2014 Year End Music Review – My Favorite Albums

I’ve put together two mixes of my some of my favorite 2014 songs (and I’m hoping to get one more in, we’ll see)  and you can view those posts and get the links to the mp3s of the mixes here and here.  Today, I’ll give my thoughts on my favorite albums of 2014.  Some of these will be familiar to those of you who’ve been scouring the myriad year end lists on your favorite music sites.  A few others I didn’t see mentioned.  In no particular order:

1. Mac DeMarco, Salad Days.  I feel like this album is great to throw on when you have people over and want something fun, even, and not too harsh.  There’s a definite sonic blueprint that ranges across all the songs that makes that even sound, but there’s enough variation to keep me coming back and Mac has some good lyrics if you pay attention.  Saw him for the first time at the Fonda Theater this fall and he’s a great showman as well as putting out consistent rock albums.  The title track and Goodbye Weekend were two of my favorites.

2. St. Vincent, St. Vincent.  The album I listened to the most this year by far.  My wife loves this album and with good reason.  Like DeMarco, she had a plan for the feel of this album and it’s the pace of the album is always moving forward.  Annie Clark’s guitar work is stellar and some of the flourishes with horns and other instruments adds to the texture of these songs.  The first half of the album is a murder’s row of really good to great songs, including one of my top 3 songs of the year in Huey Newton.

3. Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso.  Probably the second most-listened to album of the year for me.  The reason I liked this, it was a fresh sound.  Taking pixie-like female vocals with bumping beats doesn’t sound like anything new, but I thought this was one of the most original albums of the year.  Opener Hey Mami starts with a stripped down vocal and some handclaps and builds with some booming bass lines.  Nick Sanborn really creates some great beats on this album and Amelia Meath’s voice matches up perfectly with them.  In addition to Hey Mami, Coffee, and Wolf are standouts.

4.  Neneh Cherry, Blank Project.  It was a good year for female artists this year.  This one I didn’t see on any best of lists, but I thought that Cherry’s first solo album in 18 years was a really well done album.  It came out around the same time as St. Vincent’s album and I thought there was a similar fierceness though Cherry’s album is a little bit more of a slow burn than Clark’s.  Cherry still has a nice, breathy voice that hearkens to a lounge artist and her recent collaboration with jazz trio The Thing seems to have influenced some of the music that accompanies her here.

5. Todd Terje, It’s Album Time.  I wasn’t familiar with Todd Terje, but after reading a glowing review when this came out, I took a flyer.  The DJ’s first proper album has a tongue-in-cheek title and there’s a whimsical feel throughout.  At the same time there’s an alien, outer spacey vibe.  In fact, this album was a perfect soundtrack to a surprise trip for friends out into the desert to go to a soundbath (which is a fun experience in of itself).  A cohesive first-off electronic album is hard to do, I can’t remember a better debut album effort in this genre since the Chemical Brothers’ first album.

6. Ty Segall, Manipulator.  My favorite rock album of the year, this album is chock-full of really good garage rock.  It reminded me of driving on the Pacific Coast Highway, you round a corner and think this is the best view ever and then drive on and think the same thing around the next corner.  With Manipulator, it’s this is such a great riff and song, and then you get to the next song and think the same thing all over again.

7.  Moon Hooch, Moon Hooch.  Two saxophones and a drummer doesn’t sound like it could create much variety, but you’d be wrong.  This album rocks hard and it’s one of those albums that you’ll find hard to stay seated while listening.  I’ve heard they put on a great live show and feeling the energy they put out on this album, I believe it.

There were a ton of other great releases this year, here’s a few others I’d recommend if you didn’t check them out yet: Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots, Parquet Court’s Sunbathing Animal, Run the Jewel’s Run The Jewels 2, Perfume Genius’ Too Bright, John Talabot’s DJ Kicks entry, Caribou’s Our Love, Ex Hex’s Rips.  Two other albums that probably would have made my favorites list above but I haven’t had a chance to really listen to them enough to put them in the list were Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah.

2014 was a good year for albums, hopefully 2015 will bring more of the same.


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