If you’ve happened upon this blog post via the home page, you may notice that, until now, the most recent post had been from June. Various factors contributed to my hiatus, not least of which was a lack of motivation.
While I’m still battling said dearth, I would’ve regretted not putting out some sort of Best of 2014 list. It’s something I look forward to every year, and I know my reader(s) feel the same way.
Unfortunately, since my music listening has been sporadic at best the past several months, this list will be anything but comprehensive. As of this summer, I’d only had a few albums and songs on my running end-of-the-year list. But there has been plenty of music that has piqued my interest since then, and it deserves some sort of recognition.
So, here goes nothing …
By June, I had written about three bands that I figured were worthy of year-end praise.
- Run River North – Run River North … Favorite song: “Lying Beast” … My penultimate post this spring was on a band that I remain ecstatic about. This group of six Korean-Americans channeled their inner Of Monsters and Men and put out of the year’s best albums — even if no one is actually talking about them right now.
- Highasakite – Silent Treatment … Favorite song: “Leaving No Traces” … Released in April, this Norwegian outfit’s first full-length album has been criminally overlooked on most end-of-the-year lists. It’s jam-packed with songs that evoke comparisons to Lykke Li and First Aid Kit but also stand out on their own.
- Bad Things – Bad Things … Favorite song: “Caught Inside” … This is the indie group best known as snowboarder Shaun White’s side project. The album doesn’t necessarily have any standouts, but put together, they form an album that is at least worthy of honorable mention status.
STILL TO COME
The list of artists I intend to write about has been growing since the summer, but there are a few that have been at the top of the list all along. They all released albums this year that have received multiple spins by this blogger, and they’ll all eventually get their day in the sun here.
In the meantime, here are some brief thoughts on each.
- Bleachers – Strange Desire … This side project from Jack Antonoff — better known as a member of fun. and boyfriend to Lena Dunham — put out its debut album to much acclaim in July and has spawned several radio singles. The opening track, “Wild Heart”, was not one of them, but I consider it my favorite. Other notable songs include “I Wanna Get Better”, “Shadow” and “Rollercoaster”.
- PHOX – PHOX … Having only listened to this album a couple of times, I have yet to deem any tracks as standouts, but that’s OK, because overall, it’s a solid release. Great as background music, this group conjures memories of fellow Madison product Zola Jesus and Sharon Van Etten.
- Mac DeMarco – Salad Days … When I listened to this Canadian singer’s sophomore album in April, I remember being a little turned off by the hype it was receiving at the time. But I begrudgingly admitted that it was pretty solid was something I would need to spend some more time with. I still have yet to do so, but I can safely say that it at least deserves recognition here.
TOP OF THEIR GAME
There were a few established acts that put out, arguably, career-defining albums this year. One of them I have written about in the past, while the others are well-known enough that there really isn’t anything new I could bring to the table.
- The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream … The third album from this Philadelphia crew takes the group’s trademark mix of dreamy vibes, catchy beats and lo-fi instrumentation to the next level. Notable tracks include “Under Pressure”, “An Ocean In Between the Waves” and “Red Eyes”. But, really, the entire album is top notch.
- Jenny Lewis – The Voyager … The former lead singer for Rilo Kiley is no stranger to great music. In addition to that band’s catalog, she’d already put out two acclaimed solo albums before releasing a third in July. With nary a hiccup, it captures all that is good about this still underrated songstress. The standouts are “She’s Not Me” and “Just One of the Guys”.
- Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues … The album received a great deal of hype as the first release after lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman. But the backstory could only carry it so far. The reason it’s still receiving praise more than 11 months after its January release is because of the quality of the songs. The opening title track is the standout, but the group maintains a high level throughout.
There were also plenty of other established artists that have received accolades for their releases this year. Alas, I can’t give them my full support, since I’ve only listened to one or two tracks from any given album.
However, considering their track record, I’m confident they are at least worth mentioning here.
- Real Estate – Atlas
- Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
- Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
- Lykke Li – I Never Learn
- New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
- alt-J – This Is All Yours
There were also several songs I heard this year that I fell in love with, but I never got around to checking out the rest of the albums. So, depending upon my future research, you may be reading more about these acts in the coming months.
- James – “Movin'”
- Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97”
- Alvvays – “Party Police”
- Little Racer – “Dancin'”
- Echostream – “Cool Kids”
Speaking of singles, here’s a mixture of songs that stood out to me this year, even if their albums weren’t totally deserving of such high praise.