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13 Excellent Songs From 2014 That Can't Easily Be Categorized

Genre schmenre – the best music can't be easily put in a box.

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1. Owen Pallett, "Song for Five & Six"

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Owen Pallett’s In Conflict is one of the best records to come out in 2014, in part because it’s so singular and difficult to classify. Pallett, a Canadian composer best known for his collaborations with Arcade Fire, makes music that falls somewhere in the space between art rock, modern classical, and singer-songwriter fare.

2. 18+, "Crow"

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The male/female duo 18+ sound like a minimalist hip-hop version of the xx, but whereas that band is all about conveying a feeling of sexy intimacy, 18+ are more into projecting the sense that they're totally into sex, but anxious about intimacy.

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3. Sinkane, "Hold Tight"

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Ahmed Gallab's music feels instantly cozy and familiar while putting together a lot of musical elements – country guitar, modern R&B, classic soul, '70s rock – in a way that's unlike anything else out there.

4. Caribou, "Can't Do Without You"

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Dan Snaith has been recording as Caribou for a long while now, and has always made music that falls somewhere in the space between psychedelia, funk, and dance music. "Can't Do Without You" doesn't fit into any particular category, but is exceptionally good at evoking the feeling of being a little overwhelmed by love and lust.

5. White Hinterland, "Ring the Bell"

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Casey Dienel started out as a piano-centric singer-songwriter, but has gradually evolved into something far more strange and beautiful. "Ring the Bell," from White Hinterland's album Baby, is sorta like a Mariah Carey song if she had teamed up with the Animal Collective.

6. GFOTY, "Don't Wanna/Let's Do It"

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This track, by an artist affiliated with London's PC Music crew, is as confounding and abrasive as a pop song can get while still definitely being a pop song. It's catchy, but everything about it from the sound of the keyboards and the structure of the song to its bizarre lyrics seems designed to disorient you.

7. Tune-Yards, "Water Fountain"

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Merrill Garbus is a singular singer, songwriter, and performer with a big, bold voice and a knack for combining simple, catchy melodies with dense layers of percussion derived from African and Haitian musical traditions. That may seem overly cerebral in print, but in practice, it's very immediate and physical music.

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8. A Sunny Day in Glasgow, "Crushin'"

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"Crushin'" sounds exactly like its title implies – dreamy and ecstatic, but also vaguely anxious, since any good crush is going to make you nervous. It's like a pop song that's been cracked open and swirled around, with a very Siamese Dream-ish guitar solo plopped down in the middle.

9. Museum of Love, "Monotronic"

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Museum of Love is a band led by LCD Soundsystem member Pat Mahoney, and his approach to music isn't far off from the all-inclusive, mutant-pop aesthetic of LCD mastermind James Murphy. "Monotronic" is pensive and lightly groovy, with Mahoney's somewhat distant vocals seeming deliberately small in scale compared to the wide-open, oceanic scale implied by the music.

10. TV on the Radio, "Careful You"

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TV on the Radio have been working in essentially a sub-genre of one for years now, and "Careful You" – a romantic tune that isn't quite pop or rock or R&B or electronic music, but is definitely all of the above – is a fine example of them at their best.

11. Panda Bear, "Mr. Noah"

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Have you ever had a hazy memory of a song you haven’t heard in a long time, and then heard the song again and noticed that it wasn’t quite as cool as the version that was there, half-formed, in your memory? Panda Bear's “Mr. Noah” sounds like a vague memory of some ‘80s rock song, but it's the super cool version that’s all fuzzed out and blurry because you probably heard it that one time from a bad radio signal in a moving car with the windows down.

12. Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks, "Strange Colores"

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Avey Tare – Panda Bear's bandmate in Animal Collective – has a bright, trebly sound that is like the musical equivalent of a super-saturated color in a photograph. The structure of "Strange Colores" is essentially rock music, but it's pushed so far beyond typical rock sounds that it feels vaguely alien.

13. Nautic, "Show"

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The London band Nautic specialize in music that makes you feel like you're in some sort of pleasant daze. "Show" is exceptionally dreamy, like '70s yacht rock somehow crossed with Brian Eno in his ambient phase.

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