2014 Favorite Albums
Manchester Orchestra: Cope/Hope
I’ve loved Manchester Orchestra for years but when Cope came out earlier this year I was surprised and pleased at the direction Cope took: it was straight up rock and roll. In fact, few albums rocked as hard for me this year as it did. Plus its dark theme with twinges of hope throughout just worked. My main complaint was that there was no introspection, which is where Manchester usually shines. Enter Hope a few months later. Instead of an acoustic reinterpretation of the album, they reimagined the entire thing as an introspective piece and in so doing created a masterpiece. When the two are weaved together they create a double LP like few—if any—have ever accomplished. Yet, these albums didn’t appear on a single critic’s list. What the hell critics?
TV on the Radio: Seeds
In my opinion this is the best album TV on the Radio has made since Return to Cookie Mountain. In fact, it might even be better than Cookie Mountain. I agree with David Dye of NPR’s statement of being surprised to “not see more mentions of this album among 2014’s best in others’ lists.” It’s a fantastic album from start to finish full of a great mix of upbeat and mellow tracks.
Strand of Oaks: Heal
I listened to this album out of duty thinking it would be a classic Paste Magazine type of album but found myself returning to it over and over. It’s just a beautiful thing full of tracks about, well, healing. Each song hits and feels so hopeful throughout. It’s a bit like Bruce Springsteen mixed with Gaslight Anthem (who had a pretty good album this year too btw).
Seahaven: Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only
Has a title ever captured the essence of an album as well as this has? I’m not sure. My buddy Brigham showed me these guys and I was skeptical at first, but listen after listen kept reaffirming that everything from the title to the filter on the album cover just work here and make me feel—something. What exactly? Reverie?
Lostalone: Shapes of Screams
What do you get when you mix 80’s hair metal, Queen, 00’s posthardcorepunkrock, and British sass? These guys, that’s who! How are these guys not the biggest rock band in the world? Instead they are breaking up after their tour. Probably because we didn’t give them enough money for being the biggest rock and roll band in the world. Each song drips in overproduced gloss, bombastic vocals, and ridiculous guitars and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Gem Club: In Roses
All of the songs on this album seem to combine nostalgia, regret, and guilt while somehow making me want to be a better person. This is another Brigham introduction. I still don’t know how to classify these guys, but their music will continue to haunt me and literally bring me to tears.
Damien Rice: My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Pure Damien goodness. If you’re not a fan I doubt this album will convert you, and if you are a fan, most likely you will just wonder why it took eight years for it come out. Some fans might miss some of the rawness found on O but fans of the more cinematic 9 will feel right at home. I feel like it’s a great marriage between the two.
First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
If only 1970s AM country pop could have sounded this good in the actual 1970s perhaps brocountry of today wouldn’t have happened. This follow-up to The Lion’s Roar improves on it in every way while still holding to the great harmonies that made it so good. Every track feels like it could be a single and every track dwarfs most modern country music. That said this year was a great year for country if you know where to find it (e.g., Shovels and Rope, Parker Millsap, Hooray for the Riff-Raff, Nickel Creek).
What a weird mixture of an album this one is: acidic, hopeful, angry, encouraging. All of it culminates in the album closer “Sick and Disgusting” where the singer laments his inability to die for a cause while apologizing to his dad for not being worthy. Heartbreaking and so personal that it feels uncomfortable being there. Throughout the album addiction, abuse, loss of faith, hope and redemption are weaved into a strangely Christian-themed but independent and unique life approach. One of my least favorite things is when people try to classify music as “spiritual” as a genre. That isn’t a genre. Religion or its absence can be vital or non-vital to an artist and its themes shouldn’t affect what genre it’s classified as or how it’s perceived. No one is doing more to demonstrate this right now than Beartooth.
Sun Kil Moon: Benji
This is a vegetable album: I’m not sure it’s something I crave or will return to over and over, but it’s good for me. That said, no other artist I’m aware of is able to make each song seem like it’s being written on the spot while the listener hears it for the first time with lyrics that seem natural and freestyle while being polished at the same time. The poetry is as honest and heartfelt as it is brutal.
Yes, it’s not as good as An Awesome Wave and the album seems to have holes in it. However, it’s still pretty incredible. Had I never heard that album though, this would have been more solid. But it sounds like Alt-J and is pretty good stuff. Sometimes it zigs when it should have zagged.
My brother-in-law Ryan introduced me to these guys earlier this year and when this album came out this fall I had completely forgotten about it. But once I remembered it made my enjoyment of this album increase. It’s haunting, melodic rock that isn’t whiny lead by a Scottish lead. It’s like The Smits with a modern edge and no pretentiousness.
EMA: The Future’s Void
I think St. Vincent is as incredibly talented as the next person but I don’t think she’s made a great album yet. It might not be fair to compare EMA to St. Vincent but I can’t help but compare them a little. That being said, I think EMA’s The Future’s Void is a far superior album to St. Vincent. It’s electronic but melodic but indie but pop but industrial but folk but not.
Perfume Genius: Too Bright
My favorite albums usually have epic closers with a certain feeling. Perfume Genius somehow does that on each track on the album while keeping them between two and four minutes and giving them a pop vive. Well played good sir.
Beck: Morning Phase
I’m not a huge Beck fan. I’ve tried to be, but I just don’t love his voice/style. I did enjoy Odelay! but even then I liked it by peer pressure a bit. But Morning Phase just does it for me: beautiful, heartfelt, emotional, epic.
Weezer: Everything Will Be Alright In the End
Weezer’s back! Feels like the end of a trilogy to the blue album and Pinkerton. It just took a whole lot of mediocre albums in between to arrive. But here we are. And the good news all the good from those other albums came along for the ride. Well done Weezer.
Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
What else can I say about this about this album that hasn’t been said already? It’s the beginning of what will be the Police Civil War movement (or whatever catchy name follows). This will be studied in years to come.
2014: Favorite Albums