And here's the last of my "Best Of 2014" lists for the year. Which was a surprisingly good one given that none of my most favorite bands had releases this year!
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 All That We Had is Lost by Postiljonen
Had I heard Postiljonen's debut album Skyer when it was released last year, it would have topped my list for 2013. But since Howard didn't tell me about Postiljonen until this year, I had to find a way to get them on my list. Hence, their All That We Had is Lost remixes album in my #1 spot. I love this band. Their beautiful dream-pop music has been playing constantly since the first day I heard it, and no band has consumed me like Postiljonen in a very long time. So... after you buy Skyer, you'll want to pick up All That We Had is Lost (a stunning re-work of Whitney Houston's How Will I know) so you can get the new track When All The Wild Things Die. Magical stuff.
#2 The City Below EP by Mackintosh Braun
As previous years will attest, I have -zero- problem putting an EP on my list. Especially when it's an EP that contains my favorite song of the year... the hauntingly sublime In Reverse. My guess is that The City Below EP was released to satisfy fans who were upset that Mackintosh Braun's long-promised album, Arcadia, was delayed until March 31st of 2015. It worked. The four tracks are all fantastic, and definitely left me wanting more.
#3 Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters
It's always surprising to me that Dave Grohl and Co. haven't made a single misstep in their entire catalog of work. They seem incapable of disappointing me, and everything they release gets played to death. Sonic Highways is no exception. It's a tight album of only 8 tracks... but each one is flawless. Foo Fighters are the face of modern rock in a day and age where rock music seems to be a dying breed. Pray to whatever rock gods ye may that they keep blessing us with new music for years to come.
#4 Take Me When You Go by Betty Who
Having playing both of Betty's EPs into the ground, it was hardly surprising that I'd fall in love with her all over again with the release of her first full-length album. Take Me When You Go is filled with melodic 80's-style pop that I can't seem to get enough of, and Betty's lovely voice bounces through each track with such effortless enthusiasm that it can lift me up even when I'm at my lowest. If you haven't jumped on the Betty Who train yet, there's no better time than now.
#5 Hungry Ghosts by OK Go
I often feel that OK Go's actual music is eclipsed by their amazing, mind-bending music videos. Yes, the videos are fantastic, but they wouldn't be nearly as compelling if the music sucked... but it really doesn't. OK Go has a knack for cranking out inventive, thoughtful songs that deserve the awesome music video treatments they get. The first single, The Writing's On The Wall is by far my favorite track, but there's a lot of pop magic happening on Hungry Ghosts that makes it worth listening to.
#6 Talking is Hard by Walk the Moon
Having friends who get me musically is an incredible blessing, because I'm always being exposed to terrific new music I would have otherwise missed. Many, many thanks to Jester for turning me on to Walk the Moon which is exactly the kind of pop music I obsess over. Talking is Hard is about as good as an album gets. Each track builds on the previous track to keep you moving from beginning to end. Sure, it's only been out for a month, but I've listened to it so much that I've probably played it more than half the other albums I bought this year.
#7 Sheezus by Lily Allen
Lily Allen never really registered for me, even though I very much enjoyed the occasional single I'd happen across. But then she made a guest appearance on P!nk's fantastic song, True Love, and I became obsessed. An obsession was rewarded when she dropped Sheezus back in May. It's an album of chirpy pop classics that never cease to make me smile.
#8 Ghost Stories by Coldplay
As someone who felt that Coldplay's best days were long past, I was taken a bit by surprise with Ghost Stories. It's a haunting album of love and loss that kinds of sticks in your head with each new listen. I don't know that the band will ever reach the marvelous heights found on A Rush of Blood to the Head, but if they keep hitting us with albums like this one, I'm happy to tune in.
#9 1989 by Taylor Swift
When a country artist as successful as Taylor Swift abandons her bread and butter for a stab at pop music gold, it would be understandable to think her insane. But 1989 was a gamble that totally paid off, and is responsible for two of my favorite songs of 2014 (Style and Blank Space). Sure it wanders in places, but it's an overall success story that has me hoping Taylor will abandon her country roots a few albums longer.
#10 White Women by Chromeo
While there are some inexplicably missable tracks on Chromeo's fourth album (I'm looking at you, Sexy Socialite!), the preponderance of vintage beats that make up White Women is too good to deny. This is unapologetic classic pop at its purest, and filled a void in 2014 that needed filling.
#11 Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
While I've always been a Weird Al fan, his albums always seem so uneven that I hesitate buying them. Most of his parodies are dead-on, relevant, and funny as hell... other times they miss the mark so badly that you're left wondering why he even bothered. Al seems to have a bit better luck with his original songs, but they too can degenerate into a polka disaster from time to time. Fortunately, Mandatory Fun is much more gold than lead, and easily my favorite album in his discography so far.
#12 The Violet Flame by Erasure
I just can't seem to get into Erasure's newer stuff. The last album of theirs that I really liked was Nightbird back in 2005. Everything that followed doesn't feel very "Erasure" to me at all. With The Violet Flame they took a step back in the right direction, but it all feels so... I dunno... disco?... to me. The "snap" of their pop origins is just missing, with Andy Bell trying to go all operatic or something. Why they can't just give their fans the straight pop album they want I don't know. In the meanwhile, I guess this is better than nothing. And better than a lof of music I heard this year.
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN...
Sucker by Charli XCX
Had this album been released earlier (it just dropped a couple weeks ago) it might have made my list. As it is, I enjoy it, but it hasn't grown on me as much as I had hoped. While Boom Clap feels well-polished and repetitive, too many other tracks feel rushed out the door and repetitive. I'm hoping that Charli matures a bit with her next release, because she certainly has potential.
Singles by Future Islands
So there I am watching Letterman on my DVR and a band I've never heard of takes the stage and proceeds to blow the doors off the joint. The band was Future Islands and the song was Seasons (Waiting On You). Sadly, the rest of the album never reached that high, but many of the songs ended up in steady rotation on iTunes nevertheless.
Voices by Phantogram
It seems like an eternity since Eyelid Movies was released, but apparently Phantogram has put that time to good use, because Voices is one beautifully crafted work of synth-pop art.
Clark by Clark
Nothing makes me happier than being able to work while some deeply atmospheric synth music is lurking in the room to keep me company. Clark is filled with exactly that, and I find it playing more often than I intended.
Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels
My music is all over the map and, given my pop music leanings, most people are surprised to find out that my tastes includes everything from metal to rap. And when it comes to rap, the second release by Run the Jewels was my go-to album for those times I needed a fix these past few months. What I love about Run the Jewels is that rappers El-P and Killer Mike play off of each other so damn well. Apart they're good... but put them in the same room and let them build off each other, and they elevate each other to new heights. The first album was packed with those deep throbbing beats that keeps me coming back to rap... this follow-up is even stronger.
Indie Cindy by Pixies
Consistently labeled as one of the most influential bands in music history, the Pixies never consumed me like they did so many of my friends during their formation in the late 80's. Then, just as I was appreciating the band for their inventive stylings that pulled me back to my punk rock days, they disbanded in 1993. Game over. Except... not so much. They got back together for a tour in 2004, and new material followed nine years later in the form of three EPs. This album collects all three into a single work that feels much larger than the sum of its parts. While I'm still not the Pixies' biggest fan, Indie Cindy is a terrific album that has me finding a new appreciation for the band.
Crush by 2NE1
I first became aware of South Korean girl-band 2NE1 with their release of 2nd Mini Album, featuring the amazing track Hate You (seriously, you've gotta watch this insane music video). Three years later they released Crush, their second full-length album and it's everything I could have hoped for. Bouncy pop tracks tempered with a hint of rebellion that few other bands have been able to pull off so convincingly.
My Everything by Ariana Grande
This album was one of those pleasant surprises that came out of nowhere. There I was minding my own business when I heard Love Me Harder drifting from the speakers of a restaurant, inundating the place with pop magic. I found out who and what it was thanks to Shazam on my iPhone, and was pleased to find that Ariana's album was filled with more of the same.
Mr. Twin Sister by Mr. Twin Sister
Another atmospheric synth album that gets a lot of play while I'm working, Mr. Twin Sister never feels quite as deep as Clark, but it has a delicious moody vibe I love. I play this album a lot while driving, as it stems off the road rage that inevitably grabs hold.
And that's my music jams for 2014! Here's looking forward to an even better 2015.