I get sad when people tell me that music today is bad. There are hundreds of albums released every year. There is something for everybody, with albums in any existing genre plus constantly evolving sounds that defy categorization. 2014 was another great year in music.
I understand it is hard to filter all the new albums, because I spend a significant amount of my free time doing exactly that. So once again, to spread the love of music, I’m sharing a list of my favorite albums from last year.
Check out some new tunes. Get funky. Let me know what you think.
Note: Band name links to a youtube video; album name links to Spotify.
Also, after writing this I realize that the rankings are largely meaningless. Take it all with a grain of salt.
Tony’s 2014 Top 40
1. TV on the Radio – Seeds – The latest release from eclectic TV on the Radio is almost smoother and more rock and roll than their past albums but retains their unique sound and exceptional musicianship. It almost feels like a weirder, more electronic version of the National: brooding and beautiful.
2. Spanish Gold – South of Nowhere – One of the best straight rock and roll albums I’ve heard in years. Spanish Gold is a new project consisting of Patrick Hallahan (My Morning Jacket’s drummer), guitarist Adrian Quesada (formerly of Grupo Fantasma) and guitarist and lead vocalist Dante Schwebel (City and Colour, formerly of Hacienda).This is 70’s inspired, funky, solid, straight rock and roll.
3. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager – I’ve loved Jenny Lewis since The Wizard, and I think this is her best work, both solo and in Rilo Kiley. It’s fun, well-produced rock and roll and sounds great.
4. Madlib & Freddie Gibbs – Piñata – Madlib always drops the freshest (and weirdest) beats, and Freddie Gibbs joins him on this adventure to create one of my favorite hip hop albums in recent years. Creative and fun lyrics and beats.
5. The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River – T. Bone Burnett put together this project, which took lyrics written by Bob Dylan during his Basement Tapes sessions with the Band in 1967 and had a supergroup consisting of Jim James, Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith, and Rhiannon Giddons write music for the songs and record them. Like any supergroup; it’s not perfect. I don’t like every song on this album, but the ones I love are unsurprisingly by Jim James. But I love the original Basement Tapes and most of the new material is fantastic. Listen to “Nothing to It.”
6. Future Islands – Singles – Frontman Samuel T. Herring may be a weird guy with an interesting stage presence, but Future Islands is much more than that (and dude definitely likes to dance). Emotional and original indie rock.
7. Tycho – Awake – Another great release from Tycho, the master of beautiful, ambient tunes. Sometimes sleepy, sometimes playful, this album should be listened to in its entirety.
8. Phantogram – Voices – More amazingness in the second full album from this electro-rock duo. It was worth the five year wait.
9. Spoon – They Want My Soul – Spoon is back and still has it. One of the best straight indie rock albums in years.
10. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso – Another one of those modern groups that defies definition, Sylvan Esso brings together a folk artist (Amelia Meath) and an electronic producer (Nick Sanborn) from North Carolina to make some funky, fresh, and unique tunes. Some tracks make you wanna dance; they all make you wanna listen.
11. Caribou – Our Love – A dreamy and eclectic electronic album from the multitalented artist, Dan Snaith, aka Caribou.
12. St. Vincent – St. Vincent – Annie Clark’s, aka St. Vincent’s, latest is another step up. Still very mysterious and goofy, this album is full of great songwriting and musicianship.
13. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow – More dope music coming out of England. This is some good, soothing and well-crafted indie rock.
14. Breton – War Room Stories – A fun album from these youthful, British, indie-art-pop rockers. Each song is unique, and they mix it up a fair amount. Listen to “Brothers” the whole way through; the best part is after the bridge.
15. Real Estate – Atlas – Dreamy indie rock that makes me want to sit in a house on the beach on a rainy day. These guys have progressed as musicians, and this album is their most well-crafted with more defined song structure than the past two releases.
16. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 – The second badass release from El-P and Killer Mike features more unique and heavy beats with fast, creative flow.
17. Banks – Goddess – Brooding, dark, British, electrified R&B.
18. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold – Swedish female folk duo that crushes.
19. Fanfarlo – Let’s Go Extinct – Hadn’t heard much from these Scottish indie rockers in a few years, but their latest release is good, solid, indie rock.
20. Lykke Li – I Never Learn – Another Swede, Lykke Li is way different. She’s continued to improve since her 2011 first release, and this album brings more of her unique indie-pop style.
21. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! – Eclectic and somewhat discordant hip-hop/electronic tracks from Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. The album is original and sometimes jazzy.
22. Beck – Morning Phase – Beck’s latest album harkens back to Sea Change (my favorite of his albums) with a relaxed country feel but lacks the consistency and emotional depth. It’s still Beck and still great.
23. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream – More dreamy, washed-out indie rock from the War on Drugs.
24. Sun Kil Moon – Benji – The latest release from the original washed-out, brooding rocker, Mark Kozelek, originally of the Red House Painters and then Sun Kil Moon. This album is sad, beautiful, and fantastic.
25. Broken Bells – After the Disco – James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (Dangermouse) teamed up again in Dangermouse’s house to record their second album as Broken Bells. Although not as fresh as the original, the new album has the same feel and production and includes a bunch of catchy, funky indie rock tunes.
26. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams is back with some fire. His latest release is one of his best in years, definitely rock and roll.
27. Haerts – Haerts – Maybe Haem got famous first, but Haerts delivers their own, 80’s-inspired, nostalgic indie rock and crushes it.
28. Mr. Little Jeans – Pocketknife – Unique pop songs from Norwegian artist Monica Birkenes, sometimes fairly epic and including a great cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs.”
29. MØ – No Mythologies to Follow – Another Scandinavian, Danish artist MØ makes some interesting, if sometimes abrasive tunes. At times, she reminds me of Grimes.
30. alt-J – This is All Yours – I didn’t fall as hard for the second release from these British indie rockers, but it’s still really good.
31. Robert Ellis – The Lights from the Chemical Plant – Twangy, Texas country from this young singer-songwriter.
32. Gardens & Villa – Dunes – Funky, 80’s-inspired indie rock with some flute. This, their second release, felt stronger.
33. Jungle – Jungle – Spacey, indie funk. They put on a great live show.
34. Miniature Tigers – Cruel Runnings – Breezy and poppy, indie surf rock.
35. Warpaint – Warpaint – Faded out, dreamy, all-girl, indie rock.
36. FKA twigs – LP1 – Eccentric, electrified R&B.
37. Interpol – El Pintor – Another original indie rock band releasing a new album, Interpol’s El Pintor is solid and reflective of their style if not as rocking as the new Spoon.
38. The Roots – …and then you shoot your cousin – Yeah, they’re still cutting albums, and maybe it’s not as fresh as it was 15 years ago, but I still love the Roots.
39. Kevin Drew – Darlings – Fantastic second solo album from Kevin Drew, one of the main members of Broken Social Scene. Artsy, beautiful, and soft Canadian indie rock.
40. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Mended With Gold – Nothing will ever top their eponymous first album, but the new RAA is solid, countryfied rock and roll, ala Neil Young, etc.
There were definitely other good albums this year, but I’m tired of making lists.