Before, during or after looking at my lists, check out What’s Good In 2014. I listened to a ton of music this year, and that’s more or less all of what stuck. Be sure to share what you liked or anything I might’ve missed in the comments!
I love the transition from s / s / s to Sisyphus, because it only makes it more likely for someone to stumble across this collaboration between Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux, and Serengeti. Blending the compositional whimsy and subdued delivery Stevens is known for with Son Lux’s penchant for atmosphere and Serengeti’s unique flow creates exactly the sort of fusion record 2014 deserves. It’s art. The melodies aren’t hooks, but they’ll stick with you, and the lyrics are emotional without being over the top. If you have an interest in hip-hop but don’t live that trap lifestyle, this might be more your speed.
In my review of this album, I said that it makes “favorite band” a reasonable thing to call The American Scene, and I just wanted to reiterate that sentiment. Haze is a true album, in that its songs greatly benefit from hearing them all together, even though most are pretty great on their own. The record might not be quite as good as the masterwork that is Safe For Now, but that can’t possibly be a strike against it. There’s a lot of sonic exploration in play here, and Matt Vincent continues to play into the strengths of his voice. Seriously, just go listen to this band. Please.
Emotional and cohesive, this album takes heartbreak and how people cope with it and expresses it masterfully through the eyes of a fictional character. Although the concept might get in the way at points (see: Aaron West live performances), it’s easy enough to overlook when songs like “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe,” “Divorce And The American South,” and “You Ain’t No Saint” are all on the same record. I can’t wait to listen to this throughout the winter, and if the next album from The Wonder Years has anything close to what Dan Campbell has shown he’s capable of here, everyone should be excited.
It’s almost insane to think of how prolific and consistent Conor Oberst has been over his career. Upside Down Mountain will likely end up standing as one of my top three or four Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes records, which speaks volumes of this album’s quality. Serving as maybe the most summery thing he’s put out, Upside Down Mountain feels like the true successor to his 2008 self-titled release in spirit and tone. The lyrics are as strong as ever, and the album just continues to grow. So great.
From the first time I heard this album in January, I knew that it would be a contender to top my year-end list. Almost a full twelve months later, I still find Heavy Head as masterfully written and emotionally impactful as I did last winter. In a year where over half of my top ten favorite artists released something new, this debut never really loosened its grip on the position it deserves. From “Pennsylvania” to “Sunday Mornings,” there’s nothing but quality from this Pure Noise Records supergroup. Check this record out.
11. From Indian Lakes – Absent Sounds
12. La Dispute – Rooms Of The House
13. Yellowbirddd – Centinela
14. Mimicking Birds – Eons
15. Merriment – Sway
16. Anberlin – Lowborn
17. Twin Forks – Twin Forks
18. Nick Santino – Big Skies
19. Manchester Orchestra – Cope
20. Mike Mains & The Branches – Calm Down, Everything Is Fine
Also, Speak Low If You Speak Love‘s Everything But What You Need came out last December, so I didn’t have enough time to rank it appropriately on my 2013 lists. It’s a really great record, and Pure Noise Records is rereleasing it in early 2015. You should probably acquaint yourself with it before that happens.
Top 5 EPs:
1. The Color And Sound – Peace Of Mind
2. Sucré – Loner
3. The Icarus Account – Girls Like You
4. Select Start – Apologetics
5. Sleeping At Last – Atlas: Land
Top 10 Songs:
1. “Throw Me To The Wolves” – Elder Brother, from Heavy Head
2. “Brushfire” – The Color And The Sound, from Peace Of Mind
3. “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” – Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties, from We Don’t Have Each Other
4. “Royal Blue” – The American Scene, from Haze
5. “I Wanna Get Better” – Bleachers, from Strange Desire
6. “West” – Sleeping At Last, from Atlas: Land
7. “Magic” – Coldplay, from Ghost Stories
8. “Hundreds Of Ways” – Conor Oberst, from Upside Down Mountain
9. “Woman (Reading)” – La Dispute, from Rooms Of The House
10. “Breathe, Desperately” – From Indian Lakes, from Absent Sounds
I listened to over 4,200 songs this year, be sure to check out my top 25 in this convenient Spotify playlist:
Best Album Art: Coldplay – Ghost Stories
This album art is perfect for the music. Intricate, subdued, and symbolic.
Favorite Live Show: Anberlin at The Norva in Norfolk, VA, 11/6/14
I hate that one of my favorite bands is breaking up and no one will be able to see how truly special they are ever again, but I’m really glad I got to see them this final time.
Biggest Surprise: You+Me – Rose Ave.
This wasn’t one of the year’s best albums, but its existence was a huge surprise. It’s nice to hear P!nk just sing without all of the pop frills or excessive attitude, and her voice fits with Dallas Green’s pretty well. Can’t complain about that at all.
Biggest Disappointment: Chiodos – Devil
Chiodos put on such an incredible show at Warped Tour 2013, but this album simply didn’t quite reach the level that was expected out of this lineup. Devil simultaneously plays it too safe and tries too hard, and the few moments of greatness are outweighed by the parts that fall short. Maybe the next album can get the band back on course?
Best New Discoveries:
1. The Color And Sound
2. The Hotelier
3. Mike Mains & The Branches
4. The Honey Trees
5. James Vincent McMorrow
1. Modest Mouse
2. Kanye West
4. John Mayer
5. I The Mighty
6. Twenty One Pilots
7. Hands Like Houses
8. Fall Out Boy
9. Pierce The Veil
10. Passion Pit
Oh, and if you’ve ever got like fifteen and a half hours to kill, here’s almost everything I liked this year, in one handy playlist: