They’re just too poppy for the kid. That said, “Maps” is a great cut. It’s more on the alternative side of pop, which I can appreciate.
Matisyahu “Black Heart”
My hometown bro Matisyahu came correct right here with a stream-of-consciousness, dubby roots banger. When I first heard this, I played it for three days straight. I love when Matis gets in this zone. There’s a Stan Ipcus remix to this in the vault, too.
Mr Twin Sister “Blush”
Mr. Twin Sister, formerly known as Twin Sister, are responsible for one of my favorite indie cuts to ever be sampled in a rap song, “Meet the Frownies” (check out Kendrick Lamar’s duet with Dr. Dre “The Recipe” for the flip). They dropped a new album this year, and the first release off it, “Blush,” is some gorgeous, smoked-out, indie soul lounge shit. I saw someone on Twitter describe them as Portishead meets Sade, which is actually pretty accurate.
PARTYNEXTDOOR “Persian Rugs”
This song contains the R&B beat drop of the year. It’s sexy as shit, and PND kills it with the melody and Canadian crooning. I thumped this in the whip all through last winter, and it’s still in heavy rotation. Toronto is doing it right now. “Bout It” is a smooth track also, and “Recognize” with Drake is my shit as well.
Real Estate “Talking Backwards”
When it’s all said and done, Real Estate’s Atlas LP is probably my favorite album of the year, any genre. I discovered them during a late night Pitchfork binge, and was immediately drawn to their nostalgic, mellow rock sound. The whole album flows top to bottom, but “Talking Backwards” is the standout single that deserves shine on this end-of-year list.
Shakira ft. Rihanna “Can’t Remember to Forget You”
Sure, the video for Shakira’s collabo with Rihnna was highly buzzed about for obvious reasons, but this is also a really great song. Love the upbeat ska/reggae feel—Rihanna sounds right in her comfort zone.
Robin Thicke “Still Madly Crazy”
Robin Thicke cheated on his wife, and tried to win her back this year by writing a whole album about her (he literally named the album after her, too). He poured his heart out on “Still Madly Crazy,” a track where he thinks back to the good old days before he fucked everything up. He even got cute kids for the video! Still, he wasn’t able to save his marriage. A valiant effort, but no dice. Nice song though.
Usher ft. Nicki Minaj “She Came to Give It to You”
This is the dance song of the year! Pharrell can do no wrong, huh? That guy is a magician, seriously (he produced this). I’ve never been the biggest Usher fan, but if I was in a club or at a party or wedding or something right now, this would be the song that I would be waiting to hear all night on the dance floor. Love it. And I know this is a non-rap list, but Nicki’s guest verse is just a little icing on the cake so pardon me. P.S. check out Pharrell’s magic on Ed Sheeran’s “Sing,” too.
The Weeknd “Often”
Between Drake, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and The Weeknd, Toronto got the R&B game locked down right now. This track is everything you expect from The Weeknd—sex, drugs, and flyness. Ask him if he does this everyday, he’ll say, “Often.” Oh, and “King of the Fall” is fire, too. As is his “Drunk in Love (Remix).”
Thanks for reading and listening! If anything dope drops between now and the end of the year, I’ll update the list and throw it in as a bonus. Have a happy holidays, peace and love.
A bomb dropped after I made this list: D’Angelo released a new album. There’s some great stuff on it, but my favorite cut by far is “Really Love.” Gotta add it to the list, it’s more than worthy.
The Weeknd let some new heat fly, too. “Earned It” is off the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, and it’s smoooooth. Probably would’ve thrown this in over “Often” to be honest.
Okay, I think that’s everything. Wait…
I discovered this on the Best Songs of 2014 Pigeons & Planes list, great soul song by Leon Bridges titled “Coming Home.” Never heard of this guy, but he’s got that classic feel…
Now I’m done. On to 2015!!!