All my other music snob friends are running down what their favorite albums of 2014 were. Although I’m personally trying my best to forget that god awful year, sure, there were some cool records that came out. I’ve left out albums made by bands I know personally so I don’t have to play favoritism with you.
Nah I’m just kidding. You guys were left off because you all suck.
Anyway, here we go in Letterman-esque reverse order:
#10: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon
This album was recommended to me by Kevin Ian Stagename of San Francisco death rock heroes The Common Men. If I ever post to Facebook “Hey, what are you guys listening to?” I’m guaranteed to get 10 death metal albums, and then something gay from Kevin.
This band’s blend of 80s rock and modern indie pop is so damn sugary, their music has been picked up for television commercials by chocolate giant Hershey’s. Nothing about my personality should like this record, but I do.
#9: Phantogram – Voices
Okay, I regret to inform you all that I listened to a lot of pop music and hip-hop this year. My good friend Daniel Reign tried to turn me onto Phantogram with their previous album Eyelid Movies. The problem with that record was that it looped the same drum loops for so long that it turned into Chinese water torture. I was heavily convinced that this was a bullshit band who nobody would ever know about and would be forgotten in a week.
Naturally, I felt like a dick when I heard the breakaway single from this album on alternative rock radio and stated “This is cool! What is this?” They learned how to work a drum machine! Satan be praised!
This album isn’t a sugary pop record like #10. It mostly consists of dark heavy synth tones, and the themes seem to be about werewolves and shit. I really have no idea.
#8: Behemoth – The Satanist
If you’re a metal snob turning your nose up at Behemoth and haven’t actually tried this album yet, put your fucking nose down right now. I’m serious. I’ve never been a Behemoth fan in the past (once more, Daniel Reign had frequently tried), but Jesus fucking Christ this album. I think the best way I can put it is to make Deathspell Omega more accessible and song-oriented. Instead of retreading death metal tropes, the record survives on much less gain, but much more dynamics, diminished chord changes, wicked wah solos, and you can actually understand every hoarse appraisal of Satan’s glory that Nergal spits out.
666/10, would bang in a Sigil of Baphomet painted in goat blood on the floor.
#7: Run the Jewels – RTJ2
This record got a lot of hype and wound up on the top whatever list by every indie music publication. Whereas their first album was just a fun romp with El-P and Killer Mike not taking themselves too seriously and just screwing around, this album goes for the throat as they’ve decided they are now a proper ensemble and they are really pissed off at what has been going on lately.
Aside from the great collection of aggressive hip-hop about getting high, killing cops and fucking shit up in general, they maintain their sense of humor with what is possibly the dirtiest love song I have ever heard.
#6: Swans – To Be Kind
If you’re looking for the perfect album from 2014 to give up on living to, this is it. I really, really like Swans’ new sound. If you’re not some legacy die hard Swans fan, please ignore the way that demographic is telling you this stuff is garbage. All this album’s crimes seem completely necessary. Has that riff been droning on forever, and it seems that all is changing is Michael Gira’s tone as he barks his nihilism at you? How do you feel about that? Awful? I imagine that’s what he was going for.
#5: MC Frontalot – Question Bedtime
Nerdcore artists either take themselves seriously and are simply utilizing the “write what you know” angle, or are complete failures at alternative rap who found out that if you shout about Star Wars enough, the awkward manufactured fad of “geek culture” will buy your crap anyway. Frontalot, being a legend in the scene, might be a little sick of dealing with that stigma.
Nowhere on Question Bedtime will you hear about computer hacking, Dungeons & Dragons, internet porn or giant robots from outer space. It seems like he half considered writing an actual childrens’ album, but he’s nostalgic for what was okay when he was a kid. The record is vaguely vulgar, often dark, and tries its best to preserve the nefarious components of the fairy tales that the songs are based on (or on a few occasions, making them worse).
But mainly the beat work is great, the guest appearances are perfectly cast, and Frontalot’s flow continues to improve.
#4: Busdriver – Perfect Hair
My favorite hip-hop album of 2014 and I really can’t think of much to say about it other than I played it a lot, I’m still playing it, and it’s awesome. Um, I don’t know. Danny Brown and Aesop Rock show up and that’s pretty awesome, too. Aside from just giving a great set of tongue-in-cheek yet genuine songs, Busdriver has actual vocal talent on top of being a rapper, and he spends a bit more time emphasizing that on this album as opposed to previous “I’m the fastest mother fucker on the planet” excursions he had done (not that there was anything wrong with that).
#3: Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
This record is full of subtlety that might not stick the first time through, but after about 3 or 4 listens you’ll probably have half the album committed to memory. Pallbearer is a modern doom metal band whose look back at heavy metal’s past seems more focused on what made great albums, rather than picking out the tones that they want to lift. The end result is a cohesive listening experience that can easily fit in with any great 70s or 80s hard rock or heavy metal record.
#2: The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
Yep, it’s not one of my top whatever lists without a band that uses a complete sentence for an album title. This is something else Kevin Ian turned me onto, getting me started with their masterpiece of depression rock Forget the Night Ahead. Given the terrible year I’ve had, depressing albums are definitely ranking higher.
The Twlight Sad’s latest effort is a subdued pile of reverberated morphine binging and abstract self-loathing presented through a thick Scottish accent. Actually, that can be used to sum up all of their albums, but I think this is a particularly good outing of it.
#1: Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
This album switches its format slightly on every track, but ultimately it’s a collection of claustrophobic lovelorn despair which harkens back to other classic self-loathing solo albums such as Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate and Young’s On the Beach, albeit with today’s tonal palette. Some songs float along as melancholy pop ballads, while others bluntly challenge the listener’s patience with over-the-top lyrics about self-abuse and an abrasive tremolo ripping out of Ms Van Etten’s throat. Upon discovering this album, I made a point to go through her entire discography.
- Mogwai – Rave Tapes
- Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
- St Vincent – s/t
- The Afghan Whigs – Do the Beast
- The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
- Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
- Dust Moth – Dragon Mouth
- Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God