My look back at the year in music began yesterday, and it continues today with a list of my favorite albums of 2014.
10) CEO – Wonderland
I love the playfulness and profanity of this album. There is so much going on in these songs it’s like being in a funhouse.
9) Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
I did not fully appreciate the power of Lana Del Rey until seeing her live. Seeing her in person and the many fans with tears in their eyes made me understand the potent, and sometimes troubling, world she has created, one in which people find ways to make close personal ties. I really dug into this album after returning from that experience and found it mesmerizing and addictive.
8) Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down
Taking inspiration from a Truman Capote interview with Bobby Beausoliel of “Manson Murder” fame, “Then It All Came Down” is, according to composer JR Robinson, “an examination of lightness into dark, how human beings gravitate from circumstances that are considered inherently ‘good and of the light’ and decline into occurrences that are considered obscene and barbaric.”
Discovery of the album for me coincided with heavy contemplation of similar themes, and when I listen to “Then It All Came Down” it reignites those thoughts. This is a powerful composition that crosses into musical territory I don’t normally visit but which I find a perfect fit in this circumstance.
7. The Juan MacLean – In a Dream
Catchy, smart dance music. I can’t get enough of it.
6. Post War Glamour Girls – Pink Fur
This is a ferocious, political rock album that calls to mind artists like Nick Cave and the Pixies, but this Leeds, England, band makes a sound entirely its own. Did I mention it also contains moments of real beauty — I’m thinking of the guitar line on “Jazz Funerals.” “Pink Fur” also contains one of my favorite lyrics of the year: “You strike me as the kind of person who has never made love before – therefore you are easily satisfied in general and with everything.”
5. Future Islands – Singles
The album certainly lives up to its name. There are so many highlights (besides “Seasons”), including “A Dream of You and Me” and “Fall From Grace.” But, really, just pick any song and you can’t lose.
4. Lisa Gerrard – Twilight Kingdom
With little fanfare, the Dead Can Dance singer released “Twilight Kingdom.” It is perhaps her most mournful and serene album ever, but I think possibly her most beautiful, as well. Gerrard maintains the otherworldliness we’ve come to expect of her music, but there are instances where she becomes more accessible than usual, too (“Too Far Gone”). At times, this album reduced me to a pile of rubble and tears. Gerrard has that kind of voice that can take your soul to flight.
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Even by Spoon standards, this was a masterful collection of songs. It kind of blows my mind. Twenty years in and they just keep getting better at what they do.
2. The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi
The Raveonettes released “Pe’ahi,” named after a legendary Maui surf break, with little advance warning, and it probably stands as my favorite album from them to date.
It expands their sound and goes to some very dark places — so it’s not for the faint of heart. Perhaps ironically, I found the album life-affirming and energizing. Usually that energy was directed at starting the album over from the beginning.
1. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
I’d never heard of Philadelphia’s Nothing until I caught a listen of “Dig” early in the year. It was instant love. The heavy barrage of guitars reminded me of their shoegaze forebears such as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, but with a rockier edge. Headbang to it. Chill out to it. Its effects vary. Ultimately, I was excited to share this music with everyone I know so they could ride the waves of guitar with me …