by P.J. Wascher
It’s that time of year again! I’m a big fan of the reflection that occurs at the end of the year. This is a great chance to look back at the year and appreciate all the music we’ve listened to. I’m still working on putting together a schedule that gets me writing more regularly, but I refuse to let this tradition slip. For the third year in a row, on this site, I’m going to release my top songs and albums of the year. A little different, I’m going to release it in two parts. I’ll start with my 2014 Albums of the Year and follow up with my Songs of the Year. Why should you care? You don’t have to. We all have different music tastes. This is my attempt to share mine. I’ve spent most of December looking for any albums I may have missed by reading other year recaps. That’s my favorite part about these lists. It’s a chance to share the music we love and help others find something new.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you may remember I’ve put the 2012 musical year on a pedestal. It’s the best music year I’ve reviewed this decade. 2013 was a solid follow-up year, but 2014 was different. To be frank, it was a bit of a let down. That’s not meant to put down any of the music on my list, but I’ve had a real difficult time selecting albums for this year’s top 10. My list looks for albums with great song depth and great staying power. I found several albums with a strong group of songs, but very few that let me press play and let it roll all the way through. Several artists I consider myself a fan of released albums that just did not click the way I expected them to. They had moments, but just couldn’t carry a sound that left me happy. That forced me to do a lot of “work,” sifting through more albums than I ever have to form this list.
Overall, I found myself changing my mind a lot more than usual. This caused me to mix up my list several times. It’s been tricky this year to define the overall top albums, but let’s give it a shot. Keeping with a personal tradition, I spent most of the year putting together this music list on post-it notes in my office. My goal is to find something new everyday, as you can see with this SOTD list I tweet every weekday. Ranking music gives me something to go back to so I can reflect on what I really loved. At work I’ve blocked off a section of my desk to organize this list. Every album I love gets ranked in this Post-It Note list. After some last minute adjustments, here are my official Top 10 Albums of 2014:
The Top 5
1. Beneath The Brine by The Family Crest
I think it would be fair to define this sound as epic. It’s a full band with horns, string instruments, backup vocals and one hell of a lead singer. This album makes an excellent first impression, coming in strong right from the start. I’ll admit I had to question myself if the fun would wear off, but after small breaks from this album I continued to find the spark every time I returned. I got a chance to see this group perform over the fall. I love it when bands can deliver the same energy and sound they do in the studio. Considering their big sound and ridiculous vocals, I was delightfully surprised by their performance. Sealing their spot as my number one album on this list is the song depth featured on the album. Every song is enjoyable and allows listeners to give it a full play through. A rare sight this year, even on this list.
- Beneath The Brine
- The World
2. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Shop
Looking at a lot of lists, I’m not sure people appreciate this album enough. The album takes listeners on a complete journey with unique sounds and beats. Several songs will let listeners space out while other songs will force them to bang their head. The beats mixed within several of these songs brings a big smile to my face. I like the way this album contrasts with my choice above. Up top, we have full band with orchestral instruments. This album is much more synth driven. It features a full rock band that allows electronic sounds, and lots of production magic, turn busy tracking into something beautiful. I’d like to describe this album as a mix of two artists: Yeasayer + Radiohead.
- Carry Me
3. Mended With Gold by The Rural Alberta Advantage
I love the fall music season. It’s when I finally have a list of top albums put together, only to be blown away by an onslaught of great music. Surprisingly, this is highest fall album on my list (September release). At number 3, this is probably the most underrated album on my list. I was very tempted to move this album higher. I wouldn’t call their sound unique, but this album became a real change of pace for me in the late half of the year. The Rural Alberta Advantage is an indie folk band that can rock out. As a drummer, the percussion is the first thing I notice. The drums provide great energy and push this band to another level. Their sound is clearly centered around modern folk, but I can’t help but think of a few 90s bands, like Sister Hazel, when I listen to them. I think that may be mostly the vocals. Song depth is another strength of this album, but the hard rocking drums may cause your ears to request an intermission in the middle of the album. I found a lot of great quiet folk music this year. This is a great pallet cleanser album for those listening moments.
- Our Love…
- Runners in the Night
4. This Is All Yours by Alt-J
I expected to see this album at the top of a lot of music lists this year. It’s with good reason. Alt-J took their sound to another level. They evolved, grew, matured. As singles were released from this album, I was convinced this would win my album of the year. When the album was released, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I found myself very impatient. I personally think releasing singles did a disservice to the album. It got me jumping to all of those great energetic moments instead of absorbing them within the album’s whole construct. Ignoring that complaint, when I finally would settle into this album it’s still worth a lot of praise. It’s hard to not appreciate this album by looking at their past work. Their first album was brilliant, but felt like lots of separate thoughts. This album feels like it was built as one big story. The band has also found a new energy I did not know they were capable of. Left Hand Free is a truly surprising song from them. Featuring guitar hooks and a few pop elements. It’s a great song. While the band touches this new dimension, it did not abandon its original sound. They still dig deeper into the moody, yet restrained, sound they’ve become known for. I have a feeling I’ll be digging into this album a few more times this winter.
- Left Hand Free
- Hunger Of The Pine
- Every Other Freckle
5. Lighght by Kishi Bashi
Kishi Bashi is back! My favorite new artist of 2012 is back on the list in 2014. I discussed earlier that many returning artists releases were overall a bit disappointing. Kishi Bashi’s new album originally fell into that description until I dug a little deeper. It’s tricky for artists to follow-up their original work. We, the listeners, fall in love with that sound and want more. But sometimes we also want change or growth within the sound. Kishi Bashi stays true to his original sound in this album. It’s easy to write it off as more of the same, but when you sit down and listen to the album, he dug a lot deeper into that sound. The second half of this album is a great example of this. Sometimes artists don’t need to change to grow. In Kishi Bashi’s case, I think changing would cause him to lose his identity and sound. This album features plenty of finger-plucking violin and vocal looping that we’ve come to love.
- In Fantasia
- Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!
- Carry On Phenomenon
The Next 5
6. My Favorite Faded Fantasy by Damien Rice – Damien Rice’s third studio album will cause you to quickly forget his underwhelming sophomore effort. All of these songs are 5+ minutes long and I love that. Gives Damien time to twist and grow the song into something amazing.
- My Favorite Faded Fantasy
- It Takes A Lot To Know A man
- I Don’t Want To Change You
7. And The War Came by Shakey Graves – This album took some really big bounces on my list, almost taking the top spot at one point. When you’re in the right mood, this album is amazing. Overall, it’s lacking a little song depth, but I think their sophomore album could be dynamite!
- Dearly Departed
- The Perfect Parts
- If Not For You
8. Darc Arc by Saintsenca – An album I hope more people listen to. I dad a chance to see them perform over the summer and listened to the album all year after that. Takmit is my favorite track on the album. I wish they had a few more that sounded like it, but the album is a fun journey, exploring several moods.
- Happy Alone
- Blood Bath
9. Stay Gold by First Aid Kit – Have to admit this was a late find for me. The album was released in June, but somehow I missed it. That’s why I love reading end of the year lists. Helped me find this album and several other great ones. This is the only one that made my Top 10. The song depth on this album is fantastic. It’s actually better to listen to it as an album than to pick out single tracks. The songs blend together very nicely. First Aid Kit is a Swedish sister duo that plays Americana like their from the southwestern deserts of the United States. It’s an amazing album that might have been higher on my list if I had spent more time with it.
- My Silver Lining
- The Bell
- Master Pretender
10. Language & Perspective by Bad Suns – I have to include one pop album on this list! I guess the best description for this would be hook-heavy indie rock. This album fell in and out of my list all year, but its overall song depth won me over. While the sound may not vary much throughout the album, all of the tracks are fun and can be played over and over. Might want to save this album for the summer.
- Cardiac Arrest
- Sleep Paralysis
- We Move Like the Ocean
Plenty of music to get you through the upcoming year. Did the trick for me! Feel free to go through and listen to all the links below, or click here and go to an online playlist hosted by WHYD.
Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar by Robert Plant – Almost made my list! Have to punish albums I couldn’t hear a ton thanks to them not being on Spotify. Love how many different sounds are fused together on this track. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlEJeZcvK4g&spfreload=10
After The Disco by Broken Bells – Couldn’t wait for another album by them, but it fell into a theme of good not great albums by known artists. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0HG0RTyvYo&spfreload=10
Education, Education, Education and War by Kaiser Chiefs -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7OTusJbB3w&spfreload=10
When I Was Younger by Colony House – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBTB54ty-tc&spfreload=10
Mt. Royal EP by Mt. Royal – EP’s are so cruel. I need more! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q30XAsX5q5o&spfreload=10
Theosophy by Pete Molinari – On my list for much of the year. Great throwback vocals with a bluesy guitar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0oivozdNBs&spfreload=10
Manhattan by SKATERS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuAw5MwihFU&spfreload=10
Nabuma Rubberband by Little Dragon – First half of this album is fantastic. Want to edit my next video to this song.
Ghost Stories by Coldplay – Some good, some bad on this album. Got really excited when this track was released. Overall the album was just missing something. Wish they had explored this sound a little more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQeMxWjpr-Y&spfreload=10
Half The City by St. Paul & The Broken Bones – One of my favorite discoveries of the year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyeGzSA_Ua8&spfreload=10
Mad Man by Sean Rowe – Love that voice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ess11y1oFiE&spfreload=10
Meridian by The Soil & The Sun – One of my favorite Michigan bands. Love this track, wish album had a few more like it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__qeVfmDSuE&spfreload=10
Turn Blue by The Black Keys – Wanted to put this on my list, but was too hard to listen to it. Not on Spotify. Album is little slower, I like it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIg5tf5wLTk&spfreload=10
1989 by Taylor Swift – Credit where credit is due. Best Pop album of the year. Might have been on my list if I could have listened to it more on Spotify. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-ORhEE9VVg&spfreload=10
VA by The Last Bison – Easy to miss this album, worth a listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5jF-yOqXqI&spfreload=10
Zaba by Glass Animals – This was one of my favorite albums from the first half of the year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeo3an2M_Lo&spfreload=10
Hypnotic Eye by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-4-sT2KFdo&spfreload=10
In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_-U6dcTEOg&spfreload=10
Familiars by The Antlers – A lot of people thrown off by this album, big change in sound for this artist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynkp1VHwbHg&spfreload=10
Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son by Damien Jurado – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4sQz6Y5g88&spfreload=10
Springtime Carnivore by Springtime Carnivore – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBFIFFElozo&spfreload=10
Seeds by TV On The Radio – Some of my favorite work by this artist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYgo78JfMLU&spfreload=10
Utah by Jamestown Revival – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sutt6MIw_CQ&spfreload=10
Hozier by Hozier – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpdzZbTs2qo&spfreload=10
The Steamroller EP by Port Isla – Those vocals remind me so much of The Vaccines! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiCo99QDVlc&spfreload=10
Not A Trampoline by Rob Cantor – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbT0KniMouc&spfreload=10
In Return by Odesza – My favorite electronica album of the year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdzI-191xhU&spfreload=10
HAERTS by HAERTS – After last year, I expected this album to be great. Needed more new material. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq597GL4DfY&spfreload=10
Ritual In Repeat by Tennis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL3YXAmEgSA&spfreload=10
Tough Love by Jessie Ware – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-g4TkugrmdQ&spfreload=10
…And Star Power by Foxygen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqW7EfA3VWE&spfreload=10
Idle Beauty EP by Motopony – This band has changed a lot. Can’t wait to hear a full album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix2_SOtwkYg&spfreload=10
The Definition by Jon Bellion – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcPcKDloPS4&spfreload=10
Hey Hey by Mapei – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPo7iNKoCGQ&spfreload=10
Alvvays by Alvvays – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAn3JdtSrnY&spfreload=10
Goddess by Banks – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXwl0X9057o&spfreload=10
Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuX_xwghhsw&spfreload=10
Blue Sunshine by U.S. Royalty – If you like Bad Suns give this a try. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK523AdcovM&spfreload=10
Bahamas is Afie by Bahamas – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qf5wGp_l5M&spfreload=10
Passerby by Luluc – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl4WOY15_nA&spfreload=10
In Conflict by Owen Pallett – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMr51844ybw&spfreload=10
Close To The Glass by The Notwist – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpOYkK3o0jY&spfreload=10
7 Layers by Dotan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FEqtXwSlOo&spfreload=10
Kathleen And The Other Three by Catfish and the Bottleman – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgW67efQduY&spfreload=10
After Hours by Timeflies – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPyDLV-4XtI&spfreload=10
Black Hours by Hamilton Leithauser – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTvcAm_BxQg&spfreload=10
My Everything by Ariana Grande – Mini-Mariah Carey, no other comparison needed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ek3WMM7I-0&spfreload=10
Mixed Blessings by Beaty Heart – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiqpoDa9sXI&spfreload=10
Bad Self Portraits by Lake Street Dive – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwZExvnGeLo&spfreload=10
Parallel Play by Panama Wedding – A full album might have gotten these guys into the Top 10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldcQUiRPwGs&spfreload=10
Montibello Memories by Matrimony – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbakLfyEO30&spfreload=10
All or Nothin’ by Nikki Lane – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmCad8Wu2d4&spfreload=10
Highspeeds by Elliot Moss – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5XjoOmjEVo&spfreload=10
Winter by Vancouver Sleep Clinic – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3kgS8f7u6k&spfreload=10
Post Tropical by James Vincent McMarrow – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CW6-uvwoJM&spfreload=10
Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs – I’m still processing this record. Think it’s starting to grow on me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsoqmFL1vlU&spfreload=10
Sun Structures by Temples – Great throwback psychedelic rock sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs4i41cOv0s&spfreload=10
Silent Treatment by Highasakite – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GZHB0v7y6w&list=RDd_tWro5pvSo&spfreload=10
Eons by Mimicking Birds – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oll2BY3bb4&spfreload=10
American Middle Class by Angaleena Presley – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IebeFo_Vq_I&spfreload=10
Vengo by Ana Tijoux – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgXdA6aY1EE&spfreload=10
HEAL by Strand of Oaks – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exSbJDbzsak&spfreload=10
Cavalo by Rodrigo Amarante – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOppZ1nFDb0&spfreload=10
Nickki Nack by tUnE-yArDs – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp9DADjYKl8&spfreload=10