It's a tricky thing declaring one song better than another, but you know a good one when you hear it. Whether it speaks directly to a portion of your brain you didn't think anyone else had access to or just causes an impossible-to-ignore impulse to bob your head, a good song is like an emotional trigger you can hit when you want to feel a certain way.
While 2014 saw more than its fair share of memorable tracks, a select few found near-universal acclaim while breaking new ground for the artists who wrote them. And although it's difficult to come up with a clear-cut ranking of the best of the best (even just among Diffuser contributors), we've assembled this list of what we believe to be 10 of this year's top songs. It's unlikely you'll agree with every single one of them, but that's the nature of an art form that's so intrinsically personal.
Cymbals Eat Guitars'Jackson'
Don't let the mournful, sleepy intro fool you: The lead single from Cymbals Eat Guitars' third full-length, 'LOSE,' quickly builds into a soaring homage to '90s rock, complete with epic choruses, meandering guitar solos and the sort of authentic immediacy that you likely haven't felt from a song since the days of the DiscMan.
Blake Mills'Don't Tell Our Friends About Me'
Longtime Fiona Apple collaborator Blake Mills returned this year with his second solo album, 'Heigh Ho,' and this confessional, Dylane-sque track is at its heart. Featuring backing vocals from Apple and tiple by Jon Brion, the song has been a fan favorite for years and its crisp new album production cements it as a classic.
Following up their decidedly bleak 2010 effort, 'Transference,' indie pop icons Spoon got playful again with this year's 'They Want My Soul.' For proof, look no further than the echoing power-pop of 'Do You' -- filled to the brim with Britt Daniel's alternately raspy and bouncy vocals and the sort of contagious melody we've come to expect from the Austin outfit.
Sharon Van Etten'Your Love Is Killing Me'
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten transcended her folk-inspired roots with 'Are We There,' and the sweeping single, 'Your Love Is Killing Me.' Like a feminine Nick Cave, Van Etten achingly croons over a simple staccato drum beat and a rising wall of sound.
Beck has referred to his twelfth album, 'Morning Phase,' as a "companion piece" to his introspective 2002 landmark, 'Sea Change,' and the mildly upbeat, mandolin-sprinkled 'Blue Moon' is a perfect example why. Trading desolate sorrow with pensive self-awareness, the buoyant melody belies the sadness lurking below the surface.
Foo Fighters'Something From Nothing'
Of all the geographic and musical destinations Foo Fighters arrived at on 'Sonic Highways,' the hot-rodding 'Something From Nothing' is the most ferocious. Influenced by the Chicago scene, recorded at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio and featuring Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, it's a throwback to angsty, early Foo Fighters sound.
Future Islands'Seasons (Waiting on You)'
Whether or not Baltimore's Future Islands meant to evoke Underworld's 'Born Slippy' with the ethereal synth line that underscores their breakthrough single, 'Seasons (Waiting on You),' there's no denying that Samuel T. Herring's soulful vocals and soul-baring delivery take it to a whole different level. While the studio version may never compete with Future Islands' now-legendary 'Letterman' performance, it's still vital.
The War On Drugs'Red Eyes'
Somewhere between the earnestness of Tom Petty and the indie drive of Arcade Fire, you'll find 'Red Eyes' -- the classic-rocking centerpiece of the War On Drugs' third album, 'Lost In the Dream.' Overtly Americana but still patently fresh, it's cavernous and ambient while remaining intensely personal.
Bleachers'I Wanna Get Better'
Probably the closest thing the self-help community has ever had to an anthem, Bleachers' joyous 'I Wanna Get Better' is as addictive as it is affirming. Sporting spliced piano samples and a shout-along chorus, it's like an aural anti-depressant.
Cloud Nothings'I'm Not Part of Me'
There's nothing fancy about 'I'm Not Part of Me' -- the closer from Cloud Nothings' third album, 'Here and Nowhere Else' -- and that's precisely what makes it shine. A frenetic, fuzzed-out and solitary-sounding rocker that sees frontman Dylan Baldi perfectly straddling the line between punk and pop, it all leads to a fist-pumping chorus for the ages.