• Category Archives 2014
  • Top 50 Albums of 2014: 41-50

    50. THE BLACK KEYS- TURN BLUE

    Black Keys_Turn Blue

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    When “Turn Blue” dropped last spring I have to admit I was pretty disappointed. I have been a fan of the band for about a decade, watching them go from a White Stripes-influenced indie-rock upstart to very surprisingly one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The Keys last album “El Camino” was my favorite of theirs- both a huge commercial and artistic success. They had cleared the bloat of their previous albums- streamlining their sound and editing away the chaffe to deliver an album consisting of almost nothing but highlights. “Turn Blue” sees the band taking a bit of a left turn. They still, and I’m sure always will, play within the simple blues-rock template, a stripped down power duo getting back to the basics of rock n’ roll. But on “Turn Blue” they set out to make a stoner rock friendly, singles free headphones record, loosening up their sound to include psychedelic flourishes. The songs failed to distinguish themselves on the first few listens and I still only really like about half of it, but on this go round I found myself really loving a handful of tracks enough to recommend “Turn Blue”- in particular “The Weight Of Love”, “Bullet In The Brain”, “Fever” and “10 Lovers”. “Turn Blue” may not be the Keys at their absolute best but it is nice to see the group trying different things and keeping their audience on their toes.

     

    Buy Turn Blue Amazon

    Buy 10 LoversAmazon

    Buy Bullet in the Brain Amazon

     

     

     

     

    49. PERFECT PUSSY- SAY YES TO LOVE

    Perfect Pussy_Say Yes To Love

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Perfect Pussy are a female fronted, five piece hardcore band from Syracuse, New York. The debuted in 2013 with their first EP and 2014’s “Say Yes To Love” is their full length debut after signing to indie label Captured Tracks late last year. With a name like Perfect Pussy it’s unsurprising that the group is uncompromisingly political and carries around a swagger. Outspoken front woman Meredith Graves is unapologetically feminist, singing of sex & violence, censorship, rape culture, body image & taking down the patriarchy. She comes off as optimistic rather than whiny though the vocals are buried down so far in the mix that you need the lyrics booklet next to you to understand what she is saying. I initially found most of the music off-putting though I like the group’s passion and message. But it just sounded to noisy and unintelligible. But that’s part of the point. The music is supposed to pummel, assault and incite the listener. And the more I heard it the more I was taken in by their energy. “Say Yes To Love” was not made for the masses and I know it will appeal to only a select few but like the best challenging art records, it can expand the way you think if you dig in and gives yourself over to it.

     

    Buy Say Yes To LoveAmazon

    Buy Interference Fits Amazon

    Buy Driver Amazon

     

     

     

     

    48. MASTODON- ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN
    Mastodon_Once More 'Round The sun

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    After delivering a handful of metal classics, Atlanta’s great Mastodon now gets penalized for anything less than epic. If “Once More ‘Round The Sun” was an unknown group’s first album it would certainly garner more acclaim. Heavy Metal music was my first love and my love of it coincides when I started becoming obsessed with music. After the hair bands dumbed down the music I lost interest for a while, sadly missing out on some awesome bands like Sepultura and Pantera. Mastodon is the group who got me interested in the genre again, even if the interest is mild in comparison to my fourteen year old self. “Once More..” mostly ditches the gargantuan epic tracks and has no trace of a concept making it feel like just a collection of songs by a great band. But that’s o.k. because the songs mostly are very good, delivered by two great but distinct vocalist who avoid the annoying cookie monster growl of much contemporary metal. And the group still displays amazing music chops, especially drummer Brann Dailor, one of the very best in the business. Mastodon manages to make such masculine, pummeling and aggressive music without being overly theatrical or too over the top and they’ve yet to have a misstep that I’ve heard.

     

    Buy Once More ‘Round The Sun [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Ember City Amazon

    Buy The Motherload Amazon

     

     

     

     

    47. KING TUFF- BLACK MOON SPELL

    King Tuff_Black Moon Spell

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    King Tuff is singer, songwriter ad multi instrumentalist Kyle Thomas who blends together 70’s T. Rex influenced glam-rock, 60’s garage rock, punk and power pop into one package delivering the kind of fun, gut level rock and roll everyone seems to say we don’t have enough of these days. Because of several throwaway tracks “Black Moon Spell” feels a bit longer than it needs to be but choice tracks like “Headbanger”, “Rainbow’s Run” and especially “Eyes Of The Muse” make this well worth multiple spins.

     

    Buy Black Moon Spell [+digital booklet] Amazon

    Buy Eyes of the Muse Amazon

    Buy Rainbow’s Run Amazon

     

     

     

     

    46. THE MEN- TOMORROW’S HITS

    The Men_Tomorrow's Hits

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Men are a group likely being penalized for their consistency. The prolific Brooklyn group is on their fifth album in as many years and sees the group from noise-rockers to Neil Young & Crazyhorse. Any classic rock fan lamenting the lack of real music should check these guys out. They play with passion & they rock. The group stays loose and occasionally even sloppy like a great bar band and never feels the least bit overproduced. You can hear punk, southern rock, British blues rock and blue collar rockers like Springsteen, Petty & Seger. Though “Tomorrow’s Hits” doesn’t differ greatly from their last album “New Moon” they did record in a better studio with a bigger budget which may have led to the welcome horn additions. The Men are an old skool throwback to to the idea of slow and steady artist development. An album a year and constant touring while building their fanbase a few people at a time. There is a lot to like about the Men.

     

    Buy Tomorrow’s Hits Amazon

    Buy Different Days Amazon

    Buy Another Night Amazon

     

     

     

     

    45. LA SERA- HOUR OF THE DAWN

    La Sera_Hour Of the Dawn

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    “Hour Of The Dawn” took awhile to sink in for now it has and it’s a good one. La Sera is led by singer Katy Goodman, the former bassist of all-female, lo-fi Brooklyn punk group Vivian Girls. “Hour Of The Dawn” is their third album and in press releases Goodman states that she wants this album to sound like Lesley Gore fronting Black Flag. That’s pretty on the money. The vocals are a throwback to 60’s girl groups without the wall of sound production. Guitarist/producer Ted Wisenbaker is a big weapon for La Sera, ditching the Vivian Girls lo-fi, murky production and putting the guitar front and center with Goodman’s great vocals. Wisenbaker tries on lots of styles- from Johnny Marr influenced jangle pop, to metal to punkish surf guitar. Nearly every song is a quick burst of fun. The album is over and done with in just over thirty minutes leaving you wanting more. The more album starts with its very best- the excellent “Losing To The Dark” which should be heard by more people.

     

    Buy Hour Of The Dawn Amazon

    Buy Losing to the Dark Amazon

    Buy Kiss This Town Away Amazon

     

     

     

     

    44. DUCK SAUCE- QUACK

    Duck Sauce_Quack

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Duck Sauce is a dance music collaboration between Armand Van Heldon and A-Trak. The band’s hit from several years ago. “Barbara Streisand” is included and you need to check your sense of fun if you don’t like it. Much of the rest of the album is nearly as good, if not quite as memorable. Skits are intertwined between many of the songs and for once they’re actually pretty funny. The music is a mix off 70’s disco, 80’s house and modern hip hop. It’s unsubtle and in-your-face music and a blast of a listen. There is nothing deeper about “Quack” than sheer joy and fun. Party time all the way. As a bonus the album cover made my kids laugh their asses off.

     

    Buy Quack Amazon

    Buy Barbra Streisand [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Spandex Amazon

     

     

     

     

    43. ARIEL PINK- POM POM

    Ariel Pink_Pom Pom

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    For me Ariel Pink is equal parts brilliant and frustrating. He makes very, very weird music- some of it impenetrable but his best stuff is undeniable. This past year Pink has made so many off-hand misogynistic comments that they’ve come across as intentional sabotage. For an artist so campy and ironic it’s tough to tell when he’s trying to put one over on his audience or the media. “Pom Pom” is a double album and it’s even excessive by Pink’s usual standards. Pink gets prime credit for inspiring the lo-fi chillwave movement, taking 70’s and early 80’s style radio music and weirding it up with tape hiss and other warped sounds so that his music sounds fresh & unique but at the same time familiar but out of time. About half of the time Pink makes jokey sounding songs with more of a punk rock edge to them but I think he’s at his best when he’s at his most sincere. While “Pom Pom” is hardly perfect and is overly long, his biggest fans will celebrate it and say that’s as it should be. Maybe so, but I still love him when he’s at his heartfelt best like on tracks “Put Your Number In MY Phone”, “One Summer Night” and “Picture Me Gone”.

     

    Buy pom pom Amazon

    Buy Put Your Number In My Phone Amazon

    Buy Picture Me Gone Amazon

     

     

     

     

    42. EMA- THE FUTURE’S VOID

    EMA_The Future's Void

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    I know this music isn’t for everyone. I’m still wrapping my head around it myself. EMA’s last album “The Past Life Of Martyred Saints” was her breakout record- a coming of age album, about a young gay woman breaking away from her upper midwestern life and moving to L.A. “The Future’s Void” is a more outward looking, topical record performed from the point of view of a smart, righteous person. EMA is a singer-songwriter but her music is often drenched in feedback, closer to Sonic Youth or maybe early PJ Harvey than Joni Mitchell. As with her first album, not every single song stands out and “The Future’s Void” contains less immediate classic tracks than “The Past Life”. That said, great songs emerge with repeated listens like “So Blonde”, “Satellites” and “3Jane”.

     

    Buy The Future’s Void Amazon

    Buy So Blonde Amazon

    Buy Satellites Amazon

     

     

     

     

    41. LA ROUX- TROUBLE IN PARADISE

    La Roux_Trouble In Paradise

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    La Roux’s self-titled 2009 debut was an unexpected hit, led by the runaway success of brilliant crossover single “Bulletproof”, but the album was loaded with other great songs as well. Five years is a long time, but I’m a bit disappointed their follow up “Trouble In Paradise” didn’t receive more accolades and commercial success. La Roux was also formerly a duo made up of singer/songwriter and face Elly Jackson and Producer Ben Langmaid. The two were also linked romantically. Even without Langmaid La Roux maintains a similar sound. The lyrics focus on sex and romance, particularly its complications. “Trouble In Paradise” starts with a bang- the first two tracks “Uptight Downtown” and “Kiss And Not Tell” are two of the albums best. While there are a couple of other greats like “Tropical Chancer” and “Cruel Sexuality” the rest of the album, while competent, fails to distinguish. That said Elly is still a very interesting artist and any of the above songs would have sounded great on the radio. I hope La Roux aren’t forgotten soon.

     

    Buy Trouble In Paradise Amazon

    Buy Uptight Downtown Amazon

    Buy Kiss And Not Tell Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2014: 31-40

    40. JENNY LEWIS- THE VOYAGER

    Jenny Lewis_The Voyager

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Voyager” is Jenny Lewis’s third solo album and it’s by far her best. Though I nearly always like her material, particularly that of her old band Rilo Kiley I always fall a bit short of fully falling for it. Lewis brings back her frequent collaborators, the Watson Twins, who harmonize perfectly well with Lewis’s beautiful and distinct vocals. “The Voyager” is unsurprisingly Lewis’s most adult album so far. Lewis, always an indie-tock sex symbol, and even a former child actress, is now staring down forty, recently going through a breakup, single and childless. She can’t help but think what might have been while neither lamenting not celebrating her life choices. “The Voyager” is an interesting and honest look at a strong single modern woman. The sunny, breezy Fleetwood Mac influenced music leaves no doubt as to the listener that Lewis lives and breathes Los Angeles.

    Buy The Voyager Amazon

    Buy Love U Forever Amazon

    Buy The New You Amazon

     

     

     

     

    39. PARQUET COURTS- SUNBATHING ANIMAL
    parquet Courts_Sunbathing Animal

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2nd album by Parquet Courts, a punkish indie-rock Brooklyn band (half of the members are from Denton, Tx) is better sounding, better produced, more ambitious and better reviewed than their first but I’m still not sure I like it more. “Sunbathing Animal” is certainly no disappointment, but the slapdash, lo-fi sound and one minute songs of their “Light Up Gold” debut album are missed even though “Animal” is the much more consistent record. Parquet Courts combine the sounds of New York City 70’s proto-punk, surf music and 90’s Pavement-style intelligent slacker rock to create a fun, driving sound with chugging guitars. A Pitchfork review describes “Sunbathing Animal” as Parquet Court’s “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” where “Light Up Gold” was their “Slanted and Enchanted”. It’s a great analogy. Both Pavement albums were great- same for Parquet Courts. What you like best just depends on your individual taste. As an aside Parquet Courts has launched a side project called Parkay Quarts. I’ve only heard two tracks so far- “Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth” and “Contant Nausea” and even if just those two tracks were included here “Sunbathing Animal” would probably rise at least 10 notches in these rankings.

    Buy Sunbathing Animal Amazon

    Buy Sunbathing Animal Amazon

    Buy Instant Disassembly Amazon
     

     

     

     

     

    38. FUTURE ISLANDS- SINGLES

    Future Islands_Singles

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though Future Islands has been at it awhile now, achieving a few dribs and drabs of mild success, no one was prepared for the kind o break out year they had in 2014. It all started with the group’s television debut last March on Letterman and frontman Samuel T. Herring’s passionate, nutso, no holds barred performance. The video was shared endlessly on You Tube and the band became indie-rock stars. The song they performed “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is rightfully being called one of the songs of the year. If “Singles” is flawed it’s because most of the rest of the tracks, though good, don’t quite measure up to it. Future Islands are a group of late thirty-somethings who look like slightly schlubby every-men- definitely not rock star material. This is certainly part of their appeal though not completely rare either for the indie world. Their sound more than nods to early 80’s synth-pop and Herring’s unusual vocals set them apart from any like-minded groups. Track “A Dream Of You And Me” may be the only other track approaching “Seasons” greatness, but there are a few other winners here and certainly nothing bad on the album either. A few more excellent cut and “Singles” could go from very good to great.

    Buy Singles Amazon

    Buy Seasons (Waiting On You) Amazon

    Buy A Dream of You and Me Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    37. LYDIA AINSWORTH- RIGHT FROM REAL

    Lydia Ainsworth_Right From Real

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Right From Real” is probably my most out of the blue pick of the year. I had never even heard of Lydia Ainsworth before the Fall of ’14 and though she received very good reviews she is still off the radar of most. Ainsworth is a Canadian cellist and a standout string arranger. Her vocals and style bring to mind both Bjork and Kate Bush. Her music has plenty of electronic elements to it mixed with the organic strings in a very lush production. The album can play either as pleasant background music or as a mind-blowing headphones experience. The album is only 8 songs and is actually two previously released EP’s put back to back but it works as a whole. Over half the tracks I list as standouts with “Take Your Face Off” and “Hologram” being the best of the bunch. I can only assume she isn’t being discussed more because people haven’t heard her yet. She’s a true talent.

    Buy Right from Real Amazon

    Buy Take Your Face Off Amazon

    Buy Moonstone Amazon
     

     

     

     

     

    36. SCHOOLBOY Q- OXYMORON

    Schoolboy Q_Oxymoron

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I fairly often hear whispers of “rap is dead” these days. Or at least that it’s declined in a major way. Aside from heavy hitters like Drake, Kanye & Kendrick Lamar major label rap is certainly less prominent than it has been in some time. And none of the above even released an album in 2014. But don’t cound someone like Schoolboy Q out. His first album “Habits & Contradictions” released in 2012 was a surprise hit. And he is associated with L.A.’s great Black Hippy Collective and probably there 2nd heaviest hitter- a very distant second to Kendrick Lamar. “Oxymoron”, his second album did fairly well in sales and had a crossover hit with “Studio”, but it seems to be largely forgotten at year’s end. Like many rap albums “Oxymoron” is slightly too long and there is some comparatively weak songs in the middle, but the record is still chock-full of goodness. Aside from “Studio” there is the collab with Kendrick “Collard Greens” released prior to the album, the excellent “Break The Band”, “Los Awesome”, “Man Of The Year” and “Hell Of A Night”. IF the rest of the album were up to that standard “Oxymoron” would be a classic, but because it’s weighed down in the middle it’s merely very good and will worth checking out.

    Buy Oxymoron (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Studio [feat. BJ The Chicago Kid] [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Man Of The Year [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    35. TY SEGALL- MANIPULATOR

    Ty Segall_Manipulator

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    At this point Ty Segall probably needs to be called the most prolific musician working today. Each year seems to see multiple releases- whether EP, live or full length album. He plays with multiple bands and releases solo stuff. His talent as a writer and guitarist is immense. He’s one of the few shredders around in indie-rock, but ust as often he plays glam-rock influenced acoustic riffs. On “Manipulator” gives us more of everything. It’s his longest album and a double LP, though only 1 cd. The album starts with a bang. The first five tracks are nearly perfect and all among the album’s best. It’s Over” and “Feel” are two of his best rockers. “Singer” sounds like Brit-Pop era Oasis and lead song and title track “Manipulator” has a funky vibe to it. After that “Manipulator” lets up a bit. The songs are mostly good but not great and a level of overfamiliarity sets in keeping the album from reaching the next level of greatness.

    Buy Manipulator Amazon

    Buy Feel Amazon

    Buy Manipulator Amazon
     

     

     

     

     

    34. ICEAGE- PLOWING INTO THE FIELDS OF LOVE

    Iceage_Plowing Into The Fields Of Love

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Young Danish punk band changes up their sound quite a bit for their third album, adding elements of Cowpunk & Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with some very well placed trumpet blasts and dark piano twinklings. “Plowing Into The Fields Of Love” is an abrupt a change as I’ve heard from a band this year. Though they still sound pissed and alienated, the focus now is more on the vocals and arragements than their ferocious speed and energy. It’s the still too-unheralded band’s third great album in a row. Lead singer Elias Bender Ronnenfelt sounds stumbling drunk on half of these tunes not unlike Shane MacGowan with the Pogues. But Ronnenfelt’s moaning, swaying voice seems more of a wink and a put-on than reality. At times the sound can be almost too much, but the slow-downed pace has given the songs more space to distinguish themselves from one another whereas their tracks on the two previous albums, as great as they were, seemed to run together. It’s a good sign that an already upstart, young band can make a fairly drastic change and still remain great. That’s often what separates the good from the great and the great from the legends. Will be interesting to see where Iceage goes next.

    Buy Plowing Into the Field of Love Amazon

    Buy The Lord’s Favorite Amazon

    Buy How Many Amazon

     

     

     

     

    33. BECK- MORNING PHASE

    Beck_Morning Phase

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The press on “Morning Phase” calls it Beck’s sequel to his 2002 album “Sea Change” and I see it. Both are his mellowest albums to date- throwbacks to the Laurel Canyon sound of early 70’s Socal. While “Morning Phase” doesn’t come across as heartbreaking as “Sea Change” it has the same basic sound and temperament though I would argue it has even more great songs if not containing the highs of “Lost Cause” or “Golden Age”. But tracks like “Morning”, “Heart Is A Drum”, “Country Down”, and single “Blue Moon” sink in on repeated listens and the record sounds amazing- a perfect album for a Sunday morning when the sun’s creeping in your house.

    Buy Morning Phase Amazon

    Buy Heart Is A Drum Amazon

    Buy Morning Amazon

     

     

     

     

    32. CHARLI XCX- SUCKER

    Charli XCX_Sucker

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Hipster blogs have been championing Charli XCX’s brand of pop for almost four years now and finally the mainstream seems to be catching up. “Sucker” is Charli’s 2nd full length album after she blew up while writing and singing the hooks for two of the decades biggest smash hits- Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Izalea’s “Fancy”. This Brit is supremely talented. Her first songs were released when she was younger than 18. Her last album, 2013’s “True Romance” was very good but catered to the more outré hipster pop audience rather than mainstream radio. But this year she received her big solo break when the great “Boom Clap” took off as a single from the well received “The Fault In My Stars” soundtrack. While she’s not yet a household name she’s getting there. While “Sucker” does contain many radio ready tracks- like “Break The Rules”, “London Queen”, “Famous” and “Breaking Up” along with “Boom Clap”, it still operates outside the normal template for mainstream pop. She takes much from indie rock as well as mainstream punk even more in both sound and attitude- especially attitude. She’s not afraid to deal with racy subject matter but while brash there is nothing dark here. I think we’ll be hearing from her for years to come and “Sucker” is a blast.

    Buy Sucker [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Boom Clap Amazon

    Buy Famous Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    31. SHABAZZ PALACES- LESE MAJESTY

    Shabazz Palaces_Lese Majesty

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Lese Majesty” is the 2nd full length album by experimental Seattle rap group Shabazz Palaces led by criminally underrated 90’s rapper Butterfly (now goes by his given name Ishmael Butler) of Digable Planets semi-fame. As bugged out and progressive Digable Planets were, Shabazz Palaces are much more so. “Lese Majesty” resembles jazz more than pop or traditional hip hop often delivering song fragments which fit together to form a larger whole rather than anything that could fit a normal verse, chorus, verse structure. You can call this space rap- it has more in common with Miles Davis era “Bitches Brew” or Flying Lotus than it does with modern rap. There are 18 songs grouped into 7 suites and most tracks bleed right into one another, though several individual tracks do stand out like “Forerunner Foray”, “Dawn In Luxor”, “#Cake” & especially “Motion Sickness”. If you like your music esoteric, trippy, heady and a lot weird then Shabazz Palaces “Lese Majesty” is well worth checking out.

    Buy Lese Majesty [Explicit] [+digital booklet]

    BuyMotion Sickness [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy#Cake Amazon



  • Top 50 Album of 2014: 21-30

    30.  Eagulls- Eagulls

    Eagulls_Eagulls

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Self-titled debut from this brash four piece from Leeds, England is another group not receiving enough critical or commercial hosannas in my book. “Eagulls” is loud, post-punk with tons of reverb. This music is nothing you haven’t heard before, but the snotty attitude, hooks for days and shout-along choruses make it on of the year’s most fun albums. The big standout is “Possessed” one of my favorite cuts of the year but there are a handful of other great earworms like “Soulless Youth”, “Never Endings” and “Hollow Visions”. Sometimes kick-ass rock music is what you need and Eagulls bring it.

    Buy Eagulls Amazon

    Buy Possessed Amazon

    Buy Footsteps Amazon

     

     

     

     

     29. STRAND OF OAKS- HEAL

    Strand Of Oaks_Heal

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Strand Of Oaks is another “group” that was not even on my radar before last spring. Strand Of Oaks is in effect Timothy Showalter, a self-loathing singer songwriter from the Midwest. “Heal” is only his third album and it is a damn good one. Having the same mentality as indie mope-rockers with an alt country bent like Sun Kil Moon and Songs: Ohia, but delivered with more bit like a new millennial Crazy Horse. “Heal” ‘s lyrics describe Showalter’s teenage angst and personal darkness and he goes into vivid detail. Because he is so tough on himself, you believe that he is ultimately a good man or is really trying hard to be and this raw music comes off like an exorcism. The music on the album nods not only to alt country, but to heavy metal, post punk & even synth-pop. Regardless of what sound Showalter is exploring it usually comes off as heavy. Any fan of “real rock” should really enjoy listening to this but the introspective lyrics reveal a greater depth than a normal rock band. And that shoule keep them coming back.

    Buy Heal Amazon

    Buy JM Amazon

    Buy Same Emotions Amazon

     

     

     

     

    28. YG- MY KRAZY LIFE

    YG_My Krazy Life

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In a year where Kendrick Lamar was mostly silent, newish rapper YG carried the rap torch for Los Angeles. L.A.’s hottest producer DJ Mustard is behind the boards here and helps elevate both “My Krazy Life” and YG with his state of the art mix of 90’s house beats mixed with “Chronic”-era G Funk. The often almost danceable beats is a nice contrast to the gangsta rap lyrics that alternate between violent scenarios, explicit sex and partying much like Dre & Snoop did 20 years ago. And YG has a real feel for good storytelling. Like any good writer it separates his music from the standard gangsta rap template even as his album adheres to it. Many will be turned off by the typical violence and misogyny but the awesome production and handful of bangers- including big crossover hits “My N**ga” (“My Hitta” on the radio) and “Who Do You Love? (Feat. Drake)”. And YG spends the end of his album apologizing to his mother for his various exploits. Oh yea and Kendrick shows up to guest rap on “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)” one of the other best tracks on the album. “My Krazy Life” is one of the best rap albums of the year.

    Buy My Krazy Life (Deluxe) [Explicit] [+digital booklet] Amazon

    Buy Who Do You Love? [feat. Drake] [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy My Nigga [feat. Jeezy] [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    27. OUGHT- MORE THAN ANY OTHER DAY

    Ought_More Than Any Other Day

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut album from Montreal punk band- made up of all ex-pats from the U.S. who met at university in Canada. Ought’s sound encompasses many variants and eras of punk & post-punk. They have a nervous, restless, jittery energy like Television, the Talking Heads or the Feelies but their frenetic jangle pop can also move quickly into the feedback, noise experiments of a Fugazi or a Sonic Youth. Though artsy and lo-fi their anger shows though- righteous more than ironic or sarcastic. Their temperature sounds like it’s coming to a boil. Despite all of their fairly obvious influences they don’t come off as mere copycats.

    Buy More Than Any Other DayAmazon

    Buy The Weather Song Amazon

    Buy Today More Than Any Other DayAmazon

     

     

     

     

    26. LYKKE LI- I NEVER LEARN

    Lykke Li_I Never Learn

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “I Never Learn” competes with Sharon Van Etten’s “Are We There” as the saddest album of the year. It’s Li’s third full-length album, recorded after a bad break-up took the native Swede halfway around the world to her current home in Los Angeles. The barely over thirty minute record takes the listener through the trajectory of her relationship and break-up. Unlike her previous albums there is no obvious attempt at making a single here- all songs stay true to the overall narrative. That being said there is nothing too experimental or inaccessible here- these are bare, stark, authentically rendered torch songs. You can feel her sadness and pain in every note she sings. “I Never Learn” is perhaps the best album from a pretty underrated artist.

    Buy I Never Learn

    Buy Gunshot Amazon

    Buy No Rest For The WickedAmazon

     

     

     

     

     25. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- BRILL BRUISERS

    New Pornographers_Brill Bruisers

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Brill Bruisers” is the sixth full length album from the definitive supergroup of our not so new millennium and it’s the groups best since their 2005 classic “Twin Cinema”. The New Pornographers have never made a bad record but this one is a big step up from their last two. They are both more energetic and the songwriting is tighter and more on point. Each writer in the band delivers at least one great track. The title track is an instant NP classic. The choicely named “Champions Of Red Wine” is another standout. Dan Bejar (of Destroyer) delivers perhaps his most accessible cut as a New Pornographer in “War On The East Coast”. Second single “Dancehall Domine” and epic closer “You Tell Me Where” are two others great cuts. The joy in listening to Neko Case and A.C. Newman’s vocal interplay is why we love music. In 2014 no one is making better pure power pop than the New Pornographers.

    Buy Brill Bruisers Amazon

    Buy Brill Bruisers Amazon

    Buy War On the East CoastAmazon

     

     

     

     

    24. SWANS- TO BE KIND

    Swans_To Be Kind

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Swans are an experimental No-Wave rock band led by singer/songwriter & multi instrumentalist Michael Gira, whose first stint lasted roughly from 1982 to 1997. I have a series of EP’s he made on the mid 80’s and they are anything but a pleasant listening experience. They are one step up from Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” in atonality. The music is slow, droning and painful. Gira, now in his late 50’s, reformed Swans in 2010. 2012 “The Seer” was one of that year’s most critically acclaimed records, so much so that I purchased a copy despite my unpleasant experience with their earlier model. Though I enjoyed it I didn’t go back to it very often. So it was with much surprise that I find myself enjoying their latest “To Be Kind” so much. Is it a more accessible album or did I finally catch up to Swans? The group is still one of the heaviest going and I’m finding grooves in the places where it was just plodding monotonous droning before. It’s another double album- almost two hours long with a thirty- four minute track right in the middle, but the music is just as grotesque and gargantuan but with much more nuance and variety than their earlier stuff. It is still bleak and not for the faint of heart but if you allow yourself you can lose yourself in its darkness.

    Buy To Be Kind [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Oxygen Amazon

    Buy A Little God In My HandsAmazon

     

     

     

     

    23.  PERFUME GENIUS- TOO BRIGHT

    Perfume Genius_too Bright

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Too Bright” isPerfume Genius’s (AKA Mike Hadreas) most outward looking, uncompromising and in-your-face to date. His previous two albums dealt much more with his own personal issues- very heavy stuff lyrically but quiet musically and very internally focused. Hadreas rocks out more on “Too Bright” adding fuzz guitar to the proceedings. For a usually soft I intense artist like Hadreas, these heavier moments hit like a sledgehammer. Tracks like “Grid”, “Fool” and “Longpig” are all standouts but the real moment of brilliance is “Queen”, one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year. It’s the perfect gay rights anthem for these times where Hadreas correctly senses the momentum toward acceptance and defiantly stares back at the rest who are being left behind with their archaic, fearful views and sings mockingly “No family is safe when I sashay.” Bold, perfect and spine-tingling.

    Buy Too Bright Amazon

    Buy Queen Amazon

    Buy Fool Amazon
     

     

    22.  WHITE LUNG- DEEP FANTASY

    White Lung_Deep Fantasy

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though I had previously heard one of their songs in 2013, White Lung was one of my favorite new discoveries this year. They are a four piece, unapologetically feminist, Vancouver punk band, made of of ¾ females including outspoken singer and face of the band Mish Way. “Deep Fantasy” contains less ballads than an early Ramones album- all angry, fast punk over and done with in 22 minutes. They sounds like a mix between Hole, 90’s Riotgrrrl & early 80’s hardcore. Though very listenable and hooky it’s not nearly clean enough sounding for radio. Way takes on issues in a straight-on non subtle way like domestic violence, misogyny, the patriarchy, eating disorders & rape. The lyrics and music are sharp, incisive and incendiary. Choice cuts include “Down With The Monster”, “Face Down”, “I Believe You” & “Down It Goes”. Righteous stuff.

    Buy Deep Fantasy

    Buy Down It Goes

    Buy I Believe You Amazon

     

     

     

     

    21.  TUNE-YARDS- NIKKI NACK

    tune-yards_Nikki Nack

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I guess no longer being an underdog has unfortunately made Merril Gaubus’s Tune-Yards a bit of an after thought. After her second album “Who Kill” very surprisingly placed #1 on the very influential 2011 Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll the stakes were raised for this strange, experimental band. And though “Nikki Nack” was hardly slagged in the press this year it was rarely found on top ten lists either. Judging from the high quality of the music on “Nikki Nack” this seems to be too much of an overcorrection (even though I only have it #20). Tune-Yards once again combines post-punk, funk, musical theater and African rhythms to produce one of the most eclectic and unique sounds this decade. I anything “Nikki NAck” is a bit more slowed down and more accessible than “Who Kill”, which makes it less in-your-face surprising. Though hardly fit for modern radio consumption, the music can be very hooky in all of its oddity. Tracks “Wait A Minute” and “Water Fountain” are two of their best yet and “Nikki Nack” has far more hits than misses.

    Buy nikki nack [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Wait for a Minute Amazon

    Buy Hey Life Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2014: 11-20

    20.  CLOUD NOTHINGS- HERE AND NOWHERE ELSE

    Cloud Nothings_Here And Nowhere Else

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though I enjoyed “Here And Nowhere Else” on the first few listens no song stood out to me much outside of the great “I’m Not Part Of Me”- one o the group’s best songs yet. Their last album “Attack On Memory” was one of my favorite albums of 2012 and had a handful of songs that were among my favorites of that year, so I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t like “Here And Nowhere Else” a bit more. When revisiting the album this Fall the rest of the songs began to stand out more. In fact, I’d say I now love nearly every song on the album. I’d still place it several rungs below “Attack”, but it’s their second nice album in a row. Lead singer Dylan Baldi still screams as if the whole world is at stake. The band is a driving force, thanks to both Baldi’s ability to write an insane amount of hooks and underrated drummer Jayson Gerycz’s prowess behind the kit. Cloud Nothings are surely a band helping to keep punk rock alive

    Buy Here and Nowhere Else Amazon

    Buy I’m Not Part of Me Amazon

    Buy No Thoughts Amazon

     

     

     

     

     19.  EX HEX- RIPS
    Ex Hex_Rips

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Count me as one who was bummed that the great Wild Flag, a supergroup made up of Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony of Helium, was a one off album project. But then fast-forward a few years and Sleater-Kinney is back together and better than ever and Mary Timony forms a new band, Ex Hex and they are probably as good as Wild Flag. You never know what will happen in the world of music. Ex Hex’s “Rips” was one of 2014’s most pleasant surprises. They are a Washington D.C. trio who delivers high energy power-pop punk in the spirit of late 70’s groups like the Buzzcocks, the Undertones and the Rezillos. Every song is hummable, melodic but fast, rockin’ and frenetic. This is not angry punk, but it is certainly throwback having more in common with power pop groups like Big Star or the Raspberries than anything else today. “Rips” is beyond fun. Check your pulse if you don’t like it.

    Buy Rips Amazon

    Buy How You Got That GirlAmazon

    Buy Don’t Wanna Lose Amazon

     

     

     

     

    18. HOW TO DRESS WELL- WHAT IS THIS HEART?
    How To Dress Well_What Is This Heart?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “What Is This Heart”? is How To Dress Well’s third and best record. After starting the HTDW project at the beginning of the decade as a no budget lo-fi endeavor featuring 80’s R&B samples of big radio hits, Tom Krell has upped the ante big with each record. Krell’s vocals and lyrics are now upfront and the production on the album now sounds big budget. Krell carries pop ambitions but still has an underground, indie mentality. His twee falsetto brings to mind Green Gartside of Scritti Politti and will likely turn off people afraid of their own feelings. “What Is This Heart?” is about love, trust and commitment . He sounds desperate, aching for love, but then doesn’t know what to do with it once he has it. He either spends his time in fear of losing the love he has or pining for something better. This is a brilliant album which gets better with each listen and contains a handful of beautiful tracks including “Words I Don’t Remember”, “Face Again”, “Repeat Pleasure” ad “See You Fall”. Krell set the stage for modern indie driven R&B for not only underground artists like the Weeknd, but also major label artists like Solange and Miguel. Hopefully he will begin to reap the benefits soon as well.

    Buy What Is This Heart? Amazon

    Buy Repeat Pleasure Amazon

    Buy Words I Don’t Remember Amazon

     

     

     

     

    17. FLYING LOTUS/YOU’RE DEAD!
    Flying Lotus_You're Dead

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    If you’re a jazz person but lament that jazz has gone the way of classical and doesn’t push boundaries that it used to then you need to hear Flying Lotus. “You’re Dead” is the L.A. native’s fifth album release in a remarkably consistently great catalog. “You’re Dead!” is a concept album about deaths and its mysteries and inevitability. Steven Ellison (the genius behind Flying Lotus) creates a jazz-fusion of hip hop, R&B, techno & funk which is more breath-takingly beautiful and trippy that it is gritty. Ellison has brilliant taste in musicians as well bringing in Herbie Hancock, Ravi Coltrane (son of John C.), rappers Kendrick Lamar & Snoop Dog and frequent collaborator and world class bassist Thundercat. “You’re Dead” is as bugged out as it’s crazy cover art suggests. It moves from frenetically quick to haunting and sinister alternating between the light and the dark- giddy and gorgeous one minute and spooky the next. But it’s never boring or morbid and the album is amazingly cohesive for all of its tempo changes like all of the best progressive rock and jazz albums of yesteryear.

    Buy You’re Dead Amazon

    Buy Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) Amazon

    Buy Coronus, the Terminator Amazon

     

     

     

     

    16. TV ON THE RADIO- SEEDS
    TV On The Radio_Seeds

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Aside from one band in my top five, “Seeds” certainly has to be the most underrated album of the year. TV On The Radio, is a much loved Brooklyn and Indie-Rock institution, who have made consistently good to great albums their whole career. And while their previous release “Nine Types Of Light” was not their best effort it was certainly no misfire either. Well “Seeds” betters that record in every way, but it somehow got lost in all of the year end roundups with its late November release. The band’s signature eclectic sound, which mixes soul, heavy indie-rock & funk with elements of techno & hip hop is still in tact. So-lead singers Tunder Adebimpe and Kyp Malone’s moaning other worldly vocals are two of the best in current music. The production on the album is clear and pristine. Tracks like “Careful You”, “Could We”, lead single “Happy Idiot”, the beautiful ballad “Test Pilot” and one of their most ferocious rockers “Lazerray” are some of the group’s best songs ever. Don’t sleep on this album!

    Buy Seeds Amazon

    Buy Careful You Amazon

    Buy Happy Idiot Amazon

     

     

     

     

    15.  VINCE STAPLES- HELL CAN WAIT EP
    Vince Staples_Hell Can Wait EP

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut EP from young L.A. rapper Vince Staples, who previously received a guest spot on Earl Sweatshirt’s last album, is 2014’s hip hop debut of the year. These days major label rap releases are few and fat between- most rapper are forced to ply their trade with free mixtape releases. In an earlier time a rapper as promising as Staples would have debuted with far more fanfare. Rap economic climate aside maybe a debut EP is a good thing. Many rap albums of years past have been much too long. “Hell Can Wait” is only 23 minutes and it’s all very good- most of it quite great. “65 Hunnid”, “Screen Door” & “Limos” are all stellar tracks and “Hands Up” and Blue Suede” are two of the best tracks of the year- rap or otherwise. “Hands Up” better than any other song I’ve heard this year captures the zeitgeist in the way of police officer overreach at the hands of the black community. “Blue Suede” manages to be completely bleak and be catchy with as ridiculously memorable chorus- “All I wanted was them Jordans with the blue suede in ‘em. Young grave get the bouquets. Hope I outlive them red roses.” Staples is insightfully keeping it real.

    Buy Hell Can Wait Amazon

    Buy Hands Up [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Blue Suede [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    14. APHEX TWIN- SYRO
    Aphex Twin_Syro

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Syro” was one of the few event albums of 2014. Though Richard D. James had been making music all along under different aliases “Syro” is his first release since 2001’s poorly received “Drukgs” as Aphex Twin. And Aphex Twin is the originator. The God of all things techno. Luckily, “Syro” doesn’t disappoint. Though I’m sure many of his bigger fans would disagree it’s probably my favorite of his albums overall and though it features no obvious anthems like “Windowlicker” or “Come To Daddy” it’s consistently great from beginning to end, and it can get you both disappearing inside your headphones and grooving out- if not on the dance floor then at least fanatically tapping your feet at your desk. Maybe the best thing about “Syro” is what a pleasurable listening experience it is- every track is very melodic and even the lengthiest tracks seem to speed by. The album never wavers or feels like a slog and at the very end you get his beautiful minimalist piano piece, which also hardly disappoints.

    Buy Syro

    Buy minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix] Amazon

    Buy Circlont6a [141.98][Syrobonkus Mix] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    13. TODD TERJE- IT’S ALBUM TIME
    Todd Terje_It's Album Time

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Norwegian DJ Todd Terje comes off as a cheeky lounge lizard, drawing from many different styles and eras of dance music as well as outside of it to cocktail jazz, Balearic beach music, exotica and surf instrumentals. It’s like a more fun and much more hilarious version of Daft Punk’s last album but without the smash hit and with a heartbreaking ballad- a cover of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary” stuck right in the middle. Terje has been releasing music for the good part of the last decade including key Euro disco tracks like “Strandbar (Disko) and “Inspector Norse”, which are both included here. “It’s Album Time” therefore plays both as a great album, which CAN be rare in dance music, and as an almost greatest hits. While his music can come off as good, kitschy fun the sadness in the middle hints at more depth.

    Buy It’s Album Time Amazon

    Buy Delorean Dynamite Amazon

    Buy Inspector Norse Amazon
     

     

     

    12. WAR ON DRUGS- LOST IN THE DREAM
    The War On Drugs_Lost In The Dream

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The War On Drugs are a Philadelphia indie-rock band who made a good if not great album a few years back called “Slave Ambient” and Philly native son Kurt Vile used to be a former member. “Lost In The Dream”, their third album has gotten a shit ton of love this year- it’s the #1 favorite album of the year on Metacritic- an amalgamation of every top ten list of every magazine, newspaper, influential blog etc…It’s also been compared to both Dire Straits and Springsteen. Though I think the album is damn good and I get the 80’s “adult rock” comparisons I think both the critical adulation and the Boss-nods are both a bit overstated. “Lost In The Dream” does deliver some great songs and has the atmospheric touches and production that makes for a great full album listening experience which can be a rarity in this day of steaming and shuffle, but the album still sounds short of a masterpiece to me. Lead single “Red Eyes” is one of my favorite tracks of the year and other slow burners like “The Ocean In Between The Waves” and album opener “Under The Pressure” are two other great ones but their just weren’t enough other highlights for this to be called a true classic. I don’t mean to hate at all because “Lost In The Dream” is still one of the better albums you’ll hear this year and it’s a major step up for a band, which has now leaped to the forefront of indie-rock’s players.

    Buy Lost In The Dream Amazon

    Buy Red Eyes Amazon

    Buy Under The Pressure Amazon

     

     

     

     

    11.  ANGEL OLSEN- BURN YOUR FIRE NO WITNESS
    Angel Olsen_Burn Your Fire No Witness

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Burn Your Fire No Witness” was a slow burner of an album released early last year by a relatively unknown artist, but almost a year later it is receiving plenty of love. It’s Olsen’s 2nd full length album and more than half of its tracks are absolute winners. Olsen alternates between rockers like lead singer “Forgiven/Forgotten”, “Lights Out” and “Hi-Five” and hushed yet still intense acoustic tracks “Enemy”, the terse “Unfucktheworld” and the seven minute Leonard Cohen influenced “White Fire”. Her fire and passion along with her loud vs. soft moments also brings to mind PJ Harvey. After this excellent album Olsen is an unknown no longer.

    BuyBurn Your Fire For No Witness Amazon

    Buy Forgiven/Forgotten Amazon

    Buy Hi-Five Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2014: 1-10

    10. SHARON VAN ETTEN- ARE WE THERE
    Sharon Van Etten_Are Were There

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sharon Van Etten is now here. “Are We There” is a big step up from her very good predecessor “Tramp”. It’s a loaded album with a few absolute tunners (Your Love Is Killing Me, Every Time The Sun Comes Up) and another handful of excellent tracks like “Taking Chances” and “You Know Me Well”, where “Tramp” was several standout tracks surrounded by mostly merely good tracks. Van Etten is a traditional singer songwriter, singing mostly of love and heartbreak (mostly the latter) but she has amazing pipes and a wicked knack for lyrical detail. Her songs are better, the production and music richer and the delivery more confident. Van Etten is a rare talent reaching the peak of her powers.

    Buy Are We There Amazon

    Buy Every Time the Sun Comes Up Amazon

    Buy Your Love is Killing Me Amazon

     

     

     

     

    9.  FKA TWIGS- LP1
    FKA Twigs_LP1

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Twigs gets my vote but being this year’s most unique new artist and also recording my favorite song of the year “Two Weeks”. Though she released music the previous two years with various EP’s, 2014 was when she really landed on the map. Twigs is a British musician and former backup dancer in music videos named Tahlih Barnett and she is a highly visual artist. “LP1” ‘s cover is likely my favorite album cover of the year as well. Twig’s music is a futuristic take on R&B with a nod to past Hip Hop/R&B artists and producers like Timbaland and Aaliyah as well as former 90’s trip hop acts like Portishead & Bjork. She whispers in a high pitched coo reminiscent of Kate Bush highly suggestive lyrics like “I can fuck you better than her” but they sound more lonely or mysterious than they sound like a come on. The beats are icy, skeletal & psychedelic. They sound so different that it sometimes takes away from the actual songs- it takes more than several listens to wrap your head around most of them. Standout techno producer Arca, who also worked on Kanye’s “Yeezus”, is responsible for much of the production. It will be fascinating to see what this album sounds like in a few years. Will it change music by creating a slew of imitators or will it stand apart as a weird but awesome anamoly?

    Buy Lp1 Amazon

    Buy Two Weeks [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Lights On Amazon

     

     

     

     

     8.  CARIBOU/OUR LOVE
    Caribou _Our Love

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Dan Snaith has been plying at his trade for over a decade now as both Caribou & as Manitoba (he was forced to change the name) and with his 6th album “Our Love” he’s never received more love. I have the majority of his stuff and to me “Our Love” is both his best and his most accessible record to date. Snaith, a happily married man of thirteen years with a small child writes about a deep, adult, familial love. Even a domesticated, contented love like Snaith’s is not without its complications and “Our Love” attempts to capture the “universal love” in all its forms, dealing with its trials and tribulations. A warm sounding record, “Our Love” plays neither as straight up dance music or as head-phone geeking IDM. It’s flows more like a regular rock album- each song is singular rather than a continuation of each other- though this is still unmistakably electronic music. Like the majority of albums making up my top ten there are no weak or mediocre tracks here but lead single “Can’t Do Without You”, the title cut, “Silver” and “Second Chance” are my favorites.

    Buy Our Love Amazon

    Buy Can’t Do Without You Amazon

    Buy Our Love Amazon

     

     

     

     

    7.  MAC DEMARCO- SALAD DAYS
    Mac Demarco_Salad Days

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Count me as one of the people surprised that a seemingly scattershot, half-assed slacker type like Mac Demarco could make one of the year’s best albums. Though I really enjoyed Demarco’s last album “2” and the guy’s talent was undeniable, everything he did seemed so tossed off, like he was practically asleep while delivering them. Though his albums can blend together a bit on the first few listens, but “Salad Days” eventually emerges as a stellar album with zero weak cuts, many standouts, much variety, loaded with cleverness and even lyrical depth. “Passing Out Pieces” may be DeMarco’s best track yet, but there are a handful of others that are right there with it including “Goodbye Weekend”, “Treat Her Better”, “Go Easy” and the synth-laden “Chamber Of Reflection”. This guy is still only 23 years old and comes off as a total stoner goofball but he seemingly craps out brilliant hooks- most of his songs are just as catchy and melodic as they are off-beat. Deceptively simple but totally unique. Maybe he’ll keep getting better and better.

    Buy Salad Days Amazon

    Buy Passing Out Pieces Amazon

    Buy Goodbye Weekend Amazon
     

     
    6.  SPOON- THEY WANT MY SOUL
    Spoon_They Want My Soul

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Spoon gets my vote for the most consistently great rock band of the last 15 years. With Sleater-Kinney coming back they have some competition and certainly Arcade Fire & Vampire Weekend need to be in this discussion but both have a much smaller catalog. It shows how great these guys are that they were relatively slagged for their last effort 2010’s very good if not classic “Transference”. Even though that was hardly a misstep, Spoon is back with a vengeance anyway with “They Want My Soul”. I loved lead single “Do You” on first listen last summer and liked the album just fine at first even if it didn’t quite bowl me over. But sure enough the album got better and felt more dynamic with each listen. Aside from “Do You”, one of the band’s obvious career standouts and instant fan favorite, tracks like “Rainy Taxi” and “New York Kiss” are two should-be radio singles in a cooler world. Track “Inside Out”, fairly trippy, slower and effect laden, is unlike anything they’ve previously done and it works and works well. Deeper cuts like “Let Me Be Me” and album opener “The Rent I Pay” blended into the background the first couple of listens but now sound like the best tracks on a weaker album the more I hear them. But my favorite is title cut “They Want My Soul” which defines lead singer Britt Daniel perfectly. He’s a 43 year old indie-rock lifer and music defines his life, his mentality, his politics. He refuses to sell out. He’ll keep on chooglin’. They want his soul but they can’t have it. Damn these guys are great.

    Buy They Want My Soul Amazon

    Buy They Want My Soul Amazon

    Buy Do You Amazon

     

     

     

     

    5.  SUN KIL MOON- BENJI 

    SUN KIL MOON_BENJI

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Some people hear “Benji” as a slow, depressing slog. Others have trouble forgiving singer (and sole Sun Kil Moon member) Mark Kozelek for all of his dick moves throughout the year- baiting indie-nice guys The War On Drugs with insults for no good reason. While Kozelek can certainly seem a cantankerous and even bitter man his music should not be dismissed. Nearly all of “Benji’s” 11 tracks involve impending or actual death and Kozelek, an expert story-teller, offers authentic and philosophical takes on humanity and life itself. In a year where I lost my father, tracks like “I Love My Dad” and “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” were particularly poignant and with titles like that it’s surprising how unsentimental they are. “Carissa” deals with the senseless death due to an exploding aerosol can of a second cousin who used to be a problem child but had gotten her shit together as a working mother in her mid thirties. “Dogs” takes a look at Kozelek’s early teenage sexual conquests. The great album closer “Ben’s My Friend” looks at rivalry, friendship and aging in a business based on youth. Kozelek is unafraid to both poke fun at himself and call himself out on his own bullshit. His profile is now raised more now than it ever was, both for better and for worse, even more than when his early 90’s band Red House Painters were taking off (relatively speaking). “Benji” is an album I know I’ll return to often throughout my life. It’s a classic even though it may not be for everyone. You can learn much from it.

    Buy Benji Amazon

    Buy Ben’s My Friend Amazon

    Buy Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes Amazon

     

     

     

     

     4. D’ANGELO AND THE VANGUARD- BLACK MESSIAH
    D'ANGELO_BLACK MESSIAH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” was this year’s “Beyonce”. The mid-December, surprise, instant-classic album-drop from out of nowhere. The album arrived with no advanced press and came too late to get on most of the year-end lists, yet not too late to place at #1 on the influential Village Voice Pass & Jop list which takes over 600 critics top tens into account. From the moment it was released “Black Messiah” has received nothing but love. It sounds timely in the wake of protests in New York City and Ferguson, Mo. around unprosecuted police officer shootings of unarmed black men. The riots and protests were the reason D’Angelo decided to rush release the album, though it was actually painstakingly recorded over many years. It’s his first album since 2000’s classic “Voodoo” and sounds very unlike anything else in today’s music world. It’s closest kin is Sly & The Family Stone’s 1971 album “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” in that it sounds burned out, pissed off, chaotic but brilliant. Lyrics are often difficult to make out and instruments regularly appear very low in the mix. D’Angelo takes different things from every phase of soul and especially funk and takes the energy if not the actual sound of hip hop and mixes it together in a stew creating something all his own. He has the backing of some of the best and most like-minded musicians in the business. It’s tough to find any funk that sounds this organic and greasy today. “Black Messiah” is both so necessary and so good for our current time.

    Buy Black Messiah Amazon

    Buy Betray My Heart Amazon

    Buy Another Life Amazon

     

     

     

     

    3.  RUN THE JEWELS- RUN THE JEWELS 2
    Run The Jewels 2

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    After standout rapper/producer and former head of NYC Godhead indie label Def Jux, El-P took the boards for dirty South veteran Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s breakout album “R.A.P. Music” a true friendship was born. The two decided to collaborate on a 1-off free download album the following year and called their duo Run The Jewels. The album was so well received that they did another one in 2014 called of course “Run The Jewels 2”. And as good as their first album together was, and it was very very good, “RTJ2” beats it in every way- better production, better raps and better songs. These two are destined to already go down as one of the best rap duo’s ever. Though coming from separate geographic regions their paring makes sense. Both are no nonsense, older statesman, technically gifted rappers who go hard and aren’t afraid to get political. Their styles play off of one another perfectly- they deliver amazing one liners- one after another- filled with righteous and incendiary anger one minute and a hilarious put down the next. It’s clear these guys suffer no fools. “RJT2” features banger after banger and seems to last half of its 40 minute running time. “Blockbuster Night”, the awesomely titled “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck), Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Angel Duster” are four of my favorite cuts but they all are worthwhile listens. You never know who will arrive out of nowhere to carry rap forward.

    Buy Run the Jewels 2 Amazon

    Buy Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) [feat. Zack De La Rocha] [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Oh My Darling Don’t Cry Amazon

     

     

     

     

    2REAL ESTATE- ATLAS
    REAL ESTATE_ATLAS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    I was very surprised to see this very liked album see almost know love on 2014 year end top ten lists. Since it came out early in the year did people forget about it? Well St. Vincent came out around the same time and it was second only to The War On Drugs so I’m not sure what gives. Suburban New Jersey raised Real Estate has gotten progressively better with each of their three albums and “Atlas” is a true beauty filled with chiming jangle pop and melancholy music about love, nostalgia, loss & life as the group readies to say goodbye to their post collegiate days and is on the precipice of true adulthood. “Atlas” ’s subject matter is universal enough that I could relate to it personally as a guy entering middle age, but it also brought me back to the years before a wife and kids. Nearly every track on the album is a standout and though Real Estate aren’t an especially innovative band and don’t really even change their sound up much between albums, they have honed their craft like true artisans. No album meant more to me personally this year.

    Buy Atlas Amazon

    Buy Past Lives Amazon

    Buy Crime Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1.  ST. VINCENT- ST. VINCENT
    St. Vincent_St. Vincent

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2014 was light on the consensus #1, heavy hitter albums. There were so many very, very good albums but no obvious standouts. For me the closest last year came was St. Vincent’s 4th, self-title album. Annie Clark, the singer, songwriter and lead guitarist of St. Vincent has quietly become one of the best and most important musicians working today. Her music lies on the fringe between the accessible and the avant-garde. Like her sometimes collaborator David Byrne’s old band Talking Heads, even the stuff that crosses over (and she still hasn’t quite actually CROSSED over), is still pretty damn weird. Annie absolutely shreds on electric guitar, but does so in a controlled, robotic way showing us that the art, the music and the theatrics are all part of a well-orchestrated package. But the package is her design alone- she is hardly a tool of a swengali or a record company. “St. Vincent” is an all killer no filler record. Every song is very good to great. “Birth In Reverse” and “Digital Witness”, the first two singles, are my favorite tracks and likely the most radio ready, but slower tracks like “I Prefer Your Love”, “Regret” and the much discussed “Rattlename”, where Annie outran a snake while alone and naked in nature, are nearly as good. It’s still up for debate whether or not “St. Vincent” tops her last great album, 2011’s “Strange Mercy”, but even with a lack of true heavy hitters at the top this year, it was still a pretty easy choice for #1.

    Buy St. Vincent Amazon

    Buy Birth In Reverse Amazon

    Buy Digital Witness Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2014: Honorable Mention

    LOGAN VENDERLIC- HEART HEAVY

    Logan Venderlic_Heart Heavy

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    MERCHANDISE- AFTER THE END
    Merchandise_After The End

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy After The End Amazon
     

     

     

     

    NICK WATERHOUSE- HOLLY
    Nick WAterhouse_Holly

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Holly Amazon
     

     

     

    ARIANA GRANDE- MY EVERYTHING
    Ariana Grande_My Everything

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy My Everything (Deluxe) Amazon
     

     

     

    DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979- THE PHYSICAL WORLD
    Death From Above 1979_The Physical World

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy The Physical World [+digital booklet] Amazon
     

     

     

    MARISSA NADLER- JULY
    Marissa Nadler_July

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy July Amazon
     

     

    OWEN PALLET- IN CONFLICT
    Owen Pallet_In Conflict

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy In Conflict Amazon
     

     

     

    KATY B- LITTLE RED
    Katy B_Little Red

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Little Red (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon
     

     

     

    FUTURE- HONEST
    Future_Honest

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Honest (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon
     

     

     

    FIRST AID KIT- STAY GOLD
    First Aid Kit_Stay Gold

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Stay Gold [Explicit] Amazon
     

     

     

    SBTRKT- WONDER WHERE WE LAND
    SBTRKT_Wonder Where We Land

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Wonder Where We Land [Explicit] Amazon
     

     

     

    MIRANDA LAMBERT- PLATINUM BLONDE
    Miranda Lambert_Platinum

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Platinum [+digital booklet] Amazon
     

     

     

    PAOLO NUTINI- CAUSTIC LOVE
    Paolo Nutini_Caustic Love

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Caustic Love [Explicit] Amazon
     

     

     

    HAMILTON LEITHAUSER- BLACK HOURS
    Hamilton Leithauser_Black Hours

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Black Hours Amazon
     

     

     

    JACK WHITE- LAZARETTO
    Jack White_Lazaretto

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Lazaretto Amazon
     

     

     

    WYE OAK- SHRIEK
    Wye Oak_Shriek

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Shriek Amazon
     

     

     

    FOSTER THE PEOPLE- SUPERMODEL

    Foster The People_Supermodel

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Supermodel Amazon
     

     

     

    ARCA- XEN
    Arca_Xen

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Buy Xen Amazon
     

     

     

    TWEEDY- SUKIERAE
    Tweedy_Sukierae

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Sukierae Amazon
     

     

     

     

    WILD BEASTS- PRESENT TENSE
    Wild Beasts_Present Tense

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    BuyPresent Tense Amazon



  • Mixes By Year: Best of 2014 Volume 1

    Best of 2014 Volume 1

    1.  Drake- 0 to 100/The Catch Up

    Buy 0 To 100 / The Catch Up [Explicit] Amazon

     

    2.  Vic Mensa- Down On My Luck

    Buy Down On My Luck (Originally Performed by Vic Mensa) [Explicit] Amazon

     

    3.  Shamir- On The Regular

    Buy On The Regular [Explicit] Amazon

     

    4.  iLoveMakonnen- Club Goin’ Up On A Tuesday (Feat. Drake)

    Buy Tuesday (feat. Drake) [Explicit]Amazon

     

    5.  FKA Twigs- Two Weeks

    Buy Two Weeks [Explicit] Amazon

     

    6.  Flying Lotus- Never Catch Me (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)

    Buy Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) Amazon

     

    7.  Run The Jewels- Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) (Feat. Zack De La Rocha)

    Buy Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) [feat. Zack De La Rocha] [Explicit] Amazon

     

    8.  Perfume Genius- Queen

    Buy Queen Amazon

     

    9.  Real Estate- Past Lives

    Buy Past Lives Amazon

     

    10.  St. Vincent- Birth In Reverse

    Buy Birth In Reverse Amazon

     

    11.  D’Angelo & The Vanguard- Betray My Heart

    Buy Betray My Heart Amazon

     

    12.  The War On Drugs- Red Eyes

    Buy Red Eyes Amazon

     

    13.  Future Islands- Seasons (Waiting On You)

    Buy Seasons (Waiting On You) Amazon

     

    14.  Caribou- Can’t Do Without You

    Buy Can’t Do Without You Amazon

     

    15.  Charli XCX- Boom Clap

    Buy Boom Clap Amazon

     

    16.  Mac DeMarco- Passing Out Pieces

    Buy Passing Out Pieces Amazon

     

    17. Angel Olsen- Forgiven/Forgotten

    Buy Forgiven/Forgotten Amazon

     

    18.  Eagulls- Possessed

    Buy Possessed Amazon

     

    19.  Spoon- They Want My Soul

    Buy They Want My Soul Amazon

     

    20.  Sun Kil Moon- Ben’s My Friend

    BuyBen’s My Friend Amazon



  • Mixes By Year: Best of 2014 Volume 2

    Best of 2014 Volume 2 (1/18/15)

    1.  Cloud Nothings- I’m Not Part Of Me

    Buy I’m Not Part of Me Amazon

     

    2.  Spoon- Do You

    Buy Do You Amazon

     

    3.  Tune-Yards- Wait For A Minute

    Buy Wait for a Minute Amazon

     

    4.  Todd Terje- Delorean Dynamite

    Buy Delorean Dynamite Amazon

     

    5.  Aphex Twin- Minipops 67 [120.2] [Source Field Mix]

    Buy minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix] Amazon

     

    6.  Nicki Minaj- Boss Ass Bitch (Remix)

    *Track not available for purchase
    Hear at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8G7OOI4PZk

     

    7.  Beyonce- Flawless Remix (Feat. Nicki Minaj)

    Buy Flawless Remix Amazon

     

    8.  Future Brown- Wanna Party Remix (Feat. Think & Na’ Tee)

    Buy Wanna Party Remix (feat. Tink and 3D Na’Tee) Amazon

     

    9.  How To Dress Well- Repeat Pleasure

    Buy Repeat Pleasure Amazon

     

    10.  St. Vincent- Digital Witness

    Buy Digital Witness Amazon

     

    11.  TV On The Radio- Careful You

    Buy Careful You Amazon

     

    12.  Hundred Waters- Murmurs

    Buy Murmurs Amazon

     

    13.  D’Angelo & The Vanguard- Another Life

    Buy Another Life Amazon

     

    14.  Real Estate- Crime

    Buy Crime Amazon

     

    15.  Vince Staples- Hands Up

    Buy Hands Up [Explicit] Amazon

     

    16.  Run The Jewels- Oh My Darling Don’t Cry

    Buy Oh My Darling Don’t Cry Amazon

     

    17.  Kendrick Lamar- i

    Buy i [Explicit] Amazon

     

    18.  Sharon Van Etten- Every Time The Sun Comes Up

    Buy Every Time the Sun Comes UpAmazon

     

    19. Mac DeMarco- Goodbye Weekend

    Buy Goodbye Weekend Amazon



  • Mixes By Year: Best of 2014 Volume 3

    Best of 2014 Volume 3 (1/18/15)

    1.  The New Pornographers- Brill Bruisers

    Buy Brill Bruisers Amazon

     

    2.  Ex Hex- How You Got That Girl

    Buy How You Got That Girl Amazon

     

    3.  White Lung- Down It Goes

    Buy Down It Goes Amazon

     

    4.  Spoon- New York Kiss

    Buy New York Kiss Amazon

     

    5.  Future- Benz Friendz (Feat. Andre 3000)

    Buy Benz Friendz (Whatchutola) [Explicit] Amazon

     

    6.  YG- Who Do You Love? (Feat. Drake)

    Buy Who Do You Love? [feat. Drake] [Explicit] Amazon

     

    7.  D’Angelo & The Vanguard- Ain’t That Easy

    Buy Ain’t That Easy Amazon

     

    8.  FKA Twigs- Lights On

    Buy Lights On Amazon

     

    9.  Ariel Pink- Put Your Number In My Phone

    Buy Put Your Number In My PhoneAmazon

     

    10.  Sharon Van Etten- Your Love Is Killing Me

    Buy Your Love is Killing Me Amazon

     

    11.  How To Dress Well- Words I Don’t Remember

    Buy Words I Don’t Remember Amazon

     

    12.  Caribou- Our Love

    Buy Our Love Amazon

     

    13.  St. Vincent- I Prefer Your Love

    Buy I Prefer Your Love Amazon

     

    14.  Mac DeMarco- Salad Days

    Buy Salad Days Amazon

     

    15.  Real Estate- Talking Backwards

    Buy Talking Backwards Amazon

     

    16.  Vince Staples- Blue Suede

    Buy Blue Suede [Explicit] Amazon

     

    17.  Run The Jewels- Angel Duster

    Buy Angel Duster [Explicit] Amazon

     

    18.  Lykke Li- Gunshot

    Buy Gunshot Amazon

     

    19.  Sun Kil Moon- Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes

    Buy Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes Amazon



  • Mixes By Year: Best of 2014 Volume 4

    Best of 2014 Volume 4 (1/18/15)

    1.  The War On Drugs- Under The Pressure

    Buy Under The Pressure Amazon

     

    2.  Swans- Oxygen

    Buy Oxygen Amazon

     

    3.  Ought- The Weather Song

    Buy The Weather Song Amazon

     

    4.  Lydia Ainsworth- Take Your Face Off

    Buy Take Your Face Off Amazon

     

    5.  Ty Segall- Feel

    Buy Feel Amazon

     

    6.  King Tuff- Eyes Of The Muse

    Buy Eyes of the Muse Amazon

     

    7.  Ex Hex- I Don’t Wanna Lose

    Buy Don’t Wanna Lose Amazon

     

    8.  White Lung- I Believe You

    Buy I Believe You Amazon

     

    9.  Iceage- The Lord’s Favorite

    Buy The Lord’s Favorite Amazon

     

    10.  Royksopp & Robyn- Do It Again

    Buy Do It Again Amazon

     

    11.  QT- Hey QT

    *Track not available via Amazon

     

    12.  Sophie- Hard

    Buy Hard Amazon

     

    13.  Rustie- Attak (Feat. Danny Brown)

    Buy Attak (feat. Danny Brown) Amazon

     

    14.  Run The Jewels- Blockbuster Night (Part 1)

    Buy Blockbuster Night Part 1 [Explicit] Amazon

     

    15.  Miguel- Simplethings

    Buy simplethings Amazon

     

    16.  Angel Olsen- Hi-Five

    Buy Hi-Five Amazon

     

    17.  St. Vincent- Prince Johnny

    Buy Prince Johnny Amazon

     

    18.  Real Estate- Had To Hear

    Buy Had To Hear Amazon

     

    19.  Mac DeMarco- Chamber Of Reflection

    Buy Chamber Of Reflection Amazon