Tk’s Top Ten Albums of 2014
My Top 10 list for 2014 features some emerging artists that I had not heard until this year (#2, 3, 4, 7, and 10) and some established artists that have released their best album to date (#1, 5, 6, 8, and 9). While I feel passionate about my #1 choice (and will still be listening to it when I’m an old man), I don’t feel as passionate about numbers 2 through 10. Someone could have slipped them out from under my feet and replaced them with my Honorable Mention albums, and I wouldn’t bat an eye. 2014 was not a bad year for music but, as I stated before, it was not a particularly exciting year either.
10. Goat – Commune: Goat is a Swedish 70’s-influenced, neo-tribal, quasi-spiritual group who wear masks and costumes during their live performance. It should only be listened to loud and long in a darker setting. In fact, it would probably sound kinda lame short and quiet in a brightly-lit setting.
9. Spoon – They Want My Soul: Spoon is one of those bands that knows exactly what they want musically and consistently accomplish it. Always comfortable in their own skin, their albums remain stylistically similar while drifting appropriately between more raw and more produced output. “They Want My Soul” is beautiful, catchy, and slickly-produced. Turn it on anytime, anywhere.
8. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues: This album is so well-paced that the pesky condition of pop-punk-fatigue will not likely kick in. An impassioned, important release from Laura Jane Grace and her crew in which every song counts.
7. Kevin Morby – Still Life: Kevin Morby is the 26-year-old bassist of Woods who put out his first solo album last year. Still Life is brimming with folk-rock songs that sound so classic and singable that I felt like I’d heard them before. This warm familiarity, though, is a strength rather than a liability.
6. Perfume Genius – Too Bright: Seattle-based artist, Mike Hadreas, performs as Perfume Genius. His precious chamber-pop tracks take many an unexpected turn, sometimes light and playful and other times heavy and brooding.
5. Eno Hyde – High Life: A transcendent, ambient surprise from Brian Eno and Karl Hyde that incorporates just the right amount of African instrumentation, guitars, and electronic bells and whistles to keep things moving.
4. Future Islands – Singles: When you Google “Future Islands,” the first thing that comes up is “Future Islands Letterman.” So, if you haven’t watched their now-famous performance on Letterman, then do so now. Artsy Baltimore synthpop with some David Bowie and 1980s flourishes, Singles is an excellent, peculiar album that deserves multiple spins.
3. Angelique Kidjo – Eve: Ms. Kidjo is remarkably unknown for someone who has won Grammy’s and been listed among the “40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa” by Forbes. She is from the country of Benin and sings in 4 different languages (including English). Her multi-genre music is energetically propelled forward by diverse rhythms and powerful vocals. You should seriously check out her video below.
2. Highasakite – Silent Treatment: Once Highasakite can reign in their vision and produce an album that gels together as a singular piece of art, then they will dominate my Spotify listening time and future lists. As it stands, Silent Treatment is an album of songs; mostly damn fine songs (including my Song of the Year). A touch of Imogen Heap, The Cranberries, even She & Him… but, mind you, I don’t care much for any of these artists. Highasakite wear their influences but come up with something of their own that is unique and charming.
1. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream: Wagonwheel Blues was my #1 album in 2008 and here The War on Drugs are, back in my #1 spot. There really was no contest here. A rare album that I: a) listened to the day it came out b) listened to it straight through c) wanted to hear it through again the moment that it ended. It is spacious where it needs to be and dense in other parts. Adam Granduciel puts every word and note where it belongs, a more precise Bob Dylan. His supporting figures are a more subdued E Street Band. Lost in the Dream is an hour-long but never drones on. It starts off big and ends up intimate. I suggest listening to it in order from start to finish. Until then, you can jam to “Eyes to the Wind” (below).
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Tags: adam granduciel, against me!, angelique kidjo, bob dylan, e street band, eno hyde, eyes to the wind, future islands, goat, highasakite, kevin morby, laura jane grace, perfume genius, spoon, war on drugs, woods