Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Favorite Music of 2014

Writing about my favorite new music of 2014 immediately poses a conundrum. What am I to do when the best two albums of this year, by far, are from bands whose names are so profane that I can’t print those names on my minister blog? I asked Anne for her advice on how I should write about these records and her advice was, “You just don’t.”

My favorite album of the year is by a Canadian hardcore punk band. My second favorite album of the year is the debut album from a noise rock / punk outfit from New York. While both bands have utterly profane names, the subject matter of their songs isn’t scandalous or repulsive. They’ve just chosen to give themselves names that utterly foreclose any possibility, however unlikely, of commercial success. They’re punk, after all. These albums are both earsplittingly cacophonous, but they are also immediate and honest. And, I might tell you the names of the bands / records if you decide to ask.

Other Albums Worth Checking Out
My favorite new record of 2014 by a band with a clean name was Jack White’s Lazoretto. The best song on the album is the swaggering title track but the rest of the record is a good mix of bombastic electric guitar rock and more polite acoustic tracks.

With Shriek, Wye Oak reinvented their sound. Jenny Wasner put down the electric guitar and picked up the bass and drummer Andy Stack added in synths. Check out the song “Logic of Color.”

Also worth noting is Teeth Dreams, the new record by The Hold Steady. The record is actually pretty inconsistent and somewhat of a disappointment, but the first single off of it, a song called Spinners was one of my favorite songs of the summer.

New Bands
The AV Club is my go-to site for finding out about bands worth listening to. Their annual best music lists, as well as other features, turned me on to many of the musical groups I listen to the most, including Frightened Rabbit, Wye Oak, Japandroids, and even The Joy Formidable.

When they came out with this year’s list, I immediately checked out a few of their recommendations. Here and Nowhere Else from The Cloud Nothings has been stuck on the stereo of my car for the past week and will probably stay there for a while. With a sound and energy similar to Japandroids, songs like Now Hear In are songs you have to listen to if you’re a fan of indie rock.

The AV Club said that Angel Olsen’s indie rock record Burn Your Fire for Now Witness. I’m quickly becoming a fan of her sound. Her solo performance with NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series is worth a listen, as well as songs she performed with her backing band on KEXP.

I was also inspired to pick up Heal by Strand of Oaks based on the fact that J Mascis – my favorite guitarist of all time – contributes a blistering lead guitar riff on the song “Goshen ’97.” (J Mascis also appeared in 2014 on the song “Led by Hand,” which is an even better song.) His music is a cool mixture of folk rock and electronica. Plymouth is another song worth checking out.

Best Live Album
Lucero’s double live album, Live from Atlanta, is a great showcase for the hardest working band in America. They mix alternative country and southern rock together with Memphis soul and boogie. I’ve seen them live a bunch of times and their sound has only grown on me more now that I’m living in the south.

Best Release of Old Material
I listen to everything that Minus the Bear puts out. So I had to pick up Lost Loves which consists of songs that weren’t included on their last three studio albums. There are some gems here including songs like "Electric Rainbow" and "South Side Life."

Biggest Let Down
St. Vincent’s self-titled album was one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year. I gave it a number of listens and while I didn’t hate it, I found it a difficult record to connect with. I found it quirky for the sake of quirkiness and lacking in passion and immediacy.

Best Live Performance
With a two year old at home I don’t get out to live shows any more nearly as often as I should. But the show I enjoyed the most was my first bluegrass concert in North Carolina, hearing Mipso play at the Durham Tobacco Campus. These guys put on a great show. (And, at least one member of the band joined us at Motorco after the show for beer and late night food truck snacks.)

New Music from People I Know
Church member Danny Gotham released a 2 disc collection of music called Repast. I’m lucky and honored to get to hear him play regularly.

Church member Petey Greene spins some fantastic beats on his collaboration with Novakane on their release Soul TrainRobbers. Body moving hip hop with socially-conscientious lyrics.

I don’t usually listen to shoegaze, but when I do I listen to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a band fronted by Reed College alumnus Kip Berman. Days of Abandon was their new record in 2014.