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2014 Albums of the Year

07 Dec Ask Greg | Comments
2014 Albums of the Year

It’s that time of year again! My favorite musical releases of 2014.
There were a lot of solid releases this year, with only a few real standouts to me. Not to say that there weren’t a ton of fun albums, it’s more of the amount of solid albums almost created a bit of a logjam. 7 8 9 on my list could have easily been replaced by something off the Runners Up list.

One reoccurring theme for me this year was the quest for organic sounds and compositions. I feel like there are just too many albums coming out that are just fake on a lot of levels. I’m gravitating towards older, more natural sounding productions. Additionally, 2014 was the year of the lyric for me. I spent a lot of time really digging into the craft of lyricism. It’s been an interesting journey.

As always, here is the link for the previous year’s list.

10. Shellac Dude Incredible
Hard to get more organic than an Albini production. Open, noisy, weird, mathy, and fun. Those tones are out there, and the arrangements are ridiculous. It’s great.

9. S.Carey Range of Light
Justin Vernon’s percussionist has a couple of really creative experimental folk records under his belt now. It’s percussive, layered, expressive, and killer moody experience. It took me a few listens to really “get it”, but it’s really grown on me, the deeper I get into it.

8. TychoAwake
The perfect winter night driving album. Lush tones that blend acoustic and electronica. I don’t normally dig into records like this, but it’s just a wonderfully fun listen.

7. Brontide Artery
These guys are doing the heavy math rock thing right. Instead of ONLY focusing on riffs, they actually write AWESOME songs, with wicked riffs. The production is huge, and the mood of the record is perfect. It’s almost like they took the really tight sounds of Russian Circles, and tossed out the experimental ethereal sounds. Love it.

6. MastodonOnce More Around the Sun
This one surprised me. I had pretty much given up on Mastodon. The last couple records bummed me out. Being as I was such a fan of these guys for a long time, I’ll always give them a spin. To my surprise this album killed. Awesome riffs, slick production, and killer songs. It’s not quite what they were (which is certainly fine), it’s just a big modern rock record.

5. David BazanMonthly
Bazan is becoming quite the prolific songwriter. In attempt to always be doing something different, he opted to record and release 2 songs a month for 5 months, instead of the traditional album. The collection of songs is absolutely awesome. Impermanent Record may be one of my favorite songs of the year. So terrific.

4. Cloudkicker Little Histories
We’re a few years deep of Ben Sharp having a release in my top 10. His balance of that heavy post rock sound with insane riffage, and almost 3D productions is just exactly what I want from that genre.

3. Minus The BearLost Loves
Most bands would kill to have a cutting room scraps like this, let alone an album’s worth of songs that didn’t make it into previous records. It’s cool to hear song of these hidden gems, and oddly enough, the random collection made for a pretty killer record.

1b. The Life & Times Lost Bees
This record is just incredible. I can’t call it the 2nd best of the year, because my top two are essentially interchangeable. The production swings between layered / ethereal, to huge and brooding. There are the signature chord changes, mathy riffs, and massive beats. This almost feels like a modern ‘classic rock’ album. Absolutely perfect.

1a. Ryan Adams Ryan Adams
2014 was the year of Ryan Adams for me. I’ve casually given him spins over the years, but 2014 was when it clicked. I have listened to his catalog more than any other artist this year. His self titled release was apparently EXACTLY what I needed. Lush organic production with some meticulously written songs. I am shocked it’s on the list, let alone sharing the number 1 spot. It’s just so incredibly good.

Runners Up
You + Me – Rose Ave
Dallas Green and Pink make a folk rekkid. Solid.

Royal Blood – S/T
2 piece drum and bass hard rock band. Smart songs.

Ty Segall – Manipulator
Awesome fuzzy garage rock record. Crazy production.

Spacesuit – S/T
The Life and Times side project. Slow spacey jams.

Beck – Morning Phase
Beck? Oh yea. Solid, primarily acoustic record.

The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
Possibly my favorite opening to an album this year. The first two tracks punch.

Tilts – Quatro Hombres
Modern VH and Led Zeppelin. Just a rocking jammer. Fun.

Spoon – They Want My Soul
Just a smart fun indie rock record.

Owls – Two
Stringy, mathy, technical followup by a collection of amazing chicago musicians.

From the Petrified Forest – Neon on the Inside
Proggy riff rock with a touch of the midwest sound.

Nothing – Guilty of Everything
Modern heavy indie rock heavily influenced by shoe gaze.

Best Local Releases
Cut Teeth – Night Years
Loud, fast, heavy alt punk picking up where the 90’s left off. LOVE THIS ALBUM.

Justen Hamilton – Year One
Acoustic indie folk for fans of Bright Eyes.

Weye – CasterlyROCK!
Game of Thrones influenced math rock. Piglet meets Russian Circles.

To Destroy a City – Sunless
Ambient, experimental, electronic soundscapes.

Vaya – S/T
Tappy dancey indie rock from Chicago.

Honorable Mentions:
Owen – Other People’s Songs
Molly McGuire – III
National Skyline – Love Letters for the Disenchanted
Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You
Circa Survive – Descensus
Opeth – Pale Communion
Manchester Orchestra – Cope
Prawn – Kingfisher
Arctic Sleep – Passage Of Gaia
St. Vincent – S/T
Roma 79 – Cardinal Star

Biggest Disappointment
Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
Kinda surprised by this one. I don’t think it’s possible for me to love the HBO show more than I do, but I’m mostly underwhelmed by the album. The songs are a bit long in the tooth, and just never really get to the point. There are some cool moments, but I think I just may have set my expectations too high.

Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End
I know better. Every time they put out an album, people call it ‘the best thing since pinkerton’. I get suckered in every damned time. This just didn’t do it for me.


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