Our Favorite Albums of 2014 from 20 to 11

We’re still counting down my favorite albums of 2014. I decided to list 41 albums this year. Not for any particular reason. I started the countdown the other day with numbers 41 counting down to 31, and continued with 30 down to 21. Today, we continue the countdown.

September Girls — Cursing the Sea

20) September Girls — Cursing the Sea This fuzzy noise-pop/post-punk five piece from Dublin formed in 2011 and after a bunch of impressive singles, they released their debut album in January via Fortuna Pop. It turned a lot of heads, but somehow, I was really late to the boat on this one. I didn’t even know about this album until Kanine Records announced that they had signed the band to a deal and that Kanine would release a new September Girls EP in late November. The band is named after the Big Star song of the same name (but different spelling), but they owe their sound more to The Jesus & Mary Chain. Click on the album artwork to go to the Fortuna Pop web store. Also enjoy this song:

Whirr — Sway

19) Whirr — Sway This is the second album by the San Francisco shoegaze band, and the first since vocalist Kristina Esfandiari left the band to start side projects Miserable and King Woman. The small, Savannah-based Graveface Records only released a few full-length albums this year, but they’re all VERY good. This album was released in late September, but it’s gotten a ton of play around here. It’s loud and fuzzy and crazily rhythmic. It’s got all the floaty, dreamy beauty of Slowdive and all the blood-from-the-ears of A Place to Bury Strangers. Click the album artwork above to go to the Graveface Records web store, where you’ll have to scroll down just a bit to get to Sway. Also, enjoy this song.

The New Pornographers — Brill Bruisers

18) The New Pornographers — Brill Bruisers This is the sixth long player by the iconic Vancouver-based indie rock band. These guys always make good albums, but this is probably my favorite since 2003’s Electric Version. Just a few weeks ago, I got to see them live for only the second time, and I was really excited that it was in a rock club as opposed to a seated venue or a theater. It was the last night of the tour, and if they were exhausted, they sure didn’t show it. It was a great, enthusiastic show with lots of older stuff mixed in with the new.
Click on the album artwork above to go to the Matador Records web store. And because New Pornographers videos are always lots of fun, enjoy this one:

Sylvan Esso — Sylvan Esso

17) Sylvan Esso — Sylvan Esso Sylvan Esso is an electro-pop duo from Durham. They are Amelia Meath (who is one-third of the Vermont indie-folk vocal trio Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (who used to be in the Milwaukee indie band Decibully and the Durham psychedelic folk band Megafaun). They never really meant to make an album, but this one is ending up on a lot of year-end top ten lists. This has gotten tons of plays at my house, and while this kind of album isn’t the kind of thing I normally listen to, I can’t stay away from this one. Some of the album is too laptoppy for my taste, but I don’t think there’s much better than the brilliant chorus in “Uncatena”

All I want from you is a letter
And to be your distant lover
That is all that I can offer at this time

I could listen to that all day long. Click on the album artwork above to go to the Partisan Records web store. Also, enjoy this video of them performing the aforementioned song for KEXP.

Jess Williamson — Native State

16) Jess Williamson — Native State This is the debut record from the Austin, Texas folk songstress. She got an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, then moved New York City to pursue a MFA degree in photography. After a while, though, she remembered that music is what she loves best. She returned to Austin and got to work on her album, which was released in January via her own Brutal Honest label. At just seven songs and 28 minutes, some people would argue that this isn’t a proper album. She’s calling it an album, and it’s a fantastic one. I’m not gonna argue. Click on the album artwork above to go to the bandcamp page where you can download the album, or click here to go to her web store, where you can buy it on limited edition Texas state flag vinyl. Here’s the title track:

Lowtide — Lowtide

15) Lowtide — Lowtide This melodic shoegaze/dream pop band from Melbourne has been playing together since 2010. They put out an EP in 2010, a critically acclaimed 7″ single in 2011. The press and their fans have been eagerly anticipating their debut long player, which finally came out in July via the tiny Aussie label Lost and Lonesome.
Click on the album artwork above to go to the L&L web store. Also, enjoy this song:

Grouper — Ruins

14) Grouper — Ruins Ruins is the tenth studio album by Portland, Oregon ambient pop musician Liz Harris. She goes by the stage name Grouper, and normally, her records are full of guitars, tape loops, and her voice. To say that her music is “dreamy” would be an understatement: she once made an album that was specifically designed to make people drift in and out of sleep while listening, and she once played a show that was seven hours of tape loops during which the audience was actually encouraged to go to sleep. This new album is quite different. It’s just upright piano and vocals. It’s really stripped down, and it was recorded on a four-track. There’s a lot of “incidental” and very “rural” noises captured in the recording: the low rumble of distant thunder, rain on a tin roof, frogs croaking. They definitely add some texture to an already beautiful album. Nothing fancy at all, but it’s really fantastic. Breathtaking, even. Although the album was recorded three years ago in Portugal, it was released on Halloween of this year via Kranky. I had an opportunity to see Grouper at the 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival, but I skipped her set. I won’t pass up the next opportunity I have to see her. Click on the album artwork above to go to the Kranky web store. Also, enjoy this song:

Snowbird — Moon

13) Snowbird —Moon Snowbird is an ambient dream-pop duo from London. One half of the band is former Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde. The other half is vocalist Stephanie Dosen. She grew up on a peacock farm in Wisconsin and taught herself to play guitar at a young age. Apparently, she used to perform some of her early songs for a fox and a swan who lived on her family’s farm. Many years later, Simon Raymonde discovered her, and he helped her put out a record on his Bella Union label. Moon is the first album they made together as Snowbird, and it was released in January via Bella Union. Both the physical and the digital copies of the album featured a bonus disc of remixes. The proper album is amazing, and some of the remixes are as good or better than the original.
Because this is Simon Raymonde and a singer who he has more or less molded, this album sounds a lot like late-era Cocteau Twins. Yes. Although she sings in plain English, Dosen’s style is similar to the way Liz Fraser was sounding on those last two Cocteaus records. Apparently, this album was made with Raymonde in London and Dosen was stuck in North Carolina working out some visa issues.

Click on the album artwork above to go to the Bella Union web shop. Also enjoy this song:

Just for fun, here’s an official video for the “RX Gibbs” remix of the same song. It’s on that bonus disc.

Eternal Summers — The Drop Beneath

12) Eternal Summers — The Drop Beneath This is the third album from the Roanoke, Virginia dream-punk/indie pop band, and the first since expanding from a duo to a trio. Although they had already put out two albums, I didn’t catch wind of Eternal Summers until a couple of weeks before they released The Drop Beneath in March via Kanine Records. This is one of those bands who I fell in love with after literally three seconds of listening to one of their songs. I was excited about an opportunity to see them live back in the spring, but I missed that show. I was excited that they were a last-minute addition to the 2014 Hopscotch Music Festival lineup. I had two chances to see them that weekend, but my schedule only permitted me to see them once. It was during the day party stuff, and it was in the Contemporary Art Museum with its very high ceilings, lots of steel and glass. The acoustics are bad for live music, and the room is too big. Despite these obstacles, Eternal Summers played a great set, and they were a highlight of the festival for me.
Click on the album artwork above to go back to the Kanine Records web shop, where you should already have things in your cart. Also, because this video is incredible:

Roku Music — Collider

11) Roku Music — Collider
This is the astonishing debut record by the Brisbane shoegazers. They formed in 2012, but now they’re a four-piece. They’re heavily influenced obviously by My Bloody Valentine, and while a lot of times that ends up being a lazy reference point, these guys have made a record that actually does remind me of My Bloody Valentine. Their album was released this spring via the Aussie label Sonic Masala. There’s a lot of fantastic shoegazey stuff coming from “the seventh continent” these days, and Roku Music is among the finest of that lot. This is another album that took me about four seconds to fall totally in love with even though I had never heard of the band before. I only caught wind of them in the first week of November. I immediately bought the album, and it’s been in really heavy rotation since then. Physical copies of Collider have been sold out for some time now, so click on the album artwork above to get to the Sonic Masala bandcamp page, where you can buy a digital download. As with a lot of albums on my year-end list, I recommend that you play this album really loud.

Because I’m sort of in video mode now, here’s a great video for the album-closing “You”

We’re now down to the final ten. I’ll probably break the final ten albums in half, and share numbers 10 thru 6 sometime Friday afternoon (my time) and the final five sometime Saturday afternoon. At some point, I might also share a list of albums that didn’t quite make the list, and maybe another list of albums that disappointed me. Maybe another list of EPs. I’ve always promise those things in years past, but I’ve never produced such auxiliary lists. Don’t hold your breath.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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