Top 10 Albums of the Year: List One

2014 was a bit mixed.  There were releases from reliable bands like The Hold Steady, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Black Keys that fell short. There were highly anticipated and successful comeback albums from Braid, Spoon, Weird Al, and Beck.  There was another wave of punk spearheaded by Joyce Manor, Fucked Up, and The Men. Anniversary reissues dominated.   Merge Records flexed their muscles in both new and old with solid new albums from Bob Mould, Spider Bags, Reigning Sound, and Ex Hex and well-done reissues from seminal Superchunk, Yo La Tengo, The Clientele, and Lambchop albums.

Overall, it seems that everything old is new again. Bands are throwing back to their roots and coming up with new twists on old sounds and formulas.

As I look ahead to 2015, I put together a list of my 10 albums of the year, with some honorable mentions and a playlist of memorable songs.

1. Beck Morning Phase
Morning Phase was so highly anticipated before the release date and, for once, the album actually lived up to the hype. This follow up to 2002’s Sea Change was a revelation. Overall, Morning Phase is a sad album full of quiet emotive moments and descriptively somber lyrics. Songs like “Heart is a Drum” and “Don’t Let It Go” cannot be missed. This album has a place within Beck’s greatest releases.
February + Full Review

2. Ex Hex Rips
As a fan of riot grrrl bands like Sleater-Kinney, I was looking forward to the newest project from Mary Timony (of WILD FLAG, Helium, and others). Rips picked up right where WILD FLAG left off. It is a uproarious, dynamic album with excellent songs like “Waste Your Time” and “War Paint.”  It is modern-day empowerment that never apologizes.
October + Full Review

3. Ryan Adams Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams is consistant. Although he was pegged as an unstable musician early in his career, the most recent run is proof that Adams’ has grown up. This self-titled album has themes of uncertainty and wonder. Stand-out tracks include “Am I Safe,” “Feels Like Fire,” and “Tired of Giving Up” are proof that this toned down version of Adams may be here to stay.
September + Full Review

4. J Mascis Tied to a Star
As a fan of Dinosaur Jr’s less fuzzy material, I was excited to hear a J Mascis solo album. This one makes the Best of The Year list because it walks a thin line between a boring acoustic album and an excitingly intricate acoustic release. Mascis’ talent on guitar and as a songwriter is well-documented and Tied to a Star is a perfectly great album for those with a propensity towards acoustic folk music. Gems include “Every Morning” and “Wide Awake.”
August + Full Review

5. First Aid Kit Stay Gold
Next to my desire to consume powerful grrrl groups is my admiration of ethereal girl groups. First Aid Kit became one of my favorites with the release of The Lion’s Roar in 2012. Their third album, Stay Gold, takes their signature indie-pop sound to the next level. “My Silver Lining” is one of the best tracks of the year.
June + Full Review

6. Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin
Bob Mould cannot (and should not) be ignored. His career has spanned over 30 years and, currently, he is releasing some of his best work. Beauty & Ruin was a follow up to the excellent Silver Age (2012). As an album, it is loud, rocking and fuzzy at times. Song types vary and go from the incredibly catchy (“I Don’t Know You Anymore,” “Hey Mr Grey,” and “Little Glass Pill”) to very beautiful and introspective (“Let the Beauty Be”). It is a great balance of how to age gracefully while staying true to where you’ve been.
June + Full Review

7. Joyce Manor Never Hungover Again
There is a pop-punk resurgence going on and Joyce Manor is part of it. Their excellent Never Hungover Again is 20 minutes long and features incredibly catchy songs such as “End of the Summer” and “Heated Swimming Pool.”
July + Full Review

8. Jack White Lazaretto
This album excelled where The Black Key’s failed. It is a blue-rock explosion with sincere story telling and well-formulated musicianship. There are catchy tunes and accessible ballads about drinking and relationship troubles. I foresee “Just One Drink” becoming a honky-tonk classic.
June + Full Review

9. Spoon They Want My Soul
Spoon continued their run of consistently good albums with They Want My Soul. As their first album in 4 years, they do not forge much new ground. But the album is characteristically Spoon-tastic and shows that the band still has it.
August + Full Review

10. Weird Al Mandatory Fun
Mandatory Fun deserves a mention because, as his first album since 2011, it was preceded by a campaign 8 “viral” videos, building up to the release of the album. It was an example of how to stay relevant without losing your signature musical style. The album contains both original, parody, and polka songs and show that Al continues to be a mainstay in popular culture
July + Full Review

Honorable Mentions:

Conor Oberst’s Upside Down Mountain was another mountain folk from the prolific singer.  While there are some high points (“Common Knowledge” and “Zigzagging Towards the Light”) it is more of the same from Oberst. I quietly await his next foray into a different genres.
May + Full Review

Spider Bags’ Frozen Letter was another great release from Merge in 2014. This one is another sort of punk throwback with songs like “Japanese Vacation.”
AugustFull Review

Reigning Sound‘s Shattered, also released on Merge, was another memorable album of 2014. It combined garage rock, punk rock, and twang.  “Never Coming Home” has an interesting violin-infused melody.
July + Full Review



One response to “Top 10 Albums of the Year: List One

  1. Pingback: Round-up: Looking back at 2014’s best albums + best shows | borrowed nostalgia·

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