Time again for my annual best-of music review! The process, as in years past, is to pick my ten favorite “new” albums of the year. “New” is in scare-quotes because I go by new-to-me, not by release date. If there are old albums that I get in the calendar year – as happened this year in spades with Wussy – then they’re eligible for the list, regardless of their oldness.
Here are my 2014 selections, in alphabetical order by artist (I pick the top 10, but I don’t order them further than that). The links are to Wikipedia, and a playlist of all these albums is on Spotify.
Event II, Deltron 3030 – “not a big rap fan, but: a sci-fi concept album + humor = yes please thank you” – me, when I first heard of this album. And that pretty well sums it up. The little interstitial skits are okay, though they can get a little old and they’re terrible when shuffling. But overall, this wide-ranging album has a lot of good songs.
Stay Gold, First Aid Kit – With this followup to 2012’s The Lion’s Roar, these Swedish sisters bring their beautiful voices to another set of beautiful songs. The folksy, simple lyrics aren’t afraid to have a little more edge than you might expect.
The Voyager, Jenny Lewis – This one’s not unlike the First Aid Kit album in some ways: sunny, warm, 70s-reminiscent pop music, also with an occasional pleasantly surprising lyrical barb. I’d listened to her some in the past, in Rilo Kiley and her album with the Watson Twins, but was never really impressed until this album, which is fantastic. I also saw her perform at ACL Festival in October, and it was the best show of the weekend for me.
Eight Houses, She Keeps Bees – I wish I remembered how I heard of this band. Also mellow, but darker and more electronic than the previous two, this collection of psychedelic songs is great stuff.
Major Arcana, Speedy Ortiz – A little uneven, but overall a nice little indie-rocker album. I saw them at a free Waterloo SXSW show, and they were superb. I even got my CD signed that day.
Warpaint, Warpaint – “Atmospheric, haunting, but with some edge & some texture to keep it from going down too easy” – me, when I recommended this excellent album earlier in the year. Clever, interesting music; I look forward to seeing what else they’ll do.
Deep Fantasy, White Lung – This makes two years running for this kick-ass punk band to get an album in my top 10. As with last year’s Sorry, it’s short (23 minutes), sharp, and to the point.
Attica!, Funeral Dress, and Strawberry, Wussy – So, there’s all those bands and albums above, and then there’s the band that overwhelmingly dominated my 2014 music: Wussy.
I’d never heard of them before the June 27 episode of Sound Opinions, which named their new album one of the “best of 2014… so far”. I checked it out, and was instantly hooked. I went on to buy all seven of their previous albums from their Bandcamp page, and didn’t find a bad one in the bunch.
I love this band. It’s partly the Ohio-ness of them and their lyrics (Pizza King, Little Miami, the corn-maze in Teenage Wasteland), it’s partly that critics adore them (Robert Christgau said they’re “the best band in America since they released the first of their five superb albums in 2005”), but in the end the main thing is, of course, the music. It’s not flashy or amazing or mind-blowing, it’s just thoroughly and solidly good. Really, really good.
I decided to pick three of their albums for this top 10, enough to show their influence but few enough to allow some other bands onto the list. The rest of Wussy’s fine albums had to settle for song selections on the “best of the rest” playlist, below.
So those are my ten favorite “new” albums of 2014.
And then there are all the rest of the albums. To complete my annual time capsule, I also make a playlist of favorite single tracks from all of the year’s albums that didn’t make the best-album cut, ordered not alphabetically, but in the best mixtape order I can manage with an assortment like this. This “Best of the Rest” is also a playlist on Spotify (minus the 50 Foot Wave tracks).
- Maglite (Remix) – Wussy, …Popular Favorites
- The Grand Destruction Game – Nina Persson, Animal Heart
- Too True To Be Good – Dum Dum Girls, Too True
- Antipatriarca – Ana Tijoux, Vengo †
- La La La (Brazil 2014) – Shakira, 2014 Fifa World Cup: One Love, One Rhythm
- Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair – Arctic Monkeys, Suck It And See
- Night Mail – Public Service Broadcasting, Inform – Educate – Entertain
- Black Out Days – Phantogram, Voices †
- Renaissance Girls – Oh Land, Wishbone
- Hard Out Here – Lily Allen, Sheezus †
- Selling Rope (Swan Dive To Estuary) – Los Campesinos!, No Blues
- West Coast – Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence †
- Jonah – Wussy, Left for Dead
- Fool’s Complaint – Suzanne Vega, Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles
- Muscle Cars – Wussy, Wussy
- Radiant Addict – 50 Foot Wave, With Love From The Men’s Room
- Fancy – Iggy Azalea, The New Classic †
- R U Mine? – Arctic Monkeys, AM
- Clara Bow (live) – 50 Foot Wave, You’re Soaking In It
- Rigor Mortis (Live) – Wussy, Rigor Mortis EP
- Team – Lorde, Pure Heroine †
- Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey, Music From The Great Gatsby †
- Soak It Up – Wussy, Funeral Dress II – Acoustically
† – saw band live this year
As in past years, there are some tracks here more for “time-capsule” value than because they’re really favorite songs: a World Cup theme song and I-G-G-Y, to name a couple.