So another year is over and another list is created. This year has been a really good year for me buckling down and actually really deeply listening to these albums. I had a lot of fun connecting these albums to personal things that happened in my life. Albums would take on new forms depending on the situations I was in. Some albums gained a lighter perspective depending on the mood. Some albums became darker with time. The moods of these albums and how they fit into my life really brought a special spark to these albums that other albums seemed to lack this year.
My taste was all over the board this year. I got really heavily back into female singer songwriters and tried to tap into all things feminine. For some reason I was drawn to that wellspring of creativity. I appreciated the deep emotional resonance emanating from these women who were inspired to put their art to tape. The standouts are listed below but I definitely could not ignore the reverb laden old timey sound of Angel Olsen or the conversational armchair psychiatry of Courtney Barnett, also I could not ignore the dark spirits of Gazelle Twin's tales of body issues and self examination, it fit right in with a lot of social issues we are dealing with in regards to the media. To me this was very important music and I soaked it up any chance I could get
On the flipside to the seriousness of the aforementioned art was PC Music, a label who's goal seemed to subvert what an actual release is supposed to be. All of their music was free for download off their soundcloud and the true identity of who these artists were still remains somewhat of a mystery. The label treats half of their artists aesthetically as actual products instead of humans making the music. This led to rumors that possibly all of the artists on PC Music were actually just one person A.G. Cook. This could be true, I feel though there are definitely artists who are not Cook but I could be completely wrong. The rumor mill could be totally wrong as well these could very well all be separate people. At any rate, the music they put out this year is all candy colored pop influenced electronic music. No label was more divisive then PC Music was. People either loved it or totally despised it. People that loved it seemed to wallow in the fact that it was extremely plastic while detractors hated it for the very same thing. I get both sides, I can totally see why people would absolutely hate this. In a way I get it. I get that this music seems cheap and super cheesy. It wouldn't be out of place to say their biggest point of influence would be a weirder version of Aqua or Spice Girls but to me it was so much more than that. That may be their jumping off point but they take it such warped directions that I had no choice but to pay attention. This music is perfect for an ADD mindset. New sounds pop up around every corner to the point where you cant just call this disposable. In fact it is anything but, to me it was an essential area of listening in 2014.
I tried to pick the cream of the crop from every genre. With some genres it worked, others it was a little harder for me to come up with something worthwhile. Each genre this year had at least one thing to offer. Funk had D'Angelo, Pop had Azealia Banks, most electronic had PC Music, there were a couple of great hip hop albums which you will find below...funny how they both came out on what is traditionally an indie rock label.
So yeah, this list is for you dear reader, this is a completely selfless act. Investigate this list, soak it in, use it to research. I hope you find at least one good thing to take away from this list to form your own emotions around. Get attached, get down, pop on those headphones, go for a jog, listen to this at work, listen to this at home just make sure it's your own and have a good time!
Your musical friend
-Sean Michael Taylor a.k.a. Destroy the Scene
I now bow my head to you take a lean forward and then creep backwards to the door so you can be alone with......
THE TOP 27 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR!!!!!!!!!
An amazing return of a master. This is what happens when the king returns to the kingdom to kind of show the newbies that cropped up in his wake how it's supposed to be done. This album wasn't necessarily groundbreaking but it sure did solidify Mr. Richard D. James as a master of his craft and still a step above most.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Solid old school electronic music, LFO
Ariel Pink-Pom Pom(4AD)
Yeah he's not lo-fi anymore, he doesn't sound like melted crayons on a hot dashboard of a ford fiesta sitting in 104 degree weather in the valley anymore. What he does sound like is a kaleidoscope of aural experiments in the vein of Ween and They Might Be Giants. We need more weirdo heroes like this. If you got caught up in all of his trolling, well I'm sorry, he was joking. This music is good, this music is funny, this music is weird for the times. It spits in the face of the pop music scene while remaining catchy as shit and for that I salute you Mr. Pink.
RIYL: Ween, They Might Be Giants, Renaldo and the Loaf
With touches of Autechre, Chemical Brothers, and all other manner of weird electronic music as its touchstones this is actually quite a weird little release. Full of interesting sonic twists and turns but it also has a very chilled out vibe to it as well. Like an anxious smooth ride through a dangerous neighborhood where nothing really bad happens. This is perfect for a night drive through LA by yourself.
RIYL: Autechre, Aphex Twin, Chemical Brothers, New Age Weirdness
Azealia Banks-Broke With Expensive Taste(Self Released)
So the award to best pop album of the year definitely goes to this little gem right here. It sneaks in to snatch first place right at the tail end of the year there and does so in spades. This awesome little thing has everything. Every style of pop, then every style of music thrown into that pop stew, stir it up, keep the flame at a steady medium to high heat, throw in some awesome production from Arabmusik and Ariel Pink on one track and what you have is a nice rainbow of sound that is a little bit dancy, a lotta bit catchy and all fun!
RIYL: Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, MIA but better than all that!
Courtney Barnett-The Double Ep: A Sea Of Split Peas(Mom + Pop)
Laid back, intelligent, funny and a total throw back to the chill talk singing of classic 90s indie rock. Not too much to say about this except that it is ridiculously solid, catchy as all hell and highly enjoyable! She sounds like a close friend telling you about all things fun and strange.
RIYL: Helium, The Breeders, 90s indie rock, Pavement from a female perspective
Big Ups-Eighteen Hours of Static(Tough Love)
This years great railing against the system and fighting against societal norms album! These guys were really fucking pissed off and they wanted you to hear about it and I was listening loud and clear. Take the best of the hard side of 90s indie rock(think Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Slint...etc) mix all that with hardcore punk and a strong voice screaming at all things shitty. Yes, this band shattered illusions and people hate that but fuck you because Big Ups doesnt have time for your #posivibes they want to hold that cracked mirror up to your face!
RIYL: Slint, Fugazi, The Jesus Lizard
Black Bananas-Electric Brick Wall(Drag City)
Jennifer from Royal Trux roars back with a vengeance after the first dud she put out as Black Bananas a few years ago. This is vengeance in the form of weird overblown cock-rock and one sensual cool jam! She even managed to get her Royal Trux partner in crime to co-write a couple songs on this thing. Virtually ignored because people don't know what they are doing but you know what? It's their loss. This is a party I was glad I RSVP'd to!
RIYL: Royal Trux, Andrew WK, Butthole Surfers, Black Sabbath
The Body and The Haxan Cloak-I Shall Die Here(Rvng'intl)
An album about the virtues of suicide? An album not shaming those who want to leave this mortal coil? Yeah I'm on board. This was a slowed down churning metal album taken hold by The Haxan Cloak and given the sub-bass dark creeptown treatment. He threw in some samples from people who are so depressed they cant tell if they want to live or die and you have one of the best works of art that was created this year. To me this is an important subject that should be addressed more but instead is ignored by our Catholic guilt and seen as something of a crime.....oh wait suicide IS totally a crime....WTF? I do in fact like living quite a bit but I'm not gonna shit on those that wanna leave all this bullshit behind!
RIYL: The Body, The Haxan Cloak, all manner of doom and stoner metal, a therapist's chair.
Neil Cicierega-Mouth Sounds/Mouth Silence(Self Released)
This album wins the award for most plays in the shortest amount of time. I played this for anyone within earshot. Was it good? Maybe. Was it super weird? Definitely. Did you need to hear it? ABSO FUCKING LUTELY!!!! Why? why must I hear this above everything else? Well how does a weird mashup album where the main subject is the Smashmouth song "All Star". This is Mouth Sounds. Every single song has some aspect of that ridiculous Smashmouth song in it. Mashups of Modest Mouse, John Lennon's Imagine, the full house theme with Alanis Morissette, the list goes on and on and these mashups are expertly constructed and the humor factor is through the roof. The second album entitled Mouth Silence takes away almost all the Smashmouth references(hence the "silence" part) and instead turns its head towards everything 90s. There's Third Eye Blind, Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins. If you had a guilty pleasure or idol from 90s alternative music than Neil is for sure dissecting them, destroying them, and building a Frankenstein's monster out of the pieces. These were easily the most disrespectful albums released this year. They spit in the face of what you knew and what you thought you knew, to create something worth thinking about and if you didn't laugh at something on this, well then you might just not have a heart.
RIYL: Girl Talk, John Oswald, Plunderphonics, Mashup
This is what happens when you get a couple of LA noise musicians and 1 talented MC. This is like a less manic Death Grips. At times both more experimental in their production than them and at other times going way more pop rap then Death Grips would dare to go. There are a few embarrassing moments on this album but they are overshadowed 10 fold by the good parts. This was one of the better(if few) good hip hop albums to come out this year.
RIYL: Death Grips, Danny Brown, Feed the Animals, Experimental Hip Hop
Frankie Cosmos-Zentrophy(Double Double Whammy)
Probably the most cutesy album on this list. The music is extremely rudimentary and very melodic. The lyrics are a nice mix of sweet and sour. Greta Kline is probably the youngest musician on this list at 19 but her wisdom is well beyond her years. If you like fun cutesy indie rock from the early 2000s this will be your jam, if you like Beat Happening you will love this
RIYL: Beat Happening, Courtney Barnett, (early) Liz Phair
D'Angelo and the Vanguard-Black Messiah(RCA)
This album right here is why you don't write your album of the year list until the clock hits 2015. This should be on a bunch of year end lists but unfortunately for the other publications they jumped the gun. This is one hell of a slow funk album. Lots of echoes of the greats on here. Actually pretty much all the greats show up here in some form or another. It's got a hell of a lot of Prince, lots of Funkadelic and a healthy dose of prime Sly and the Family Stone. This is deep cut funk for people who really really appreciate the process of making music and having a great time doing so, all while studying the past only to use it as a launching pad for what to do in the future.
RIYL: Prince, Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown
He comes back with a noisy slightly new-age influenced return to form that almost reaches the heights of Endless Summer but that one is tough to beat. Really solid, really dense, some nice future sounds for a year where there were too few.
RIYL: Fennesz, Noisy yet pretty electronic noise
Gazelle Twin-Unflesh(Last Gang)
One part The Knife another part Bjork another part creeper. This music was all about the body. Sub bass sounds reflected this and the icy chill of the other instruments only served to highlight the pseudo heartbeat running through this record. The lyrics were all about body image, complications with sex, birth, pregnancies etc...there is not too much blood but a lot of guts on this record. Highly recommended for a little dark mood.
RIYL: The Knife, Bjork, Siouxsie and the Banshees
Gem Jones-Admiral Frenchkiss(Goaty Tapes)
What happens when Ween jams with James Chance and they recorded it in a weed filled mid-western basement to a 4 track? This little cassette is what happens. Like the dorkiest party with the coolest kids on the block. This will get your butt moving and if it doesn't you just haven't had enough libations. Even I dance to this shit!
RIYL: Ween, Prince, James Chance
GFOTY(Girlfriend Of the Year)-Secret Mix(PC Music)
I cannot say enough about this. This is a 9 minute mix/album depending on who you are talking to at the given moment. Basically this is what would happen if the Spice Girls master tapes got warped then fixed half right, then given another shot of pop magic pixie dust. Then you down-pitched and up-pitched the vocals at the same time giving a completely disorienting result. All the while she is singing about falling in love with guys and kissing and all this other over the top romantic stuff, she covers Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Carly Simon! This was all about plastic awesomeness!
RIYL: THE WEIRDEST POP!
Hundred Waters-The Moon Rang Like A Bell(OWSLA)
I really hate the new trend of what I am now gonna call "HRNB". What does that stand for you ask? Hipster R n B. Now Hipster R n B is music from that genre that is deemed artsy or "cool" enough to like without having to say you like "normal" R n B. Bands I place in this category are definitely How To Dress Well, FKA Twigs, Miguel and stuff like the Weeknd. To me a lot of the stuff sounds very boring and just very cliche and completely ripping off their forefathers without adding much to the mix. Now why am I going off on this new trend, well it's because Hundred Waters kind of jumps into this style really really well. I feel they set themselves apart because they also reach into 80s Dream Pop to inform their sound. There is also a playfulness that I feel is lost with the other acts I mentioned. Hundred Waters also seem to have a deeper sense of poetry within their lyrics. This is a pretty serious listen so for the clubs it ain't. Pop on some headphones, enjoy some libations and turn down the lights and bliss out for a bit.
RIYL: Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Sade
Morgan Delt-Self Titled(Trouble In Mind)
Hands down the best approximation of 60s psych rock made all year. There is not much to be said. He does it well, he does it weird, he had a great live show this year....Dude's from Topanga Canyon but sounds like he is simultaneously from San Jose in 66 and England in 1968. Get on it!
RIYL: The Kinks, The Zombies, Nuggets
Angel Olsen-Burn Your Fire For No Witness(Jagjaguwar)
With a voice like an angel(duh) lyrics at some times simple and insanely direct to absurdly poetic, painting amazing pictures of love lost and found. Did I mention the voice that could shake rafters in an dusty old church? Yeah she went a little more indie rock in structure this year, some songs suffered for it, others soared because of it. Overall it doesn't really matter all that much, the songs were great and she owned it!
RIYL: Older country, Best Coast, Courtney Barnett
Christopher Owens-A New Testament(Turnstile)
Guy quits Girls, stops making indie rock, starts making Gospel country to great effect. This is the best modern country album since Ween put out 12 Golden Country Greats back in 1996. Every single song is perfect in its playing, everything is tight and loose at the same time, the gospel singing really makes it, his vocals have a nice comforting quality to them. If you like country in any way at all you have to check this one out.
RIYL: Buck Owens, Ween(only the country stuff), K.D. LANG, Old style country
Plague Vendor-Free To Eat(Epitaph)
The singer of this band was a complete weenus when I saw him earlier this year but the album he made with his band is a whole other story. They created a blast of a 19 minute album. Drawing from every single kick ass early 80s band that towed the line between rockabilly and punk. Think things like the Gun Club, the Cramps and the Birthday Party. Sort of a voodoo punk thing going on, it's got a nice swing to it.
RIYL: Blood Brothers, The Cramps, The Gun Club
Noura Mint Seymali-Tzenni(Glitterbeat)
I'm not sure but I think this might have ties to the whole Tinairen scene that poured over here from Africa into our conscious train of thought in the mid 00s. This is searing weirdo guitar rock with one of the most powerful female vocalists I have heard in a while. Her and her band come from Mauritania. This is some pretty far off and far out shit! This is hands down the best "world music" album I have heard this year.
RIYL: Selda, Anatollan Rock
Shabazz Palaces-Lese Majesty(Sub Pop)
My brother mentioned something interesting to me a couple of weeks into owning this album and after playing it for my him for the first time. He mentioned the album's production had a lot to do with Shoegaze. I get it, well at least when he mentioned it, it definitely clicked. The production was very thick with layers upon layers repeating themselves and cascading over each other to where you start to hear something else between the notes. Now take that description and add arguably the best current MC going right now and there you have the artistic nightmare dream kaleidoscope that is Shabazz Palaces. Oh did I mention this guy used to be in Digable Planets did I also mention that this is some of the best production you will hear all year, both in terms of execution and ideas pressed. Oh and shame on you if you ignored this and got all obsessed with Run the Jewels.
RIYL: Weird ass hip hop
Slothrust-Of Course You Do(Ba Da Bing!)
Just solid ass indie rock. The girl has an amazing semi-monotone voice. The playing behind her is impeccable. There isn't a whole lot I can say about this other than it is ridiculously solid, they tow the line between Blues, Country and Indie Rock sometimes all in one song. Solid as all hell Rock music. If that's your thing I suggest you get on board
RIYL: Blues, Heartless Bastards, Indie Rock from the 90s
St Vincent-Self Titled(Loma Vista)
I will be 100% honest here. I never gave her much listen. I can't tell you why. I guess I judged a book by it's cover and I thought the cover looked like shit. I hated the super clean farty high art gallery garbage going on. I was also super weary of her connections to the Polyphonic Spree. Now there is a lesson to be learned here and it is a super cliche one: Don't judge a book by it's cover. Don't think you know something is gonna sound like crap because it sucks to miss out when you could have been right in step or ahead of the curve. That is what happened with me and St. Vincent. That is until this year. I believe I listened to her first single off this album, which was "Birth In Reverse" and it totally floored me so I ran out and picked this up. Now the rest of the music didnt smack me in the face in quite the same way but over time average songs morphed into great ones, great ones morphed into incredible ones. Here is the weirdness though of this album being on the list. Only half this album is actually album of the year material. The other half is by no means terrible at all, but overall this one isn't a home run, but, the good half is not good, not great, I mean these songs are incredible so by sheer weight of that half, this album just has to be here. It's way better than an honorable mention album so here it is, the first time I loved St. Vincent....now it's time to take a look at her career backwards and for that it gets a place on this list because isn't that why we do what we do, new discoveries where you can go back and listen to it for the first time out of its original time? I guess it might just be me.
RIYL: Kate Bush, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor
Sun Kil Moon-Benji(Caldo Verde)
Folk, almost as if the music itself doesnt really matter. Perfect lyrics. Weird cadence. Wait wait! perfect lyrics. Fuck all Y'all hillbillies because your opinion doesnt matter only Kozelick's does in this world. The War On Drugs? You don't see them on this list do you? Yeah neither do I. Weird. That's because they aren't worth your time like Mark's familial stories are. Yes the War On Drugs can suck on something and it may just belong to Mr Kozelick. Sorry kids he talked shit because he knew he was better and in this writer's opinion he was, hands down.
RIYL: Red House Painters, Bonnie Prince Billy, Conor Oberst
Kane West-Western Beats(PC Music)
Yeah you misread that right. No it's not Ego West it's Kane West. A wonderful member of the fantastic and possibly best label of 2014; PC Music. This was one of the most fun electronic albums of 2014. He used shitty cliche sounds like sirens, airhorns, video game music(smash bros in particular) to turn shitty club music on its head. This is a party album of the highest order and aside from GFOTY's Secret Mix might be the most cohesive thing PC Music put out this year and that has to be commended!
RIYL: Dance music with a little more absurdity.