I always get intimidated when I decide I want to write something about my favourite albums of the year, mainly it comes from a place where I know I have no credibility, no right to write anything about this music, what do I know? I’m just some guy that really likes listening to it.
This is a list of my favourite albums of 2014, it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a critical review of these albums at all, it’s what I feel about them. Mainly rambling and not being able to express myself properly, but last year I spent weeks writing and writing about the albums, when I read through it, I hated it so much that I just deleted it all and posted a list with nothing else.
So this time, I’m marking it down as an accomplishment that I’ve written something, as bad as it is and posted it, as almost a “fuck you” to my self doubt.
Anyway, here’s the list, there’s a Youtube player with a song so you can check out what the album sounds like:
10. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
If you put Zac De La Rocha on a track, you better believe I’m going to like it. Obviously when the first song I hear from Run The Jewels 2 is “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” I was hooked, I wanted in, I loved it from the first moment I heard it. The rest of the album is just as good as that track.
In a year, where for my personal taste, hip hop wasn’t as great as previous years, this was a standout, a true standout, a beautifully crafted, return to what I think makes hip hop so great.
It was the first album since Kendrick Lamars “Good Kid Maad City” (which yes, I realise was only two years ago) that made the hip hop, in its truest sense feel alive and fresh to me.
Of course Kanye did it with Yeezus last year, but that was a whole different animal, not at all what I would consider to be traditional hip hop.
If you like hip hop and you haven’t heard this yet, do yourself a favour (yes I just Molly Meldrummed you) and have a listen to this, chances are, you’ll love it.
9. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
Modern Baseball make music that makes you feel good, it’s not exactly pop punk, it doesn’t exactly fit into any concrete categories, they fluctuate.
Their first album “Sports” was closer to a pop punk sound than “You’re Gonna Miss It All”, here there are better melodies, cutting lyrics and more of an indie rock feel. Not “indie” as a genre, but indie as the sound of a band making their music independently like so many other local bands before them. A raw sound, of not being afraid of fucking up on the recording, of being honest about how they play.
I can’t wait to see what they do next.
8. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
If you aren’t listening to Sharon Van Etten, then you need to change that. Immediately.
This album starts off fantastic and builds and builds until it the final song, which is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Her voice is so soulful, so beautiful… hell, I don’t even need to write anymore, just start listening to her!
7. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Mended With Gold
I said it after their last album, Paul Banwatt is the best drummer in rock music. It’s even more apparent after their latest effort.
Beautiful rock music with pummelling drums, great vocals and excellent writing.
If you love rock music and haven’t had anything good in a while, this is the album to get, perfect for a summer drive, windows down, this flowing out of your speakers.
6. Death Grips – The Powers That B: Disc 1 – Niggas On The Moon
My life over the last 3 years has consisted of more discussions about Death Grips than any other subject I can think of. Much to the disapproval of my wife.
I know one other person who genuinely loves them, everyone else is either angered by them, or just sick of me talking about them.
They’ve broken down everything I’ve ever known about how musicians operate, they’ve broken record contracts, released their music for free, put their dick on an album cover, not showed up to gigs and their fans have trashed everything they can get their hands on, announced a huge tour with NIN and Soundgarden, then very quickly cancelled that tour and announced that they’re breaking up, just after releasing disc 1 of their double album.
They’re a punk band, that don’t make punk rock music.
This album has Bjork samples on every single track and a fury that is unleashed from start to finish. From the opener ‘Up My Sleeves’ which has a chant that feels like it will never end, to the glitch-hell that closes out ‘Big Dipper’ it’s a completely unrelenting listen from the most interesting and experimental band I know.
If Death Grips truly are finished and there’s only one more disc of this album to come out, then I’m not upset, I’m glad that they existed and made their mark.
As I’m writing this blog (I wrote the above part a few days ago) Death Grips have put out a new album, not the second part to this album, but an album full of instrumentals, completely out of nowhere, proving again that they’re the most consistently confusing band that I know of.
5. Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else
The drums are high on this mix, thats the first thing I thought, that bass is incredibly fuzzed out was the second, over the course of the album I fell more and more in love.
When it finished, I went back right away, and again, and again. I couldn’t get enough.
Something here was so raw, so frenzied and frantic. It made me feel happy despite it’s dark and sullen vibes.
It’s short, coming in at 31 minutes, so that makes it far easier to hit repeat and do it all over again.
4. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Here’s something people are always surprised to learn about me, I adore country music, always have, always will.
When I read a review and see the words “the real deal”, I become instantly skeptical, as is my nature (I’m a negative prick that generally just wants to disagree with people for the fun of it).
I ignore the review and due to being a stubborn asshole, I don’t even bother listening.
Months later I keep seeing the name Sturgill Simpson pop up again and again.
Within 5 seconds of listening to the album I was hooked, some of the darkest and strangest lyrics I’ve heard on a country album.
“It Ain’t All Light” closes the album with a psychadelic feel and Sturgill screaming as the intensity of the song picks up. The first time you hear something like this it wrenches your heart and gives you hope that if this kind of music exists, there may be hope for music after all.
Sturgill Simpson is in fact “the real deal”
3. C.W. Stoneking – Gon’ Boogaloo
Megan and I were lucky enough to get tickets to see C.W. Stoneking earlier this year play at St. Michaels Church, no band, just him playing a bunch of new songs, as well as some from the previous two albums, the acoustics of the church and the stage presence was incredible. The new songs were more exciting than the old ones, it was like being transported back in time, watching a master of their craft, do what they do best.
His first album since 2008, my anticipation already quite high, exceeded by miles.
Whilst his previous two albums have been primarily blues based, this album has the sound of the beginnings of rock and roll. Electric guitar dominates the sound with beautiful backing vocals on most tracks.
A truly brilliant artist making authentic music.
2. Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love
In 2013, Iceage put out a solid punk album “You’re Nothing”, I thought it was pretty good, but it didn’t make me fall in love with the band.
On this album, they shed a lot of the punk sound that I was expecting to hear and what I got was something that initially I was confused by. A bunch of different sounds, growls, and a deep sense of dread.
All of which work beautifully together to bring out one of the most stunning releases of the year, certainly the most surprising.
The vocals start as a growl and by the end of the album, sound completely disconnected, yelling, shouting, grunting away like they’re on a whole other planet.
Iceage are a band I’m going to pay attention to, even if it’s just for sheer unpredictability.
1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
13th February 2014 at 7:20am.
I got into my car and decided to give the new Sun Kil Moon a listen on the drive to work. I don’t remember working that day, I don’t remember anything for the next couple of days except for having this album on my mind.
It did something to me, it was like I had been punched in the stomach, knocked to the ground and while down there being kicked repeatedly in the ribs.
The adrenaline, the fear, the excitement of feeling alive.
That feeling that you’re do something you shouldn’t, you know deep within your moral conscience that it’s wrong, but theres a rush, joy from knowing you could be caught at any moment. It was that feeling. Reading someones diary, breaking the lock and devouring the words and secrets on the page.
This won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t heard this album.
I wont lie, I fall in love with albums, a lot. But not like this, I became obsessed, I soaked in the words, genuinely feeling pain and hurt from hearing songs like “Jim Wise” and “Michelene”. Laughing at “Ben’s My Friend” and thinking about the jealousy I also have for my creative and talented friends.
I could write and write and write about this album, but why, there isn’t any need to, this album tells you everything it needs in the hour that it runs.
This is an album that changed me, changed the way I think about music. Albums like this dont come around often, but when they do, they need to be cherished, loved, shared, talked about, quoted, and most of all, listened to.
If you feel like it, let me know what your favourites were!