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61 Reasons to Love 2014

From returning rock legends to heart-stopping thrillers, the best of what’s to come in music, movies and TV this year

Don't expect to get a cultural breather after the past 12 massive months: Beginning early in January, there are can't-miss concerts, new and returning watercooler TV shows and specials, albums from rock legends, and the release of big-budget popcorn flicks that'll have everyone talking. With the caveat that all dates are subject to change (and, in same cases, simply our best guesses) here are our picks for the music, movies and TV to watch out for in 2014. 

By Mike Ayers, David Fear, Blaine McEvoy, David Marchese and Dan Reilly

Steve Jennings/WireImage

Neil Young Live Dates (January)

Neil Young only has a handful of tour dates planned for 2014, but they should be something special. Carnegie Hall will host a series of solo acoustic "An Evening With Neil Young" performances on January 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th, and while there have been no announcements about what to expect, Shakey's set at September's Farm Aid consisted almost entirely of covers, save for "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold." Then, on January 12th, Young will undertake the first of four Canadian shows in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the group that's fighting to keep an oil concern from taking parts of its Alberta land. Diana Krall will serves as the special guest for those dates. This summer, Neil and Crazy Horse will head to Europe to play make-up gigs after canceling a slew of shows last year. 

Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, ‘Wig Out at Jagbags’ (January 7th)

After a few years living in Berlin, Stephen Malkmus returns stateside with a new album, the curiously titled Wig Out at Jagbags. A jagbag, for the uninformed, is South Chicago slang that combines two words: jackoff and douchebags. Malkmus & the Jicks are in fine form here, singing about Scattergories, sexual hijinks, and weird-looking teenagers throughout the album's 12 tracks. Early singles "Lariat" and "Cinnamon and Lesbians" find the band at its tight, propulsive best. 

Courtesy Universal Pictures

‘Lone Survivor’ (January 10th)

Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell in the true story of a failed Navy Seal operation during the Afghanistan war. Four soldiers were sent to capture a Taliban leader only to get ambushed, leading to even more American casualties during the rescue mission. Peter Berg directs the film, which also features Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Eric Bana.


‘Girls’ (January 12th)

So what new romantic situations will Marnie find herself in the show's third season? (Christopher Abbott, who played Allison Williams' love interest Charlie, is out.) Will new roomies Shoshanna and Jessa strangle each other? Can Hannah and Adam make their relationship work? One thing we can bet on is that Lena Dunham's zeitgeisty, zinger-filled show will still make us laugh, cry and cringe in equal measure. Also, two words: Gravestone twerking.

James Bridges

‘True Detective’ (January 12th)

Nothing screams top-shelf television (in a good way) more than a cable series featuring marquee-name stars and movie-quality production values. So we wouldn't be surprised if HBO's pulpy crime-anthology show ends up being the hot new hit of the year — especially since its lurid inaugural season stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as Louisiana cops losing their moral compass while chasing a serial killer.

CHOZEN - Pictured: Chozen group image. CR. FX


‘Chozen’ (January 13th)

Remember when said you wished FX would put out an animated series about a gay, white, ex-con rapper? Okay, maybe you've never said any such thing, but damned if the folks behind Archer and Eastbound & Down didn't fill that void, with SNL's Bobby Moynihan voicing the titular MC. If the show is half as funny as Chozen's "Murder, Sex" music video featuring horny zombies and dancers in bear masks, we've got ourselves an instant hip-hop 'toon classic. 

John Shearer/WireImage

Broken Bells, ‘After the Disco’ (January 14th)

"I'm not so young anymore," said Danger Mouse, the 36-year-old producer-musician in advance of the new album from Broken Bells. "Is this the way it's supposed to be?" That angst helped inspire After the Disco (out January 14th), his second collaboration with James Mercer of indie kings the Shins. Where synth swirls dominated the band's self-titled 2010 debut, Burton kept the equipment to a minimum this time, building sparser soundscapes for Mercer to sing over. (Though lead single 'Holding On for Life' has a dancefloor kick.) As Burton told us late last year about the new effort, "You can dance to it, but it still has the darker melancholy thing we like to do." Broken Bells have already announced they'll take the new music on the road in February. 

Yasuyoshi ChibaAFP/Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen, ‘High Hopes’ (January 14th)

Erstwhile Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello joined Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for a few shows last March as a temporary fill-in for Steven Van Zandt, and their chemistry led to Morello featuring heavily on Bruce's new album High Hopes. Following the LP's release Morello will rejoin the band for a five-week tour of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand beginning on January 26th. There are no immediate plans for Springsteen to hit the road in the U.S., but the man himself planted some seeds in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. "We're looking around now to see what we might do," said Springsteen. "I don't want to say 'yes' because I don't want to disappoint people, but I certainly don't want to rule it out either," he said. "We're looking closely since there's places we missed on the last tour. We didn't get to Texas, where I love to play. We didn't get to Florida either. It might be fun to get back to some of those places."

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ (January 17th)

Star Trek lead Chris Pine becomes the fourth actor to play Tom Clancy's hero, while this reboot is the first to not be based on the late author's novels. He'll face off against Kenneth Branagh, who also directed, as a Russian villain bent on crushing the U.S. economy. Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley also appear in the movie.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Syracuse University

David Crosby, ‘Croz’ (January 28th)

On his first new studio album in 20 years, golden-voiced ex-Byrds and CSN (and sometimes Y), singer-songwriter David Crosby explores a gritty diversity of subjects ranging from drone strikes to delicate personal reminscences. Crosby will support the album, which features Dire Straits singer-guitarist Mark Knopfler, with a North American tour set to begin January 28th at Manhattan's City Winery. 

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

‘Monuments Men’ (February 7th)

This World War II film features George Clooney and Matt Damon topping an all-star lineup that also includes Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Jean Dujardin. It's based on the true story of a unit dedicated to rescuing works of art that Hitler had stolen and ordered to be destroyed. Presumably it'll be  more historically accurate than Inglourious Basterds.

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Sting and Paul Simon Tour Together (February)

After performing together at a benefit concert in May, Sting and Paul Simon decided that their collaboration was too good to be a one-off thing. Thus, they announced a 21-date North American tour plainly dubbed Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together. The icons, who formerly lived in the same Manhattan building, will kick off the trek on February 8th in Houston and hit Madison Square Garden twice before wrapping up in Orlando on March 16th. 

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Eric Church, ‘The Outsiders’ (February 11th)

Country rabble-rouser Eric Church broke through on the charts with 2011's Chief and the hit single "Springsteen." The Outsiders promises more twang and bad boy boogie, at least if the raucous first single/and title track is any indication. 

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

‘RoboCop’ (February 12th)

Come on, you knew it was inevitable that Paul Verhoeven's giddy, gory 1987 dystopic action film-cum-social satire would get the remake treatment. Thankfully, The Killing's Joel Kinnaman is the one stepping into those giant metallic boots, suggesting a moodier, broodier man-machine. Yes, you would, in fact, buy that for a dollar! The movie is directed by Brazilian Jose Padilha, the man responsible for the critically acclaimed Bus 174.

Melinda Sue Gordon for Netflix

‘House of Cards’ (February 14th)

"And the butchery begins!" intones Kevin Spacey's cutthroat senator at the end of Season 2 teaser for Netflix's political thriller series; knowing our Machiavellian antihero, even that murderous promise is probably an understatement. Brace yourself for even more Beltway backstabbing and backroom betrayals, as well as the welcome addition of Deadwood's Molly Parker to the cast of Washington power grabbers. 

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Schoolboy Q, ‘Oxymoron’ (February 25th)

With the success Kendrick Lamar is having, it's not crazy to think his associate Schoolboy Q is in line for a big 2014. Q's major label debut Oxymoron will feature guest spots from the likes of  Snoop, Action Bronson, Danny Brown, 50 Cent, and Raekwon. But judging from the first two singles, "Collard Greens" and "Man of the Year," it's Schoolboy's quickfire raps that should seal his stardom.

Dana Nalbandian/WireImage

St. Vincent, ‘St. Vincent’ (February 25th)

St. Vincent's Annie Clark has spent a good portion of the last year-and-a-half touring with David Byrne around their collaborative album Love This Giant. And it sounds like the Talking Heads guru's knowledge of blending funky rhythms with rock music has seeped in. The first single of her new self-titled album, "Birth in Reverse," is an uptempo amalgam of quick drum snaps, rambling guitars and Clark singing about perverse domestic duties.

Craig Blankenhorn/FX

‘The Americans’ (February 26th)

What does the future, that is, the remainder of the Reagan era, hold in store for our favorite deep-cover Soviet couple? We've heard that Season 2 of The Americans will focus more on the whole family, with an emphasis on how the kids will deal with all that spy-vs-spy fallout. But we're sure that Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell's red-hot Reds will still find the time to, uh, get cozy with various inside sources and try on at least two dozen totally gnarly wigs.


‘Portlandia’ (February 27th)

We'd happily put a bird on whatever Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen delivered for this blistering, hipster-baiting sketch show's fourth season anyway, but the list of upcoming cameos has us drooling: Maya Rudolph, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Jello Biafra, Duff McKagan, TV on the Radio singer Tunde Adebimpe, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, sex columnist Dan Savage and members of the Portland Trailblazers. We're praying that either McKagan or Savage stops by the feminist bookstore. 

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

The xx’s New York City Residency (March)

New York City fans of the xx have had no shortage of the gorgeously melancholy British trio over the last few years. They've played pretty much every venue in the city, most recently a two-night stand at famed Radio City Music Hall. This March, they'll play a whopping 25 more shows — two per night, over the course of 10 days. The hook? They're playing at Manhattan's Park Avenue Armory, where only 40 people are allowed in per show. It's hard to imagine seeing this uniquely intimate band in more apt surroundings. 

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Arcade Fire Hit Arenas (March 6th)

Following a handful of club gigs to preview Reflektor, Arcade Fire are bringing their new songs to the masses with a huge tour. After a few shows in Australia, the ensemble returns to the States on March 6th to perform at Louisville, Kentucky's Yum! Center. The first leg of the arena tour wraps in early May, leaving plenty of room for some festival-headlining gigs, and picks up again on July 30th. And dress nicely – Arcade Fire are requesting that concert-goers wear a costume or formal attire.

Courtesy Fox Searchight

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (March 7th)

Director Wes Anderson's latest features Ralph Fiennes starring as Gustave H, a famed concierge who's framed for a wealthy woman's murder after she leaves him a valuable painting in her will. The caper also stars Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson among others. So far, it looks like it could be Anderson's most visually lush work yet.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

‘Veronica Mars’ (March 14th)

Proving that persistence and having a cast that ages well can really pay off, the beloved but low-rated television series, starring Kristen Bell as a young private eye, returns as a feature film thanks to a $5.7-million Kickstarter campaign. As a nod to the show's 2004 origin, the movie is set at Veronica's 10-year high school reunion, and over 15 members of the original cast will return as her family, friends, and enemies. Now a big-shot lawyer, Mars has to get back to sleuthing to help her ex-boyfriend prove his innocence in a murder case.