Now I know a lot of sites like to do their year-end lists at the end of November, but that means they won't include anything released in December. Although I don't know anyone that is still listening to the D'Angelo album (Too much hype anyway. It sounds like a poorly-mixed Prince demo in my opinion.), I bet there were more than a few critics who would've included it on their lists. So now that last year's dust has settled, I'm going to be putting out my year-end lists. It all starts here with the Top 10 Albums of 2014.
10. Rx Bandits - Gemini, Her Majesty
We all knew the hiatus wouldn't last. While I still miss the horns, the Bandits affirmed that they've still got plenty of good songs in them with this crowd-funded, rocking effort.
9. Stardeath & White Dwarfs - Wastoid
Holy fuzz bass! These roadies have learned more than a thing or two while tuning up the Flaming Lips' instruments. Although the FLips' influence is there in spades (Hell, they even turn up on "The Screaming."), that shouldn't detract from the fact that this is better than anything Wayne & Co. have put out this year.
8. G. Love & Special Sauce - Sugar
Fifteen seconds into "Come Up Man," it's evident that Jimi Jazz and Houseman are necessary ingredients to the Special Sauce, reuniting with G. for the first time in eight years. And though the original lineup is the main draw, guest spots include Ben Harper, Shamarr Allen, and 20 Feet from Stardom chanteuse, Merry Clayton.
7. Speak - Pedals
The Austin band took D.I.Y. to the extreme for this LP: writing, recording, mixing, mastering, producing, and doing the artwork. This level of control was a risky move, but the risk paid off, resulting in 14 tracks that will make you think just as much as they make you dance.
6. Stars - No One is Lost
Over the past decade, Stars' albums have either gotten too dour or too uneven for my tastes. On this album, the Canadian group dove headfirst into electro-pop, reinvigorating their sound for their best work since Set Yourself on Fire.
5. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
Easily the most fully-realized NP release yet, proving power pop is alive and well in 2014. Albums like this make me wish I had a car, so I could roll down the windows and sing along at the top of my lungs.
4. St. Vincent - St. Vincent
I first listened to this in December, and I really wish I hadn't slept on it. Believe what everyone says: This is the album Annie Clark has been threatening to make since she first stepped out of the backing band and into the spotlight in 2007. Danceable, riff-heavy, sensual, and thought-provoking, this self-titled spectacle has it all.
3. Chris Mills & the Distant Stars - Alexandria
I'd been waiting for this album since I first saw Mills at Mercury Lounge in February of 2013. The lyricism is astonishing. I missed the first five minutes of the Super Bowl because I was waiting for the record's b-side to finish spinning. Beautiful and timeless folk music.
2. The Majorleans - Black Belt
When a friend gives me their album to listen to, I'm tentative. What do I tell them if I don't like it? Will it put a strain on our friendship? Thankfully, this one blew my expectations away. Despite having a classic '70s feel, as if Lou Reed had fronted the Heartbreakers, Nicky Francis' ruminative street poetry grounds the Majorleans firmly in the present.
1. Vacationer - Relief
Combine Polynesian textures, hip-hop beats, and effervescent vocals, and you've got music as infectious as a tropical disease. Kenny Vasoli and his Body Language cohorts created a record that brings the paradise to you. No packing, no TSA, no kid kicking the back of your airplane seat. Just press play and you're magically transported to a beach with water as crystal clear as the cover art. There's something to be said about an album that you want to listen to again immediately after you're finished, and Relief was that album for me this summer.
Vacationer, the Majorleans, Chris Mills, and Speak were all on my podcast to talk about their albums, so make sure to have a listen.
I'll be posting my top concerts, live songs, and songs over the next few days, so don't be a stranger.