Every year, I find myself coming up with a new way to review the music of the year, and this year, I thought I would catalogue each music purchase I made of an album this year, 26 in total. I thought it might be neat to see the range of things I decide to buy, and to display them all, instead of just picking 10 and readers not knowing where my head was at.
Now, keep in mind, I listened to a LOT more music than what I actually bought, so I think these 26 albums are all pretty solid. There were a few albums people seemed to universally adore that I didn’t, like War on Drugs or Sun Kil Moon, but for the most part, I think this list is pretty reflective of a year that was ultimately not that strong for music. Enjoy.
26. Cloud Nothings
Here and Nowhere Else
Best Track: “Psychic Trauma”
I loved their last album, and the live show that followed is still one of the concert highlights of my life. This album had none of the same impact on me. It felt less immediate, less important, and ultimately, just less. This is one of the few albums I bought this year that I straight up disliked.
Everything Will Be Alright in the End
Best Track: “Go Away”
After reading enough reviews to convince me this was a return to form for Weezer, I bought this album and realized that Weezer are just never going to be what I want them to be. I’ve retreated back to my Blue and Pinkerton cave and will never come out again. At least it’s not terrible?
24. Tigers Jaw
Best Track: “Nervous Kids”
This was a great sunny afternoon album from a band who broke up immediately after they released this record. There are some jams that I am legitimately happy to hear on shuffle, but the record isn’t really memorable.
23. Charli XCX
Best Track: “Doing It”
I loved Charli XCX’s weirdo debut, True Romance, and I thought it gave a vision into where pop music was headed. I was proved correctly when a lot of 2014 pop music borrowed heavily from its dark/goth leanings(*cough*Taylorswift*cough*). Unfortunately, this takes a left turn directly onto the mainstream pop highway, a collection of largely forgettable songs bogged down by heavy-footed and dim-witted songwriting.
22. You Blew It!
You Blue It! EP
Best Track: “Only In Dreams”
It’s an EP of Blue Album Weezer covers from the band that released one of my favorite albums of the year. There’s very little not to like, it’s just hard to rank an EP of covers above much of the original content released this year.
21. Real Estate
Best Track: “Talking Backwards”
I love Real Estate when I’m in the mood for Real Estate. Sunny day, aimless drive, the clean guitar and airy vocals provide the best soundtrack to summer in the business. Unfortunately, summer is only two months of the year, and I find these tracks to miss the mark without the appropriate weather-related context.
Best Track: “Move That Dope”(feat. Pusha T and Pharrell)
This album feels like the end of trap music. It’s not, of course, but thinking how little relevance it has at the end of the year as compared to its May release is telling. 5 years from now, this will simply be the record that brought us “Move That Dope”, “Benz Friends” and “Look Ahead”, and not much else.
19. D’Angelo and the Vanguard
The Black Messiah
Best Track: “Sugah Daddy”
I was never a D’Angelo fan before this record, but all of the rave reviews from everyone led me to pick it up. It is certainly an enjoyable listen, but I am definitely not this record’s target market. The jams are a little too jammy and the vocals a little too high register for me.
18. Lydia Ainsworth
Right From Real
Best Track: “Moonstone”
This goth-pop collection sounds a bit like Florence and the Machine run through a food processor. An arresting collection of “chopped and screwed” goth-pop, it really hits you when you’re in the mood for it, though, like Real Estate, it is very much mood music that demands your attention when it’s on.
17. From Indian Lakes
Best Track: “Sleeping Limbs”
This year saw quite a few throwbacks to the late 90s and early 00s alternative/punk sound, and this record wouldn’t sound out of place in that era at all. A catchy, drum-driven album full of solid melodies and hooks finds an audience with me, a man who wasn’t even sure he missed that era of music, but judging by a few releases on this list, certainly did.
16. The Districts
Best Track: “Funeral Beds”
There are conflicting reports as to when this EP was released, but I’m counting it as a 2014 album if for no other reason than I think the more people who hear the song, “Funeral Beds”, the better. It cribs a little heavily from the Tom Petty/Lynyrd Skynyrd country-rock sound, but for some reason that sound always feels a little bit like home, even if it’s coming from 4 young bros from Pennsylvania.
15. Field Mouse
Hold Still Life
Best Track: “Two Ships”
Probably the least well-known of any of the bands on this list, this small New York band captured my attention a few years ago with a very Beach House-esque EP. Fast forward to their first full-length, and the band is a bit less shoegaze-y than before, but still provides the goods. Lead singer Rachel Browning’s voice carries an album of very capable and well-crafted indie pop.
14. Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 2
Best Track: “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
This album found its way to the top of MANY year-end lists, but I found it a bit too repetitive in both instrumental and lyrical content to really capture my attention the way it seemed too for other people. No question it has some tracks that are absolute hot fire, and the ethos of this band is tremendous(“Meow the Jewels” is one of the greatest things a band has ever done to endear itself to its fans), but it falls a bit short of the “classic” category for me.
Best Track: “I Never Thought That This Would Happen”
I’m pretty sure Arkells are this generation’s answer to Sloan. I mean, Sloan are still making music, but Arkells seem cut from the same cloth: poppy rock that SOUNDS Canadian, made by hard-working guys with hooks piled on top of hooks. This is the third straight album from the Arkells to follow the same air-tight blueprint, and that consistency is another hallmark of Sloan’s. Luckily, this album features their best-ever song, “I Never Thought That This Would Happen”, a sure-fire top 5 song of the year candidate, to further strengthen the band’s cause and tremendous live show.
12. White Lung
Best Track: “In Your Home”
A punk band with a lead singer whose vocal range and knack for writing melodies calls to mind a young Courtney Love, White Lung continue to capture more and more ears despite their genre. Unbelievably strong songwriting makes the album a standout even if you aren’t a particularly huge fan of punk music, and something I put on any time I feel like I might need to punch a hole in a wall.
11. Taylor Swift
Best Track: “Style”
The best pop stars have always made their bank on taking what other, lesser artists have done, stamping it with their money, voice, and style, and making millions off of it. On what could be considered her first true “pop record”, Swift shamelessly rips off a half-dozen artists on her way to one hell of an album.
The influences range from blatantly obvious(“Style”(Daft Punk), “Shake It Off”(Fergie), and “Wildest Dreams”(Lorde)) to not-so-obvious-but-intelligent(Charli XCX’s “True Romance” is EVERYWHERE on this album, from the “Out of the Woods” chorus to the sway of “All You Had To Do Was Stay”) to the bizarre(did anyone think 2014 would be the year we would see a massive pop star crib the Neptunes’ beat to Clipse’s “Grindin’”?). And then there’s “I Wish You Would”, which sounds more like HAIM than actual HAIM songs. Through all of that, though, Swift still knows how to make a song stick in your ear, and the production is second-to-none. My shameless pop record love of 2014.
I’ll return tomorrow with albums #10-1. Thanks for reading!