Hey there readers, DJ Expensive Haircut here, AKA Trevor Morrison, the WHUS Music Director. It’s that time of year again – the second annual Best Of 2014 blog post! Last year’s was a success, so I thought that I’d try it again. This is a collection of lists from WHUS staff members detailing their favorite records/songs/items of the year and hopefully it will help you find some of your unknown favorites of the year.
There are definitely a few that happened to pop up on many DJs lists, such as the fantastic Run The Jewels 2 by Run The Jewels, as seen over there on the side. Other great albums that were represented include Saintseneca’s Dark Arc, Swans’ To Be Kind, Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days, Alex G’s DSU & Mitski’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek. Make sure to look out for those below!
Joel Atkinson – Fake Elevator Music
- Wild Beasts – Present Tense
- Alvvays – s/t
- Spoon – They Want My Soul
- Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
- The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
- Merchandise – After the End
- Lunchbox – Lunchbox Loves You
- Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
- Mike Adams At His Honest Weight – Best of Boiler Room Classics
- Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused
- Protomartryr – Under Color of Official Right
- TOPS – Picture You Staring
- Devon Williams – Gilding The Lily
- Klaus Johann Grobe – Im Sinne Der Zeit
- Nick Krgovich – On Sunset
- Pure X – Angel
- Marissa Nadler – July
- Earth – Primitive and Deadly
- Beverly – Careers
- Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head
Amy Bleasdale – La Bella Voce
Favorite New Albums of 2014
Saintseneca- Dark Arc
Tiny Ruins- Brightly Painted One
Tennis – Small Sounds
Sylvan Esso- Sylvan Esso
Sharon Van Etten- Are We There
Marissa Nadler- July
Angel Olsen- Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Favorite Old Albums Discovered in 2014
Todd & Paul Boudreau – Uncle Todd & The Captain, Tangled Roots
14 Best Americana/Alt-Country Albums of 2014:
Mitch Britton – DJ
Temples – Sun Structures
Chris Colgan – DJ
- Mac Miller, Faces: This mixtape was absolutely incredible, and showcased how well Mac has evolved as both a producer and a rapper and I fell in love with every track on it. It may not be lyrically or production wise the absolute best, but it was my favorite project of the year and I love it dearly.
- Mac Demarco, Salad Days: I’ve never heard a project from Mac Demarco that I outright didn’t like, but this might be his best work yet. What can I say, I’m a sucker for relaxing psychedelic rock and this is absolutely wonderful.
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Piñata: Easily my favorite hip hop album of 2014, Madlib has been a legend for quite some time and Freddie Gibbs is one of the most underrated rappers I can think of. This was an overall masterpiece with incredible production that showed a new side of “Gangsta Gibbs” as he broke from the trap beats to make my absolute favorite project of his with one of the greatest producers hip hop’s ever seen.
- Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo: Called a demo for some reason, this 14 track album is perfect. Isaiah Rashad in my mind is perfect. He’s never released anything that wasn’t awesome and his clever lyricism is often overlooked because he lives in the shadow of Kendrick Lamar. Personally, I like him better, and this demo might be my favorite project out of Top Dawg Entertainment. From the production to the lyrics to the flow to the meanings behind each track there really is nothing I don’t like about it, and that’s pretty cool.
- Spoon, They Want My Soul: Spoon has always been one of my favorite bands, and this album did not disappoint. My favorite part of Spoon is that they always have really random sounds at points, such as the chaotic guitar in “The Beast and Dragon Adored” from Gimme Fiction, and this album definitely lived up to that and it made me happy.
- Travi$ Scott, Days Before Rodeo: I consider Travi$ Scott a better version of new Kanye West, and this free album that prequels his upcoming “Rodeo” is a perfect mix of my favorite aspects of hip hop. He’s got meaningful lyrics at times, ignorance at others (borderline stupidity), incredible production by Scott himself and others such as Kanye West and Lex Luger, and I just think he’s cool as hell.
- Beck, Morning Phase: Beck is my hero. He is my absolute favorite musician ever. I saw him and I cried. This album was by no means his best, but it was a wonderful indie folk project that reminded me a little of his previous Mutations.
- Pro Era, The Shift EP: Although this EP was only released censored for whatever reason, it was sick. Everyone in Pro Era is an absolute lyrical monster, with people like Joey Bada$$ and Kirk Knight dropping some of the craziest bars in the history of time on a regular basis. The Shift was an awesome name for this project as well, because it represented the Era’s transition from their solely classic hip hop style to a hybrid of the new age and the classics that is super unique.
- Run the Jewels 2: First things first: Killer Mike is the boss. He and EI-P have such chemistry together and they create an incredibly unique sound. I got so amped while listening to this album for the first time that I had to stop everything I was doing and freak out about it a little, it was that good.
- Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots: Damon Albarn is the man. He’s collabbed with literally everyone from Lou Reed to MF Doom to Flea to Danger Mouse to Jack White to I could go on for days. He also is the man behind Gorillaz, which is one of my favorite music acts ever. This album, while abstract and kind of sad, was another classic and creative project that only Damon Albarn could produce. It reminded me of somber songs from Gorillaz, and I loved it.
Louie Durango – DJ Famous Warrior, Loullapalouza
Favorites From 2014:
Alex G – DSU
Alvvays – Alvvays
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Freddie Gibbs/Madlib – Piñata
The Gotobeds – Poor People are Revolting
Grouper – Ruins
Happyness – Anything I Do is All Right/Weird Little Birthday
How to Dress Well – What is This Heart?
Julian Casablancas + the Voidz – Tyranny
LVL UP – Hoodwink’d
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek
Nana Rubye – Good For Me
Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right
Run the Jewels – RTJ2
Slonk Donkerson – Watching Every Channel At Once
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time!
Twin Peaks – Wild Onion
Two-Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
White Lung – Deep Fantasy
The Yolks – Kings of Awesome!
Taylor Falk – DJ Try Hard, Secret NASA
This is a ranked list of the albums I’ve enjoyed this year, number one being my album of the year, and number ten being my tenth best album of the year. Albums ten through six will be only commented on briefly in the interest in space and time, because no one wants to hear me blather about music for too long. Five through number one will be a little more thorough and you can judge me a little harder.
10. Swans – To Be Kind
A serious commitment to listen to, but I knew it would make an impression on me after the first song. Powerful and dynamic, worth setting two hours aside to experience. Favs: “A Little God in my Hand”
- Spoon – They Want My Soul
Very easy to listen to, very catchy. This band put together a poppy but uninvasive album, that welcomes you into its space and hangs out with you for a while. It’s like when you’re feeling kind of down and your friends invite you to come over out of nowhere. Favs: “Inside Out” “Do You”
- Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
This album starts with a directive, “Now Hear In,” and it’s a command to be taken seriously. Cloud Nothings pack in whallop of emotion and energy into eight songs. Lyrics also catchy enough for me to repeat “I’m not a part of me” ad nauseum. Favs: “Psychic Trauma” “I’m Not a Part of Me”
- Future Island – Singles
An incredible pleasant voice laid upon breezy instrumentals to a thick growling over more powerful chords, Singles is so easy to listen to over and over. Check out their performance on Letterman to see great lead-singer-gesticulating-on-TV action (no really). Every song deserves a mention, but I’ll begrudgingly narrow it down. Favs: “Seasons (Waiting on You)” “Doves”
- Alex G – DSU
So I saw this crazy dude on my birthday, surrounded by friends, as his unpolished but shimmering tunes crept through the air of a crowded church dance room. It was magical, and I felt the same magic when I heard this album months earlier. Worth a listen if you’re ever feeling angsty and a little confused (see: everyone all the time). Favs: “Harvey” “Skipper”
Now for some serious fangirling and evaluation.
- White Lung – Deep Fantasy
First off, I have a deep fantasy about seeing/touching/smelling/wearing the same clothes as any member of this band. Raw energy collides with raw energy to multiply and explode with more energy. Vocals are clear, guitars are fuego, drums incessantly good. Listening to this album for me is a trip, and it really fills me with an intense warmth. Most songs off start with a gentle introduction, totally betray the cacophony that ensues in the coming 120 seconds. There exists a formula, but its never repetitive, and each song has a little quip that really leaves an impression, whether its “Don’t make a sound” or “I’m a dying breed!” Total recommendation to anyone, even if they don’t like punk or loud noises, this might be the trick to convert you. Favs: “Lucky One” “Face Down.”
- Twin Peaks – Wild Onion
Stop whatever you’re doing right now, which is reading this, and go listen to “Making Breakfast” (http://youtu.be/tl9SRsPbWLM). Not only is this the catchiest song I’ve heard in months, these dudes are total cuties. I’ve managed to infect it to most of my friends, and I hope you manage to do the same. To be honest, I could probably fit this song all by itself somewhere on this list, I think it’s really that good.
The rest of the album is more and more feel-good jams, the optimism that these guys bring to their music is almost palpable. These dudes must be so much fun to hang out with, and I totally missed a chance them play on a rooftop in the middle of Brooklyn, which makes me sort of sad (Cops suck). Wild Onion is sticky with nostalgia and positivity, and not in the way sticky feels when you grab that gum off the bottom of the table. Its much more like when you make a peanut butter and honey sandwich and the sugar crystallizes together to make some sort of unhealthy amalgamation of taste and feel goodiness. Definitely that. Favs: “Making Breakfast” “Making Breakfast” “I Found a New Way”
- How To Dress Well – What is this Heart?
If Twin Peaks are a feel good band, How to Dress Well are a feel feel band. Every song, note, word is soaked front to back with emotion. What secures this albums spot so high is not only the sheer number of times I listened to it to try and evaluate the emotions in the song, but the number of times I had to listen in order to identify the emotions I was feeling within myself. A lot of being an adult I’ve found is learning to reconcile your own feelings with your goals and reality. The truth in this album just touched me on such a personal level that it easily jumped the ranks to the number three spot.
The fourteen track album is long and varied, but each song really is its own package of ideas and feelings. There’s sadness, depression, longingness, you name it. One of my favorite tracks is, take a deep breath, “Childhood Faith In Love (Everything Must Change, Everything Must Stay The Same).” The rhythm builds and builds, and the quick speaking gentle voice really catches my ear and hooks me well. The chorus, at this point I know all too well, is too catchy not to sing along to. The vocal modulation and layering that shows up and here and there as well as the high pitched singing just feels like someone is bearing their heart to me. Passionate and complex, a big favorite of mine this year. Favs: “Childhood faith in Love…” “Repeat Pleasure” “Words I Don’t Remember”
- Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
A sophomore performance just a year later by one of the most powerful duos of 2013. And they still have it. And they know it. And they know it so well they’re soon returning to make a third attempt at perfection, the former two (RTJ and RTJ2) falling just close. Half politically charged, half deserved bragging, these eleven tracks go about as hard as anything that has happened in 2014. Featuring some fantastic guests, as well as stellar production by El-P, the beats on this album are relentless but not overpowering of the all important message (looking at you, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” that beat switch is nuts).
In terms of rapping, both Killer Mike and El-P have spent years and years perfecting their art, and this final product is gleaming in terms of wordsmithing. The messages are generally darker this time around, it’s clear that these two are not just hear to brag about the copious quantity of dome and weed they have, but also the injustice they can see around them. Of course, this album is held back in its greatness by its context. Would we find this album as good if Run the Jewels hadn’t made as big a splash as it did last year? Who knows. No matter what though, the next installment promises to be even more important to more than just the world of music. I look forward to, hopefully, writing about it next year. Favs: “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)”
- A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent
Personally, when a new album pops up that I like, I really try to limit my exposure. I’ll listen to it two or three times, but generally leave it alone. The reason why is that I was once a young boy who liked to listen to his favorite albums over and over. On repeat. For weeks. And because of this, there are particular albums from my tween years I abhor having to sit through.
Sea When Absent was different. I could feel it was different. This album arrived on my (figurative) doorstep mid-summer, and it was a dream. I had it on repeat for weeks at a time. I couldn’t stop talking about it. Even now (even at the time of writing) I will sit down and listen to it again and find myself enlightened by the end, yet still wanting more. Wanting another listen. Every bright note, every shoegazey chord, every ghostly lyrics ringing in my ears fills me with an almost indescribable euphoria.
There are tracks on this album that make me happy: “Minor Keys,” “In Love With Useless.” But, if this is my Album of The Year, then “Golden Waves” is my Song of The Album of The Year (SOTAOTY, “soh-toh-tee”). Noise evolving into joy, chaos into happiness, climax into happiness. i find myself waking up in the morning with this song singing in my head. I want to pull a Julie Andress and stand on a grassy knoll so I can twirl around to this song. “Golden Waves” to me means instantaneous joy.
But, I think all of the emotions are on a personal level. Reading around, this album has been forgotten by more than a handful of popular music sites, I, however, knew it would be hard to top after the first listen. What I hope you’ll do, as the eager reader of this music review, will sit down and listen to this album. Gently recline on a chaise lounge and share in some of the bliss that Sea When Absent gave to me.
As an honorable mention, please go and listen to the Girlpool EP, those two girls are fantastic.
Susan Forbes Hansen – Sunday Night Folk Festival, Folk Director
2014 CDs by better-known (IMHO) artists:
Mark Erelli: Milltowns (self-released) His well-thought-out tribute to his mentor and friend, the late Bill Morrissey
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn: Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder) A variety of banjo-based pieces by two banjo-virtuosi
Eliza Gilkyson: The Nocturne Diaries (Red House Records) Just nominated for a Grammy. Eliza continues to write and record fresh songs about classic subjects
Grace Griffith: Passing Through (Blix Street) Possibly Grace’s final recording — she’s been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease for several years. She includes traditional pieces as well as songs by Jennifer Cutting, Emmylou Harris, Rick Kemp (Steeleye Span), Laurie Lewis.
Ben & Ellen Harper: Childhood Home (Concord Music Group) Ben’s famous for his music, and it’s clear that his mother Ellen has passed along some solid genes.
Laurie Lewis / Tom Rozum / Nina Gerber: One Evening in May (Spruce and Maple) From a concert recorded at Freight & Salvage in San Francisco; excellent performances, terrific new songs from Laurie.
Parsonsfield: Afterparty EP (Signature Sounds) They started at UConn (as Poor Old Shine), and soon they’ll be on Broadway in “The Heart of Robin Hood.” Their energy and inventiveness and love of old music all shine through.
VARIOUS: Dear Jean [Tribute to Jean Ritchie] (Compass) Made while Ritchie is still around to know how much she’s appreciated; includes CT performers Sally Rogers and Howie Bursen and Nashville’s Kathy Mattea, among many.
VARIOUS: Looking into You [Tribute to Jackson Browne] (Music Road Music) Fine renditions of Browne’s songs by such performers as Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Indigo Girls, Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson and 18 more.
2014 CDs by lesser-known artists:
American Nomad: Country Mile (self-released) Laurie Lewis produced this well-written, well-played trad / roots / based CD
Eden Brent: Jigsaw Heart (Yellow Dog) New to me, strong performances all around.
Adam Carroll: Let It Choose You (Gypsy Shuffler) Really interesting southern writer.
Hanneke Cassel: Dot The Dragon’s Eyes (self-released) Really interesting northern fiddler. She’s connected to lots of other younger musicians and bands, and has now released a couple of “solo” albums.
Johnsmith: The Longing Road (Blue Pine) Yes, that’s how he writes his name. This is a deep and rich recording of his human and humane songs.
The Magnolia Sisters: Love’s Lies (Arhoolie) Female quartet, “soulful Cajun music with a woman’s heart.”
Grant Peeples: Punishing The Myth (GatorBone Records) I’ve only become aware of Peeples in the past couple of years, and I think he’s an amazing writer.
Roosevelt Dime: Full Head of Steam (self-released) Lively modern take on dixieland and bluegrass and other older musics.
T Sisters: Kindred Lines (self-released) Trio of sisters who sound WONDERFUL together, singing great songs (another one produced by Laurie Lewis).
Truckstop Honeymoon: The Madness of Happiness (self-released) Fascinating odd funny well-put-together songs.
Brendon Field – Within A Hollow Tree
- Beck – Morning Phase
- Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of
- Jackson Browne – Standing In The Breach
- Foxygen – …And Star Power
- Woods – With Light and With Love
- Jack White – Lazaretto
- Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
- Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
- Phish – Fuego
- Jackson C. Frank – Fixin’ To Die
- Foxygen – How Can You Really
- Phish – Devotion To A Dream
- Andrew Bird – My Sister’s Tiny Hands
- Jackson Browne – If I Could Be Anywhere
- Beck – Heart Is A Drum
- Andrew Bird – Frogs Singing
- Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends
- Luluc – Tangled Heart
- St. Vincent – Prince Johnny
- Weezer – Back To The Shack
Ryan King – General Manager, DJ RC King, New Spins
- Saintseneca – Dark Arc
- Future Islands – Singles
- Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
- Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
- Orenda Fink – Blue Dream
- Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Give the People What They Want
- Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
- Ty Segall – Manipulator
- Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
- Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits
Nathan Nye – ALBUMS THAT WERE SICK FROM 2014
Still my favorite band since high school. Every song is crafted with care
Two Humans- Institute of Living
Jason pours his heart out on this record
Tobacco-Ultima ii Massage
more BMSR-esque but still has the classic solo project grit. Fantastic analog textures
The Amphibious Man- Fraternal Curses
Flashlight O- The Truman Show
Beautifully textured recordings from start to finish
High Pop- Holy Smokes!
Lofi but catchy songs, very fun
The Mystery Lights- At Home With The Mystery Lights
Garage rock/psych jams
Naomi Punk- Television Man
Heavy, snotty, a punch in the face where you smile after
Tawny Peaks- In Silver River
Was able to see this band for the first time at their last show. Great time
The Most- Important Things
Jazzy math rock, excellent musicians
Therapy- Act of Contrition
refreshing post-punk, new wave
Black Lips- Underneath the Rainbow
Guerilla Toss- 367 Equilizer
Total chaos but gloriously original. Listen with an open mind
PAWS- Youth Culture Forever
Very emotional band great tunes
Crying- Get Olde/Second Wind
Chiptune that is very approachable and makes you want to dance
Sheer Mag- Self-titled 7″
Dan Manning – Assistant Music Director, DJ ManDanning Nightmare On Coulter Street
TOP ALBUMS OF 2014
Swans- To Be Kind
– Swans are easily one of the best bands currently putting out music. Their sound has transformed and matured over the bands long history and numerous releases. To Be Kind sees the band functioning and performing at arguably their most complete and fulfilled state. The album is truly flawless, a behemoth soundscape full of abrasive, vicious, but also beautiful instrumentation. Michael Gira’s voice floats above the immense wall of sound produced by the other band members, ranging from low growls to full on guttural screams of anguish (see: “Just A Little Boy”, “Oxygen”). The album also has some great grooves, showcasing a much more rhythmic focus than some of the band’s other releases. The repetition of these grooves on tracks like “A Little God in My Hands” and “Screen Shot” engulf and mesmerize the listener, drawing them deeper and deeper into the void of noise Swans has created.
Iceage- Plowing Into the Field of Love
– I fell in love with Iceage when I first heard their debut album New Brigade my freshman year of college. It was raw, it was abrasive, it was fast, it was dark, it was essentially everything I looked for in a punk band. However, their follow-up You’re Nothing disappointed me due its lack of expansion. The band showed very little growth between their first and second release. However, when Plowing Into the Field of Love came out I was floored by how different the band sounded (in a good way). This album has seen the band grow and mature in the most beautiful way possible. The songs maintain the raw energy of their earlier releases while at the same time creating a beautiful soundscape of lush instrumentation and carefully controlled chaos. What struck me most about the album was how up-front singer Elias Rønnenfelt’s lyrics and melodies were. Elias has truly taken on the persona of “frontman” and sings with both a newfound swagger and raw emotional openness unheard on the band’s previous releases.
Sun Kil Moon- Benji
– Mark Kozelek has a certain way of dealing with tragedy: writing an entire album based on personal anecdotes and encounters with death. Benji is that album, and it is beautifully melancholic. Every song is incredibly specific and personal to Kozelek’s own life and experiences. He doesn’t bother pandering to the overarching existential themes that might come out of the stories he tells, he leaves that up to the listener to interpret instead. Thus, this album truly only exists as a catharsis for Kozelek. Every song circles around various people who have died throughout Kozelek’s life, with him recounting and reflecting over his soft fingerpicked classical guitar. The songs are both beautiful and depressing, but are all incredibly well written. The highlight of the album, “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” is a ten-minute long masterpiece of storytelling, with Kozelek reflecting on one of his favorite movies as a kid and how the meanings and images in that movie changed for him throughout his life as he experienced various tragedies and grew more and more melancholic. The song is a culmination of all the other themes, both musically and lyrically, that are present throughout Benji. Overall, the album is a sad, cathartic masterpiece that, although very personal, is very easy to connect and identify with.
Mitski- Bury Me at Makeout Creek
– Mitski’s voice is one of the most beautifully unique voices I’ve heard all year. Her voice and lyrics serve as the centerpiece to the collection of catchy, emotional songs that is Bury Me at Makeout Creek. The tracks range from fuzzed out power pop anthems to much quieter acoustic tracks, on which Mitski rips her heart out of her chest and holds it up for all to see. Every song showcases the emotional openness of Mitski’s lyricism, with her voice varying in intensity from a soft, soothing falsetto to a heart-wrenching scream of anguish (see: “Drunk Walk Home”). The songs on this album will get stuck in your head for weeks on end and make you feel some type of way.
Spit-take- Garbage In My Heart
– I loved this album by CT locals Spit-take for many of the same reasons why I loved Bury Me at Makeout Creek: raw emotion and great, catchy songwriting. Also, it might just be a coincidence that the members of this band are great friends of mine, and listening to this album makes me think of them and all the various musical experiences we’ve all had together up here in Storrs/Willimantic. Regardless of personal bias however, I think that this album really holds its own and does not have a single bad track on it. The songs vary in tempo and sound, ranging from pop influenced punk tunes (“On Yr Birthday”, “Nod Off”) to more mellow, slower tracks (“Like Last Night”, “Skate-Park Kid”). The songwriting is great, with great interplay between the bass, drums, and guitar. You can truly hear the strain and emotion in singer Joe Katz’s vocals throughout the whole album, making this one of the most authentic, heart-felt punk albums I’ve ever heard.
Two Inch Astronaut- Foulbrood
– This might be one of the most recently released albums on my list, since it only came out in mid-November. However, I immediately fell in love with this band’s sound. The album has its heavier moments, with heavily distorted riffs that make you want to bang your head, but it also has slower moments that showcase the band members’ aptitude for their instruments. The slower tracks feature intricate and dissonant guitar parts backed by stick-and-rim drumming reminiscent of bands like Fugazi. The band certainly draws a lot of influence from many Dischord bands, such as Q and Not U and even Fugazi to some extent. However, the songs on Foulbrood are much catchier and more poppy than anything Ian MacKaye has ever put out. It is this balance between heavy, intense instrumentation and poppy, infectious melodies that help to forge Two Inch Astronaut’s unique, powerful sound.
Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 2
– Rap duo Run The Jewels has always been fantastic, from lyricism to production to the intensity of delivery. All of these are true for their second album Run The Jewels 2. Every track on RTJ 2 is intense, political, and features a great cast of features (from Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha to Travis Barker and Gangsta Boo). The lyrics are angry, fiery, and spare no one. Run The Jewels are one of the most prolifically political rap groups out there, addressing issues of race, poverty, and corruption that have only become more prominent and important in light of recent events in the U.S. Everyone is called out, and no fuck boy is safe from the wrath of Killer Mike and El-P.
Cloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else
– Cloud Nothings’ last album Attack On Memory was one of my favorite albums of 2012, and I still consider one of the best albums I’ve heard in the past few years. Although this year’s Here and Nowhere Else does not quite live up to their hard-to-top 2012 album, it still holds its own as a collection of catchy, well-written punk songs. The melodies and riffs are some of the catchiest that frontman Dylan Baldi has ever written. The production is dirty and at times messy, but this only adds to the intensity and raw atmosphere of a lot of the tracks.
St. Vincent- St. Vincent
– Annie Clark is a goddess. Her voice is absolutely beautiful and her guitar playing tops that of many of her contemporaries. St. Vincent is an art-rock masterpiece, equal parts groovy, fuzzy, ambient, and emotional. Clark’s vocals float above a unique variety of instrumentation, ranging from horns and saxophones (see: Digital Witness) to lush atmospheric synth tones (see: Prince Johnny). Songs such as “Huey Newton” start off with beautiful, sweeping synth and pulsing distorted bass, then suddenly break down into a heavy fuzzed-out guitar riff. The transition is unexpected but flawless. St. Vincent leaves the listener guessing, never quite knowing what to expect out a song. The songs are incredibly catchy and beautiful and make you want to dance and also cry. Cry-dance.
John Galm- Sky of No Stars
– John Galm is somewhat of an “emo revival” icon, fronting bands such as Snowing, Street Smart Cyclist, and Slow Warm Death. I was never really into any of his older projects but his most recent release, a solo album full of dreary acoustic songs, absolutely blew me away. The album is about as raw as you can get, and it sounds like it might have been recorded on the voice memo app on an iPhone. However, this bare-bones feel only adds to the songs on the album, and the intense emotion behind them. Many of the songs, if not all, focus on death (much like the Sun Kil Moon record I talked about earlier), and all of them are equally devastating. John Galm’s lyricism is fantastically dreary and depressing and is at its best on the track “Death #1” in which it seems Galm is singing from the perspective of death itself, proclaiming that he is found “in every part of life”. The song concludes with a sort of dark acceptance of death as being an inescapable, integral part of human life, with Galm finding a sad peace in understanding that this is just the way it is, and that he is fine with it.
Honorable Mentions: Protomartyr, Perfect Pussy, Have a Nice Life, The Hotelier, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, Aphex Twin
BONUS: TOP EPs Of 2014
Self Defense Family- Duets
Posture & The Grizzly- Christians and Freemasons Will Kill Me
Sheer Mag- 7”
Trevor Morrison – Music Director, DJ Expensive Haircut, New Spins
A PAINFUL LIST OF 25 RECORDS THAT TICKLED THE CEREBELLUM OF DJ EXPENSIVE HAIRCUT + QUOTES, BLURBS & SNIPPETS
Mustapha’s 2014 list of The Things You Should Have Seen and Heard With Your Appendages
(appropriate for non work consumption by bi-pedal hominids and upper echelon sub-human primates)
# 10.) Everybody knows S#IT F#CK
What can I say? It’s damn catchy and if I saw him in front of Joann Fabrics I’d probably let the little ones square dance to it.
If you look it up, it is in fact true. EVERYBODY knows…
#9.) A little tune about how labor is entitled to all it creates.
#8.) Slayer (check) Angel of Death (check). Banjo (Oh Hell Yeah)
#7.) WHUS Alum, (name redacted)’s home movies.
#6.) If there was one actual song you should huff some paint thinner and watch after you chug a bottle of generic cough medicine on this list it is Aphex Twin’s Daddy (P.S. I will eat your soul. Come to Daddy!!!)
#5.) If you are near water, you can find amphibians, like turtles and frogs; in abundance. This will serve you when your 401(k) drops to zero.
#4.) Bob Marley, founding member of Hair Metal.
#3.) The Prodigy without all that SKREE-ooo-ba-WOO-Doodoo behind it… you can still hear it in your mind, it’s almost drowning out the other weeping noises and that funny voice you hear in the mirror.
#2.) Brian Williams, serious journalist and clunky dumper mudflap enthusiast.
#1.) Every list needs a number one video.
Amy Orlomoski – Bluegrass Café
An alphabetical listing of 2014 Bluegrass favorites from Amy O.:
- BALSAM RANGE – “Five” (Mountain Home)
Solid fifth recording (obviously!) from the 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainers of the Year.
- BLUE HIGHWAY – “The Game” (Rounder)
The 11th recording from a somewhat underrated band – celebrating their 20th year as a band (and with the same band members then and now!)
- MICHAEL CLEVELAND & FLAMEKEEPER – “On Down The Line” (Compass Records)
Would have made my “favorites” list if only for Glenn Gibson’s great version of “Me And My Fiddle.” Michael’s fiddle playing was pretty good on there, too.
- D. CROWE, DOYLE LAWSON, PAUL WILLIAMS – “Standing Tall And Tough” (Mountain Home)
Time has been good to these three long-time friends, sometime bandmates, and absolute legends in the Bluegrass world. Their record is outstanding.
- CROWE BROTHERS – “Forty Years Old” (Mountain Fever Records)
Who doesn’t like brother duet singing?
- THE EARLS OF LEICESTER – “The Earls Of Leicester” (Rounder)
For those of us who didn’t get to experience Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys live on the stage (the band played their last show together in 1969), seeing and hearing this group of Bluegrass all-stars pay tribute to Lester & Earl & the FMBs is an absolute treat.
- HOT RIZE – “When I’m Free” (Ten In Hand Records)
The first studio recording for Hot Rize in nearly 25 years, and really, a dandy.
- JIM & JESSE & THE VIRGINIA BOYS – “Radio Shows” (Rural Rhythm)
Reissued radio shows from 1962, and still a treat to hear.
- DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER – “Open Carefully, Message Inside” (Mountain Home)
New members? Who cares? DLQ always showcases perfect gospel harmonies.
- LAURIE LEWIS & KATHY KALLICK – “Laurie & Kathy Sing The Songs Of Vern & Ray” (Spruce & Maple Music)
These friends and former bandmates pay tribute to the song catalog of some of their Bluegrass heroes: the duo of Vern Williams & Ray Park.
- STEVE MARTIN & THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS with EDIE BRICKELL – “Live” (Rounder)
As a bonus, a DVD of this live show is included with the disc. Bluegrass for those who say, “But I don’t LIKE Bluegrass!”
- SELDOM SCENE – “Long Time…Seldom Scene” (Smithsonian Folkways)
Favorite Scene tunes from the current and former members of this wonderful DC-based band.
- JUNIOR SISK & RAMBLERS CHOICE – “Trouble Follows Me” (Rebel)
Traditional. Just what you’d expect from Junior.
- SPECIAL CONSENSUS & FRIENDS – “Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute To John Denver” (Compass Records)
Who’d a-thunk the music of a folk-country hippie from the 1970s would work so well in the Bluegrass world? This great record contains Denver hits, both large and small, and won a couple of IBMA Awards for Special C back in October.
- SPINNEY BROTHERS – “Tried & True” (Mountain Fever Records)
Just plain great.
- RALPH STANLEY & RALPH STANLEY II – “Side By Side” (Rebel)
Our most-popular request during Radiothon in February was this duo from father and son.
- RHONDA VINCENT – “Only Me” (Upper Management Music)
Kind of an ironic title for a two-CD set from Rhonda with duets featuring Willie Nelson and Daryle Singletary. Still, it’s a fun, well-executed idea for Rhonda to include two CDs – one with Bluegrass songs, the other with classic country selections.
- MISSY WERNER – “Turn This Heart Around” (Self-Produced)
The Ohio-based singer gets better with every recording.
- ROLAND WHITE BAND – “Straight-Ahead Bluegrass” (Self-Produced)
Another Bluegrass legend with a terrific tribute to the traditional sounds of the music.
Christina Palmer – Metal Fortress
2. SlipKnot – Devil n I
5. Nickelback – Million Miles An Hour
8. Islander- Coconut Dracula
9. Obituary- Visions In My Head
10. Volbeat- My Body
Chad Pope – Tidal Lock
2. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Shaine Scarminach – New Spins
Top Ten Records of 2014 (in no particular order)
- Total Control – Typical System
Beta tested and fully debugged, this system might not be new but the code sure is clean. President Obama probably wishes these guys designed the ACA website.
- Naomi Punk – Television Man
Dark and romantic and so grooving it makes me forget they have no bass player (though they might think about trying a different barber next time).
- Mark Kozelek – Benji
It’s kind of like Nixon going to China – only a genuine grouch could write songs as vulnerable and affecting as these. Just let Uncle Mark tell his stories, then we can all go home.
- Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
This record will certainly take you way out but don’t worry: it has the cool summer breeze you want to float away on.
- Gas Chamber – Hemorrhaging Light
No record this year was as self-referential and self-contained – not to mention just plain weird. The perfect soundtrack for your new Lovecraft obsession.
- Caribou – Our Love
The kind of record that makes me think going to a club is a smart idea without making me dumb enough to try it.
- Big Mess – You Are My Special Sunshine
There’s no vocals.
- Cut Hands – Festival of the Dead
A probable approximation of what Remain In Light might have sounded like if David Byrne was a former member of Whitehouse.
- Ritual Mess – Vile Art
Yes I liked the band Orchid. Yes I sold all the records long ago. Thankfully they got together and made it so you only have to buy one to repair your collection. Nice guys.
- John Luther Adams – Become Ocean
No one writes music that sounds more like the world. A true thalassology of sound.
Kyle Schmitz AKA Bojangles – THANK GOD For the UConn Police
- DJ Taye – Overdose on Teklife Vol II
- Machine Girl – WLFGRL
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata
- Swans – To Be Kind
- Various Artists – Next Life [Hyperdub]
- D/P/I – MN.ROY
- Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
- Russel Haswell – 37 Minute Workout
- Napolian – Road To Incursio
- FaltyDL – In The Wild
- Aphex Twin – Syro
- SHXCXCHCXSH – Linear S Decoded
- SD Laika – That’s Harakiri
- DJ Earl & Heavee – Audio Fixx 2
- Young Thug & Bloody Jay – Black Portland
- Alex G – DSU
- Actress – Ghettoville
- Objekt – Flatland
- Ras G – Raw Fruit 2
- Grouper – Ruins
- Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused
- Lee Gamble – Koch
- Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
- Dean Blunt – Black Metal
- Gazelle Twin – Unflesh
- Gucci Mane – Gucci vs Guwop
- The Body – I Shall Die Here
- Kasse Mady Diabate – Kirike
- Holly Herndon – Chorus
- Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba
Johnny Timewarp – The Dark Side Of The Highway
MY NUMBER ONE FAVE ALBUM OF 2014:
-“Weird Al” Yankovic – Mandatory Fun
OTHER FAVE ALBUMS OF 2014 (ALPHABETICAL BY ARTIST):
-The Bloody Jug Band – Murder of Crows EP
-Andrew Delaney – Stricken, Smitten & Afflicted
-Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes
-Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love
-Cookie and Paul Evans Pedersen Jr. – Lines on the Pines
-Ray Price – Beauty Is… (The Final Sessions)
-Puss N Boots – No Fools, No Fun
-The Seldom Scene – Long Time…Seldom Scene
-Various Artists – Looking into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne
Jimmy T – The Sugar Shack
No Particular Order:
Album: Small Town Heroes – Hurray for the Riff Raff
Album: Lazaretto – Jack White
Album: Night Surfer – Chuck Prophet
Album: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – Sturgill Simpson
Songs: Avant Gardener & History Eraser – Courtney Barnett…The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
Songs: All You Have to Do is Dream,Take 2 & Dress it Up, Better Have it All…Bob Dylan & the Band, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Raw
Song: Stand Right By Each Other – Lucinda Williams…Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
Song: Strawberry Fields Forever – La Santa Cecilia…Someday New
Song: I’ll Sing It – Tweedy…Sukirae
Song: Down to the Well – Hard Working Americans…Hard Working Americans
Song: Rose for Rosa Lee – Delta Generators…Get on the Horse
Song: Make a Sound (Like James Brown) – The Grits…Make A Sound
Song: I Ain’t Easy to Love – Candi Staton (with John Paul White & Jason Isbell)…Life Happens
Song: Chippewa – Benjamin Booker…Benjamin Booker
Song: Flying High (With No I.D.) – 7Horse…Songs for a Voodoo Wedding
Song: Rexanimarum – Israel Nash…Israel Nash’s Rain Plans
Book: A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton by Holly George-Warren
Jorge Verde – What?
FAVORITE albums aka “why the east coast is the best coast”
top 10 favs (no order)
Lvl up – Hoodwink’d
– Should’ve been called “Hookwink’d” because every song in this album is catchy af. Ski vacation is the jam.
– Pavement is to the 90s as LVL UP is to the 2010s; what a time to be alive.
Alex G – DSU
– Simple song-writing that captures the real delicate emotions of every teen/adult teen in this country. I guess it’s not shameful to be sad anymore.
Mitski – bury me at makeout creek
– Her voice is enticing enough that it separates her from the likes of every other contemporary pop artist. It’s very strong and well-trained but doesn’t sound like anyone else making music right now, which is what puts her at the top of singer-songwriting IMO.
Trash kit – confidence
– What I like about this album: it’s just guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and zero bullshit (no yucky effects!). It’s straight to the point and destructive, ooof. ;3. Fans of Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill, and Life Without Buildings will enjoy this.
Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right
– This album presents some of the best/most energetic rhythm sections (bass and drums) of the year- listen to “ain’t so simple” to get an idea of what I’m talking about. They make the song-writing process seem effortless.
Swans – to be kind
– The best way to listen to this album is to lock yourself in your room, turn off the lights, and lay down facing upward, letting all the despair in your body loose for the entirety of this album.
Luluc – passerby
– Two people creating folk music with the resources they have, which consists of an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and their ever so majestically unique voices. Authentic and loveable.
Pharmakon – bestial burden
– You either get it or you don’t. Don’t force it. The album demonstrates a type of violent sense of anger that lives within each of us but isn’t always released, due to certain limitations. This sort of mania has been shown in the works of Swans in the 70s and 80s, and throbbing gristle. Each sound is strategically placed to model the darkness of life. These different songs shouldn’t be taken for granted as just “noise” but instead cherished as some of best arranged works of this year.
Parkay Quarts – content nausea
– Authentic rock n roll. Lyrics of the dystopian world Huxley predicted we’d live in. This album presents a more experimental approach to their song-writing techniques. It’s rather messy and primitive, but that’s what’s so great about it!
PC Worship – Social Rust
– A bunch of different types of noises made in this album. They all blend so nicely; it’s music to my ears (sickening, but still can’t get over it). Progressions in this are standard in rock music but these songs are still entertaining. the noisey/screechy guiar leads take over each song and give it real personality.
institute – salt ep
ariel pink – pom pom
peaer – the eyes sink into the skull
interior 27 – demo
nothing – guilty of everything
florida – waste of time
Zach Weinberg – Assistant Production Director, Birdboy, The Soundabout & New Spins