I’m in the middle of my year-end list. Or at least in the middle of sharing said list. The list about my favorite albums of 2014.
I’m a really big fan of female fronted bands and I’m a really big fan of shoegazey stuff, so almost every album on this list is one, the other, or even both of those things. A lot of records that I like didn’t make the final list. A couple of records that wouldn’t normally be “my thing” made the list. This list is about full-length new release albums. No EPs. No compilations. No reissues. Nothing like that
The countdown started with numbers 41-31 and the countdown will continue with numbers 30-21.
30)Explosions in The Sky — Lone Survivor I don’t really like the idea of including motion picture soundtracks, but I really like this one, and I’m willing to bend my rule, just as I did last year with Mogwai’s Les Revenants, which is the soundtrack for the French language television show of the same name. This is the third time that the Texas post-rock band has collaborated with director Peter Berg. They provided music for the decent movie Friday Night Lights and the phenomenal television series of the same name. EITS hasn’t made a proper studio album since 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, which was my ninth favorite non-Canadian album of 2011. They’ve been really busy, though. They did the soundtrack for last year’s movie Prince Avalanche, then this, then another soundtrack for something called Manglehorn, which was also directed by Prince Avalanche director David Gordon Green. Technically speaking, the Lone Survivor soundtrack isn’t an EITS album because it has four songs by another musician, but it’s still a really great album. Click on the artwork to buy it from Amazon.
29)Fear of Men — Loom This Brighton, England lo-fi dream-pop band has been crushing it since 2010 with a long series of well-received singles, and a singles compilation last year. This spring, they finally released their much-anticipated debut record via Kanine Records. This is another in a line of great 2014 releases from that label. The members of Fear of Men say that they are as equally influenced by the fantastic Birmingham band Broadcast as they are by the 20th century French erotic writer Anaïs Nin. She of “Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller” fame. And speaking of Broadcast, it’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly four years since Trish Keenan passed away. Anyway, Loom is a fantastic record, and despite what they say, it makes me think of neither Broadcast nor Anaïs Nin. As a reference point, I’ll offer the Canadian dream-pop duo Memoryhouse. Click on the album artwork above to buy the album from Kanine. Also, enjoy this song:
28)The Antlers — Familiars On a snowy day in January 2010, a friend recommended The Antlers’ 2009 album Hospice to me, and I fell in love with it immediately. The Brooklyn indie rock band has released two albums since then, and this year’s Familiars is their fifth album overall since they formed in 2006. Peter Silberman has backed off just a skosh from his distinctive trademark falsetto on this record, which is their first since 2011’s Burst Apart, but even in a “guitar-based” band, this is all about his vocals. And his writing. The reason I bring up that bit about my friend recommending Hospice to me on a snowy day is that I remember it vividly, and it also gives me an excuse to reference a great line from one of the best songs on Familiars
Right when the blizzard ends, they throw a fucking huge parade
A great excuse for celebration of the mess they made
But when the streets get flooded, we know what proximity’s worth
Coz we’re already here in the same place when our phones don’t work
That song –“Parade”– is a standout on a very good album. Click the artwork above to buy the album from the band’s official web store. Also enjoy the song “Parade” here:
27)The Twilight Sad — Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave This is the fourth album from the “perennially unhappy” Scottish indie rockers, and its October release meant that I didn’t get to spend as much time with it as I probably should. But I like it. A lot. No matter what that impossible to please reviewer from Pitchfork says about it. Seriously, that Ian Cohen dude hasn’t liked any album since Pinkerton. I’ve made extensive comments about that guy before, but I’ll leave it alone for now. Some people are calling it the best Scottish record of the year, and while I can’t get behind that claim, it’s my second favorite Scottish record of the year. Click on the album artwork above to buy the album, and enjoy this song:
26)Beverly — Careers Beverly is the newest Brooklyn-based indie rock band fronted by the wonderful Miss Frankie Rose, who has released some really amazing records both on her own and as a former member of Dum Dum girls. Really, what can anyone say, and what superlatives can be offered that haven't been said and offered before? I really want to put this record higher on my list, but in terms of albums that I keep listening to again and again and again, I just can't put it any higher than this. Seriously, though, this is a brilliant record. If you like "doomgaze", if you like c-86 revival, if you like cuddlepunk, this is a record that you will love. Click on the artwork above to buy the album from Kanine Records. Also, enjoy this song:
25)Spotlight Kid —Ten Thousand Hours This is the third album by the Nottingham shoegaze band, and another of many spectacular releases by the Texas-based Saint Marie Records. This one came out in March, and spent a long time in heavy rotation at my house. It’s fuzzy and gazey and airy and delay-laden, and really beautiful. Remember that great song “Bit Part” on The Lemonheads’ masterpiece album It’s a Shame About Ray, where Evan sings “I just want a bit part in your life. I walk-on would be fine…”? That’s one thing, where the guy is okay with being that. On this album, there’s a song “A Minor Character”, where Katty Heath sings “You are such a minor character in my life”, and it’s not meant to make the guy feel fine about it. It’s cold, and it’s hurtful, and it’s magnificent. Click on the album artwork above to go back to the SMR web store, where you should already have a bunch of albums in your cart. Also, Enjoy this song that I was just telling you about:
24)Tiny Ruins — Brightly Painted OneThis indie-folk band is based in Aukland, New Zealand, but is fronted by Bristolian Hollie Fullbrook. This is their second full-length album, following 2011’s Some Were Meant For Sea. I had never heard of this band until they were announced as the support act for Sharon Van Etten on her recent North American tour. You may recall that Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp was my third favorite record of 2012, and I had very high hopes for this year’s Are We There. I was disappointed by the album, and I was completely underwhelmed by Ms. Van Etten’s portion of the show that I saw a couple of months ago. Spoiler alert: you won’t find Are We There anywhere in my 2014 list. On the flip side, I was completely blown away by the Tiny Ruins set that night. I had already purchased a digital copy of the Tiny Ruins album, but I went ahead and bought a physical copy of it that night. Because that’s the right thing to do. If you happen to live in the United States, the only way to buy this album without spending an arm and a leg is to buy it at a show. Even if you have to spend $40, it’s really worth it. Click on the album artwork above to go to the Flying Nun web store. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the price. If this song here doesn’t make you smile, then your heart is made of stone:
23)The Rural Alberta Advantage — Mended With Gold This is the third full-length effort from the Toronto indie rock/folk trio. It’s been said that they made an effort to make this album sound like their live shows. I’ve seen this band once in concert and I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be, but I’ve loved both of their previous records, so I don’t really know what to think of that assessment. One of many things that’s always said about RAA is that Paul Banwatt is a ridiculously good drummer. He’s technical, he’s got speed, and he’s got crazy creativity. Listen closely to their records, or see them live, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Another thing that’s often said is that they’re like a Canadian-er, closer to earth, more approachable version of Neutral Milk Hotel. If Neutral Milk Hotel had a staggeringly beautiful woman in their midst.
Click the album artwork above to go to the Saddle Creek Records web store, where you can buy the album. Also, enjoy this song:
22) The Capsules — The Long Goodbye
This synth-pop/dream-pop band from Dallas may be new to me this year, but they’ve released five albums since 2002. They were signed to Saint Marie Records last year and released their new album via SMR this spring. Julie Shields’ unique vocal style is mesmerizing, and it’s easy to get completely lost in this über-dreamy record, which clocks in at just under an hour long. Click on the album artwork above to go back to the SMR shop to add this album to your bulging cart. Also, enjoy this song:
21)A Sunny Day in Glasgow — Sea When AbsentThis is the fourth album by the Philadelphia dream-pop/shoegaze band. They’ve been around for eight years, and they’ve gone through a ton of lineup changes with the only permanent member being frontman Ben Daniels. At one point, both of his twin sisters Robin and Lauren were in the band, but they both had real life to tend to, so they both left and were replaced by other female singers. While the lineup has changed quite a lot, what’s remained constant is the booze-soaked, fuzzy, sexy, dreaminess of their sound. The new album was released in late June via Lefse Records and was met with exceptionally good reviews. Click on the album artwork above to go to the Lefse web store. Also, enjoy this song:
We’re halfway through the list. I’ll take tomorrow off and the countdown will continue with albums 20-11 on Christmas Day. The plan is to have the top ten posted on Boxing Day.