2014 Music List

Benji, Sun Kil Moon

It has become an annual tradition for me to write up a list of music I liked in a given year. Now I am not one lightly to break with tradition but the truth is I have not been able to keep up as I have in years past, so I was planning on skipping this year. But I’ve had several requests to write it up anyway so here we go. Given the limitations, this year’s list doesn’t push my listening habits very far so forgive me if it’s a bit ‘conservative.’ Let me know what albums I missed or how wrong my choices are. The hierarchy beyond the top 10 is mostly arbitrary, because how can you really compare an R & B record to a punk record? You can’t.

1) Benji, Sun Kil Moon: Profoundly melancholy. Rich storytelling. “I Watched The Film The Song Remained The Same” a top song of the decade

2) Morning Phase, Beck: Earlier praised, later neglected. Slow, majestic, dramatic. Like Sea Change but the minimalism is starker.

3) Atomos, A Winged Victory For The Sullen: More strings and complex arrangements than (also delightful) debut. Ethereal, romantic, sweeping

4) Run The Jewels 2, Run The Jewels: I’m not a reliable reviewer of rap, but this lp was gripping. Aggressive, powerful, big synths

5) Home, Like Noplace I Know, The Hotelier: Tapping into multiple classic emo sounds while avoiding cliches or sounding like high schoolers

6) Shriek, Wye Oak: A strong shift from previous guitar-driven sound. Bass & synth dominate. Bass licks off the chart. Melodic and moody

7) Lost In The Dream, The War on Drugs: Perfecting the ‘dad rock’ sound. A laid back ‘post-punk’, owing more to Springsteen than The Ramones

8) They Want My Soul, Spoon: To make a record this good after being around 20+ shows just how important this band is. Full swagger rock&roll

9) In Conflict, Owen Pallett: Extraordinarily high levels of song writing. Not entirely sure how to classify it. Chamber rock?

10) Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso: Unlikely joint effort of an appalachian folk singer and a dj. Beautiful, airy, with hooks that sink deep

11) Are We There, Sharon Van Etten: A woman, a guitar, a soaring voice, and heartache

12) Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, Sturgill Simpson: All philosophers need to know’s the opening track is “Turtles All The Way Down”

13) Ruins, Grouper: Stunning, ethereal, ambient, piano music. Drifts now in, now out, yet lp goes quickly. Opposite of ‘background’ music

14) LP1, FKA twigs: Thoroughly contemporary art pop by UK singer. Universally praised for good reason.

15) Black Messiah, D’Angelo: Suddenly & unexpectedly released after most lists compiled. Soulful, guitar-centric, r&b frm established artist

16) Built On Glass, Chet Faker: Another progressive r&b record. I’m dreaming of a Faker, Frank Ocean, James Blake team up.

17) Too Bright, Perfume Genius: Significant artistic growth for him. Gay pride; sensitive soul; sweet voiced piano ballads

18) Asleep Versions, Jon Hopkins: Just a small remix EP, yet eloquently, patiently, painstakingly, & expertly done. Moar King Creosote plz!

19) Sea When Absent, Sunny Day in Glasgow: Sometimes a wall of guitar, sometimes a wall of synth, often catchy; a classic shoegaze record

20) In The Lonely Hour, Sam Smith: My bae. The year’s unrequitted love LP. He got popular for a reason

21) Punk lps of the year are a close tie: Say Yes To Love, Perfect Pussy; More Than Any Other Day, Ought; Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts; Here And Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings; 1984, Ryan Adams; Courting Strong, Martha; and Eagulls, Eagulls – All worth checking out

22) Guilty of Everything, Nothing: Like last year’s Deafheaven, a combination of shoegaze w/ metal, but less black metal, more nu metal

23) It’s Album Time, Todd Terje: Before it’s cool again, an analog synth lp w/ 80’s influence. But not nostalgic, quite synthetic & creative Let’s add Shrink Dust, Chad VanGaalen to the punk records. Because it’s just as good, sort of belongs, and it’s my list

24) Love Fail, David Lang: Intelligible vocal work in modernist classical tradition, drawing on older sacred styles (seems to me).

25) Wuss rock lps of the year: Heart Murmurs, Jeremy Messersmith: Local boy makes good. Lyrically playful, rich, and inclusive; When I Was Younger, Colony House; Strange Desire, Bleachers; and Youth, Wild Cub

There are plenty of other records worth listening to this year. Some are probably better than those on this list but it’s hard to make one of these without second guessing yourself. You can follow my year lists on Spotify and figure out for yourself which ones you like. My list will undoubtedly expand as I listen to more LPs from this year. Cheers!

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Rock & Roll Never Dies: Or, Your Old Music Sucks

Tony Sig

My manager at work is a great guy, I really think he is a great person. But he is latest in a series of people who pine over the glory days of music. By which they generally mean, whenever it was when they grew up. For this manager in particular, and most people who are about 5-10 years older than me it is stuff from the late 70’s and on through the 80’s. Even music that they admit was not great music is magically transported to “better-than-music-these-days” because they were “better guitar players.” Right.

The thing about players from the 80’s that people forget was that they were so wasted on drugs and alcohol that half the time fans came out for shows they were disappointed because the band couldn’t pull it together enough to play a show all the way through. Ever see some of the shows that Guns & Roses played? Or rather half-played as Slash fell apart at the seams with his lame hat and sunglasses which couldn’t hide the fact that he was completely gone. No, music was not better then, it is nastalgic for you now. To add injury to insult this particular manager admits that HE ONLY LISTENS TO THE RADIO!!!! If those words ever come out of your mouth you are automatically disqualified to have a musical discussion with me, much less decry the poor state of music these days. Lets have a real look at some of the bands playing and creating music these days shall we and see how it adds up realistically. It’s not a complete list, but it’s enough. And they are in no particular order either.

U2 – Even the Beatles didn’t reinvent themselves 3 times over for close to 30 years. Did I mention that Bono is sexy?

Radiohead – In Rainbows anyone? They still got it

Wilco – Blue Sky’s overhead my friends. European bands get electronicy, bands from Chicago wail on the guitar

Jack White – Anything he touches is gold. Slash vs White? White plays 8 guitars and a keyboard at the same time…he wins

Muse – Alright, fair enough, some of their stuff is lame, but what other rock singer in the world can play Rochmoninof? Nobody

MuteMath – Live show? Sober MuteMath kicks drunk VanHalen’s ass

Sigur Ros’ – Wagner eat your heart out

Sufjan Stevens – Plays 5 million instruments

Andrew Bird – Plays 4 million instruments

The Decemberists – Go Canada!

The Arcade Fire – Go Canada!

Fiest – Go Canada!

Beck – American electro-folk dance

Damien Rice – Irish

Glen Hansard – Better Irish

The Envy Corps – Iowa indie

Jars of Clay – That’s right, I said it…Jars of Clay

John Mayer – He is 30 times better on guitar that Poison could even fathom, if they can fathom at all

John Williams – Jaws, Star Wars, Indian Jones, Schindlers List, etc…

The Mars Volta – crazy

MeWithoutYou – screeching spoken word over post-rock awesomeness, usually accompanied by rose pedals

Pearl Jam – still jammin

David Bazan – ever hear him play hymns right after a song about infidelity?

Red Hot Chili Peppers – but only with John Frusciante

Ryan Adams – how many ways can one play the guitar? Lots

Starflyer 59 – Saviour of Tooth & Nail?

(name of your favorite indie/local band here) – they are probably only half as good as you think they are but they are still better than Aha