Best Music of 2014: From the Pop Charts to Indie Stars

Best Pop Artist/Best Album: Taylor Swift, '1989'

Swift struck gold again, producing an album flawless in its neo-bubblegum abandon. There's not a bad or middling song on this record, the work of a true artisan. Swift had already cemented herself as a pop culture fixture with her 4 previous albums and with ‘1989’ she proves she’s a pop culture icon to be reckoned with.

From "Blank Space" to "I Know Places" to the bonus track "Wonderland", every song is an intricately produced delicacy that avoids complacency. Her crowning achievement is in balancing the album between fast-paced confections ("Shake It Off") and breathy ballads ("Wildest Dreams") with unwavering ease. '1989' is 80's music supercharged with pop sophistication and the results are her strongest yet.

Best Synth-Pop Single: “Ghost,” Nina Yasmineh

“Ethereal synths that feel natural and not overproduced, allows for an authentically moody listening experience. With lines like “It's not someone you can betray in the late night games/It's not some passing phase”, ‘Ghost’ assures it will be haunting your repeat button.” Read more here

Best Electro-Blues EP: 'It’s Now Safe to Turn Off Your Computer,' Grim

Soulful, futuristic, quietly contemplative and lyrically forthright; in 4 songs Grim takes listeners through a sonically complex journey that is ambitious and never stagnant.

Best Groovy Single: “Resurrection Man,” Boardwalk Isabella

“The band’s debut single…kicks into gear with the scorching fervor of glamour rock, swift with a furiously groovy guitar. It’s a party anthem on steroids and the lyrical content imbues the single with a flurry of high voltage energy that is reminiscent of the swaggering style of the 60-80’s.” Read more here

Best Beachy EP: “California Dreams,” The Wild Young Hearts 

“The Wild Young Hearts prove with shameless delight that they have the swagger to invite a new wave of music. Sonically delectable, they turn up the heat, when listeners need it the most. Traveling to the scenic beaches of the east coast, even if it’s for the length of 10 songs, proves to be a California dream worth drifting off to.” Read more here

Liveliest EP: 'No Means Yes,' Puppet Rebellion

“Since launching in 2013; the indie group hailing from Manchester, UK, have released two EPs, the invigorating ‘Chemical Friends’ and the recent ‘No Means Yes’, which follows in its predecessor’s footsteps with their signature liveliness…Their latest demonstrates Puppet Rebellion’s knack to rock, write and zealously innovate.” Read more here

Best Love Song: “If I Fell”, Apollo Junction

“It casts a spell of sweeping distinction that envelops romantic vivacity with a cinematic finesse that incurs vast repeatability. The measured pathos of “If I Fell” suits the group well and demonstrates a different side to their musical abilities with an adept zest that’s quieter side proves just as endearing.” Read more here

Best Ballad: “All of Me,” John Legend

It was constantly played on the radio for a reason, because it’s great. Legend’s piano ballad featured an instrumental restraint that allowed his lyrics to shine through to poignant effect.

Most Unique EP: 'SangeforElskere,' Jykkala

“It is music like theirs that can usher one into a peacefully reflective space and a serene mindscape.” Read more here

Breakout Indie Artist: Quinn Archer

Her 3 tracks, “Walk Through Fire”, “Rest of My Days” and “Dark Places” were “an impressive introduction to a promising talent and as an avid TV viewer; one can’t help noticing her music would perfectly accompany both a small or big-screen soundtrack.” Read more here

Breakout Pop Artist: Sam Smith

Whether Smith was asking a new lover not to leave in “Stay With Me” or confronting a cheating paramour in “I’m Not the Only One”, he captured a tender sagacity in his vocal performances that was stunning. In 2014, Smith proved to be one of the most exciting breakthroughs for pop music in some time.

Best Country EP: 'Unbreakable,' Mickey Guyton

A remarkable EP that harmoniously blends pop and country. Guyton’s stupendous vocals compliment the EP’s catchy melodies and infectiously bubbly beats with style.

Best Single Year Back-to-Back Indie Pop EPs: 'Dark Heart' and 'Finest Hour,' Nina Yasmineh 

Yasmineh had a musically busy 2014 and on both of her EPs, she showed off her knack for entwining meditative lyricism and affecting vocals.

Best Indie Pop Single: “Bruising,” Nina Baker

“...envelops the torn emotion of a love rife with conflict and rooted in sentiment and hurt. The lyrics “Every fight we end up hating/Those three words we end up breaking” nicely summing it up. Baker, making her point with a biting sting that hits its mark.” Read more here

Best Break-Up Song: “Over You,” Ingrid Michaelson and A Great Big World

“A song like this does not come around often. It's a rare gem that keeps itself simple with a quiet roar that jolts with awakening effect.” To read Eclectic Pop’s Full Review of “Over You”, click here

Best 90’s Style Single: “Repeat/Release,” The Fireflys

“a sonic glimpse back in time to the early 90’s era of pop with its moody headiness.” Read more here

Best Tribute Song: “Hollywood,” Stage Republic

“Sensing the affectionate enthusiasm for its theme is an easy thing to grasp as the music pulses with a vibrant energy that shines.” Read more here

Best Pop Group: One Direction

One of the few boy bands to churn out one quality pop hit after another. In 2014 they proved they were just getting started with the sweet ballad “The Story of My Life” setting the stage for further domination.

Most Emotional Song: “Superhero,” Wullae Wright

“Picking up on the gentle tones and ubiquitous emotion which charge the entire ‘Orange Line’ album, Wright’s “Superhero” is indicative of something, well, super.” Read more here

Most Nostalgic EP: 'Never Alone,' Dirty Cakes Band

“On ‘Never Alone’, Dirty Cakes Band offers a taste of mellow rock exuberance, dishing up a sonic assortment of flavorful attractions.” Read more here

Highest Energy Album: 'Stuck in a Void,' High/Low

“…a rock effort stirring with the zeal of a youth-fueled fever, springing with punk elements and alt angst…High/Low’s debut is consistently spirited, a work of frenetic energy.” Read more here

Best Wistful EP: 'The Things That I Need to Undo,' Tom Mitchell

“With his spectacular EP ‘Things That I Need to Undo’, UK singer-songwriter Tom Mitchell takes listeners through a time portal back to the familiar sounds of the 60’s and early 70’s, a time of golden music.” Read more here

Most Majestic EP: 'Your Man from Havana,' Dead Sea Navigators

“Cloaked in an invigorating darkness, Dead Sea Navigators continue to chart an engaging course of musical delight.” Read more here

Most Upbeat Single: “Crocodile,” Thomas McConnell

“…an infectious and stylistically retro tune that’s faded vocals add a texture of rock fervor.” Read more here

Most Eclectic Single: “Dream Big,” Hellena

“Grecian born and UK-based singer/songwriter Hellena’s single ‘Dream Big’ does just that by featuring exotic instrumentation that combines touches of RandB, pop and soul.” Read more here

Best 2013 Holdover Hit: “Hey Brother,” Avicci

The rare dance song to possess tremendous soul; bluegrass singer Dan Tyminski’s vocals give “Hey Brother” a stirring kick that propels it to infinite repeats.

Note: With the exception of the last entry, only music released in 2014 was included.

Photo Credit: Taylor Swift/Official Twitter Page