It’s that time of year… The time when everyone is making and sharing year-end lists. Before this blog existed, I published year-end lists on a different blog where I would make a “Canadian” and “non-Canadian” list every year. I’m in my third full year over here, and I don’t do that anymore. Two years ago, I posted a list of my 26 favorite albums, with For My Parents by Mono claiming the top spot. Last year, I posted a list of my 40 favorite albums, with the long-awaited m b v by My Bloody Valentine coming in at number 1.
This year, I’ve arbitrarily chosen to do a top 41. This year, as is always the case, the list is populated heavily by female-fronted bands and it’s also populated heavily by shoegazey stuff. There are a few records in my final list that might be surprising. There might also be some surprising omissions from my list, including a couple of eagerly anticipated albums by a couple of my favorite artists.
These are the records that I kept going back to again and again. My favorites. And these are full length, new release albums from 2014. No EPs, no singles, no reissues, no compilations.
As I did last year, I’ll break the list into four (or more) segments, and I’ll start with a countdown of the numbers 41 to 31.
41) Cheatahs —Cheatahs
The London-based shoegaze/indie band is fronted by a Canadian expat, and they had a couple of well received EPs in 2012 before getting to work on their debut album. The highly anticipated self-titled record was finally released in February via Wichita Recordings. Click the album artwork above to go to the shop. This is one of those albums that may have been hurt by its early release.
“Leave to Remain” by Cheatahs
40)Soft Science — Detour
Here’s a dream-pop/shoegaze band from Sacramento who formed in 2011, and released their sophomore album back in February via Test Pattern Records. The members of the band were in other bands before this, and they had collaborated on another project in the past. The song here is about a rough road that singer Katie Haley had to go down. She gave birth to premature twin girls in 2011, and they spent a long time in the NICU with their health status unknown. During that time, the thing that helped her get through it was her ability to make music.
Again, click the artwork above to be taken to the bandcamp page, where you can buy a download of the album.
“Feel” by Soft Science
39)Sleepy Kitty — Projection Room This St. Louis indie-pop/garage duo formed in 2008 and they released their sophomore album in January via Euclid Records. They received high praise for the new record and there were regular comparisons to Best Coast. I guess because they’re also a duo. They say that their influences vary from Pavement to The Ramones to 1940s movie musicals. The song here also makes it clear that they take some cues from 1960s girl groups and the Phil Specter wall of sound as well as the catalog of Miss Frankie Rose. Click the album artwork above to go to the bandcamp page, where you can buy the album.
“Nothing=You” by Sleepy Kitty
38)Haunted Hearts — Initiation
This is a fantastic collaboration between Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles and his wife Kristin Gundred, who is better known as “Dee Dee” from Dum Dum Girls. It sound like what you would expect it to sound like. While both of their bands have been doing really well, they’ve lamented the fact that they never see each other. So they finally made a record together. This project has actually been brewing for a really long time, but the album finally came out in March via Zoo Records.
This was a very late addition to my pile of 2014 albums. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I was reading the year-end list by our friends over at Music Insanity. Click on the album artwork above to be taken to the web store. Here’s a song:
“Johnny Jupiter” by Haunted Hearts
37)The History of Colour TV — When Shapes of Spilt Blood Spelt Love
This shoegaze-y band is set up in Berlin, but the band members are all spread across the globe. This is their second record for the venerable Saint Marie Records and one of many on that label to make my final list. I probably like this album much more than this ranking shows. The band is deliberate in giving only vague details about who they are or what they even look like, but they’ve made a very good record. Click on the album artwork above to be taken to the Saint Marie web store. Buy everything. Seriously.
“The People Who Are Close To You” by The History of Colour TV
36) Bleeding Rainbow — Interrupt
The Philly noise-pop band released their fourth album back in February via Kanine Records. This is the first of many Kanine releases to show up on this list. Last year, Bleeding Rainbow made my eleventh favorite album of 2013, and they dropped off a little bit with this one. This record is really raw. The rumor is that they only took two weeks in the studio and did some of the songs in one take. They wanted to project a sound closer to their live sound. Click on the album artwork above to go to the Kanine web store.
I like the songs with Sarah on lead vocals, and if all the songs on this record were like the one here, I would have it much higher on my list
“So You Know” by Bleeding Rainbow
35) Be Forest —Earthbeat
This is the sophomore album from the post-punk/dream-pop/shoegaze trio from Pesaro Italy. They turned some heads with their 2011 debut —Cold— and returned with an impressive record in February via We Were Never Being Boring. Lots of people say that they’re reminiscent of Disintegration-era Cure and the late 80s 4AD sound. We love that kind of thing, so we love this record.
Click on the album artwork above to go to the WWNBB web store. Also, enjoy this song:
“Airwaves” by Be Forest
34) SPC ECO — The Art of Pop
This shoegaze/electronic band (pronounce it like “Space Echo”) is centered around the pair of Dean Garcia (of Curve fame) and his daughter Rose Berlin. They’ve been crazily prolific over the last four or five years. This is their fifth full-length album in as many years and they’ve also done a boatload of singles and EPs. Dean also has a couple of other side projects. This one is quite different from the rest, though. SPC ECO has been trademarked by Dean’s guitars and walls of sound, but this album doesn’t have guitars at all. It’s all electronic even when it sounds guitar-ish. And it’s great. But we expect nothing less than greatness from Garcia and Berlin.
This is another of the fantastic releases from Saint Marie Records this year. Click on the album artwork above to go to the SMR web store. And enjoy this:
“Fuck You” by SPC ECO
33) MONO — Rays of Darkness
The nonpareil Japanese post-rock band simultaneously released their seventh and eighth studio albums this fall via Temporary Residence. You may recall their previous album —For My Parents— being my overall favorite album of 2012 thanks in no small part to an absolutely mind-numbingly good concert performance. I naturally had ridiculously high expectations for the twin albums, and when I heard excerpts, those expectations got even higher. However, I ended up being a little disappointed. I like both albums a lot, and I like the other one a lot more. This album is only four songs and less than 35 minutes, with the staggering “Recoil, Ignite” (which clocks in at 13:18) as the standout. This album is really heavy and really dark. Even by Mono standards. And what makes this album get a much lower ranking than it ought to get is the black metal “cookie monster” guest vocals on the last half of “The Hand That Holds The Truth”. It’s a great song for the first five minutes until all that cookie monster stuff comes in. I can’t even listen to it, and it ruins the listening experience. Click on the album artwork to go to the Temporary Residence web store. Also, enjoy this excerpt, which is the second half of “Recoil, Ignite”
This is the smashing debut record by Halifax shoegazer Chad Peck, and another in a long line of fantastic releases on Saint Marie Records this year. Peck does it all as a one-man show, but he managed to bring an all-star cast of guest performers/producers such as Elliott Frazier from Ringo Deathstarr and Bob Weston from Shellac. Peck runs his own record label, and as far as I know, his Noyes Records distributes Melancholy… throughout Canada. In other parts of the world, it was released via SMR back in the summer.
Click on the album artwork to go to the SMR web store. Also, enjoy this:
31) Aerofall — Aerofall
This Russian shoegaze band has been around for a long time, and according to what I know, at one point in the not-too-distant-past, they used to be a techno band. They decided to make a sea change, drop their laptops, pick up their guitars, and lay down their effects boards. I’m not sure how many records they’ve put out, but this self-titled one came out in April via the Tokyo-based label Hands and Moment, and I stumbled upon it a few weeks later.
Click on the album artwork above to go to the Hands and Moment web store. Also, enjoy this, which reminds me a bit of Lush.
Look for the next installment in a day or two. I’ll have the whole series posted before December 31.