imageLabor Day weekend no longer means goodbye to summer and a resumption of the rest-of-the-year routine. Summer continues when we revisit rock and pop music first heard during the year’s warmest and brightest days.

What made the music of the Summer of 2014 special is the same thing that makes rock and pop special throughout the year: the idea that great popular music can come from anywhere and from musicians all but unknown to the mainstream. For the overwhelming majority of musicians, the idea of trying to write and record a pop hit is an absurdity. Accordingly, to look to the Billboard charts for music that defines any period is wrongheaded. As the ReNewMusic Summer of 2014 playlist indicates, most of the summer’s best tracks weren’t hits, though in a better world they would be. Regarding how to define a hit: Robin Schulz’ remix of Mr. Probz’s “Wave” has been played more than 140 million times on Spotify. Many of us hadn't heard it until very recently.

This summer’s great rock and pop came in a steady stream from the likes of GusGus and Vacationer, who made electronic dance music that satisfied body and mind – as did Amp Live’s blend of hip-hop, jazz, rock and classical modes. Shabazz Palaces’ hip-hop was as moody as a barren beach in the mist. New tracks by Gramercy Arms and Jenny Lewis were fountains of smart pop for grownups. Tank and Kem tapped into old school R&B and soul, while Tensnake recruited Nile Rodgers and Fiora for his “Love Sublime.”

The Ben Miller Band, Carolina Story, King Cresote and Orenda Fink provided rootsy summer sounds while Gulp delivered psych rock and pop. (Splitting the difference, Reigning Sound delivered rootsy psych rock.) Frayed-around-the-edges rock, the kind that suits summer from sunset to sunrise, came from the Cold Beat and Beverly. French Style Furs, Honeyblood, Wunder Wunder and Young Liars updated classic rock sounds while Hooray for Earth, Merchandise and Woman’s Hour borrowed from various traditions and moved ahead.

It’s wacky to think there could be one Song of Summer 2014, given how far and wide rock is today. Fans with catholic tastes don’t seem to care. All we wanted from this summer’s music was a big selection of great sounds – and we got it, albeit far from the mainstream, which is where all the fun is.