Top 10 Albums of 2014
Last year was a terrific year for music, with excellent releases coming from both home and abroad. Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 albums of 2014.
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
On the Philadelphia band’s third record, frontman Adam Granduciel sings of disillusionment and escape amid the layers of rousing instrumentals. Granduciel’s guitar-focused sound is complemented by airy synths and a brilliant infusion of baritone saxophone on top of driving percussion. The end result is a powerful contemporary take on Springsteen-esque American rock.
“Red Eyes” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsoqmFL1vlU
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Fast, energetic, and at times chaotic, Here and Nowhere Else highlights singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s charged guitar riffs. Throughout this album, Baldi half-sings and half-screams while his dark lyrics probe fearlessly into his personal problems. In spite of this, the record retains a few of the more hopeful moments heard on 2012’s excellent Attack on Memory, especially in the album’s closer, “I’m Not Part of Me.”
“I’m Not Part of Me” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA-Fz7Zd39k
Mac Demarco – Salad Days
On his follow-up to 2012’s 2, Montreal’s Mac Demarco expands on his laidback sound and adds drunken, woozy synths to the mix with successful results – especially on tracks like the lead single, “Passing Out Pieces.” Some might argue that he has matured lyrically, too (although you wouldn’t have heard me complaining last time around). In this album, Demarco ventures further into his life’s most vexing questions, exploring themes of love, aging, and his struggles with his newfound fame (in addition to his love of Viceroy cigarettes).
“Passing Out Pieces” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Lk3NFWw9Fg
Todd Terje – Its Album Time
On his long-awaited studio debut combining previously released tracks with new material, Norweigan producer Todd Terje masterfully weaves orchestral themes, lounge music, disco, and funk, crafting the year’s best dance album in the process. Terje gets an assist from Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry on the smouldering “Johnny and Mary.” Listening to this album is like time travelling through the latter half of the twentieth century with Daft Punk’s long lost Scandinavian brother.
“Inspector Norse” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHiqPG0526U
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
The Brooklyn art-punkers have perfected their Wire and Modern Lovers-influenced sound on Sunbathing Animal. Intellectual and witty lyrics combine with tight punk instrumentals on standout tracks like “Bodies” and “Instant Disassembly.” The Courts experiment with tempo and tone from track to track creating a frantic mood throughout. Sunbathing Animal is 2014’s quintessential New York City album.
“Black and White” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAkW1wXGlU0
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Simpson’s druggy, psychedelic take on outlaw country is refreshing, mixing traditional lyrical themes (love, trucks, and booze) with songs about hallucinogenic drugs and philosophy. With a sound that ranges from straightforward country to sludgy blues-rock, Simpson has created an alternative country album that stays true to its roots as well as its “metamodern” title.
“It Ain’t All Flowers” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZRCouAADnU
Alvvays – Alvvays
Alvvays’s sunny, danceable brand of guitar-pop catapulted them to the top of the indie scene in 2014. Punchy rhythms and shimmering guitars complement playful and witty lyrics about stalkers on the TTC and the contractual aspects of love. The Toronto-via-Cape Breton band’s debut was the essential summer album of 2014.
“Archie, Marry Me” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAn3JdtSrnY
The Barr Brothers – Sleeping Operator
Montreal’s The Barr Brothers created a stunning folk-rock album by fusing traditional pastoral folk sounds with a variety of rhythmic themes drawn from classic rock and the blues. The result is a glistening, pulsating record, complemented by Sarah Pagé’s harp throughout.
“Love Ain’t Enough” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-pcglf0_vc
The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There
Last year was marked by a number of great albums from bands representing the so-called “Emo revival.” The Hotelier are at the forefront of that movement. Their sound mixes anthemic songs with hardcore screamers. The lyrics are mature, evocative, and biting throughout, setting themselves apart from the prototypical emo band of the mid-2000s. Home, Like Noplace Is There is ultimately one of the most affecting albums of 2014.
“An Introduction to the Album” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHsBgcwOw6Y
PS I Love You – For Those Who Stay
Kingston’s very own PS I Love You added a dose of soul to all the noise on their third album. Singer and guitarist Paul Saulnier continues to absolutely shred his heavily distorted electric guitar, but the sound benefits from the addition of acoustic guitars, piano, and even backup singers on the outstanding “Advice.” These local heroes continue to prove they are more than just gear-heads on For Those Who Stay.
“Advice” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abX6PShsic0
Cameron Love (1L) is a contributor to Juris Diction.
What did you think of Cameron’s take on the best albums of 2014? Have a different perspective? Send your ideas of the best (or worst) of 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org