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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

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. 

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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.

IFC

‘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. 

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for CBS Radio, Inc.

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. 

Courtesy Summit Entertainment

‘Divergent’ (March 21st)

Anyone suffering from Hunger Games withdrawal should be able to help soothe their jones on March 21st with Divergent. Based on Veronica Roth's book of the same name, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian version of Chicago where people are separated into factions based on their personalities. Naturally, the government is less benevolent than it appears. 

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

‘Nymphomaniac’ (March 21st)

Director Lars von Trier's latest controversy-courting film stars his frequent collaborator Charlotte Gainsbourg as the titular character, named Joe, alongside Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, and Willem Dafoe. The two-part film is split into eight chapters that document Joe's life from birth to age 50, with plenty of explicit, often unsimulated sex scenes along the way.